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Young IT Workers Disillusioned, Hard to Retain 853

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the your-special-just-like-everyone-else dept.
bednarz writes to mention that NetworkWorld has an interesting examination of young IT professionals and why many make unreasonable demands for their services. "'The issue managers are facing is with retention, not hiring. That means the work environment is not living up to the employee's expectation,' he says. For instance, many younger workers expect to get an office immediately or be paid at a rate higher than entry level."
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Young IT Workers Disillusioned, Hard to Retain

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:31PM (#22009564)
    participate in a job market by providing incentives!

    Economists around the world are stunned. Was Adam Smith right? Were there truly rational actors within an economy?
    • by Kihaji (612640) <lemkesr@nOsPAm.uwec.edu> on Friday January 11, 2008 @11:44PM (#22010284)
      Or perhaps before they start providing incentives, they start by treating their employees like humans instead of freaking line item expenses.

      Why the hell should I work 70 hour weeks, kill myself outside of a job to learn the latest tech, deal with idiot management and unreasonable schedules when the company would gladly lay me off to save $5?

      Treat people like cattle, and you get a bunch of people just biding time until the grass is greener elsewhere.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bandman (86149)
        Usually because if you don't, someone else will be willing to.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by blind biker (1066130)
        Exactamundo. Generally, publicly traded companies are the worst in tha the managers there feel completely at ease to sack you if it will save a buck or half. Hiding behind the "shareholder interest" while lining their own pockets while being incompetent, and preparing their own golden parachute, and a landing place (anothe company executive position - we know how these execs are good chums and supportive of each other) - now tell me how the hell is such a person going to appreciate your work and care for yo
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tsorath (1217848)
      I don't know I have absolutely seen both sides of this having worked for a number of years as a database programmer and having operated my own company doing this I found when I sold my company I was absolutely stunned by the offers I recieved from companies when I went through the interview process. I cannot tell you how many times I was intervied for postions wanting 5 years plus experience knowledge in a number of diffrent areas including asking for things like CCNA MCDBA (both of which I have) wanting
  • by 14erCleaner (745600) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:35PM (#22009604) Homepage Journal
    From FTA:

    more than 50% of respondents described those teen and 20-something employees as the "toughest generation to manage." Generation Xers (ages 32 to 42 years old) placed second with 17% of respondents saying they pose a management challenge.
    Hey, that means 50-ish programmers like me should be highly sought after!

    Ouch, I think I hurt my back laughing...

  • by ironwill96 (736883) on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:38PM (#22009636) Homepage Journal
    At least where I work, the IT workers (myself included) are paid 40% less than the market rate so there is a reason everyone has low morale and the turnover rate is around 25% or more each year. I don't think there has been a time since I started working there in the last 4 years where there has been every position in the department actually staffed at the same time. This IT department is around 75 people.

    Now, maybe that is just working for the State is not very well paying, but it is a problem affecting thousands of employees not just the younger ones. I guess when it comes down to it though, people need to get off their tails and apply for other jobs that pay more if we want to leave. The problem is often that you like the area you are living in, just not the pay rate you are making working there...
    • by jroysdon (201893) on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:48PM (#22009746) Homepage
      Working for any government agency has other perks. You've got as many or more holidays as a bank and the same hours. The pay is lower, but the stress and time in the office is much lower. Short of committing a felony, you're pretty much guaranteed a job for life once past review periods.

      This is just my two cents working at IT companies who do work for government agencies and in my experience interfacing with their staff.
      • by ironwill96 (736883) on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:55PM (#22009812) Homepage Journal
        11 holidays a year (3 of which are at Christmas on years it falls on a Tuesday or Wednesday, 2 days other years). Stress is somewhat lower (i've worked in corporate world as well before) and time in the office is 40 hrs/week but overtime happens at least once a month usually and you don't get PAID overtime, you get "compensatory time off" later which you never have time to use because you are so busy. Most of us have months of vacation / comp time built up.

