Outlook for IT bonus pay murky

IT pros say company performance determines bonus payouts, not individual performance

Is there an end-of-year bonus in your future?

IT pros are divided when it comes to bonus expectations, according to tech jobs site Dice.com. On the optimistic front, 37 percent of bonus-eligible IT workers believe they're in line to earn a bigger bonus than they did in 2011. Another 33 percent said their bonus would be unchanged. The disappointed remainder expect to take home a smaller bonus in 2012 (18 percent) or not get a bonus at all (12 percent).

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Bonus eligibility tends to increase based on years of work experience, Dice found. Among entry-level IT pros with zero to two years of experience, 30 percent are eligible for a bonus and 70 percent aren't. That ratio starts to even out after IT pros gain about six years of experience. "Not everybody gets a bonus, but after about six years, we saw that about 50 percent of people were getting some sort of bonus," says Alice Hill, managing director at Dice.com and president of Dice Labs.

"As more hiring shortages appear in different areas of tech, bonuses are a great retention tool for companies to consider," Hill adds. "They're less expensive than doing a salary increase."

Curiously, IT workers seem to have a different opinion of what determines bonus payouts than professionals in other industries do.

Generally speaking, people view bonuses as a personal achievement -- meaning individual performance determines if a person is going to receive a bonus. But that's not the case in the IT department, where bonuses gained and lost are thought to be determined by company conditions, Hill says.

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Dice asked IT pros whose bonuses are expected to decrease why they think it's shrinking, and 46 percent cited company performance as the main reason while just 4 percent attributed it to personal performance. Likewise, more IT pros with unchanged bonus expectations said it's due to company performance (39 percent) rather than personal performance (7 percent). Even among the respondents getting bigger bonuses, company performance (35 percent) trumped personal performance (24 percent) as the main reason for the boost.

"I think that really ties to the teamwork mentality" that's prevalent in IT, Hill says. "People think they'll be entitled to a bonus if the company does well. If the company's not doing well, their expectations go down."

Looking ahead, some IT pros are optimistic about their prospects for bigger bonuses, but they're in the minority. When asked what they expect will happen to bonus sizes over the next year, 23 percent said bonuses will increase, 42 percent said bonuses will stay the same and 19 percent said bonuses will decrease. The remaining 16 percent had no opinion.

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her email address is abednarz@nww.com.

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This story, "Outlook for IT bonus pay murky" was originally published by Network World.