Is IT talent management still an issue for CIOs? Have organizations, like some claim, finally managed to attract and retain top talent and develop their skills and competencies based on rapidly changing demands or has it just been lip service? Has the CIO recruited staff from outside IT or are they working closely with HR to build talent programs? Is there a talent management playbook that one can refer to in order to fix this issue forever?
Zeeshan Sheikh, Chief Information Officer, Entergy
Zeeshan Sheikh became Entergy’s chief information officer in January 2014. He leads the company’s information technology function in both daily operational and strategic roles. Prior to becoming CIO Sheikh served at Entergy in a variet... More View all posts
Zeeshan Sheikh became Entergy’s chief information officer in January 2014. He leads the company’s information technology function in both daily operational and strategic roles. Prior to becoming CIO Sheikh served at Entergy in a variety of roles over more than a decade, supporting the company’s nuclear, transmission, system planning and operations, fossil and wholesale commodities organizations. Sheikh began his career in 1997 as an engineering assistant for Con Edison at Indian Point Energy Center, later transitioning to an IT role there. He joined Entergy in 2001 when the company acquired Indian Point Unit 2. Sheikh became the site’s IT manager in 2004 and the nuclear fleet’s senior IT manager in 2008. In 2010 Sheikh became Entergy’s business unit CIO for all of the operations side of the business, with accountability for consolidating IT functions across various business units and improving Entergy’s critical infrastructure protection program. He has led a number of significant projects designed to improve the reliability and efficiency of the company’s SCADA systems, which are used to monitor and control plant operations. From 2008 to 2010, Sheikh built, managed and decommissioned a spin-off company for Entergy. Sheikh received a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from Rutgers University. Less View all posts
Sanjog: The topic that be picked today is not new to most of our listeners and I’m sure you too, because you in your respective organization must be working with this challenge whether, you’ll have to stay put with what you’re doing just to keep the current platforms running or to do innovation or to at least plan for what’s going to come ahead. So whichever direction that it goes, Zeeshan, this has been a challenge and it’s not just about attracting people or retaining people, it’s about how do you make the talent relevant to where the business wants to be at any given time.
So if you look at that as a bigger ecosystem on how to maintain organizational relevance, and in that context, how do you manage talent? How do you define that as a problem?
Zeeshan: Well, I would say and to clarify so, I’m CIO for a Utility organization, and our challenge is maybe slightly different than other industries out there. The opportunity that we have ahead of us is one that’s been extremely challenging and exciting. When you think of a utility organization, typically we are dealing with equipment that is dated. So from a technology perspective, we are at the cusp of having an entire transformation occur with our technology. And that’s not just– when you think of technology in the utility, you’re not thinking about just servers and applications; you’re talking about the technology that’s out there in the field. How do you take that operational technology, transform it and get the right talent in-house, as well as with your vendor partnerships to be able to maintain that transformed technology once it is in. Because now you’re talking about an end to end from the field to your data center, to the HMI that the operators deal with, to the data that your customers seeing, and that takes more of a system engineering type of talent in the technology world.
Sanjog: The difference is there and of course, as you have currently the way utility is, like we consider your industry for example. So you have a set of challenges that you try to deal with on a regular basis. And that means the people who have acquired business knowledge, while they may be leveraging it but they may have to change the skill sets, if you will, the competencies besides the business knowledge, in order to be able to create value. So people have a lot of inertia in terms of where they are. And then there are people who are willing to move to any new thing but then leaving behind the business knowledge. So what is the mix which tests you as a leader in terms of talent management?
