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  • #2268180

    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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    • #2514880

      Yeesh they are watching their careers die

      by tony hopkinson ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      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!

      • #2514820

        We’re trying….

        by skewenrich ·

        In reply to Yeesh they are watching their careers die

        … 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.

        • #2514802

          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.

        • #2514720

          Hmmm.. Not far off

          by skewenrich ·

          In reply to Can’t say from here what could be wrong

          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”

        • #2517024

          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.

        • #2532813

          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.



        • #2532814

          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.

    • #2515653

      I used to work on a development team……

      by welshbilly ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      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!!

    • #2532798

      Identify strengths of your project

      by venkat ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      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

    • #2532796


      by birgirsch ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      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.

    • #2532792

      Find out what improvements they would make to the office

      by letsgolive ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      One line of thinking would be to involve the staff in any improvements. This can be achieved by using something like Q12 to gauge employee satisfaction.
      In a nutshell it’s 12 questions which provide the building blocks to a good working environment and allow staff to highlight deficient areas and implement improvements. The key being the staff implement their own improvements (provided support is there from management)

    • #2532776


      by skewenrich ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      Thanks for suggestions folks. I know the guys well as I recruited most of them. We have regular team meetings and often discuss morale. Pressure for delivery from the business is a big factor as well as the tech. What I didn’t really say in my original post was that the pressures of work are completely understood and the guys accept this. They know they are not getting great tech so instead want something else to grab onto. Due to the churn, there are new starters who have come in from s/w houses and saying what a great envrionement that was. The professional services environment is completely different as we share our building with 1500 people, most of which are our direct customers.

      All I’m looking for is to inject some fun into a tough working environment. Most of the suggestions are around talking to them which obviously any manager would do. I’m just trying to gauge what some of the more modern setups are doing to make the day to day more interesting…

      • #2533550

        Fun in IT

        by john.mayo ·

        In reply to Thanks

        Besides a well thought out rewards program, you may want to consider such things as:
        1. Employee competitions over best code development, solution designs, etc.
        2. Employee access to an XBOX games, pool table, dart board, stationary bike, music (for breaks),
        3. Create visibility programs for your direct reports to Customers and upper management.
        4. Vacation awards for on time under budget.
        Just some rough thoughts to consider.

    • #2532772

      Considered exit interviews?

      by the gaffer ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      If you want to know why people have left you need to ask them, did you conduct exit interviews when these people left, do you know where they went and why.

      Exit interviews dont need to be formal, infact they sometimes work better if they are informal and ‘off the record’. Unless you are part of the problem you should get a pretty honest reply.

      If you did not have exit intervies it’s not too late, if you still have contact details of the people who left why not give them a quick call, ask them how the new job is going (the grass is not always greener) and then ask them why the left. Now that they have settled in to a new job they have nothing to lose by being honest.

      It’s not the rats who leave a sinking IT ship first it’s the ambitious people with the most to offer to other companies, finding out why these people went should help you figure out what you need to do to get decent replacements and hold on to your other staff.

      • #2532741

        …get real…

        by dr.phil ·

        In reply to Considered exit interviews?

        Exit interviews aren’t worth anything. The management in this case needs to PRO-ACTIVELY engage the next level of management to alter the budget so that the new technology can be utilized. Ask yourself this: would you even apply for a job punching 80 column cards in this day and age? I think not unless you have no respect for your career much less yourself. Is this a product of squeeky tight micro-dollar-management or is this a lax time for your career and you’re afraid to ask for $’s for a technical update? The upper level mgrs would be frantic if they knew how much $’s they are loosing not only in talent but the lack of technical upgrade resources. It’s a wicked formula; not one with only one parameter. One trick I’ve learned over 27 years of IT is taking the time everyday to sharpen the saw. if you work 8-5 try to stop your usual activities at 4 and use the remaining hour to learn what’s new technologically. It will energize you to find new/better ways to apply IT and accidently make you produce a new product that is slick and presentable to management. Lever that with “oh, btw the IT department could really stand additional resources ($’s) to allow management experience these new applications”. Pretty soon the exodus of staff will begin to think twice about bailing out as the jobs they are looking at don’t seem as upbeat and prosperous as the job they currently have.
        Oh yeah, btw the technical refresh is accelerating and from what I am experiencing if you wait 18 months to refresh your “stuff” then you need to find another career.

