How many of these does your boss do? Four ways to create a happy and creative team

A happy team is a productive team. Here are four ways to keep to keep staff engaged.
Written by Mark Samuels, Contributor

Are you doing enough to keep you team happy and motivated?

Image: iStock

It seems fair to assume that a happy organisation is a productive one - your people will be better placed to help you push digital transformation if they buy into your vision and understand how you, as the CIO, aim to improve business performance. So, how can CIOs create an organisation that their people love? ZDNet discovers the best practice tips of four IT leaders.

1. Let your people know why their work really matters

Toby Clarke, interim head of IT at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says CIOs must - above all else - ensure the people in their organisation understand the aims of the business. "They need to believe in what the rest of the organisation is trying to achieve," he says.

Clarke believes too many back-office technology professionals still feel detached from the work of front-office workers, such as sales and marketing employees. It must be made clear to IT professionals that their work matters. In fact, says Clarke, the work of the technology team matters more than ever before.

"The IT workers at Moorfields, for example, play a fundamental role in the delivery of care to patients," he says. "If your workers understand what they do, and they believe in the ethos of the business, then you're in a much stronger position to help deliver job satisfaction. Get it right, and people's eyes light up."

Clarke says the other benefit of this approach is that people will understand when they are not contributing. "They might come and tell you that they're not adding as much most value as they could," he says.

"That's perfectly reasonable - you want people to put their head above the parapet. It makes sense to provide a forum to allow people to voice these concerns. Giving people the opportunity to say when things are right is the key to creating efficiencies and boosting effectiveness."

2. Show people how IT can change with the times

Matt Peers, CIO at Linklaters, says the clear setting of business objectives must be related to both the fast pace of transformation and the requirement for on-going staff development. "As an IT organisation, we're going to have to change all the time and the skills we hold will need to evolve, too" he says.

"We have a fluid appraisal and feedback process in the firm - the career conversation is an on-going dialogue, it doesn't just happen a couple of times a year. That process helps people understand that their role within the business continues to change and that they're going to have to spend time in new areas."

Peers is also really keen to boost the perception of IT across the business. He has turned an unused catering office in London into an IT shop and is completing plans for similar outlets in the firm's other locations around the globe.

"The aim is to put IT in the face of people," he says. "The feedback we've had from our user population is fantastic. People think we've become so much more accessible via the IT shop. It's turned into a really great initiative."

3. Talk openly about your strategic aims

Mark Foulsham became chief digital offer at Scope in September. He is working to ensure technology plays a crucial role in the charity's aim to ensure disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Foulsham says joined up thinking, both inside the IT team and across the business, is key to success.

"Talk openly about your strategy and engage the business functions," he says. "I'm a big believer in breaking down organisational walls and silos. Work across the organisation in a collaborative manner and encourage your team to do the same."

Foulsham has created a digital statement of intent, which he is using to talk with people across the business. The statement is not a full-blown strategy but is a precursor to the frameworks for digital transformation he hopes to put in place.

"It sets the direction of travel for where I am and where I want us as an organisation to move towards," he says. "It's about showing how I'm working things through. After being with Scope for a few weeks, I've put down on paper what I've seen, what I've experienced and what I think we can do."

Foulsham shares his statement with others, receives their feedback and uses that information to help create a more formal digital strategy. "Just be as transparent as you can and people are more likely to buy into your plans," he says.

4. Don't be afraid to refocus your teams and individual roles

Interim CIO Christian McMahon, who is managing director at transformation specialist three25, says IT leaders must provide an engaging and challenging environment where they can encourage, empower and equip their staff to complete tasks to the best of their abilities.

"You need to refocus your teams to become true partners with the business, providing real value and support to enable them to achieve their strategic objectives," he says. "That sounds simple but so many organisations don't do this until their employee churn rate starts to alarm board members and investors."

McMahon says it is important to note that some people might fit better in other positions than their current roles. "If you engage properly with your staff, you will be able to recognise how people might be better suited to another task. Listen to what they say and suggest alternative roles," he says.

"Don't be afraid by this approach. I've done it many times, including taking in staff from other areas within the organisation. These workers have flourished within their new roles. I've had a marketing staff member who became an excellent IT project manager and a C# developer who became an analyst."

McMahon says staff morale can be boosted in other ways, too. He points to the importance of mentoring, which he says is a great way of building knowledge and empowering staff. Smart companies also offer other perks to keep staff happy, such as free meals and amenities - and big pay packets.

"Remuneration is obviously king, until you reach a point where it doesn't need to be and challenge is the key driver," says McMahon. "If your people reach this point and they're still happy, then their passion and drive often results in extraordinary performance and great products."

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