IT Leadership is about Motivating Employees in Tough Times
Certainly, no executive sets out to deflate morale and harm employee retention, but there are some common mistakes that can have this effect. What follows are five actions to avoid:
On the surface, it may seem that not informing staff of bad news is better for morale. However, trying to hide information from your employees can be quite damaging. Chances are, word will leak out about the situation, and rumors may be inaccurate and fuel anxiety.
You may not be able to share the finer details of the closure of two company offices, for instance, but you can let people know what may be ahead from an IT perspective: Will those operations be consolidated within other sites? Who will handle any technology-related responsibilities associated with the transition? How will planned projects in the coming months be affected?
Share what you know and solicit ideas from employees on how to manage any anticipated changes. The more involved people are in developments, the less worried theyll be about the situation.
Ignoring Signs of Burnout
Many teams are stretched thin and its not uncommon for employees to be asked to go full steam for extended periods of time. In these conditions, its particularly important to pay attention to the first indicators of burnout so you can take corrective action.
Some signs to watch out for include attendance problems, missed deadlines, irritability and incidents of staff conflict, and an increase in complaints from end users and others in the organizationparticularly when the issues are with your best employees. Be willing to reorganize job responsibilities, redistribute work to other employees or provide access to necessary training that will help to alleviate stress and get people back on track. Also make sure that youre encouraging employees to take breaks and vacation time, and then set the example by doing so yourself.
Failing to Reassess Staff Levels
Many leaders make the mistake of assuming that since they dont have the budget to hire more employees, there is no need to re-evaluate their personnel situation. Yet, even if you dont have pressing recruiting demands, you may not be using your staff optimally.
For example, are your employees working in positions that suit their current talents and potential? Someone who has built knowledge in project management through coursework over the past two years might be wasted in a junior role that doesnt allow him or her to use those skills.
If you arent tapping into the potential of your employees, your team may not be as productive as possible. You also could be frustrating employees who long for more challenge or the opportunity to take on new assignments. Ensuring your staff members talents and potential align with their responsibilities is key to keeping your team motivated.
Another common mistake is believing its good to be a hands-on leader who requires updates and approvals on every step of every project. While you may feel you are ensuring work gets done properly, more likely your staff believe you dont trust them to handle the details of their jobs.
If this sounds like you, its critical to step back and give your employees the authority to do their work. This will prevent bottle-necking of projects and allow staff to make progress with their to-do lists. Eliminating your involvement with the finer mechanics of assignments can not only boost morale but also will give you time to focus on more important priorities.
Playing it Safe
Also, make sure that you arent stifling creativity and depleting morale by discouraging risk taking. You may not openly tell employees to keep new ideas to themselves, but if you are critical when recommendations fail or take no action on good suggestions, you send the same message.
It can be tempting to go with the status quoafter all, why fix what isnt broken? However, its innovation that can give a firm a competitive edge. Encourage employees not just to think of new technologies that might benefit the company but also to look at processes and business strategies that could be improved. Then, follow through and implement the best ideas. If you cant move forward with a suggestion, explain why. Youll show respect for your staffs expertise, which can be highly motivational.
Finally, remember that one of the easiest ways to boost morale is by offering thanks for a job well done. People want to be appreciated for their contributions, so take the time to give recognition when its deserved. A public thank you to the team who stayed late fixing a problem with your companys website, for instance, can be meaningful when it comes from someone in your position. Youll help to keep spirits high, even when faced with business challenges.
Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide.