Motivating Your IT Workforce – Is There Anything New Under The Sun?

This caught my eye recently in a CIO-focused publication. Titled “Ten Ways To Re-energize Your IT Workforce”, it is advice from a workforce motivation expert: “Jon Gordon, a consultant for the NFL and numerous Fortune 500 enterprises, and the author of ‘The Shark and the Goldfish: Positive Ways to Thrive During Waves of Change.’ He offers ten recommendations for reenergizing and engaging employees in the face of economic turmoil.”

What struck me — after also reading advice to CIOs on managing TCO,  ambivalence about social networking tools, and forming allies in the C-Suite (like the CFO) — was the timeless and platitude-rich advice that was offered as “advice to CIOs” for re-energizing their workforce. Here are just a few nuggets: “focus on people, not numbers,” “lead from the front (get out of your office),” “forbid complaints without solutions,” “practice positive leadership,” and finally, “focus on small wins.”

Call me crazy, but we are just ending a year with the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression. Companies have been slashing their workforce (2.7 million jobs year to date by November) and more than 27,000 mass layoffs since the start of the year. Fortune 500 companies have another 500 to their credit — more than 500,000 job cuts.in 2009.  No need to dwell on that, but if you want to help CIOs motivate their workforce heading into 2010, don’t mull over management advice that could have been handed out in 2005, 1995, or 1955. Instead, what about trying these not-so-platitudinous, motivational ideas:

1. Helping employees know where they stand on the security of their jobs — be honest and talk openly about pay freezes, cuts, absent bonuses, and what needs to happen to re-introduce these over time
2. Encouraging staff (and yourself) to assess skill depth and portability — can you (and they) move to where the jobs are today and tomorrow?  
3. Helping your employees understand what they can do to improve knowledge of and relationships with business groups with the greatest 2010 potential
4. Educating your staff on the roles of contract workers in lieu of permanent jobs
5. Reading the tech trends and enterprise tea leaves for them after talking with peers and upper management — and identifying areas of interesting growth and excitement in 2010.
6. Finding pockets of your organization — perhaps small project teams or developers — to pilot a telecommuting business model (on their own nickel).
7. Rethinking retention strategies to appeal to your “Millennials” — supply technologies that allow speed, outline flexible career paths, and encourage a collaborative, team work environment.

Got others? Let’s hear what’s working (or not working) for you!

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re: Motivating Your IT Workforce – Is There Anything New Under

This is a great list - I especially like item 2. If ever there was a time to run where the ball is going, this is it.

I'd add an inversion of one of the cliches you cite and say "encourage complaints without solutions". We have an extraordinary opportunity to create a fresh climate for innovation in which people's intuitions about what's not working prompt wider and deeper discussions about the organisation's goals. The "bring me solutions, not problems" attitude is not well suited to periods of discontinuity.