PODCAST: Listen to Kareem Tawansi, Brett Raven and guest, Rebecca Swinfield, discuss the ever increasing complexity in being a leader/manager in the IT market
Management and leadership in the IT industry, like most industries, has its nuances. Generally speaking, a lot of people in the IT industry are deep thinking introverts – especially those who build/deliver things. I don’t think it’s too way out there to also make the generalisation that the IT industry has its fair share of people with a high IQ – especially when it comes to analytical capabilities – as this is more of a cerebral job than a physical one. They often aspire to help “change the world” through the application of their technical capabilities. Putting this all together often makes for a certain mindset. One that responds well to certain kinds of thinking. With that being said, as much as one can generalise about such a large collection of people, workers in the IT industry tend to have certain drivers and goals. On top of that, the ratio of women to men in many of the core functions (like engineering) tends to be much lower than many other industries.
And now, as we come out of the pandemic, the skills sets for these kinds of people are in super high demand. So, this all demands very unique features for those trying to both attract and retain Tech workers. There is currently not a country in the world that does not have a shortage of them and so once an employer has successfully attracted them to their business, the highly complex job of retaining them kicks in. And this is where true leadership and management skills wins out.
People and Machines need to be treated Differently
So often, people are elevated to leadership positions due to their technical capabilities and/or achievements. The irony is, those technical accomplishments play little role in producing a good leader. So, in the 2020s, what is expected of a good leader (or at least in the IT industry)? Well, it’s all those “modern” capabilities, like empathy, collaboration, compassion, flexibility, pragmatism and respect. The problem is, how many leaders are taught these capabilities?
And with the current shortage comes even more leverage to Tech workers than ever before. Currently, that seems to be playing out in what some are referring to as “The Great Reconsideration”. IT workers were generally lucky enough to keep their jobs during the pandemic, in fact, most became super busy. So much so that some are now complaining of burn out. And now that we know that working remotely can work (at least at some level), Tech workers are now expecting a lot more flexibility than ever before. On top of that, they are really looking for purpose – or what Simon Sinek describes as “The Why.”. In short, they are seeking more autonomy, a clear sense of purpose and an environment to establish mastery.
So now, leaders and managers of workers in the Tech industry are being put in an even more challenging position. While workers want more, from money, to flexibility and purpose, there’s not yet more money coming into the system, as customers are still expecting more for less. More, also in terms of their experience when dealing with tech.
How to create Attraction
So, what do Tech industry Leaders have to think about when attracting and engaging Tech talent? Well, given the market is so tight right now, one might be tempted to say, everything that workers ask for. However, there is a fundamental glitch in that approach which is, most workers aren’t given access to the company’s full big picture (the details of the company strategy). And while they may be exceptionally smart, not everyone easily can see things from a strategic perspective. In fact, if a business leader gives too much to the perspective of the individual they could lose the ability to steer a company/department to success.
So, like most things in life, the middle ground is often where the answer lies. Working from home has great advantages to BOTH parties but humans need human contact, often more than they know it, in the case of some introverts. Also, there is something very special and unique about the power of what teams can do together and I don’t just mean by looking at each other through a computer.
It’s Ultimately a Customer Driven Market
On top of that, there are customers and clients with expectations. So, a hybrid model with the ability to bring the team together on a regular basis and the facility to handle people being offline during business hours is what I see the future of the Tech industry adopting. Being mindful of people’s personal life is also important, so being able to facilitate out-of-hours work while not having a significant impact on personal lives is also important. This is especially the case when the company’s revenue comes from clients (who have a higher expectation of service) than from customers (who are often more transactional).
Matching the Talent, Expectations to The Business
Also, while there’s currently a significant shortage of Tech talent in the developed world, once borders are fully reopened, this pressure is likely to abate somewhat. So, leaders need to be careful not to throw unsustainable benefits at employees that they then take away down the track.
Having said that, all markets eb and flow and we have to both consider the short, mid and long term of leading a business. Just like many movements have come and settled into the market (think Off shoring, BYOD and perfect Agile), WFH and flexibility will do the same.
So, we need to listen and adjust but be careful not to overdo it. Apply good ideas, like WFH, pragmatic flexibility, greater transparency of the business mechanics and strategy. But when all is said and done, the world can do with more compassionate, collaborative, pragmatic and respectful leadership so infusing more of that into our day-to-day lives is only a good thing.