Technology Matters, But Don't Forget Staffing Issues - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
News

Technology Matters, But Don't Forget Staffing Issues

It's an unfair stereotype to say that IT professionals don't have the people skills to navigate tense personnel issues that come with an economic slowdown, acquisition, or restructuring.

But it is fair to say that handling such issues is rarely No. 1 on their list of favorite things to do.

"Most of them didn't get into this kind of work to deal with people issues. They went into it primarily because of technology," says Bill McCarthy, a VP at human-resources consulting firm LeaderSource Ltd. Many CIOs pull back and avoid dealing with people issues until absolutely necessary, he says.

Staffing issues--whether layoffs or just shifting people off projects they've sweated over--present one of the toughest leadership challenges during a downturn. Adding to that is how sharp the current reversal has been from just a year ago, when morale issues focused on motivating burned-out IT workers and finding enough skilled people to keep projects moving.

Campbell Soup Co. CIO Doreen Wright has one guiding principle in dealing with such uncertainties: Act fast. When people are in limbo about their jobs or projects, productivity suffers as employees ponder their fate. Leaders need to deal with such issues quickly and honestly and trust workers to handle economic realities. Wright knows her subject. She joined the Camden, N.J., company in June after Nabisco, where she had been CIO, was acquired by Kraft Foods Co. "People are much better able to handle the truth and go on with their work and lives than dealing with uncertainty," Wright says.

Many of the problems caused by an economic downturn--layoffs, canceled projects, restructuring--are similar to the sorts of leadership challenges CIOs face when companies are acquired, says Allan Grossman, senior partner of executive search firm A. Davis Grant & Co. Often, big chunks and even the entire portfolio of work accomplished by the IT staff of an acquired company is left to wither in favor of the other company's platforms, applications, and systems. Not only are staffers faced with adapting to new corporate and IT environments, they also face a blow to morale when effectively told that the fruits of their labor are no longer valued.

General Motors Corp. group VP and CIO Ralph Szygenda emphasizes keeping employees informed about how the overall business is doing, so they understand IT's role in that and why changes are made. People feel more in control and less alienated if they understand the business reasons behind a shift in IT priorities. He holds weekly teleconference meetings with the top IT executive assigned to each process--such as engineering, marketing, and product development--as well as with division CIOs. In addition, he taps the company's employee Web sites to communicate changes broadly to the rank-and-file.

Employees also need to know how they're doing individually, Szygenda says. Then, if it comes to laying off staff--which GM hasn't done--IT lead-

ers are in a better position because individual employees know where they stand in the company. "It should never be a surprise how well people are performing," says Szygenda. "You have to make performance goals clear."

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
Slideshows
10 Ways to Transition Traditional IT Talent to Cloud Talent
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  11/23/2020
News
Top 10 Data and Analytics Trends for 2021
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  11/13/2020
Commentary
Can Low Code Measure Up to Tomorrow's Programming Demands?
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  11/16/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Why Chatbots Are So Popular Right Now
In this IT Trend Report, you will learn more about why chatbots are gaining traction within businesses, particularly while a pandemic is impacting the world.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll