I recently ran across 2 articles that have a major theme in common. The first was an eWeek.com article by Deborah Perelman entitled How to Stop the Dilbertization of IT. She is of course referring to life in IT as a cubicle gnome beset by meaningless tasks, vague strategies and clueless leadership as personified by the comic strip Dilbert. The bottom line in this environment is that IT isn't fun any more. This naturally generates the question, "If I'm not enjoying working here why should I stay?".
Mary Ann Maxwell recently published an opinion piece (Hidden Talent) in MIS magazine on the need to keep people happy as a way of retaining them. In line with Perelman's article Maxwell asks the critical question:
Why would a talented person want to work here?
How well can you answer that question? People work for money but they don't stay at a particular company for money. Oh sure money is important but unless there is an outrageous difference in pay scale we don't choose to work at Company A rather than Company B just because of money.
Perelman's article wasn't aimed at employee retention per se but rather at the role of IT in the age of outsourcing and the commoditization of IT. Her question is; How can we make IT more meaningful as perceived by the company? However this is also important for employee retention - How do we make an employee's job more meaningful to them?
Perelman talks briefly about some possible solutions and Maxwell only suggests that we need to develop a sourcing strategy that includes non-monetary considerations. So what should we do? Fortunately there are numerous resources on this topic. Some recent ones include Ramping Up Your Retention Efforts and Q&A: Want happier workers? Drop the stick, offer carrots. These provide some useful suggestions such as flexible work hours etc.
I would like to take this a step further than just the usual Human Resources programs and suggest the following
- Provide meaningful assignments - We all want to work on the big important strategic project that will skyrocket the company to fame and fortune. The reality is somebody has to do the projects of move column 2 to between columns 5 and 6 on the XYZ report. But that is no reason we can spread the good stuff around. We can't ignore the mundane but give everyone an opportunity to work an the "sexy" project even if in a minor role.
- Provide a challenge - Break the routine. Give people an assignment where they don't know the answer going in. Sure they'll be scared and hesitant but if you provide the needed coaching and resources they can succeed. One of the greatest feelings in the world is accomplishing something you never thought you could do.
- Provide a learning/growth opportunity - Give people an opportunity to learn and practice new skills. Show them how this can lead to new career opportunities and make them more valuable to the company.
- Provide recognition - Provide regular feedback and recognition. People like to know their work is valued. Don't forget the old adage, "Praise in public, criticize in private."
- Communicate - People want to know what is going on in the company and in IT. Keep them updated on both the company's and IT's strategies and performance. Make them part of the team and show them how they fit into that strategy.
Those are my thoughts on some key ways to keep employees happy and to retain them. What are your thoughts on how we get to people to come to work and say " Ah, Another Day in Paradise" and really mean it?
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