        The review stuff you're right, you basically have to be grossly incompetent to get fired, but at the same time even if you are the best IT worker ever you will NEVER get a pay raise from a performance review which sucks. There is zero incentive to do more work than the guy next to you because the slacker gets the same raise as you at performance review time - NOTHING. And, when you do get a raise it is state-wide and everyone gets it equally so how hard you worked doesn't matter. That is a bit depressing..
  • by jroysdon (201893) on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:42PM (#22009684) Homepage
    In the IT world, in my personal experience, you obtain raises through adding on to your skillset. With more skills, especially cutting-edge, or hard to find skills, you're worth more to the company. Once you have that skillset, you can let your employer know at your next review (ask for quarterly reviews, or at least semi-annual reviews) that you've added those skillsets and feel you're more valuable to the company. If you're not at least given some hope of a worthwhile upcoming raise (typically at your year review, not sooner) start shopping around - but don't quit or burn bridges. Once you've found a good new employer and they're willing to hire you, go back to your boss and say you'd like to stay, but need to have things adjusted. It won't be out of the blue if you've already brought up your new skillset and expectation of more pay with it. Further, you can let your boss know that the new skills you've aquired is worth X in the market now. The key is to do it politely, not with an ultimatum. Even if they turn you down and aren't willing to offer a bump in pay, be polite, ask for a reference letter (not that you're leaving, just that should they or the company of a change of staff soon, you want to make sure you've got good references), and let them know you'll be seriously considering another job offer you have (don't bluff, you must have another job lined up for this to work, otherwise you'll back down and end up looking like a liar).

    Should they counter (it should be for more, not just matching), you could go to the company wanting to hire you and ask for a matching rate for what your existing employer is willing to go up to (don't ask for more than your current employer offered, that sounds greedy and doesn't leave much room for growth if you do jump ship).

    Don't forget to be sure of perks, number of paid holidays/vacation days, bonuses, like healthcare, cell phone, paid home internet, company laptop, company car, etc. You might have those now, but not if you leave.

    I've traded employers twice like this. As I didn't burn any bridges, I actually work for my first real major employer again, and each time I've traded up in position, title, and of course compensation.
  • Well yeah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:43PM (#22009690) Homepage
    For instance, many younger workers expect to get an office immediately or be paid at a rate higher than entry level.

    Hell, I expect to be put in charge! I'm just out of college! I know EVERYTHING!!!
  • by NNKK (218503) <nknight@runawaynet.com> on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:43PM (#22009696) Homepage
    I think our CEO technically has an office, but it's usually being used for meetings he's not in.

    I believe the only time I've actually seen non-management tech workers get a private office was the result of a fluke. Large company (several thousand employees) buys remains of relatively small company (few hundred) with a long lease on half of a very roomy building with lots of small individual offices, and underutilizes the space. As a result, the only people in the largely-desolate cube farms were temporary workers. Everyone making more than, say, $35k, got an office.
  • Non-news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by strcpy(NULL,... (1089693) on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:46PM (#22009726)

    WTF? If supply for something is less than the demand, of course prices will go up.

    If a younger person wants, say, $60K for an entry level job and has negotiation power (i.e. another company that pays it), then that is the entry-level payment and it means that you're paying less than what they deserve to your existing employees.

    This is one of the content-free articles.

    I don't think an office is unreasonable for anyone. The industry took away employee's rights one by one when there was ample supply. Now it's drying up and the workforce is asking for what belonged to them.

    If managers stopped "managing" people like they are a herd and became a part of their team, I don't see why they shouldn't be able to hold on to employees as long as the pay is competitive.

  • by prisoner (133137) on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:54PM (#22009804)
    Don't get me wrong, money is important but the environment is just as important. You have to allow leeway both in terms of environment and opportunity. I run a consulting biz and you have to allow room for the younger guys to experiment with new stuff. If you don't, they get bored no matter how much you pay them or what sort of office they have.

    The real key though is to migrate the desire of the younger guys from tearing apart every new technology to the skillset of an established professional. It might be somewhat less exciting but in the end it is what customers want and what pays the bills. As your guys/gals get older and move along in life a polished skillset pays the best.

    Oh, and if you're really smart, you'll achieve those long view items w/o crushing that natural curiosity out of your folks. That is, after all, what makes all of this exciting.
  • by SilentChris (452960) on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:58PM (#22009848) Homepage
    * Could be that we got out of college and started jobs at or below entry level salaries given the economic downturn immediately after 9/11.
    * Could be that 5-10 years later the market has changed so dramatically that it's unusual to even find a company with an "IT department" anymore. It's all been outsourced.
    * Could be that most IT workers are tired of seeing executives get 20% raises and stock options year after year while we get flat 3% annual - or no raises at all.
    * Could be that with all this automation we're still checking our Blackberries at 3 AM and rebooting servers. We're always on call (like doctors) but we don't paid like them.
    * Could be that the "fun" of this industry left long ago. It's no longer hacking away at circuit boards. It's watching server farms blink.

