Want to know how to keep IT workers from leaving?

Respect is the key, according to TechRepublic members.

  • Respect that they work a doctor’s hours—and barely see their families.
  • Respect that they spend thousands of dollars staying up-to-date on technology—largely on their own time.
  • Respect that everyone else’s jobs depend upon the networks they maintain—yet they get no credit when the sales team lands the big deal, despite the fact it couldn’t have been done without the support of IT.
  • Respect that they are educated professionals, often with advanced degrees—even if they wear blue jeans and faded T-shirts.
  • And respect that, yes, they do want to be paid competitive salaries.

Bob Weinstein, a TechRepublic columnist who specializes in career advice, wrote an article cautioning against frequent job changes. In the article, “Job-hopping may not be your best move,” Weinstein cited a survey by ExecuNet.com that listed five major motivators for changing jobs. At the top of the list: money.

The column infuriated TechRepublic members and started a flame war on the CIO community. Read on to see what they say causes IT workers to job-hop.

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind
Dave Packman, a.k.a. “Packratt,” was particularly incensed. What’s a techie to do, he contended, when he’s asked to work long, hard hours, but the company refuses to pay competitive wages?

“Don’t blame us techies for the problem. We are just tired of doing wonders for our companies with little recognition and subaverage compensation!!!” Packman wrote. “When you get treated like that, wouldn’t you leave if you could? Our employers don’t have any loyalty to us, why should we to them!”

He wasn’t alone. Many TechRepublic members raised questions of why they should stay at companies that don’t recognize their contribution or pay competitive wages.

“Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind,” warned Nichomach, who pointed out that high unemployment levels kept employee wages down in the 80s, allowing companies in the United States and in the United Kingdom to choose profits at the expense of their employees.

But now that the economy is good, companies “are still trying to inculcate the culture of fear in us,” Nichomach wrote.

“This article is mere propaganda, attempting to scare us into accepting less than our due as skilled professionals. The author should be ashamed of his attempt to revive the culture of fear that made employees little better than slaves.”

It’s not greed that drives good people away
TechRepublic members took exception to the idea that money was the main reason they jumped ship.

“If you aren’t being properly compensated or particularly well treated, why NOT move on?” asked Brian Lusk. “But, on the other hand, if you got employment at a place that treated you right and paid fairly, would you leave for more $$$? My answer is no. Happiness means more to me than money.”

Lusk added that those who enter IT only for the money often do less work than those who enter the field because they love technology.

Ray Koch, a database analyst whose TechRepublic alias is Rake, said he enjoys his job, but ultimately works to make money for himself and his family.

“It’s not greed that drives good people away,” Koch said. “It’s the self-realization of what you are capable of achieving coupled with the knowledge of your worth versus your employer’s perception of the same. If an employer refuses to allow you to grow and turns a blind eye to the market, then he/she has no one to blame but themselves.”

One TechRepublic member even went so far as to declare money irrelevant.

“…the truly good ITers are out there for the love of technology,” declared Avalon. “I can honestly say that I would do my job for free. If I did not receive a salary for what I do, I would take it up as a hobby, which in fact is what started me out in this field.”

If you like variety or get bored easily, try contract work, Avalon suggested. “The pay is much better, and the more jobs, the better perceived you are.”
Jim Cook offered another perspective on this topic. He advised job hoppers to stop the insanity by evaluating companies before they sign on board. “When you start looking for that new job, don’t take the first bigger paycheck that comes along,” advised Cook. Instead, he suggested that IT workers:

  • Network with their peers.
  • Find the places that respect their staff.
  • Work on getting into a good company, and then stay long enough to avoid the job-hopping pattern.

I just want some respect; is that so horrible?
Yes, workers do want to be paid fair wages, but they also see this as one way of getting what they want most—respect.

“Stop treating us like general laborers in the industrial age, start recognizing what we really do for your companies, and realize the sacrifices that we pay to do this job in overtime, constant learning, and effort,” wrote Packman. “We deserve the money that we should make. When you don’t pay us fairly, we walk!”

Graceli expressed a similar sentiment, adding that in other fields, professional certification equals respect.

“We spend tons of time and $$$ to study to keep up, certify, and to recertify, but even with the certifications, we are not treated as professionals like those accountants and lawyers,” Graceli said. “With a certification of an accountant or lawyer, you get all the respect and get paid accordingly. With a computer certification, you are still treated like dirt, with accountants and lawyers screaming at you, and paid peanuts.”

Another way to gain respect
Not everyone agreed that IT workers are automatically due respect because of their certifications.

The aptly named Devil’s Advocate, or Michele Morreale, suggested IT workers should focus on proving their business value if they hoped to be appreciated. Morreale suggested that part of the problem is that IT is perceived as always fixing something because they didn’t do it right in the first place. Add to that the perception that IT employees are essentially short-timers who will likely leave the company in a few years, and you have a serious PR problem, Morreale contended.

“What value are we really providing them? Sure, you have your certifications. But how are you using it? Before we whine and complain about ‘they aren’t giving us what we’re worth,’ let’s look at the value we can really offer them,” Morreale said.

Morreale suggested IT workers should try to add value to the business and find ways to prove their value to the company.

“Our ‘worth’ isn’t shown in certifications or the number of tickets we resolve. It has to do with our impact on the business,” Morreale said. “We aren’t going to change the view if IT by sitting on our tails and complaining—challenging someone to find us—nor by hopping around and hoping to find better pay. We need to start changing the role of IT in the world and start showing people the value we can provide.”
We’re looking for tips on how IT can prove its value to the business. E-mail us with your tips for moving IT from a cost-center to a revenue generator.