'Stretch us or lose us,' say IT professionals

Challenging work, not pay, is key to staff retention, survey finds

Challenging and rewarding work is ranked way ahead of salary as the number one consideration when IT professionals choose an employer, a major survey has found.

Ninety one per cent of IT staff said challenging work was an extremely or very important factor in a job, while 74% said the same for salary and job security.

The 2006 Salary and Benefits Survey by Computer Weekly and Computer People shows that freedom to make decisions, challenging work and recognition are more significant factors than pay and job security for most IT staff.

The findings, which come as the market for IT staff is heating up, will place pressure on IT departments to invest time and effort in developing their staff, rather than simply using pay as an incentive for them to stay.

"Employees now are not simply looking for a nine-to-five job that gives them a means of earning a salary - they are looking for flexible working hours, job security, interesting work and responsibility," said Nick Dettmar, director of Computer People.

And the survey of nearly 3,000 IT staff reveals that IT professionals are increasingly prepared to vote with their feet if employers do not provide them with fulfilling work.

More than 60% of permanent staff said they are keeping an eye on the jobs market, 14% are actively looking for a new job, and 17% expect to change jobs within one to two years, the survey shows.

Fifty per cent said the main reason they left their last job was because of poor career prospects, with only 30% citing salary as a reason for quitting.

"There are certain things in your business you can change, and some you cannot. If your employer does not have that philosophy of developing staff, go and find somewhere that does," said Ben Booth, global CTO at research firm Ipsos.

Britannia Building Society, the overall winner of Computer Weekly's Best Places to Work in IT 2006 award, has introduced a scheme to encourage IT staff to learn areas of IT outside their day-to-day work.

"If you are in IT and work as a database assistant you could say, 'I would like to learn more about desktops'. It is not necessary for your job, but we will give you a few days to learn," said IS resource and development manager Graham Gornall.

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