Today's focus: Motivating IT

We've been focusing a lot on motivation lately, most recently with the concept of motivation fundamentals. They're not the "how" or the "why" of motivation, but rather the "what," as in "what you need before you start thinking about how and why."

After you ensure that you've got all your fundamental bases covered, you can move on to the "how" and the "why." As you progress on that path, Steve Norman, a senior Oracle manager who also teaches general business and management at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, offers the following tips for motivating knowledge workers:

* Make sure individuals have meaningful work. "A lot of what we're looking at in order to provide true motivation to individuals is providing meaningful work," Norman says. "Try to match their needs for growth vs. the job's ability to deliver that." This is especially important in a post-layoff situation, in which staffers may have to pick up less-than-meaningful tasks in addition to their current workloads.

* Make certain knowledge workers have good leadership. Practice good communication skills and be attentive to their needs. "The little things are very important," he says. "Just talk to people, be in touch with them, and let them know you're there."

* Make provisions for the person's development. Training budgets have been slashed by many companies and Norman says that's a big mistake. "There's going to be a time when the economy's going to turn around and how companies treat their employees during a downturn is going to be key to whom they retain when it does turn around."

* Let high achievers work with best-in-class peers. "To allow the top people to work with other top people, that's when things really flow and you get those returns," he says.

"Especially in the development realm, when you get these top people to work with one another it's amazing what you can accomplish."

Next week we'll address Norman's last two tips for motivating IT folks, as well as other observations on motivation in these tough economic times.

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