How to re-energize your weary workforce

After weathering layoffs or pay cuts, your IT staffers may need some help getting motivated. Try these strategies for employee renewal.

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If you're not sure if your department or division can afford it, ask. Most companies have some money set aside that managers can tap into for programs like this. If not, Rosen says he has even known managers who spend their own money for such rewards because the ROI is so good. "The payoff is well beyond what the cost is," he says.

Either way, don't worry if you're not passing out gift cards in lavish amounts. Like Rosen, author Bob Nelson says these programs work well not because workers are getting extra cash or a material prize but because they're being recognized. "You build performers by calling people out," he says.

It doesn't much matter what you do to recognize employees, so long as you do something The process can be free, or nearly free, and often takes little time. The only drawback? "It's not always something that comes naturally to IT people," Nelson observes.

Create opportunities to learn

Many companies have slashed training budgets, but Mike Gorsage, managing partner of business operations and technology at Tatum LLC in Atlanta and a former CIO, says IT managers can still use learning opportunities to inspire staffers.

He points to one client, a CIO at a Florida hospital, who had to lay off staff and implement other cost-saving measures during the past year. In the aftermath, she assigned her remaining staff to functional areas so they could learn more about various business operations. She plans to rotate them every 18 months or so. This CIO made a point to communicate the reasons behind her decisions, letting her workers know that the reorganization was meant to give them new technical and business skills.

"She painted a picture that I thought was terrific, saying we're going to continue to invest in you and expand your skills and make you more valuable to us and to the marketplace if you ever leave," Gorsage explains. "The IT folks saw it as a very positive thing, very motivating."

Boost team spirit

Michael P. Ashworth, director of the information security division at the U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Inspector General in Reston, Va., has had to oversee layoffs at various points in his career in both public and private organizations. He says that although workers left behind can feel betrayed and demoralized, they often become more motivated when brought together.

"They might have their own feelings about how the company could have handled [layoffs or pay cuts] better, but if you put it in the perspective of working hard for the team and not [just] the company's benefit, that can be a motivator," he says. "I try hard to focus on our team and our efforts. I tell them that we all need to keep our jobs and manage our careers, and the best chance we have of that is working together."

Gorsage agrees, saying, "You have to bring them together and keep them together as a unit."

He worked with one CIO who wanted to find a way to motivate his remaining 400 workers after a round of layoffs. The manager organized events -- a family movie night, a bowling outing -- that successfully fostered team spirit. Such events not only help employees feel valued by the company, they give workers a chance to socialize informally with one other, which can cement personal bonds and create stronger teams, Gorsage says.

Offer flexible work arrangements

Employees and their families are feeling the economic strain just as much as corporate America, Rosen says. That's why programs such as flex time and telework, which give workers greater control over their work days and scheduling needs, can help boost productivity without requiring much, if any, up-front investment.

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