by Meridith Levinson

Can’t Buy Them Love: IT Leaders’ Compensation Increases but Job Satisfaction Plummets

Mar 26, 20084 mins

Research from the latest Harvey Nash CIO survey also reveals IT leaders feel less strategic and influential inside their companies, even though they're making progress on the IT-business alignment front

The old adage “money doesn’t buy happiness” proves true in a new survey of IT leaders commissioned by executive search firm Harvey Nash USA and sponsored by KPMG. The survey, which drew 258 responses from CIOs, CTOs, senior- and mid-level IT managers and other C-level executives, found that IT leaders’ compensation is on an upward trajectory.


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According to the results, 75 percent of respondents earn a base salary of more than $125,000 per year; that’s up from 70 percent last year and 36 percent two years ago. And 56 percent of respondents say that they earn an annual salary of more than $150,000, compared with 41 percent last year. At the top, 29 percent of respondents report earning more than $200,000 per year, compared to 19 percent last year. Harvey Nash’s findings look similar to the compensation data from our 2008 State of the CIO research.

In addition to increases in base salaries, more IT leaders are getting retention bonuses. The number of IT leaders receiving such bonuses has skyrocketed in two years, from six percent to 22 percent, says the Harvey Nash survey.

No wonder that 80 percent of respondents report being satisfied with their compensation.

Despite the money they’re making, fewer IT leaders say they’re satisfied with their jobs this year. In 2007, 88 percent of IT leaders called their jobs fulfilling, compared with 79 percent this year. And one-fifth of respondents (21 percent) don’t find their jobs fulfilling.

Consequently, 28 percent of respondents say they’re hunting for a new job and the 54 percent who aren’t actively looking say they’d entertain calls from recruiters.

One factor fueling that eagerness to switch jobs: CIOs feel less influential in their roles and in their organizations, according to the survey. The number of CIOs who view their role as becoming “more strategic” to their company declined from 80 percent last year to 69 percent this year.

What’s more, fewer IT leaders now report to the CEO. Only 29 percent of the Harvey Nash survey respondents say their boss is the CEO, compared with 36 percent last year. (In our research, 41 percent of State of the CIO survey respondents call the CEO boss.)

The number of IT leaders who sit on the management team, 37 percent, also declined this year, by 10 percent. The majority of respondents (54 percent) aren’t members of their companies’ executive management teams. (According to our 2008 State of the CIO research, 71 percent of IT executives report sitting on their companies’ executive management teams.)

Nevertheless, CIOs think they’re making strides on the IT-business alignment front: Some 73 percent of respondents believe their IT departments are integrated “well enough” with the business, according to the Harvey Nash survey.

CIO compensation is increasing at the same time that CIOs feel their influence is waning because employers see compensation as a way to attract talent—especially from larger companies—and address turnover, says Anna Frazzetto, Harvey Nash’s vice president of technology solutions. According to the survey, CIO turnover hovers around nine percent per year. The survey also shows that companies might improve CIO retention if they gave their CIOs more responsibility as opposed to more money: One-fourth of CIOs surveyed say they’d be happier with their jobs if they had more management responsibility and decision-making authority.

CIOs who want to improve their standing with the executive management team should be proactive, says Frazzetto. “The role of the CIO has always been perceived as reactionary to the demands of the company,” she says. “The more CIOs can switch that, and be more proactive and talk about the technologies that can help their companies get a competitive advantage, they more they’ll find themselves engaged at a strategic level.”

They survey was conducted online between November 15, 2007 and January 18, 2008. See Harvey Nash’s website for full survey results.