IT Confidential: What Do IT Workers Want?

It's a schizophrenic existence, to judge from the most recent Hudson Employment Index.
Wasn't it Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychiatry, who, on his deathbed, famously remarked: "What do IT workers want?" Maybe I have that a little confused, but it's still a valid question. And IT workers don't seem to know any more than Sigmund Freud did.

That's one way to read the latest results of the Hudson Employment Index, a monthly survey conducted by the Hudson Group, a Chicago-based recruiting and outsourcing firm. Hudson surveys 9,000 U.S. workers every month, asking them five specific questions to gauge their confidence in their jobs, their financial futures, and their companies' hiring plans. Hudson then rolls that data together into an index, a number that represents an overall confidence level. The base score is 100, and Hudson offers an overall score for the entire population of workers it surveys, as well as scores representing workers' confidence levels in several vertical industries. Hudson's been conducting its survey for more than three years.

IT workers are more optimistic than the general workforce. Overall workers' confidence level in June was 101.2. That's 3.1 points lower than that of IT workers (104.3). In terms of ups and downs over the last 12 months, the confidence index for IT workers tracks relatively closely with that for the overall workforce. However, the IT workers' index is almost always higher than that of the general populace, and sometimes by a significant margin--15.1 points higher in April, for instance, when IT workers' confidence hit an all-time high, according to Hudson. The firm interviews approximately 450 IT and telecom workers as part of its survey.

It's not surprising that IT workers are an optimistic bunch, says Tim Bosse, executive VP of Hudson's IT and telecom practice in North America. "There's still a lot of upside for IT workers," he says. "If they're good, they're going to have more than one opportunity they can select from."

So why the recent long face? IT workers' confidence last month, while higher than that of the general population, was down eight points from May (112.3) and a whopping 18.3 points from April (122.6), when, as indicated, IT workers' confidence level registered at an all-time high.

Hudson breaks out percentages in relation to specific questions, and they tell their own tale. For example, last month a higher percentage of IT workers answered yes to the question, "Are you worried about losing your job anytime soon?" than workers in general (24.4% vs. 18.5%). To the question, "Generally speaking, are you happy with your current job?" 21.9% of IT respondents answered no. That's up almost 7% from May (15.5%) and almost 10% from April (12.1%).

Ironically, the "not happy" answer among IT workers reached its highest point in the last 12 months in March--24.8%--just one month before that huge wave of optimism hit. Indeed, happiness with their jobs seems to be something of an IT workers' roller-coaster ride: 24.8% were unhappy in March, 14.5% in January, 21.9% last July. By comparison, 19.7% of all 9,000 workers answered no to the happy-with-your-job question last month, and that number has stayed pretty consistent, at or just below 20%, for the last 12 months.

Even the analyst is puzzled by the mood swings. "I don't think it should take the dips as much as it does," says Bosse. "But I'm not an IT worker."

I'm not an IT worker, either, but I know an industry tip when I see one, so send one to [email protected] or phone 516-562-5326.

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