We’ve all been told, “Networking is critical,” so often that by now it’s about as interesting as, “You should floss daily.” But the truth of the matter is that CIOs in the know do regularly turn to their personal networks to source effective talent. And paying regular attention to your network does, in fact, pay off.
Craig Cuyar leaned on his personal network soon after being hired as global CIO of Cushman and Wakefield. Additional talent was needed for his team and he successfully hired four direct reports by reaching out to his personal contacts. “It’s clearly a long-term effort,” he says of building his network. “I couldn’t have hired those people unless I had spent some time building those relationships and getting to know them personally.”
The greatest benefit to working your personal network may be the inherent trust. Employing a known entity reduces costs and hiring risk. Cuyar had no doubts about those in his network and they, in turn, had an established trust in him. His hires, he affirms, “knew how I thought, my leadership style and what latitude they’d have in running their organizations.” With no learning curve, his team was immediately effective in initiating the desired cultural changes.
Gary Fling, recently appointed CIO of Phibro Animal Health, echoed the sentiment. In his last CIO role, Fling hired six team members-nearly 25 percent of his hiring opportunities-from his network. “We had much more rapid success in the goals we’d established for ourselves.” Gary maintains that his personal and professional networks have become the pool from which he can draw employees who he knows have the core competencies his organization needs.
Obviously it’s impossible to cultivate personal relationships with every business contact, so you need to be deliberate in where you spend your time. Bolstering your network at both peer and direct-report levels can be accomplished through giveback. Michael Iacona, CIO of TMP Worldwide Advertising and Communications, who also successfully hired from his network this year, is active in Columbia’s Executive Master’s in Technology Management Program. The time he dedicated to and the purpose he shared with the people there added no fewer than 10 truly meaningful professional relationships to his network. Iacona stated, “The key word that needs to follow networking is relationships. And networking and relationships aren’t the same thing.”
Every CIO I spoke with quantified the strength of their network by the number of quality relationships, not the number of LinkedIn connections. Iacona was clear: “Relationships can’t be built exponentially because a relationship implies time invested in learning about and knowing about those other people. It’s about building those relationships such that you have a network of strong relationships, and LinkedIn is really just a facilitation of that; it’s not the other way around.”
No one says it’s easy. Fling jokes that, like most of his IT brethren, he’s not a natural networker. “It takes energy to do the things you need to do networking-wise.”
But by leveraging their own networks, these CIOs saved money and gained key decision makers who shared similar beliefs, work ethics and philosophies. In addition, the trust factor increased the immediacy of the hires’ effectiveness in driving organizational goals. Isn’t that the target for every hire? In today’s market, where every decision and every penny is mission-critical, CIOs need to demonstrate their value on the hiring line by actively augmenting and sourcing from their networks. Food for thought: Wouldn’t a CEO think twice about removing a CIO who had single-handedly built the entire IT leadership team?
Don’t forget to floss.
Kristen Lamoreaux is an executive technology recruiter with the Jarvis Walker Group and founder of SIM Women, a North American networking organization for female CIOs and their direct reports.