by Esther Schindler

The Meetings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Aug 16, 20074 mins

Oh, sorry. That should be beatings. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. Or so it would appear—because a new report from NetPro indicates that, contrary to popular wisdom, experienced IT professionals don’t burn out over time; instead, their job satisfaction increases.

Here’s the details. At the NetPro 2007 Directory Experts Conference (DEC) held this spring, the company surveyed 314 of the 600+ attendees about trends in active directory management and IT behavior. There’s plenty of meat in the company’s 23-page white paper, which tracks adoption of PowerShell, SharePoint, MOM, Exchange, SQL Server and other such tools.

I could probably write a whole blog entry about the techie stuff, especially since I’m a fool for any well-written trends report. But what really captured my attention was the surprising happiness of these techies with their lot in life — and the attributes that were most important to that happiness.

In particular: survey respondents report substantially higher satisfaction with their jobs than average US workers; more than 74% are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. And here’s the kicker: the more experience they have, the happier they are. “Only 50% of respondents with less than one year of experience expressed satisfaction,” says the report, “as compared to 82% for respondents with more than 10 years of experience.”

I discussed this item with Gil Kirkpatrick, CTO of NetPro. The company sliced and diced the results to try to figure out what made the more experienced directory/infrastructure specialists happier than the (relatively) wet-behind-the-ears employees. The happiest conference attendees work for software vendors and have a title of system/business analyst—which implies a lot of job responsibility. Those with the lowest job satisfaction have a job title including the word “adminstrator” and those who worked in consulting organizations and government IT organizations.

Still, that doesn’t explain everything. We could make guesses about the nature of the job—Kirkpatrick explained that these techies manage many tasks simultaneously, making it a great career for those who hate to do the same thing over and over but a hard slog for beginners—but it still leaves me wondering. Maybe you can suggest a few answers that would explain this… and we can figure out how and if this wisdom can be applied to your own staff.

However, there’s another positive component involved: the tools that make the DEC attendees smile. As the report commented, “The answers that most respondents gave in an open-ended question about the best aspects of their jobs would thrill their bosses.” The best attributes of the job were:

  • Working with new and exciting technologies
  • Constant challenges and new experiences
  • Continuous opportunities to learn and gain new skills

How many of those attributes would your IT staff use to describe their jobs? (Count that as a personal essay question. Show your work—even if you don’t show it to me.)

You’ll also be heartened by the survey respondents wishlist items. According to the report, “Getting better tools and automation topped the wish list by far, accounting for more than 20% of responses and beating the higher pay by two-to-one.” If you want to make the IT staff happier, implies this report, buy them tools. You can even put off their raises, as long as the tools lower their personal stress level and automate the boring parts of their jobs.

Naturally, these results must be taken in context. Not every IT department reflects the concerns of the self-selected infrastructure specialists (at least to the degree of caring enough about it to attend a conference). But I’ve seen similar trends in other segments of the computer industry, such as software developers. If you give them the tools they crave, these folks will be more than satisfied with their jobs, and they’ll give you all the dedication you could ask for.