IT Workers Happy, Enjoying Upward Trends

Friday Nov 10th 2006 by James Maguire
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Tech staffers are feeling good about their jobs and finances – there’s hard data to prove it. Plus: what IT skills are most in demand?

The American IT worker is a relatively happy human, according to recent data from Hudson, a staffing services company.

The company publishes a monthly index that tracks the job satisfaction of IT workers, based on a survey of from 350 to 500 tech professionals. The Hudson index combines the answer to several key questions – relating to job stability and personal finances – to create an overall composite index number.

Hudson’s October index number, 109.6, is 10 points higher than October 2005, and has been bumping around in the essentially happy range of 108-115 for most of this year.

“The IT market has been stable and buoyant for the last twelve months, and there’s no sign of that diminishing," says Paul Taylor, a VP at Hudson. “I think companies are embracing IT much more, and workers are pretty happy where they’re at, and how they’re being valued as part of a company.”

In its monthly survey in October, Hudson asked IT staffers:

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• How would you rate your personal finances these days?

Workers responded: “Excellent,” 14.6%; “Good,” 41.9%; “Fair,” 31.7%; “Poor,” 9.8%.

• Are your personal finances getting better these days, or worse?

Workers responded: “Better,” 48.2% (up from 38.3% a year ago); “Worse,” 30.1%; “Same,” 20.2%.

• Over the next few months, will your company be hiring, laying off, or making no changes?

Workers responded: “Hiring,” 37.7%, “Laying Off,” 19.4%, “No Change,” 36.8%.

• Generally speaking, are you happy with your current job?

Workers responded: “No,” 16.3%; “Yes,” 75.9%.

• Are you worried about losing your job anytime soon?

Workers responded: “No,” 70%; “Yes,” 24.8%.

Which Skills Are In Demand?

While there’s a high demand for technologists, “we’re also finding that in some areas there’s a huge skill shortage,” Taylor says.

Among the skills that most requested by employers, he points to security, and also notes that Windows programming languages are "very hot.” Also requested are project managers and business analysts.

Business skills are increasingly important. “When clients of Hudson come to us asking to hire, they not just looking for techies anymore, they’re looking for people with strong business skills who can integrate into the organization.”

Being in demand is about much more than being able to write code all day long, he says. “Good strong communication skills, and a good commercial head that can add value to the business in a more well-rounded view,” are desirable.

Next page: Outlook for 2007?

Next Year?

“From the clients’ perspective, they’re telling us there are going to be strong budgets for next year,” Taylor says. This prognosis is backed up by IDC’s projections for 2007.

Yet there’s a caveat. Today’s CEOs understand IT much better than in years past. They’re less likely to simply accept CIO or CTO requests for tech budget increases at face value. This means that CIOs and CTOs, are “having to justify that budget in terms of return on investment,” Taylor says. Gone are the days “where they just let the techies get on with it.”

But this need to justify increases is, paradoxically, increasing the level of confidence among IT departments, Taylor opines. They know that any budget boosts make it clear to IT departments “that they’re being embraced."

Outsourcing’s Limitations

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The U.S. has “struggled with its conscience” over the issue of outsourcing, yet Taylor feels it will continue to grow.

This, unfortunately, is particularly true of tech workers on the lower rungs. “I think the lower end of the market still continues to be outsourced, not just overseas but to big outsourcing giants,” he says.

Managers and those with specialized skills are less vulnerable. “Companies are certainly retaining the areas [workers] that they see as the differentiators.”

However strong the movement to outsource, those companies that use overseas workers may find a lack of real skills. Recent reports indicate that, due to shortcomings in the school systems in emerging markets, these poorer countries aren’t fielding as many fully skilled tech workers as some had hoped.

Consequently, experts question to what extent India and China will be able to satisfy the worldwide need for tech talent in the years ahead.

“I was talking to a big investment bank that we deal with, and they’ve actually pulled the plug to their outsourcing to China," Taylor says. “They just don’t see that the educational system there is going to be able to meet their demands.”

Instead of send all their jobs offshore, some firms are now “middle shoring.” That is, they’re splitting their labor force between the U.S. and abroad, to avoid relying too heavily on outsourced labor. Furthermore, Taylor notes, some firms are touting to customers that all their work is done domestically, hoping to gain a marketing advantage by stressing their U.S. labor force.

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