CIPS CONNECTIONSINTERVIEWS by STEPHEN IBARAKI, I.S.P.
Stephen Mill, regional manager for Robert Half Technology shares his views on job opportunities
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Stephen Mill, regional manager for Robert Half Technology. Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of information technology (IT) professionals on a project or full-time basis.
Mr. Mill's area of responsibility currently includes managing the daily operations of the firm's Canadian offices. Stephen has spent the past seven years at the specialized staffing firm where he has experienced all phases of the IT job market cycle first-hand.
With more than 100 locations in North America and Europe, Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. Robert Half Technology offers online job search services at www.roberthalftechnology.com.
Q: Stephen, considering your very busy schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you in this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep insights, and experience with our audience.
A: You are very welcome and I'm excited about the opportunity to share my thoughts with your audience.
Q: You have a most interesting history. Please detail your experiences which led to your current position. We would be interested in your most valuable lessons and challenges.
A: My background and experienced has been primarily focused on business development. My top achievements have been primarily a result of maintaining a positive attitude throughout my career. This has helped me overcome many challenges over the years when working with various levels of management and when dealing with customers. If there's one piece of advice that I can offer for success, it's to stay focused on your career path, count on many but rely on none. It's up to you!
Q: What are the major challenges facing your company today, in two, five, and ten years. Please detail your vision, missions, strategies, goals and values? What factors make your company so successful and what processes can be transferred (used) by other organizations?
A: My top areas of focus are to retain key staff as the market improves, continue to secure business before the competition does, and keep ahead of emerging technologies and industry trends. Our mission, as always, is to be the premier provider of professional staffing services in all the markets we serve, while adhering to the highest professional standards of excellence.
Q: Please detail the services you provide to both organizations and professionals?
A: Robert Half Technology is a leading IT consulting services firm, which is in a position to meet all of a company's unique information technology needs, from finding just the right individual for an immediate assignment to providing IT resources for a global network of offices. The need to access information technology expertise on a just-in-time basis, combined with constant requirements to assimilate emerging technologies, has contributed to our rapid growth.
Regardless of current economic conditions, companies of all sizes and across all industries will always require qualified IT professionals. Start-up companies require support for new systems implementation and web development; established firms seek assistance to develop e-commerce strategies and utilize Internet-based applications to make business operations more efficient. Robert Half Technology helps firms achieve these goals by providing the highest quality project and full-time professionals in areas ranging from multiplatform systems integration to e-business development to help desk and end-user support, including specialists in web applications, network engineering, systems integration and database design.
More information is available on our website at www.roberthalftechnology.com or by calling one of our accounting executives at (800) 793-5533.
Q: Is there a way to generate more targeted applications, conduct reference checks, perform background checks, and process other important criteria (what are these areas)?
A: Focus on the right recruiting sources, such as online job boards for specific positions and specialties. The more targeted plan you have for positing job descriptions and available positions, the better matched applicants will be to your needs. An alternative to initiating an in-house job search process would be to utilize the services of a specialized IT recruitment firm, which are typically much better positioned to assist with specific requests for IT professionals with in-demand skills and specialties.
Q: Detail the techniques that businesses can employ to keep valued employees.
A: It’s valuable to take time to recognize your employees’ achievements. Show your staff you care through day-to-day praise and recognition. Don’t forget simple courtesies. “Good morning” and “thank you,” a note of appreciation or kind words during a meeting can go long way. Other ways to show employees you value their contributions include initiating social activities for staff, giving cards or small gifts for special occasions, providing personal or public recognition for a job well done, offering tickets to local sporting events and shows, providing free coffee and snacks, and occasional meals, as appropriate. These are only a few techniques. Employee empowerment, fostering teamwork and regular performance appraisals also go a long way in helping keep your top talent.
Q: And IT professionals, what can they do to stay employed? From their perspective, what is the hiring environment today and where do you see it going in the future; what strategies can they use to obtain meaningful employment? What qualities are companies looking for in candidates and how can candidates effectively prove that these qualities exist in themselves. Do you see a change from the past to the present and into the future?
