What we can offer developers

As the IT market recovers, I wanted to expand a little on my comments to Compensation. My impression is that our attractiveness as a place to work is way down from when I started in 1993. A little fooling with an inflation calculator shows that we don’t pay much better than we did in the early 1990s (which wasn’t very good), but our benefits have declined since then and we certainly don’t have the perceived job security we once had. Job satisfaction is harder to evaluate, since we don’t keep track of it, but my sense is that it is down some too, particularly in some areas. I think we have gradually, over the last 20 or so years, become more tightly managed — and since autonomy is highly valued, that has probably had a cost to job satisfaction.

The drop-off in attractiveness has been disguised by both the weak job market (which does seem to be slowly recovering, at least for IT jobs) and the structure of UT’s retirement program, which tends to deter more senior folks from leaving. But I’m guessing we will see more departures over the next year or two.

What can we do to improve the situation? I take for granted that we can’t offer enough money to make much of a difference. Whether we get 2% merit raises this year or not, there isn’t much chance that UT will pay more than the private sector. Some options:

  1. We still have an advantage over many private industry jobs in terms of work-life balance. We could build on that advantage — offer flexibility in hours (or telework). One limitation is that some of the best ways to take advantage of this — on-site child-care, part-time jobs for moms — realistically cost money, which we don’t have.
  2. Raise job satisfaction in other ways. The difficulty here is not the idea but the execution. Not all analysts have the same goals or desires, either.
  3. Approach IT in a way that offers more value to analysts — make the job look like more of a resume-builder. The issue here is that it needs to fit your overall strategy.

All of this would be easier if we could decide on our strategy and thus whom we want working here. One of the costs of not having a strategy is that your other actions can’t be focused effectively.

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