If you Think There are no IT Workers to be had, Look Again

There is no shortage of IT workers. But there is a shortage of workers like the ones you have already. That is, young, white, and male. We are making some progress against racism and sexism in hiring, but ageism still seems to be a hidden bias.

While the IT industry is lamenting that they can’t find the people they need, I know many people in my age segment (50+) who have been laid off and can’t find their next job in IT. You need to cast your net wider if you are short of IT professionals. They are out there.

Well-led Employees Don’t Leave

When a company changes hands, the tree is shaken. Some of the employees that weren’t really attached to the company leaves. That’s what is happening at Twitter right now, and that will happen whenever there is uncertainty in your organization.

But have you noticed that some teams experience a lot of turnover in turbulent times, and some teams are solid as a rock? The difference is leadership. Members of a well-led team will continue to do their job through whatever tsunami of social media opprobrium, whereas members of badly led team will jump ship at the first sign of trouble.

Are you tracking the turnover in each part of your organization? It will tell you something important about the leaders.

You Need On-Site Time

You can work from home as long as you also put in 40 hours at the office. That’s official policy at Tesla, where Elon Musk has thrown down the gauntlet at his executives. The factory workers put in 40+ hours and their managers should, too.

There are some jobs that lend themselves well to remote working, and some that don’t. Elon has a point that managing people involves being visible, and much leadership happens outside official meetings. Nobody has figured out a way to simulate the informal encounters of the workplace in Zoom. That is why some on-site time is necessary for everyone inside the organization. We are seeing that fully remote workers never assimilate the culture of the organization, don’t feel a sense of belonging, and quit much faster than people who still have an in-person connection to the organization. People who are 100% remote should be contractors, not employees.

Online Makes Meetings Worse

When did you last walk out of a useless meeting? Never, right?

When did you last participate in a meeting where you got no benefit and contributed nothing? Last week, right?

We were slowly learning from trailblazers like Elon Musk to cut down on meetings. Then the pandemic and the associated video meetings teleported us back to the stone age of meetings. We have more meetings than ever, they start late and drag on, and involve too many people. Analyzing the video of online meetings shows that 50% of participants show up late, 40% have low engagement and 24% of participants don’t say a word during the entire meeting.

When something becomes easier, people do more of it. It takes a conscious effort to get back to focused meetings without clear agendas and only the absolutely necessary participants. Are you tracking how many meetings you have in your organization? If you aren’t, you can be sure you have too many.

(image: Kit-Kat ad mockup by Sam Hennig, creative strategist at Something Big)

Improve Internal IT

If you think it hard to retain IT talent, spare a thought for the leader of customer service. 83% of customer service agents feel overworked and 62% consider quitting. IT cannot give them a pay rise or remove obnoxious customers, but we can give them useful IT systems.

28% of customer service workers agree completely or somewhat that their IT systems help them do their job. That leaves 7 out of 10 who feel their IT is working against them. When was the last time you sent an expedition out into the trenches of your organization to find out what was bothering your users the most? Sometimes, there are little things that IT can easily do to dramatically improve the effectiveness of internal IT.

Google Just Challenged You

Google just challenged your IT organization. They created a free version of their Workspace plan where users get collaboration spaces, chat, video conferencing, and the usual Google programs Sheets, Slides, and Docs.

This dramatically increases the risk that people in your organization will create a free Google Workspace Essentials account and run their projects from there. That means all your data is under the control of Google instead of you. If the person who set up the Workspace forgets to appoint another administrator and leaves the company, your data is stuck on Google servers with no option to apply the corporate data governance.

To face this challenge, you need a stick and a carrot. The stick is an official policy prohibiting unauthorized collaboration spaces on third-party servers. The carrot is officially approved collaboration software with great usability. It’s easy to create the stick, but it doesn’t work without the carrot. Do you have the carrot?

Engineering a Crisis

After imposing a loss of several hundred million dollars on airlines and annoying millions of passengers, the FAA has now stopped its publicity stunt. 90% of U.S. aircraft are now cleared to perform instrument landings even at airports near 5G towers.

They could have done this any time in the two years since the 5G licenses were awarded. However, quietly doing their job was not on the FAA’s agenda. After their failures led to hundreds of deaths in the Boeing 737-MAX8 disasters, they wanted to prove that they now take their job insuring safety seriously. They, therefore, engineered a crisis that put them on the front pages of newspapers nationwide before eventually doing what they should have done more than a year ago.

Don’t let corporate image considerations lead you to fail your customers. In short, don’t be like the FAA.

Do you have control over the libraries that go into you projects?

Yet again, a rogue developer took down thousands of applications that depended on his library. Unhappy with the fact that open source developers work for free and companies use open source to make lots of money, he deliberately broke the faker.js and colors.js NPM libraries.

Interestingly, the more than 20,000 projects that depend on these two libraries download them almost 30 million times per week. That means a lot of projects are downloading the code from the NPM repository for every build.

In a professional IT organization, all your projects don’t just pull the latest version, they pull a specific version. And you don’t pull straight from the internet, but from the “blessed repository” with the officially approved version of everything. Are you sure you don’t have projects that just pull the latest libraries down from wherever?