IT pay under pressure

According to Computerworld's 21st Annual Salary Survey, IT pay kicked up an average of 3.7% in 2007 and has been trending upward since 2002. The Robert Half Technology 2008 Salary Guide predicts that starting salaries will increase by an average of 5% in 2008, with larger boosts in base compensation expected for high-demand positions such as application and Web developers, network managers and database administrators.

Those increases, though bigger than in recent years, aren't harbingers of larger pay spikes ahead as firms compete for talent, says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology.

To be sure, companies need to offer attractive pay if they want to fill open positions, according to Spencer Lee and IT executives. But they also point out that employers and employees alike are interested in finding the right fit, which goes beyond just the highest pay.

"It is about the money, but it's not all about the money," Spencer Lee says.

Hans Keller, CTO of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, admits that he can't compete with for-profits on pay. Yet he says he's still able to recruit and retain skilled workers because he can craft an attractive total package. Keller says many workers like the organization's mission as well as some of the aquarium's unique perks, such as the opportunity to scuba dive in the tanks every other month to feed the fish.

"It's both salary and bonuses -- that's a prime motivator -- but it's also the corporate environment," says Jack Harrington, president of IT staffing firm Atlantic Associates.

However, organizations are going to have to rethink their pay scales, says David Foote, CEO and chief research officer at Foote Partners. Companies tie compensation to job titles, he says, even though his firm's research has found that 52% of IT workers have job titles that aren't aligned with their actual role or responsibilities.

"You need to pay them for the skills they have, not necessarily the title they have," Foote adds.

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