Zeeshan: I guess I’d say that it starts first with having a good change management plan as you go forward with your implementation of new technology. And this transforms utility such that you’ll see a lot of media around what utilities are doing these days with automated metering and demand response. When you look at these new technologies that are coming in, in a way, it’s almost less about the technology. Instead it’s more about the change management of how you get there with your staffing. So establishing it pretty good and strong relationship with your HR organization, your peers in the business is critical to making a good jump from the talent you have today the talent you’ll need tomorrow. So there is a lot of retooling that has to happen for your existing talent. There is almost a media campaign that you need for recruiting new talent in-house. When you think about going to—for example, a college and saying, “Hey, come work for utility!” It doesn’t sound as attractive as, “Let’s go work for Google, right? Because when you do— people have this image of Utility being the dinosaur. So you’ve got to make that case for attracting new talent. And explaining that, yeah, there’s some equipment that we have and some technology is that is little bit old. But you’re joining during a golden age of transformation. So not only will you know there’s older technology, you’re going to be at the forefront of putting in the newer exciting stuff. And actually expanding your skill set because we’re not looking for narrowly focused technology experts. We’re looking for folks that are Swiss Army knives that can go from a field device to all the way through the data center, to the computer on an operator’s desk. Or even to the data that our customers see.
We’re looking for folks that are Swiss Army knives that can go from a field device to all the way through the data center, to the computer on an operator’s desk. Or even to the data that our customers see.
Sanjog: So trust me, Zeeshan, you’re not alone when it comes to looking for a Swiss Army knife, right, because those are the type of people who can switch heads and a blink of an eye and being able to help an organization move forward. Yes, you are a utility and yes, that has traditionally been a slow moving organization but our job must be to get the most transformation as a result of IoT and many other technologies.
Now as you see a set of projects are underway, or the innovation or even existing projects, do you see the talent within the organization as saying that we want to get some more excitement or would you say they want to stay put? What do you deal with more inertia or over enthusiasm?
Zeeshan: I get it, it’s just the idea and the plans that our teams are seeing here at the company, it has rejuvenated our staff. I mean they are so excited to be a part of this transformation. They’re looking for development plans on how they can refine their skill sets. So they can be a part of newly transformed utility. I’ve actually in my 15 or so years here at the company, I never see a more excited technology staff than I do today.
Sanjog: So just because they’re excited, but the way you will have to take it, if you have a bunch of excited people in your staff and you have to put them at the right place, not everyone would agree to the way you position them. How would you manage that expectation versus just giving them a great plan but when you start deploying them in different projects they may not exactly be what they thought they were capable of or what they were interested in?
Zeeshan: Well, the good part about what we have is pretty robust talent management program. Our human resources department has spent a significant time and effort in developing that program. And what that does for us is that it gives us avenues as we see these opportunities. Whether it’s the project side or the operations and maintenance side of any of these new technologies, gives us the opportunity to look at the skill sets of different individuals, see where the best fit is and have those conversations with the individual to make sure that it’s something that that they feel they’re ready to take on. So it’s never really a one way conversation with our staff, it’s always a two way street. And that’s really a testament to our HR organization and how they develop this talent management program.
Sanjog: One of the challenges that we see organizational as chronically face whether utility or any other industry, is they are really not clear in terms of the overall capability that they have across multiple skill areas or competencies, as they’re sitting in the ivory tower. And then the projects do get approved and when you start execution mode, a scrambling match happens. And that has been seen as a chronic issue. How do you think leaders, managers and the organization as a whole can tackle this?
Zeeshan: Well, actually I think our approach was one that will benefit us, when we started down our business case development for our transformed utility or to be transformed utility- one thing that we did was we enlisted our human resources department to be at the table during the business case development piece because when you think about putting out new technology, it’s not just about the folks in your IT, OT organizations that have to maintain that physical device or component that goes out there. It’s really about the folks that are out there in the business side that are actually leveraging the data that comes out of these systems. So when we started our business case development, we immediately enlisted HR so that they were at the table understanding the changes that we’re coming and our vice president of utility, Shawn Corkran, and Warren Kenny who is our lead on this effort. They saw the value of really bringing in HR at the front end. So HR understood what was happening, what those changes were. So that right even before we start any of our big efforts, they were able to go into that talent management tool set to try to see where we can better prepare for the efforts and when they do come to fruition. So I think that was probably our best bet at solving this conundrum.
