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IT Employees Need to Be Left Alone to Thrive

Code is an artifact. Despite what you may think, the job of an IT employee isn't to write code. The job of an IT employee is to come up with the ideas behind the code. The brainwork is the most valuable part of their job; actually typing the code is mostly mechanical.

Encourage Productivity and Improve Morale

Developers need a quiet environment to write the best code; these days, it's unlikely you'll be able to give them real offices with doors, but at least give them partitions high enough to block out a lot of noise.

It's not just about noise, though. For developers to do their best work, they need minimal distractions so they can focus and concentrate. That means reduce unnecessary interruptions. Reduce the number of meetings, and make sure they have a purpose. Don't send emails to the entire distribution list if only one person needs to respond. Encourage your team to get out of the habit of checking emails constantly. Give workers flexibility to adapt their jobs to their lives by allowing them to work from home occasionally. Don't micromanage. Basically, just leave your employees alone to get the job done.

The benefits of leaving IT employees with time to think go beyond getting code done faster and with higher quality. IT employees are intellectual workers who enjoy thinking and solving problems. Leaving them alone gives them time to focus on these mental tasks they enjoy, meaning they're happier at work. It gives them autonomy and demonstrates your trust in them, which feels good. Making your IT team happy and improving morale means they're likelier to stay with your company; considering how difficult it can be to replace a highly skilled technical employee, that's a big value to you.

New Thoughts, New Ideas, New Products

Plus, giving employees time to think means giving them time for new ideas. New ideas can mean new, better ways of performing business processes or translate into new products and new profits for your business. The information technology industry depends on innovation, and most innovations come from the employees, not the managers. Which isn't to say that managers don't come up with useful ideas, also. If you reduce unnecessary meetings with your team and reduce your involvement in issues your staff can handle, you free up your own time for thinking as well. What value will you create for your company with that extra time?

The Importance of a Diverse IT Pipeline

Technology has a diversity problem. The shortage of women and minorities in STEM fields including computer science and engineering is well known. As a result, it's difficult to have a diverse workforce. That doesn't mean it's not possible; it just means diversity won't happen on its own—you need to work at it. Make sure diversity is addressed by every step of your hiring pipeline.

Look for Candidates in the Right Places

If you look for candidates in just one place, you're likely to find just one kind of candidate. Widen your net to find a bigger, more diverse pool of potential employees. For example, don't limit yourself to elite universities; graduates of second tier schools aren't second rate. And while there are definite advantages to hiring based on employee referrals, those candidates are likely to be similar to the employee who referred them.

Write Job Descriptions That Appeal to a Wide Community

No one writes job descriptions today that say they're looking for a man, but the language you use can unintentionally turn off women. So avoid describing the job by making analogies to the military or sports teams; even terms like rockstar developer can drive away diverse applicants. Think carefully about word choices; to build a team, lead a team, or manage a team can all attract a different applicant pool. Even the way the job description is formatted can have an impact, with high or low numbers of bullet points driving away male or female applicants.

Make Sure Technical Screenings Focus on Technical Skills

While you want to evaluate all candidates' interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills, don't mingle that evaluation with the technical interview. Conduct a separate assessment that focuses solely on technical ability to avoid any impact from unconscious biases. For coding tasks, ask the candidate to solve them on the computer. This ensures they can solve the problem in a situation close to the real work environment; some candidates are uncomfortable working at a whiteboard, which isn't a requirement when building technical solutions once hired.

How to Hire for Emotional Intelligence

There's no question technology requires specialized skills, and you definitely wouldn't hire someone whose resume lacks the core technology required for the job. Although much of a technical worker's time is spent staring at a screen, man-machine interaction is only part of the job. Person-to-person interaction is also part of the job, so look for employees with emotional intelligence as well as technical capabilities.

Having emotional intelligence means having skills like self-awareness, empathy, and social skills. Employees with these skills work well with others, which is important in team-oriented technical projects. They focus on finding solutions to problems rather than dwelling on the problem, which makes them effective leaders. Find new hires with emotional intelligence these ways:

• Use behavioral interviews.

Emotional intelligence isn't like book intelligence, where you know the right answer; it's about responding effectively challenges. Use behavioral interview questions to find out about the candidate's work in the past and how they envision responding to hypothetical situations. If the hypothetical situations you ask about actually happened in your work environment, you'll get insight into whether their approach to problem solving is appropriate in your company.

• Assess the candidate's attitude during an interview.

Listen to the candidate's responses, not only for content but also for manner. Listen for passion about their work. Make sure the candidate is listening to you and responding to the questions you ask, not just presenting the information they want you to know. Pay attention to nonverbal cues, also.

• Measure the candidate's fit against your culture.

Ask why they want to work for you and what their ideal work environment is. You'll get an idea of the environment they need to thrive and whether your environment matches.

• Find out what they do outside work.

You can learn whether someone is a "people" person by what they choose to do in their spare time. If someone has a leadership role in a volunteer organization, they're leading people who don't have to follow (unlike at work).

• Rely on referrals.

Your employees understand the reality of working within your company and know what kind of attitude will succeed. They won't recommend job candidates they don't think will fit in and be able to do the job.

