Staffing Diversity Challenges IT Leaders

by drjim on August 20, 2009

IT Leaders Need To Manage Diversity In Their Teams<br><div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/clevercupcakes/2980544017/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=They say that the world is becoming a smaller place – I think that they just might be right. IT Leaders are starting to realize that coming up with ways to staff their teams so that they are diverse is quickly moving from being a political nicety to now becoming a business necessity. Does anyone have any suggestions on how best to go about doing this?

The Problem

Most IT departments are no longer single site operations. In fact, with the growth of outsourcing a single IT department may now have offices in multiple countries: China, India, Russia, etc. This type of distributed operation is a great way to ensure that more work gets done at a lower price; however, it also poses a significant staffing challenge for IT Leaders.

It’s all too easy to think that we can take a few high-performing IT Leaders from the U.S., plunk them down in one of our remote offices and have them be a an effective leader. The reality is that all too often, this doesn’t work. If you haven’t groomed someone on your team to step in and run / interface with a remote office, then they aren’t going to be able to do it.

In the U.S., IT managers are encouraged to use frank talk and direct confrontation in order to deal with team issues. However, especially when dealing with teams in Asis, this can come across as being rude and offensive.

What’s An IT Leader To Do?

The trick to solving IT staffing challenges for remote offices or just to deal with remote offices is to create what the experts call a “talent plan“. Doing this will allow you to provide unique levels of value to your remote IT offices.

The first part of a talent plan is to identify what positions on your team you are going to have to fill and what types of cultural skills those  positions are going to require. It’s important to note that it’s not always necessary to hire a person of a given nationality in order to deal smoothly with a remote office that has other staff members of that nationality. Finding someone who is sensitive to that nationality and who has dealt with them before can fill this need.

Filling a position to manage a remote office should not be a sudden effort. IT Leaders realize that every position will eventually need to be filled because the person in that spot now will be promoted, let go, or will move on. A key part of any talent plan is to early on identify who the potential replacements are. This allows an IT Leader to take the time to make sure that the potentials get an opportunity to get trained in both the skills and the corporate values that they will need if they fill the position.

Final Thoughts

Staffing mistakes can be very expensive and picking the wrong person to lead a remote IT office or to interface with such an office can flat out be disastrous. IT Leaders realize that if they wait until the last minute when an position suddenly has to be filled, then it will be too late to do it correctly.

Instead, if they take the time to create a talent plan then their investment of upfront time and effort into grooming the right replacements will ensure that the correct staffing decisions are made. Learning to add diversity management to your IT team will mean that you will have found a way to transform yourself from an IT manager into a true leader.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Even in tough economic times, IT Leaders are still concerned about losing talent. Studies are showing that we are losing our IT Leaders at a much faster rate than new ones are being produced. On top of this, up to 30 million managers and leaders are going to become eligible to retire in the next five years. How can an IT Leader help to replace these leaders?

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