Igniting employees’ enthusiasm after the summer break requires giving attention, says Sarah Aryanpur

If you think work is just about paying the bills and having enough money to enjoy yourself, think again. Yes, you have to earn enough to live on but motivating yourself to get out of bed in the morning is far more complicated.

The Observer writer Katherine Whitehorn once wrote: “Find out what you like doing and get someone to pay you for doing it.” Good advice. We all know job satisfaction is key to motivation.

But suppose you are doing something you have always enjoyed but have recently lost the will to creep out from under the duvet? Or your team has recently started exhibiting, to put it politely, lacklustre performances?

If the results of last year’s annual CIO survey by recruitment firm Harvey Nash are to be believed, CIOs are not motivated by money but by challenges, having a say in strategic planning and the ensuing job satisfaction.

The survey, which questioned several hundred CIOs and IT directors, also found that CIOs want more challenging and business focused responsibilities, rather than bigger pay cheques and they are prepared to move jobs to get them.

The advice to those CIOs who felt stuck in a rut and demotivated was to try to expand their roles by getting more involved, being curious, listening, developing their people, gaining the trust of colleagues and understanding their business and its markets. It’s a fairly straightforward plan of action and one that the most successful – and motivated – IT directors are following anyway.

But IT directors are not the only ones motivated by challenges and job satisfaction. If your team is demotivated and not delivering the results that you need, you may need to fire up their enthusiasm.

Motivation is a particularly difficult subject at this time of year and enthusing your team may be harder than usual. Fresh from summer holidays, rested but having had time to think about their roles and responsibilities, many may be longing for a different role or feel bored with the same old problems and issues. It is a cliché but they may feel they need a fresh challenge.

If you are sympathetic to their mood but unwilling to let them spend September mooning about the sun kissed beaches they have just left, it is up to you to ignite that spark again. While team-building, outward-bound exercises in Wales might not be the answer, a few one-on-one sessions may be in order. If nothing else, have a look at the way in which you are managing the team and see whether or not you can up your game.

According to the Hawthorne Effect, research from the 1930s, even the very fact that you are paying more attention to the team can increase productivity and effectiveness. The Hawthorne Effect proved that employees are motivated by emotional factors, like getting attention, being included and in sharing responsibility rather than by hard cash – just like CIOs.

That isn’t to say you should fob off good employees with a few meetings about their progress, rather than a pay rise if they deserve it. But often showing just how important they are to the team and finding out if they can add more or something different to the organisation is enough to kick start them after the summer break.

A year ago this column looked at the lack of women in IT and asked whether anything was being done at the school age level to make IT a more attractive career option.

Now faced with a serious IT skills shortage on the not very distant horizon, e-skills UK is ramping up its work in schools using IT clubs and particularly targeting girls.

Jobs in IT are forecast to grow at 5-8 per cent more than the average UK employment rate over the next 10 years and currently only one in five of people in IT are women.

But it will have its work cut out. A recent poll – the Workforce Boredom Index – carried out by the government backed Training and Development Agency, found that IT is seen as the fifth most boring job market a graduate can go into; with only administration, manufacturing and sales and marketing coming in as more boring.

Mind you, the same poll found that teaching is the most interesting and as we all know, teachers are leaving that profession in droves – driven out by time consuming administration that leaves them little time to teach. Teaching was a profession where traditionally women were in the majority. Maybe all these ex-teachers will all go into IT and solve the lack of women in the workforce and the developing skills crisis.