Teamwork key to charity's success

Wildlife charity the WWF shows that you do not need a huge budget to give IT staff the job satisfaction they require.

Wildlife charity the WWF shows that you do not need a huge budget to give IT staff the job satisfaction they require.

For David Southern, head of IT at the WWF, the key to being a best place to work is to turn the problems of running IT for a charity into an opportunity to provide a high degree of job satisfaction for his staff.

The problems Southern faces in running the IT department for the conservation charity are considerable. He has 10 IT staff for 350 users and bonuses are scarce - all the department's costs are covered by fundraising, meaning no fancy IT systems or salaries.

But it is the sense of responsibility to spend IT money wisely that creates job satisfaction for Southern and his team.

"We have a great sense of bonding as a team. We do not go on specific team-building activities such as white-water rafting, but we feel we certainly want to be the best - and to be the best without throwing money at IT," Southern said.

"It is a personal challenge for all of us. We know we need to be creative and innovative to find solutions."

Although the department is small, the IT staff know they work in a highly professional environment. "We are very structured, not chaotic," said Southern. "We have service level agreements with our users to measure our performance and we have clear processes in place. We demonstrate that we are professional, despite our size. The WWF trusts us to do the best job for it."

Job satisfaction also comes from caring about the charity's work. "I used to work at Citibank, but I wanted a work/life balance and to work for something I believed in. I probably work harder and longer here than anywhere I have worked in my life, but it does not feel like it," he said.

"People do not come to work for the WWF for big company salaries, so they have to feel engaged with the WWF's cause. We encourage IT staff to go to the WWF talks and to go on conservation work trips, such as clearing ponds and lopping trees."

The siting of the department - overlooking a tree-lined river in green surroundings - also reinforces the staff's commitment to environmental conservation.

The low number of staff increases job satisfaction because people get a high level of responsibility earlier, said Southern. "For example, less than five years ago my network manager was on the helpdesk. He gained his experience on the job and he showed great aptitude for management, so we brought him on."

Low staff numbers also mean a lot of job variety. "We are stretched very thinly and cover a wide spectrum of IT, from desktops and databases to networks and security," said Southern.

"It is a big advantage because we can nurture people's careers around their strengths and interests, but we also share some of the more onerous work."

For example, because there is only one person on the helpdesk, everyone has to cover the post over lunchbreaks. And despite the small numbers, flexible working and home working are also supported, which contributes to job satisfaction.

Southern's strategy must be working - only one person has left the department in four years.

The WWF won the Computer Weekly Best Places to Work in IT 2003 award in the not-for profit companies category

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