I also hire IT people for our factories, which range in size from approximately 60 or 70 to 450 employees with an equal number of machine tools used to cut metal parts. In my ideal world, I would have one IT person per site, but I'm not quite there for financial reasons.
Do they ask probing questions? Do they think through the consequences of decisions? I need them to be tactically focused while keeping a longer-term strategic vision in mind.
What kinds of skills do you seek for these positions?
As we started deploying Oracle, I realised that I needed a different skill set from a classic infrastructure person who understands how to install a PC and answer questions about it because I'd never have the luxury of having two or three people at a site.
I modelled what I needed after an employee who works at the first plant where we deployed Oracle. He has a very diverse, non-classical IT background, yet he can look at a business process and translate that into IT language. He's able to do a little bit of programming and he has enough project management skills to hire people.
So when someone asks me what I'm looking for, I say an infrastructure person who also has business analysis and project management skills. Recruiters usually say they cannot find both skills in one employee. I've become a bit of an evangelist trying to get people to look differently at these jobs. I view these people as miniature chief information officers.
In everyone we look for, in particular for those individuals at the plants, we seek people who are self-starters, demonstrate initiative, are delivery focused and are service oriented.
These are demanding roles, but they are also very exciting and are a great opportunity for the right individual. Candidates need to be very capable and willing to roll up their sleeves to do whatever is necessary. If you find such people, they often like wearing different hats and their career growth in this role is excellent. But frankly, it is hard to find them. We've tried to grow some internally, with generally poor success. We can get great infrastructure people, but they don't have the business acumen or partnering skills. Out of 19 factories, I have 14 of these individuals.
How do you include non-IT professionals in your process for recruiting IT staff?
I insist that appropriate business partners interview IS candidates. I call my group Information Services with the emphasis on services. We are here to provide services to the rest of Accellent. As a result, it is imperative that anyone we hire understands that and knows that one of their ultimate measures will be whether they deliver quality service to our business partners. I focus on this right from the interview and have finalists for a position interview with the appropriate business partners.
For example, when we are hiring IS leaders for our manufacturing sites, we require the local plant manager, the local HR manager and typically two to four other business managers at the plant to interview that candidate. We have a formal process for collecting each of these individuals' views on a number of criteria. This helps set the tone correctly for everyone. The candidate understands who the real boss is: It isn't me. It is the business partner, and this process gets the business partner engaged from the beginning. We go into this together fully committed.
The eventual hiring decision belongs to IS, but if a business partner is not supportive of a candidate, I treat that opinion as a veto and I won't hire the person. It would be foolish of me to hire someone whom the business partner doesn't support from day one.
What do you base your hiring decisions on?
First and foremost I am looking for attitude. If necessary, I can arrange for training in technical subject matter. That is something we can all learn. But I don't know how to teach attitude. I look for individuals' chemistry with the culture of Accellent and the culture of the information services department.
While I believe that we can provide technical training, I do look for bright individuals who have a thirst for learning and for applying what they learn. Do they ask probing questions? Do they think through the consequences of decisions? I need them to be tactically focused while keeping a longer-term strategic vision in mind.