Survey: Ethics, morals top workplace-skills wish lists

IT group says ethical principles beat business acumen, communication skills for new hires

IT leaders are still hungry to recruit .Net programmers, desktop support technicians and voice over IP project leaders, according to an online survey conducted in June by the Society for Information Management. But when asked by SIM to cite the top workplace skills that they are seeking among both entry-level and midlevel IT workers, the 231 respondents overwhelmingly cited ethics and morals as the traits they most desire.

SIM didn't disclose the number of respondents who chose ethics and morals. But that choice easily beat out alternatives such as communications skills and business acumen, said the group, which released the results of its annual membership survey at its SIMposium 2008 conference in the US.

Many IT executives are concerned about stories they've heard of staffers doing "unethical things," such as circumventing security systems, said Jerry Luftman, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, and SIM's vice president of academic affairs. Luftman, who also is executive director of the information systems graduate programs at Stevens, added that cheating scandals have roiled some US colleges.

"It's hot on everyone's minds," Luftman said. "This whole issue of ethics and morals is becoming paramount to IT executives."

"To me, this is the price of entry into my [IT] department," agreed Paul Major, CIO at The Aspen Skiing Company. In a phone interview prior to the SIM conference, Major noted that he recently had to fire two people from his 20-person IT organization because they didn't "exhibit the type of principles that we try to emulate with our team and in our company."

Major also said that prior to any discussions about technical skills during job interviews, he does a "gut check" of the applicants based on how they're dressed and how they present themselves. "Then I give them the spiel on the company's guiding principles," he said.

Mike Close, chief technology officer at The Dannon Company, said that gauging the moral fiber of job applicants has long been a consistent part of the yogurt maker's vetting process, including when the company did "a significant amount of hiring" over the past couple years.

Among the other findings from the SIM survey was an anticipated increase in the percentage of IT budgets being devoted to sending IT work offshore, from 3.3 percent this year to a projected 5.6 percent in 2009.

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