    * You want to know why employers are having a touch time retaining us? Could be that we're smart enough to realize the "traditional" career of an IT professional is all but gone and the only real career paths left are through management (hence folks skipping the certifications and going for the MBAs). Alternatively, consulting still proves lucrative. But to chide us because we know that the "IT professional" career is dying is silly.
  • Ask for too much? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nikker (749551) on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:59PM (#22009852)
    I think just as it is the right of a company to set their prices I should be able to set mine. Maybe this manager doesn't have the resources to support the type of work he needs done. As a somewhat young worker in the IT / programming area this man proclaiming I am not worth what I am getting paid is outrageous. Especially now that retiring programmers and the legacy of code they leave behind. There will be fewer to replace them and more to do, these guys deserve to be able to set any price they please as far as they can find someone willing to pay it. So in short anyone who complains that the cost of what they need to function is too much I think they can't afford it to begin with.
  • Seen it first hand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Friday January 11, 2008 @11:00PM (#22009862) Homepage

    Some of the younger programmers really don't want to work in an inflexible office environment. Absenteeism is pretty high where I am now, and that's a contract that pays pretty well. And they want their web mail, IM's and iPhones. Cut off internet services they want and you'll lose them.

    They don't do office hours, don't like cubicles and want their toys. But if you can work with them on those issues, they are capable of producing some amazing work. The best project I ever worked we set up an office in the corner of a warehouse, walled it off with fence panels and white boards, collected old furniture and used shelf grates for desks. We had a basketball hoop, frig, microwave, satellite TV and our own DSL. Plus we'd stay late and play games after hours. No one quit on that project and we worked some long hours toward the end.

    You don't really have a lot of options. You can deal with them or outsource to someplace that doesn't speak English as a native language and works in an office that's open in what's the middle of the night for you. They're not going to work in a cubicle so just deal with it and adapt. You're better off giving them an empty, unfinished room and give them money to punk it out to their own taste.

  • Lack of knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by webmaster404 (1148909) on Friday January 11, 2008 @11:01PM (#22009878)
    I think that the root cause is lack of knowledge. In many pre-job situations, being able to install XP from scratch was a good feat, knowing your way around BASH was considered amazing and when you could set up a wireless router in 2 minutes people thought that you were a tech genius. Until you start working at a tech-job you don't know that the things that amazed your friends really made no difference in the real world. When you came out of college they knew Python and Perl along with C and Java and in the eyes of their friends they were 1337 Hax0rs, then they go get a tech job where either they don't code much, or everyone has a working knowledge of code. To some less-informed people, just using a non-MS OS such as Linux or knowing the command line on OS-X instantly made you some sort of star, you go to your job and everyone knows Linux and UNIX. Everyone thinks they have talent... Until they find someone who can do the exact same thing better then them.
  • by ucblockhead (63650) on Friday January 11, 2008 @11:01PM (#22009884) Homepage Journal
    1988 wants its story back.

    Seriously...the media trots out this "Younger generation wants more" story every 5-10 years. They certainly did twenty years ago, when I was one of those hard-to-please kids.

    Nothing's changed. Employers pay crap wages at the entry level, and treat young kids like crap. Said young kids then hop jobs until they find something better. Same as it ever was. When I was that age, I quickly found that without experience, jobs I could get were pretty sucky. I also soon found that it was much easier to get a raise by job-hoping. So I spent the first ten years of my career moving around until I got the experience to get a good job.

    The younger generation isn't any different. It's always like this, because entry level jobs tend to be the suckiest and companies that employ lots of entry level coders also tend to be the suckiest. If a company doesn't like their people switching jobs, they should pay more, and stop treating them like crap. Of course, so companies *do* do that. They're the ones people job hop to and then stop.
  • Retaining Employees (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crosstax (1206716) on Friday January 11, 2008 @11:18PM (#22010052)
    My last employment was terminated in April of 2007 where I earned $35,000 cdn/year.

    I was hired in December of 2006 to follow a software development plan to implement a visualization suite which allowed building developers to visualize housing before construction to show potential buyers, city planners, etc..

    The software development was in Microsoft Visual C++ 2003 using OpenSceneGraph, XML based configuration and skinning, used OpenThreads and had TCP based network sessions for live or pre-recorded guided tours.

