What is the CEOs biggest challenge today? There’s a fair chance that you’ll answer ‘hiring’ because finding and keeping the best people is a hugely important element in the elusive chemical formula that leads to prosperity.
In the knowledge economy, talent might well be the number-one most important distinction between success and failure; it’s the underpinning that will drive product quality, great service, business development, sales and marketing excellence, a culture that propels the organisation forward.
But here’s the problem: hiring today is tough. Once, large companies could attract great people by dangling the carrot of a job for life with incrementally increasing pay grades and the end prize of a pension pot.
Globalisation has provided a worldwide marketplace for talent but it hasn’t made hiring any easier; getting to the front of that marketplace isn’t easy and everybody is shopping from the same stalls: the top universities and people with great grades, sought after skills, drive, verve and outstanding interpersonal and communication skills.
This in turn has created an interesting hiring dynamic where organisations must sell themselves to candidates. They invest in well-paid HR staff and buy HCM software systems so their people can get clear insights into goals and career progress.
They commission themed designer offices with slides, swings, gyms, breakout rooms, art, massive display screens, haute cuisine canteens, swimming pools and childcare crèche facilities. Star employees have become the pampered princes of the workplace, the rock stars of the business; luring them and keeping them happy and motivated is a huge business in its own right. At least one company, Move Guides, specialises in successfully relocating and orientating new hires or those asked to relocate.
But something is missing and that something relates to technology. Bring-your-own-device/app schemes have become recognised as must-have magnets for creative, innovative individuals, allowing them to select the tools of their job that suit them best, from the latest PCs, tablets, smartphones and wearables.
Smart firms today don’t dole out cheap dumb phones to their brightest and best but instead bend over backwards to show their appreciation for people. However, they still very often have one thing that saddles their teams with a source of frustration, annoyance and roadblocks to success – creaking infrastructure.
>See also: Software is redefining IT infrastructure
Think about this. If you were attempting to build a team of talented people who could think out of the box, make game-changing insights like the world’s best sports coaches, drive change and illuminate their sectors with their incandescent brilliance, you wouldn’t ask them to work in an office full of velour, furnishings from the 1970s, dusty pot plants, matted carpets, clogged air-con vents and cheap machine-vend coffee served in plastic beakers.
Any interviewee would wonder what was going on and make the assumption that any company that took so little pride in its appearance probably wouldn’t be a wonderfully progressive employer. But when it comes to technology infrastructure we’re still all too often inflicting decades-old legacy boat anchors on our businesses and on our people.
This is particularly silly when so many of the new hires will have been born in the 1990s and will be digital natives, the generation steeped in technology and accustomed to instant, one-click or swipe responses to their needs. This is the generation that may never have experienced the World Wide Wait when dial-up modem connections struggled with the web.
Many of them won’t know what a server looks like because the servers they have dealt with sit in mega-data centres belonging to the internet giants.
This is the now generation, always on and expecting real-time, snappy responses from online shopping carts, search engines that deliver results in a fraction of a second, auctions that permit last-moment bids.
But too often today staff have to deal with sluggish back-office systems that bring otherwise slick processes to a state akin to wading through a cotton field dressed in Velcro: ERP systems crunch through gears; expense forms take an age to process, accounting systems are closer to the age of quill and parchment than the business at the speed of thought era that software permits if it’s not encumbered by soiled machines, bottlenecks and the throttle effect that legacy systems impose on their owners.
In a way, companies should get this by now. For the last 10 years, smart businesses have done a good job of revamping their front-end equipment. They hand out iPhones and the latest Android devices, you see Macs everywhere in business when once they were only in the marketing pods.
Lots of us use cloud services and may be allowed to use our own preferred apps to get the job done because we no longer live in a world of IT command and control and a beige box with a single desktop image on every desk.
Today’s business IT is mobile-first, cloud-first but infrastructure remains the dirty secret and organisations rest precariously on the wonky platform of ancient servers, storage boxes and communications fabrics.
The results are not fit for purpose: low utilisation, power-hogging hardware, questionable levels of resilience and failover, lots of grunt work for admins and, yes, slow performance that has us all cursing, frustrated and unable to get our work done quickly and efficiently.
If you work in a technology-centric or internet company, the issue is exacerbated. Developers want to get their hands on the latest tools, software and hardware; give them an old-school setup and they will run a mile. And it’s not just the tech elite that is having to move with the times.
Little wonder that some of the most enthusiastic early-adopters of technology today are ancient institutions such as banks. They might not able to hand out stock options like a start-up with a hot app but if they can offer young people the chance to work with containers, low-code development environments and other new tech they know they can get superb minds to work for them.
When you think about hiring, infrastructure might not be the first thing that comes to mind but it’s infrastructure that provides the zip, hum and thrum of modern business. Ignore this fact at your peril and at the risk of appearing old-fashioned and unattractive to the smartest people entering the workplace.
Sourced by Chris Kaddaras, Vice President EMEA at Nutanix
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