Talk to any CIO or IT executive who’s ever mentored an up-and-coming leader and you’ll quickly discover that they’re getting as much out of the experience as their mentees are. Not only does IT mentoring gives the executive a satisfying way to pay it forward, it’s also a great way to engage star talent, learn about new tech, and relate to younger workers.
In a recent article for The Enterprisers Project, Dan Roberts explored how both mentor and mentee can make the relationship work best and deliver a win-win all around. As part of his research process for the article, Dan spoke with two people who know first hand what makes a mentoring relationship effective. Dollar Bank CIO Bill Fortwanger and Andy Bonelli, a senior IT manager at PPG, were paired up as mentor and mentee in a recent TechLX cohort in Pittsburgh. They’ve seen just how powerful the relationship can be for both sides of the equation.
Andy has also served as a mentor himself in PPG’s internal program, and many mentees go on to pay it forward as mentors themselves. In fact, research shows that 89% of those mentored go on to mentor others, contributing to a culture of learning and mentoring.
How Mentoring Makes an Impact
When CIOs and other IT executives volunteer to become mentors in the TechLX program, we ask them to share their thoughts on the value of mentoring as a professional development tool and what they hope to gain from the relationship. Here’s just a sampling of what these leaders have told us:
To learn more about getting the benefits of an IT mentoring relationship, be sure to check out Dan’s article, IT mentors: How to make the most of this win-win relationship.
Interested in being a mentor for one of our upcoming TechLX cohorts, or just want to learn more about this powerful technology leadership experience? Email us, give us a call at 603-782-7473, or visit the TechLX website for more details.
IT leaders are being asked to transform their organizations. And the answer to the question “But transform into what?” has everything to do with making soft skills the new core competencies.
In part two of Dan Roberts’ latest CIO Whisperers column, Claus Jensen, CTO of CVS Health, Sue Kozik, CIO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, and Steve LeMoine, CIO of Cree, discuss how they’re tackling IT transformation from a human perspective.
By sponsoring training in areas like consultative approaches, negotiating prowess, influence and diplomacy, marketing IT’s value, and providing strategic leadership, these leaders are putting the emphasis on core skills. Why? Because those are the skills that will fuel IT performance and elevate IT as a strategic partner and innovation driver in the business.
Read on to learn why re-engineering your culture requires developing new core skills.
Strengthen your talent brand, future-proof your business
Today’s high-performing IT organizations have a laser-like focus on building the core skills required to support the business and continually move up the IT Maturity Curve.
> Develop the IT skills that deliver game-changing value.
Get in touch with us for additional resources to help you move up the IT Maturity Curve and achieve your leadership and talent development goals.
Communication, influence, innovative thinking, customer focus: They used to be called “soft skills,” a term that makes many CIOs cringe. But today, these are by no means “soft.” They’re some of IT's most-needed core competencies.
For a new two-part CIO Whisperers column, Dan Roberts spoke with Claus Jensen, CTO of CVS Health, Sue Kozik, CIO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, and Steve LeMoine, CIO of Cree, about the need for today’s IT employees to be “leaders, collaborators, visionaries,” as Jensen puts it.
In part one, Dan explores why the technical skills that earned you a seat at the table won’t earn you a voice at the table.
Read on to learn why IT must master a new set of core skills for high-level success.
In a new column for the St. Louis Business Journal, Greg Nichols, President of Technology Partners Inc., makes a compelling case for cultivating a strong pipeline of visionary IT leaders. “The lack of IT professionals with real business leadership experience is a challenge our region must meet to stay competitive,” he observes.
In fact, it’s a hard reality that’s affecting cities, communities, and regions across the country and around the world. That’s why we’re partnering with organizations like Technology Partners to launch The TechLX, an innovative six-month IT leadership development experience, in cities this fall.
Scott Livingston, manager of membership platform production support at HM Health Solutions, explains that it’s about building the abstract qualities that make leaders, not just managers. He credits his participation in a TechLX cohort in Pittsburgh for contributing to his recent promotion. “I’ve learned that what you can do is only as good as the people you surround yourself with and how much you can motivate them,” he says. “It’s about creating opportunities.”
