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5 Strategies to Recruit Effective IT Employees in Higher Ed

IT managers face competitive pressure to recruit and retain new employees.

Pressure is mounting for higher education to find new ways to attract staff for IT positions. In today's competitive job marketplace, where attractive salaries and job perks are the norm, universities and colleges have to find innovative methods to recruit and maintain new IT employees. Unable to compete with corporate wages, higher education needs to find strategies to recruit effective employees, creative positive work cultures and find ways to retain them. Selecting the right employee for the job has never been more important.
EDUCAUSE listed IT staffing and organizational models in the Top 10 IT issues for 2018. They are described as important to ensure “adequate staffing capacity and staff retention in the face of retirements, new sourcing models, growing external competition, rising salaries and the demands of technology initiatives.”
Recruiting and attracting the IT talent needed in your institution is critically important. Managers need to consider the talent pool they require today and in the future.  Equally important is ensuring that new employees can be effectively on-boarded into the current work environment. 
"We need to think strategically about the professional and social connections your new hire must make to integrate successfully into your professional culture," writes Eileen Hoenigman Meyer in HigherEd Jobs. "Consider both your colleagues' personalities and their roles as you prepare your new hire's introductory meeting schedule.”
Making sure employees match your institution, and your institution matches the needs of new employees are important steps in the recruitment process. There are five core strategies you can utilize to help navigate the process of finding and recruiting quality IT employees for your institution and retaining them:
1. Make sure your job announcement stands out. Rather than merely saying you have a job opening, include distinctive words, which separate your ad from others. Using phrases such as “looking to join a dynamic and friendly IT team” or “your new office awaits” helps to separate your employment search from the rest. The more you can personalize your message, the more likely people will take the time to consider it more closely.

2. Engage prospective candidates in the recruitment and interview process. Ensure you welcome them personally into your search process, communicate to them frequently and provide them video and marketing promotional materials about your institution and department. As much as interviewees are marketing their own IT experience, your institution should return the favor and work to market your campus, people and community.

3. Use interview questions that reveal your successful candidate. This is one of the most important steps to ensure you are finding the right IT talent for your department and campus. Some revealing questions are:
  • Describe two situations, one when you have worked with a grateful client, and another with a difficult one. What personnel skills did you successfully use with both clients?
  • Explain your worst failure and what you learned from it.
  • Describe what qualities you would want to see in your co-workers and supervisor, and why?
  • What IT project are your most proud of and why?
  • If you had one lingering question you wanted to ask about this job, but were afraid to ask, what would it be and why?
4. Make new employees feel welcome after the interview. Once you have hired your new employee, it is important to carefully on-board them into your department and across your campus. Be sure to communicate with new employees coming into your department, and help them make personal connections across the campus. Select a colleague to shadow them in their new job, both in their technical responsibilities as well as in developing new relationships.

5. Create and maintain a positive IT culture. Your goal should be to “create an effective environment you want IT to be.” There can be many elements to this process, but there are seven core concepts, which are essential for your success: communication, trust, teamwork, empathy, professional development, leadership and collaboration. These concepts should be practiced by both management and co-workers. New employees need to demonstrate these same skills when additional employees join your team.

Following these five strategic steps will help to ensure you find the right IT talent, which makes your team successful in their technical work, as well as in their professional relationship-building with their clients.
Jim Jorstad is Senior Fellow for the Center for Digital Education and the Center for Digital Government. He is a retired emeritus interim CIO and Cyber Security Designee for the Chancellor’s Office at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He served in leadership roles as director of IT client services, academic technologies and media services, providing services to over 1,500 staff and 10,000 students. Jim has experience in IT operations, teaching and learning, and social media strategy. His work has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Forbes and NPR, and he is a recipient of the 2013 CNN iReport Spirit Award. Jim is an EDUCAUSE Leading Change Fellow and was chosen as one of the Top 30 Media Producers in the U.S.