      • #2532734

        Food and drink

        by pmorrow ·

        In reply to Considered exit interviews?

        Free food and drink

        1) Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and water available at no cost and in a convenient location. I worked for a firm that had this and then they brought in a policy that we had to supply our own, as the ‘cost’ was too high. Morale dropped way down, so I paid for it myself for three months and then managed to get it as a budget item.

        2) Snacks on a regular basis and for special occasions. Bagels or donuts at staff meetings, cake once a month for birthdays (or special events). If your group is small and there is not a birthday that month, find something else to celebrate: Feb – valentine’s day, Mar – St. Patrick’s day, 1st day of Spring, or a team day (soccer, hockey).

    • #2532731


      by john.mayo ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      In my opinion, the best way to motivate staff is to sincerely care about them as people. That does NOT mean you have to promise them the world, but you need to spend time with them and determine what they value, what their career objectives are short and long term, and demonstrate that you will help them get there. In return, you explain your explectations, your perceptions and value structure and what you need from them to succeed in your organization. That with a few creative rewards and recognition programs, and you will maximize retention and growth. Beware half-hearted rewards programs, however. My famous quote to the business world, “Don’t spend money to alienate your people”.

      • #2533374

        New methodologies

        by sajimon.alex ·

        In reply to Compassion

        It is challenging to motivate people when the technology used is obsolete. One suggestion is to use modern development practices like iterative development, so people get an opportunity to learn something new. Try to arrange some training in these new areas.

    • #2532725

      Consider this

      by processmanager ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?


      Most of what everyone else stated is true, better pay, asking what the employee likes (or dislikes), casual dress, new technologies etc is important and will help you create a better work environment. But the true measure must come from the employees themselves. Are they passionate about the work they do. Do they care if its done correctly or just done? Do they fit in the job they have? I have worked directly in the tech world for 9 years and have seen the changes to the tech environment, some good some bad. If the person is just doing a job for a paycheck and derives little or no satisfaction from what they are doing the level of work will suck (sorry to be so blunt). You need to find what motivates the people that work for you, if its just a paycheck that motivates the person then you will have more problems than solutions. Pay, benefits and a casual work environment is not the only motivators; you can’t pay me enough to do a job that I don’t like!

    • #2532708

      Find out what’s broken.

      by it-slave ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      Sure you could set up a gaming room in the corner with a keg, but it still doesn’t resolve whatever the underlying problem is. It’s true that your developers should be able to get some beta or trial peroid software to develope with, that way they aren’t left behind if that’s what the issue is. Sounds like you need to get your team together and find out what the real problem is.

    • #2532691

      Know thyself…

      by round one from va ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      Look at yourself. If people are leaving, could you possibly be the cause? Be honest with yourself about how you treat your crew. Are you one of those managers who thinks of himself as “hard but fair.” They are usually not very fair. If you find from an honest review of your recent past that the morale issue is not you, then I would talk to the workers and find out what’s bugging them. Ultimately, if they too are honest, you might be able to find the root cause and do something to offset it.
      I have worked in IT for 15 years and we always seem to be behind the 8-ball technologically. Right now, we run a fully modern 24-7 help desk, but the troubleshooting documentation is paper. It took me two years to get permission to develop on-line documents that can be searched from a desktop. If there are troubles with higher management, you have to win the hearts and minds of your crew to make the workplace somewhere they want to go. It’s tough to wake up in the morning and dread going to work. In my previous existence as a newspaper reporter, I lived Sunday nights in constant disgust. Mondays had devolved to finding out who died in a car wreck so I had something to write about. Still, there will be some ambitious ones who will seek greener pastures regardless of any environment.

    • #2532690

      Have someone else talk to them

      by mmalouf ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      I?m currently in a similar situation as a worker in a 11 person workforce. Morale has plunged. One person has already retired and left, two more have submitted their retirement paperwork. One has applied for transfer to another section and 4 more, including myself, are actively seeking other employment.

      All of this is due to two lousy managers. The sad part is they think they are great and know what is going on. They believe they communicate well with us. The truth is they are ignorant of what is truly going on and don?t communicate worth a damn.

