Building a democratized organization

By | August 14, 2017

Anyone looking to hire or be hired into an IT organization these days knows the job boards use algorithms to screen applicants, but this AI-infused approach to identifying talent often misses the people IT organizations need most: cross-functional experts who bring unique, game-changing talents — but don’t look good on digital paper.

So, instead of hiring the sort of entrepreneurial folks that understand how to code and make a business case, for example, you’re likely to hire more of what you already have. Instead of adding diversity and new ideas to your team, you hire based on known and predictable patterns. That’s fine if you want an army. Less fine if you want ingenious innovators.

The fact is, today you need people on your team who can do it all. After all, who can really afford to pay a specialist to do just one thing? Virtualization and automation (think VMWare, Docker containers, Puppet, Chef and Ansible) and tools like them make it possible for your team to spend less time on mundane tasks and more time on innovation. If you’re moving in that direction, do you really want to hire by word-matching?

From an OpenOps standpoint, the algorithm approach to hiring is opaque and nearly guarantees you’ll never see the candidates you want most. Yes, databases can scan hundreds or thousands of resumes in seconds, but the queries are mostly looking for the status quo. Or we think they are. After all, the engines are opaque at best and no one — not even hiring managers — really knows exactly how they work their magic.

Ironically, local government offers a unique lesson in how to successfully stir the talent pot and look beyond the expected.

Despite what you might hear, local governments are overwhelmingly efficient, especially compared with their state and federal cousins. Local governments make the best use of tax dollars, and spend nearly all their money on things citizens appreciate, such as police, firefighters, water mains and sewers. They’re able to do this because local governments are regularly infused with men and women who often have very little in common other than a strong individual desire to serve their communities.

In our American democracy, ordinary citizens run for and get elected to town boards, city councils and legislatures. These new public servants are quite diverse — teachers, bankers, social workers, golf pros, truck drivers, homemakers and any mix of every job there is. When they get elected, they bring new ideas to government. When a banker gets elected, government learns finance. When a truck driver gets elected, government learns transportation. When a Java programmer gets elected, government learns software.

Despite their lack of common expertise, they are able to drive change and innovation. With Roberts Rules as a guide, they confer, discuss, argue and ultimately agree by simple majority to act. It’s not always pretty, sure, but it can be remarkably powerful. What they have in common is that they’re all different. No two resumes are like, and surely no two would be identified by an algorithm as fitting some pre-determined mold.

Over time, newcomers again challenge the status quo, work alongside the veterans, breathe new life into the process, and the cycle repeats.

IT organizations aren’t local governments, but they can benefit from people with untraditional talents. When you’re looking for innovation, tenacity, humor, curiosity and ambition, look beyond what an algorithm gives you and keep an eye out for the people you really need.