I have to say, even if you went out and you hired someone with experience in analytics, that doesn’t mean that they’ve done learning. There is still a lot of learning to do.
Sanjog: And if you are looking at the overall approach to how many people off, what type would be needed, is that forecasting a little more a science or still an art form?
Zeeshan: I think it’s still an art form. Some of the benefits that we have as an industry we realize an industry heavily on lessons learned and benchmarking. What’s great about what – how we’ve mature over the years as we no longer just benchmark utilities, we benchmark other industries as well. But in the case of the transformed utility, we spent significant time talking to other utilities that have done some of the transformation already. Understanding their lessons learned, understanding the challenges they had and implementing some of those lessons learned into our business planning efforts so that we know and we’re better prepared for what may come as we embark on our new technologies.
Sanjog: Now with the speed at which you see the business moving and also the style of innovation that is being envision for organizations, do you want your talent to be entrepreneurial in spirit or more off order takers?
Zeeshan: Right now where we’re at because of this renaissance, we’d prefer our talent to be more entrepreneurial, absolutely. You can be order takers when you’ve got established long run times with technology but when you’re looking to transform both the way we operate as a business as well as the tool sets and technologies we have, we want folks that are thinking out of the box, we want people that are leveraging ideas from other industries to try to make our transformation even more successful.
Sanjog: Let’s take a quick break, listeners, we will be right back. And then, let’s talk about what is happening with respect to the analytical capabilities that talent is supposed to have. One is like you would go back years, decades ago when we were looking for an industrial Age type of mindset where you know what widgets you’re producing. On the other hand the recent world is more around analytics and been able to make decisions on the fly and many other competences which were not being given due tension and focus. So what are we doing as CIOs and other organizational leaders combined to make sure that we have preparing the existing talent pool in these areas of analytic capabilities. Please stay tuned listeners, we will be right back.
Sanjog: Welcome back. So if you’re looking at the overall issues with how many of widgets somebody created, that’s one thing. But that has not an Industrial Age we are living in, we are living in Information Age. And also we want these people to produce something out of thin air and do innovation and things of that nature. So you need analytical capabilities. Now those are inherently there in people but you have to hone them and or you have to identify specific skill sets and assign the roles to appropriate people. When you said, Zeeshan, in the past, like in the previous segment that it has more of an art form, you find challenging to identify people’s analytical skills and assigning them to jobs and also honing them?
Zeeshan: Well, I guess, let’s discuss who owns the data analytics piece at any company, right? So I think that in the pad, analytics has always been seen as an IT responsibility. And when you talk about widgets, I think of that is just Configuration Management of what you have. So now when you think about all the data that’s coming in from your systems, your field equipment, and that data that comes in my mind, I as the CIO don’t own that data, I manage that data and protect that data and I preserve the data, with regards to retention. But that data is really in the hands of our business partners. And our business partners whether you’re in operations or maintenance, those are folks that have to have analytic skill. So the discussions that we’re having here is how do we transform those resources into data scientists, how do you spread the analytic capabilities across your entire organization. And not just had a focused in on the IT organization because otherwise IT typically become the report writers, and data analytics is not about being a report writer. Data analytics is about being able to take that data and massage it and make decisions based on your ability to manipulate it.
