Managing Movtivation in IT

Management in the truest sense of the word is the ability to get things done through the efforts of other people. While often characterized as a “different breed of cat”, and this may be true to a certain extent, IT people are still basically no different than anyone else, and they will do their best work when properly motivated. So when you are in an IT leadership position, the thing you have to figure out, just like your peer managers, is how to motivate your team.

Generally speaking all people motivation has two main components; environmental and individual. Excellence in IT management skills will dictate that you foster both of these components.

When you are in an IT leadership position, due to the fast pace of technological change, and the critical, central role technology often plays in the life, and competitive advantage of the corporation, this could be even more challenging than in other departments of the company.

Regarding environmental motivation, to the extent possible

  • Keep your IT team engaged with meaningful work
  • Communicate—often. People like and need to be in the loop
  • Do your best to foster a friendly and supportive atmosphere
  • Provide opportunities for professional growth
  • Bring meaning and importance to your team’s work-within and outside of IT
  • Help facilitate the best possible relationships between staff members
  • Consciously encourage inter and intra-departmental teamwork
  • Show personal appreciation to each staff member for their individual and group accomplishments
  • Where appropriate, include IT staff in the decision making process
  • Publicly recognize individual employee accomplishments within, and outside of, IT.

One thing about environmental motivation is that as a manager in IT, you are by definition part of a larger organization. As a result, no matter how well you manage the IT culture, you can’t totally control the overall environment your staff experiences.

Things such as company mergers, the company’s financial stability and possibly unreasonable goals and deadlines imposed on your IT team by upper management who don’t necessarily or completely understand the challenges of a technology can create incredible stress on the IT department. It is inevitable that you will occasionally be placed in some of these difficult situations. Your ability to provide for good retention management, minimize IT attrition, communicate with and ultimately motivate your technical team during these tough times could very possibly be the difference between you getting promoted and being replaced.

Regarding individual motivation in IT, the difficulty is that all people and technical staff in particular, are motivated by different things.

  • The chance for promotion. . .and the mentoring and training to get there
  • Professional recognition with their peers and others, both inside & outside the company
  • Opportunity to learn the newest, most exciting, leading-edge technology
  • Feeling part of a cohesive IT team, particularly a great, well-recognized IT team
  • Money
  • Challenging technical work & chance to solve thorny problems
  • Sense of purpose in their work, such as helping others or the overall mission
  • Being left alone and undisturbed to do a technical job they love
  • Or sometimes, well, nothing at all.

Your job, as an IT manager, is to figure out what drives each member of your staff, and within the bounds of fairness, company policy, and appropriateness, provide them with these motivations. Further, if you are not quite sure what specific steps you can take in the area of motivation, your job as a forward-thinking IT leader is to seek out practical answers you can put in place day-to-day to build an IT organization that not only delivers strategic technical excellence to your company but provides career advantages for your staff. . .and yourself!

For additional information on today’s topic there are many books on workplace motivation . . . check out Make the Right Choice: Creating a Positive, Innovative and Productive Work Life by Joel Zeff.