I.T. Workers' Morale Mired In A Slump

Even though the economy has been slowly rebounding over the last year or so, poor IT worker morale is becoming more widespread. That's according to a new survey by Meta Group.
Even though the economy has been slowly rebounding over the last year or so, poor IT worker morale is becoming more widespread. That's according to a new survey by Meta Group.

After several years of IT layoffs, budget cutbacks, and trends toward outsourcing, and with few companies yet to significantly increase their IT workforces, IT employee morale is now an issue at nearly three-quarters of companies, according to the 650 IT executives surveyed for Meta's 2004 IT Staffing And Compensation Guide. Last year, morale concerns had seemingly reached an "all-time high," with two-thirds of companies saying it was an issue among their IT workers.

Morale Dilemma pie chartThe improved economic climate has "not yet translated into substantially different business practices," Meta senior program director Maria Schafer says in the report. So, "hiring levels remain relatively stagnant, new projects, while coming on stream, continue to be subjected to much more scrutiny than was the case three years ago, and driving cost out of the organization continues to be a high priority."

More companies this year are apparently sensing IT-worker morale problems during their performance-review processes. Last year, only 18% of executives said they used performance reviews to measure IT employee morale. This year, nearly 40% say they're using the process to gauge their employees' spirits. Employee satisfaction surveys are still the most popular way of measuring employee morale, but that method of evaluating mood has dropped off a bit, with only 68% using it now versus 84% last year.

So what are companies doing to address their IT employee morale problems? Money apparently isn't the answer for most--only 4% of respondents say their companies are giving bonuses to boost morale. Apparently, even fewer are making attempts to lighten workloads to improve morale--only 2% say they're hiring more staff. The most common tactic to boost morale is providing employee recognition, such as write-ups in company newsletters and employee-of-the-month awards, with 45% saying their companies take that action.

Let us know what your company is doing to keep IT spirits healthy at the address below.

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee
Senior Editor
[email protected]

Assessment Methods bar chart
Assessment Methods

How does your company evaluate its IT employees' morale?

Some methods used to evaluate morale rely on anonymous responses. Confidentiality is sometimes the best way to obtain an honest assessment. A company suggestion box is one method of obtaining anonymous feedback; 14% of surveyed sites report making a suggestion box available to IT workers for them to voice issues and ideas.

One Year Later bar chartOne Year Later

How is IT morale measured by your company?

While employee satisfaction surveys and performance reviews are the most popular methods of measuring morale, one of the least popular is focus groups. Only 3% of executives report that their company uses them. More informal processes, such as employee lunches and office visits, are gaining in popularity. Last year, 3% of executives in Meta Group's IT Staffing And Compensation Guide Survey reported using informal processes to gauge the mood of IT workers. This year, it increased to 14%.

Prevention Tactics bar chartPrevention Tactics

What action has your company taken to boost IT morale in 2004?

Companies are starting to give back to IT employees to ensure that morale remains strong. One in five executives says that their employers sponsor company events where employees can blow off steam or company gatherings to recognize exceptional workers. Companies also are working to improve the lines of communication by either establishing an annual action plan or speaking openly about business objectives and priorities so everyone knows the direction in which the business is headed.

I.T. Cultivation pie chartI.T. Cultivation

Does your company offer skill-development opportunities to alleviate IT morale issues?

Providing challenging work and job stability are two key ways of building a happy workforce, but workers want to know that their hard work will pay off. Skill development is the second most popular action idea to boost IT morale, with 40% of surveyed executives naming it. And this is preferred over career-development opportunities, such as a definitive road map of career advancement, as fewer than a quarter--only 23%--of respondents say their companies offer such development to improve morale.

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