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How information technology is changing the landscape for federal employees.

Are Advanced Degrees Must-Haves?

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Holding a Master’s degree is often considered a must-have for young job seekers if they have any hope of landing a federal job. But according to a recent survey by Dice.com, the majority of IT workers aren’t seeing these advanced degrees as critical to their careers.

The survey found that just 32 percent of IT workers think that having an MBA will be important to future tech careers, while 52 percent said an MBA is unnecessary. Sixteen percent of IT pros had no opinion on whether an MBA degree mattered for the future.

Meanwhile, those who saw the value in an advanced degree cited the benefit of combining business knowledge with technical skills, the additional career marketability and greater likelihood of advancing into management, Dice found. Those IT pros who saw no value in an MBA mostly agreed that technical expertise would continue to outweigh the benefits of having general business knowledge.

Among those IT pros who hold an MBA (9 percent of respondents), higher pay was the top reported impact of their degree, just ahead of “no impact,” Dice found. Technology professionals with an MBA said the degrees helped them move into management or obtain employment at their preferred organization.

And for those tech professionals without an advanced degree, only 19 percent said they plan to get an MBA in the future.

What are your thoughts? Are MBAs critical to obtaining an IT job and getting ahead at your agency? What does this mean for the future, particularly if IT pros see little value in obtaining an MBA?

Telework Choices

The 2010 Telework Enhancement Act is changing the work lives of many federal employees, but many federal managers still need convincing that employees are working, not shirking, outside the traditional office space. A new study by Stanford University might help. It concludes that not surprisingly, telework can lead to increased performance, improved work satisfaction and decreased attrition rates, Fast Company reports.

For the study, Stanford researchers looked at a 13,000-employee Chinese multinational company, where call center employees who volunteered to work from home were randomized into home or office working for nine months.

The study found that teleworkers had a 13 percent increase in performance, of which about 9.5 percent was from taking fewer breaks and sick days and therefore working more minutes per shift and 3.5 percent was from making more calls per minute because of the quieter working environment.

Teleworkers also reported improved work satisfaction and their job attrition rate fell by 50 percent, the study found.

After the 9-month experiment, the Chinese company rolled out telework to all employees, allowing them to choose between telework or office work. Surprisingly, however, only half of the volunteer group decided to continue to work at home, with the other half opting to continue office working.

“After allowing employees to choose, the performance impact of [teleworking] more than doubled, highlighting the benefits of choice alongside modern practices like home working,” the Stanford report noted.

In July, I wrote about how while every job is not necessarily a good telework candidate, not every employee is a good candidate either. The Stanford study is a good example of why giving employees choices when it comes to telework can lead to greater productivity and outcomes. At the same time, managers need to be proactive about letting teleworkers know when the arrangement just isn’t working out.

What are your thoughts on the study? How important is “telework choice” to the success of the work arrangement at your agency?

Reporter Portrait for GovernmentExecutive.com

Brittany Ballenstedt writes Nextgov's Wired Workplace blog, which delves into the issues facing employees who work in the federal information technology sector. Before joining Nextgov, Brittany covered federal pay and benefits issues as a staff correspondent for Government Executive and served as an associate editor for National Journal's Technology Daily. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Mansfield University and originally hails from Pennsylvania. She currently lives near Travis Air Force Base, Calif., where her husband is stationed.

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