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IT Professionals Respond to Flash and Cash

May 1, 1999
Related Topics: Compensation Design and Communication, Featured Article
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Desperate times often call for drastic measures, and few know this better than those who are trying to recruit information technology workers in today’s tight market. Just how far are some organizations willing to go to acquire the cutting edge talent they need? To extreme lengths, according to David Weldon, senior editor of Computerworld, a Framingham, Massachusetts-based IT news publication.

In fact, the bar on what companies will do to wow potential IT workers may have just been raised again. Computerworld’s April 5, 1999, issue reported that Mirronex Technologies Inc., an IT consulting firm in Skillman, New Jersey, used the appeal of a new BMW to seal the deal with IT talent they needed to launch an e-commerce project. "They needed five highly skilled ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) professionals right away, and they were willing to pay dearly for those skills," says Weldon. And dearly they did pay when they gave away five customized BMWs worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $45-50,000 each. Try to compete with that.

This radical recruiting approach may be the start of a new trend of increasingly aggressive hiring tactics—tactics that companies will employ to gain a head start on hiring IT professionals with ultra-edge skills, a term that’s being redefined almost weekly. Weldon confirms that skill demand is already starting to shift, and hiring companies are responding accordingly. "A year ago, SAP professionals were in peak demand, commanding the highest salaries in the IT market. In a year and a half, they’ve fallen from first to sixth place (based on Computerworld’s "Mid-year Salary Survey" (March 29, 1999).

Weldon says demand now favors professionals skilled in networking and database management, particularly ERP professionals who have the skills to lead companies into what he refers to as the "big frontier" known as e-commerce. "Most companies are already on the Web, but few are actually conducting transactions and making money from it."

Organizations like Mirronex, who want to jump into the e-commerce game quickly, aren’t wasting time with lengthy hiring cycles. They’re targeting the staff they need, offering them top dollar, flashy perks and an accelerated hiring process.

And evidently, the focus on flash and cash is working. According to Computerworld’s 1999 Jobs Forecast survey (January 4, 1999), managers claim 74 percent of IT staffers leave for better compensation. And as technology becomes more complex and sophisticated, which it no doubt will, HR can expect salaries to increase again this year.

Part of the jump in salaries can be attributed to an increasing shift toward business center applications like ERP, SAP and Peoplesoft, skills used on projects that, according to Weldon, call for IT workers who are well versed in both business and technology. Weldon feels this requirement for dual skills may lead to an increase in full-time hiring of IT talent versus contracting and outsourcing arrangements, which he believes are more long-term solutions.

"If you’re contracting everything out, or sending a lot of your business to India, for example, you’re putting critical business functions in the hands of someone else, and you’re giving up a lot of control. IT professionals today need to have a solid understanding of your business."

Workforce, May 1999, Vol. 78, No. 5, p. 56.

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