How to motivate your IT team without driving them away

How to motivate your IT team without driving them away
February 15, 2024  |  BY

If you lead an IT team — or manage someone who leads an IT team — their performance is always your top priority. Yet motivating employees to be more productive can easily cross the line into annoyance, resentment, and ultimately decreased morale.

That’s not a good situation when your IT team is a crucial aspect of your competitive advantage.

IT leaders must strike the right balance: Keep people excited to go farther while not stepping on their toes.

There are many ways to achieve that goal. For one, be sure you’re supporting personnel all the time – not just during specific time periods. Getting the most from your talent means paying close attention throughout the project, from kick off to final implementation. And along the way, identify when excitement and enthusiasm could dip, and where stress, frustration, and fatigue might creep in. Being mindful of potential gaps in performance allows you to be proactive and motivate only when needed.

Beyond the cadence of how you communicate, be sure to practice transparent communication. This means being honest about specific hurdles the team may face, and what’s necessary to arrive at the stated goal. With this type of upfront talk, employees will recognize that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to support them.

You’re saying, “We work together as an organization, not separately as individuals”, which is powerful message for maintaining morale.

Enhance transparency by tearing down the wall between those who plan and those who implement the plan. In other words, include IT staff in the planning and strategy of company initiatives. Of course, there’s a limit to what they get involved with, but giving employees a voice increases their trust in you as a leader, and in turn increases their motivation to perform.

This is what many see these days as a collaborative culture. In this environment, employees are encouraged to communicate openly, with the expectation that leaders will truly listen to their concerns and provide learning opportunities for career growth. Doing so connects individual development to team performance, which yet again drives a sense of motivation to do even more.

By investing in your teams, you make sure that everyone has the right skills and mindset necessary for 21st century business challenges. In fact, by consistently upskilling your IT teams, they deliver better results for the organization and – even more significant for them – appreciate how you’ve improved their professional credentials.

If it’s not clear by now, we’re essentially saying in order to motivate people to greater heights, you must also instill more meaning into the work. Make them feel like they belong at the company, that their contributions are valued, that they are not a commodity.

To that end, consistently emphasize the importance of the work they do, and how it directly impacts business results. Spell out that they’re not only technology workers, they are key cogs in the wheels of the entire organization. Connect the dots for them: Without you, we couldn’t have built (a specific product or service). Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to overcome (a specific challenge). Without you, we wouldn’t be the market leader. You get the point.

Messages such these as make people feel more engaged and, in turn, more inspired to bring their best to the job each day. And as long as you express these thoughts in a genuine manner, you won’t have to worry about overdoing it and hindering morale.

Never underestimate that employee engagement is a key factor in the success of the business. Many think this idea only applies to more client-facing workers, such as those in sales, marketing, business development, and partner development. But engineers and coders have the same emotions as those with any other job title; they are prone to the same emotional triggers.

Overall, when assessing how to improve performance, always think holistically. Don’t view the motivation to produce better results simply as a means to an end. Remember, your job isn’t to give periodic pep talks when efficiency isn’t what you anticipated; your job is to lead your team to be the best they can be, which will inherently give the organization greater odds to reach its potential.