Oh, really? Report says techies don't care much about salary.

Oh, really? Report says techies don't care much about salary.

Summary: According to a new report and an unscientific polling of a handful of techies, it's not salary or bonuses that cause IT pros to leave their jobs, but a lack of perks and new technical challenges.

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TOPICS: CXO, IT Employment
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'That's nice,' say techies, 'but we'd rather be challenged.'
HR departments and executives throw the word "retention" around a lot, but in theory at least, it's a good thing for everyone involved, especially you. Workplaces want to find the magic blend of perks and incentives that will keep you from hopping over to the competition; they want to keep you happy.

But mostly they want to do these thing because employee turnover is costly and, in the words of a new report on the topic, "it is generally less expensive to retain good employees than find new ones" thus slowing the pace of employee departures is the best strategy to reduce personnel costs.

And here you thought it was you they really cared about...

Unfortunately, on their road to figuring out why employees leave, organizations sometimes miss their mark. Based on a survey of 200 U.S. and Candian IT executives, a new report by Computer Electronics found that the most effective means of reducing turnover were not improving salary or bonuses. In fact, the report finds that "non-financial incentives, such as enriching education and training opportunities or introducing quality-of-life factors such as flexible scheduling, can have a greater impact on retention than raising pay scales."

In essence, this report finds that IT workers care more about perks such as training or flexible schedules than they do about the size of their paycheck, and you'll have to excuse this writer's jadedness because my first reaction was, "Oh really? Money doesn't count?"

Well, I posed this question to a bunch of techies and--fancy that!--at least according to this sample size of 12, my gut was 100 percent wrong. What was the biggest reason they said they left their jobs? Boredom, in the form of a lack of challenges and no new technologies to work on.

A software developer in San Diego says he leaves jobs because he's bored. "Keep challenging the technical folks, so we are engaged and learning, and we'll generally be happy," he said, a sentiment echoed by a product manager in Israel, who said that if there was no new or interesting challenge, he'd be "out the door."

A network administrator in San Francisco agreed as well, saying he "cant work for the same company anymore than two years, unless the equipment or topology changes all the time."

Another techie, a web developer in Philadelphia, says that people don't go into technology for the money. "They do it because they love what they do. They truly enjoy the challenges and achievements of working in this field," he explained and considers his field "fortunate that we are also able to make a living at this."

So what do you think? Do you agree with these techies that they care more about being challenged than dollar signs when choosing a job, or have I just managed to poll across a particularly earnest group of IT pros? Why did you quit your last job?

Topics: CXO, IT Employment

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45 comments
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  • Location matters

    It really depends on who you ask and where these techies are. I bet techies working in NYC are either after high pressure environment or $$$, whereas techies working in Hawaii would be more interested in *surfing*...
    mizzle
    • location == cost of living

      People working in NYC need to make more. I saw an
      article a few weeks back saying the average annual rent on
      an apartment was $1M.

      A decade ago, I recall a conversation with a broker who, to
      the rest of us, seemed to be making piles of money, but
      he was barely making his payments.

      Someone in southern California needs to be making $40K-
      $50K just to stay alive and maintain the jalopy, let alone
      save up for a home or a new car. I hear it's north of that
      in Sili Valley.

      But our location preferences or lack thereof don't matter
      to the employers and recruiters. They're not interested in
      relocating anyone... well, any US citizen, anyway.
      Professor8
  • There's a good deal of truth to that

    I'll take as much money as people are willing to pay me, but that's not why I got into computers in the first place and that's not why I stay there. If the work is uninteresting, I'm sure I could do equally boring work in another field and make more money doing it.
    John L. Ries
    • that option is not available to most

      Once you've invested heavily into tech knowledge and
      experience, the option to move into a more boring field
      and be able to make even more money is essentially non-
      existent.

      Oh, there are exceptions, like the guy who went from
      super-computer support and had accumulated enough to
      invest in a lawn care business and make a go of it, or the
      one who opens a store to sell hideously expensive toys.
      But most engineers and software experts don't generally
      have the entrepreneurial mind-set, knowledge, or skills.

      This shows in the many reports over the last 10-15 years
      of tech people taking 30% cuts in pay just to have some
      kind of employment, selling blue jeans, serving coffee,
      raking leaves, roofing, becoming vehicle mechanics...
      Professor8
  • RE: Oh, really? Report says techies don't care much about salary.

    Interesting thoughts and not without some merit. Given that employers tend to pay for experience (and yes training) and look disfavorably upon job hoppers, this would contradict the essence of the premise that we techies move without considering salary. I would think that the training received through your company either has to be rewarded monitarily or leaving the company is the only option.
    jau2008
    • Very true...

      I have found that IT training has always been a "carrot on a stick" approach for trying to hire or keep IT techs. It seems that the companies always have a reason not to fulfill their promise of IT training (not enough resources, not in the budget, desired training that doesn't fit 'their' needs, etc) or they do it on the cheap and nasty (gotta love those generalist training courses with 20 or so other bored employees). Now, unless they give me actual money either for training or as a bonus so I can go train myself, I almost always go elsewhere when I get bored or tired of the job or the company internal bs.
      Brissietex
      • lack of investment in training

        The best of the firms I worked with required an annual
        development plan, with 2-3 classes picked out of the
        conglomerate's catalog, and then...