Building the IT Hubs of the Future
The TechLX is launching cohorts this fall in Cleveland, Denver, Kansas City, Raleigh, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Sydney Australia.
Get in touch with us today to learn about available sponsorship opportunities for emerging tech leaders in these communities.
“Technology is the engine. If we don’t have the leadership pipeline, it’s not going to happen.”
That’s O&A’s Dan Roberts, talking with Technology Partners Founder Lisa Nichols recently about what we need to do to prepare our communities, leaders, and entire workforces for an increasingly disruptive world. Lisa caught up with Dan recently for an episode of her Something Extra podcast.
In a wide-ranging conversation about technology and what great leaders are doing to become trusted advisors in their organization, Dan and Lisa discussed how IT can deliver more strategic value, the importance of building a culture of learning agility, and why a “net-giver” mindset makes all the difference.
Listen to full episode here.
Find out more about the innovative Leadership Development Program mentioned in the podcast, and get in touch if you’d like more information about how to bring it to your community.
From talent magnet to business partner to official face of IT, today’s CIOs need to be communicating more than ever before. Great leaders rise to the occasion, armed with a learning mindset and the support of their IT communications partners.
That’s one of the big takeaways from the interviews O&A’s CEO Dan Roberts conducted with more than a dozen IT communications professionals at forward-thinking companies like Asurion, Boeing, and Dignity Health.
In part two of the two-part article for his CIO Whisperers column, Dan shares more lessons from these leaders and reveals how Claus Jensen, CTO of CVS Health, communicates his vision with authenticity and clarity.
Having studied CIO-led transformations over the past three decades, we’ve found that there’s a key differentiator that sets the best apart from all the rest: a strong Communications partner.
Along with the complexities and challenges of IT transformation, the overall business environment is escalating the need for future-focused Communications leadership that understands the strategic IT agenda.
There are a number of reasons why a strong IT Communications partner is particularly important today, including:
O&A’s CEO Dan Roberts recently interviewed IT Communications leaders at a number of successful companies to get an insider view of the role, from both a strategic and day-to-day level. Read part one of the takeaways in his CIO Whisperers column on how CIOs communicate success—and elevate their game.
Customer-centricity has become a hot buzzword across industries today, both in B2C and B2B companies. And there’s a good reason for that. Customer-obsessed organizations are winning.
But when we start to apply the concepts of customer-centricity and service excellence to IT organizations, we often find that CIOs and IT leaders don’t really understand what the terms mean in practice. So before we talk about what good service looks like for IT, we need to understand what good service doesn’t look like.
First, service is not subservience. It’s not about becoming submissive order-takers who deliver anything the client desires. IT cannot be all things to all people. You end up serving whoever screams the loudest — and satisfying no one.
But even though IT can’t do everything the client asks for, it can convey a willingness to serve, and it does this by addressing the client’s needs with respect and concern. If you’ve succeeded, the client walks away from the transaction interaction thinking, ‘‘I really like working with these people.’’
Second, service can’t spring from a negative atmosphere. Many IT organizations weave IT service into IT governance, and the result becomes an attempt by IT to impose what’s “best” onto the entire organization. While IT absolutely has to keep its eye on regulatory requirements, security best practices and infrastructure needs, if all the business sees is you being an obstacle to meeting bottom-line objectives, you’re only undercutting your own effectiveness.
The result of this negativity is that IT is seen as “the Department of No,” and IT sees the business as inconsiderate, unappreciative and “unable to survive a day without us.” That’s no way to build trust, credibility and respect. Unfortunately, many IT departments are hotbeds of negativity, where the staff feels undervalued, angry and victimized.
It’s no wonder, then, that when some IT leaders ask their staff to improve their service, the staff might glumly play a role that they think looks like good service but isn’t. Think of the store checkout clerk who asks without expression or eye contact whether you’ve found everything okay, or the false smile of the ﬂight attendant who tells you to have a good day. All of us can spot insincerity or indifference under a thin veneer of professionalism a mile away. And none of us likes it.
Good Service Looks Like This
From an IT point of view, the characteristics of good service include:
When IT views its mission not as maintaining an infrastructure and getting through a backlog of service tickets, but as partnering with line of business workers to make the entire enterprise successful, a change happens. Their problem is our problem. Their goals — to be more productive, to succeed in the market, to capture a new business opportunity — become our goals.
