This article presents the results of a study regarding the way students think about ten well-known IT companies in Cluj. Being, most likely, future employees of these companies, their opinions may help IT companies to reconsider their policies regarding applicants, both for HR practices, as well as PR ones. Therefore, companies can better define their place in the IT local community.
As a consulting company in Organizational and Managerial Development, working frequently with IT companies from Cluj, we wanted to find out more about this industry. For quite a while we have been talking about Cluj IT cluster, which wants to develop a real business community in this field. But how is this community? What is it made of and what are the relationships between its main actors? What are the problems that they have faced and what are the solutions they have come up with? Last year we conducted a research study, based on the discussions we had with HR specialists from Cluj IT business, to see how companies evolved, what the main challenges of the moment were and how IT community idea was perceived. We published the conclusions in the 13, 15, 16, 19 numbers of TSM magazine. At that time, by far the main problem IT companies from Cluj faced was the lack of qualified personnel. There were not enough specialized graduate students, compared to the companies" need of employees. Various solutions were implemented and sustained by companies: professional conversion of some potential employees, to acquire knowledge and skills in programming, bringing professionals from other geographical areas or opening up branches around the country (usually where there are universities); even including students in programs that were meant to attract them as employees. Yet, the problem remains - there is still a tough fight for sharing human resources. As a result, companies have taken a series of actions related to visibility and working climate.
We were interested, in this study, to find out the opinions of those who represent the prize of this fight: future employees. What is their opinion about potential employers? What do they know about these companies (we are interested in their subjective view that will cause them to make a choice in the future, not in a difficult to define objective reality)?
For our study, we consulted professors from UBB, specialized in sociology and management. When we developed the questionnaire, we also took into account the recommendations of some IT employees (both new and more experienced), HR specialists and IT entrepreneurs.
The first decision we had to make regarded the study participants. It was decided that they would be studying Computer Science both in UTCN and UBB, in both Romanian and English. They represent, by far, the most important sector of interest for employment in IT, even though not the only one.
Then we had to choose students" year of preparation. We considered that those in the first year of study know quite little about companies in Cluj, while those in their last year of college know too much, considering most of them are already employed; consequently, their opinion could be biased because of their job. As a result, we were interested in second year students.
The next step consisted of choosing the companies to be studied. We used two criteria to increase the chance of companies being known by students: size (the number of employees) and longevity (number of business years in Cluj).
In the end, 10 companies were selected:
What we finally did was choose the keywords that would describe any/all companies in the industry. We named them descriptors and we selected them after consulting various people from the IT business.
We asked the responders to select a maximum of three descriptors (out of the thirteen available) for each company, because we wanted to see how the results polarized - which are the main characteristics of the companies, according to students.
List of descriptors:
All these steps resulted in a questionnaire with two main parts. In the first part, responders had to say whether or not they are familiar with the companies (whether or not they have heard about them). In the second part, they had to express opinions about the companies they know, using the descriptors we mentioned. We also collected demographic information about the college they attend, gender, and e-mail address, so that we could send the final results.
From February 26th to March 3rd, 400 students, from the above-mentioned colleges, completed our questionnaire; the number of participants makes the results significant and statistically-relevant. We would like to thank all students who completed the questionnaire, as well as all professors who facilitated this process. Each company included in this study received a detailed report about students" perceptions of that company, thus allowing them to see how they are compared to their competitors on the market.
In this article we don"t correlate the answers to the names of the companies, in order to keep their confidentiality. However, we hope that comparing the results, each company will be able to improve their recruitment or PR policies. Because our objective was to get relevant and useful data for these companies, any feedback is welcome!
In order for companies to attract applicants, it is vital to be known by their future employees. This is the reason why the first question regarded whether the respondents knew each IT company specified. The answers varied from 25,3% to 80,2%. Considering that all IT companies work on becoming well-known and taking into account that most of them are old and/or large companies, scores like 25-30% are, from our point of view, quite weak. Therefore, the image, marketing, or PR strategy should probably be revised.
The results regarding the descriptors, as they were chosen by students, are ranged quite differently. We don"t think that the mean or the median is relevant in this case. However, it is interesting to compare the scores of the companies - this offers a better picture of where the company is situated, according to the students" subjective perceptions, compared to their competitors. The results are shown in the following table (the order of the companies in this table is random, so it is impossible to guess the score of each particular company; companies interested in the detailed results can contact us, although we will not reveal the identity of their competitors).
Extreme scores are highlighted to make it easier to identify the differences.
In many cases, the ratio of opinions is higher than 2:1. In the case of arrogance, the ratio is higher than 8,5:1, even if the overall numbers are relatively small. When it comes to outsourcing, students have similar opinions (3,9 - 5,6%). With regard to products, a company stands out, 12,9% responders considering that it has its own products (compared to the weakest score of 4,1%). Interestingly, when it comes to the most sensitive characteristic, payment, the ratio of opinions, in the extreme case, is higher than 2,25:1. This means that a student would go first to company G, instead of company D, to get a job, with a probability of 225%.
Of course, many other aspects can influence students to prefer an employer over another. Nevertheless, these perceptions are relevant and we think they represent food for thinking for the companies in this study, if not for others in the IT business, as well.
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