IT Managers: Motivate Your IT Staff

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The challenging business environment of recent years has taken its toll on employee motivation at many organizations. After an extended period of unrelenting demands and limited budgets, some IT professionals are dangerously close to burnout. As the job market improves, this can lead to increased turnover among the best and brightest.

If you’re in a management role, employee retention is likely a growing concern. Keeping staff motivated and engaged is critical to achieving short- and long-range IT objectives. Following are some strategies that could help you keep your team inspired to perform at its best.

Listen to employees. Periodically stop by staff members’ desks to check that they aren’t overwhelmed. One-on-one conversations also can help you learn more about your employees’ professional and personal interests. You’ll be able to better customize career opportunities and show employees there is growth potential at your firm. Consider holding informal group lunches and scheduling brainstorming sessions when new IT initiatives or issues surface. By demonstrating that you take your employees’ feedback seriously and want your group to be involved in key decisions, you can boost morale and connection to the company’s goals. Just be sure to follow through if people seek assistance or offer promising suggestions, or your efforts will be seen as insincere.

Shake up the routine. Encourage people to develop different approaches to everyday tasks or to take on new projects. For example, rather than having one person research potential IT vendors, you might divide the responsibility so others in the group can build their knowledge of local and national suppliers. Keeping work fresh and exciting helps to renew interest and enthusiasm. Give employees the authority to take risks with their projects. When you step back and allow people to implement new ideas, you send the message that you trust them. You obviously don’t want to ignore the potential drawbacks of a suggestion––such as the fact that using a more expensive software solution will cause the project to go over budget––but you should give well-thought-out proposals a chance.

Pay them what they’re worth. Money isn’t everything, but it can be an important factor in employee motivation and an individual’s decision to stay with your company. Evaluate compensation levels regularly to make sure you are paying your staff fairly. Salary surveys, trade association reports and government data can help you maintain competitive wages.

Value their contributions. People who feel that their managers understand and appreciate their hard work are less likely to quit. Praising a technical support professional who stayed late to resolve a computer glitch or holding a staff celebration to mark a project milestone can have a real impact. Be sure to acknowledge individuals who stand out as team players by accepting added responsibilities or increased workloads. Additionally, reward exceptional performance with opportunities to advance. By promoting from within, you’ll demonstrate that your staff members’ efforts will be recognized with new career possibilities.

Know their limits. Even your best IT professionals can’t give 110 percent all the time, or they will burn out. Re-evaluate your expectations periodically to make sure they are realistic. While it’s OK to challenge your staff members, you don’t want to push them so hard that they feel overworked and underappreciated. If demands are high but you’re unable to hire additional full-time employees, consider bringing in technology consultants to help manage or participate in projects.

Encourage downtime. It’s also important that employees understand they are free to and should occasionally take time off work so they can recharge. This includes encouraging staff members to take their lunch hours, even during busy times. They may be tempted to skip their breaks, believing they’ll be more productive. However, even top performers need some time away from their computer screens.

Keeping employees motivated is critical to your team’s success. If IT professionals are inspired and feel valued, they will make greater contributions, and they will have a stronger sense of loyalty. Make sure you’re listening to your staff members, implementing their ideas and providing them with the support they need to do their jobs. You’ll help to minimize stress and keep your group on track.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis, which offers online job search services at She can be reached at


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