How to Keep Your IT Staff


I have a diverse background. An ocean-going master mariner that had a sharp mid-life career change to a childhood love (the computers) and then a Microsoft Certified Trainer. Luckily, this diverse background helps me see things from different perspectives. Especially managing people on board as a captain brings a lot to the table when speaking on the management issues.

Sadly you cannot do much about employee compensation if you are not the business owner. This does not mean, however, that you cannot have faithful employees working happily in your department. Many things that you can do to boost morale does not even require one dollar out of your IT budget. Let’s see what you can do.

Listen to your employees. I mean, listen to them. Really. Listening is not waiting for your turn to speak. Listening is giving your time to learn, to explore the ideas, opinions, emotions of others. Your staff is the soul and body of your department. If anything malfunctions, you will go downhill. Listen to your employees, hear them out. They may have ideas on better running the systems, the network, your whole infrastructure or better management. Listen to them. Don’t fall into the “not invented here” syndrome. Don’t shoot their ideas. Each of them is at least as valuable as you are. If their ideas are not applicable, tell them why it is so. Better, ask them if you can share their ideas with the team and if they agree, give credit and discuss. Their non-applicable idea may trigger wonderful ideas from someone else. It all starts with listening.

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Give your employees some freedom. Don’t suck by telling them they are operational staff and they must to what they are told. Allow them the freedom to manage their systems as they want to. Allow them the freedom to speak their minds. Allow them a controlled, but unrestricted Internet so that they can watch a video on YouTube, listen to the radio in the background or access the social networks. Your IT staff is smart. A song’s clip on YouTube will not prevent them from doing their daily job.

pointy haired boss

Do you think this is just comics? In fact, pointy-haired bosses are everywhere. Don’t be one.

Be consistent. Do not allow chaos in your department because that chaos will come back to haunt you. Have your clear guidelines, definitions and systems. Make sure that the guidelines are fair, consistent and apply to everybody. Don’t let people think that some things apply to some people but not others. Also make sure that you are the first one to follow these principles.

Have your staffs’ backs. At any point in time, inevitably, one or some of your staff will face with the upper management. Research the issue beforehand, and if the situation warrants, have your staff’s back. Nothing will make you lose the respect they have towards you than leaving them alone when they are scolded. I am not implying chauvinism by disapproving indifference. There is a fine line between the two, which is called intelligence. Have their backs with intelligence.

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Pat their backs. Should this be said explicitly? When you criticize your employees all the time, expect anger in return. A Turkish proverb says who sows wind harvests storm. Be sure to talk about their accomplishments and offer encouragement not only in private but also in public. Not only in staff meetings, but in every opportunity. When doing this, make sure that you are not playing a game that everyone gets a trophy. It is childish.

Give promotions. By this, I do not mean that promoting everybody in the hierarchy. I am just saying that have people to work for (or win, or earn if you will) something other than the employee benefits package. If your budget permits, this can be a monetary raise. But if it doesn’t, it can be some days off, a cross-team project leadership, even a bigger desk. Make sure that these are fair, consistent and applies to everybody. If this is perceived as you playing games with your favorite employee, it will backfire.

Apply company’s payment terms on tech stuff. Companies have discounts on tech stuff and sometimes exclusive items that are sold only business-to-business (B2B). Make sure that the discount terms and the B2B availability applies to your staff. (As a side note, if your company has incentives on the tech equipment – such as laptops -, you can combine this incentive with the discount and lower your department’s hardware costs.)

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Encourage growth. People need to grow. Especially IT staff has to grow. If your IT staff feels like they have come to a still and there are no incentives to go further, they will wait for the time to go home. IT staff needs to be challenged. Encourage them by taking classes. If your budget allows, try to pay for their exams if you cannot pay for their classes. You can have the qualified persons to deliver internal training. Not only the trainers will feel privileged but also the other staff members, and at the end, the company.

These are my personal ways of keeping people happy, active and loyal in the workplace. As you have seen, these items do not require too much out of your department’s budget but has a big impact on people. If you have a high turnover rate in your department, applying a couple of these strategies will lower the rate, if done sincerely.

What are your tricks to keep your employees motivated? Hit the comments below!


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