      They act as if they are listening and make all the proper sounds and ask the proper questions, then go off and do what they want anyway. There is no longer any trust and respect between us and the managers.

      This whole process did not take long. We went from a good working team to our currently situation in about 3 months.

      I suspect you are too close to the problem and your workers to accurately assess the problem. Have an outside person talk to your people. Either HR or a trusted person. Whoever it is needs to develop a set list of questions to ask all employees and give the employees the opportunity to say whatever they want. They need to talk to the employees individually in a private setting. They must talk to ALL employees, nobody can be excluded. If an employee want to sit and say nothing that?s fine, but they must be interviewed. As all employees are talked to, nobody can say who said what. All you receive are comments, good and bad, but no names or sources. The employees need to know these procedures before the interviews begin.

      This provides you with honest feedback while protecting the workers from any possible fallout.

      You may find you are over thinking the problem. We had a person leave about a year ago because she was unhappy. Everybody wondered what was wrong. Wasn?t until after she left we found it she was unhappy because her office was too cold. She never said a word to us.

    • #2534282

      A few suggestions

      by zaferus ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      1. Team building get togethers help, on Friday I’m hosting a friendly ($10/person) “Texas holem’ tournament” for our team with the poker chips/tables and everything. It’s BYOB but I’m providing snacks, pop, ice, and rides home. I think these things help co-workers get to relax and bond with each other and it’s just plain fun. Try to do something every month – maybe have a “monthly get together” suggestion contest and the ideas that get picked get the person who suggested it a T-shirt or some prize.


      We IT guys run off of coffee or Coke – and we have one of these in our office and our IT staff LOVE it! And highly caffinated IT people are both happy and moving! As well it’s a technical gizmo which every IT person loves.

      + 46″ – 50″ TV
      + lunch hour ladder boards for wii sports games (you could have a different sport each weekday) = staff that are having fun together and starting to look forward to something at work every day!

      I’d recommend limiting the hours of play to lunch break/after hours so you don’t impede productivity. With the Wii it really is fun to watch people play as well as to play! And lots of non-video game players love the Wii as well so it’s easy to get everyone involved. I have one at home and my wife who has never cared for video games plays it more than I do.

      If noise could be a factor for the rest of the office you may need to look at setting up a closed door room where people can all get together and play during lunch. Also consider having it in a place where it can be locked up at night if security is a concern.

      The cost of ALL of these things would be less than the cost to replace just one person if you look at the stats that HR people throw out there. And you should see a lot of people start getting a lot more excited about work.

      And just imagine pointing these things out to a potential new hire during a tour of the office to show what a great team environment you have.

    • #2534205


      by itilfriend ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      Check out the Fish Philosophy on

      It is something that started in the Seattle Fish Markets. Yes, I know, how does a fish market equate with an IT development shop? You will be surprised.
      It is a philosophy that can be found in many industries that helps with productivity, and not just for the organisation, mainly for the people who work there, to make work more fun.

    • #2534179

      a way to the heart is through the stomach…

      by psims ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      How about providing food, could be healthy too, some bowls of fruit, bread for toasting, Pizza days, if it’s hot get ice creams. mix it up so it doesnt get boring and if music be the food of love, how about letting them listen to their ipods.

    • #2534176

      Motivation through recognition

      by pheck ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      I would suggest that positive recognition for the work that is being done is a good place to start. There are a variety of ways to give recognition and at various levels though the work group. Promote the innovations that are being used, even at micro levels and those innovations that you maybe cannot use but have been uncovered during the length of the job.
      Celebrations are another motivational tool; use the end-of-week celebration, milestone celebrations, critical juncture celebrations, etc.
      Ask and listen; ask the team how they would like to be motivated and then develop a suitable stategy. They will help you understand how theywould like to deal with their levels of motivation.

    • #2534056


      by mmveke ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      Have you ever thought of contracting? mid to long term, u might find the skills you need even internationally without having to worry about staff morale.

