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Retain your ICT talent in 3 easy steps

South Africa is facing an unnerving shortage of qualified ICT recourses. The creme-de-la-creme of graduates shoot for the Googles leaving a huge void for us mere mortals to come up with resources who have the attitude, aptitude and will fit into our organisational culture. But what are these superhero companies offering that we are not? Money?

Let’s explore what the science tell us about monetary incentives.

A study done at MIT funded by the Federal Reserve bank showed that as long as the tasks involved only mechanical skills monetary incentives worked as expected. When the tasks calls for even rudimentary cognitive skills the larger the reward the poorer the performance! They found that money as a motivator is only a hygiene factor. Pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table. So if it’s not the monetary reward that attracts talent what is it?


According to the MIT study there are 3 factors that lead to better motivation and thus better retention:

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

1. Autonomy - our desire to be self-directed

Why do we hire smart people and then tell them how to do their jobs? You will find if you just get out their way they will probably do something really cool. Hackathons are gaining extreme popularity around the globe. What is a hackathon you ask? This is where people in your organisation is given free reign to create whatever they desire, with whomever and in whatever way within a specific time limit or sprint. The only requirement is that they present their findings to management at the end of the sprint during a fun filled meeting. This one day of autonomy creates not only huge business outcomes in new product ideas or fixing of existing problems but also increases employee satisfaction enormously. My voice is herd in this company and I am valued creates a massive pull for new talent and keeping existing talent.

Autonomy goes further than just self direction on work but also towards self-expression. Am I allowed to express myself in the way that I dress and how I look or am I forced to wear a corporate one size fits all uniform? Giving people the power of expression makes a difference in the way they work and how they think. Being output driven rather than time driven will give them autonomy over their working time as well. Every person’s energy time levels are different. I perform on my best from 4am up to about lunchtime. After that I can only do mundane automatic tasks…. Where possible let your team determine their working time to complement their energy time levels. You will get more out and a more engaged crew who will stick with you.


2. Mastery - the urge to get better at stuff

Why do people take up certain hobbies like playing a musical instrument or archery? Because they get better at it…. People want to see themselves improve at something. Give them that opportunity by giving them new challenges. People aren’t meant to sit in a cubicle doing the same repetitive tasks day and night like a battery chicken laying eggs… that is what automation and robotics are for. People we are less interested about titles and promotion and more interested in new ways to challenge themselves. Keep on developing new products through innovation events and a well funded R & D devision. Let the R & D devision be crewed up on a rotational basis. This will not only lead to better innovation but also challenge people outside of their normal day to day production environment. Innovation stimulates new products that in turn stimulates growth with new positions opening up for people to move into.

An innovative company breeds a loyal crew that is challenged on a regular basis.

Technical training, internships and leadership development is part and parcel of mastery. If your company don’t have it …. You won’t get the and retain the talent you need to succeed.


3. Purpose - the reason your company exists

People have this persistent need to be part of something bigger than themselves…

If you don’t know the story:

President John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time, in 1961. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

Build a brand that stands for something bigger. “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” - Google’s purpose. That’s power!

This purpose needs to be enforced through rockstar leadership. People will sign up, follow and stick with a great leader that will lead them to a bigger purpose. People don’t sign up to title or structure they want to know who they are working for. People often resign from managers not companies.

If you are in a leadership position  you need to reinforce that greater purpose with rockstar charisma and live it every day. This not only goes for the C-suite executive but also down the line all the way to team level. Be the leader people want to aspire to 24/7.

Build a culture that supports the purpose and starts from leadership and filters down to the crew. Build sub-cultures within departments and recruit to enforce those cultures from leadership to crew members linked to a divisional purpose. These cultures are strongly linked to the risk profile of that division. R & D devision should be crewed up by highly energetic and greenhorn radical thinkers - the piercing and tattoo crowd. Your core business needs the old experienced hand who are risk averse and will keep the engines running. In some departments the magic is in the mix. A well balanced mix of experience and radical thinkers will bring both calmness and excitement to the team. Experience sees value in energy and starts mentoring the greenhorn radical thinkers. This way they too become part of a bigger purpose in themselves. The greenhorns brings energy and start seeing value in structure and experience.

Think ahead 5 years. What will your divisional or organisational purpose look like in 5 year’s time? Build on that culture today!

Stop your talent from migrating to the competition by offering a superhero company experience…. Autonomy, Mastery and purpose!

Information sourced from our CIO peer group.

If you want to be part of these discussions with our group of CIOs drop me a mail


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