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Tech Worker Job Satisfaction Low

September 26, 2006
Related Topics: Retention, Featured Article, Recruitment, Staffing Management
More than half of technology workers recently surveyed aren’t happy with their jobs and are "actively searching for new opportunities," says a study by the Chicago-based Computing Technology Industry Association.

    Meanwhile there are signs that tech workers looking for a new job could have some competition trying to land the best of those positions. The industry, at least temporarily, is getting restocked with available workers in the wake of thousands of job cuts by a handful of big tech companies like Intel Corp., Sun Microsystems and Computer Sciences.

    Other statistics back that up, showing the job market is tighter for tech workers these days than it was in the tech boom years of the late 1990s. Despite that, the tech industry itself claims there is a domestic tech worker shortage and a need for more visas to allow hiring of more foreign nationals to fill positions.

    "The tech industry over the last three, four, five years went through rather rough times with layoffs, and people stayed where they were," says Steven Ostrowski, spokesman for CompTIA. "Now the data shows there is more demand for people with technology skills and wages are going up. People are more willing to start exploring their options."

    The survey noted the responses of 1,000 information technology workers. Twenty-five percent of the respondents work for companies in the IT industry, while 16 percent work in education, 15 percent in government, 8 percent in health care and 7 percent in manufacturing.

    Fifty-eight percent of them said they were looking for a new job, and 73 percent cited higher pay as their primary reason for looking.

    Nearly two-thirds of the IT workers surveyed said they were looking for a different job because their current position holds no advancement opportunity. Another 58 percent said they want a new challenge. The survey showed nearly 60 percent of the workers surveyed had been at their jobs for three or more years.

    Neill Hopkins, vice president of skills development for CompTIA, says growth in the industry is spurring IT workers who have stayed put in their jobs for several years to look for a new job to plug their skills into.

    Some companies will lose IT workers as a result, he says, but will also have access to a strong pool of available IT workers looking for a new job.

    Among the surprise findings of Patrick Thomas Burnes, a researcher who has studied reasons why tech employees leave their jobs, was that IT employers and employees share little loyalty.

    Another was that workers often want to move on when they feel the technologies used by their companies have fallen behind and aren’t competitive. Changes in leadership and accompanying communication styles can also cause an employee to leave, Burnes found.

    Burnes notes that a company loses an estimated $1 million for every 10 professional staffers who leave the organization. For companies to avoid such a scenario, he advises that "open two-way communication" be established and maintained between tech workers and senior managers.

    With such communication in place, he says, problems with leadership, pay, keeping pace with technology, loyalty and communication can emerge and be dealt with before employees get fed up enough to leave.

    CompTIA’s Ostrowski says industry reports from CEOs and IT managers show they’re hiring in specific tech niches such as wireless technology, information security and project management, as well as in servicing personal computers and laptops.

    He still sees some lower-wage tech jobs being taken offshore, with some of those not expected to return. Help-desk IT jobs are considered a starting point for a tech job career path, since those jobs are consistently in demand for over the phone work or via personal contact.

    Among the trends with long-term consequences for domestic IT labor, Ostrowski notes, is the lack of students in the United States pursuing careers in math and science. That is creating a workforce gap as baby boomer IT workers retire, he says.

    He points to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2005 projection that between 2002 and 2012, IT employment in the United States will increase by 68 percent, or 1.5 million jobs. With half that many math and science graduates projected for that period, "that translates to a shortfall for 750,000 jobs if you believe that number," Ostrowski says.

    Another statistic figuring in the mix is lowered unemployment in the IT industry, along with slow wage growth. The Programmers Guild, a labor advocacy group, says that is the result people dropping out of the tech industry to pursue other professions.

    Programmers Guild president Kim Berry has long blamed tech employers for not hiring experienced U.S. techies in favor of hiring and paying lower wages to overseas workers here on work visas. He has adamantly denied that any domestic tech labor shortage exists.

    High-tech industry group AeA disagrees, claiming the tech industry must hire foreign nationals because of a domestic shortage of tech workers. It advocates expansion of the H-1B guest worker visa cap as a way to cope with that issue.

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