Create a Culture Supportive of IT Teams
Identifying and keeping great staff and members of your team, and making sure they stay on with the organization, is one of the most difficult challenges any manager will face. Even more daunting for IT and service desk managers is that they often face two obstacles related to hiring and motivating staff, which can make their jobs uniquely respectively much more challenging.
First, they must strike the balance between managing technical skills and people skills. Secondly, making a traditionally repetitive support role varied and continually rewarding can be difficult for a manager who is not strong in this area. What follows is a description for why this is the case, and what you can do to help overcome these common managerial problems.
The fine line: balancing technical and people skills
Typically, when we look for people with technical skills, we mostly focus on their knowledge of systems. We get excited because a candidate might have experience in supporting the same finance software package our organization uses, but what we really might need is a candidate with technical curiosity and the ability to approach problem solving rather than just possessing one skill in a specialized area.
One way to avoid this or to attempt to do so, focus on how they have spent their time when working with a new system or an updated system that might be new to them. How do they respond to change, to adversity and to facing new challenges? Do such things keep them from moving forward, or taking appropriate risks? Are they able to analyze and problem solve when the stakes are high? Are they able to come out ahead if they don’t have the proper access permissions or are not fully trained on a particular system you’re asking them to use? Ask them to demonstrate the skills that show they are always learning about technology, and that overcoming complexity is a motivation in itself.
Turning our attention to the people and their skills required to provide great IT services, we face a similar need to transition to a different kind of thinking. As you likely know, when you’re seeking new talent to bring on, when we’re in the hunt for people skills we examine only what we see on the surface level of skill capable of providing transactional services like handling complaints or even just being polite on the phone. Important skills to possess for IT professionals serving others within the organization, but these simple skills shouldn’t be the employee’s only core skills.
Dig deeper to understand the areas of emotional intelligence that are needed for the person to perform their work to the highest level. For this, you need to uncover the characteristics and talents that uncover truly great service skills, like empathy, a capacity for trust, and, perhaps most importance of all, patience.
Why does recognizing these skills matter so much?
While some in IT claim that there’s a skills gap currently in the market, for the most part this is a myth. Perhaps the truth is that IT has simply not learned how to find or hire these people yet. There are great number of people who possess a strong technical appetite and high levels of applicable emotional intelligence. It’s worth noting that great IT people don’t need to look very hard to find new opportunities if they are seeking new opportunities. The best talent get fought over from potential employers. Because of this, many IT departments lose great talent to customer centric tech companies.
Money, training, benefits and job security are not always the reasons talented IT folks leave for a new position. When IT and service desk professionals possess valuable skills, more than anything they want to be recognized and appreciated for them. Unfortunately, when a company or its IT department focuses its recognition on factors like systems knowledge or complaint handling, this can actually turn off for staff who see themselves as bringing high levels of emotional intelligence or problem solving to a role.
By changing the skills you recognize and reward internally can lead to more success in the hiring process, employee satisfaction and retention. This recognition also be way to build trust — an essential characteristic for motivating your teams and their individual members.
How do you start making a break through?
There is a wide range of options available for building trust; you don’t have to take an overly scientific approach to it. Building trust comes from a genuine and patient approach to discussion and listening with your team members, and engaging on such a strategy it’s very important to be aware of your team member’s communication styles.
Short, pointed and regular conversations with team members may be the most effective method of communicating. For employees with more amiable or sociable communication styles, you may need to spend more time ensuring their discussions have objectivity to them. Over time, through regular and sincere communication, will not only build trust, but also establish a reliable approach to two-way communication. In the bigger picture, you can use these techniques to establish a more sophisticated approach to recognition that transcends your standard service desk metrics.
Such an approach should help with the hiring of new staff. Think about how you can take what you have learned about your team through this process, what they value and what their current gaps are to craft a position listing that can be used to attract the right employee. Thus, if the team has come to value trust, communication and an open approach to tackling problems you can use this to philosophy to promote the position and your organization.
Ultimately, once you have hired an IT professional, don’t forget that your trust and communication exercise to this point is more than a one-time thing, but is now a culture. Make sure your new staff receive the same investment of your time and attention, and that you are always encouraging people to share and learn from each other in exactly the same way.