Peter Eichelberger, Senior VP of IT Operations at Alex and Ani, discussed what business leaders can do to make the next generation of IT leaders successful.
Eichelberger began his keynote presentation at the 2016 Chief Information Officer Leadership Forum held in San Francisco on February 18 by commenting that senior management often overlooks the capabilities of new members of their organization. “We in senior management need to look at how we got to where we are, what the technology was when we began, and how this differs from the experience of the next generation,” said Eichelberger.
“We in senior management need to look at how we got to where we are, what the technology was when we began, and how this differs from the experience of the next generation.”
The CIO or anyone in technical leadership needs to understand their audience, said Eichelberger. Primary characteristics of Millennials, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z are: autonomy (not committed to any one organization, and often with a diverse background); socially connected via various online sites—Twitter, Instagram, etc.—but not as socially connected in face-to-face interactions; focused on opportunities for growth; want a convenient lifestyle (many Generationals would rather live in their parents’ basement than on their own because of the convenience, observed Eichelberger); and want to be engaged in meaningful work.
Eichelberger identified the requirements of the next generation of IT leaders as the following:
• Strong technical skills.
• Business acumen. This can’t be taught in a classroom; this is an experiential process that involves being engaged with business leaders. Every senior business leader in a corporation should have an IT person assigned to them, said Eichelberger. An ideal situation is to have this be a junior person who learns the business while providing assistance to the business leader.
• Strong communication skills. College-age people generally don’t have the best communication skills or confidence in speaking. We need to give members of the next generation the opportunity to participate in speaking engagements, mentor, and coach, said Eichelberger.
• A customer-first attitude. The customer can be the CEO of one’s own company or an unknown person out in the world, said Eichelberger, but the response to their problem needs to be appropriate and timely.
“We in IT need to be leaders by example. We need to interact personally with the people in our sphere, know their abilities, and encourage and steer them. This is essential in retaining talent,” said Eichelberger.
“We in IT need to be leaders by example. We need to interact personally with the people in our sphere, know their abilities, and encourage and steer them. This is essential in retaining talent.”
What does the next generation want? Eichelberger sat down with a group of Generationals to get answers. Important to this cohort is having work options. They want telecommuting and flex hours. As managers, this can be a challenge, Eichelberger pointed out, but this is why weekly sit-downs with employees and ongoing communication are essential. Generationals want to contribute to the success of the organization and receive recognition for this. They want to own their projects, and this tremendously enhances the level of effort, commitment, and engagement. Peer recognition is important, and, of course, monetary compensation.
Directives to move the needle and implement these leadership-building strategies include:
• Engage and mentor.
• Assure certification. This needs to be covered by IT budgets and supported by IT management, stressed Eichelberger.
• Create a supportive environment for development.
• Find projects that require additional effort. Build a team to brainstorm on a challenging issue.
• Provide feedback loops. For the younger generation, this is essential, said Eichelberger. Feedback is traditionally in the form of email, but it can also be accomplished by blogs or activities where there’s dialogue and direct interaction.
• Plan for their next step and your next step. “As a leader of IT, make sure you have a future vision—one that carries on after you leave—and make sure your organization recognizes your vision.”
Eichelberger concluded his presentation by saying, “This next generation may not be loyal and their focus is on the next new thing, but they’re the innovators, and we want to be sure to keep them in our organizations.”
“This next generation may not be loyal and their focus is on the next new thing, but they’re the innovators, and we want to be sure to keep them in our organizations.”
ABOUT PETER EICHELBERGER;
Peter Eichelberger is an IT Business Executive with 15+ years of experience in diverse industries. Currently, Peter holds the position of SVP of IT Operations and Training at Alex and Ani. Peter is responsible for organization development, all digital, retail and corporate IT operational requirements and development, implementing all IT projects in sync with a unique company ethos, applying best practices and leveraging the existing technologies to put this hyper growth retail company on a plan for IT structure that will support the continued growth and expansion. Prior to this role, Peter spent five years at Havas Worldwide (formerly known as Euro RSCG) as Director of Information Technology. Peter has also taught customized internal computer classes for executives, engineers, and staff members at major organizations throughout the Bay area, including Intel, Sony, Cisco, Bayer, Genentech, Applied Materials, AutoDesk, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and Lawrence Berkeley Lab.