IT Employers Would Pay 15 Percent More for Top Talent, Study Shows

Employers value experience, certification, loyalty and interpersonal skills more than education

By Aliah D. Wright Sep 12, 2016

Some information technology employers would offer up to a 15 percent salary increase in order to attract and retain top talent, a new study says.

That's because recruiting in the tech industry is so challenging.

"With the tech sector unemployment rate at 2.6 percent, the pool of available and skilled talent is smaller than ever," said Jack Cullen, president of Modis, an IT staffing agency, quoted in a news statement. Modis conducted the study, Tech Trends: IT Leaders and the Employment Market. In contrast, the overall unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Nearly two-thirds of tech employers are open to offering currently employed candidates a 6-15 percent [pay] increase to their current salary to attract the cream of the crop," he said in a later interview with SHRM Online. "Today's employers need to be open to negotiation, and today's candidates need to be prepared to negotiate."

But what should employers offer? Using salary guides or compensation reports can help. As SHRM Online reported earlier this year, IT salaries are on the rise. For example, at the high end of the scale, Robert Half lists the average salary for a chief information officer (CIO) at $268,250—a nearly 5 percent increase from 2015. In Modis' IT Salary Guide for 2017, the average annual salary that an information security manager can expect to earn in 2017 is $118,000.

Modis surveyed 500 IT professionals who were responsible for hiring within their organizations.

The study also found that 35 percent of those surveyed said they would rehire talent who had previously left the company three months before, and 33 percent said they would rehire previous employees no matter how long ago they had left.

Experience, Certifications Highly Valued

Work experience, professional certifications and loyalty were highly valued criteria when considering candidates, the study revealed. Education? Not so much.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said work experiences and certifications are more important than education when evaluating a candidate. Loyalty is important, too.

"While 'the grass is always greener' mentality tends to be a common perception among highly-skilled and employable tech workers, loyalty is a trait that IT decision-makers view most positively," Cullen added. "It's been found that candidates with tenure of five or more years at their previous post (58 percent) were more attractive applicants."

Other findings:

  • While 26 percent of respondents said salary is the most important benefit for attracting talent, competing on salary alone is not enough. Many employers today realize they need to offer more than just a standard benefits package. They recognize, too, that candidates are looking for work/life balance and opportunities to grow; 54 percent of those responding to the Modis survey said employees appreciate being able to telework (27 percent) or having flex hours (36 percent).
  • Although 45.2 percent of respondents ranked cybersecurity and privacy as their top concern in the tech industry, the study revealed that nearly one-quarter (22 percent) ranked security and infrastructure hard skills as the most difficult to find in candidates. Some 40 percent felt that external threats were the biggest security concern at their companies.

Cullen said the most surprising thing the survey revealed was the desire for IT employees with better interpersonal skills.

The chief technology officers, chief information officers, presidents, directors, managers, engineers and other IT decision-makers responding to the survey viewed teamwork and interpersonal skills as the most difficult soft skill to find in tech candidates (31 percent), followed by communication skills (26 percent).

"In my experience, people were attracted to IT as a career path in the past because the profession didn't involve much interpersonal communication. But that is changing," he said. "We have seen this desire for IT candidates with strong communication skills reflected in recent hiring decisions. For instance, some companies are hiring a less qualified candidate over a more qualified one simply because the less qualified candidate can tell a better story." 


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