Kevin Boyd, Chief Information Officer of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, outlined the simple components for retaining employees.
“How many of you are concerned about retaining your people?” asked Boyd at the outset of the final keynote presentation at the 2016 Chief Information Officer Leadership Forum held on September 20 in Chicago. “Retention isn’t one thing; it’s many things. I came into a unique situation at University of Chicago-Booth in which the unintended turnover was above 50%. It was a revolving door. In the last four years, it’s been less than 7%. We made some big changes, and that’s what I’m going to share with you today,” he said.
“Retention isn’t one thing; it’s many things.”
“Here’s something you may not connect with retention—vision. You need to be really clear with your employees about what you expect your department to be good at,” he explained. “People like to know what you care about and value. They use this when they make decisions, which they make all the time. The vision provides context for those decisions. Clearly articulate your vision and consistently execute and demonstrate it. Walk the talk.”
Boyd continued, “For those of us in Booth IT, there are three levels to our vision: a foundation of stable and reliable infrastructure and applications, high customer service and satisfaction, and continuous improvement. Your department’s vision will be different, but keeping it simple is critical.”
“For us there are three levels to our vision: a foundation of stable and reliable infrastructure and applications, high customer service and satisfaction, and continuous improvement. Your department’s vision will be different, but keeping it simple is critical.”
“Next is having the right people in the right roles and, of equal importance, being aware of the toxic people in our environments. Toxic people have a lot to do with retention. Every year, we do a performance-and-potential exercise in which the leadership team looks at every person in the organization and where they fit on a nine-quadrant grid. We identify people to promote and people who are toxic. Managers need to manage people into a right role or out of the organization.
“Communicate, communicate, communicate,” stressed Boyd. “We set up one-on-one meetings every week or every other week, a weekly leadership meeting, and a quarterly all-hands meeting. This is how folks know what’s going on in the organization, and knowing what’s going on affects their desire to stay with the company. I recall one of my professors at Northwestern saying, ‘If you feel you’re communicating twice as much as what you think people want to hear, it’s probably about half as much as what they actually do want to hear.’”
“If you feel you’re communicating twice as much as what you think people want to hear, it’s probably about half as much as what they actually do want to hear.”
The next component Boyd mentioned was work flexibility—time and place. “We have one or two days a week that are flex-place. This doesn’t apply to all roles, of course, but for most people, as long as they’re productive, it’s fine with us if they work at home a day or two a week. This makes people really happy, and it’s certainly had an impact on retention,” he said. “Flex-time has had an even bigger impact. Parents often want to start at six in the morning and be home when their kids get home. We want to keep those people, so we went with flex-time. We have core hours, which is when we schedule meetings, but we’re flexible around those hours.”
Lastly, Boyd acknowledged that the work-life balance is an increasingly key factor in retention. This translates to “the right number of staff, the right workload, and appropriately managing the workload, which is key in the IT shop—or any shop, for that matter,” he said. “Good managers learn how to say ‘No’ well. Or, even better, ‘Yes, but not now.’ You, as the manager, create the environment. In almost every company where I’ve worked, IT led the organization in a number of areas—flex-time, flex-place, assuring employee recognition, creating a culture of innovation and learning. Sometimes, if you successfully change one department, it can spread to other parts of the business.”
Boyd wrapped up by commenting, “These components also help with recruiting. There are all kinds of ways for people to find out about your company, and these retention tools are also great recruitment tools.”
ABOUT KEVIN BOYD:
Kevin B. Boyd is the Chief Information Officer at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He has responsibility for the technology at Chicago Booth’s campuses in Chicago, London, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Prior to coming to Booth, he was the Vice President of Product Management for Tribune Company. Boyd previously served first as a PMO Director and then as Director of Quality Assurance and Testing for CNA Financial in Chicago. Boyd previously worked for United Airlines as Director of Ecommerce Systems.
He was also an adjunct professor at Northwestern University for nine years, teaching classes in ecommerce and working with students on entrepreneurship-related independent study projects.
Boyd holds a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast and Electronic Communication from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, and a Master’s degree in Communication Systems, Strategy and Management from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.