FORTUNE -- For any company hoping to hang on to its stars these days, the odds are daunting. The number of people quitting their jobs climbed to new heights in December 2013, up 49% from a recessionary low of 3.4 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, a survey of full-time employees by consultants BlessingWhite found that they're five times more likely to expect to quit in the next few months than to be laid off (84% to 16%).
Highly skilled IT people are the most restless of all. Even during the darkest days of the economic downturn, demand was such that unemployment among techies never exceeded 4%. Now that companies have stepped up hiring, tech employment site Dice.com's latest salary survey of more than 17,000 U.S. IT employees says two-thirds are "confident that they can find a new, better" job sometime this year.
With so many staffers eyeing the exits, it's no wonder that employers have started trying harder to hold on to them. One motivator is that old standby: money. "Tech managers are telling me they're stretching their budgets to keep their technology workforces satisfied," says Dice president Shravan Goli. The highest paid techies are in Silicon Valley, where the average IT salary is now $108,603 and annual bonuses average $12,458.
Most of the other 10 biggest tech markets in the U.S. are also seeing raises. That includes Los Angeles ($95,815, up 4% in 2013), New York ($93,915, up 5%), and Philadelphia ($92,138, up 8%). Clearly, big data rules: Nine of the 10 highest paid skills are connected to it, with those adept at R and NoSQL reaping the highest pay, at $115,531 and $114,796 respectively.
If retaining top tech talent were as easy as just writing a bigger check, most employers could breathe easy. But alas, it's not that simple. "Money is nice, but it isn't everything," notes Goli. The one enticement that topped it in Dice's survey was "more interesting or more challenging assignments," which are often much harder to provide month in and month out, but techies' wish lists include other perks too: a promotion or a new title, flexible work hours, more training and certification courses, more recognition from top management, and -- especially in northern California and other traffic-clogged locales -- the chance to work from home.
Do those sound like the earmarks of a startup? It's no coincidence. "Big companies that want to keep tech talent can learn a lot from startups," Goli says. According to Dice's survey, fledgling enterprises tend to pay IT staff a little less. Salaries average $85,655, up just 1% in 2013, vs. a national average of $87,811, a 3% raise from the previous year. Yet 57% of startups' IT employees say they're satisfied with their pay, somewhat higher than the 54% of their big-company peers who say the same.
The reason, Goli says, is that small companies "dig harder to find out what makes each individual tick, and personalize each person's job" to match the worker's interests and goals. "Startups are better than big companies at offering people not only lots of formal training and cutting-edge work but also clear career paths that are customized to each person." Newer companies also famously "let people loosen up and relax. Ping pong tables help."
The biggest difference between startups and their bigger brethren, he believes, is that bosses at small companies spend more time just talking with employees. "They're really good at developing people and growing talent in-house, which takes a constant, never-ending conversation," he says. At Dice, Goli aims to make sure employees know his door is always open, especially if anybody is dissatisfied: "I tell everybody here, 'If you're thinking about leaving, come and talk to me first. I'll do whatever I can to keep you.'"
Some people whose skills are in demand aren't great at selling themselves, says a Microsoft recruiter. Luckily, that's addressable.Anne Fisher, contributor - Jan 17, 2014 1:46 PM ET
For the top 10 jobs where H-1B visas are requested, only three do not currently have enough qualified American jobseekers to satisfy demand, according to a new study.Aug 5, 2013 10:29 AM ET
While demand for some IT skills is soaring, finding a tech job isn't always easy. A Silicon Valley recruiter explains what employers want now.
FORTUNE -- At first glance, you might think that anyone with up-to-date IT skills and a few years of work experience has it made in the shade. Unemployment among this group has dropped from 4.2% in the third quarter of last year to 3.3% now, according to MOREAnne Fisher, contributor - Oct 25, 2012 9:03 AM ET
As your health history moves from the file cabinet to the hard drive, technicians are needed to make the switch.
By Alex Konrad, reporter
FORTUNE -- Why it's hot: Just two years ago, about one in five hospitals used electronic health records (EHR). Thanks to an incentive program from the government, the number is growing fast: More than 3,600 hospitals (about 72%) received payments to transition to EHR as of the MORESep 18, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Maybe. But despite a plethora of government-funded training programs and lots of job openings in IT, getting hired isn't easy.
By Anne Fisher, contributor
FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: Since being pink-slipped from my job as a construction manager almost three years ago, I've been making ends meet with a string of low-skilled jobs that don't really use my abilities and aren't leading anywhere. I keep hearing that there are a lot of MOREJan 26, 2012 10:02 AM ET
FORTUNE -- Why it's hot: Simply having a Facebook and Google (GOOG) ad plan is not enough. Now the digital strategy leader must find, manage, and champion what's new -- before everyone else does.
What you'll do: You'll have to truly integrate digital into your company. That means influence on the business side and an obsession with the future. Then you must help your colleagues understand -- and use -- what's new.
What you need: A MORENov 15, 2011 5:00 AM ET
IT professionals love to work from home, so much so that some are willing to take a pay cut in exchange for this particular perk, according to a recent study.
By Anne Fisher, contributor
As competition for highly skilled and creative tech employees heats up, many companies are overlooking a perk that could help them snag top hires: The chance to work away from the office.
That's the conclusion of a new analysis MOREApr 19, 2011 12:04 PM ET
IT layoffs have dropped to their lowest level in a decade, and demand for techies is expected to jump 32% by 2018. It matters where you live: Some cities can't get enough software engineers right now.
By Anne Fisher, contributor
Dear Annie: Please settle an argument. I am a freshman in college, trying to choose a major, and I really want to go with computer science, which fascinates me. The problem MOREFeb 14, 2011 12:18 PM ET
At least 400,000 tech jobs are going begging, even in this market, writes Fortune's Anne Fisher in her July 21 Ask Annie column. If you're a current or former techie, how does the job market look from where you stand? If you're an employer, are you having trouble finding applicants with the skills you're seeking? Job hunters in other fields, have you ever considered making the switch to an IT MOREAnne Fisher, contributor - Jul 21, 2009 10:53 AM ET
|NJ agrees to ban Tesla direct sales|
|Inside the underground sex economy|
|West prepares sanctions against Russia over Ukraine|
|Five predictions for the World Wide Web that were way, way, way off|
|The Deep Web you don't know about|