A: No contractor would begin building a house without at least a rudimentary plan. Likewise, something as important as a career in IT shouldn’t be pursued without a well-thought-out strategy - especially given the rapid pace of change in business today. Everything from the introduction of new technologies to company expansion can have a direct impact on your job and your career. This makes it all the more important to develop a long-term career strategy. Be sure to share your professional goals with your supervisor. Be clear about your expectations for advancement and understand what you need to do to get where you want to be.
A key trend is the growing importance of soft skills in the workplace -- that is, the ability to communicate, listen and work collaboratively, including departments outside of IT. While logically it would seem that technology has allowed us to work more independently with less need for soft skills, the opposite is actually true. In a survey commissioned by our firm, 77 percent of chief information officers polled said the increased use of technology will require workers to communicate more effectively and accurately in coming years. The reason? Think e-mail, voice mail and teleconferences. With information technology accelerating the frequency of communication, any deficiencies in diplomacy, negotiation, and oral and written skills are increasingly obvious to others.
Q: Since you have a reputation for staying attuned to market trends, what are the hot job areas today, in two and five years?
A: Companies that faced the difficult situations of layoffs, reorganizations and budget revisions are now beginning to focus their hiring efforts in a more positive direction. They are gradually adding staff to accommodate the organization’s needs and provide greater support to employees throughout the firm.
At this time a majority of the hiring seems to be on the project side. It hasn't translated to as many full-time openings yet. Many firms are relying on project professionals to assist with expanded workloads until they’re certain they have a long-term need for permanent staff. This practice also helps to maintain productivity without sacrificing flexibility in human resources management.
Companies are still taking a strategic approach to human resource management, carefully analyzing their personnel needs to determine the exact skill set and experience level required for open positions.
Canadian CIOs expect an increase in the hiring of IT professionals in the fourth quarter of 2003, according to Robert Half Technology’s Information Technology Hiring Index and Skills Report. Fourteen percent of executives surveyed plan to expand their IT departments in the fourth quarter and 3 percent anticipate staff reductions. The net 11 percent hiring increase compares with a net 4 percent increase forecast last quarter.
The national poll includes responses from 270 CIOs from a stratified random sample of Canadian companies with 100 or more employees. Other key findings of our research indicate that business expansion is the leading factor driving IT hiring and that Windows administration remains the skill set most in demand.
Q: Do you see the IT market turning around and when? What will it look like? How will the structure of IT change within organizations?
A: We're not economists and have no way of predicting economic trends. What we can tell you is that based on our analysis of thousands of IT job orders in Canada, we feel that companies are still conservative in their hiring efforts and there are a lot of qualified candidates in the job market today, which is keeping salary ranges conservative. It's important to point out that demand for top candidates remains strong. The best candidates with the strongest skill sets will be competitive in any employment market.
Q: In your role, what are your top ten qualities and processes that make for great leadership?
A: Motivated, satisfied and sufficiently challenged employees are crucial to your company’s productivity and success. While the best workers possess strong internal motivation to perform their best, you still need to take steps to ensure that your entire IT staff is motivated to work at their peak potential.
Today’s technology workforce is made up of a diverse group of individuals. Add to that telecommuters, independent IT consultants and employees on flexible schedules, and it’s obvious that the traditional workforce is in transition. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to motivating today’s employees. To be a great leader, you must figure out which motivational tools will be most effective for your staff. The next step is to implement those that suit your management style and your company’s goals. With motivation being top, other qualities that make for great leadership include creating a positive work environment, fostering open communication, providing opportunities for advancement, offering competitive compensation packages, recognizing and rewarding employees, and promoting teamwork and collaboration. Also, be sure to put your employees' ideas into motion!
Q: What drives you to do what you do?
A: I thoroughly enjoy the technology industry, what it has to offer and its potential for shaping the future of society. My success in management provides me with optimism. I believe in myself and my company, and it makes it all worth coming to work each day.
Q: Thank you again for sharing your years of successful leadership and wealth of knowledge and experiences with our audience.
A: It was my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.