Recession has hit employee motivation across Indian organizations, making it difficult for CIOs to manage their teams. Annual reviews on hold, pay cuts and lack of new projects are leading to low employee morale. However, I firmly believe that it's time to look beyond the recession and assess steps for a better organizational environment.
As far as the manufacturing industry is concerned, these so called "recessionary trends" are not new to us. We have seen such trends in the manufacturing industry for several years — upswings as well as downturns. As an IT head and a functional head of the organization, I believe that the responsibility of keeping employees motivated, diligent and aligned with their job function's requirements is very important during such seasonal setbacks. To this end, I advocate and practice two things — belief and respect for your team. These definitely go a long way towards achieving positive results on employee motivation.
Let us have a look at some tips that are practical enough for a CIO to implement within his team to ensure employee motivation:
Keep them occupied: I ensure employee motivation by keeping the teams well-occupied in projects. This increases their self esteem and respect (in the organization as well as outside). Every year, we choose at least three projects which are then assigned to the team. I encourage my people to work on such projects which provide qualitative as well quantitative benefits to the organization.
Visibility: A CIO should give adequate exposure to his team members to ensure employee motivation. For example, when our IT guys work on a particular project, we give them visibility within the organization. This provides enough personal branding and motivation for employees to work harder. As a CIO, you should be always available to guide and mentor them during this exercise.
We do a lot of work internally, which keeps the IT employees charged up, motivated. For example, earlier when we had outsourced certain activities, employees questioned why it couldn’t done in-house. So now the first choice for a project implementer is always the internal talent pool. This helps us in maintaining a high employee motivation level.
Innovative strategies: Last year, our capital and operational expenditures were highly restricted during the recession. So we asked our IT team for suggestions on new projects. We looked at two projects which did not cost the company, but still provided exceptional value.
One of the projects was a network monitoring system using an open source platform. The entire learning process was performed internally, which lasted around three months. We did a proof-of-concept, and called the project Proactive Network Monitoring. We built an entire theme around this project. The other project was Smart Storage. Overall, we came up with five such projects, where we did not have to approach the chief financial officer for approvals. Such feedback from employees can result in high motivation level at workplace.
Understand priorities: The basic factors required to run an organization are people, processes, business, and then technology. Most CIOs make the mistake of putting technology before people. I say that technology is changeable, dispensable and replaceable — people are not. It takes years to build a strong human resource pool. Hence it's necessary to prioritize these factors for employee motivation.
Have personal rapport: We all face constraints in terms of organizational frameworks of wages, enhancements and rewards. Despite these, it’s very critical to keep your team together and treat them as colleagues—not subordinates. Get closer to them, be a bit more personal, but at the same time maintain your distance. Such practices help improve employee motivation during bad times like recession. Even day to day issues like server crashes and system failures are also resolved in an enthusiastic manner and keep employees motivated.
IT management is essentially people management. CIOs who aspire to move ahead in their career should try to understand people and not just technology.
Involvement of the human resources (HR) department: I place a strong emphasis on the need to work together with your HR team. I work very closely with our organization’s chief of HR. These two functions are very similar. One manages people and technology, whereas the other manages people and processes.
About the author: Ajay Kumar Dhir is the Group CIO of JSL Ltd, the flagship company of the $12 billion OP Jindal Group. Dhir has over 26 years of experience to his credit.
(As told to Yuga Chaudhari)