IT pros lament: Low pay, no perks

Non-competitive pay is the main reason for high turnover rates among IT pros in their 20s and early 30s.

That’s the consensus from dozens of comments posted on Network World’s Web site in response to an article published over the holidays entitled, “The CIO’s Lament: 20-something techies who quit after one year.”

In this article, Harry Fox Agency (HFA) CIO and Vice President Louis Trebino said that one of his biggest challenges is dealing with high turnover rates on his Web development team, particularly among Java developers in their 20s. He said all six members of his Java development team have less than one year’s worth of experience with HFA, which is the nation’s leading provider of rights management, licensing and royalty services for the music industry.

Trebino said that critical IT knowledge “keeps walking out the door. We invest in training people and bringing them up to speed to where they need to be, and boom they’re gone. That has been my biggest struggle and concern.”

Network World readers who commented on the article had little sympathy for Trebino.

“It seems fairly clear that the VP has the answers he needs, he just doesn’t want to act on them,” one reader said. “The obvious ones are the pay, the workload and the ability to work from home. Those should all be easy to fix.”

Proclaimed another reader: “This guy’s employees are leaving because they’re not paid competitively [and] their boss doesn’t listen to them when they say that crappy code should be rewritten…They have no opportunity for advancement, no flexibility with their jobs, they have no incentives to stay like pension plans or stocks, and he thinks they should be grateful for not having to work around the clock.”

Another reader said bluntly: “If you are losing your people to other employers that pay more and offer better benefits, you either have to match market or settle for staff that are either not good enough to get a better job or too unmotivated to find a better job.”

RELATED: Can you keep your IT staff in 2012?

Overwhelmingly, readers said that CIOs should pay market rates to their IT staff to avoid turnover.

“I manage an IT team. There are plenty of developers everywhere if you pay them in line with local wages [and] if you treat them reasonably,” claimed an IT executive.

“I never set out to switch jobs after a year, but in each situation where this took place, it just seemed like the right move,” wrote one 20-something IT professional. “A 30 percent increase in salary is tough to resist, as well as the ability to learn more.”

But there are other things CIOs can do in addition to raising pay in order to keep good employees.

“If you’re losing so many employees, it’s not them, it’s you,” wrote a 30-year-old IT pro who has stayed with his employer for six years because he feels appreciated, has had the opportunity to learn new specialties, and likes his co-workers. “After promotions and a bad economy, I’m decidedly underpaid for my position, but it’s about more than money for me here,” he added.

A female reader offered a different suggestion to Trebino: Hire mothers. “We are supreme in staying with you, having no attitudes, and some of us are really smart and technical,” she said.

Many readers said U.S. companies no longer have loyalty to their IT staff, so they shouldn’t expect loyalty from their IT staff.

“After the 2008 business crisis, some of the 20-year-olds got it, and they know they have to be responsible for their own survival for no one else is, especially from a company,” said one older reader, who pointed to layoffs and outsourcing as reasons for the shift. “So, they have adjusted and learned to take matters into their own hands.”

Several older readers cheered the bravery of their 20-something co-workers to so readily change jobs for new opportunities.

“I, too, cheer these young people in their choice to go where they are rewarded either monetarily or with other incentives,” an older IT pro said. “I feel that the management level is so far disconnected on what motivates the younger workforce today. No longer is money the only incentive for people to stick around. Old ways of thinking need to leave the work arena and be replaced with more creativity.”

Wrote one weary IT pro: “If I were still in this reported age group, I, too, would bolt if offered a better deal. I spent years at various companies that turned around and laid me off as soon as they needed to give the CEO a bonus.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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