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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.

"Every time I looked for a job, that's been important," he adds. "At times, I've felt like I was sold a bill of goods; a company promised that kind of supportive culture and then didn't deliver. I keep that in mind with the people I manage now."

Jana Canada has been working in the public sector since the late 1970s. Her current job is as a network administrator for the Sutter County government in California. She has been caught in an unenviable position, where pay remains tight and the quality-of-life benefits are declining. A much-appreciated working schedule that included half-day Fridays was recently axed with little notice, for instance.

What's worse, Canada says, there's a creeping disregard for the skills folks like her have honed over the years — skills that are still key to the smooth functioning of the county's systems.

"Over the last five or six years, we're seeing an environment that turns its nose up at you," Canada says. "Everybody wants to be appreciated. A 'well done!' would mean a lot, especially in a situation where there hasn't been a raise for three or four years. I used to wake up and think, 'What's going to happen today?' But it's harder to sustain that motivation in this environment."

Millennial influence

Now more than ever, companies need to be concerned with how their workplaces are perceived by outsiders, says Jack Cullen, president of IT staffing firm Modis. "Prospective employees are really selective these days, and they can find out a lot more about what's really going on at your company. [The millennial] generation especially: They want to know a lot upfront about your company's culture. They ask good questions, different questions."

Whereas older employees are likely to ask about the project at hand, younger ones ask about softer factors, and "they have the power of social media behind them," Cullen says. "If a company says it has an appreciative environment, job seekers can find out if that's true through backdoor references or online at places like Glassdoor. Transparency is the name of the game now."

In the ongoing arms race for IT talent, the companies that prevail will make cultural changes to stay competitive to the generation now entering the workforce. As Dice's Goli sees it, "those companies that can outline a path forward for their employees — help them migrate to the next level of their growth and connect that to the work of the company — those are the ones that will do best in the employment space."


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