How to Manage Employees in Tech-Based Roles When You Aren’t

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The world of IT can be confusing at best when you do not have a technical background. So the prospect of managing an IT person if you aren’t one can seem even more daunting. With most employees, you have an idea of what needs to be done and the steps needed to get there, but tech positions can be a completely different beast. How do you prioritize the work if you do not understand it? How do you quality check? How do you know if they are even doing the work they say they are, let alone correctly? How can you hire, train, retain, and grow this individual?

Hopefully, I can help take the edge off some of these concerns.

Focus on the person, not the job

When hiring, consider the person first and the role second. Hire someone who interviews well and shows up prepared, just as you would for any other position. You are adding a team member, not just an “IT person.” Would you like them for any other role at your business?

Next, consider how much work you really have for them to do. If it is not a full-time amount of work, make sure the person you pick is happy doing NON-tech things. Otherwise you run the risk of them inventing work to do, which runs the risk of getting fancier than your staff needs, and then fancier than you can maintain if they leave…not to mention more expensive than you need.

Do not be afraid to ask troubleshooting questions even if you are not confident in them yourself. Vetting people for logical thinking is universal to any role. One question we commonly ask here for help desk positions is: what steps would you take if I was not able to print? If their ONLY steps are to turn it off and on and see it’s plugged in, they are probably not any more cut out for the job than some of your existing staff. Alternatively, if they immediately go into something complicated and miss the easy first checks, they may be the type to make simple things way more complicated (and again, potentially expensive) than it needs to be.

Look for outsourced training resources

You can facilitate training without being the trainer. Task the employee with identifying appropriate areas of growth and opportunity for both them and the business, and coming up with their plan to do so. This could be going after certifications, attending conferences, or getting training from someone in a similar role at another business.

This is also a good interview topic. If someone cannot comfortably speak to or identify their own strengths and weaknesses then 1) they may not understand the industry as well as they should for someone wanting to be in it, 2) you are going to have to do it for them, and if that’s the case: do you have time? Are you tech-savvy enough to be able to assess this for them?

Look around for other areas of opportunity to grow the employee you need by networking. At my CUSO, we have a boot camp twice a year where there are lots of opportunities for techs in this niche credit union world to meet, exchange ideas, and sharpen their skills. We have had credit unions send new techs to us as well to meet the team and do some training outside of those boot camp days.

Evaluate performance by outcome and documentation

Evaluating performance is an area that I feel gets missed frequently. If you come from a place of tech-phobia where you let them dictate priority and pace, you put yourself in danger of having an employee that does not have the same parameters and expectations as the rest of the team. Just because it is a new position or a less understood one does not mean the person you hired should be the one writing the rules as they go.

What check-ins do you have for others on your team? Evaluate performance by the outcome. Meaning, are things working better, more consistently, or easier than before? You don’t have to be a tech to know if the staff is struggling less with common pain points. You don’t have to be a tech to know if your new tech person is getting faster at the work.

Some additional areas to review: are they helping staff help themselves? Are they creating guides for certain software, for example? Are they tracking work completed, allowing others to review changes made in case you need to revert to an older version? Again, you do not have to be a techie to read a how-to guide, to understand if notes are accurate and time is accounted for.

Documentation is also important for the next person in that role. If you are growing the individual but aren’t necessarily getting more complicated with tech in your own business, you should expect to have people leave simply because they go on to more challenging environments. It is an industry you can grow quickly in, so if you replace the person, you do not want to have to start from scratch getting into a routine with them. Documentation will be important.

Lead with confidence 

The need for qualified IT professionals continues to be a priority. More than just keeping the machine running, cybersecurity has added an ever evolving layer to that need. Your IT needs are not going anywhere and may only get more demanding in time. It can be an unnerving topic to wade into, but if you think of it like any other new service or solution you roll out and approach the hiring as you would for any other team member, you will find out it’s not so daunting after all.

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  • Client Support and Operations Manager, Network Services, CU*Answers

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