Banks need to increasingly focus on employee engagement if they want to recruit and retain top management and staff, including investing in more company-paid training and providing interesting and flexible work environments.
"The way to engage technology folks is to give them something interesting to do, support to do it, IT training if they need it and a coach to help them learn new things," says Judy Pennington, director of human capital at Deloitte Consulting.
In addition, Pennington advises financial firms to offer flexible workplace options in order to better engage their employees. "We can work our fingers to the bone for special projects, but we all need work-life balance. Engagement is about learning something new, doing cool work and knowing that they are valued for what they bring to the table." Offering competitive salaries continues to be key, but it is generally not the main reason someone takes, or leaves, a job, according to 1,184 banking and securities IT staff and managers who responded to the InformationWeek 2013 U.S. IT Salary Survey examining their views on compensation, job satisfaction and other workplace-related trends. "Money is good, but money isn’t the only reason people come to a job," Steve Rubinow, CIO of the Marketplaces division at Thomson Reuters, confirms. "Employees want to work in an environment where they will be challenged, where they feel like they're accomplishing something important."
A majority of staff and managers are satisfied with their total compensation packages, according to the 2013 U.S. IT Salary Survey.
Overall, 61% of staff and 59% of managers who responded to the InformationWeek survey said they were either very satisfied or satisfied with their compensation packages. Fewer than 20% of respondents from each group said they're either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with compensation. After seeing base salaries remain flat, at a median of $90,000, from 2011 to 2012, staffers experienced a bump in 2013 to $94,000.
Management saw a similar rise in salary after witnessing a drop from 2011 to 2012: Median base salary rose from $117,000 in 2012 to $120,000 for 2013. Total compensation also improved, with staffers bringing home $101,000 (compared with $99,000 last year) and managers receiving $134,000 (vs. $130,000 in 2012).
Most managers (89%) and the majority of staff (75%) expect to receive a bonus this year. Bonuses are most often tied to personal, corporate and division performance, as well as completing project milestones and company profit sharing.
Bonuses are key, particularly in some financial services segments where salaries are relatively nominal since they can be supplemented with big bonuses, says Rubinow.
Still, he notes that "prospective employees on both the staff and management levels want a higher salary because bonuses aren't as dependable as they used to be."
Meanwhile, the InformationWeek survey revealed that the gender gap in compensation persists on both the IT staff and management levels, although it seems to be narrowing. Still, women in managerial positions currently earn about 20% less in total than men in the same level jobs, data showed.
On the recruiting front, today's ideal IT employee must have a combination of top-notch skills and business savvy, notes Rubinow. "Technologists need to be adept in one or more technologies and be above average. Financial organizations want people who are sensitive to business needs and have an appreciation for why they are doing things and how they benefit the business. They want technologists who can provide innovative ideas and collaborate with and act as a partner to the business. And finally, financial firms need technologists who are aware of and sensitive to the costs of their activities and the impact on the bottom line."
Respondents to the InformationWeek Survey agreed that the combination of business and IT skills is critical. "I think that the line between what is IT and what is business will get more blurred as the use of big data expands," said one respondent. "Those who can continue to straddle both worlds will come out ahead in terms of salary but will find job opportunities scarce."
To retain the best, firms must provide IT staff with additional training, particularly since technology evolves so rapidly. While survey findings indicate that banks and securities organizations are investing in their workforces — half of staff and 61% of managers attended company-paid training last year — some respondents say it’s just not enough.
In particular, when it comes to training, some financial organizations are not thinking ahead, Mike Barker, senior VP of executive search firm Experis North America, points out. "Employers need to be thinking and working ahead to what their talent needs will be in the future," he says. "If you don't know your needs until you need them, you’ll be behind the eight ball."
Jon Beyman, managing director of global operations and IT for the Institutional Clients Group at Citi says that, in general, financial IT professionals are highly engaged and that they work very hard.
But organizations still need to create the right work atmosphere to foster that engagement. "It comes down to providing an environment where performance is recognized, where there are clear career paths and interesting work, and where staff and managers can feel like they are valued for their contributions," he says. "Create an environment where individuals can thrive."