Who said techies can't play well with others? Here's how to get IT types to collaborate effectively and efficiently.
To address those communication barriers, management initiated a process called advanced development planning, that focuses on personal coaching for all employees, including all 250 IT employees. "We talk about their careers, the changes in the [work] environment and how they can be more effective [collaborators]," says Kerley. "And we reinforce the fact that these changes are here to stay and they have to adapt to them."
The company has also launched a leadership development program in which groups of 40 IT employees are mentored by Steve Finnerty, a former CIO now on staff at Applied Materials. (The company plans, eventually, to cycle all IT employees through the 10-month program.)
Finnerty, who was previously CIO at Kraft Foods and director of information systems at Johnson Controls, was passionate about mentoring and already did a lot of it on his own time, says Kerley. So even though mentoring wasn't officially part of Finnerty's current job as vice president of technology and vendor services at Applied Materials, Kerley tapped him to help with internal leadership development.
The goal of the 10-month program is to train IT employees to work with one another and with other parts of the business to achieve common goals. The company also makes sure to recognise particularly successful collaboration, giving awards to those who "exemplify core values of matrix collaboration."
In addition, Applied Materials has made changes to become less US-centric and more sensitive to the needs of international employees. It started an optional program, called Applied Anywhere that equips employees with tools that enable them to work from wherever they are.
One prime goal is to enable communication among global employees without tipping their work/life balance out of whack.
Although the program serves different needs for different employees, one of its prime values is enabling communication among global employees without tipping their work/life balance out of whack, says Kerley. Applied Materials employees in India, for example, no longer have to go back to their office at 9pm. to participate in web-conferences or teleconferences scheduled during the regular working hours at the company's California headquarters. With Applied Anywhere, they can log in from home.
The most recent communication survey, taken just six months after the baseline survey, already shows improvement, says Kerley. "We're seeing a change in how interactions happen" - and even once-reticent Japanese employees, he says, are now actively participating in brainstorming sessions.
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