Be Inclusive or Exclusive? IT Heads Navigate New Territory in Managing Teams

When it comes to IT talent, competition has never been so fierce.  IT verticality and new trends like mobility, Big Data, cloud computing and analytics are increasing demand …

Grupo Alcione CIO Miguel Avila says he always strives to be an inclusive leader.

When it comes to IT talent, competition has never been so fierce.  IT verticality and new trends like mobility, Big Data, cloud computing and analytics are increasing demand for the limited amount of talent available. This is a phenomenon that is having a global impact.

New graduates are quickly absorbed into the working environment, and those already working become the target of headhunters and human resources departments from competing firms. Alternatively, some end up deciding of their own free will to leave in search of better salaries, prospects and benefits.

What are the Chief Information Officers (CIOs) doing to hold on to their employees? Better salaries and benefits and improved training and coaching are just a few of the tactics used to encourage staff loyalty.

It’s Not You, It’s The Boss

According to Luis Reyes, Regional IT Director in LatAm for the insurance, reinsurance and risk management broker Willis Group Mexico, the main two reasons why employees chose to leave their jobs are because they want a higher wage or because they don’t get on well with their boss. “We often see that the employee’s relationship with their boss is not as good as one would hope for.  In fact, in Latin America it is extremely common for employees to be unhappy with their bosses; which is why they make the decision to leave,” he states.

Employee discontent stems from a variety of causes and each individual case has its own peculiarities. A great number of CIOs are working hard on their team leader and management skills with a view to keeping their employees aligned with the company’s technological and business vision.

According to Reyes, a strong team leader works hard to foment an atmosphere of open communication in the workplace. “You have to work very closely with staff, establishing a strong bond when it comes to collaboration and communication. This, in turn, will result in the whole team working well together and ensures that individual members are kept happy, are duly compensated for their efforts and are more likely to stick with you.”

Reyes also highlights how coaching plays a vital role in collaboration and team work. “As far as I’m concerned, coaching doesn’t mean that I will always have all the answers or that I have the monopoly on truth. Rather it involves establishing a contextual framework for staff so that they can work together to resolve problems.”

According to Miguel Avila, CIO at Mexican electrical retailer Grupo Alcione, IT leadership can take one of two forms: it can be either inclusive or exclusive. “I strive always to be inclusive, so I share the decision making process with any staff directly involved in the project as well as with staff from other departments that have the knowledge or vision needed to give us their opinion or observations on how best to proceed,” he says.

Armando Mendez, Information Technology Director in Mexico for German car lock manufacturer Kiekert, states that many bosses choose to lead by sharing as much information as possible with their employees, thereby strengthening the communication process. “I never say ‘I will’, I say ‘we will’. I try to get everyone involved in IT issues. Every Friday we meet for breakfast and discuss work-related and personal issues. I mix the two together in an effort to build trust,” explains Mendez.  Having performed a wide variety of roles during his professional career, Mendez has found that sharing the knowledge he has acquired over time has proven key when it comes to motivating the rest of his team.

The Wage Factor

If IT leaders agree on one thing, it is that competitive salaries are vital when it comes to holding onto staff. This involves keeping up to date with reports published by high quality recruitment businesses, such as the Annual Salary Survey published by Michael Page. The 2013-2014 edition, for example, provides a breakdown of the salaries earned by staff working in the processes, networks and telecommunications, infrastructure, Business Intelligence, ERP and development departments. It reveals that a Project Management Officer (PMO) earns between 45,000 and 50,000 pesos (US$3,300 to $3,700) a month; while an infrastructure manager earns between 35,000 and 45,000 pesos ($2,600 to $3,300) and a development manager or ERP project leader earns between 40,000 and 50,000 pesos ($2,900 to $3,700).

Mendez from Kiekert in Mexico takes surveys like these into consideration when presenting the head office in Germany with salary proposals for his team. “I also try to make a comparative analysis of the functions of my employees and the impact they have, not just on a local scale but also on a global scale. This gives us a slightly higher level.”

Reyes from the Willis Group is convinced that a competitive salary and good benefits are vital. “You don’t necessarily have to offer the highest salary; but it does have to be competitive for the market concerned. The salary analysis carried out by consultants are excellent when it comes to working out how we rank, and when it comes to making employees aware that if the business only invoices for 100 pesos there is no possible way of paying them 300 – everything has to be in keeping with reality.”

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Career Vision

Many companies look to offset employee salaries with other benefits, such as the amount of vacation time they offer, the medical, dental and car insurances they provide and the perks they offer such as agreeing to pay for their cell phone plan.

Miguel Avila explains that at Grupo Alciones, they provide employees with a company car. In turn, the employees pay a representative value and, in time, end up owning the vehicle. “We even have a program awarding shares in our parent company, Sonepar.”

Reyes highlights how they offer employees not just benefits, but a vision of where a job in the company could take their professional career. “I can speak freely when it comes to career plans, as I myself started out working for technical support, and now I am the CIO. I know that the business supports you and recognizes your efforts. It’s your job to go above and beyond what your position calls for. It is impossible to hold onto staff if you don’t offer them a clear career plan.”

In this regard Kiekert Mexico has implemented a program known as Talent Management and Succession Planning. This scheme has a Personnel Development Committee, made up of managers and directors who evaluate their employees’ performance in six key areas: quality and continual improvement, customer focus, competency, commitment to the profitability of the business, ability to adapt and personal development.

According to Armando Mendez, this program has allowed him to identify personnel whose technical, managerial and general capabilities make them eligible for promotion. It also helps them identify low performers. Contrary to popular opinion, these low performers are not immediately dismissed, Mendez explains. First of all they talk things through with them, encouraging them to improve their performance. “We help them come up with a plan of action for how to improve, thus motivating them to make efforts to stay on. We even give them training if needed, and, most importantly, we get them to promise to improve.”

Continual Reinvention

The training provided is also extremely relevant when it comes to a CIO’s strategy for retaining staff and motivating a work force. In fact, Miguel Avila from Grupo Alcione says that training is vital when it comes to stimulating employee growth. He also explains how 90% of training is directed at the positions themselves while the remaining 10% is aimed at developing other skills like personal growth, time management, sales etc.

“I believe that the risk of our staff leaving us is latent and we should look to reinventing ourselves on a day-to-day basis.  This reinvention process and attempts to stay in touch with personnel are not easy tasks, especially in view of the constant turmoil of the work environment, but I do believe that IT leaders that refuse to get close to their staff or look for ways to create a comfortable working environment will find it extremely difficult to hold on to their workers,” Avila concludes.

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