IT Staffs Lag in Job Satisfaction vs. Non-IT Workers

Information Technology staff are more likely than other workers to feel disconnected from the missions of their overall organizations, a principal reason for diminished job satisfaction, according to a new study of 5,000 employees in 500 different technology organizations.

TinyPulse, a Seattle, Wash. specialist in employee morale and company culture surveyed workers about job satisfaction, happiness at work and company values. They found tech employees less satisfied than others.

“What we found to be the most surprising was technology workers’ misalignment with their organization’s purpose and values,” TinyPulse CEO David Niu told GovTechWorks. “Only 28 percent of them know their company’s mission, vision and values, versus 43 percent for non-IT employees.”

Other significant disparities included the extent to which their personal values matched those of their employers.

“For non-IT employees, 45 percent responded with a [top score of] 9 or 10,” Niu said, versus 34 percent for IT workers. “That’s surprising, given how much we see in the popular press about how technology companies like Google and Facebook preach their culture and work-life balance.”

Among areas of concern:

  • Only 19 percent of IT employees gave a strongly positive answer when asked how happy they were on the job. That compares to 22 percent among non-IT workers “which is a statistically significant difference that makes us worry,” the report stated. Employee engagement is key. “The creativity and passion we need from workers in the tech space can’t thrive without it. So when IT employees, some of our best and brightest, tell us that they’re so much unhappier than people in other industries, we need to pay attention and find out why.”
  • IT employees are less likely to see a clear career path ahead of them. Roughly half of all non-IT employees see clear promotion and career paths ahead versus lightly more than 1 in 3 IT employees.
  • Only a slim 17 percent of IT employees feel strongly valued at work, compared with 22 percent for non-IT employees. “We asked employees if they would reapply for their current job, then compared those answers to how valued they feel at work,” the report claimed. “The two go hand in hand: Even if they stick around, an unappreciated worker is not a motivated one. Recognition communicates to employees that their work matters, driving them to keep putting in that effort.”
  • Only 47 percent of IT employees say they have strong relationships with their coworkers, versus 56 percent for non-IT employees. “Peers are the number one reason that motivates employees to excel,” reads the report. “It’s not their salary, it’s not their boss — it’s not even their own passion for the field. Tactics like awarding raises and measuring job fit are important, but they can’t substitute for colleagues.”

IT staff working for government contractors and embedded in government offices may face particular challenges. They have to support both the government customer’s mission and their mission as a contractor. While most of the time those two challenges are aligned, sometimes they are not.

“Open and honest communication and trusted relationships are critical,” says Collen Nicoll, director of talent acquisition at systems integrator General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT). “If the relationship is strong and built on mutual transparency from the beginning, whatever disconnects might arise can be dealt with and eliminated quickly and easily. When it’s not, that’s when problems arise. Onsite managers are there to ensure alignment, make sure they are meeting the customer’s needs and work through problems when and if they occur. For most employees, there should be no question about the alignment between the company’s values, their work and that of the government customer.”

Getting that relationship and tone right is especially important for younger, less experienced employees – the heart of the future workforce. Job satisfaction and career progression are the most critical factors in determining their propensity to stay with the same employer.

“One of the most pressing concerns for employees is to know where they’re going at a company,” the TinyPulse report states. “Our internal research found that among millennials — the largest generation in the workplace — 75 percent would consider looking for a new job if they didn’t have opportunities for professional growth.”

Daniel Todd, CEO and Founder of Affinity Influencing Systems in Kirkland, Wash., said, “Keeping people motivated is often times a mix of giving them clear, detailed direction while simultaneously talking about the big picture and how each element of what they are working on fits into the big picture.”

What can leaders do to improve IT staff morale?

  • Foster professional growth. Make sure employees fit with their jobs and know where they’re going in the organization. Managers should routinely discuss career development with employees.
  • Build the right team. Leaders should understand what kind of culture they want to create, and hire with it in mind. They should understand how a new hire will fit in before they bring them aboard.
  • Prioritize positive feedback. There’s an epidemic of feeling undervalued at work, leading to disengagement and attrition. Acknowledging employees accomplishments every day and talking to them when things go right, as well as wrong, builds confidence and trust.
  • Align employees with the company mission. If the mission isn’t clear to the team, the team won’t pull in the same direction. Clearly communicating core values and hiring the people who fit them helps ensure everyone is on the same page.

Unhappy employees “directly impact others with their work, so disengagement and unhappiness has ripple ef­fects throughout [an organization],” the report concludes. Helping unhappy employees improve their situation – and solving the underlying causes – are among the most important things leaders do.

But that doesn’t mean leaders need to do it all by themselves. Admir Hadziabulic, knowledge supervisor at Heavy Construction System Specialist (HCSS), which creates system software in Sugar Land, Texas, leans on employees to spread the company culture to new hires.

“HCSS evolved over time to develop its culture,” says Hadziabulic, “and we try to ensure that everyone who works here has a hand in that culture.”

Each new employee receives a “Culture Book,” a document written by employees and designed to help new hires integrate “into our established culture,” Hadziabulic says. New employees also go through a culture overview class that “explains why we do things the way we do.”

By helping employees understand and buy into that culture, he says, they’re more likely to stick around.

“Job satisfaction starts with the hiring process and then the employees’ start in the workplace,” says Nicoll of GDIT. “Cultures are hard to change, but morale is fluid and always a function of leadership. Hiring the right people is the first, best step. Next comes aligning them with our company values, this includes giving them the tools, training and support they need to succeed. And finally, celebrating their successes – and helping them to learn from their failures – is also important. Morale is just higher when leaders follow that approach.”

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