IT Professionals Are Being Overlooked. Here’s What You Can Do to Help.
The pandemic has affected every corner of our lives, and IT professional groups weren’t left unscathed.
It’s no surprise that our recent shift to WFH hastened the pace of technology. Pure Storage recently conducted a survey of over 500 IT leaders exploring the future for IT professionals. The results revealed agility in strategy plans as a direct result of COVID-19. 82% of respondents further reported transitions to a multi-cloud strategy in response to the global health crisis.
Over the past nineteen months, IT professionals have worked hard to enhance the digital employee experience for remote and hybrid work environments. They’ve also strengthened the digital customer experience, cyber security, and remote access.
Today, we use IT professional services in almost every business operation, from recruiting and onboarding employees, to selling products. There are virtually no functions within an organization that are not IT-driven. Yet, IT professionals are one of the most overlooked roles in business today.
The Pure Storage survey shows that 43% of respondents felt a “lack of recognition of effort and results in the last 12 months.” It makes sense that IT teams are frustrated. Per Tech Monitor, “This lack of recognition could become a talent retention issue for IT leaders in the coming months.”
Now, more than ever, it’s downright essential for companies to show support and appreciation for their tech teams. Here are seven ways a company can support their IT professionals.
Recognizing How IT Teams Support Your Business
In a world of smart data and technology-aligned teams, IT professionals are an integral touchstone to any company’s success. In spite of holding pivotal roles in organizations, most employees remain unable to identify who is an IT professional, what an IT professional means, or what the roles of an IT professional position entails. Let’s start with the basics.
IT Professional Definition:
Responsible for creating the infrastructure that automates workflows (or "information systems"), IT professionals maintain operating systems and applications. But they wear several other hats, too: they work as database administrators to develop, secure, and store information. They work as systems analysts to look after hardware, networks, and all other equipment used within a company. Lastly, as security analysts to protect company databases from cyber attacks.
Put simply: IT professional jobs help the rest of the company along, providing guidance, and showing colleagues what’s possible with the tools that are available.
Brett Noneman of US Electrical Services, Inc. claims creating a sense of ownership and accountability is crucial. “People need to understand what makes their work meaningful to the organization and they need to feel empowered in order to deliver at their highest level.”
IT is frequently viewed as a “roadblock” department by business executives when they want to get things done. If said executives were to better understand the IT team’s responsibilities, a more cooperative relationship could be forged.
“Give folks the support they need and a reason to get going and you should find them engaged and passionate about the work,” confirms Noneman.
Whether you choose to include this information in the onboarding process, or invite teams to Lunch and Learns, it’s important that everyone in the organization understands the role of the IT team. This is also likely to strengthen team bonds and ensure that the rest of the company is aligned with its tech leaders.
Understanding the Basics of Tech
IT professionals have strict legal and ethical standards because of the strategic role they play in an organization. Making a conscious effort to learn the functionality of basic technical skills — like Google Workspaces and laptops — will help your IT team focus on more pertinent tasks.
Development teams are often touted as desk technicians with degrees in computer science and frequently assigned too many tasks that other employees can take care of. This often blocks logical paths to other, more important goals.
Encouraging technical learning sessions as a regular team building exercise can help with the team’s understanding of how technology fits into the future of their company.
Paying Attention to Online Safety
Phishing and malware are two of the most common security challenges that companies face when keeping their information secure. Hackers often use email, social media, phone calls, and more to steal a business’s valuable data.
While guarding against phishing and malware are among the key skills for IT professionals, other employees scarcely receive any formal training in the role of information security.
Tiffany Tucker, a Systems Engineer at Chelsea Technologies, states “A phisher’s success is contingent upon establishing trust with its victims. We live in a digital age, and gathering information has become much easier...beyond the dumpster diving age.”
