For me, the year of 2009 holds a lot of memories. It was an extremely difficult year for our industry, and many of us had to deal with the uncomfortable reality that our business changed drastically.
In many cases, that directly affected co-workers and friends. Literally every facet of our industry was impacted.
While the management and finance folks struggled to find ways to cope with the situation, we struggled in our world of IT and engineering to provide solutions for our changing environment… with fewer resources. Our business model changed drastically and quickly. We were expected to be the heroes in these situations and provide the answers to make the new model work. We did that.
Within our company, people responded. We knew and understood the difficult reality, but we also quickly realized that we were the solution. If we couldn't make this work, we were all in trouble.
Information technology within broadcast had been fairly stable for a number of years. We embraced new ideas and projects and continued to forge ahead. We became comfortable. And then we faced change.
DEALING WITH CHANGE
Within my world, I was dismayed to see that some of our IT-related positions were eliminated out of necessity. It wasn't my call, but the reality was that virtually every department was touched. During this difficult period it was necessary to understand that it was the position being eliminated… not the individual. It also meant that for those of us fortunate enough to remain, our world had suddenly turned upside down.
We were (and are) expected to help our business survive. We must be inventive and creative. Managing our personnel resources is more important than ever.
As we emerge from 2009, there are signs of industry-wide improvement. There are indications that the changes implemented in 2008 are working, and bottom lines appear to be stabilizing. We continue to face much uncertainty, but "more stable" is much better than what we had been dealing with throughout the year.
And, there may be opportunities for us as it relates directly to personnel and our technical skills. While we juggle, we're going to have to find a way to whittle out some time for ourselves to enhance our current skill sets. It will also be necessary that we find a way to increase our abilities in new areas. I believe training will be a critical area for all of us in coming years. It's also a very easy area to cut… be vigilant!
You may also encounter new opportunities. As the environment changes, so does the landscape of needs. Rebuilding our businesses may necessitate creation of new jobs. Specific skills that can provide support for multiple areas will be likely.
More than ever, it will be critical that the successful candidate be chosen wisely.
The hiring and interviewing techniques used during this period had better be solid. We will expect any new candidate to be a multi-area solution provider. The days of a dedicated server administrator are long gone.
In past years, many of us relied on our own abilities to hire the best person. While that has usually worked, we need to realize that many of us have alternatives, which could result in a win-win situation.
THE TEAM SELECTION APPROACH
Take a moment to consider that it may be better to involve several people in the interview process. While you will certainly need to be involved, there can be many benefits if you involve others. Having insight and feedback from multiple people may help with the selection process.
Broadcast groups with dedicated human resource departments often have individuals with highly skilled interview techniques. Certainly they will require your input and guidance to ensure comfort with a candidate's technical capabilities, but consider allowing these folks the opportunity to at least vet potential employees during the initial round.
It's no longer acceptable to be the "sole decider" if you're adding a position. Every effort must be made to ensure that the right decision is made the first time… for the team. That means it is essential that the candidate not only passes your muster, but that of the entire group. It is far too costly (in time, money and risk) to simply take a chance. You had better know who you are hiring and be comfortable that they can hit the ground running on day one.
That's where human resource personnel come into play. They are the experts and an excellent resource for IT and engineering. They can assist with the process of initial application review, a first-round of telephone interviews and verification of references, and provide you with feedback that can quickly help to determine potential. To me, I highly value their personal opinions regarding the character and personality of the candidate.
I'm far less interested in a lot of certifications and much more concerned that they understand real-world situations, can react quickly and appropriately, and want to be part of a team providing solutions.
It is likely that there are a good number of highly qualified candidates looking for work. Many may have suffered through a layoff in 2009. If you have an opportunity to add staff, take your time and be diligent to ensure that you are making the right decision. Involve the right people in your organization to assist throughout the process and be positive that your applicant will be the perfect fit, both technically and personally within your organization. Count on IT!
Michael J. Sutton is director of IT at Media General Broadcast Group in Richmond, Va. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.