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Salaries stall, workloads rise, and IT gets squeezed

Pressed for higher productivity, yet pinched by flat wages, many IT workers are ready to pop.

April 5, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - It's not easy to stay positive in the Great Recession, protracted recovery or whatever phrase du jour is used to describe the current global economy. That's why the mood in the IT department at The Sedona Group in Moline, Ill., stands out like a ray of sunshine on a dreary day.

It's not that this IT group has escaped the squeeze that the IT staffs in most industries are feeling. Although there have been no layoffs within Sedona's IT group, total compensation has taken a hit, and workloads have grown exponentially, says David Buzzell, CIO at the workforce management solutions provider.

That experience is mirrored in IT organizations throughout the country, according to Computerworld's 2010 Salary Survey, which paints a picture of IT professionals who are pressed for higher productivity, pinched by fixed wages and very nearly ready to explode.

According to the survey, everything is wrong-side up: Bonuses and benefits are way down, and workloads and work hours have increased. Meanwhile, salaries are stagnant (rising just a microscopic 0.7% on average), and -- not surprisingly -- satisfaction is on the wane.

"More responsibilities -- with pay cuts and more-costly benefits -- does not make employees happy," says a technical services manager at a home furnishings retailer, who asked to remain anonymous. His bonus, which had represented 20% to 30% of his annual pay, was eliminated, he says, and his salary was frozen a few years back. Vacation was also cut, with workers required to earn it throughout the year, and they are now charged higher health insurance premiums.

But Sedona's IT group has met its workload and compensation challenge with creativity and a recognition of what it takes to alleviate anxiety and maintain morale. For instance, the IT staff has looked at taking full advantage of low-cost benefits, such as training opportunities that are included with its Microsoft Developer Network subscription, exploring new projects or investigating different programming techniques.

The staff also looks for opportunities to tap into the special interests of employees, which "makes the research and testing more interesting for them and gives them something positive to concentrate on," Buzzell says.

He is also careful not to cut low-cost programs that provide a large boost to staff morale. For instance, Sedona has a PC purchase program through which it offers 18 months of 0% financing to people who want to purchase a home computer. In addition, "as computers come out of production, we offer older computers to staff members and their families for no cost," Buzzell says. "Or within the IT department, we will use these older computers to often upgrade a staff member's computer at home."



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