How Title-Skill Mismatches Can Drag Down Info Tech Pay

One leading researcher sees such mismatches for more than half of IT workers.
Business technology jobs have changed dramatically in recent years, but the descriptions many human resources pros use for work haven't kept up. That could help explain some of the stagnant salary growth seen in the InformationWeek U.S. IT Salary Survey, says one longtime researcher of IT compensation.

David Foote, whose research firm, Foote Partners, has been gathering and analyzing IT pay data for more than a decade, contends there are rampant mismatches between IT job titles and actual skills and duties, as IT people's value increasingly comes from business-plus-tech experience or specialized tech skills. That might mean an SAP business process specialist getting a generic title, or .Net and Cobol programmers getting lumped in the same general category. "This results in underpayment problems more often than overpayment when it comes to salaries," Foote says. "Employers attempt to benchmark these people to salary surveys strictly on the basis of title, and, of course, this results in comparing apples to oranges."

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In Foote's compensation database of 78,000 IT workers, drawn directly from HR managers, "employers are telling us that 56% of their IT workers have titles that do not match up very well with what they actually do on the job," he says. "Sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot." Foote cautions against generalizations across IT functions, since some skills lie "dead in the water" while others pull bonuses. Still, this mismatch could be one factor in explaining weakening IT pay.

Photo illustration by Viktor Koen