7 Ways to Keep IT Staff Happy

Most bosses don’t believe there is a magic pill for keeping their employees content, but their efforts are often off the mark.

Ken Hess, a technical analyst at a large global outsourcing company in Tulsa, says his bosses have "no clue."

"For your five-year anniversary, you basically get a choice of a pair of small binoculars (for a man) or a bracelet (for a woman) and at 10 years, you get a company jacket," Hess says.

So, while bosses this time of year are pondering how to reward those who work for them, it may behoove them to think beyond the go-to gifts and address the little things that can turn cheerful employees into Grinches.

1. Reduce Unplanned Work

Too many IT professionals have their days ruled by elements out of their control, and liken their jobs to firefighting.

"Many CIOs and senior IT executives accept this as part of their landscape," say Kevin Behr, chief technology officer and managing principal at Assemblage Pointe, noting that it has become accepted that IT workers will always work extra hours addressing emergencies.

While employees understand that after-hours work will come into play now and then, keeping the extra time to a minimum can help boost morale.

2. Allow Telecommuting

If the prospect of happy employees isn’t enough to get managers thinking about allowing telecommuting, lowered infrastructure costs might be.

Many of the big Fortune 50 technology firms specializing in professional services allow some amount of telecommuting now, including Hewlett-Packard, Unisys, IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft, but the midsize firms and the rest of the Fortune 1000 companies employing internal IT workers haven’t caught up yet.

In a recent CIO Insight survey, 43 percent of IT executives cited telecommuting as an effective tool for retaining top IT talent. But before allowing employees to work from home, managers need to establish expectations for communications and deadlines.

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