How to prepare for changing salaries in 2012

MJ Helms, Director of Operations, The Ashton Group

Some companies are still struggling to make ends meet. Even so, they should be committed to rewarding performing employees by offering higher salaries. Newly released information shows average salaries are expected to increase by 3.4 percent in 2012. The largest gain seems to be in technology jobs, indicating an average of a 4.5 percent increase on base salary compensation.

“I would advise employers to revisit their current salary structure and make sure they are competitive with the market,” says MJ Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group. “Otherwise, you can be at high risk of losing an employee down the road this year.”

Smart Business learned more from Helms about planning ahead for salary changes for in-demand employees.

Why should employers be concerned about rising average IT salaries?

Various reports indicate that some IT workers are already leaving full-time, permanent positions to become contractors. This year, the employment index sees huge gains in technology hiring with a 20 percent annual growth. Those IT professionals want to capitalize on the number of contract opportunities in the marketplace as employers devote a larger portion of their work forces to contingent labor. They also want to cash in on the pay premiums that contingent IT positions are commanding these days. Whether contractors are moving into permanent positions or IT staff are leaving permanent jobs to become contractors, it all indicates the same thing: that IT job opportunities are once again beginning to boom.

Are these shifts justified?

Systems and networking engineers are in stronger demand, as are mobile applications developers. One of the important elements affecting the salary of IT specialists is certification. When a person combines an in-demand skill set and particular certification, to justify a certain job role, a salary increase should take place. There are however, a lot of certifications in the market, and only a few carry influence in the industry. Market veterans say that not all certifications make equal paycheck impact.

The following is a list of top certifications as we move ahead in 2012.

ν CCNA Certification (Cisco Certified Network Associates)

ν MCITP Certification (Microsoft Certified Professionals)

ν CompTIA Network + Certification

ν CISSP Certification

ν CISA Certification

ν Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator Certification

ν ITIL Certification

ν CompTIA Security + Certification

ν VMware Certification

ν Project Management Expert Certification

ν Microsoft’s Certified Systems Engineers Certification

ν CompTIA A+ Certification

What other positions are seeing a rise in salary?

Besides the technology area, financial, administrative and office support personnel are also likely to see some of the biggest starting salary increases this year. And let’s not forget about your marketing department. Those employees with interactive skills, such as user experience designers, are especially sought after as firms look to improve their Web presence and move many of their marketing programs online.

How can employers ensure they are offering appropriate compensation?

Websites like and can give you a reasonably clear idea of where your pay stands in comparison with others in similar jobs in your industry and geographic location. Check out help-wanted ads, job board postings and industry-association salary surveys as well.

Do expected increases compare to what’s actually happening in the market?

According to a number of recent surveys, the average pay increase companies are planning for 2012 hovers between 2.8 percent and 3 percent, up a little from around 2.6 percent in 2010 and 2011. (The pre-recession average, from 2005 to 2008, was 4 percent.)

How can employers evaluate who should receive raises?

Consistent performance reviews of employees is an extremely important part of your company’s effectiveness and efficiency. Not only does it give the employer a better idea of how well your employees are performing, but it will justify giving a deserving employee a raise or promotion. Research shows that up to 65 percent of companies are dissatisfied with their current performance appraisals. The majority of employers have biannual or annual reviews; others feel it is important to meet more often with their employees.

When determining how to identify your top performers, consider rewarding employees that ‘think like the owner.’ They may be various employees throughout your organization, but, ultimately, you need to reward people who make everyday decisions and perform as if they own the company.

Why should employers pay attention to these trends?

Employee retention is the No. 1 reason. Employers need to keep in mind that the competition for employees will continue to increase as the baby boomer population ages. Make sure that you challenge and value your star employees. The deficit that occurs when a good employee leaves far outweighs the time, efforts and costs to retain that person. Salary reviews should be part of a program developed to reward loyal employees. But more importantly, establish action items that will encourage them to stay.

M.J. Helms is the director of operations at The Ashton Group. Reach her at (706) 636-3343 or [email protected]