Magazine article Management Review

Staffing the Information Highway

Magazine article Management Review

Staffing the Information Highway

Article excerpt

There's been a lot of talk about the information superhighway, the fabled gateway to globalized network communications. In fact, employees from many firms already travel the highway on a regular basis from a home computer or from the office. With the advent of networked information systems and on-line services, millions of professionals worldwide have access to timely, detailed information at the touch of a keyboard.

But as companies begin investing in these advanced communications tools, questions about staffing arise. Will future accountants also need to be skilled computer programmers? Are financial analysts going to moonlight as systems analysts? Not likely.

While computer literacy will certainly be key to managing in a networked workplace, the skills, background and experience that make professionals successful in their chosen industries will not change. The tools they use will improve or be replaced by new technologies not yet developed, but there is no replacement for talent and experience.

The pool of candidates with a combination of business and computer skills is expanding exponentially. Young college graduates entering the workforce today are products of the PC revolution and either own or have access to a computer for work and play. Likewise, seasoned professionals in corporate or private industry have taken part in - either willingly or kicking and screaming - the steady technological evolution of the workplace. From central processing units to laptops, the past 30 years alone have seen companies incorporate ever-faster, more efficient business tools.

If you're looking for candidates who have experience with networks and information systems, you should create job descriptions that require this type of background. This will narrow the search considerably and aid in your recruitment. Once you have a pool of candidates with the appropriate backgrounds, you can test their knowledge of the software package your firm uses by asking specific questions about the program during the job interview. You can also design a hands-on test to determine an applicant's level of proficiency.

Another method for finding qualified candidates is to contact a recruiting firm that specializes in placing the type of applicants you're looking for. These companies should be able to put you in touch with accountants, attorneys, human resources professionals and others who have experience using a network. Advanced information systems have entered the mainstream, so candidates are likely to be culled from a wide range of large and small corporations and businesses.

Egos and Aptitudes

With the introduction of high-technology in the workplace, it is important for managers to reassure staff that these new tools are designed to make their jobs easier - not eliminate them. One way to do this is by committing time and resources to providing training at all levels.

Managers have two options: contracting with an outside trainer to work with their staff, or employing one or more information technology professionals in-house to oversee the transition. The in-house specialists can be hired as temporary employees to design and implement the desired project, or be retained on a permanent basis to troubleshoot the operation and provide technical support.

At Arthur Andersen, a Big Six accounting firm in the process of linking its more than 70,000 employees via network technology, training on the new system is being conducted using a combination of in-house experts and professional instructors. When the firm implemented Lotus Notes, a popular groupware package, representatives from Lotus conducted a two-week course at Arthur Andersen's Chicago headquarters to train systems administrators from the accounting firm's local offices. The administrators then trained the staff in their respective offices.

According to Paul Hicks, director of information services for Arthur Andersen's San Francisco Office, the firm's training program is designed for everyone in the company. …

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