An IT Service Mindset at Work
What this reflects is a change in mindset that’s required to achieve service excellence. And it’s easiest to describe that change with examples. Here are a few that might resonate with you:
By contrast, the Promiser just says, ‘‘Yes,’’ ‘‘We can do that,’’ ‘‘We can do that, too,’’ and ‘‘Is there anything else you want us to do?’’
Both roles are played with the best of intentions — the Rule Master wants to manage expectations and protect the company, while the Promiser is trying to build good relationships. But you can get better results and better serve your customers by taking those best intentions and pointing them in the right direction. A shift in mindset makes it possible.
> Learn more about Achieving IT Service Excellence.
Most companies understand the value of brand, and many work diligently to define and elevate it. But most of the time, they’re only getting it half right. In addition to your consumer brand—how people feel about buying your products or services—there’s your employer brand.
Your employer brand is the internal and external perception of your company as a place to work. As Kevin Martin, Chief Research Officer for the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) explains, “Via our research and discussions with our Talent Acquisition Board members, it’s clear to us that an organization’s Employer Brand describes the experience of working at that organization and should be nuanced for both internal (employees) and external (candidates) audiences. In essence, it presents an aspirational truth about your organization.”
Organizations faced with digital transformation must consider employer brand equally as important as consumer brand.
While the companies that put the most effort into employer brand tend to be national or multinational enterprises, every company that relies on talent (in other words, every company) should be looking to improve its competitive position in the labor market. That means Top talent must be targeted, courted, retained and developed in much the same way that you pursue your most important customers.
4 Layers of Employer Brand
Consider the four essential pillars through which employer brand manifests itself:
1. Location: Different regions and cities across the United States have their own unique “microcultures.” In places like, Boston, for example ,these microcultures are meaningful even at a neighborhood level. Organizations in Cambridge, heavy in education, research, tech, and pharmaceuticals, do not have the same employer brand found in the Financial District.
The impact of location is huge, but not easily malleable. Still, there are ways to affect how location affects your business. John Deere and State Farm have funded college programs to grow the talent market in less-than-top-flight locations, to huge success. Providence, RI, benefits from its proximity to Boston, drawing talent from Harvard’s back yard with its 14 percent lower cost of living. On the other hand, GE’s move from Connecticut to Boston last year is another prime example of location in action. GE intentionally chose the city’s Seaport district to distance itself from manufacturing and position the company as a high-tech, innovative organization.
2. Industry: As GE knew and addressed in 2015, the best talent is attracted to industries in different ways. While GE could attract best and brightest mechanical and electrical engineers, industrial manufacturing is not an industry to which software engineers flock. GE shifted its talent focus to in two ways:
3. Role: Titles are important to us. Whether we like it or not, they facilitate, or hinder, social mobility. They open doors to new opportunity, new networks, and new lifestyles. Anecdotally, it’s much more common to hear people answer, “What do you do?” with, “I am a software architect at iTech …” than what was more common a generation ago: “I work for iTech.” The implication: I happen to be at this company right now, but my role is more important to me than the organization. The organization certainly adds (or subtracts) some gravitas, but employee mobility means what we do is fast eclipsing who we do it for.
The best way to ensure you’re reaching your target talent market is to advertise. And recognize that the primary advertisement for a role is the way you describe it in a job posting. If you’re looking for top talent to help digitally transform your organization but are using a templated job description from years ago, the best potential employees will ignore you.
Advertising doesn’t only happen externally. Shamim Mohammad, CIO and SVP at CarMax, speaks to the importance of advertising the contributions of individuals and teams, internally:
Companies all around the world are competing for top talent. To attract the best and brightest to CarMax, we’ve worked hard to share stories about how everyone on these CarMax product teams – from our empowered developers, product managers, data scientists and store experts – are driving the car buying experience of the future. Cultural alignment with new talent is essential for success, and we seek out strong candidates that embody CarMax’s values of integrity, transparency and respect.
Make sure HR is putting thought into the skills being requested. The skills your organization needs to complete its digital transformation are the same skills that will attract top talent and retain employees looking to grow their own career.
