December 11, 2000, 1:22 PM — So you want to be a millionaire? Rags-to-riches stories have helped fuel the
American economy, so it's no surprise that many IT professionals are reaching for the
pot of gold at the end of the Internet rainbow. In a prosperous economy where IT
professionals can accumulate wealth, there's renewed interest in having the job fit the
person, not the person fit the job. The magnitude of this social change is not unlike
that of the Industrial Revolution a hundred years ago, when droves of people moved from
farmland to city looking for jobs. Make no mistake: it's still about money.
Even so, people don't leave jobs just because of greed. They might want to remove
themselves from having to work alongside a difficult boss or co-worker, or they might
feel stagnated in their career. And after all, pay for performance isn't a foolproof
way to keep an employee: there's always a limit to how much a company can pay.
Companies are quickly realizing that it takes creative strategies to retain IT
employees and keep them satisfied.
The new IT workforce is reshaping itself in a way that reflects radical shifts in
the workplace. Employers are playing catch-up to the demands of their staffs. "There is
a new social paradigm in America about work and how 'employees' see themselves in work
and in a company," says H. Michael Boyd, an analyst with IDC in Framingham, Mass.
People are leaving traditional companies such as IBM and GE to work at Internet
start-ups knowing both the potential for enormous gain and the risk of walking away
with next to nothing. Career consultants maintain that the time is right for both baby
boomers and generation Xers to take these risks. Because of a booming market, baby
boomer IT professionals have been able to sock away money, allowing them to comfortably
assess embarking on a risky venture that could land them millions. Generation Xers, on
the other hand, have grown up in a high-demand labor market but have watched as their
parents or other family members have been disenfranchised by the corporate structure.
Unwilling to trust corporations with their security, generation Xers are more likely
than their parents were to leave a traditional employer. "Social change is enabling the
baby boomers and generation Xers to move to these dot-com companies," says
Boyd. "People are really very comfortable, and they are looking around saying, 'I want
some of that wealth.' And they can afford to take some risks."
That sense of adventurousness makes the job of retaining IT employees even more
complicated than it was just five years ago. Firms such as Andersen Consulting have
responded to the unusual job market circumstances by implementing strategies to prevent
workers from jumping ship to a dot-com start-up.