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How Do We Deal With the Old Guard?

A firm has been on the brink of closure twice in the past 10 years. With a workforce that has been reduced from more than 10,000 to just below 3,000, there have been virtually no new hires in a decade. Today, through ingenious transition planning, the organization finds itself in a position to hire. This has been a challenge for IT where the old guard is now faced with a new breed of IT people current in all the latest trends and eager to make change happen. Any ideas on building the team?

— Old Guard, New Tricks, consulting, Ontario, Canada

March 28, 2014
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Related Topics: Onboarding, Strategic Planning, The Latest, Dear Workforce
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Dear Old Guard:

Sounds like a classic case of culture clash: You need to remedy two ills lingering from your past as you proceed to build a new IT team. First, I’d prescribe a healthy dose of change management. Unfortunately, the “old guard” IT professionals that you describe are frequently the least receptive to change. It’s certainly ironic given that tech is all about innovation, but the greatest resistance to change often emanates from seasoned IT professionals who dismiss new trends while clinging to legacy technologies. This makes your situation particularly challenging.

Your question also alludes to pretty significant issues related to your employment brand. A company teetering on the edge of closure twice in the past 10 years, with a 300 percent reduction in workforce, will likely not offer a very attractive employment alternative for the “new breed of IT people” you now want to hire. Your brand as an employer will also require some rehabilitation.

My prescription is for you to start afresh. You could embark on an extensive change management program with the old-guard IT leadership in place, but it will take a lot of time and is not guaranteed to work. 

Instead, go for a quicker cure which will accelerate change, albeit not without some initial pain. Hire a new CIO with the vision you want and the qualifications needed to rebuild from the top down. This person can bring a fresh perspective and might be better able to assess existing talent and who is likely to adapt to this changing environment. It also provides the much-needed infusion of new thinking needed to excite the new breed of employee you want to hire. A new person in that critical leadership role, with no history with your organization, stands a much better chance at developing an employee value proposition that fosters your new company’s burnished employment brand.

Initially, this approach may be a bitter pill for some of the old guard to swallow, but it also is the quickest way to get IT back on its feet.

SOURCE: J. James O’Malley, Partner, talentRISE, Chicago, March 25, 2014

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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