How CIOs Should Motivate IT Staff

5 steps to engage and energize employees.

As a CIO, you might find that finding and retaining top talent is one of your biggest challenges. And you’re not alone. In client interactions, Gartner analysts regularly hear complaints from “We can’t seem to keep the right skills” to “How can we manage staff better?” to “Our work isn’t glamorous. How can I get better at persuading people to stay?” In fact, 66% of CIOs agree that a talent crisis exists and yet personnel/workforce tasks are among the top four things CIOs most dislike.

If CIOs can help people move toward work that provides personal satisfaction and challenge, employees are more likely to remain happy and in their jobs.

Despite an aversion to personnel tasks, CIOs still need to work on ways to attract and keep top talent. Part of doing that successfully will require CIOs to talk with employees about the work that they find meaningful.

“Research over many years has shown a direct link between the level of commitment and energy that employees bring to their work and the likelihood of them staying in their job and of being more productive,” says Mark Coleman, research director at Gartner. “Simply put, highly engaged employees will be more loyal and more productive.”

Today’s CIO Is a Whole New Animal
Discover whether you’re predator or prey.
Take the Wolf CIO Quiz

If CIOs can help people move toward work that provides personal satisfaction and challenge, employees are more likely to remain happy and in their jobs.

CIOs have the opportunity — and arguably a responsibility — to ensure that workers are highly engaged. A simple conversation or series of meetings will enable CIOs to move in that direction. Use the five steps listed to become more involved in engaging and motivating your people.

Read More: Acquiring Top Talent for Digital Business

Meet for a one-on-one

The one-on-one discussion requires a slower-paced approach that CIOs — generally used to quick, decisive business conversations — might find challenging. However, these conversations are a good way for CIOs to gain a clear understanding of how to help an employee develop a plan to focus on work that is meaningful to them individually. These conversations also enable employees to recognize and articulate work they find meaningful and motivational.

Read More: How CIOs Build the Talent Pipeline

Identify the obstacles

After identifying personal motivators, clarify steps needed to move toward those meaningful projects. Two questions will begin this part of the discussion: “What has to happen to connect you to this work?” and “What obstacles should we anticipate in connecting you with this work?” Sometimes the knowledge that the CIO is taking a personal interest in their career is enough to motivate some employees.

Look for places to change

Now that you and the employee have identified the what and the how, move into potential options to shift job focus, or realign tasks to mitigate established obstacles and move the employee into a position better aligned with motivational projects. Consider options such as changing teams or shaking up partners. The goal is to identify practical and possible changes that can be made, so be creative, but realistic, about impractical or more long-term solutions.

Develop a Personal Action Plan

Create a plan of action to better align the employee with meaningful work and commit to the plan. For example, if the employee believes he needs the time and space to work on a big data project, the change to be made might be working from home two days each week. Figure out what is required to make that happen immediately, and plan to review how it’s going in six months. It’s okay if this changes in the future as jobs and interests shift.

Read More: How CIOs Need to Think About Top Talent 

Support the changes

Continue the conversation about motivators and schedule regular check-ins to see how the employee feels about the work, assignments and responsibilities. Keep the conversations informal, and limit them to three to four times per year. But make meaningful work conversation a fundamental part of the process of assigning projects, work and responsibilities.

Gartner clients can learn more about how to motivate staff with meaningful work in the full report, Five Steps CIOs Can Take to Motivate Staff With Meaningful Work by Mark Coleman.

Get Smarter

Leadership in the Digital Age: A Gartner Trend Insight Report

The digital age poses new challenges and opportunities to CIOs and IT leaders. Both the rapid changes in technology and the unprecedented...

Read Free Research

The CEO Perspective 2016: How CIOs Should Respond

Each year our CEO surveys and wider business research reveal some of the most important trends in business leader thinking. Changes in...

Start Watching

Follow #GartnerCIO

Learn more at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, the world's most important gathering of CIOs and other senior IT executives.

Explore Gartner Events