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Career Watch: Your staff wants interesting work

It wasn't too long ago that software engineering was being written off as a viable career option for college graduates in the U.S. But things have turned around enough for jobs site CareerCast to declare it the best job in 2011.

$87,140

CareerCast's estimate of the average annual salary for software engineers in 2011

CareerCast looked at 200 job titles across several industries, ranking them according to five criteria: work environment, physical demands, outlook, income and stress. Here's how CareerCast explained the resurgence of software engineering: "A proliferation of companies making applications for smartphones and tablets, along with the push to develop 'cloud' software hosted entirely online, has made the job market for software engineers broader and more diverse. And a diverse job market brings improvements in stress factors such as growth potential and competitiveness, as workers become less beholden to employers or vulnerable to outsourcing."

Also in the top 10: computer systems analyst, at No. 5.

What IT Workers Want

If you want to motivate your IT staffers, give them interesting work. That approach would work best with younger employees, but it's effective with older people as well, according to a survey conducted by Forrester Research. In fact, the only thing that was more motivating for older workers was a sense of job security, which could come from statements a company makes or its "history of avoiding outsourcing, or implementing layoffs only as a last resort." For 86% of workers 45 and older, job security was chosen as one of the most important factors for motivation or as one that had a significant impact. Those younger than 45 put it 10th, with just 40% saying it was one of the most important factors or a significant factor. That's not a big surprise, of course: Older people naturally feel less resilient than the young. Other areas on which the older and younger groups didn't see eye to eye -- employee development and the threat of disciplinary action for poor performance -- are also fairly easy to understand (younger workers are more interested in professional development, and older people are more fearful of disciplinary action). The only other factor with a significant deviation was the desire for one's work to have a broader purpose, in a way that improves the community, industry or conditions outside of the company. Older workers cited that as a motivating factor more frequently than younger people did.

Comparing Motivational Factors for Older and Younger IT Workers

Job security

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 43%

* A factor with significant impact: 43%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 12%

* A factor with significant impact: 28%

Base compensation

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 29%

* A factor with significant impact: 45%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 14%

* A factor with significant impact: 50%

Interesting work

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 23%

* A factor with significant impact: 51%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 39%

* A factor with significant impact: 45%

Autonomy, or the ability to control one's own work

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 31%

* A factor with significant impact: 42%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 25%

* A factor with significant impact: 50%

Relationship with boss

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 19%

* A factor with significant impact: 53%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 15%

* A factor with significant impact: 47%

Work/life balance

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 28%

* A factor with significant impact: 39%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 27%

* A factor with significant impact: 44%

Bonuses for specific accomplishments

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 23%

* A factor with significant impact: 41%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 11%

* A factor with significant impact: 55%

Nonfinancial recognition

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 13%

* A factor with significant impact: 37%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 10%

* A factor with significant impact: 33%

Broader purpose

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 10%

* A factor with significant impact: 40%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 4%

* A factor with significant impact: 32%

Mastery

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 12%

* A factor with significant impact: 37%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 12%

* A factor with significant impact: 40%

Disciplinary action

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 10%

* A factor with significant impact: 31%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 2%

* A factor with significant impact: 23%

Employee development

Workers 45 and Over

* One of the most motivating factors: 5%

* A factor with significant impact: 28%

Workers Under 45

* One of the most motivating factors: 11%

* A factor with significant impact: 55%

Source: An online survey of 129 IT professionals from Forrester Research's ongoing IT research panel, Q4 2010


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