How can IT managers keep employees engaged and prevent job turnover by ensuring their teams are happy at work? New research from Robert Half can help point the way.

Let’s start with a question: What’s so important about ensuring that every employee on your IT team stays happy at work? Isn’t it enough for employees to simply be good at what they do and make good on their deliverables for the company?

A happy employee is a better employee

Robert Half’s happiness study found that a happy employee is in fact a better employee, and thus helps both you as a manager and your company as a whole. This was found to be as true for professionals in the tech industry as for any other field or industry, regardless of location. The study reports what a growing body of research has also validated: that when you have happier employees on the job, you’ll be working with people who are not only more engaged and more loyal, but also more creative and productive than employees who are less satisfied.

After surveying more than 12,000 professionals in North America from a wide range of industries including technology, we were able to determine how IT stacks up in terms of workplace happiness.

Looking at the study results, several areas stand out for IT managers when considering drivers of job satisfaction for their teams. Compared to professionals in other industries, more IT employees feel that they are:

  • Regularly learning new things at work (65% IT versus 54% industries overall)
  • Satisfied with their work-life balance (73% IT versus 66% industries overall)
  • Paid appropriately based on their efforts and achievements at work (66% IT versus 55% industries overall)
  • Able to influence important decisions in their work (63% IT versus 51% industries overall)
  • Get the chance to be creative in their job (58% IT versus 47% industries overall)
  • Receive constructive feedback on their performance (58% IT versus 48% industries overall)
  • Appreciated for their efforts at work (66% IT versus 58% industries overall)

While IT professionals had higher percentages in each of the above areas compared with the overall study, there is still clearly room for improvement. For example, this data shows that more than one-third of IT talent surveyed is not regularly receiving new learning opportunities at their company, more than one-quarter are not satisfied with their work-life balance, and nearly half don’t get the chance during work time to be creative.

Learn more about the latest IT hiring trends, such as starting salary projections, in the Robert Half Salary Guide.

Here are some specific findings of the Robert Half study on the managerial benefits of having employees in your company who are happy at work:

  • More resilience and loyalty. Happy employees have been found to roll with the punches and stay on the job for a longer time period. Lower turnover means that you as a manager retain the institutional knowledge of the employee, and you’ll also reduce the amount of time and resources needed for hiring and training.
  • Higher quality of work. Happiness in the workplace has been shown to produce superior performance at work for both individuals and teams. Since an employee who is feeling good on the job cares more about the work than those who are not, the former will put in more effort and as a result be more productive.
  • Less employee illness and absenteeism. Put simply, a happy employee is just healthier than an unhappy one, both physically and mentally. As a manager, you benefit from having happy and healthy team members since they will miss less work due to sickness — and your company will benefit too.

How IT managers can make their teams happier

Following are some strategies you can use to help more of your employees feel better about their job and more satisfied at work:

Empower your staff. While IT employees, as mentioned above, fare better than those in other industries as far as their ability to influence important decisions in their work, there are still more than one-third of IT respondents (37 percent) who don’t feel that they have enough influence in their company. To address these employees, consider helping them gain strength in these areas:

  • Building confidence in their decisions
  • Developing critical skills to make more meaningful contributions
  • Being more invested in their job

Regularly seeking employees’ feedback is another way of nurturing their personal commitment to the job. IT professionals want the satisfaction of knowing their ideas are heard and, when possible, acted on. Your goal as an IT manager should be to make yourself available for input and make sure team members know it’s OK to take smart risks by stretching their problem-solving muscles.

Show appreciation for effort. Approximately one-third (34 percent) of IT employees surveyed indicated they don’t feel appreciated for their contributions at work. This is an opportunity to increase workplace happiness staring you right in the face. As an IT manager, you can improve this percentage by showing your staff that you sincerely appreciate their dedication. This can often be as simple as just recognizing their progress by saying thank you for their hard work. Your acts of basic gratitude can help to foster positive emotions on your team.

Why bother with saying thanks? Everyone likes being praised, but there’s also a scientific reason. According to the study, when people feel appreciated, it prompts their brains to make them feel generally happier. When offering praise, be sure that it is not only sincere, but is also very specific to a particular effort the employee made. Timeliness is important too — don’t wait until the moment has passed to express your appreciation. Say something as close to the time of the effort as possible (ideally that same day), rather than delaying your positive feedback.

Support work-life flexibility. Taming the juggle between personal and professional responsibilities day in and day out is another way to make workers feel better, and in the process less stressed. Tech professionals report the best level of work-life balance out of all industries in the study. But more than one-quarter (27 percent) of tech employees are not satisfied with their current level of work-life balance. To help these employees enjoy more balance, IT managers can encourage people on their teams to take breaks during slow periods at work and explore any flexible benefit options that your company offers.

Lead by example, showing people you support their work-life balance as well as your own. Small steps like leaving the office at a decent hour, avoiding late-night emailing and texting to your team, and truly unplugging from business during your vacations will show your staff that you’re serious about protecting your downtime as well as theirs.

Provide opportunities for camaraderie. One area where IT employees didn’t score much higher than other industries was in the area of friendships at work. Tech employees’ experience in this realm essentially mirrored those in the study as a whole, with around a third (34 percent) expressing that they do not have good friends in the office.

As an IT manager, you may want to address this shortfall in your employees’ professional support system if it aligns with the companies in the study. Having a sense of camaraderie can improve employee happiness by boosting cooperation and communication on teams. In fact, Robert Half’s research found that of the total study population, people who report having positive relationships with others on their team were 2.5 times more likely to be happy on the job than those who don’t. Every happy employee counts!

Managers can create in-house opportunities for employees to forge and strengthen bonds with their coworkers. Whether it’s a group lunch, one day a month devoted to a team-bonding event, or a holiday gathering in the conference room, your influence in helping your team develop positive workplace relationships will pay dividends across the board.

As you make strides in helping your IT team “get happy” at work, remember to factor yourself into the equation. Use the principles discussed here to stay engaged in your own experience as an IT manager. Collaborate with your leadership team as needed to increase your areas of decision-making and empowerment, solicit positive feedback and appreciation, keep your life balanced through healthy practices, and build your alliances across the company. As Robert Half’s research reveals, managers’ moods play a pivotal role in how their employees feel. Cultivating your own happiness habits can help your whole IT team feel better — and do better — at work.