More good news in IT compensation trends: According to the most recent Hot Technical Skills and Certification Pay Index released by research firm Foote Partners, slightly more than half of IT professionals in North America have seen substantial pay increases that align to their specialized competencies. About 51 percent of the 54,000 respondents receive income that falls into the study’s “hot” category, which David Foote, co-founder and president and chief research officer of Foote Partners, attributes to a new talent war in the IT job market.
Surveys like these can be complicated because companies’ HR departments still haven’t quite pinned down the various kinds of IT professionals in their organizations based on what they know and do. This can be easy to determine if their skills relate directly to a particular product or provider, but harder if their proficiencies cut across technologies and even non-technical realms. “It usually comes down to a platform or vendor,” Foote said. “If it comes down to a vendor, then you’re definitely getting into the area of certification. That’s where a lot of the certifications are, frankly. But then you’ve got the vendor-independent (certifications). There are more and more of those coming out all the time, because we’re now in a world where the vendors don’t own everything. You’ve got process people like project managers.”
This confusion can lead to negative perceptions on the part of employees, who feel they’re unfairly compensated. Most workers who believe they’re not getting paid what they ought to be usually wind up leaving their employers, which can be problematic if they face a small pool of candidates to choose from as replacements, Foote said. “If you’re going to lose somebody on pay, then you’re really screwed, because that’s the one thing you can do something about. The best way to keep people around is make sure they’re paid properly. If you do have a problem with that, it probably comes down to the fact that you’re probably not benchmarking properly. Eventually, you’ve got to get people labeled properly, and if you don’t, then you’re exposed.”
Another interesting finding in the survey is that pay for non-certified skills is growing a good deal faster that pay for certified ones. In fact, in areas like application development, non-certified professionals receive higher levels of compensation related to their skills on average than their technical counterparts do. “A big part of this comes down to whether people have to be certified,” Foote said. “A lot of things aren’t certified or don’t have a dominant vendor. There isn’t really a certification for the C++ programming language. Or with things like Websphere, they’re doing well whether they’re certified or not.”
Still, it’s hard to attribute pay solely to technical prowess, whether it’s certified or non-certified, he added. “I think a lot of people who receive bonuses for soft skills – or let’s just say non-vendor skills – are just receiving skills pay. That tells me that something else is going on in hiring and pay processes, and that has to be industry-specific knowledge. So many companies are paying attention to that right now. They’re looking at the whole package: It’s not so much a decline in certification as it is attention being paid to the overall person.”