Index of tech wages shows significant opportunity for employers

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Posted by Joel Capperella

July 28, 2010

This morning, Yoh released its quarterly Index of Technology WagesThe data shows a not-so-positive story for the economy, but a unique opportunity for employers.

In April, wages saw a 1.94 percent year-over-year increase, from to 31.27 to 31.88 percent. However, in May and June they declined, likely as a result of volatility in the stock market, increased concern over European debt, and the expiration of government stimulus spending.

As wages fell, overall demand for skilled technical workers increased. The inverted wage curve requires a willing workforce, which is where the opportunity for employers come in. While corporations increased their use of highly skilled temporary employees, the rate they were willing to pay for talent flat-lined, then fell.

With skilled employees willing to work for less, employers have the opportunity to secure talent at opportunistic wages and rates. But why would employees be willing to work for less?

Employees agree to lower wages when they don't expect tomorrow's opportunities to have potential for increased pay. The loss of today's wages on the chance that tomorrow's job offer will come at an increased rate is not a risk many are willing to take.

In addition, long-term unemployment has led to many highly trained professionals to accept a lower wage rate under temporary circumstances as a first entrance into the workforce. As temp employees are being added to the workforce in record numbers, conditions now exist that let employers hire talent at reduced fees, even as demand for talent is increasing with the strengthening economy.

Here are some recommendations on appealing to these highly skilled workers:

  • Employee engagement. Because wage capitulation is not a desirable situation for an employee, it can be challenging for employers to harness productivity in such an environment. Engaging the temporary members of the workforce is a wise investment, and can offer employees tangible value beyond what they see in their paycheck. Make it a priority to clearly articulate how each employee is contributing to the immediate objectives of the organization. Specificity in each skill-oriented category, reinforced with real-life examples of customer benefits, increased revenue or decreased costs lets employees emotionally connect their work to a mission. It also provides employees with a tangible measure of success that they can use to develop a more compelling career narrative for themselves.

  • Temporary worker strategies. Within the context of co-employment parameters, an engaged temporary staff should be evaluated for opportunities to strategically expand their employment terms. Capitalizing on economic realities that keep wages flat or drive them down, take the time to match the skill sets of professional-level temporary talent against the projected demand. This will help safeguard against the possibility of an unexpected increase in technical temporary wage rates. This process requires an analysis of project work to identify top priorities as well as the degree of certainty with which these priorities will be executed.

  • Succession and satisfaction. The satisfaction of the entire workforce must be aggressively monitored and nurtured. Full-time employees must see and be excited by the contributions their temporary peers bring to the table. Failing to see this risks the possibility of a tension developing between employees and non-employees. The value of the temporary professionals can be fostered by clearly defining their roles on critical projects, and defining success for the full-time staff that is contingent on the contribution of their temporary team members. Investing in the creation of collaborative teams must be augmented by frequently and adequately recognizing the successes born as a result of the joint effort. This lets temporary technical professionals see their contributions not as a static work-for-hire deliverable, but as a critical element of a potential succession plan, and a valuable career building experience.

  • Control. Increased investments in the temporary elements of the workforce inherently bring them them a need to evaluate the control mechanisms that are currently in place to ensure quality, speed, and cost controls are working. Firms that have a large portion of their workforce (8 percent or more) composed of non-employees typically have a well-defined infrastructure in place to manage this. So performing proper analysis of how that infrastructure is positioned to help the organization capitalize on success should be a relatively easy task. Consider these three key factors. (1) The level of autonomy that is permitted. Is the selection of disparate talent suppliers based solely on hiring manager preferences or is it tied to cost mitigating and quality ensuring policies. (2) Service levels. Ensure that service levels include incentives for suppliers to source candidates are easily tenured to the fullest extent of defined term limits. (3) Measure the effectiveness of temporary employment program management. Metrics to consider would include the quality of the temporary staff, the time to fill open positions, the satisfaction of hiring managers, the temporary-to-permanent conversion ratio, and the average rate per major skill category.

Topics: Staff Management, HR Strategies

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