CIO Leadership

The Fundamental Shift The Future-Effective CIO Makes Towards Talent

With all that the future of work entails, we have overlooked a treasured quality to value in employees. It’s not how long they stay; it’s who they bring with them.

Scott Smeester


June 20, 2024

Photo credit:
Andrew Moca

Companies had trouble keeping me for a long time.

It was neither their fault nor mine. Fault can only be laid if long tenure was the goal. It may have been on their part, but it never was on mine. I didn’t expect it and I didn’t promise it.

Mainly because I wasn’t looking for the stability or security other employees might seek to be with a company for a long time. Nor was I looking for internal promotion that often comes with time invested.

But. And it’s an important but.

When I did leave, I either had already recruited friends to come and work there, or I left with referrals for the company to pursue.

I develop leaders. I network. I take on challenges and then I seek new challenges in different environments. I am not alone. I am far from alone. I’m also different from many in my generation, but I happen to share the short-tenure trait with the current generation (and I suspect, the coming generations).

Changing How We Measure Value In Employees

Will they leave the team better than when they found it?

That’s the measure now.

I’m happier with a short-term employee who elevates my current staff and adds to my staff, or gives me leads for my future staff than I am with long-term employees who do their job well but don't expand my people-capacity.

On the heels of writing about it makes sense that if the sources of your teams will be changing, so will what you value about the resources of the team. Talent sourcing outweighs longevity.

This changes the questions we ask in our interviewing and the experiences we provide during a person’s time with us.

Traditionally, we have looked at ways to ask candidates about their intent to be a long-term employee. We could be confident in their answers, because in those days, employees settled into the community - house purchase, kids in same school, social involvement.

Remote work and a hard economy has leveled our confidence.

When interviewing, we want to probe their network. If they found work with you to be positive, who could they recruit or refer? What online presence do they enjoy to promote working with you? Who in the past have they brought into an organization, and that person continued on after they left?

As far as experiences go, we again tend to engage and develop with a long-term view in mind. What if we asked ourselves how what we do now would be changed if we were trying to foster immediate traction and enthusiasm?

Instead of focusing values training on just the employee, what if we were to ask who they knew that was a match to our values set?

Instead of development and training that is planned out on a multi-year track, what if we offered a customized plan that proved to have short-term relevance for the employee?

Instead of honoring employees who have been with the company a long-time, what if we also honored/ rewarded employees who brought others into the company?

I’m talking more than referral-reward programs. You get what you celebrate, and you get what you train for and not just try for. 

So - How can you intentionally integrate a recruiting/referral mindset into your team?

I gained a reputation in my work, whether it was with profit or non-profit organizations, of leading them into numeric growth of people involved. One person asked me my secret. I said, “Most leaders, when they see a person walk in the door, see a person. I see their network.”

Everyone has a network. The CIOs who succeed in future team building won’t be as concerned with the longevity an employee stays as much as with the people he brought and leaves behind.

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