Well, IT doesn’t make those operational decisions. Those decisions get made by the business. And so it’s less about an IT talent issue, it’s more about a business talent issue and end user talent issue and how do you get people to think in terms of utilizing that data to make those decisions. So typically, again you go to IT and you say, “Hey, I need a report that shows me this.” Well, I’m trying to transform that conversation to, “Hey, I need data and I need the tool that will allow me to manipulate data in this way.” And then that that user takes these tools and that ability to manipulate that data and turns that into the analytics piece. And that that analytics piece is again it’s analyzing that data to make those decisions. Whether that decision is to preventably replace a piece of equipment because of monitoring curves that are showing that it’s headed for a failure situation in two months from now and “Hey, let’s make that decision and replace that equipment now rather than wait for failure.” Or if it’s we can get more usage and utilization out of a piece of equipment based on the data we’re seeing, things like that. And how do you combine equipment data with Market Data. So how do you use that data to be able to potentially make more money? And above all, how do you live the analytics to make your staff operate more efficiently. Because efficiently– be being able to operate more efficiently translates into opportunities for dollars to be freed up to do something else with.
Sanjog: What you just mentioned definitely gives valid insights as to how the data analytics related talent can be handled. If you look at overall, in order for any technology talent to be effective, they are not expected just to be taking specific orders in a structured manner and deliver, since you want them to be entrepreneurial which means, they should be able to sense what’s happening around them, be able to figure out what is the best way to solve those challenges and use that analytical capabilities to further offer potential options to their leadership. So this doesn’t come, I mean yeah, that is nature versus nurture, so if there are some people who are born analytical which others, you have to develop.
So my question is do you think we as organizational leaders are actually able to spend time in developing them because that’s the core of what will make your organization have the right level and type and quantity of talent pool?
Zeeshan: I think it’s not a question of whether we have the time. But I think it is a statement of we have to make time. If we’re not making time for the staff to develop those skills then we’re not going to progress in the future because, to be competitive, you’ve got to be able to have staff that can look at that data and analyze it right away. So it is about making time for it and creating that head room in your staffing model so that the folks have enough time to go do that. I have to say, even if you went out and you hired someone with experience in analytics, that doesn’t mean that they’ve done learning. There is still a lot of learning to do.
An organizational health is not just about happy people. It’s a health of the organization, how we operate and what we value.
Sanjog: No. And you’re right about it. I like your approach, the commitment to saying that we will make time to identify people with those. The situation that we see in many cases is you are somehow keeping people around for business knowledge but they are rendered not exactly effective. They had rendered ineffective because you have just been banking on business knowledge but they cannot be put to great use because the analytical capabilities or other traits that they’re supposed to demonstrate, are not being demonstrated because they feel out of place or they feel irrelevant.
Zeeshan: Yeah. I’m sure that happens everywhere. The challenge is about good leadership within the organization, and being able to identify individuals who are experiencing that I would consider a frustrating time for them especially, when they know that they’ve got a development need and it’s not being worked on. When you think about analytics – the first thing that you want to do is have a good business case for analytics. Doing analytics without a plan isn’t exactly the best way to go about it. One of the first steps is to develop a business case and understand what do you want to get out of the analytics, and what is the end result that you’re looking for. When you engage in those conversations, some folks will be a little more advanced than others. But I think that my opinion is, if you pair them up with the more junior people as you develop these business cases, you kind of start a spark. And you do some of that knowledge sharing and it’s almost like on the job training as you develop the business case and prepare it to create these analytic models.
Sanjog: We know that organizations have used things like outsourcing or heavy consulting, on demand consulting, and managed services among others to essentially offset the gaps in technology, talent management in their respective organization. So now with those things in place and considering you’ve got multi-generational existence, co-existence in an organization, how are they playing out together and what’s the overall outcome? Do you feel that you are moving still towards a Holy Grail or is it chaos?
Zeeshan: Let’s discuss and focusing on why do you do outsourcing. What is the problem you’re trying to solve with outsourcing, and in my mind, the problem to solve is how do you take those routine evolutions and routine maintenance kind of activities and put them in the hands of people who can do what is their sole function. They’re in the business of doing those kinds of routine things and they can do them at a lower cost and give you a quality service. So that’s something I think, yeah, you go and you outsource that kind of work, but what do you retain in your organization? I think what you end up retaining is the type of work where you’re using information in a way to make decisions. So you keep the engineering type of talent, you keep the analytics type of talent in-house, for two reasons: one to keep oversight over what your outsource partners are doing and two is because that’s where that– that talent that you need to continue to be competitive with your business.
