How to Keep IT Staff Happy

What do IT workers want for the holidays? Hint: It's not a company windbreaker.

While most bosses arent so naive that they believe there is a magic pill or potion that would get their employees to whistle while they work, stabs at what would make those employees happier are quite often off the mark.

Ken Hess, a technical analyst at a large global outsourcing company in Tulsa, says, quite frankly, his bosses have "no clue."

"In seven years, I have had six different managers and can say that only one had a clue, but no budget for such things. For your five-year anniversary, you basically get a choice of a pair of small binoculars (for a man) or a bracelet (for a woman) and at 10 years, you get a company jacket."

Hess said his company also used to hand out gift cards to the company store … where you could buy knickknacks with the company logo on it.

When asked, most IT professionals dont express any overarching desire for the occasional free beer, Secret Santa gift exchanges or Blue Jeans Fridays. Sure, these things can perk up a subpar day, but for the most part, employees are more concerned with what brought on the bad day, and what can be done to stop the next one in its tracks.


Click here to read about a program that tries to bring women back into IT.

If the first evening an employee has off in a week is just a reprieve so he or she can attend the annual holiday party, the odds are that a little eggnog with the head honchos is not going to have the desired effect.

"We have no windows at the office, terrible Dell laptops and cubicles with no privacy, and then they want to offshore your job. I have to supplement my salary with writing and consulting jobs," Hess said, questioning why his managers cannot address these concerns instead.

So, while bosses this time of year are pondering how to reward those who work for them, it may behoove them to think beyond the go-to gifts and consider what can be done to address the little things that can build up to turn cheerful employees into Grinches.

Reduce unplanned work

Too many IT professionals have their days ruled by elements out of their control, and liken their jobs to firefighting.

"Many CIOs and senior IT executives accept this as part of their landscape," Kevin Behr, chief technology officer and managing principal at Assemblage Pointe, told eWEEK, noting that it has become accepted that IT workers will always work extra hours addressing emergencies.

"Imagine being able to do the job that you signed up for, instead of the endless treadmill of fires and poor planning," Behr said.

Allow telecommuting

If the prospect of happy employees isnt enough to get managers thinking about allowing telecommuting, lowered infrastructure costs might be.

"A lot of the post-customer-facing work (telephone calls, remote tech support, producing documentation and sales proposals, programming, sys admin., etc) can be done for the fraction of the cost for maintaining offices we have to commute to," one IT pro told eWEEK.

This IT pro noted that many of the big Fortune 50 technology firms specializing in professional services allow some amount of telecommuting now, including Hewlett-Packard, Unisys, IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft, but the midsize firms and the rest of the Fortune 1000 companies employing internal IT workers havent caught up yet.

"Making us go through hellish and expensive commutes just so we can go sit at a desk, work at a PC and make phone calls cuts into our productivity—and wastes the company money," he continued.

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