Career Watch: Your staff wants interesting work

Top Job: Software Engineers Are Back

It wasn't too long ago that software engineering was being written off as a viable career option for college graduates in the U.S. But things have turned around enough for jobs site CareerCast to declare it the best job in 2011.

CareerCast looked at 200 job titles across several industries, ranking them according to five criteria: work environment, physical demands, outlook, income and stress. Here's how CareerCast explained the resurgence of software engineering: "A proliferation of companies making applications for smartphones and tablets, along with the push to develop 'cloud' software hosted entirely online, has made the job market for software engineers broader and more diverse. And a diverse job market brings improvements in stress factors such as growth potential and competitiveness, as workers become less beholden to employers or vulnerable to outsourcing."

Also in the top 10: computer systems analyst, at No. 5.

What IT Workers Want

If you want to motivate your IT staffers, give them interesting work. That approach would work best with younger employees, but it's effective with older people as well, according to a survey conducted by Forrester Research. In fact, the only thing that was more motivating for older workers was a sense of job security, which could come from statements a company makes or its "history of avoiding outsourcing, or implementing layoffs only as a last resort." For 86% of workers 45 and older, job security was chosen as one of the most important factors for motivation or as one that had a significant impact. Those younger than 45 put it 10th, with just 40% saying it was one of the most important factors or a significant factor. That's not a big surprise, of course: Older people naturally feel less resilient than the young. Other areas on which the older and younger groups didn't see eye to eye -- employee development and the threat of disciplinary action for poor performance -- are also fairly easy to understand (younger workers are more interested in professional development, and older people are more fearful of disciplinary action). The only other factor with a significant deviation was the desire for one's work to have a broader purpose, in a way that improves the community, industry or conditions outside of the company. Older workers cited that as a motivating factor more frequently than younger people did.

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