So if you work off of that model then, yeah, outsourcing makes sense, right? It makes sense to go ahead and get that at a lower cost and get a value out of someone who’s doing that those things as a business where as- we’re in the business of generating and transmitting power. That’s our business. So as a CIO for utility, my business is to go ahead and support those kinds of challenges with equipment. And the data that comes with making decisions on how to leverage that equipment. So that we can produce more power or distribute more power and ultimately make more money for our stakeholders.
Sanjog: One is to look at and hire or manage the workers, the field staff, if you will. Another is to look at your mid management because even that is talent, and the ability for a mid-management to lead to from the middle and be able to command respect from the field staff is going to be key to success especially when you’re trying to get a whole lot done and things are changing. So what is your approach to building and honing the leadership and management competencies for a mid-manager?
Zeeshan: Our HR Department has actually worked with a leading talent development partner and we’re really focused on leadership practices and employee practices. We’ve identified our executives very quickly realized a couple years ago that organizational help, is very important to maintain a competitive nature in this business, and organizational health is not just about happy people. It’s a health of the organization, how we operate and what we value. And so what we’ve done is we’ve put programs in place, to focus in on leadership and leadership practices, engagement at the mid-level management layer all the way up to our executive layer.
And I think we’re starting to see those programs take effect in starting to see our staff at large, really feel appreciative and feel that the changes are that we’re making are to their benefit.
Sanjog: Let’s take a quick break, listeners, we will be back. And let’s look at that utopia state of talent in an organization, which will allow Zeeshan to take two weeks’ vacation to Hawaii and not be worried about it. Please stay tuned listeners, we will be right back.
Sanjog: Welcome back, so the talent conundrum is because perhaps in many cases, we just live it by the day and say, okay, what’s the problem with our talent today and let’s solve it and move along. Because we do not know how far out can we see in the future? So if at all do you have to create a utopic state or define utopic state for talent for your organization in your context? Zeeshan, what would that be, which if you pursued relentlessly, and with patience, you will eventually get close to it? And then you can indeed have that vacation to Hawaii and not worry about things.
Zeeshan: Yeah. I’m still stuck on that vacation to Hawaii that you promised me.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the term “Window Time”, where you get to sit and stare out the window and think about different things that you’ve got to get done. When you think about a whole lot of transformation happening all at once, you think about normal day in, day out, issue that you’re trying to resolve, things you’re trying to maintain. The thing that usually takes the back seat is that window time, the time to sit back and reflect on the best path forward and move on. And a lot of people and again, it is just my opinion. A lot of people think that window time is something that’s just for management. In my mind an ideal state would be where you’ve got enough float in everyone’s day so that all staff, whether you’re an individual contributor or a manager, had that time to reflect on what needs to get done and how to get it done and really had that window time.
A good talent management strategy has to take into account, first and foremost, the employees. They are a source and the first wealth of information. And second is, benchmarking within the industry and outside the industry
Sanjog: So in your world, when you have, of course try to understand or sense the problem, that’s one approach to understanding what you need to work on. But on the other hand, have the workers volunteer challenges that they face or they see in terms of gaps or issues that they are handling. And what if those challenges are which will give you an idea about what the talent management related issues that we need to solve.
