ITPro Today‘s survey of IT professionals’ compensation, training, and job satisfaction shows some marked differences from those done before the COVID-19 and current economic conditions. For example, in 2022, 29% of respondents said they are dissatisfied with their total compensation, versus just 18% in a 2018 InformationWeek poll.
This year’s survey found that improving skills was a top priority for IT professionals, with security skills being the most desired, by cloud, leadership/professional, AI, databases, and general IT management skills.
Those findings make perfect sense, said Dan Nguyen, IT operations manager at Sage, a large business software company. “We’re in the age of AI and cloud computing, so IT professionals are understandably looking for ways to keep up and advance in their careers,” Nguyen said. “I’ve done it myself by working to improve my skills on AWS. It’s more general education for me, but I know that if I want to change jobs, it will help me.”
It’s not surprising that IT pros are seeking to improve security skills, along with cloud and professional leadership skills, added James Stanger, chief technology evangelist at CompTIA, a nonprofit association for IT professionals. “Moving to the cloud securely requires some pretty serious leadership,” Stanger explained. “You can’t move to the cloud unless your leaders are asking the right questions and making the right choices. IT professionals who are learning skills in this area are being proactive.”
Organizations must realize it’s critical to enable employees to advance their abilities, said Satish Gannu, chief product and technology officer at Korn Ferry Digital, a global workforce-focused consulting firm. Korn Ferry is currently developing what it calls an intelligence cloud to make training available within organizations’ work flows. “If you’re engaging in training while at work, you can more easily switch between various tasks to get the training done,” Gannu noted.
In Pursuit of Certifications
One way IT professionals honing their skills are by or renewing certifications. About one in four of the survey respondents did so within the past 12 months, citing greater effectiveness in their current roles and opportunities for advancement both within and outside of their organizations, the survey found.
Survey respondents said the main two reasons they did not pursue certifications were that either work demands didn’t permit time out of the office or their companies lacked budget.
“Companies really need to make it possible [to pursue certifications], because if they don’t, they are at risk of losing employees,” Nguyen said. “I’ve been in the industry for more than 20 years, and if a company wants to advance and hire more skilled [employees]they will find a way to make it possible.”
Stanger agreed. “There is nothing more transformational to an organization than education, but there are plenty of companies that aren’t prioritizing it,” he said. “Not providing the budget or giving people time for training reflects a lack of maturity on the part of the organization.”
Tools Are Lacking
Only 23% of respondents said they have all the tools they need to do a good job, which didn’t come as a surprise to Gannu.
“It’s been the same issue for the last 20 or 30 years,” Gannu said. “There are always newer tools available, but adoption isn’t that easy. For example, the company may have standardized on one tool, but some people prefer another. Companies have certain philosophies and security policies — not to mention budgets — that make it difficult to keep everybody happy.”
Smaller, more nimble companies may have an easier time adopting new tools than larger, more established companies, Gannu added.
While that may be true, Nguyen said all companies must be more flexible, especially when it comes to tools that reduce manual work. He pointed to performance monitoring and visibility tools as some of the most hotly requested. “The better tools you have, the better your job performance and satisfaction,” he said.
About two-thirds of survey respondents said they can typically get their work done in a normal 40- to 45-hour work week. That means that the rest either take longer to get their jobs done or can do their work in less than 40 hours. Sometimes it’s because the scope of the job is too broad or narrow, and sometimes it’s more about the relative experience of the IT employee.
For Most IT Professionals, It’s Really About the Money
As important as training and support are, compensation is the ultimate bellwether of job satisfaction.
That was true in 2018, when 52% of respondents to the InformationWeek IT job salary survey were satisfied with their compensation. It’s true also in this year’s ITPro Today survey, in which 55% said they were satisfied.
Yet, those numbers tell an interesting story because it means that many IT professionals are unhappy with their pay. This year, 29% were dissatisfied with their total compensation.
And while most respondents reported that their salaries had increased in 2021, with the mean increase of 5.2% over 2020, 13% reported a salary decrease. That’s a major difference from 2018, when only 3% of IT staff experienced salary decreases. Of those whose salaries were reduced this year, they cited the company reacting to economic conditions as the main reason.
Although the number of IT professionals that experienced compensation reductions is higher than many would expect, it’s probably due to a combination of pandemic fallout and the economic downturn, Stanger said. He pointed to sectors that have been hitting most heavily, like restaurants and hospitality, as more likely to decrease salaries, at least temporarily.
Yet, IT workers are still in fairly high demand, making the decreases somewhat puzzling. “I think those salary decreases are probably focused on companies that aren’t doing very well, because I’ve been in IT for a long time, and I’ve never seen anybody get a salary decrease,” Gannu said. “Unless you’re talking about a startup, companies tending to at least keep salaries the same. Standard, stable companies pay what they need to pay to retain IT talent.”
On the other end of the spectrum, about half of respondents expect to get a raise or bonus in 2022. Just under half received a bonus last year, with the median bonus amount being $6,000. Twenty-six percent received a bonus of $20,000 or more. For companies that routinely give bonuses, they tend to be important “carrots” for performance, time management, attitude, and retention. And while some may not offer cash bonuses, they may offer stock, which isn’t reflected in the survey.
“Very few companies can give you everything,” Gannu noted. “It’s a matter of priorities. At large, established companies, you may not get to choose the tools you want or like the culture, but you may earn more money and get a bonus. If your priority is learning and growing and money isn’t as important, a smaller, more agile company might be a better fit.”
Those struggles are part of the reason why about one in four IT professionals say they plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months. There are plenty of reasons why, from burnout to the desire for more responsibility or money.
For Stanger, all the findings of the IT job salary survey point to one fact: Companies need to rework their priorities with employees in mind. Whether it’s making training available, increasing automation, rethinking compensation, or just listening more, it’s about putting employees first, he said.
About the authorKaren D. Schwartz is a technology and business writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has written on a broad range of technology topics for publications including CIO, InformationWeek, GCN, FCW, FedTech, BizTech, eWeek and Government Executive.