FRAMINGHAM (07/24/2000) - Ever wondered what the dream job in information technology would be? We were a bit curious ourselves and posed the question to our readers. In an unscientific poll conducted recently on the Computerworld Web site, we asked readers to tell us about their dream jobs, half expecting a grocery list of dot-com stock-option plans and bonus programs. What we got instead was shocking, if not just a little refreshing.
We heard from approximately 200 of our online readers who wrote in with their definitions of a dream job. Surprisingly, few of those readers even mentioned money. That's approximately the same number of folks who dreamed of jobs that allowed for telecommuting. The comments provide invaluable insight for IT managers struggling with keeping staff turnover low and productivity high.
The bottom line: Attracting and keeping workers can be a relatively straightforward proposition. The key is understanding what motivates them. The big mistake many IT managers seem to make is placing too much emphasis on salary and options alone. Sure, those two things can play a big role in attracting an employee, but they may not be enough to keep him at your side over the long haul.
Take a look at your rank and file and consider why they leave. As one of our readers noted, so much money is being thrown at prospective new hires that big salaries and options are considered par for the course. IT workers are starting to expect selling points that sit outside the shadow of the dollar sign.
The broad majority of our readers described their dream jobs as nothing less than a good corporate environment, with employers who support a solid work/home balance. Consider the respondent who prioritized his dream job as a place "willing to accept change as the rule, invest in [its] people" and help provide "balance between home and work life."
Let There Be Light
Granted, managers won't always be able to comply with the dream wishes of their workers. Still, a little bit of effort, along with some empathy, goes a long way. Managers might find that what their employees want isn't such a stretch to provide.
We asked human resources expert Lynn Novo to analyze our readers' aspirations.
Her conclusion: IT employees across the board are feeling frustrated these days, not necessarily because of low pay but because of the low self-esteem that comes from feeling unchallenged, unbalanced or underappreciated.
Novo, director of business services at Netsysco LLC in Louisville, Ky., provides consulting services on human resources and strategy issues for IT organizations. Her firm recently surveyed 200 system administrators across the U.S., asking which would be their highest priority for changing jobs: more money, flexible time/more time off, more technical challenges or a better corporate environment. A better corporate environment won hands down, Novo says.
"System administrators told us they wanted enlightened management who didn't overmanage, overwork and underappreciate them," said Novo.
Many employers are missing the boat in terms of reading what their employees want, Novo says. "Their job demands that they keep abreast of the technology and continually learn new things, yet many system administrators tell me that they have to fight to get the training they need," says Novo.
Training. Telecommuting. Respect. Flexibility. Doesn't sound like IT workers are asking for a lot in the grand scheme of things. The following readers' comments demonstrate this loud and clear. Though some were edited for length, you can get a good sense of what dream jobs are made of - imagined and real.
What Dream Jobs Are Made Of
"Working in a shop where I was able to develop Web enabled/based applications to replace all existing desktop applications. This would be done in a work environment where the availability of tools wasn't limited to Microsoft-standard tools only and has flexible work hours, projects would be more single-threaded. Business casual attire and a great work area/cubicle/office, with few restraints on our ability to [be] comfortable."
"High salary, stock options, signing bonuses, latest technology, bring your dog to work."
"Low stress; flexible hours; telecommuting; fully supported, clearly defined business goals; and consistent direction from the top; latest technology; development environment with good communication with customers; up-to-date environment; sufficient training, good pay and benefits."
"My dream job would be where I can test and develop new technologies, especially in the security area."
"Good pay . . . good benefits . . . telecommuting two to three days a week, respect for myself and colleagues."
"One that pays well but also allows me somewhat of a personal life."
"One that gives me empowerment, recognizes and rewards my achievements. One that shows appreciation for my hard work by sending me to training, seminars, etc. to enhance my professional knowledge."
"Doing what I do now - working as a database administrator from the application to the system administration level - but with more recognition and control of direction."
"It needs to be a moving target. If I wasn't learning new things, updating skills in this field, I [would] feel I am being left behind."
"A place [where] you could continually learn without burning out."
"Where educational opportunities exist to broaden the scope of problem-solving skills. One that rewards its employees [not] just monetarily, but through additional challenge and responsibility."
No Place Like Home
"Ah, only that I could work from home. Working in my pajamas. Right now I do too much tech support, so it's impossible."
"I'd like to be able to work from home - no matter where I decide home should be - and determine my work schedule."
Preston is a freelance writerin Helena, Calif.