I’ve written a lot about Millennials and the massive impact they are having on the future of work. The largest generation in today’s workforce, they are the generation perfectly matched to ride the wave of digital technology and mobility that came of age more or less at the same time they did, and they’ve helped turn traditional business practices on its ear.
One of the areas in which these two “change makers” are having the biggest impact when it comes to the future of business is in IT. IT departments, and the professionals that staff them follow old school stereotypes no longer. Gone are the days of IT being a mysterious “NASA’esque” area of your organization that most of your employees never entered, let alone collaborated with.
Today’s up and coming IT professionals consider themselves partnered with their peers in the enterprise, and are eager (and able) to participate in strategy planning and long-term corporate goal setting. They tend to work closer than ever these days with both sales and marketing teams, and understand—and make sure their teams know—how what they’re working on in the “backend” will impact what’s happening in the front end. The result? Excited, engaged teams, increased productivity, better products, happier customers and clients, and reduced turnover.
Hiring for IT Departments of the Future
Millennials are driving a majority of this change. These “digital natives” were practically born with a smartphone in their hands, and they live and breathe mobile devices, apps, and software. They are also the cohort who demand connection and collaboration in their work environments. That will not sit idly by and take orders from superiors, instead, they want to know the “why” behind tasks, projects, and business initiatives.
As an HR professional or anyone tasked with IT hiring, you need to be on top of these changing expectations when it comes to recruiting for the future of IT.
Seek out potential recruits who, though skilled in the technical areas as they should be, also score high when it comes to soft skills—things like excellent communication, negotiation, and interpersonal skills. Sharon Florentine, who writes for CIO.com,recently shared a quote from Kevin King, founder and CEO of the management consulting and assessment firm, Transformation Point. King says that there’s a direct relationship between soft skills and workers’ effectiveness, which translates to better overall business results.
“A higher degree of soft-skills competency brings improved effectiveness and improved organizational results, and that in turn drives greater employee engagement and retention… When people work more efficiently and effectively together, that means their organizations see better results and they’re more likely to stay,” says King. He adds, “You can have the best technology and processes in the world, but if your people aren’t able to communicate about them, if they aren’t effectively demonstrating teamwork, critical thinking and emotional intelligence, it doesn’t help your business succeed.”
What CIOs Need to Change
According to a recent Gartner study, the 2016 Gartner CIO Agenda Report, “talent has now been recognized globally as the single biggest issue standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives.” Where are the most significant talent gaps? Big data, analytics, information management, and knowledge/acumen. The worst part of this revelation? These are many of the same talent gaps CIOs cited four years ago!
Gartner goes on to explore a little of what today’s CIO’s and other IT professionals can do to start bridging those gaps. The key here is to think about talent as a platform—and be innovative. When you’re thinking about staffing, don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and try new ways of sourcing talent—like these:
- Recruiting/rotating staff from outside IT
- Working more closely with universities on internships, co-designed courses, etc.
- Considering customers, citizens, vendors, and partners as extensions (and digital accelerators) of the talent platform
Today’s CIOs, in many cases, are already seen as a corporation’s digital and/or innovation leaders. And most of those tech leaders also feel their power and influence is increasing as they become more cross-functional and collaborative across the enterprise. The successful IT departments of the future will maintain a focus on new technology, new software, and hardware, and the ‘hottest’ new skills. To build an IT department at this level, IT staffers will be required to be just as cross-functional, collaborative, and engaged as their CIOs are learning to be.
Empathetic, “big picture” thinkers, who are comfortable moving between the confines of the IT department to a client meeting to customer service or the corporate boardroom, are the types of IT professionals you will need to seek out when hiring and/or staffing for the IT departments of the future.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you seen such an evolution in your organization’s IT department? Do you find yourself collaborating and teaming up on projects more often these days with IT teams? Or are you seeing pushback from IT teams who aren’t ready (or able) to adapt to this new way of enterprise business? I would love to hear what you think.
A version of this was first posted on Converge.com.