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What do IT workers want?

Stephanie Wilkinson | April 8, 2014
While traditional incentives like salary and benefits still rule, IT staffers are placing more importance on intangibles such as corporate culture, challenging work and recognition -- a trend that employers ignore at their peril.

Why these factors, and why now?

"In our recovering economy, IT workers are growing more confident," says Shravan Goli, president of IT staffing firm Dice, which noted the importance of intangible rewards in its own recent salary survey. "The job market is good, with a lot more jobs out there. Folks are less worried about retention.

"Good pay is still necessary for retaining workers," he continues, "but it's no longer sufficient. These days, employees are putting a greater emphasis on career ambition and personal growth."

At the same time, the nature of IT work is shifting, demanding a different mix of skills and traits. Where it once was desirable to be a master of a particular technology, today's projects often require high degrees of collaboration, says John Reed, senior executive director of IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology. The ideal worker has a balance of tech skills and people skills, he says, so it's not surprising that workplaces where people have the opportunity to acquire or use collaboration skills are gaining favor.

Respect, trust and fulfillment

Marty Rosensweig has had a long and successful career in IT. Beginning as a self-proclaimed "Beltway bandit" in 1973, he worked for years at American Management Systems (AMS) in a variety of roles. He left in 2002 and now works for a technology consulting company called ECSTeam as a senior consultant. What matters most to him in his work is the chance to continually reinvent himself.

"I'm at a point in my life where I'm not looking to get promoted but to be challenged," he says. "I want to get something done. I want exciting and interesting work. I'm not really looking to make a million bucks."

Even in his earlier years, Rosensweig says, money wouldn't have been his only, or necessarily his primary, motivator. Much higher on his needs list were being recognized for his skills and having the opportunity to deploy them in the company of people he respected.

For instance, during his time at AMS, the company recognized Rosensweig for his contributions as a skilled technician — and not always with tangible rewards. "Those 'attaboys' and title promotions — they go a long way," he says.

Though a generation younger, Andy Dillbeck shares Rosensweig's views. A Web and database developer at JL Warranty, Dillbeck says the morale boosters his company dreams up create a corporate culture that has kept him content in his first job out of college.

Small perks, like impromptu smoothie runs and a modest stipend for carpoolers, add up, he says. Even more important, he adds, is the feeling that others trust his skills and the understanding that the company will invest in developing them.

 

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