Zeeshan: Yes. I mentioned about our organizational health initiative and as part of that, we pulse the organization periodically throughout the year. And we opened avenues to get as much feedback as possible and one of our leadership practices is open and trusting. I think where we’re at today is where – we’re at a point where the employees feel pretty comfortable with their ability to raise concerns and challenges they have. We get pretty open and honest feedback from our teams right now on what they see as issues and how they can solve them because that’s the other thing that where we’re really pushing for and it’s a journey. It’s a journey to do an organizational health change. But we’re making progress and part of that progress is really giving the employees the ability to not only come up with the challenges but also come up with the potential solutions. And then it becomes incumbent upon us as leaders to make sure that we’re following up and following through with either exploring some of these solutions that are which you consider bottoms up. Solutions on whether or not there is something we want to go forward with or perhaps combine a couple solutions to solve a problem. But that is that’s really our commitment to take those solutions at the employees come up with and do something with them. Right, so that it’s not just a vacuum, it’s not just putting out a program where we encourage people to bring the challenges, bring to solutions but then it goes into a black hole because that’s the worst thing that can happen.
Sanjog: We know that we do performance evaluations in any organization and we talk about how an employee should have better rating in business outcome orientation or communication, creativity decision maker and many, many other areas. One is to do that and give a rating and then go back and start doing the same old-same old. How is the talent management engine if you will, working towards making sure that there is a consistent improvement and not only using a dated talent management program to solve the new age talent needs. Because the way we are building or trying to morph over talent is not acquiring exactly the same competencies, it’s not all of them at least the same competencies that we used to have in the past and our performance management and talent– performance evaluation related criteria that was used. So is there a disconnect with what was done in the past and now? How is everything being modified, if you will?
Zeeshan: So we can have a whole lot of debate on– there’s been so much research done on the whole topic of performance management and I read a couple good articles from Harvard Business Review on it. I’ll give you my opinion. And by no means am I an expert in this area, but my opinion is that we have the typical performance review, you do mid-year, you do an end of year, you do the beginning of the year where you set the goals and your goal setting so on and so forth. But in my opinion, if you’re giving feedback, day in and day out, and you’re having one on one’s with your teams and you’re not doing that once a quarter, you’re doing that daily. And people are getting instant feedback and coaching. I think that’s much more– In my mind much more effective than just waiting for the end of the year to give someone a rating and hand him a check and move on.
Again, that’s my opinion. That’s how we like to operate in my organization here at the company. We do a lot of collaboration, a lot of instant feedback from our leadership team to the employee team and I think it’s worked well. I think it’s worked well to try to prepare us for the heavy workload that we have – especially considering where we’re not only running the rail road but we’re all trying to rebuild the technology of a utility.
Sanjog: So let’s take your industry as an example where there is aging workforce and they venture they want to retire and then, the infusion of newer talent could perhaps be an issue because not sure if they would want to work with older equipment or any other dated technology. That is likely to create a vacuum. What’s your silver bullet answer to that?
Zeeshan: I wish I had a silver bullet answer to that. It’s scary. One of the great things about working for utility is, you’re a pretty stable industry. Folks join up the utility and they really – many people spend their entire careers at the same company. However, it’s what you’re alluding to, we’re facing significant retirement rest– which translates to potential loss of knowledge. We’re in the middle of this transformation, so you still have to maintain some of this older technology. It’s challenging when we go out to fill positions, to try to get a person fresh out of school. Whether it’s a bachelor’s and master’s program because they come in, they say, “Well, how long am I going to work on this older stuff?”
First of all, it’s even hard to just convince someone, “Hey, why don’t you come and talk to the utility as a place to come for a technology talent?” Because most people coming out of school are thinking about, companies like Google. And that’s what they think of as the cool place to go or Tesla. That’s what they think of as cool. So it’s incumbent on us in this industry, in this field of technology, to be spreading the word about just how exciting it is to be in the utility right now. Because all those great technologies that people have thought about for many years while they’re actually, they’re actually here now and they’re being implemented. And it’s the next wave of the future and hopefully. We continue to grab that new talent and they see the value and they stay with the utility because again, it is a stable industry.
Sanjog: So beyond the cool and imaginative and creative projects, what else can be promised to the talent which may be existing in the organization or the ones that you’re trying to attract? So that they find a promise it it, which is to do a meaningful work, not just new stuff but something which is meaningful, which also is key to in motivating people and keeping them around.
