When was the last time you had your IT department over for dinner?

When was the last time you had your IT department over for dinner?

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I’ve been working with our Human Resources department and mid-level managers to strengthen our recruiting strategy for engaging and attracting top technical talent. Our plans include all the steps you might expect (producing a down-to-earth video for YouTube about why you’d want to work here, highlighting the awards we’ve won on our careers page, strengthening job descriptions, etc).

But it turns out that something I do naturally is turning out to be a differentiator for us – inviting everyone on my 250-member team over to my house for dinner.

It doesn’t happen all at once. I’ve had events at my house focused on each of the individual teams. I’ve had dinners in my home to celebrate accomplishments or milestones.

Recently, I invited all the new employees who haven’t yet had a chance to spend some time with me. These dinners simply allow the teams to interact with one another – and with me – in a very different social setting. And it’s fun. They can bring their spouses or children but typically they don’t. It’s a relaxed environment. I’m dressed down in jeans and a casual shirt. Usually everyone will end up downstairs playing pool or ping pong while I’m cooking hamburgers and hot dogs.

It’s always extremely well received. And while there are probably 10 other things we do in our department that allow our employees to have a direct voice with me, this is always a favorite. It lets employees know their voices are heard, and that they’re encouraged to be an agent of innovation.

It may sound like a small thing, but it’s something that separates us from other employers. And I think it’s something simple that not only helps our IT organization be more successful, but also helps us attract and retain top talent. Are there any simple but important steps you’re taking to recruit and retain talented employees?

Curtis A. Carver Jr., Ph.D. is the Vice President and Chief Information Officer for the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In this role servant leader and enabler of others, he leads a team of dedicated professionals focused on providing solution to the UAB through world-class IT with a focus on innovation, agility and cost efficiency.

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