Career Watch

Q&A: Maria Schafer

Senior program director, human capital management

Company: Meta Group Inc., Stamford, Conn.

One of the biggest gaps in IT workforce management these days is the lack of succession planning both for technical line workers and for the next generation of junior and midlevel IT managers, says Maria Schafer.

The problem is expected to become particularly acute over the next 10 years as many baby boomer IT workers reach retirement age and fewer IT workers enter the market, she says.

Schafer spoke with Computerworld's Thomas Hoffman about the pending problem and steps that IT executives should be taking to address it.

Are IT organizations unprepared to deal with the changing workforce dynamics that are expected to occur over the next several years? Ten years from now, we're going to be facing a big potential gap. Senior management hasn't done a good job with succession planning. We just don't think in long-term horizons in the U.S. like they do in Japan and Germany.

Maria Schafer of Meta Group Inc.
Maria Schafer of Meta Group Inc.

What steps should IT executives be taking to address this? This concept of succession planning has to be made more of an ongoing process and has to extend down the chain farther than it has in most places. It's about identifying who your next set of leaders is, not just at the executive level but also project managers and project leaders. That's how you create opportunities for people at these levels: putting in place some development activities for a structure and path for them to follow.

What else can be done? One thing I often hear from IT management and HR people is how there's an unwillingness among IT workers who have been in certain positions for a long time to explore reskilling or new training. It comes back to this whole idea of creating a continuous learning environment. IT management and HR can help here. That means developing a more strategic orientation from a variety of constituencies. What the individual IT worker needs to do is to be open and to communicate that openness to learning new types of techniques to help increase their value to the organization. Companies want people who have skills that go across a variety of areas.

The CIO as Change Agent

Leading CIOs are playing much more influential business roles than they have in the past, according to a study by Meta Group Inc.
The study, "The CIO as Enterprise Change Agent," surveyed 115 senior IT executives in order to assess the evolving role of the CIO, and follow-up interviews were conducted with a subset of CIOs who had exhibited their use of best practices.

Nearly half of the respondents (47%) indicated that they have broadened their responsibilities beyond the traditional CIO role to take on some form of business responsibility. In fact, 35% came to the CIO position with a business background.

According to Meta, the executives in the study are committed to becoming enterprise change agents. Respondents repeatedly cited three primary obstacles to transformational success: an internal culture resistant to change, organizational politics and the existence of too many conflicting priorities.

The following are among the recommendations Meta makes for serving as an effective change agent in the years ahead:

  • Ensure that the IT house is in order.

  • Respect the difficulty of behavioral transformation.

  • Become an expert on your industry's value chain and competitive dynamics.

  • Influence your CEO to create the proper climate for change.

Where's the Gusto?

Management consistently deadens the natural enthusiasm that new employees bring to their jobs,
according to the book The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want (Wharton School Publishing/Pearson, 2005). According to research by authors David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind and Michael Irwin Meltzer, employees' enthusiasm declines by up to 15% after they have gained more than six months on the job—and it never recovers to the original level.

The authors cite several reasons:

  • Management's policies are aimed toward the troublesome 5% of employees rather than the good 95%.

  • Managers are often indifferent to those they manage.

  • Companies have been too quick to respond to adverse business conditions with layoffs.

"It's hard for people to be enthusiastic about an organization that is not enthusiastic about them," says Sirota, the book's lead author.


2003-04 Survey Results

Employees with average of six months with employer 80
Employees with one to five years working for employer 69
Employees with six to 10 years working for employer 68


Feeling Insecure

An informal online survey by in February found lack of job security to be the greatest contributor to IT job stress.

In your opinion, which factor is the greatest contributor to IT job stress?
In your opinion, which factor is the greatest contributor to IT job stress?

Source: Dice Inc.

The Lure of Foreign Shores

Senior executives are showing signs that they’re up to the challenge of taking a career risk.

Which of the following major career changes would you consider? Pick only one.
Which of the following major career changes would you consider?

Number of respondents: 2,704

Source: Survey by Korn/Ferry International, February 2005.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon