Better Base Pay but Fewer Bonuses for IT Pros

In a change from prior pay structures, more than half of IT professionals are now earning better pay for additional tech skills, but not via cash bonuses, according to a new study.

In a change from prior pay structures, more than half of IT professionals are now earning better pay for additional tech skills, but not via cash bonuses, according to a study released Aug. 2 by Foote Partners, a New Canaan, Conn.-based IT workforce research company.

The study, which surveyed 54,000 IT pros, found that in a change from prior quarters—when the pay for certified skills fell short of uncertified ones—pay targeted specifically to noncertified and certified IT skills has grown sharply in popularity.

While previously, it was a more common practice to reward and recognize tech skills using cash bonuses, and adjust pay rates every 12 to 15 months according to published market values, Foote says that skills pay has now been tucked into base salaries.

"Many bonus programs vanished during the economic recession. And although theyve returned in force, what weve discovered is that the dominant practice today is to incorporate additional pay for IT certifications and noncertified skills into workers base salaries.

"This has dramatically increased the incidence of skills pay, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think," David Foote, CEO and chief research officer of Foote Partners, said in a statement.

The study found that employers have a preference for salary-based skills pay because it solves the problem of workers disgruntled because their pay is not where other salary studies say it should be.

"It resolves this anger and betrayal that IT workers feel. Companies are losing people because theyre not being paid market salaries but their studies which show market salaries are garbage because people arent titled correctly. Peoples titles dont match what they do. If we put the right title on these people, wed be serving them a different job," Foote told eWEEK.

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"We retitled people for what they do, and what comes up on the other side is what people really make. Most surveys dont do this because theyre mixing different skill sets into one title, and its why we publish a skills-focused index.

"This is a big thing all of a sudden because HR people see it as nirvana because previously they couldnt stop people from leaving over perceived incorrect pay," said Foote.

Because reclassifying and retitling employees is a daunting and also political task, companies avoid it like the plague, Foote said.

Instead, they are now demarking specific tech skills as dominant or unique to a job and incorporating pay for these skills into base salaries.

"For example, you may be a systems administrator with a Unix or Linux specialization working on critical customer-facing systems, but you dont want to end up in a generic systems administrator pay scale along with, say, MVS administrators.

"Its the same thing with ABAP and .Net developers, Java programmers, and Oracle DBAs who get thrown in pay-wise with all the other developers, programmers, and DBAs around the company," Foote said.

Foote notes that this newer approach to pay scales has more flexibility and ease than title- and bonus-based pay.

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