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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Rosen acknowledges that telecommuting and flexible hours might not work for every employee -- there are, after all, some IT workers who must be in the office to do their jobs. But even those who can't or don't participate in flexible arrangements tend to think more highly of companies that have these programs.

"It can really change morale," he says. "It makes them think, 'the company really does care and doesn't want me to burn out.' You have this psychological effect, because if you have a more positive view of the company, you're going to work harder."

Foster competition

You don't want to pit workers against each other, but some lighthearted competition can actually spur on employees, says Thuy Sindell, vice president of client services and a leadership development coach at Mariposa Leadership Inc., a San Francisco-based leadership coaching service.

Sindell, co-author of Job Spa: Two Weeks To Refresh, Refocus, and Recommit to Your Career, is working with employees at a California tech company that's developing a new internal-facing system. Three teams of engineers are competing against each other to see who can develop the best solution.

Although the company had gone through a painful round of layoffs and has a hiring freeze in place, Sindell says the competition has re-energized workers and brought them together to work on common goals. "It's shifted the focus off of loss and shifted it to the future, what's the potential out there, what's the goal we're after," she says.

She cautions, though, that managers should take care when fostering competition. While challenging teams to compete against one other works with this particular company's culture, other, less direct forms of competition might work better in other corporate environments.

Value employees as individuals

Nelson says he worked with one financial company that implemented an initiative across the corporation, including in IT, to have managers change the way they delegate tasks to workers. The change was simple: Now they explain to workers the reasons why they were tapped for assignments.

"When you have something that needs to be done, and you [choose] the person who can do it best, tell him that. Or you might say, 'I know you want to get into management and a key skill is interacting with customers, and this project will let you work on that,' so employees will know why you're picking them," he explains. "Or it could be because it's the hot new system or because this is our key customer."

Whatever the reason, Nelson sums up, the goal is the same: "Give them incentives and opportunities." And in this economy, those can be truly special commodities.

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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