In times of great change, strong communication skills are essential. Here's why – and how to develop them
Flexibility is critical in attracting and retaining IT talent
IT talent in the greater Dallas area has been in very short supply recently. Right now the unemployment rate is below three percent, which is essentially full employment. This environment naturally creates a lot of competition, and I for one have had to change my leadership approach in how I manage people. To provide flexibility is key, whether this means being able to work from home or being able to define, at least in part, your hours.
Flexibility is critical in attracting and retaining talent, in part because millennials require it. And once you give that flexibility to one set of employees, you have to branch out and allow others to participate in that flexibility. That’s just a given. So work flexibility is one key component of competitive advantage that you can offer to employees to get them on board.
I’ve taken it a step further, though, because not all IT employees are doing things they enjoy. What I’ve come to find is that a lot of employees were doing things that I would define as mundane and certainly didn’t bring a ton of value to the organization. In my past, we would have a team doing nothing but onboarding and off-boarding branches and employees. There are very reputable vendors out there that can provide those services to you, certainly at a cheaper cost than you doing it in-house. Taking that action allowed us to focus those teams on the areas of the business that provided the greatest value.
I’ve also recently started to use contractors on a project basis. That’s proven to be helpful because the mortgage industry is so cyclical. The nice thing about contractors is that you get to continue to provide high-quality service, and you don’t have a dynamic of “lay-off and then hire, lay-off and then hire.”
Don’t rule out a resume coach
Removing mundane tasks from people allows you to free them up to focus on the things that are more strategic for the business, such as, in our case, becoming certified in our loan origination software. That certification certainly is a resume builder, especially with the loan origination software we use owning 30 percent of the market. Of course, from a company standpoint I don’t want them to leave, and typically we ask that if we pay for something like that, they commit to at least a year.
Certainly, giving them those types of opportunities is key, but sitting down with employees is a great strategy as well. I do this on a quarterly basis, one-on-one. I’m looking to help them identify not only what they want to do, but how their CV can reflect what they did to add value. Too often you see, “Well, I onboarded 5,000 people over the last two years.” But what does that mean and what did you do in that effort? Helping people hone in and focus on specific areas that are strategic for the company, as opposed to trying to be the jack of all trades, works on several levels. It also becomes a talent magnet to keep the right staff around in a tight market.