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Rethinking IT, Talent and the Workplace

Innovation Executive Forum | Posted on March 29, 2019 by Karen Bader

During a recent IEF roundtable dinner in New York City, we met with a number of IT professionals for a wide-ranging discussion about the changing nature of human resources in the digital era.

The evening started off with a robust discussion about the competitive nature of today’s workplaces, and the subsequent “war for talent” organizations face. As one attendee pointed out, thanks to Amazon’s recent selection of NYC as a co-location for its new headquarters, this war is escalating. Here’s how to plan your attack.

1.Revisit your Talent Strategy

What’s an IT Manager to do, when faced by the prospect of transient employees seeking greener pastures elsewhere? Our attendees outlined a few solutions. These include:

Enhance HR practices

The job market is now a job-seeker’s market. If a company slips up, potential employees will walk. Thankfully, there’s technology to help with that.

“As recently as last week”, an attendee explained, “I had an offer letter go out to a candidate wrong, three times. The candidate gets scared and declined the offer. So we’re revamping our HR with tools like Smart Recruiter.”

Employ new talent tools

Others noted that tools like Smart Recruiter, Onboarder, and Linkedin can help recruit the right candidates. Especially for younger employees, these services help streamline the search process to ensure the right person is found for the right job.

Understand the dollar value of each employee

Where some companies fall short, is in letting employees quit rather than give them a raise – a costly mistake. We heard the example of one employee being turned down for a $5,000 raise. When the employee moves on, all the money you’ve spent on training, not to mention intellectual property and experience literally goes out the door.

The third bucket: Support employee interests and development

One attendee pointed out the benefits of allowing people to work on their “third bucket“, a personal project of their own choice, while at work.

“I let them choose their focus,” the attendee said. “Machine learning for example. I have a staff member who is very interested in machine learning, so I let her focus on that, and she brings back ideas and feels valued, and that she’s making a contribution.”

Embrace remote tams

Another IT leader in attendance noted that the ability for their organization to attract and retain talent has been greatly enhanced by allowing employees to work remotely. He gave an example whereby his company moved a team of twenty people over to a temporary We Workspace. Great success! The only “downside” is that the team loves the environment and doesn’t want to come back to head office.

Recognize that work doesn’t take as long as it used to

An attendee explained how technology has changed the game, time-wise. “Accomplishing tasks in the cloud actually takes much less effort. Millennial kids, they want to have that work-life balance. Companies like Google and Microsoft encourage that. The reason is, you can accomplish what we used to do in 12 hour days, in 8 hour days.”

2. Streamline Collaboration

As the evening moved on, we went on to discuss the backend to the HR concepts outlined above. Namely, the importance of streamlining collaboration, and setting end users up for success. Again, our attendees had a few insights.

Realize that email is no longer considered real-time

As one attendee noted, these days the bulk of work is being done by chat via Slack or Microsoft Teams.

“Microsoft Teams, in particular, has helped a little bit. The workspace gives them the slack experience. It’s helping to connect our talent with our work ethic.”

Drive usage by thinking outside of the box

One attendee explained, to entice employees to get used to using new collaboration tools, they implemented a program called “Furry Fridays”. While on the surface, the title sounds laughable, the program works by encouraging employees to share pictures of their pets.

3.Enhance Security

Naturally, with the added layers of interconnectivity and offsite work, security has become more of a concern for IT departments. As one attendee pointed out, it can seem like technology is advancing at a rate beyond what some experts can absorb. Still, as our conversation uncovered, IT security specialists can afford to let new technology pass them by. Here’s what we discussed:

Making education ongoing

As an attendee pointed out, employees are still the weakest link when it comes to security, so a little education can go a long way.

“A lot of it is helping folks understand the issues,” he said. What I want from a security point of view is to be able to safeguard. So if you do make a mistake, or you aren’t watching your credentials, I want to help you realize the shortcomings of our infrastructure.”

4. Change Management

The same attendee explained that “Technology is the easy part. There are plenty of choices. It’s about what flavor of technology you’re looking for. It’s not like 20 years ago where you had one or two choices. Take cybersecurity, you more or less trip over solutions now. It’s all about integration.”

Influence change upwards

Another attendee noted that legacy employees often struggle with change. To compensate, IT managers can sell the benefits of change up the chain of command. He cited Microsoft as an example.

“For a company like Microsoft, achieving digital transformation isn’t the hard part. The hard part is making the cultural shift they have to make. Your account managers at Microsoft have been there for 15 years…back when they were measured on on-time renewals. Now, they’re getting measured more on how you’re utilizing the technology. It’s a huge leap. That’s going to be a long term journey.

Final Thoughts

Who’d have thought, that with the rise of the digital age, finding and retaining employees would become so critical, or that the real shift would need to be cultural? After all, wasn’t technology meant to displace the human role in running things? We’ll save that for a later dinner.

In summation:

  • Digital Transformation has created a “war for talent” in key regions
  • IT leaders can help drive talent retention
  • Shifting culture is the real battle

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