IT pay stagnates, workforce grows restless

By Mary Brandel, Computerworld |  Business

David Thomas, network administrator at TallyHo Plastics Inc., is feeling a little beat up. In the past year, he's seen his compensation, training opportunities and benefits drop, all while watching his workload increase. He's not overly bitter -- the decisions his employer had to make were fair, considering the downturn, he says. And he sees some positive signs that things will improve in the coming year.

However, while the worst may be over and he no longer fears losing his job, "I do fear it will take much longer to regain lost ground in terms of compensation, benefits and training than it took to lose it," says Thomas. His job satisfaction, he says, has also taken a dive. So although he's not actively seeking a new job, he's not ignoring job possibilities like he used to. And if an opportunity were to arise once the recovery takes hold, he says he would "most definitely" welcome it.

Lucky, but Low

There are likely a lot of people like Thomas in IT today, according to Computerworld's 2009 Salary Survey. The results of our poll of 5,861 IT professionals show that salaries were flat this year, bonuses were way down, and benefits were reduced or eliminated. This year also saw increases in the percentages of respondents reporting canceled projects (35%, compared with 25% last year), training cuts (37% vs. 25%), budget cuts (65% vs. 53%), salary freezes (51% vs. 22%), and hiring freezes (48% vs. 33%). And that's just for the people who remain employed -- 44% of respondents reported permanent layoffs at their companies in the 2009 study, up from 28% in 2008.

It's no wonder that satisfaction is down, even among those who reported feeling lucky just to have a job. Some are like Jean-Sébastien Picard, IT manager at Polycor Inc., who is determined to stay positive despite a 10% pay cut. "I'm always happy at work, and I think it's our job to maintain a good atmosphere," he says. Others, such as Arthur MacLeod, systems administrator at Service Point USA, see silver linings in staff cuts, such as the opportunity to improve time management skills and increase cross-training.

But even for MacLeod, satisfaction is starting to wane. As he has watched colleagues get laid off, his own salary has been flattened, the bonus structure has been reworked, and training funds have been cut. A particular downer was when the company newsletter stopped circulating, since it had been providing state-of-the-company insights.

"Those stopped when the [workforce reductions] came about," MacLeod says. "It made you feel uneasy."

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