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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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Know thyself...

by Round One from VA In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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.

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Have someone else talk to them

by mmalouf In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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.

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A few suggestions

by zaferus In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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.

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by ITILfriend In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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.

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a way to the heart is through the stomach...

by psims In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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.

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Motivation through recognition

by Pheck In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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.

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by mmveke In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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.

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Motivational techniques

by WWforLiving In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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.

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Things to consider...

by Komplex In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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.

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consider this angle

by dr.phil In reply to Workplace environment for ...

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".

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