An annual study on hiring and compensation trends revealed that IT professionals may have more negotiating power than they think.
According to the study, conducted by IT staffing consultant Robert Half International and online job site, CareerBuilder.com, 81 percent of hiring managers said it is equally or more difficult to find qualified candidates than it was 12 months ago.
The report surmises that a skills shortage is paying off for workers, as 52 percent of hiring managers who were having trouble recruiting cited a shortage of qualified professionals as the primary culprit.
Nearly two-fifths of hiring managers said they planned to increase starting salaries in the next year to attract new talent.
"Forty-five percent of workers reported their compensation has increased in the last year, yet a much smaller number are willing to ask for a better deal going forward, likely due to insecurities about the United States economy and job market," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of Chicago-based CareerBuilder.com.
"The United States continues to add jobs and businesses are struggling with a shrinking labor pool. Workers who are not maximizing the earning potential of those opportunities are literally selling themselves short."
Thirty-seven percent of hiring managers in the survey said that professional and technical staff-level positions were the hardest to fill, followed by administrative/clerical workers (16 percent), directors, managers or supervisors (15 percent), temporary/contract workers (12 percent) and CIOs, chief financial officers and CEOs (4 percent).
Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, based in Menlo Park, Calif., said that the demand by employers for highly-skilled employees to fill staff-level positions is strong.
"The need has been especially pronounced in accounting and finance, where corporate governance mandates have resulted in the creation of accounting jobs that did not exist five years ago," he said.
According to the survey, 45 percent of workers said that health insurance is the most important benefit and for 24 percent, it is flexible work hours.
Twenty-six percent of employees said they were looking for a new position. Thirty-seven percent of workers said that they thought it would be more difficult to find a position today than it was 12 months ago, compared to 42 percent last year.
One in five hiring managers expressed feeling constrained by not being able to offer applicants competitive compensation. The three most popular measures to improve employee retention were salary increases, bonuses and flexible work schedules.
"While competitive compensation and benefits are important to employees, so is working for a stable company with a positive work environment," Messmer said.
"Firms that cannot offer top salaries should look at what they can offer that others do not, including professional development programs."