by Julian Goldsmith

Pay now bigger lure than job satisfaction for IT talent

Jul 28, 20114 mins
CareersIT Leadership

If you are on a recruitment drive, the biggest lure is increasingly a generous pay package, rather than what the company can offer in terms of job satisfaction.

A recent Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD) survey of 2000 employees across all departments found over half cited pay as the top reason for wanting to change jobs and this resonates well with the experiences of some IT department heads at the moment.

The report from the CIPD, the industry body that represents HR professionals, suggests that the economic downturn is increasingly eroding employees’ standards of living. Extended pay freezes and job insecurity are causing more people to look for new jobs in the hope of increasing their pay packet.

One IT leader who wished not to be named said: “I don’t think the [CIPD’s] results come as a great surprise. This is especially the case when viewed from a public sector perspective where salaries have been frozen and the possibility of redundancy looms larger than at any point in the recent past. As a result, those with marketable skills are probably looking outside of their organisations, most likely to the private sector, in search of better paid opportunities.”

He went on to say that, within the public sector especially, IT cuts have meant that the IT role has been reduced to a keeping-the-lights-on function with very little opportunity for job satisfaction.

He said: “With consumer price inflation running at 4.2% compared with a 0% pay increase the chance to recoup some of the purchasing power that has been lost by changing jobs is quite attractive. If you are on a recruitment drive, the biggest lure is increasingly a generous pay package, rather than what the company can offer in terms of job satisfaction.”

Other IT leaders have agreed, noting that there is a split between senior roles, who still view job satisfaction as the prime reason for changing jobs and junior roles where a higher pay packet is needed just to keep afloat.

Andrew McManus, IT director at NEC Group said: “For the more senior members of the team, any by this I mean PM’s, BA’s, Architects and Managers, retention of high quality people the primary concern is for job satisfaction and more specifically the feeling of belonging to a business in which they can contribute to the success. “The financial rewards are very important and, you could argue part of this feeling of belonging, but I believe they are still less important as the job satisfaction.”

However McManus conceded that if the job satisfaction wanes then pay will inevitably become a more important factor.

Another IT leader is finding that even among senior IT recruits, pay is the prime directive. Steven Ross, CTO for the Royal College of Physicians is currently recruiting IT staff and said he found pay to be the biggest consideration.

He said: “I would say from my experience over the past several weeks, where we have been trying to recruit an IT Business Analyst and a Senior Analyst Programmer, that pay is a key concern now, over and above job satisfaction and is the main driver for people wanting to change jobs.”

For recruits further down the food-chain though, where the salary band makes it harder to make ends meet, bumping up the pay packet is a must.

McManus said: “It’s far simpler for more junior team members: the primary concern is more likely to be the salary and rewards as it’s unlikely for the job satisfaction to be a strong enough factor. The financial pressures for this group of people is undoubtedly higher at the moment.”

Ross agreed, saying that IT staff are feel they have to change jobs just to stay at the current standard of living. He said: “Interviewees have openly stated that they have to change jobs as they need more money ‘to survive’, particularly when working in London as travel and living costs have increased exponentially and their current employers have by and large implemented an indefinite pay freeze, which leaves staff very little option but to move to increase their earnings, even by as little as 3to 6 per cent and with often better benefits, this can make a significant difference, particularly to those on lower incomes.”

McManus is positive that a high-profile company still has more to attract talented staff than just pay. Varied and extra-ordinary experiences can go some way in offsetting expectations of an increase in pay.

He said: “I also find that because of the nature of the NEC, such as live events with many high profile acts, we attract people on that rather than the financial rewards – I suspect we’re lucky in that respect.”