What IT pros want from CIOs: Mutual respect

What IT pros want from CIOs: Mutual respect

Scott Youngs, CIO of Key Information Systems, shares his tips for retaining IT stars – including making sure people know you have their backs when things go wrong

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soft skills: relationship-building

[ Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which we ask CIOs and IT leaders about their toughest talent challenges – and their best retention tips. Below, Scott Youngs, CIO of Key Information Systems, shares a few ideas for keeping teams engaged. ]

The biggest challenge is finding high-end technical talent that not only has a deep technical knowledge but also has the social skills necessary to interact with C-level executives.

Most high-end resources either spend their time locked in a lab and you slide pizza under the door when it’s lunchtime, or they have the proper personality but aren’t able (or willing) to do the actual keyboard work.

How I retain the rising stars in my IT organization

Remember, it’s not all about the benjamins for them. Most IT superstars like diversity and a never-ending highway of new challenges to keep them stimulated and interested. If the work becomes rote, they get bored and wander off.

One way to keep engineers excited about coming into work is to have contests with rewards (not necessarily monetary – it could be a fancy plaque or trophy they can put on their desk, for instance) for the most innovative solution to a business problem. The problem may not even be a current issue, but something you, as the CIO, know will impact your organization in the coming 24 months. 

Another example of keeping it exciting for your staff is to hold what I like to call “IT geek parties” that are similar to sales rallies where you gather offsite at a cool venue (I used the Porsche Experience Center for our last one). There, the teams can share their challenges or ideas with their coworkers without the daily task pressures interfering.

Bonus tip: Mutual respect is key

If your people believe you’ll have their back when the stuff hits the fan, they’ll stick with you – even if there’s a better monetary opportunity elsewhere. Also, only play the boss card when absolutely necessary. People don’t like a dictator; they want someone who will listen to what they have to say and actually take their opinion seriously, not dismiss it out of hand.

[ Read also: Hiring security gurus: 3 strategies to find scarce talent. ]

Scott Youngs is the chief information officer of Key Information Systems, Inc., a leading regional systems integrator with world-class compute, storage and networking solutions and professional services for the most advanced software-defined data centers.

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