Indy tech employers face vexing question on compensation

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As in many regions of the country, central Indiana's tech-job market continues to favor prospective employees. The supply of people with adequate computer-related skills is short.

So why are central Indiana employers with open tech positions having a tough time getting even their interns to accept job offers here?

Maybe employers aren’t offering enough in compensation, or maybe they’re doing a poor job communicating how much farther those dollars stretch in Indianapolis’ economy, suggests a recent study by tech advocacy and marketing group TechPoint.

“These results beg additional questions as to whether these factors are real or perceived,” TechPoint CEO Mike Langellier said. “Is there really a compensation disparity, or are we not doing a good job of understanding and articulating buying power and cost-of-living differences?"

The study’s results, released Tuesday, were based on fall 2013 surveys of 26 regional companies, including tech firms like Interactive Intelligence Inc. and tech-heavy companies like CNO Financial Group, an insurance holding company.

It was the second of two TechPoint workforce development studies this year. The first focused on labor data, and the recent study was based on manager surveys.

According to the report, the companies surveyed reported that 71 percent of college students who decline full-time employment offers following their internships "do so because of compensation and/or location."

The median salary for computer-related jobs in the Indianapolis-Carmel metropolitan area is about $72,710, more than double the $34,750 median local salary for all occupations in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The respective salary growth rates in both areas were 7.3 percent and 2 percent since 2009.

According to federal data, the U.S. median salary for computer-related jobs was $79,680 in 2012.

"Although employees in computer-related jobs made significantly higher wages than the all-occupation median, Indiana wages are below the median salary for computer-related occupations across the United States," the report said.

"These findings beg deeper analysis to understand how we compete with peer markets and to examine if the context provided by a cost of living and buying power analysis would lend insight into the discrepancy."

Among other findings, the study reported that most of the tech employees who do stay have a connection to Indiana. About 81 percent of companies said eight out of 10 employees are from Indiana or have a family connection.

The study also found that the greatest demand is for software developers, with 88 percent of respondents having attempted to hire or been in the market to hire for that position. Graphic designers and tech administrators came next in line at 60 percent each.

TechPoint noted that it has initiatives in place aimed at attracting, retaining, and even re-attracting tech talent to Indiana. Its Xpat program, for instance, targets 24- to 40-year-old expatriates with computer-related sales, marketing and startup leadership skills.

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