Keep your staff happy

Recently I've become nostalgic for the raft of articles we saw during the late, lamented "IT labour shortage" listing proven techniques managers could use to gain employee loyalty. That was just a few years back. Why don't we see articles like that anymore?

ManagementSpeak: Despite an unfavourable economic climate, we have decided to go ahead with the holiday party in order to boost employee morale.

Translation: We couldn’t get our deposit back.

— This week’s contributor remains anonymous due to his company’s unfavourable linguistic climate.

“Nostalgia,” Sam Goldwyn once said, “Ain’t what it used to be.”

Recently I’ve become nostalgic for the raft of articles we saw during the late, lamented “IT labour shortage” listing proven techniques managers could use to gain employee loyalty. That was just a few years back. Why don’t we see articles like that anymore? Ah, I miss the good old days.

It might seem that creating a great work environment isn’t your top priority these days. With the economy in its current shape, your average IT staff member isn’t going anywhere, even if working conditions are something less than ideal. Supply will probably exceed demand for quite a while.

If it seems that way to you, you’re absolutely right. Your top priority isn’t creating a great work environment – it’s delivering the information technology your company needs, as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Everything else is a means to an end.

Luckily enough, creating a great work environment is one of the most important means because it doesn’t just help you retain your best employees (the ones who can find another job tomorrow, even in the current economy) but helps you get the maximum contribution from them.

Luckier yet, creating a great work environment doesn’t cost you anything, because it isn’t about parties and T-shirts. Luckiest of all, what it is about is focusing everyone on accomplishing something important – getting the job done. Most people most of the time want a sense of accomplishment from their time at the office; so if you can help them get one, they’ll work harder, work smarter and spend a greater portion of their work day working on what’s most important.

Don’t believe me? Listen to what employees gripe about. Listen carefully and you’ll find most of their complaints are about company-imposed distractions: too many meetings, bad policies and procedures, and all the flaming bureaucratic hoops they often must jump through to get down to business.

Want to create a great job environment? Cut down on meetings, thin your policies and procedures manual to the bare essentials, and get rid of the flaming hoops. Focus everyone on accomplishing important goals, and eliminate whatever barriers to their accomplishment you can.

Finally, thank employees for their hard work and achievements. Why? It makes them feel appreciated. More significantly, it underscores that what they achieved really was important.

And, it’s basic good manners.

Lewis is a contributing editor at InfoWorld. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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