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The holiday season offers a particularly difficult time for the IT industry. The office is in a clamor with parties, people trying to get their plans taken care of, and of course, year end deadlines. I can assure you that when people go to sleep on Christmas Eve that it will not be thoughts of pager support dancing in their heads. It can be particularly difficult to manage any processes during this period; while there is no real effective way to mitigate these issues, the holiday season can easily be turned into an opportunity.

The healthy IT department revolves heavily around key knowledge workers who are both the backbone and the brains of the operation. These people are invaluable to the success of the department as a whole and are far from being replaceable. This holiday season why not take the opportunity to further your relationship with these individuals and to help build their loyalty to your organization?

Place yourself into the role of a 20-something year old software engineer or network engineer who could easily work at fifteen different companies in your city. Chances are that salaries are within fifteen to thirty per cent of what you're paying him, but this is rather irrelevant as he probably maintains a reasonably good standard of living. He (or she) stays with your company either out of loyalty to the organization or because he truly enjoys what he is doing. This employee is ideal to recognize.

Christmas Bonus!

While Christmas bonuses are wonderful, they show little care on the part of the organization. This year try something different. Lower the bonus amount by $100 and try spending some time instead. Go and buy each of your employees something that is targeted directly at them as individuals. This gift will go much further in bolstering inter-office and corporate employee relations than the additional $100 in a bonus could possibly do.

You may be saying to yourself, "I don't know these people well enough to get them something personal". That is a sign of a much more severe problem in your organization. Your people are your department's most valuable asset; without them the servers would not run and the code would fall into disarray.

Take the time to know your employees! Is John a football fan? What is John's favorite team or player? A jersey or an autographed item can be the wonderful gift that shows you know John. Does Mary enjoy bicycling on her weekends? What would be useful for her? Is she missing any useful equipment? Perhaps you could get her office friend Ellen to collude with you in finding out!

The point here is to get items the person would probably not get for themselves but would enjoy and to avoid work-related items! IT is one of the most stressful areas in a company and research has shown that many people in IT are more susceptible to health problems. Since your knowledge workers are the life blood of your department, foster stress management through relaxation for them! This is not a zero sum game; it is in both your and the employees' best interest.

Knowledge workers and employers are forced to form a weird symbiotic relationship where everyone can stay happy. Often this entails the worker doing things that he or she may prefer not to, like wearing reasonable dress to the office. It is important to note that the employer is often forced to make some sacrifices in order to foster the creativity and loyalty of these workers in a competitive market. If you don't believe me, take a look at some of the things Google does for its employees.

Oh... and if you happen to be shopping for me *wink*, I enjoy the Baltimore Ravens, deep sea fishing, and of course odd technology bits.

Greg Young

Posted on Friday, December 16, 2005 11:00 PM | Back to top

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