To Keep IT Pros Happy, Give Them Tough Problems

Susan Hall
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Top Five Reasons You Never Hear Back After Applying for a Job

The “vision thing” was prominent in a recent interview I did with InfusionSoft recruiter Lauren Tassiello – actually her title is a Star Trek reference “Talent Tractor Beam Operator.”

She told me that every position in the company is tightly aligned with the company’s vision and employees are expected to assume a high level of ownership of their part in helping the small-business SaaS provider achieve its mission:

”People have to be able to take something and run with it. It’s like you have your own mini-business and you’re making decisions within that business, so you have to understand the impact of your actions. There’s a ton of ownership within every job.”

I recently wrote about the stance of Jason Hoffman, CTO and founder of cloud infrastructure company Joyent, that IT pros need to feel part of something bigger. He wrote:

“Too often in the IT industry we focus on technology and tools instead of their higher purpose and relationship to the rest of the world. Giving away free meals might seem nice, but the real key to attracting and retaining talent is that you must give them a higher purpose than the hammer that they’re swinging.”

As an example, he wrote that doctors give up lunches, sleep and time with their families to cure cancer because they’re inspired by the purpose.

Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes at Harvard Business Review that the happiest people are working to solve tough problems.

People can be inspired to meet stretch goals and tackle impossible challenges if they care about the outcome.

She mentions a number of tough problems that go far beyond figuring out why customers abandon their online shopping carts. But her main point is that managers should pay attention to the level of challenge they provide their talented workers:

Leaders everywhere should remember the M's of motivation: mastery, membership and meaning. Tapping these non-monetary rewards (while paying fairly) are central to engagement and happiness. And they are also likely to produce innovative solutions to difficult problems.

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