IT Employees Recapturing Power of 1990s

IT employees are starting to gain back some of the clout they had during the 1990s, as hiring in the technology field has accelerated during the last six quarters.

“A key component of the technology economy is IT employment, and it’s going through a major transition,” Joel Dibble, a spokesman for Menlo Park, Calif.-based Robert Half Technology, an IT hiring firm, told TechNewsWorld. “Slowly but surely, it’s turning back into a market in which the employee wields much more power — a huge change from the last 5 years.”

The recently published Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report indicates that during the first quarter of this year, companies plan a net 12 percent hiring increase. That compares with a net nine percent forecast one year ago and is unchanged from the fourth quarter of 2005 when the net hiring increase reached its highest level in 14 quarters.

The national poll includes responses from more than 1,400 CIOs in firms with 100 workers.

Conditions Improve

Essential facts of the report were as follows:

  • The Mountain states expect the strongest IT employment growth.
  • For the second consecutive quarter, the finance, insurance and real estate sectors are expected to lead the nation in hiring activity.
  • Executives at the largest firms — 1,000 or more employees — forecast the highest levels of IT hiring activity.
  • Microsoft Windows (NT/2000/XP) administration remains the technical skill set most in demand.

“As business conditions improve and new IT projects are initiated, hiring activity is increasing,” said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. “Competition among employers for the most highly skilled candidates means a more favorable employment market for job seekers.”

Many IT departments are rethinking their staffing strategies. “Managers are accelerating the hiring process because the most skilled individuals receive multiple offers. Those that delay the process too long, risk losing top candidates,” she said.

Specialized Skills

Twenty-three percent of CIOs at these firms plan to add staff and two percent project declines in personnel. The net 21 percent hiring increase is nine percentage points above the national average.

When asked which technical skill sets were needed most within their IT departments, 81 percent of CIOs reported demand for Microsoft Windows — NT/2000/XP — administration expertise. Wireless network management was cited by 50 percent of respondents, followed closely by SQL Server management — 46 percent.

When technology executives were asked which specialties were most in demand in their departments, 22 percent said networking. Help desk/end-user support was cited by 13 percent of CIOs while applications development received 11 percent of the response, an increase of two percentage points from its fourth-quarter ranking, the study said.

The Mountain states are expected to lead the nation in technology hiring activity during the first quarter. Twenty-four percent of CIOs plan to expand their IT departments and two percent anticipate personnel cutbacks. The net 22 percent increase is 10 points higher than the national average and 14 points above the region’s fourth-quarter forecast.

“CIOs in the Mountain states are actively hiring,” said Lee. “They’re looking for individuals who can assist with wireless network installations, regulatory compliance work and growing Internet-related business opportunities.”

Outsourcing Dims

CIOs in the South Atlantic states also forecast hiring activity above the national average. Thirteen percent of technology executives expect to add staff and none anticipate reductions in personnel, resulting in a net 13 percent hiring increase, the study said.

Outsourcing is losing its cachet, as costs climb. Companies are also figuring that they can squeeze more productivity than ever out of employees and that online tools are not a time waster as once thought, Cesar Brea, global practice leader at New York-based Marketspace, told TechNewsWorld.

“Large-scale employers are using technology to squeeze every ounce of productivity and revenue per employee,” said Brea. “Why not turn this equation on its axis? The reality is that employees use the Web — and phones — for personal time. It’s too simplistic to suggest that these tools are productivity drains; in fact when an employee is allowed to use tools in this way, the company/industry will have a more productive workforce because employees no longer have to leave the office to conduct personal business.”

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