Tucker recommends that companies educate their employees and conduct sessions with mock phishing scenarios to protect themselves against attacks. She also suggests taking small steps like using web and SPAM filters to detect viruses, and keeping systems up-to-date with the latest security patches. Furthermore, installing antivirus solutions, and requiring encryption for remote employees goes a long way.
Above all, Tucker says it’s “important to make sure that [sic] employees understand the types of attacks they may face, the risks, and how to address them. Informed employees and properly secured systems are key when protecting your company from phishing attacks.”
Taking Care of Company Equipment
Taking care of office equipment — from computers to office printers and copiers — is an essential, important skill. Regular hardware service can increase ROI and productivity, reduce costs, and leave employees with continuous time to work. Most importantly, added care would create less additional (and unnecessary!) work for your IT department who are often working on multiple projects at the same time.
According to Central Business Equipment, Inc., “Machine downtime can affect multiple employees, meaning a wide range of productivity loss. If multiple people are needing to print, scan, or fax, then that’s a lot of people unable to do their job until the problem is solved.”
It’s vital for companies to regularly schedule inspection and maintenance, and ensure employees are taking care of their equipment. This way, the IT department can focus on their own work tasks, instead of running diagnostics due to a technological error.
The same holds true for backing up data. All computer systems are susceptible to crashes — it’s important to be prepared for the inevitable.
Including the IT Team in Business Decisions that Affect the Workflow
One of the major keys to a successful organization is the synergy between business executives and the tech team. Former government worker Eliza Berman describes her experience by stating, “the business team was often driving the change, but we couldn’t accomplish a smidgeon of progress without the developers and IT project managers capable of making it happen.”
“IT infrastructure is the backbone of business today,” says Griffin Peacock, an IT consultant. “But it is also the greatest plane of attack for bad actors. The most important thing any business can do is work closely with their IT Managers and CIOs to ensure that business goals and productivity workflows do not impede the IT team’s efforts to keep your business safe and running smoothly.”
Leadership styles need to evolve to include IT professionals in new developments to the workflow. This will not only support tech teams to perform their responsibilities better, but it will also help companies meet their goals quicker. Plus, successful team relationships are known to foster social connections in the workplace. This helps boost happiness, health, and productivity for all employees.
Checking In On Health and Stress Levels
Due to the nature of software development, stress among IT professionals tends to run high. Long hours staring at the computer screen and tight deadlines leave many employees at the end of their ropes.
According to a cross-sectional study of a thousand IT professionals in Chennai, 22% reported newly diagnosed hypertension, while 52% dealt with depression, anxiety, and insomnia. These are only a handful of common health problems of IT professionals.
It’s time for a change in leadership development. It's vital for employers to conduct regular stress tests and modify their workload and impose time limits as necessary. Additionally, providing resources for IT professionals like psychological counselling would help address physical and mental health problems throughout the IT sector.
IT teams have spent the past nineteen months working hard under overwhelming pressure, which has only worsened their health conditions. Still, they’re one of the key players whose efforts go vastly unseen. It’s time for managers to show appreciation beyond IT Professional Appreciation Day every first Tuesday in September.
Danny Tomsett of UneeQ told Forbes, “How you treat your staff will ultimately determine the level of service they give your customers. We’ve also found that continuous deployment and empowered teams focused on really rewarding work that’s [worked] well against company OKRs has created great engagement.”
Whether you take them out for a nice meal, encourage team building for IT professionals, or send them gifts for IT professionals, a small token of your gratitude goes a long way. And when you send with SmartGift, your recipients can customize their gifts to their liking and enter their preferred delivery address.
Remember: building happier, engaged, and productive teams is key to any company’s success. By recognizing the role of your IT team, including them in important decisions, and fostering a culture of openness and cross communication, you can help your entire team attain maximal productivity.
Small interactions can make a big impact on company culture. SmartGift’s Spotlight Series identifies the joys, challenges, and needs of specific roles within the teams we work. Over the forthcoming weeks, we aim to outline creative and unique strategies for companies to show appreciation and support their team members.