Re-Energizing Your Workforce

By Katherine Spencer Lee

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Missed deadlines, mistakes, high absenteeism, a lack of enthusiasm -- the signs of poor performers? Not necessarily. More common than not these may actually indicate that your staff members are burning out.

Technology professionals have always had to work hard. After all, everyday computer glitches and large-scale initiatives such as desktop systems upgrades are part of the routine. However, the combination of heavy demands and lean staff levels commonly seen at companies today can put even the most motivated IT professionals to the test.

Those who feel too stressed may ultimately decide to leave your firm.

If your group is showing signs of diminished morale, it will likely take more than a pep talk to get everyone back on track. What follows are some effective strategies for re-energizing your workforce:

Show you care. If your team is small enough, meet with employees individually to talk about work demands and priorities; otherwise, ask managers in your group to handle this task.

Often, staff members put themselves on the road to burnout by assuming everything on their to-do lists needs to be done immediately. Help them reassess the importance of each assignment and gain more control over their time.

Also solicit -- and genuinely listen to -- their input on what improvements could be made in the department to boost morale and productivity.

Employees may be aware of certain problems or issues that you are not.

Say it's okay to go away. It's counterintuitive, but during busy periods it's necessary for IT staff to take some time off. Encouraging small breaks, like leaving the office early one day or going out for lunch, can help your staff return to the office refreshed and better prepared to take on the challenges ahead.

Support their careers. Another valuable way to re-energize your workforce is by helping employees advance their professional knowledge.

If your IT staff has been working long hours, chances are they haven't been taking many classes or attending association meetings. Developing new skills and staying on top of technological trends can not only renew their enthusiasm for their careers, but also increase their contributions to your department.

Send in reinforcements. Project IT professionals can provide valuable support during the busiest times, helping to prevent burnout of full-time employees while ensuring key initiatives stay on track.

You'll show that you care about your staff members, which can increase morale. At the same time, you avoid a costly cycle of over-hiring and layoffs as business needs change.

Cheer them on. Acknowledge your team's contributions. Praise those who have accepted added responsibilities or increased workloads, in addition to those who have made exceptional achievements.

Simple actions such as recognizing someone during a staff meeting or writing a thank-you note can go a long way toward improving morale.

Also encourage employees to keep a record of their successes in an easily accessible folder. Reminders of accomplishments and kudos can give them just the motivation they need on challenging days. A list of achievements will also help your employees when they request a raise or promotion prior to performance reviews.

Your IT group can handle busy times. Collaborate with your employees to develop a strategy for managing workloads, encourage them to recharge periodically, and provide support and encouragement.

By confronting the situation head-on and making adjustments proactively, you'll help to re-energize and retain your workforce.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in North America and Europe, and offers online job search services at Robert Half Technology .