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Recruiting and managing I.T. staff the right way

Coding, Programming

Techzim is expanding into Logistics and looking to on-board new delivery truck drivers.

Suitable candidates must hold a clean class one drivers’ license. The drivers will also be required to possess motor-mechanic skills as they will be responsible for servicing and maintaining the vehicles they drive. They will also load and off-load the cargo they are meant to deliver.

Since Techzim is a green company, our trucks are hybrids and applicants are required to have a minimum of 15 years’ experience driving electric haulage trucks. Any applications that do not meet the above criteria will not be considered.

Nothing in the above paragraph makes any sense. In Information Technology (I.T.) and graphic design spaces, we see similar job vacancy adverts all the time. The fields are young and there are no defined traditions or rules around how new team members are recruited but the old way does not work.

The job industry itself has been in existence for over one hundred years. Traditionally, when a section supervisor needs a new team member, they notify the human resources manager (HRM). The HRM will draw up a list of minimum academic and on-the-job experience requirements based on the salary class of the opening. The roles and duties of the new recruit are picked out from a company manual and a job vacancy advert is posted. The circus ensues when applying a similar practice to I.T. related jobs.

The minimum applicant requirements list

Let us go back to our truck driver example and the nonsensical list of requirements. The logic applied is this: since the new employee will work with trucks, then it makes sense for them to load/off-load, drive and also maintain/service the trucks.

HRMs and traditional blue/white collar managers classify any work done on a computer as the same thing. Job listings will look for someone who fixes printers, develops software, trains other employees on how to use enterprise software and also design the company’s graphical adverts.

This is not a job for a single individual, it’s a collective of the duties of a whole I.T. department. Another relatable example is expecting a medical doctor to be a neuro-surgeon, urologist, gynaecologist and also manage anaesthetics during medical operations. This is nothing short of absurd and similar to our truck driver who can’t also be a mechanic and load/off-load cargo.

The term Full Stack Developer has become so abused and is thrown onto anything that involves software development. Dear HRMs, a software developer cannot be a full stack web developer, full-stack mobile app developer, desktop developer and graphic designer. All of it is work done on a computer, yes, but that logic is not logical. All doctors work on the human body too, but there are specialised fields in their practice.

Still on the issue of requirements, our job post stated a minimum of 15 years driving hybrid electric haulage trucks. Each salary class in companies has a minimum level of experience that goes with it. There is now a challenge when it comes to newer industries as for example, hybrid haulage trucks that have not even been on the market long enough for one to gain 15 years’ experience with them.

In the I.T. industry, it has become a running joke for companies demanding 5 years or more of experience with technology that has been in existence for only 2 years. As an HRM, it does not feel right to place an employee with 5 years’ experience in the same salary bracket as employees from other departments with decades of experience. This method of job classification will lead to underpaid and underperforming I.T. staff. If this is how you have been determining the salaries of your I.T. team, you need to review this practice.

Ignoring the self-taught Rockstar

Most people consider Computer Science as more an art than a science. Our graphic design counterparts already fall into the art category. There is a certain level of passion one pours into both their education and work. This passion creates an individual who is self-taught in some aspects of their field, without the certification to back up their skill. What they will have is a portfolio with personal and pet projects to showcase their skill-set.

Traditional companies have a mandatory academic certificate requirement for I.T. staff who get cast into white collar job categories. Self-education without supervision takes a great deal of character and dedication. If your recruitment process does not have an allowance for self-taught individuals, you are missing out on great talent.

Traditional managers managing I.T. staff

At my first job as a software developer, the manager was old school, with over 20 years serving the company. He would come by my desk often to ask how many pages of computer code I had typed since morning. I kid you not. My job was to “write” computer code, and writing means creating a document with pages. The logical way for him to review my work was to count the number of pages I had produced at the end of each day.

White-collar management styles do now work very well with most I.T. jobs. A more ideal way is to let the department self-evaluate. A typical company will have an I.T. technician, a couple of software developers and one graphic designer. Each member of the team has enough of an idea what the other does and you can have a peer review system for them. As the manager, your job will be setting deadlines for tasks and projects and ensuring those are met. You will not need to micro-manage the department with daily checks.

More people does not equal less development time

When a company needs a new building put up, they will ask the master-builder how long it will take. If the time period he quotes is too long, management will approve 2 or 3 new recruits to speed up the building process. Simple logic, more people equal less time spent to complete a task.

As we have been pointing out, this does not work when applied to I.T. and graphic design fields. An equivalent example is trying to get nine women to deliver a baby in one month! Certain tasks performed on a computer will take a predefined period due to technological constraints.

You should not ask your graphic designer to throw together a 30-second animated advert for your new product in 2 days, it’s impossible. The process of rendering a short video (creating a video from a collection of still images) alone takes up to 12 hours. Are you going to expect your employee to camp in their office for 3 straight days non-stop?

One last note is with the rise of recruiting agents, companies are able to get third parties to perform the recruitment process. Those agents are paid on a commission basis and it is not in their best interests to find a suitable candidate for you. If you are going to use recruitment agencies, be sure to also participate in the process.

That just about wraps up us telling you how to run your business. If you’re an I.T. employee, please let us know any pain points we missed in the comments below.

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