Supporting IT At Your Company In 2023
Rajat Bhargava is an entrepreneur, investor, author and currently CEO and cofounder of JumpCloud.
IT departments at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) deserve kudos these days. They ably responded to one challenge after another presented by the pandemic. They moved entire workforces to a remote model. They adapted as some remained remote permanently, some returned to the office full time and others blended a hybrid combination.
However, as if the pandemic wasn’t enough, global events and conflicts are presenting IT departments with additional challenges over which they have little control. Labor shortages, recessionary worries, inflation and market volatility mean that SMEs have their hands full as they try to adapt to almost unimaginable levels of uncertainty.
The IT teams behind many of these SMEs are often as silent as they are essential. Although it’s their efforts that power organizations’ entire operations, their reality is often to deal with other departments’ decisions and to retrofit solutions to optimize tools chosen by others who aren’t in the IT trenches. These teams generally push forward without complaint—keeping things working no matter how complicated the job is.
What’s the best way to support the SME IT admins who make work work? We commission a biannual survey to gain critical insight and visibility to address that question. As 2023 begins, it’s a perfect time to reflect on whether you’re serving your IT teams as well as they’re serving everyone. Based on research directly from those teams, here are a few suggestions.
1. Create a culture of trust.
With current events and a heavy existing workload, IT teams are exhausted. Our survey found that IT professionals worked longer hours than their job required them to. Almost a third (31%) said they work six to nine hours over what their job description is, and 26% said they work 10 or more hours over on a weekly basis. It’s no surprise that 45% of these IT admins said an increased work burden is a challenge, a 24% increase in just the last six months.
When work responsibilities are heavy, it’s essential to create an atmosphere of trust to ensure that some of your hardest-working employees feel that critical support. Claremont Graduate University professor and neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak has been studying trust in business for decades. He finds that creating a high-trust environment isn’t just good for employees but also for the business—fostering productivity, higher energy, better collaboration and higher retention. In fact, when compared to their counterparts in low-trust environments, Zak found those in high-trust environments realized:
• 74% less stress.
• 29% more satisfied with their lives.
• 13% fewer sick days.
• 106% more energy at work.
• 50% higher productivity.
• 76% more engagement.
• 40% less burnout.
Now that face-to-face interactions and spontaneous check-ins are less frequent, ask how your organization is demonstrating a commitment to your IT team’s overall health. Zak offers eight key behaviors that foster trust—each of which can be adjusted based on your organizational size and structure.
For example, taking steps toward trust-building could include reexamining the IT team structure to see how to better leverage individual passion, creating new communication channels to ensure information fully flows across projects and departments, or implementing evaluation metrics that analyze the relationship between employee autonomy and organizational innovation. New ways of work enable new ways of employee engagement, and all organizations have the opportunity to create a system that’s both successful and supportive as well as an IT team that feels both valuable and valued.
2. Listen to the practitioners.
Those who make the purchasing decisions aren’t always the ones who will be most impacted. Most SMEs don’t have the budget—or need—for enterprise-level tooling. The result, though, is often that they’re left to juggle a number of point solutions through complicated extensions to simply get the kind of function their SME needs. Only 23% of admins said they can do their job using just one or two solutions, nearly 1 in 10 requires nine or more tools to manage the employee life cycle, and 75% of SME admins wish there was a single solution to manage IT.
IT teams aren’t looking to just make their own lives easier; they are just as invested in delivering a quality experience for all employees. We found that 84% of respondents agreed that employee experience is a top consideration when evaluating solutions, while only 19% of admins cite cost as a roadblock to consolidation within their organization. This suggests that despite current budget pressures, there may be a real opportunity to convince reluctant stakeholders that the time to consolidate tools is now. Ultimately, SMEs will benefit by letting those who live and breathe IT lead decisions on the tools they need to best deliver the necessary outcomes.
3. Provide tools for complex environments.
The current device breakdown in SMEs continues to be a mix of macOS, Windows and Linux machines, and admins expect their use of each operating system to increase over the next 12 months. Beyond mixed operating systems, personal device use in SMEs continues to increase, which can unfairly transfer much of the security responsibility to users who may not know how to keep company data secure—therefore, not following best practices. Flexibility in device choice is something that many employees have come to expect, but it doesn’t need to be a burden for IT.
SMEs can ease IT’s burden of managing mixed device environments by adding device management to a unified IT approach. The right mobile device management (MDM) solution can take the security burden off employees without adding work or stress to your IT team. MDM solutions can range from a light, nearly invisible touch—such as an installed agent that can remotely lock a stolen or compromised device—to a much heavier one that can manage device configuration as well as applications and silo-specific or sensitive data. Look for a solution that can manage SME users—and whatever device they’re using—in a centralized and simple way.
Provide for those who provide for you.
Retaining the best talent is always a top priority for all businesses. In today’s volatile economy, that’s particularly true. When it comes to SME IT staff, listening to and meeting their needs can go a long way in creating a supportive work environment, protecting staff’s well-being and safeguarding your organization’s IT estate.
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