Best Practices for IS&T Supervisors

Best Practices for IS&T Supervisors

Debra A. Major, Valerie L. Morganson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch056
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Researchers over the last decade have generated a body of literature which is informed by management research and theory and tailored to the unique demands that characterize IS&T work. At the industry level, IS&T fluctuates with the supply and demand asymmetry caused by technological advances (Agarwal & Ferratt, 2002a). The changing nature of the industry trickles down to affect IS&T professionals who must continually update their skills in order to prevent obsolescence (Rajeswari & Anantharaman, 2003). IS&T work demands flexibility in responding to customer demands, emerging issues, spontaneously hectic workloads, and frequently unplanned requests. The nature of the work is continuous (frequently 24/7) and often requires the coordination of multiple experts. IT is typically a service function upon which other organizational functions depend. Yet, it is common for IT to be undervalued and unrecognized, unless there is an IT failure. IS&T work may be performed by individuals or teams that may be colocated or virtually connected. Although there has been some debate in defining the parameters of the so-called “IS&T workforce,” considerable overlap in skills, educational backgrounds and other domains persist (Kaarst- Brown & Guzman, 2005). The current article defines IS&T professionals as individuals whose primary job function is the development, installation, and implementation of computer systems or communication technology. Research and best practices literature are reviewed to provide IT managers with an overview and a starting point for workforce intervention and improvement.
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IT human capital is seen as a strategic resource and competitive advantage for businesses (Bhardwaj, 2000). Where the IT workforce was once inundated, many researchers and practitioners have raised concern about a shortage of skilled professionals and have noted a corresponding research focus on IT turnover (Agarwal, Ferratt, & De, 2007; Niederman, Moore, Yager, 2002). Prior to the popping of the IT bubble, the abundance of IT workers permitted managers to focus on motivating extant staff. Because the industry has stabilized and labor is in shorter supply, managers have been required to heed turnover, a more longitudinal goal, in addition to maintaining production levels.

Agarwal and Ferratt (2002a) and Major et al. (2007) have combined survey and interviewing methodologies to empirically derive taxonomies of best human resources management (HRM) and supervisory practices for IT (see Table 1). Although both taxonomies address the issue of effectively managing IS&T professionals, Agarwal and Ferratt approach the issue from a more global HRM systems perspective, while Major et al. focus on the practices of individual supervisors.

Table 1.
IS&T best practices taxonomies
Human Resource PracticesSupervisory Practices
Agarwal & Ferratt (2002a) Major et al. (2007)
Performance MeasurementTask-focused Practices
Compensation & Benefits SystemsBoundary Spanning
Work ArrangementsPerformance Management
Employability TrainingEmployee Involvement
Longer-term Career DevelopmentTraining & Development
Opportunities for Advancement
Opportunities for RecognitionPerson-focused Practices
Quality of LeadershipRelationship Building
Sense of CommunityMentoring
Lifestyle AccommodationsStress Management
Organizational Stability & Employment SecurityWork-family Balance

Key Terms in this Chapter

Psychological Contract: The reciprocal exchange relationship that is perceived to exist between employees and their organizations.

Relationship Building: Developing a dynamic of reciprocity and trust between an employee and his or her (a) organization, (b) coworkers or (c) supervisor.

Training and Development: Providing opportunities for employees to acquire and to improve technical and interpersonal job-related skills and knowledge for personal growth and career advancement.

Embeddedness: Incorporating and establishing (a) the IT function across departments and (b) IT employees within the organization. For embeddedness to occur, IT departments and workers must participate in the organization, hold a network of partnerships (e.g., friendships and alliances), possess influence, and experience positive interactions within the organization.

Boundary Spanning: Monitoring the organizational environment and crossing departmental functions to anticipate and to proactively seek out implications for one’s own department.

Performance Management: Applying techniques such as role clarification, goal setting, performance appraisal, and performance-related rewards in order to connect individual behavior and organizational strategies and goals ( Banks & May, 1999 ).

Work-Life Balance: Achieving a suitable harmony between the frequently incompatible duties of work and home life that many workers face, particularly when working in jobs with irregular or long hours.

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