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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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Find out what improvements they would make to the office

by LetsGoLive In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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)

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Thanks

by skewenrich In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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...

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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.

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Considered exit interviews?

by the gaffer In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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.

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...get real...

by dr.phil In reply to Considered exit interview ...

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.

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Food and drink

by pmorrow In reply to Considered exit interview ...

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).

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Compassion

by john.mayo In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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".

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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.

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Consider this

by ProcessManager In reply to Workplace environment for ...

Rich

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!

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Find out what's broken.

by IT-Slave In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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.

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