by Lucy McGee

Hitting the ground running

Nov 01, 20124 mins
IT Leadership

Every CIO we speak to is keenly aware of the shortage of skilled and qualified senior people out there who can get the job done.

There simply are not enough talented individuals who combine IT expertise with an understanding of how to work effectively in a business.

This skills shortage is exacerbated by a volatile market, which requires more agile and technologically innovative organisations.

The challenge of creating and retaining a talented and fulfilled senior management team weighs heavily on a CIO.

CIOs are unlikely to be offering the talented people who do join them the right start in the business. Not only is this wasteful and counter-productive, it is also likely to be turning the new hire off the job.

We recently undertook research among senior executives who had changed jobs in the last 12 months.

Their integration into organisations is falling far shortof the mark. More than one in three senior hires found their start so bad they considered walking away from their new employer within the first three months.

It is of course common for new hires to get drawn into short-term fire fighting and immediate problems, nowhere more so than in IT where one of the biggest motivating factors for a candidate is a challenge.

But the initial period when a new senior hire joins is uniquely valuable. Only for a short period will they retain their critical outside perspective.

They have but a few months when they can see things in a different way and ask probing and challenging questions, often the kind of activity needed from new talent.

It doesn’t mean they have all the answers just yet, but it does provide a golden opportunity to tackle some serious and systemic problems. However less than half of these new joiners feel able to raise issues with their line managers.

Throwing new hires in at the deep end to sink or swim doesn’t maximise return on talent and secure their discretionary effort; this period needs to be viewed partly as an investment in their long term value.

Supporting them to gain a deep understanding of the organisation, the market, including suppliers and competitors, the customers and what they value, as well as internal informal networks and power structures, is key to this.

So how can new senior hires be better supported?

What we hear most often from IT candidates going into large organisations is a desire for a clear vision. Just one in five (17 per cent) felt the organisation lived up to expectations created during their interviews for the job.

A third said their role had changed significantly from the one outlined at the interview stage. Those who said it had changed significantly were more likely to consider quitting in their first 90 days.

Translating the vision and goals of the organisation into something meaningful for talented IT workers can only be done by the CIO.

The CIO’s role is partly about setting out what the function needs to achieve, and why that matters in meeting business goals. This must then be communicated down through the team to create purpose and clarity.

Senior hires, like all workers, want specific and clear objectives they can understand and measure their performance against. We have already seen that the ability to fix something is a huge motivator for IT executives, but this needs direction.

Agreeing KPIs early gives new hires clarity about what success looks like, yet all too often this is missing.

Finally, CIOs need to better understand the motivations of the new hire, what drives them and what kind of environment will enable them to thrive.

So much information gathered during the interview process, such as that from psychometric assessment, is discarded once a hiring decision is made.

This data can help new executives fit better with their colleagues, be more effective in their new role and plan their development.

Hiring managers often assume financial reward is the main driver, but intelligence gathered at the interview stage might show that making a difference or self-development might be more important.

Executives say they could be on average 50 per cent more productive if their start in the business had been better organised.

Is losing a third of new senior hires really a risk that CIOs can take in the current environment?

This isn’t something that can be left to the HR team; CIOs need to play a direct and active role in making sure that new starters have the kind of beginning with the organisation that makes them want to stay and give of their best.

A full copy of the ‘Onboard and Upwards’ report can be obtained from the Harvey Nash website at:

Lucy McGee is director of leadership services at Harvey Nash

Pic: Marion Dosscc2.0