3 Daily Habits That Will Make You a Better Leader

You've probably offered your staff suggestions to help them improve at work. But are you taking the time to improve your own leadership abilities? Do these three things on a daily basis to become a better leader and help your team work more effectively.

1. Express your expectations clearly.

You probably didn't assess your staff's mind-reading skills when you hired them, so it's unfair to expect them to read your mind on the job. Instead, work on expressing your expectations clearly, both verbally and in written documents. By being precise, you'll eliminate the need for your staff to guess what you want them to do, and reduce the number of times when they inevitably guess wrong. By clarifying expectations, you also increase accountability for other members of the team, which makes handling problems that arise easier.

2. Spend time with your team.

It isn't possible to lead once in a while; you need to lead your team every day. This means that, no matter how many demands your managers are placing on you, you need to spend time with your team on a frequent basis. You need to be involved to critique and give direction in the moment, as issues arise; fail to do that, and you'll have the unpleasant task of giving surprise negative feedback months later at an annual review. Spending time with your team also lets you get to know them better and understand the best way to leverage their talents to the benefit of the business.

3. Focus on others, not yourself.

Leadership is about drawing the best out of other people. This means letting go of your concerns about yourself. It also means encouraging action, not standing in the way, so work on creating an environment that encourages innovation and creative thinking rather than discouraging them. Apply this focus to serving the needs of others at external organizations, too. Volunteer with a community service or social organization that's meaningful to you. You'll learn how to lead people who don't have to follow; bring those more subtle leadership tactics back to the office where they'll help you become more effective at leading your direct reports.

Armada Dec Five Ways to Boost Employee Productivity

When budgets are tight, you can't get more work done by getting more people to do the work. Instead, you have to figure out how to get the people you already have to get more work done. Fortunately, boosting productivity doesn't mean you have to become a slave driver, or that your employees need to give up their personal lives. Use these five tips to increase their productivity, instead.

Reduce wasted time.

This doesn't mean eliminating coffee breaks and water cooler chitchat. Instead, eliminate non-productive work activities like routine departmental weekly meetings where nothing is ever decided.  Meet with smaller subsets of your team in more-focused meetings that address specific issues. Also, stop CC-ing everyone on emails that aren't relevant to them. Not only is the time they spend reading those missives wasted, the "you've got mail" sound interrupts concentration and distracts employees from the work they were trying to do.

Keep the noise down.

Cubicle farms may be unavoidable these days, but the lack of privacy and lack of quiet make it hard to think. Encourage your team to find places where they can concentrate free of distraction, in order to solve the tough problems. If company policy allows BYOD or work-from-home, untether your staff from their cubicles.

Eliminate procedural overhead.

Filling out forms in triplicate and collecting multiple managerial signatures may be great for documentation and compliance purposes, but admin procedures often get in the way of getting work done. You may need other departments’ to buy-in to making changes in processes, but eliminating unnecessary steps can free up significant time your team could spend doing something other than paperwork.

Assign work to the right people.

Work gets done much more quickly when the person doing the task is both qualified and motivated to get it done. Nobody is going to like every assignment they have to do, but if you can give work to people who like that kind of work, and have the skills and connections to get it done, you'll find it gets done faster.

Take advantage of technology.

Save time spent traveling to off-site meetings by using videoconferencing and collaboration software to eliminate the travel time. Take advantage of other software, too; there are plenty of free, open-source products that can let your team automate many routine software development tasks. Spending a little time building scripts and scheduling jobs can free up a lot of time for other important tasks.

Armada Dec What Skills are IT Candidates Missing

How do you decide which candidates to bring in for an interview? Reading their resume gives you an idea of their skills – at least the skills they claim – but lots of candidates look a lot better on paper than they do in person. You and your team can end up spending a lot of time meeting with candidates who can't do the job. One way to cut down on wasted time is to work with a staffing agency that can effectively pre-screen candidates for you. While a recruiter can't make the ultimate decision as to whether a candidate is the right person for you to hire, we can screen for common shortcomings, and make sure you spend your time talking to the best potential new hires.

Communication skills

Staffing agencies talk in-depth with candidates before we pass their resumes on to you. If your job requires a candidate who can speak with confidence and give effective presentations, our conversations with the job seeker let us evaluate their ability before you meet them.

Cultural fit

Our conversations with job seekers always touch on what they're looking for in the position, in the workplace, and longer term in their career. This lets us make sure that the candidates we send to you will fit in and stick around for the long haul.

Problem-solving skills

We can conduct behavioral interviews to assess candidates' problem-solving skills. These interviews ask questions that let the candidate demonstrate resourcefulness, creativity, and analytical thinking.

Technical expertise

Staffing agencies can do more than just match acronyms on candidates' resumes against the acronyms in your job descriptions. We can give candidates technical tests to confirm a baseline level of ability before they ever meet your staff.

Whether you're hiring because you're staffing up for a new project, or need to replace an employee who's resigned, you want to find your new employee as quickly as possible. Working with a staffing agency that's experienced in screening candidates is an effective way to speed up the process. We'll weed out the candidates who don't have the soft skills or personality for the position, and let you focus on the hard technical criteria that are your expertise.