Zeeshan: Well, with my experience and I will talk about experience in the utility. When I started, I was actually working for an engineering department at a nuclear power plant. And I was filing papers. I was able to move into various different departments. Different parts of the company, gain experience on just about everything that this company does and that’s one of the things that- I always tell, folks that are interested in coming over and as we try to recruit people is that you really have the opportunity to do just about anything you want to do at a utility. As long as you’ve got to drive there’s so many opportunities, whether it’s an operation, if it’s a nuclear transmission, distribution, customer service, finance, HR, supply chain, there’s so many different places you can go. The great part about being in IT at the utility is you’re kind of learning about all those parts of the business. Because our expectation is that you really understand your business before you develop any solutions. And with that mindset, folks in our technology department, they’re learning these other businesses. And quite often, folks from IT end up going in working for the business during their career. And as a matter of fact, many of the people in the IT department have actually come from the business. And didn’t have an IT background but they had a skill set that we could explore and develop. And we want that cross-pollination that helps us stay on top of the workload, stay on top of the transformations that are happening, it’s one of the best places to be. When I talk to some my friends at other companies, I don’t necessarily hear that people get to make moves across different lines of business in the same company as much they can happen here at a utility.
Sanjog: And what do you say the kind of promise that you are offering to these people who are willing to work on themselves, besides you at the top who primarily has no other agenda but to see the organization move forward. Also have your mid-managers the ones who are your lieutenants to share the sentiment, are they being as – what are you doing in a way, let me not say that are they– what are you doing to make sure that they are equally charged up and equally devoid of any other agenda besides the organizational growth?
Zeeshan: So if I hear your question correctly, I would say this, when I look at my lead team, there are only a few of the folks on my lead team that have actually been in IT in their entire career. Many of them have come– I’ve got one individual they came from the tax department. That runs our business really should management piece with our corporate shared services. We really focused on business analysis. I’ve got an individual from finance, I’ve got another individual came from truly the operation side. To keep them charged up is pretty easy because they’ve only experienced the same type of growth at the company. It doesn’t take much to keep them charged up.
Sanjog: All right. Let’s take a quick break, listeners, and we will be right back. And once we come back, let’s talk about the mindset off of a worker today to be able to learn technology and even when they are gaining competences or developing competences in specific areas, how acutely are we focusing on them developing the DNA to be able to learn how the business works. So as the lead team, Zeeshan’s team actually has been put together where they came from non-technology. But when you try to look at people who are coming from bottom up and they started as a programmer or a network analyst, they primarily have housed themselves into this hone of technology versus opening it up and looking at business as a whole. How do you solve that problem because till the time across along the chain of command this is not solved, business and IT will remain two department versus converging into one?
Sanjog: Welcome back. Some are Uber geeks who want to remain geeks but then when they are kind of isolated from where the business is heading, their relevance is lost. How do you ensure that each person in your team, no matter which level they are, they are primarily business oriented people who happen to be working in technology?
Zeeshan: That’s the hard part. Keeping everyone informed of what’s happening and keeping them engaged in what’s happening. It can be pretty easy to slip into – the last segment we were talking about just doing your day in and day out and not really picking up your head to look around at what’s happening. So it’s a challenge. I rely on the management team to be doing their own marketing campaigns with all their staff and making sure everyone understands what’s happening across the company. One of our functions that we have in our organization is this business relationship management function. Where we’re dotted line to our lines of business so that– the purpose is – couple things. One, to be able to identify what technology needs those lines of business may need, so that we can prepare business cases and roadmaps and such. But the other is to also understand what the business is doing, so that we in the IT organization can just think better about how we should support them. So we rely on those organizations to bring that information back to the rest of the team, for the major team to cascade that information out, to try to keep all the employees engaged in what’s happening.