        "companies always have a reason not to fulfill their
        promise of IT training (not enough resources, not in the
        budget, desired training that doesn't fit 'their' needs, etc)"

        It's just a temporary freeze for this quarter... and the
        next...

        "or they do it on the cheap and nasty (gotta love those
        generalist training courses with 20 or so other bored
        employees)."

        This is what most firms do, according to government
        surveys. Training tends toward the light-weight,
        "motivational", etc., and while tech employees get more
        than most, they still skimp to the point of negative
        returns. And the government plays along, classifying
        internal informal training in the conference room given by
        some guy down the hall who isn't an expert and spent 2
        hours preparing as "formal", as though it had as much
        substance as a graduate course.

        And how much? Well under 80 hours per year.

        And how many firms let how many of their tech employees
        attend conferences to present papers or attend
        presentations on cutting-edge subjects?

        That "best" firm, was rather generous with what university
        courses they classified as work-related, and thus eligible
        for reimbursement of tuition, fees and books. But that's
        been a while. I haven't seen that in years.
        Professor8
  • Cost of living may change that

    I'd argue that that's going to change a bit now that housing prices are so high and the cost of living has gone up so much. Yes, techies love a challenge and the chance to develop something new and positive for the world around them. But I must say, I've been in software for several years, and initially I was content with a good challenge so long as I could comfortably pay the rent and buy some odds and ends. But now I'm house-hunting, and see just how expensive it's gotten to maintain the same standard of living that cost half as much only a decade earlier, I care very much about salary.
    TJBIgor
  • Salary is only part of what drives people.

    I'd leave a boring job for equivalent pay someplace else. That doesn't mean I'd leave a boring job for a position that pays poorly.
    Letophoro
  • Money is #1

    I left my last job for more money. I think that Money and Challenge are numbers 1 and 2 respectively. If I am being fairly compensated then I would need a challenging environment to stay there, but conversely if I'm underpaid the job can be very challenging but I would have to leave if they won't pay me to stay.
    jfp
    • Agree - but with cost of living increasing...

      [b]Need a Balanced Wheel:[/b]

      [pre]
      [b]Fair compensation[/b] -> Financial Lack of Anxiety
      [b]Challenges[/b] coupled with [b]Training[/b] -> [u]Motivation + Productivity[/u]
      [/pre]
      fourells5
  • Depends on your obligations

    Salary is more of an issue with the person who has a spouse and kids, and a mortgage, versus the single person who lives a more spontaneous lifestyle and is happy to bounce around looking for different experiences and "the next big thing".
    modra101
  • That's not what the study said.

    What the study said is that money is not always the MOST
    IMPORTANT factor. I agree. In my case, I get to telecommute four
    days a week. In order to lure me away from that, another company
    would have to offer a significant salary increase.

    BTW, who cares if the company cares about you or cares about
    their bottom line if the end result is the same?

    I swear, Adam Smith should be required reading.
    frgough
    • Environment Matters

      Working for abusive managers is not worth a stack of dollars.

      Some companies are doomed to fail because they do not value their employees. Pay does not equal respect.
      J Hawkins
  • I agree somewhat. 50/50 maybe

    To me, as long as i have enough money to live comfortably, than challenging me is second and schedule flex is the third, followed by health benefits.

    Salary currently lack market trend. I have no challenges on my plate at the moment and they will not implement new tech.. so i guess you could say i have one foot out the door. Resume is on monster btw.

    To every company out there, i say this: Challenge me and pay me fairly.

    Happiness is easy for techies who love the job.
    Been_Done_Before
  • I have to agree for the most part

    As long as my living needs are met with the salary involved - work environment and interest matter most. Definately.
    jeff1@...
    • I Agree With Your Agreement

      I left a job partly (long story) because the work became repetitive. I took a small pay cut to get away.
      MichP
  • RE: Oh, really? Report says techies don't care much about salary.

    I have hired alot of IT folks over the years, initially its all about the dollars when the offer gets made. Once a person is onboard it becomes more about the work and the work enviroment. Once a year during review time, it becomes all about the money. So I guess I agree 50/50 with this.
    ron@...
    • re: techies don't care about salary

      I think techies have the luxury of caring about challenges, and work environment because we all make fairly good salaries. We can consider what else we like in a job, because we've already taken care of the basic requirement-- enough money to live on.
      RaineS
  • RE: Oh, really? Report says techies don't care much about salary.

    As has been pointed out it depends on each individual situation. A parent with a spouse and kids will make sure the compensation is there to support the family. Where as a single person that only has to support his/her self will look into other perks as well. Most techies love a good challange or we wouldn't have entered a field where progress can be rapid. On the other hand we still have to pay the bills and suppor the family. So once again it is all relative to the situation of each individual.
    mburton325