Job Satisfaction Plummets, but Some IT Jobs Remain in High Demand

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


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The recession and other factors have taken their toll on job satisfaction, according to a report from the Conference Board that shows job satisfaction at its lowest level in two decades. But are some high-demand IT jobs immune from the pain?

After more than a year in the toughest recession in memory, when so many companies implemented work force reductions, hiring freezes, pay cuts and unpaid furloughs, is it any surprise that job satisfaction levels may have plummeted to their lowest levels on record?

The Conference Board the week of Jan. 4 released a survey showing the lowest job satisfaction levels on record since the organization began tracking them in 1987. Among the findings is that only 45 percent of those surveyed said they are satisfied with their jobs, down from 61 percent in 1987, and reflecting a steady decline since that year.

IT employment industry analyst David Foote of Foote Partners says that while he has not seen the Conference Board report, he has personally found the biggest correlation between job satisfaction and company size, with a higher percentage of those working for small companies expressing job satisfaction while employees of large companies are generally less satisfied.

He says that may be exacerbated by an economic recession, like the one we are currently experiencing, because employees of large companies who have the expectation of serving as specialists are more likely to find themselves asked to do more work and be more of a jack-of-all-trades as their companies implement workforce reductions.

"The people I hear complaining the most are the people at large companies who have the least amount of control over their jobs," Foote says. "At bigger companies there are more turf wars. It's like a low grade fever and people deal with low level frustration everyday that will eventually explode. There's nothing that burns a worker out faster than resentment. At smaller companies people work better at as a team."

While the Conference Board did not break out job satisfaction according to profession, there's reason to believe that some who hold certain types of IT jobs may be at least somewhat protected from the eroding satisfaction levels because they have more say about where they work.

For example, VARs and technology industry observers have told Channel Insider that virtualization specialists—the ones who really know how to exploit the technology to provide high ROI—are likely to be making six-figure incomes and continue to be in high demand even as so many companies cut their work forces in 2009. These employees can pick and chose their employers, and settle on the ones that are more likely to meet their needs.

In addition, U.S. employment numbers released in December 2009 by the Department of Labor showed a third straight month of improvement in IT-related employment. Categories that grew included those in professional and technical services businesses that encompassed management and technical consulting, up 5,600 jobs in November. Also up in November by 1,000 jobs were computer system design and related services.

At the time, IT employment industry analyst company Foote Partners noted the positive trend for IT jobs—that among five IT bellwether job segments covered in the Labor Department report, 7,300 jobs were lost in September, October and November, but those same segments added 18,500 jobs for a net gain of 11,200 jobs.

A recent release from US News and World Report that identified the top 50 careers for 2010 put a handful of IT jobs on that list, including computer software engineer, systems analyst and network architect.

The Conference Board said the declining job satisfaction spanned all age groups of workers and income levels, but did not break out the size of the company.

Still, the survey and report revealed that regardless of whether the economy was in the midst of boom or bust times, job satisfaction has steadily declined over the last 22 years.

"While one in 10 Americans is now unemployed, their working compatriots of all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy," says Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center, in a statement. "Through both economic boom and bust during the past two decades, our job satisfaction numbers have shown a consistent downward trend."

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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