The IT service management (ITSM) industry is finally waking up to the need for better people management, with this demonstrated in the results of the 2023 ITSM.tools content poll – where People was in second place behind Value. But this is just one side of the proverbial coin – what ITSM practitioners are interested in learning more about. It doesn’t mean that IT managers are actively addressing a need to improve people management. Nor does it mean there are people management issues (but this is covered later in this blog).
Whether you think there are people management issues in IT or not, there’s increasingly more interest in the area, and more guidance is being created to help IT managers improve their people-management capabilities. To help, this blog looks more closely at people management in IT before sharing some of the available related assistance.
Common people management requirements
When people talk about “being a manager,” it likely means different things to different people. For example, “management” might get confused with “leadership,” or a manager might focus (and be good at) some areas of people management more than others.
An IT manager might, therefore, be insufficiently knowledgeable and experienced across the full spectrum of people management areas that include:
- Performance management
- The engagement and motivation of team members
- Team development, including skill gap identification and upskilling
- Remote worker and hybrid team management
- Recruitment and retention
- Diversity and inclusion.
But is people management really an issue in ITSM?
On the one hand, ITSM is about enabling business operations and outcomes through fit-for-purpose technology (in the form of IT services). On the other, the IT services don’t design, create, implement, and manage themselves – well, at least not yet.
People are a vital part of ITSM success – as described by the long-used ITIL mantra of “people, processes, and technology” – and one could argue that the people are becoming a key differentiator in delivering the exceptional services that drive business-level competitive advantage.
So, how is the quality of people management in IT? Much of what’s said is anecdotal, with statements such as “They were promoted based on their technical success, but they now need to manage a team of people.” However, survey data does highlight a disconnect between what’s required for effective people management and how employees feel they are managed (which, as with experience management, is likely a more accurate reflection of people management in IT).
The employee perspective of working in IT(SM)
The 2022 ITSM.tools “Well-being in ITSM” survey found continued well-being issues, with this data a potential proxy for the effectiveness of people management in IT. Important survey statistics include the following:
- “88% of survey respondents think working in IT will get harder (at least for some roles). With only 8% thinking not.”
- “14% of well-being in ITSM survey respondents feel their personal efforts aren’t recognized by management, and another 57% state that recognition sometimes happens but not enough – a total of 71%.”
- “67% of well-being survey respondents state that working in IT has adversely affected their well-being to some extent.”
- When asked whether their immediate manager is suitably skilled to identify and deal with employee well-being issues, “32% of respondents believe they are not suitably skilled, down from 45% in 2020, and another 29% that they are only partially skilled.”
These statistics aren’t easy reading for anyone who cares about employees, how they’re managed, and their long-term retention.
“But AI will make everyone’s lives easier”
Employed correctly, using artificial intelligence (AI) in ITSM will lead to “better, faster, cheaper” ITSM operations and outcomes, which will translate to better business operations and outcomes. However, the impact of AI will differ from role to role. Service desk agents, for example, might find that their work becomes more challenging with the assistance of AI rather than easier.
Why? Because despite AI making some IT support work activities easier – such as ticket triage and accessing relevant knowledge in context – the use of chatbots or virtual agents takes the “easier” work from the IT service desk queue such that IT support personnel only have more challenging tasks to deal with. Yes, there will now be fewer tickets, but they will take longer to complete. Plus, service desk agents will go from challenging task to challenging task rather than dealing with a mix of easy and more complicated tasks.
For some employees, removing the easier and potentially monotonous tasks will improve their work lives. For others, though, the lack of occasional respite will be a contributing factor to working in IT becoming harder.
So, what can IT managers do to assess and improve their people management capabilities?
There are two great sources of guidance available to IT managers:
- The ITIL 4 Workforce and Talent Management guidance.
SFIA (Skills Framework for the Information Age) describes the required “skills and competencies for the digital world” and covers role areas, including information and communications technology.
SFIA doesn’t only apply to managers; it applies to all roles. For the IT service desk, for example, the necessary skills of a Service Desk Analyst, Service Desk Manager, and Service Desk Lead can all be found. So, a Service Desk Manager can understand what they need, plus they can align their team(s) with the skill and capability requirements for their roles.
ITIL 4 brought with it a number of changes, including people management guidance. The ITIL 4 Workforce and Talent Management practice offers a wealth of people-related best practices in one place. It doesn’t offer “all the answers,” but it does provide a lot of people management guidance for IT managers that includes:
- “Holistic organizational planning, including the organizational structure, culture, competencies, and other factors
- Managing and improving the organization’s identity and image
- Managing the organization’s workforce
- Managing the organization’s talents
- Managing and improving the employees’ journeys and experience
- Ensuring ongoing oversight of people’s roles, behaviors, and experiences in the organization.”
People management will be an important part of your IT organization’s success going forward; use these two resources to help ensure that you and other IT managers are comfortable and competent in managing their teams.
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