CIO Insights on Engaging the IT Workforce – A #CIOChat Recap

CIO Insights on Engaging the IT Workforce - A #CIOChat Recap

CIO Insights on Engaging the IT Workforce - A #CIOChat Recap

Digital business strategist Myles Suer (@MylesSuer) recently hosted a #CIOchat on the topic of IT team engagement. About a dozen IT leaders joined him for the hour to discuss challenges and opportunities, and to swap strategies. The first question posed to the group involved the current state of affairs with respect to IT teams and engagement.

How engaged are most IT teams today?

VP for information technology Melissa Woo (@mzyw) was first to chime in, saying that the answer depends on the type of work and type of institution. Chief delivery officer Will Lassalle (@wlassalle) agreed, replying that it also varies based on leadership and the size of the organization. However, Lassalle doesn’t feel that IT teams are engaged in general, either with each other or with the business.

Laurent Maumet, a vice president for quality and operations support and transformation (@lmau), commented that the ongoing digital revolution puts IT at the center of everything, and therefore teams are actually more engaged than ever. IT leader Josh Olson (@josholson) said that with all of the collaboration tools popping up, IT teams are able to stay better informed and therefore better engaged.

CIO strategic advisor Tim Crawford (@tcrawford) offered that a more important question is: how are IT teams engaged? “Most IT teams are very engaged, but they may not be engaged in a meaningful or valuable way,” he said. Chief strategy officer Dion Hinchcliffe (@dhinchcliffe) followed up that idea: “Many IT staff are very engaged in technology, but aligning that with the business is another challenge.”

Do IT teams fully understand the impact of employee engagement?

Next, Suer pointed out that at @UK_HealthCare, IT demonstrated that regular management of employee engagement drove customer satisfaction. E.G. Nadhan (@NadhanEG), chief technology strategist, replied that employee engagement is a key stimulant for purposeful innovation. “Managing employee engagement implies that they measured it, and measuring it means they defined it,” mused Olson. “I wonder what their definition is?”

Many of the IT leaders concurred that most organizations don’t truly understand what employee engagement actually means. IT professional Forvalaka41 (@Forvalaka41) suggested that it’s structuring the organization in a way that employees can see the results of their efforts. Chief strategy officer Mark Thiele (@mthiele10) said employee engagement is developed through trust and loyalty that’s driven by the leader. Olson was even more specific, defining employee engagement as “monthly open forums that start and end on time, provide information, and allow anonymous, real time feedback – and cookies.”

How have you driven your own team’s engagement?

Suer asked for a secret strategy the participants have used to drive engagement. Forvalaka41 makes sure feedback, success stories, and customer thanks flow back to the team. “A yearly cycle of Day 1 ‘these are management’s goals” and Day 365 ‘you did or didn’t meet them’ with little in between is a recipe for disaster.”

Thiele talks with his team members rather than at them, and makes friendly conversation. He also lets his people speak for themselves and contribute directly to organization-wide initiatives. “I demonstrate my interest in their work and don’t look over their shoulders,” he said. Crawford and IT professional Steven Fox (@securelexicon) agreed. “It’s very empowering to let others lead,” said Crawford, while Fox replied: “As leaders, we must trust that our team is capable of execution and agility.” Finally, Lassalle added: “I let my employees take turns running stand up/scrum meetings. It keeps everything fresh.”

As the chat closed off this question, the IT leaders mentioned giving authentic praise and acknowledgment, understanding what motivates the individual, and showing that you appreciate effort. And, taking responsibility for mistakes when appropriate. “Perhaps the three most important words a CIO can say to ensure staff engagement are ‘I was wrong,’” said chief information officer Jonathan Feldman (@_jfeldman). Olson chimed in with: “Also, ‘I don’t know.’” To Crawford, this is easier said than done. “The culture around the CIO is that admitting fault is a sign of weakness and vulnerability. We need to change that.”

How do you measure and report on employee engagement?

After Suer asked this question, IT consultant Larry Larmeu (@LarryLarmeu) said that he gauges engagement with daily, one-on-one standup meetings. Standup meetings, by the way, are meetings in which attendees typically participate while standing. The format is intended to keep things short. Fox admitted that while his organization measures engagement annually, it lacks follow through in taking action on findings. Personally, he likes to ask his internal clients the question: “How have we helped you solve your problems during this project?”

Like Fox, most of the IT execs cited annual surveys as the principal vehicle for measurement and agreed that a better method would be more continuous. Also, added Forvalaka41: “People aren’t always truthful in surveys. Interaction is better.”

Executive managers are often distant and removed. How can IT leaders make sure this is not the case?

Crawford was first to cite this as a genuine problem. “Too many leaders stay behind email and phone, which is too impersonal,” he said. “Technology has in many ways hurt us more than it has helped. Get out of your office and visit people.” Lassalle advised the same. “Have a REAL open door policy, walk the floor, hold a town hall.”

Olson said that he fights negative perceptions by participating, being humble and available, and listening. And, as Mark Thiele said: “If you’re too busy to talk with your team, you’re doing something wrong. Time with your team pays off better than any other investment.”

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