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Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

By skewenrich ·
Hi. I'm an Application Development Manager who has experienced a number of resignations over the last few months. I've been at the firm 3 1/2 years and feel that morale and interest in the business is at the lowest point yet.

My question really is this:
In a development environment where we are not using cutting edge development tools (Main tools are VB6, SQL Server 2000 with some .Net) what is the best way to keep staff interested? We have a huge amount of work to do and evolving the tech is not something that is easy to do. So, I'm thinking specifically of the environment. Casual Dress? Home Working? Games console in the corner of the office? How about office layout?

Welcome your thoughts! Thanks - Rich

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Yeesh they are watching their careers die

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Workplace environment for ...

VB6? Another year or so and they would be better off knowing cobol or fortran!

It's not just losing people , how are you going to attract replacements? I wouldn't touch you with a barge pole, I'm not that close to retirement

Personally I'd recommend training and a good salary. Yeah I know, a bit of worker solidarnosc couldn't help myself. Sorry

This upcoming workload what can you hive off to new tech. Start small and simple, by all means but it's got to be done. Not just to keep your work force happy, but to have a future full stop, all you are doing is putting off the invetible and it isn't going to get cheaper or easier.

I left my last place because of this, there was a sonic boom, I got out that fast and that was two years ago and for a promise to go to .net fully that's only just started to realise.

None of the things you are suggesting would make me stay, relocating to Thailand with entertainment expenses might make me pause, or a 100k a year, little else though.

And no, I'm not joking, you need to address the tech gap and you need to do it yesterday.

You are going to be left with the inexperienced, the unambitious, the fearful and the just plain incompetent. If you started on a port to say VB.NET today, how long would it take, add on your current workload...

Anyone of your people with the IQ of a daffodil will be hitting jobserve everyday.
Putting a play station in the corner will just give them something to do while the recruiters ring them back.

If you aren't going to address the tech gap, don't bother with any of this stuff your business is going to need the money. You could actually end up being so far behind your VB6ers will get better offers for a niche skill!

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We're trying....

by skewenrich In reply to Yeesh they are watching t ...

... Its not just the tech. Like I said, there is some .Net happening but there are also framework products like Metastorm and Visualfiles. This is the way most professional services are going as why would a company that isn't a software house write something from scratch that other people have already done?

We use VB.Net for integration components around these but also writing new components in it where it makes sense and the VB6 app can call them. So, plenty of web services etc and tech isn't the main reason the people have left.

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Can't say from here what could be wrong

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to We're trying....

then, have you considered asking them? Course if you do that you'll have to be prepared to address some of their concerns, otherwise it will just get worse.

The things that make me happy about work apart from interesting work and of course money.

A relaxed working environment and mutual respect.
Sometimes our boss just goes out and gets us a bacon butty for breakfast.
He'll pop out for beer with us and get the first round in.

We have end of iteration meals as long as we make the dead lines.

They sent me to Tech Ed in Barcelona last year.

We've got a telly and sky and they let us watch world cup matches, no doubt a few of us will be popping in and perusing the cricket soon.

They are spending the training budget on us, we have technical track advancement and more management oriented progression.

Oh we aren't sat about in front of the telly with a beer and a burger all the time.
Usually we are working our asses off in hope of one of these wee treats.

Mostly it's showing I have value, with a consistent message. Don't treat me as an asset one week, and then a cost the next.

It's a succession of little things that make the difference. No one can pay me enough to take a load of crap, and no one gets to sacrifice my career. It's me who decides whether it is crap, or that my career is going south, telling me it's not and it isn't won't cut it.

You haven't made promises to these guys you haven't been able to keep have you?. That one is trust killer.

Best advice I can give, take your company head off, would you be happy as one of them?
If not, why not?
Us tech types put our trousers on one leg at a time just like you.

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Hmmm.. Not far off

by skewenrich In reply to Can't say from here what ...

Not much difference there Tony to be honest. Not shy on the beers / nosh etc. Its just noticeable that the old buzz isn't there so was thinking about introducing some "fun"

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Well most of the time

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Hmmm.. Not far off

my work is fun. People actually pay me money to play with their computers. I've slacked off due to a hefty commute 2.5 hours there and back, but I used to program as a hobby, after I got back from work.

OK I'm strange.

More taking the fun out of it from my point of view.

I can see why you are concerned though, aside from having to do VB6 (I loathe it), it sounds like a decent place.

Hope it works out.

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Get their Feedback

by syed.ali In reply to Hmmm.. Not far off

I would recommend that involve your senior guys in this matter. Have a open discussion in one-to-one meeting. Note all their doable suggestions and form an Express Team who will be rensponsible to motivate the people and bring the issues on your table with solutions. This is my approach, let them solve the issues which they think causing the problem of demotivation. In this way you will get their involvment, commitment and determination as well.

Regards,

Syed

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Not with materials but with mind

by tgpadaki In reply to We're trying....

By providing the kind of Workplace Environment (as materials) would not help much (might even worsen the situation if you consider the time they spend on the project v/s. on the gaming console).
You need to provide them a very cordial environment (more to do with mind or mindset). They need to be given some ownership and rewards for achieving some good things. The definition of 'good' things vary from project to project and across companies. For VB6-like project team, they need a lot of morale-boost by recognizing them. It may be very costly to reward every now and then. But the company must think before attempting to work on those projects. These are the hidden costs that any manager would not consider while estimating the cost of the project. (Older technologies means High Cost!!).
Yes. You need change in the work place but that is to do with enhancing the relationship with your team. And KNOWING them (as a person) really makes a big difference.

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I used to work on a development team......

by WelshBilly In reply to Workplace environment for ...

I've just left a workplace where they had reasonably up to date technology, and also weren't too bad in little treats now and again. But I hated going to work every day even though I got on with everyone and made a lot of close friends.

The reasons I left were because I was not being paid market rate and also I did not feel valued.

I felt quite demotivated and any of my suggested projects were never followed up and investigated. I was always told it was a good idea and that it would get mentioned to the Head of our department. I would never receive any feedback after this, not even an explanation as to the reasons why this project will not be looked into further.

Additionally, it became quite frustrating when my boss was involving himself in the juicy projects and not the rest of the team. Also there was never any room for personal development or increasing skill level e.g. the .net guy always got the .net work. So this made team working difficult as everyone had their specialises and continued to work on them. This in turn made work boring as there was never anything new.

These are the main reasons I left and I'm glad I have, as my new workplace is so much better. I hope this may give you some ideas.

Also, if you feel moral is down, maybe you should ask your team rather than trying to guess. Good communication and all that!!

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Identify strengths of your project

by venkat In reply to Workplace environment for ...

General feeling is that working in cutting edge technology is the only challenging work. In my view all the projects are challenging as the customer satisfaction is the common goal. So in your project identify the attributes which are very important and highlight them to your team, which makes them responsible and also inculcates dedication towards meeting the project goals

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Comunications

by birgirsch In reply to Workplace environment for ...

Talk with them, hear their greviances and comunicate the business issues to them If they are not informed(btw are you informed?) about what is hapening in the business, why they will get recognition and how for good work. Promote your department internaly in the business and comunicate the successes of that to your team.
you could gild the walls but if the business doesnt comunicate no-one will feel involved.

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