Sanjog: If you are looking at the tactical approach that people take in terms of putting in technology, I’m assuming strategies not only the onus off the top leader like yourself. Do you think strategic thinking is a competency that has to develop when you’re doing something about it, to go along the chain of command? Or do you think it is over taxing of worker who is already up to their eyeballs working?
Zeeshan: Couple things, one, I don’t think that you can develop a strategy in a vacuum. I don’t think that, I can take, for example my lead team and I sit in an offsite, somewhere in a room and come up with a strategy document, and actually have anyone buy into it. But if you haven’t really got that feedback from the people that are actually doing things day in and day out, the challenge is, sometimes the folks they’re doing things, day in and day out. They see the short term fix to the problem in front of them. Taking those challenges in the short term fixes and then taking the leadership team and putting it all together and doing all that to come out with a strategy is the right way to go, in my mind, in my opinion because if you don’t do that then you end up – again, you issue this strategy document that no one’s really bought into. Because they didn’t feel like they had any real input to it. So when I go back to his open in trusting environment where the employees that are doing this work can give that feedback to their leadership. We can take that and say, okay, we see the problems that we have today, we see the drivers for change for tomorrow. How do we lay out where we can solve both problems at the same time by putting those guide rails for a good strategy! That not only the organization in IT can sign up for but also our customers. We’re IT in a utility business, which means, we’re not turning machines to make money. We’re providing a service. So if our strategy isn’t something that our customers buy into that again, it’s an ineffective strategy.
Sanjog: One is what to do and that’s what we discussed throughout the programs. As leaders who are a supposed to be working on this initiative about building talent to its best potential or let them live to their best potential, what is not to do list, for the leaders?
Zeeshan: I would say, number one thing is not to seem you have the answers. That in my mind is number one thing. The minute the leaders assume they have all the answers, there’s a problem. My opinion is, you move into a leadership role, you are not doing that work anymore, the work that your staff is doing. So, to assume that you have the answers, I mean you have the insight but you may not have all the answers. So that’s in my mind the number one rule.
Sanjog: And so you’re saying that if just, they don’t have all the answers and they’re always on the lookout, they should be trying to find sources. So, which other additional sources you tap into in order for you to grow as a leader, who has a great talent management strategy?
Zeeshan: There are couple things. One is, first and foremost the employees. They are a source and the first wealth of information. And second is, benchmarking, within the industry and outside the industry, and looking at other industries that are similar in nature but ones that are making great strides, for example I tend to look at the telecommunications industry a lot. There are great things happening in that line of business and plenty of things that we can kind of learn from on the utility side. And then just using third party sources of information, the IT world is full of great sources of information when it comes to what are best practices, what are best tool sets, who is using them, how effective have things been. So you take those three piles of information and put it together to try to develop and move forward as you try to knock down the challenges in front of you.
Sanjog: So, one last message that you may have for the people who are fighting this talent battle. What optimism should they carry or what caution would you have them keep in mind?
Zeeshan: I guess, I would say there’s so much opportunity for everyone to do better in this area. I think change management and involving talent management experts at the front end of big transformations is probably the best thing that we can do, across the board so that not only as we go out and try to recruit new hires but also as we try to retain the employees we have today, is really important, and information sharing. You can’t put a price tag on being able to talk with peers inside and outside of your industry to try to come up with new ideas for how to solve the problem. Definitely don’t go trying to solve it in vacuum because you won’t get there.
Sanjog: On behalf of the show and our listeners, I would really like to thank you Zeeshan for sharing your thoughts on how organizations along with their leader and lieutenants can help solve the talent conundrum.
Zeeshan: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Sanjog: Thank you so much again, Zeeshan. Listeners, please like us on Facebook, search for CIO Talk Radio and please be sure to follow us on Twitter. Thank you again for listening to CIO Talk Radio. This is Sanjog Aul, your talk show host. Till next week take. And God bless.