More companies may be moving away from IT cost reduction, but the responsibilities of IT departments continue to expand. In addition to standard operational and tactical activities, IT is often expected to drive innovation, foster business agility, and increase its own value to the organization — with the same limited resources.
For many IT departments, the best response to this challenge is to get more from their existing resource pool, particularly IT talent. The trick is ensuring that your team must stay motivated to be more efficient and productive, without burning out.
Here are three strategies you can use to unlock the potential of your talent, generating heightened productivity and innovation:
Encourage time management with “zones”
Improved time management leads to greater efficiency, but your team may not know how to get started. There are so many time management strategies to choose from that simply deciding on a method to implement can be challenging. As an IT manager, you can help by encouraging everyone on your team to learn and use the same strategy.
Zone-based time management is an effective method that works well in an IT environment. This strategy, developed by Eric Bloom of Manager Mechanics, is based on the idea of being “in the zone” — a time of peak productivity when a person is focused, motivated, and knows what needs to be done. In zone-based prioritization, IT pros tackle complex tasks like software development and business case writing while they’re in the zone, and perform less demanding activities at other times, according to their alertness levels. Here’s a look at the breakdown:
- In the zone: High-level tasks (development, project planning, business writing)
- Alert but not creative: Structured tasks (status report writing, project plan vs. actual tracking)
- Functional but not up for a challenge: Routine tasks (returning emails, expense reports, reviewing spam folders)
- Basically not sleeping: Low-level or busywork tasks (cleaning their office, deleting old email, filing things)
Develop talent diversity with cross-training
It’s a well-known fact that training existing employees is cheaper and less time-consuming than hiring new employees, yet many IT departments avoid this approach — whether it’s because they’re too focused on the idea that “hot new talent” must be acquired, or they believe multi-disciplined IT pros are less effective because their skills are spread out further. However, cross-training is a smarter, faster, and longer-lasting solution not only for getting more out of your existing talent resources, but also for increasing employee loyalty, satisfaction, and motivation levels.
The majority of IT professionals appreciate the opportunity to learn new skills, especially if they’re provided training on the company dime. Cross-training boosts employee retention, while equipping your organization with the right tools to handle constantly shifting business requirements. When everyone on your IT team is able to tackle multiple disciplines, any given project will be smoother and more efficient.
You’ll also have happier developers and engineers who are motivated to stretch their skills, try new things, and drive innovation and success for the company.
Schedule personal creative time for your talent
For top IT talent, technology is often more than a job — it’s a way of life. Many IT pros have a side project or three going on, in addition to what they’re doing at work. And if you allow your talent on-the-clock time for pursuing their own creative ideas, those side projects could ultimately benefit your organization.
The best way to let your team tinker with personal projects during the workday is to actually schedule creative time, building it right into your company’s planning process. Set a percentage of time — anywhere from 5-to-10 percent works well — for employees to indulge their personal creativity, and work out the best way to provide that time. It might be several hours on a certain day of the week, or a few hours set aside on two or three days.
When implemented consistently, this freedom to develop creatively will increase motivation and productivity for your talent, and lead to potential spinoff products that add to your organization’s bottom line. If you want to know more about driving motivation and productivity, talk to the pros at The Armada Group today.