Want to Change Culture Quickly? Build Better Relationships with IT
Remember the old “Saturday Night Live” sketches about the IT guys? The ones who would get exceedingly annoyed whenever anyone asked for help? While funny, the scenarios hit a little too close to home for many people.
The reality is, however, that in larger organizations that rely on an information technology team, security, growth, and overall productivity would decline dramatically without those tech guys.
And yet, chances are that few people on your team see IT (aka “the password guys”) as a partner in achieving their goals. The result? Strained internal customer relationships.
So as you work toward changing the culture of your company, consider the relationship the IT team has with the rest of your organization…
How do your employees relate to the people in charge of maintaining your business systems?
Looking at Both Sides of the Coin
As with most difficult relationships, there are two sides to the story. From their perspective, IT often feels:
- Like order takers. Internal customers come to the tech team and tell them what they want, without discussing whether it’s even possible and without inquiring about better alternatives; simply put, they do not respect the knowledge and expertise of IT.
- Ignored, especially when it comes to security. IT develops security policies and protocols to protect the business, when employees ignore directives or best practices, they feel disrespected (and could also face additional work and/or scrutiny from their supervisors).
- Frustrated by employees’ lack of knowledge — or willingness to learn. IT professionals are a wealth of knowledge. However, employees sometimes “just want things fixed” and aren’t interested in learning how to fix recurring issues themselves – or how to avoid those problems in the first place.
At the same time, employees often complain that IT:
- Develops policies without employee input. Employees often feel IT creates unnecessary roadblocks or implements solutions without consulting the people who actually use them.
- Communicates poorly. Not everyone has a technical background, but IT tends to use terminology that assumes they do. Or, when they explain something, they too often display a condescending or insulting demeanor.
- Long wait times. Employees call for help only when they have exhausted all other options, and get frustrated when they have to wait a long time for help.
Clearly, these issues are not present in all organizations. But for those that do have issues, what can be done?
Building Relationships with Tech Teams
Many of the issues between IT and the rest of the organization come down to problems in communication both, how individuals communicate with each other and how teams communicate their goals to IT.
So the best way to build a partner-level relationships is deliberate collaboration.
When teams collaborate with IT on projects from the very start, and both sides have input to achieve the common goals, there’s more buy-in — and solutions are more effective.
For example: The C-suite wants to improve security to protect the company from hackers. Step one, rather than demanding a solution they read about in a blog, or on the news, C-suite must meet with the tech professionals, some of whom have advanced security degrees and a wealth of knowledge, to determine the best solution for their particular company. IT then gains a sense of ownership over the project, and has a better understanding and involvement in the company’s goals. The result: company executives get a better solution that comes with built-in top-down support.
Want to change culture quickly? Create an environment of mutual respect, and encourage collaboration at all levels, including with IT professionals. Sure, you might encounter a little annoyance when you forget your password for the third time this week. But when it comes to the big stuff, you’ll have a better – and far more productive – relationship.
Maybe you can even watch those SNL skits together.