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Y2K constitutes windfall for computer consultants

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For companies that may be afflicted by computer crashes on the first day of the new millennium, the year 2000 bug is a huge concern. For computer experts who help eradicate the problem, it's a windfall, according to a news release from William M. Mercer Incorporated.

According to a new survey by Mercer, large consulting organizations are pulling out the stops to attract and retain the systems analysts, programmers and others needed to meet the Y2K challenge. Bonuses, incentives and specialized training are now part of the package.

"Clearly, today's tight job market coupled with the inevitability and magnitude of the year 2000 problem spells a bonanza for professionals with relevant skills," said Jeffrey J. Fuller, a principal in the performance and reward consulting practice in Mercer's Kansas City office, in the release.

The Year 2000 Compensation Survey Results: First Quarter 1998 profiles the compensation of 283 newly hired Y2K employees at 10 major consulting firms. According to the survey, these firms are offering Y2K experts:

?Signing bonuses based on either a percentage of base salary or a flat dollar amount (offered by 40 percent of the firms)

?Stay/retention bonuses worth an average of 8 percent of the employee's base salary (offered by 40 percent of the firms)

?Short-term incentives worth an average of 11 percent of the employee's base salary (offered by 70 percent of the firms)

The survey also found that consulting firms typically provide Y2K employees with such perquisites as casual dress codes, flexible schedules and the option of telecommuting to help make life easier as they work long hours to meet an

unforgiving deadline.

The Mercer survey tracks the quarterly change in Y2K employees' compensation, finding an average salary increase of 2.6 percent in the second quarter of this year alone. The 10 Y2K positions surveyed range from project director (average annual salary $121,000 in the second quarter) to quality-assurance/testing analyst ($54,300).

Fuller said recruiting these in-demand information technology workers is only half the battle; employers must also integrate the new, highly paid employees into the existing work force.

"Once the millennium bug is exterminated, the (information technology) work force will need to work together to address the tremendously backlogged applications development agenda," Fuller said. "The IT talent shortage will not disappear on Jan. 1, 2000, so actions taken now to ensure future IT work force effectiveness are essential."

William M. Mercer Incorporated, a leading human resource management consulting firm, has its headquarters in New York and offices in 39 other U.S. cities. Mercer's Kansas City office serves clients throughout the four-state area of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska.

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