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Awards celebrate success of IT user departments

Bill Goodwin
Award winners reveal how they got the most from their IT professionals.

What makes a good place to work in IT? The organisations attending Computer Weekly's Best Places to Work awards had a range of ideas, including hiring reflexologists and masseurs to help staff keep clear heads, but some common themes emerged when we talked to the winning IT managers and the other finalists.

For Gill Dennis, IT support and training manager at the Woodland Trust, making sure that IT staff see the benefits of their work is vital.

"We work closely with our users. We can see what we have done and see what difference it has made. We get feedback. It makes it a more friendly place to work in," she said.

The IT team on BAA's Terminal 5 project tries to lighten the mood by holding spoof awards ceremonies every month and remembering everyone's birthday. "A sense of fun is very important," said head of IT Nick Gaines. "It is very hard to maintain that under the pressure of business. There must also be the sense that there is purpose to everything we do - these two things are fundamental."

For others, such as Steve Grayson, associate at Ove Arup, having good relationships with colleagues is the key to success. "We have a very low staff turnover in the IT group," he said. "This is because everyone gets on well with each other."

The public sector may not be able to pay as well as the private sector, but it offers more challenges for IT people, said Jos Greese, IT director at Hampshire County Council. "It requires you to be able to do things that you would not do elsewhere. It requires a lot of innovation. If you do not have the funding and you really need to address a problem, you have to innovate," he said.

Like the public sector, charities cannot afford to pay their IT staff huge wages. David Southern, head of IT at the WWF, tries to keep his staff happy by ensuring they have a good work/life balance. "We have to attract people in other ways," he said. "Providing opportunities and making sure staff are motivated and stay happy is important."

"I think the key is team spirit," said Dave White, head of IT at IT Resource Management. "We demand a lot from our people, so it is important to treat them well. The secret is listening, not directing. It is about asking what their objectives are and working with them."

The winners >>

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