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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Performance reviews are a key part of the management job, but they're not something all managers enjoy. Even a positive review is stressful for an employee, and negative reviews … well, not every employee appreciates constructive criticism. Sometimes employees get defensive, or even hostile, when they receive negative comments. How you respond to that reaction can make a big difference in your working relationship with that employee going forward.
First, make sure the employee understands the goal of the feedback. Unless the performance has been so bad the employee is at risk of being fired – and you should have a first conversation long before it reaches that point – the goal is to help them succeed. State this upfront, and establish that you will work with them and support them to make their success possible.
… and then get their opinion. It's possible there's something about the situation that you weren't aware of that might change your perception. Even if it doesn't, you need to understand how they see it. You may not be able to argue the employee out of their point of view, but you'll be able to tailor your approach more effectively.
Make sure you don't interrupt the employee during their response. Cutting them off can be seen as disrespectful. Pay attention to their body language and facial expressions, as well as their words.
You don't want to argue with the employee, but if they disagree or deny the accuracy of your evaluation, be prepared with examples that support your opinion. Also, be ready to present suggestions to help the employee address those problems.
If the employee continues to deny the problems, it may be better to continue the discussion another time. Suggest the employee take time to think over your feedback and schedule a continuation of the discussion for a day or so later.
When you have that second discussion, make sure the employee understands the consequences of not taking action to correct the issue. If possible, speak about the positive benefits of achieving the change, as well as the potential negative consequences if performance doesn't improve.
Lastly, make sure the employee knows it's not their responsibility alone to fix the problem. Some problems can only be corrected with help from outside resources like an Employee Assistance Program or training in specific skills. Offer your employee these options, as well as your support, in order to help them improve and succeed at work.
Because IT systems are so critical for companies in every industry today, eventually most organizations choose to hire a CIO to set the technical direction and oversee its implementation. Adding any C-level executive role has a major impact on the dynamics of corporate management, so selecting the right CIO is about more than just technical knowledge. CIOs should bring the following key characteristics with them to the business.
CIOs should be able to understand the company's vision for its business and be able to generate an information technology vision that supports the business vision. This requires more than superficial knowledge of the business; there's a need for in-depth knowledge of the domain. Previous work experience in your industry is helpful, but also look for a CIO who shares your passion for growing the company.
New technology is often sold as the answer to all problems, and as far more simple to integrate than it really is. CIOs need to know how to dig beyond the sales pitches to understand what the technology really can do for the business as well as how complex and disruptive it will be. Because technology changes constantly, look for a CIO who demonstrates curiosity and actively seeks to learn about new technology. You need someone you can trust to set your direction in the future, not just make choices about the technologies you hear about today.
CIOs need to be able to effectively communicate with the CEO, their management peers, and more junior managers and staff. Marshaling arguments that persuade a CEO is one thing; convincing the IT team that has to do the hands-on work of a new technology or new process's value is something else. The CIO should be able to discuss the benefits of a technology in nontechnical terms when talking with business management, and also be comfortable using technical language when talking with the tech team.
The main advantage having a CIO can bring to a company is using their business vision, technical understanding, and leadership skills to envision new ways of doing things. Using either the company's existing technical capability or through new technology, the CIO needs to create new ways of satisfying the business's technical needs. Done well, the CIO ensures that new technologies keep the company competitive and support its success.
If the only time you think of using a staffing firm is when you need a hand filling a position, you're not getting the full benefit of their expertise. Partnering with a staffing agency can help companies define and achieve a comprehensive workforce management strategy. Instead of always reacting to the loss of IT talent, companies can work together with the staffing agency to proactively position themselves to attract IT talent.
Provide a View Across the Industry
Because of their industry contacts, staffing agencies know how other organizations are enhancing their benefits and policies to appeal to potential employees. They have insight into job descriptions and how the roles of employees are changing. A staffing agency can work with its client companies to develop or revise HR policies to match industry standards and make the company more appealing to potential hires.
Help You Plan for Flexible Staffing
One of the biggest challenges for companies is finding a way to balance long-term and short-term staffing needs. Having to implement a layoff is painful and costly for companies in multiple ways, but being understaffed is also difficult. A staffing agency can help companies develop strategies for using part-time and temporary staff to meet changing staffing needs, as well as recruit the part-time and temporary employees needed. In addition, working with a staffing agency reduces the time needed to find these employees.
Share Responsibilities for Employees
In some cases, the temporary employees don't become your employee; they are employees of the staffing agency. In this arrangement, the staffing agency – not your business – is responsible for meeting legal obligations such as withholding taxes and making FICA contributions. Another significant legal obligation that belongs to the staffing agency is compliance with ACA regulations. By removing these responsibilities from your company, corporate HR and employee benefit teams can be smaller and more efficient.
IT projects are intense. There's a push for perfection, a drive to meet deadlines, 24/7 systems that crash at 2 a.m. … It's easy for IT employees to get burned out.
Burned out employees aren't productive, aren't creative, and, most importantly, aren't healthy. Here are four strategies to help keep your IT team working and happy about it.
Help your team develop their skills.Find out what your employees want to do, then help them do it. Employees who are working on a project they're interested in are happier and less likely to burn out. For some employees, this may mean learning a new technology and using it in a proof-of-concept side project. For others, it may mean developing non-technical skills and moving up the management ladder.
Share the support responsibility.Rotate the responsibility for production support issues, and stick to the rotation. End users often directly call the person who helped them out the last time instead of calling the support hotline. Let your staff know that it's ok to tell these callers "John's on support this week; I'll let him know about the problem."
Honor your employees' time off.Modern business tends to treat "time off" as a joke; employees are expected to check email unless they're in a destination without Internet. Force yourself to let employees who are on vacation or taking a sick day to truly be away from the office. If the employee were to quit, you'd have to manage without them; this is an opportunity to make sure you have backup knowledge for all their responsibilities.
Praise your team publicly.Most of the rewards people receive for work aren't visible; salaries and bonuses are confidential and promotions are rare. Reward your team by letting them know you value their work in the simplest way possible: tell them. People want to feel their work has meaning, and this is an effective way of reassuring them the work is meaningful to you and to the company.