How to Recruit and Hire Non-IT People for IT Roles
Often, it requires more than raw IT skills to deliver great IT support for customers and clients. Here, we discuss how to change your hiring process and recruitment process to find people who have some IT skills and versatility, and provide a strong customer experience.
We previously discussed the idea of hiring non-traditional IT people to deliver excellent customer support. Now, we'll take a look at how you change your recruiting process to find these multi-talented individuals, or grow them from within your organization.
Imagine how powerful it would be if when a call comes to the Service Desk and the caller says, "I can't access Application X," that the support person immediately understands the criticality of that application for this specific caller based upon their job role. How much value would the business perceive if we innately understood the urgency of a given incident simply by being told who is affected by what and how?
And the way we achieve this is by having a desk populated by people who truly understand the line of business they support. At a minimum, they should be trained on the business, including but not limited to actual job duties, key applications used and business cycles. Preferable to that is to have support analysts who have been part of the business supported or at least are directly engaged with it on a regular basis.
The practical approach to begin this journey toward positive customer experience and business value is simple. Every IT Operations leadership team should review and revise the position description for your technical support analysts every year. (Unfortunately, it is also one of those tasks that most of us do only when someone calls to our attention that the position description contains reference to some legacy system that was sunsetted two years ago.)
There are a few things in the position description revision which I would recommend you pay particular attention to:
First, replace every mention of "X of years experience in a technical role" with "X of years directly interacting with technologies." This will help you find those who may lack formal IT training or experience, but who may be digital natives able to do things like build media servers for friends and family just for fun.
Second, revise each required certification to also include "or obtained within X months," and make sure that time period aligns with the probationary period for your new employees. Have a certification program in place that monitors the progress of uncertified new hires and helps guide them to achieve the required certifications in the allotted time. If they follow the program, provide them with a prepaid voucher for the certification exam.
Third, add relevant business experience to the position description. For example, if you support insurance claims adjusters, include "working knowledge of property and casualty insurance with a basic understanding of the claims process."
Fourth, review the "skills" section and revise it so that there are more "abilities" listed than there are "skills." Remember, abilities are inherent to a person - they either are or are not wired a certain way - whereas skills can be taught and honed. An ideal ratio of abilities to skills is 65/35. Hire for abilities; train them on the skills they need to succeed.
Taking this approach should yield immediate benefits. You will begin to see that the candidates who respond when you post a position quickly begin to diversify. Their resumes may look different - not just in content but in structure, so keep an open mind. They also may look and act differently in the interview than the usual I.T. lifer - probably asking a lot more questions since they lack preconceptions about what the job entails.
You may want to budget a bit more time for their interviews for this reason. You may even ask somewhat different interview questions of these candidates that give insight into their thought process. Instead of "explain how you would ping an IP address," ask something like "How could you go about seeing if a caller's computer is connected to the internet?" By adjusting your approach - and that of those on your interview panels - you can dip your toes into this brave new world of experiential, value-based IT Support. By diversifying your team, you add other strengths that may be lacking when you focus only on technical skills. Your team will be what I like to call "techlectic" - technically skilled yet with eclectic abilities.
Another avenue to explore is to actively recruit members of the business operations team who may possess some of these valued traits to take a rotational assignment to IT. Some people may feel unqualified for anything IT, but would jump at the chance to spend a month (or six) in IT if asked. By doing a rotation, they may find that they have the ability and the desire to bring their business knowledge over permanently to IT support. And that business knowledge may make them a very valuable asset to your support team in this new era.
Finally, and I cannot stress this enough, everyone in IT support should have at least a working knowledge of the business they support. If you are not training your technical support staff on the actual business of the company they support, they will never achieve the pinnacle of positive customer experience and adding business value. Fake it until you make it will not suffice. They need to understand the business to be truly effective support staff.
With the ITIL4 revision, customer experience and business value became central to the support function. Rather than a wholesale rewrite of our service management processes, we can begin to evolve to this new future by ensuring that we recruit and hire the right people. Diversity in recruiting and hiring our support staff will help to bring about this experiential, value-driven approach to IT Support. It all begins with something simple that you should be doing each year anyway. Start to build your experiential, business value-driven support team today by reviewing and revising your position description to find and hire those "techlectic" unicorns.