Here are some ideas:
Start with a blank slate. If youre operating with fewer employees or resources, its particularly important that you shift your focus away from specific job titles and responsibilities and tap individual strengths when assigning work. For instance, a software developer who normally concentrates on .NET projects may be the ideal candidate to head an upcoming initiative as a project manager. Relying on historical patternssuch as having people in certain roles manage certain tasksmay not make sense under current business conditions, when you need to take creative measures to get work done.
Focus on the right projects. Its easy to get so caught up in routine that you fail to question whether assignments are essential today. For instance, it may have been common practice to update your organizations website design once a year. Will making the changes benefit the bottom line? Take a fresh look at all of the projects managed by your group to make sure theyre tied to critical, current business needs. Youll help ensure your employees are devoting their limited time and resources to the right tasks.
Invest in training. When budgets are tight, often one of the first things to be eliminated is professional development programs. This is a mistake, because you need employees with the skills necessary to make even greater contributions. Training can play a key role in achieving this goal and has the added benefit of boosting retention rates. When IT professionals feel their employers are investing in their careers, they are less likely to leave when the economy improves and job opportunities arise.
There are a number of training options available that wont break the bank. For starters, take advantage of internal knowledge and pair employees in mentoring programs. Also investigate educational offerings through trade associations. They often provide seminars and courses at reduced member rates, and the topics are customized for IT professionals. E-learning through the Internet or company intranet is another budget-friendly choice.
Minimize distractions. You also can get more out of your staff by avoiding time-wasters. Make sure meetings are essential and consider whose participation is critical before sending invites. Schedule formal discussions during slower times, such as later in the day or work week.
Also help employees stay focused by limiting the overlap of urgent projects. People do their best work when theyre able to concentrate on particular assignments before moving on to others. While you cant avoid multitasking altogether in the IT field, do your part by trying to minimize the need to complete multiple high-priority initiatives at the same time.
Business conditions may be challenging, but they dont have to lead to a slowdown in productivity. Rethink the way your IT department operates so you can accomplish more with limited resources. You may find that even small changes bring out the best in your employees and lead to greater motivation and job satisfaction.
Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com. For more advice on managing a team in todays economy, request a free copy of The 30 Most Common Mistakes Managers Make in an Uncertain Economy by visiting www.rhi.com/30mistakes.