Motivation, interest key for tomorrow's IT leaders

CIOs and IT managers face a dearth of management skills in the future if the prevailing workplace attitudes held by Generation X and Y staffers do not change.

Put simply, this new generation of workers need to follow in the footsteps of baby boomers and take a greater interest in management.

This was the view of participants in a discussion panel hosted by the Asia Pacific director of the CIO Executive Council, Sue Bartlett, in Sydney last week.

The panel, which discussed IT mentoring and ways to retain staff while remaining aware of business priorities, was part of CIO Dialogues 2006, a conference staged by Computerworld's sister publication CIO magazine.

Queensland Transport CIO Paul Summergreene said team communication is critical, but admitted it's hard to juggle the diary to enable open access at any time.

"People want answers and then they become more involved in IT and the business because they feel ownership," he said.

Because the definition of IT is so vast today, Summergreene said there are lots of domains needing investment - including management.

"We can't expect the technology-literate people of today to conform to our archaic management. We need to change the way we look at individuals," he said.

Geordie Conyngham, A/NZ CIO of food producer Cerebos, said motivating staff isn't only about the individual's current job, but encouraging the person's capability and looking at their willingness to go forward.

"We work to build a team," Conyngham said, because relationships within a team tend to be a motivating force. CIOs can retain Generation Xers by not mentioning the corporate ladder, he added.

CIO Executive Council deputy executive director Keith Roscarel concurred, saying that it's best to concentrate efforts on key staff and the rest will run "like a sausage factory".

Fresh and new blood is also a good thing, Roscarel said, adding "There are a lot of good people out there."

Engineering consulting firm SKM's group information manager Peter Nevin believes in being "very sensitive" to the new generations of IT staff.

Nevin said Generation Y is more concerned about dress codes and working from home than just concentrating on pay rates. "It is about flexibility."

Developing leaders out of the next generation needs different approaches to those used for baby boomers, Nevin said, and unless CIOs find some way of getting them interested in management there will a gulf between greying managers and the pool of people below.

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