    When I was hired, I replaced an intermediate software developer that could no longer get along with the director (immediate supervisor). There was a senior programmer above me but he left by mid-January of 2007, but before he did I was told the development team was going to be expanded to 3 full time developers. We had a graphics artist who used tools like 3D Studio Max to visualize the buildings from architectural blue-prints (or floor plans if you prefer).

    Just after the senior programmer left, I started going through all of the modules to get an idea of what would need to be done to prepare the rendering engine for the development plan which had been presented to me. I found that whenever a HUD button was being pressed a new thread was being launched. In fact if you pressed the 'move forward' button twice quickly, the camera would jump back and forth between two positions because two threads were being launched without mutexes or any other safe-guard. I also noticed that nearly all class data members were public and being affected from other classes. And finally that the event processor had code that depended on the event be associated to a HUD button.

    So I made recommendations to decouple the modules, fix the event model & processor as well as eliminate the excessive threading which was not making things faster as the unexperienced multi-threading programmer who implemented them had obviously assumed.

    When I presented these recommendations to the director he laughed in my face and began yelling at me when I tried to explain why these changes would be necessary. So I backed off after the president of the company heard us out and decided to back the director who had been there longer than I.

    At the beginning of April I was falling behind the schedule because of problems directly associated to the event model where the software development plan called for events to be generated by the camera walking through tagged plains. As mentioned, the event processor contained code which read fields from a HUD button which had to be present, so I was trying to emulate a button's state but the events would run in a continuous loop. While struggling with emulating the button states properly there was construction crew in our new office building during the day and my director was having (business?) friends in the office in the evening to drink wine and chat within earshot of my cubicle.

    In my last few days of my employment, in early April of 2007 I started going into the office in the late afternoon to ensure at least 4 hours of my 8 hour shift had no distractions since my employers who told me when I was hired that my hours of work were flexible as long as they amounted to 8 hours a day. They decided to fire me without telling me why, though I expect it had to do with my decision to go in during the evening to avoid the distractions during the day. Up until that point I had never handed in any work late. Get this, they still had not hired any other developer, so I was the only programmer left when they terminated my employment.

    I have been unemployed since April 2007 (we're now in January of 2008) despite looking for work at junior and intermediate levels, software development, testing, maintenance, help desk support, etc, etc..

    In my years of IT work I've found management to be incompetant, not at technical skills but soft skills. It sounds as though the new generation of IT workers have been informed of what kind of crap happens in thes
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Friday January 11, 2008 @11:25PM (#22010114)

    "To reach a good working balance, Millennials will have to change their ideas somewhat, but the work environment will also change to appeal to these very in-demand employees," [Harrington] says.
    If there's more supply of workers than demand for them, only those who're willing to lower their requirements get hired. It's not perfectly dynamic but, over time, salaries and conditions will drop until the supply is low enough (people leaving) and demand is high enough (businesses realizing there's profit to be made at the lower rates) that things balance out.

    If there's more demand for workers than there is supply, those who're around can make more and more demands while companies wishing to hire them can either pay that or go out of business for lack of product. Again, over time, salaries and conditions will change, in this case improving, until equilibrium is reached due to increased supply (high salaries attract more people to the field) and reduced demand (companies can no longer make a profit at those costs and stop trying).

    Either way, though not a static equilibrium, basic supply and demand implies that salaries will generally regulate relative to the value society places on them.

    What doesn't make sense, is the argument, "Both sides need to meet in the middle!" If the young coders are asking too much, ignore them, they'll get hungry and come begging. If the young coders are actually asking a totally reasonable price, given how in demand their jobs are, what's the problem?

    And that, to me, is really the crux of this: It sounds more like bitching that, "It wasn't like that in my day! We were lucky to get paid six pence a week to write COBOL!" So what if it was? So what if you don't like how in favor of the young coders the market is these days? If it's such an issue, don't hire them. If you want them badly enough that you are willing to pay what they demand, don't have your actions show that willingness then bitch about that reality.

    The reverse is also true: If you're a coder and you think you're entitled to more than you're getting, you need to ask yourself why you're not getting it. Think you deserve an office, a car, expense accounts, 401ks and stock but you're not getting it? Well, if you merit it, why are you sitting here bitching about it rather than in the next job that'll apparently willingly reward you for it?

