When you think of Information Technology (IT) and your business, what comes to mind? Are the IT professionals ‘just’ those people you call when your computer seems broken? Do you dread making that call because you worry the IT worker won’t understand your explanation of your problem or you won’t understand his recommended solution?
Yes, IT professionals are the ones we call when we have difficulties working our computers, but that is just a small fraction of the value they add to our businesses. Think about it. They lay the foundation for a business to function well.
Every department relies upon phones and computers for the most basic internal communications to the most important external communications. IT professionals not only ensure that the phones and computers are up and running, but they find the systems and programs that best fit each department to help maximize efforts. For example, a good Customer Relationship Management program can mean the difference between 10 closed deals/month and 20 closed deals/month. Human Resources needs programs that speak well with Payroll to ensure employees are properly paid.
Business needs Information Technology to succeed. As business owners or management, we look to hire IT professionals with exceptional skills and understanding of the technology language. It’s a language that most of us don’t understand and don’t choose to take the time to understand. We are happy there are people to whom we can simply pass our technological needs.
The separation between IT professionals and the rest of us is a global joke. The BBC aired a show called “The IT Crowd” which poked fun at the dynamics between IT professionals and the rest of the staff of a large corporation. The IT staff was housed in the basement, far removed from the rest of the staff. They had poor social skills and seemed to dread interacting with the staff as much as the staff seemed to dread interacting with them. The IT staff was frustrated by the inability of staff members to perform the most basic computer functions while staff members blamed the IT staff for problems caused by their own shortcomings.
Corporate training to improve communication between management and team members has grown. What about communication between IT staff and the rest of staff? As funny as the The IT Crowd is, this is a serious topic.
The need for good communication is not limited to IT professionals and staff, but is also needed between tech workers and customers. Allow me to share a personal story which illustrates this point.
I purchased a Microsoft Surface Pro. I especially wanted this model because of the pen that came with it. Therefore, I scheduled a training session at the Microsoft store to learn how to use it. A young man was assigned to conduct my half hour training session. About two minutes into it, I asked a question. He stopped short and told me that I had a half hour for the lesson and if I didn’t get it in a half hour, I would need to make another appointment and come back. I said that I had a question for him and I was willing to take my half hour for him to answer me.
I asked, “When you came to Microsoft, what were you hoping you would do?”
He replied that he wanted to be a Systems Engineer.
I then asked him if he bothered to tell Microsoft that he doesn’t like to work with people.
“No,” he said, “but that’s the truth. “
Here we see a big company, Microsoft, hiring a young person with the hard skills the job position requires, but lacking the soft skills to communicate with customers as the job position also requires. The first response from him was if you don’t get it, I’m not going to repeat it; as if there’s something wrong with who they’re talking to.
I get the frustration. He was speaking a language he understands, but he didn’t know the person he was speaking with and that to me, the words he spoke may as well have been Greek. Technology workers at Microsoft produced a great product, but if they can’t communicate with customers to explain how to use it, it won’t be successful.
I’m here to tell you it IS possible for tech and non-tech people to communicate well! It just may take a bit of training. When you think about all the areas of business technology influences, it seems worthwhile to invest in strengthening their soft skills. I certainly think so!