    • #2534847

      Motivational techniques

      by wwforliving ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      I work in that very environment you are talking about with the exception that I have had to purchase most of my own tools if I were to have any past notepad at all. Because of this I have had to be a self motivator and most of the people I work for and with are de-motivators (i.e. – to tight of time tables due to non-tech people taking months to design and then want development in days then when I am able to accomplish these things my coworkers hate that I do not fail in my assigned duties, “95% completion within timetable given”) Motivation is difficult.
      What motivates me are the little things that make life worth living, like a bonus of a dinner out for two (no limits within reason of course). This cannot be done with the knowledge of coworkers as they resent when I have busted my hump to get something done.
      Acknowledgment of accomplishment, I developed a full web site with many features I had not even heard of before in half the time of our outsource group saving the company $65k on our lowest bid. I received nothing on this one and was resentful but once we began making profit the acknowledgement of accomplishment went to my boss as if he had given away his nights and weekends to do this.
      Another thing is 401k matching or giving long term financial vesting motivates me (stock in or shares of the business).
      We do not even talk about comp time since it never exists but in some cases it is a nice thing.
      Something as small as a smiling face from higher ups can make a real difference.

    • #2533706

      Things to consider…

      by komplex ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      The IT Market seems to be picking up and it’s easy for an IT Pro to jump ship. Especially after the bloodletting of the last few years.

      The only reason why IT guys like a “challenge” because it builds a resume for a better paying job.

      But what you can offer them is security and Quality of life.
      What you might be better off doing is offering your programmers guaranteed contracts or very generous “If we fire you, you’ll get the following …”

      In addition, you can add work from home, flexible hours and realistic deadlines. If they can finish their weekly work in 30 hours, let them go home early. You can give them a life.

      Or you can do the Google thing, and let them have a certain % of time to try things they find interesting.

    • #2533680

      consider this angle

      by dr.phil ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      One of the best work environments I ever enjoyed was reporting to an open environment. So much so I didn’t think of it as work and I couldn’t wait to get back on Monday. When I say open the premise from leadership was “consider this”. No agendas and no absolutely correct answers. That used to be called “ego-less” and was a term that programmers wrote programs to a standard. I got to interact face to face with physicists, doctors of all technological backgrounds and principle engineers all of which were not IT or computer techies. The beauty was the absolute learning one could do. The fact that each one of us is truely an individual that if you keep the egos and agendas out of the environment one can build anything.

      The open environment is somewhat like open-source coding. You allowed to disagree with whatever “consider this” was on the table but you had to agree that it may not be a sound idea. Anything could be said without the fear of retaliation. Everyone is expected to be an adult but if you can’t play nice you find yourself thrown out of the environment. The experience is so attractive that not many want to get booted out.

      On Friday afternoons at 2 pm-on usually there would be a demonstration of some sort of technology relating to whatever the doctors decide. One physicist got into a fundamental disagreement with another physicist and launched rockets to prove each other the point. They were so funny. Very childlike and a sponge for learning. That mindset becomes so infectious.

      The point is we all are the same as in kindergarten. Yeah we’re bigger now and have bigger toys along with a huge pool of adult responsibilities. We were told to share and to learn and to love each other for what we are. Some people can’t handle that environment but most people long for it and thrive when it’s available.

      I’ll bet you can’t guess what this group was producing. Tiny components of “it” are keeping our troops safe in Iraq. Those components don’t come from nasty human environments rather they come from people who care and care about each other. Too bad more people don’t “get it”.

    • #2533618

      Thanks folks

      by skewenrich ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      Thanks to all the community for the many posts. I wasn’t expecting so many.

      There some stuff I’ve tried, some I haven’t and some that are intruging. I certainly feel I’m up on the challenge and will crack on with some of the ideas in here.

      Thanks again all and good luck in all your careers.

    • #2534418

      Nothing on these lines.

      by hasnain.rizvi ·

      In reply to Workplace environment for motivated, creative staff?

      Please Follow these:
      1. Increase your touch base with your team.
      2. Have weekly discussions and meetings with the team to understand there concerns.
      3. Take actions on those concerns and revert to them with an explanation that why this is not possible and what work around you have thought off.
      4. Encourage learning sessions or ask one of the team members to conduct a small session presentation on any technical topic.
      5. Emphasis on self development.
      6. Emphasis on developing a goals in there career.
      7. Be a good Manager.

      I think these points have great potential.

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