Report: Better pay won’t solve tech worker shortage

Better pay would help the government attract technology workers, but money alone won't make them want to work for federal agencies, a report released Thursday suggests. The National Academy of Public Administration study of pay systems for technology workers in the private and public sectors suggests that to attract technology workers, the government needs to increase pay, offer better rewards and recognition, provide more training and advancement opportunities, speed up hiring and do a better job of convincing people that the government is a good place to work. "While competitive pay is vital, factors other than pay also play a significant role in the ability of the private sector companies to recruit and retain IT workers," said the academy's report, "Comparative Study of Information Technology Pay Systems." "Exposure to new technologies through training and on-the-job exposure, career advancement opportunities, family-friendly benefits, flexible work schedules, good working relationships with supervisors and coworkers and meaningful recognition for individual and team performance are non-pay benefits that can close the gap for those organizations that are unable to offer lucrative, high-paying compensation packages," the report said. Private sector managers see non-pay factors as important elements in getting technology workers to come and stay. For example, companies offer employees concierge services and equipment to use at home--and promote such perks during the hiring process. In fact, as long as workers are not significantly underpaid, pay is not as important to technology workers as five other factors are, said the study's chairman, Costis Toregas. The top five reasons reasonably paid techies stay at jobs are good management, good work environment, challenging work, flexible work arrangements and training. That means federal agencies don't necessarily have to try to match higher private sector technology salaries to recruit and retain workers. The report is part of a three-phase, $678,000 study, paid for by a group of federal agencies. The results of the research phase are included in the report released Thursday. The academy plans to issue a second report in June looking at the range of options for altering the compensation system for technology workers. The academy will recommend specific changes to the compensation system in its third report, which is scheduled for release in August or September. The first report included examples of successful efforts to recruit and retain IT workers in federal agencies and state governments. The city of San Diego, for example, created a non-profit organization for IT support services, allowing the city to avoid civil service system rules that made it hard to recruit and retain IT personnel. At the State Department, managers set up a recruitment bonus system that gave 10 percent to 25 percent signing bonuses to tech workers with certain skills. Most federal officials, however, told researchers that the government pay system makes it hard to bring in and hold onto tech workers. Special pay rates for GS-5 to GS-12 tech workers, which took effect this year, have helped agencies "but do not go far enough to address the range of recruitment and retention issues with which … agencies are dealing," the report said.
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