4. Individual: This one is somewhat nuanced, but nonetheless might be the most critical. Think of this as the likelihood your employees’ peers will want to come and work for you, and then identify the signals your employees’ peers see.
“Employer brand is a matter of perception, not reality,” notes Claus Jensen, CTO at Aetna. “Until you hire someone, they can’t really know what it is like to work here, so they are guided by general market perception and input from their personal network. What we can influence directly is the input from personal networks, in particular what current employees are saying about the place. Investing in your current talent helps attract new talent. Of course, the opposite is true as well!”
Focus on these three categories:
Employer brand not only attracts the best talent, it helps you retain your leading employees as well. Working on all four pillars—maximizing the value of your location, the appeal of your industry, how you “sell” roles within your organization, and how you turn employees into advocates for your brand—helps you attract and retain the talent that will carry your business forward, especially amid the challenges of digital transformation and disruption.
As i4cp’s Martin points out, “Marketing and HR need to work in partnership to ensure consistency of corporate and employer brand and awareness of what the ‘social’ sphere is saying about the company — its employer brand as perceived externally and internally.”
Ouellette & Associates works with companies of all sizes, across industries, to build and maintain their employer brand. Our SaaS Learning Experience Platform (LXP) for strategic workforce planning, IT Skill Builder, leverages timely labor market data to help you understand the competitive forces at play, advertise effectively, and bring transparency to employee development.
Schedule a demo of IT Skill Builder.
Sales is often called the heart of the organization, and its health is measured rigorously. Performance is measured in terms of business development, and tracked against both historic performance and ambitious projections. Yet just as sales revenue is essential to a business, talent is the lifeblood of the organization, vital to the performance of every function. And every business is looking to improve performance to stay competitive.
So, why isn’t talent development subject to the same scrutiny and expectations as business development?
For starters, we haven’t been forced to (yet). The “war for talent” we find ourselves in, when seen from a broader perspective, is an effect of Industry 4.0, and we’ve only dipped our toe in those waters. The confusion we see in the labor force now is small compared to what we’ll see as new technologies—artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, etc.—begin to be distributed at scale.
A second reason is that we haven’t learned to effectively measure talent development is that we view talent as static when we should see it as evolving. Human capital must evolve, where less valuable skills are regularly replaced by more valuable skills, to maximize the viability of the career and value to the organization. Those responsible for talent development should be measured on their ability to grow the employee base (as we would existing customers), and acquire new talent (as we would new market share).
A third inhibitor to measurable talent development: We haven’t standardized a method to measure and project human capital value. Business development is easy to measure, and the value is obvious. The same is true of talent, and the most successful organizations create proprietary methods of measuring and projecting its development. The important thing is not that we perfect the measurement, but that we can predict outcomes of our talent initiatives.
Finally, the HR function, like every other function in the modern enterprise, is changing. The implication should be obvious: In the same way we don’t have the skills we need in our workforce, we don’t have the skills we need in HR. We note the potential in data, and yet there has been a 6 percent increase in HR roles asking for big data skills, while the rest of the workforce has seen a 27 percent increase in such demand, according to recent data from Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight. We need to apply the expectations of innovation and transformation to HR that we apply to the rest of our organization.
Taken in total, these four points indicate that HR has simply not kept up with the rapidly transforming culture, marketplace and technological era in which we live and work. HR needs to change its approach to talent development to be data driven and outcome oriented.
Updating Your Talent Development Approach
Your organization must act creatively about the way it measures talent development if it is to compete and win in the war for talent. We have the right model in business development, and here’s how we can apply the same principles.
Identify high-value skills for your organization. Do you need cryptography skills to protect digital assets in today’s cybersecurity arms race? Are those more valuable than project management skills? Identify which skills are strategically imperative so that you can build development plans to grow toward those targets.
Learning and development plans should function like strategic account plans. Target and measure your talent development plans on three core sales pillars:
Set appreciation goals for talent development, then monitor progression as you would a sales pipeline. Expect talent development to forecast future talent shape based on L&D rates, and reward talent development for internal mobility.
HR leaders trying to retool the business for an increasingly disrupted and technology-driven marketplace must look first at their own skill sets and methodologies, and then ensure that we can deliver the vision and execute the change that our businesses need.
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