Flat pay turns IT workers into job seekers

Computerworld poll shows most IT staffers haven't seen a pay raise in at least six months, and one out of three is looking to jump ship

Companies have cut salaries and training, held back on bonuses and piled more work on employees in response to the economic downturn. These tactics may well be pushing many IT professionals to go job hunting, according to Computerworld's latest salary poll.

More than one third (36%) of the 343 respondents to Computerworld's recent poll said they are looking to move to a new employer in the next six months. And 69% reported they had not received a pay raise in the past six months. The poll was conducted during the last two weeks in September.

For employers, the warning could not be more clear. As the economy improves, the most able IT workers may leave for something better.

Further results from the salary poll explain why employees want to bolt.

Frozen Salaries

Have you received a pay raise in the past 6 months?

Yes: 31%
No: 69%

Exclusive Computerworld survey; September 2010; 343 IT respondents

Satisfaction Stagnates

Compared with 6 months ago, has your satisfaction with your compensation...?

Increased: 18%
Decreased: 32%
Remained the same: 50%

Exclusive Computerworld survey; September 2010; 343 IT respondents

When asked to compare their current salary with the salary they received in 2008, only 54% of the respondents said their salary was higher; 26% said there was no change in their pay, and one out of five respondents said they were making less money than they were two years ago. (Compare your pay with that of your peers with Computerworld's interactive salary tool.)

John Moore, a director of enterprise software development at a manufacturing firm, says he expects that if the U.S. economy manages to avoid a double-dip recession, IT budgets will free up early next year, and companies will begin catching up on neglected IT projects and hire new workers.

For those companies that don't want to lose their IT staffers, Moore's advice is to ensure that IT employees are recognized as valued contributors.

"It's not about money -- it's about employee appreciation, it's about open communications, and it's really about ensuring that your IT staff is invested in what you are doing," said Moore.

Still an employer's market

Yet it won't be easy for job seekers, even if the economy picks up. The recession has changed how employers hire workers. Job ads are much more specific and often include a list of exacting technical requirements, said IT professionals interviewed for this story.

"Employers are much more particular about whom they are going to hire -- it's very much an employer's market," said Bob Hibbits, a network engineer at a telecommunications company.

Hibbits said job-seekers should expect a technical interview, probably over the telephone, before a face-to-face interview. "Employers are only going to look at very well-qualified people," he said.

In years past, it may have been good enough to have six to eight out of a list of 10 technical skills wanted by an employer, but now "there are enough people who don't have work that they can find someone who has all" the qualifications being sought, said Hibbits.

Losing Ground?

Please compare your current salary to the salary you earned in 2008. Is your current salary...?

Higher: 54%
Lower: 20%
The same: 26%

Exclusive Computerworld survey; September 2010; 343 IT respondents

Itchy Feet

Are you looking to move to a new employer in the next 6 months?

Yes: 36%
No: 64%

Exclusive Computerworld survey; September 2010; 343 IT respondents

Hibbits said he has also seen more of a trend in hiring contract employees before bringing them on full time.

Steve Watson, an executive recruiter at Stanton Chase in Dallas, said it's not surprising that Computerworld's salary poll found that more than a third of IT workers surveyed are interested in leaving their current jobs, but he says it is not all due to dissatisfaction with salary and bonuses. "Some of that is lack of career advancement," he said. In Computerworld's recent salary poll, 46% of respondents said they are less satisfied with their advancement opportunities than they were six months ago, compared with only 14% who said they are more satisfied.

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