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How to get the most out of your IT talent

Ann Bednarz | Dec. 2, 2014
For CIOs and IT leaders, the management challenge is how to help IT employees break the tactical habit and use their strategic skills more effectively.

Bloom's technique aims to prioritize people's to-do lists by zone levels, with the most strategic tasks being tackled when people are performing at their highest.

"When they're at the top of their game, they should be doing software development, writing business cases, developing project plans, and things like that. If they're alert but not really creative, they could be doing project plan vs. actual tracking, or writing status reports," Bloom says. "If they're not really up for a mental challenge, they can be returning routine emails, reviewing their spam folder, completing expense reports. If they're basically not sleeping, then they can clean their office, file things, delete old email."

If managers can give their staff a range of assignments, and teach them this technique, then people can figure out how to plan their day, based on what zone they're in. "IT people can be more efficient if they use zone-based priorities," Bloom says.

Cross-training and speed dating

Keeping up with the pace of change in tech is an ongoing challenge.

Chad Cardenas, chief innovation officer at Trace3, talks about the need to cross-train tech talent in multiple disciplines so companies can better handle shifting business requirements. Cross-training can shake up the status quo and also help with retention of employees who appreciate the chance to learn new skills.

"Engineers come from different backgrounds, have different skill sets and areas of expertise. Typically, they will get trained up and inserted within that particular wheelhouse of expertise that they already have," Cardenas says. "That's a challenge for a lot of companies: to break down those silos of engineering prowess and get their engineers cross-trained across multiple disciplines, so they can be more efficient, more powerful, and more valuable to the organization."

Trace3 offers a training program called ScaleThem that helps clients pinpoint their business challenges and then develops a customized education program, including road maps for each team member.

Like many of its offerings, Trace3's training programs grew out of the firm's own transformation, over the past several years, from a traditional value-added reseller and systems integrator to a professional services firm with an emphasis on business transformation. As the company morphed, it found it had a surplus of storage engineers and not enough big data talent. Instead of recruiting outside the firm, Trace3 gave its storage gurus the chance to train to become data scientists. The engineers were happy, and the business was growing in the right direction.

"You can get way more out of that investment than you could out of consolidating a server environment or buying a cheaper storage solution," Cardenas says of cross-training technologists. "You're going to have happier engineers who are more engaged, more aligned to the business."


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