    It's a free country. Employers can [pretty much] employ at will. Employees can [pretty much] be employed at will. That's a pretty good sign supply and demand is allowed to work and everyone's getting roughly what they should get. Look at how fast the dotcom boom came (maybe two years) and how fast it went (six months) - that's another great sign the market regulates pretty quickly. Don't like it? Wait six months. The whining about how things should be is just that - whining.
  • Disillusionment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OddlyMoving (1103849) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:08AM (#22010478)
    I was once a disillusioned IT worker. I oft wondered why my ability and all my raw potential weren't being properly compensated as I struggled through the first half of my career. Further clouding my vision was an early payoff in consulting where I managed to bill out more than what was probably justified when I was in my early 20s. There was a distinct lack of IT talent in the community I find myself in and got a lot of business via word of mouth.

    It wasn't till later on in my career I learned some humility and became easier to work with, and that's when the bucks started to roll in. When my can-do attitude started to shed the rampant contrarian in me. I see a lot of kids younger than me that go through this - I recently tried to give some budding superstars inside and outside my company some coaching in this regard; however, they didn't become open till they lost their jobs. It seems that this is a lesson the young continue to need to learn, and my dad had hinted to me that this would be my struggle with others as he saw me grow up to be a smart alecky know it all.

    So if there's one thing I can recommend to the under 25 crowd, it's this: a little humility and willingness to learn from others goes a long way. You'll find that people that don't always have all the top technical answers at their disposal are useful in other ways: managing chemistry with team members, negotiating with clients, directing personnel in certain directions and managing crisis before they get out of control.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:00AM (#22010940) Homepage Journal
    My recommendation and this is dead serious, is to get out of IT by age 33 the latest. Not that it's a young person's game but because after that age they treat you like utter garbage. They want nothing better than to force you out and replace you with the next batch of freshly scrubbed young faces at half or less than what you will make then. They will stop your increases, your training until they start telling you to 'mentor' people aka train your replacement. And if you manage to survive that by being where the shit ain't, then you can look forward to a long boring tenure of ever more abstract advisory roles. And when you're chained to the machine at age 50 your economic options are a lot more limited when they just toss you out on the street.

    So get out, Make the Suits happy. There is no such thing as retention. Retention is bullshit. You leave and they'll replace you, or not, with a robot or a monkey and a robot.
  • by i)ave (716746) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:02AM (#22010964)
    This is one hell of a different world than it was 50 years ago! America is not the place it was in 1958... Let's see, 1958: A college education was completely unnecessary for most well paying and secure jobs. This started someone in their career about 4-5 years ealier and saved them $30k-$40k in debt. In 1958 it only took 1 income earner in a family to provide enough to support the entire family. In 1958 most everyone could count on working for a big megacorp throughout their career and retire with a big fat pension to carry them through their golden years. Healthcare costs were a pittance compared to what they are today. Anyone could own their own home. Rents were also a pittance compared to what they are today. Anyone who thinks people under the age of 31 are too impatient are goddamned right because we don't have time to be patient, your generation has generously taken everything you could get for yourselves and left very little to us except your Medicare and Social Security debt. The company that wants to pretend it is 1958 without offering the same pensions, or unionization, without paying an employee enough to take care of the whole family on 1 income -- is being disingenuous to say the least. Talk about blaming the victims!
  • by Glomek (853289) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:02PM (#22016206)
    IT workers are able to do things that most people cannot do. IT workers know this.

    IT workers are needed everywhere. IT workers know this.

    Managers have managed to keep IT salaries low due to downward pressure on wages from immigrants and offshoring, but these pressures are temporary. As developing countries develop their own IT infrastructures, the worldwide demand will continue to outgrow the worldwide supply, and this will eventually be felt at the local level.

    When a worker manages a system which costs an employer oodles of dollars per day of downtime, but is paid peanuts, the worker knows that the worker is giving more value to the employer than the worker is being paid for.

    It is time for an upward market adjustment. The IT workers know this. The employers are trying to avoid it, but in time the difficulty hiring and retaining good IT workers will force management to acknowledge it.

    Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe someone will come up with a great technology that allows managers to get the benefits of technology without the headaches of IT workers. However, if history is any indicator, most inventions that hold that sort of promise at the beginning (SQL, the GUI, the personal computer, automatic program generators (remember The Last One?), the web, and so on) usually end up creating a requirement for more IT workers than before.

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