5 ways to motivate your IT staff without breaking the bank

Quality IT personnel are at a premium these days, so keeping them motivated can help ensure that your company offers quick troubleshooting and maintains a healthy information infrastructure

Whether your IT department is a one-man operation or a team of 20, motivating your staff can be a challenge. Information technology work requires a good deal of creative thinking, frequently under looming deadlines. However, too often it involves repetitive tasks that go under-appreciated. After you find and hire a capable staff, your next challenge is to make sure they perform at a high level. Quality IT personnel are at a premium these days, so keeping them motivated can help ensure that your company offers quick troubleshooting and maintains a healthy information infrastructure.

1. Communicate With Your Team Set time aside at the beginning of each week for an informal chat with your IT team. Devote a significant portion of the conversation to non-professional topics. Discuss weekend events like a local football game, a child's concert, or a new movie. Then, ask if your staff members have any work-related issues they would like to discuss. If they make suggestions to improve workplace comfort or function, take them seriously. Remember, your IT staff is an essential gear in your business's engine. Keep it well-oiled and work on maintaining effective workplace communication.

2. Clearly State Your Goals IT professionals can feel out of the loop when it comes to a company's general operations. Update your staff regularly as to upcoming projects or initiatives to make them feel part of the team, not just an ancillary component. Make sure they're included in general staff meetings and that they receive company-wide emails detailing your business's progress. Include updates in these emails about their own contributions so they get a pat on the back from fellow employees. Too often, the IT professional is seen and not heard. Create a genuine sense of camaraderie among your entire staff. After all, you're in this together.

3. Ask Them What They Want What motivates a salesperson or a marketing professional might not motivate an IT worker. Ask what rewards they would appreciate, and give incentives they can use in daily life. Instead of a gift card for a housewares store, offer one for an electronics store. Get corporate subscriptions to IT trade magazines and leave them around for perusal. Encourage your staff to stay educated in their fast-paced field by attending technology conventions and joining programming work groups. Suggest that they meet weekly as a team to discuss their thoughts on their industry's development and how new innovations might be able to contribute to your company's mission.

4. Offer Telecommuting Offer your staff the opportunity to work from home. You likely need workers on-site some of the time, so consider implementing a rotating system. If you have a five-person staff, for example, ask each member to come into the office one day per week. That can break up the monotony of their workplace routine, and give them more flexibility in their personal lives. They can save on gas with a reduced commute, and they can use their own hardware at home, which can provide you extra operating power.

5. Give Them Paid Days Off IT staffers, especially at small businesses, are frequently paid by the hour. This affords flexibility, but also perpetuates the notion that they are not part of the team and are valued only on a task-by-task basis. To show your employees that you're grateful for their contributions on a macro level, give them paid days off. If you can cover your bases in terms of scheduling, this won't cost you much money, and it can create a sense of belonging among your IT staff, which is sure to benefit your business long-term.

Final Thoughts If you're forced to cut your business budget and you feel that your staff is in danger of being overworked, offer equity in your company. Even a miniscule amount can make a world of difference between an unmotivated wage worker and someone who feels they have a stake in the company's future. Remember, IT professionals tend to be creative by nature, and nothing stifles creativity like repetitive, mundane work. If given a chance to flourish, you may see significant contributions to your company's development from an unlikely place.

How do you think you can keep your IT staff motivated?

David Bakke writes about technology, small business, and careers on the personal finance website, .

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