by Meridith Levinson

CIOs’ Job Satisfaction Increases Despite Recession

Aug 21, 20094 mins

In a recession, most IT executives would rather have a so-so job than no job, according to a survey from ExecuNet. A separate survey also shows career optimism growing among the IT rank-and-file.

Despite having to cope with massive budget cuts, salary freezes and demoralized staffs, most employed IT executives are more satisfied with their jobs this year than they have been in previous years, according to the results of a job satisfaction survey conducted by ExecuNet.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the 306 IT executives who responded to the survey said they were satisfied with their jobs. That’s an 11 percent increase over 2008, when 286 IT leaders responded to the survey. In 2007, only 41 percent of IT executives reported being happy with their jobs even though the economy was arguably much stronger then than it is now.

[ See how CIOs’ job satisfaction has changed: Can’t Buy Them Love and IT Leaders Can’t Get No Job Satisfaction. ]

IT executives cited work they enjoy (checked by 13 percent), a good relationship with their bosses (12.5 percent), and a comfy fit with their employers (10.2 percent) as the primary reasons for job satisfaction.

Among the 36 percent of IT leaders who indicated that they aren’t happy with their jobs, their top reasons were limited advancement opportunities (noted by 14 percent), compensation (11.3 percent) and lack of challenge (10 percent).

The Economy’s Effect on Job Satisfaction

ExecuNet’s president and chief economist Mark Anderson says it’s not uncommon for employed executives’ job satisfaction to rise when the economy is in the pits. It’s not that senior leaders are any more content with their jobs, he says. It’s just that a bad economy makes them realize that a so-so job is better than no job at all.

“People become happier with their jobs when the grass on the other side of the fence looks more like a mud flat,” says Anderson. “In 2008, as the economy started to turn [down], satisfaction started to rise.”

Also noteworthy, however: The same executives polled also indicated that they’re more receptive to taking calls about potential job opportunities from recruiters. Similarly, the number of executives who think their companies are working hard to retain top talent has declined.

Executives’ responses to questions about calls from recruiters and their companies’ retention practices indicate that even though the majority say they’re satisfied with their jobs now, they’re going to be ready to hop when the economy rebounds, notes Anderson. And according to a speech today from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, that rebound could be soon.

IT Leaders Compared with Other Functional Execs

IT leaders aren’t the only functional executives expressing an increase in their job satisfaction. According to the ExecuNet survey, job satisfaction rose overall among the 3,187 executives polled—from 61 percent in 2008 to 70 percent this year. But IT executives are among the least satisfied of all functional execs.

The only functional leaders who ranked less satisfied than IT executives were engineering execs, 60 percent of whom said they were satisfied, and sales leaders, 59 percent of whom said they were satisfied.

Executives in marketing, HR, consulting and finance reported the highest levels of job satisfaction.

If anything positive emerges from the recession, it’s that the weak economy is making some people grateful for what they have.

IT Professionals’ Outlook

IT professionals’ outlook on the economy and their futures with their employers is on the rise, if not also their job satisfaction. According to the latest IT Employee Confidence Index survey from IT staffing firm Technisource, IT workers’ confidence inched 6.1 percentage points to 45.8 during the second quarter of 2009, up from an all-time low of 39.7 during the first quarter of the year. (The IT Employee Confidence Index doesn’t measure IT workers’ job satisfaction per se, but rather their outlook on the economy, their employers’ futures, their sense of job security and their confidence or lack of confidence in their ability to find a new job.)

The number of tech workers who think the economy is improving jumped from six percent in the first quarter to 19 percent in the second quarterly. Conversely, fewer tech workers think the economy is getting worse. That number decreased from 66 percent in the first quarter to 48 percent in the second.

As economic optimism increases among IT pros, so too does their outlook on their ability to find a new job and their employers’ future. 40 percent of tech workers feel positive about finding a new job, compared with 37 percent in the first quarter. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of them are confident in the future of their current employers, up from 58 percent last quarter.

Technisource’s IT Employment Report for the second quarter of 2009 was conducted by Harris Interactive in April, May and June. Harris polled 8,192 adults, 497 of whom work in IT.