Talent Development Centre

All posts by Morley Surcon

Canada’s Proposed Tax Changes: Are you “up” on what’s coming?

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Much has been said about the “Gig Economy” over the past couple of years. In today’s frenetic and “instant gratification” society, there are clear data suggesting that short-term contract work is growing in popularity for both workers and businesses who purchase their services. However, recently Canada’s Federal Government has been actively moving towards reforms in the tax laws meant to close “loop-holes” in the system to ensure everyone “pays their fair share”. The problem is that governments have a terrible track record — when it comes to making policy changes, there are often negative, unintended consequences.

The changes proposed will have an impact on independent contractors. There are three areas that the government wants to address:

  • Limiting the potential for income splitting between family members (also referred as “income sprinkling”)
  • Reducing the potential to earn “passive income” on monies that you decide to leave in your businesses vs. paying out to yourself in the form of salary or dividends
  • Stopping the conversion of income to capital gains

Are there people/small businesses that may take advantage in these areas? Most likely. However, the saying “tossing the baby out with the bath water” comes to mind. There are no shortages of commentary online about the potential impact of these changes. I’ve included links to many separate articles to legitimate news sites at the bottom of this blog in the event you would like to read more about this. But suffice it to say, there are likely to be significant consequences to you directly. Reasonable advice is offered in Armando Iannuzzi’s article on KRP’s blog entitled The good, the bad and the ugly of Ottawa’s proposed corporate tax changes where he answers the question: What should business owners do to prepare for these proposed tax changes? He suggests that there is no benefit to paying for legal or accounting work at this time as nothing is written in stone just yet. But you should keep “…these developments on your radar” says Iannuzzi, and ensure you have open lines of communication with accountants you trust.

Eagle isn’t a legal firm or accounting company, so we don’t provide specific advice to our contractors. We are watching this situation as it develops and are actively participating in industry organizations such as ACSESS and, as part of these groups, we are lobbying the government on the contracting community’s behalf. We are a bit surprised at how little the IT contractor community is saying about the proposed changes. Certainly, we are hearing from the medical profession, farmers and small business in general.

Are you following this as it develops? Do you have thoughts you’d like to share with our readership? I encourage you to leave your comments below!

Links to news websites that discuss the proposed changes:

Embrace Your Opportunities to Grow

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Embrace Your Opportunities to GrowIn my blog posting for this week, I thought I would present some thoughts on the topic of “growing”.  It is a broad topic and it could be easy to come across as “preachy”, and that’s the last thing I want to do. But recent events have given me pause to reflect on specific aspects of this that, I feel, will translate well to independent contractors.  So, here goes…

Eagle’s been in the business of supplying contingent labour to our client base for over 20 years.  Some days it seems that we’ve seen it all.  And that’s the problem: It is easy to get comfortable doing what you’ve been doing until you’ve dug yourself a nice, deep rut.  Our clients go to market from time-to-time through an RFP (Request for Proposal) process and, typically, they are reasonably similar– some small variations, but for the most part they want to know the same things:  our capability in the geographic area that matters to them, our recruitment/sourcing processes, team approach to account management, issue resolution approaches and, of course, pricing.  Although there is opportunity for innovation – Eagle keeps on top of all the latest technology trends, for example – but the basic business of contingent labour remains basically the same.  When these tenders come out, the account and proposal teams and management hunker down and build our best proposal based on what we know to be important to our clients.  We never need to go outside of our own company to build a response or answer our customers’ questions.  It’s what we do.

Flash back to 3 weeks ago and things changed!  One of our clients approached Eagle, requesting us to build a customized, innovative solution to meet the needs of one of their business processes.  They didn’t want a traditional contingent work solution, they wanted something more.  We decided to accept their challenge and build a solution that will be just for them but, in so doing, we found that we no longer had all the answers that we needed in-house to respond to their inquiry.  We reached out to SME’s from the contractor community, people that we’ve worked with time and again over the years, those who knew Eagle well and who we knew equally well would fit into our new solution.  We formulated a partnership to build our proposal together, combining their technical/business strengths with our own.  This was new, it was exciting, and it was a heck of a lot of work.  But what a wonderful experience for all involved!!

Our team knew these consultants well, but I feel that we’ve come to know them at another level entirely.  The level of understanding we now have of each other and the trust that we’ve built through this process was more than worth the effort.  We’ve put the final touches on our proposal and it is in to our client for their review.  I believe we have a very strong proposal but, even if our solution isn’t selected, we’ve received good value from this process.  Each member of the team has learned new things, we’ve all grown professionally and we’ve got each other to lean on in the future for other opportunities.  These are people that I would jump at the chance to work with again.

So, back to the topic of growth… it is worth prying yourself out of your comfortable rut and taking a chance building something new. You learn through your failures but, even should there be failure, there are often rewards that you couldn’t have foreseen to offset your investment.  If our consultant partners are reading this (they’ll know who they are), I want to thank them not just for their hard work, expertise and time invested (and there was a lot) but for their comradery and the sense of team that they helped to foster in such a short burst of time.  I have grown professionally through their involvement — what a great lesson and a great reward.  Winning the business will just be icing on the cake!!

Have you had an opportunity to try something new that was more professionally rewarding than you’d expected?  Feel free to leave a comment and share with the rest of the readership!!

Calgary Economic Development – Efforts to Diversify Making a Difference!

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Calgary Economic Development

I thought I’d use this blog entry to give a shout out to the CED (Calgary Economic Development) for the great work they are doing to attract new business to Calgary.  They are a relatively small group of very dedicated and committed people working to make a big impact.  In order to stretch a fixed budget, their marketing plans are lazer-focused and, as it turns out, they are gaining the ears of companies south of the border!

Calgary faces a number of challenges as a result of the changing business dynamics within the global Oil & Gas industry.  These challenges manifest themselves in several ways:

  • Increased unemployment/underemployment in all sectors, but especially in professional STEM positions which are typically higher income (tax paying) positions;
  • Down-town vacancy rates are over 40% by many accounts and this threatens to put additional tax burden on the remaining businesses, making a bad situation worse;
  • Reduced spending by the companies that have been driving our economy produces a trickle-down effect that has impacted small and medium sized businesses as well whether in the Oil Industry or not.

These issues could start a downward spiral if not for the efforts of the CED, other like-minded businesses and the municipal government who are taking this slow-down as an opportunity to attract new businesses across other industries.  Calgary has had some extreme advantages over other North American cities for some time – a young highly-educated workforce; an entrepreneurial spirit second to none; fantastic and reliable infrastructure; and it boasts the most head offices and small businesses per capita in Canada (and being one of Canada’s 5 largest cities is saying something!).  All this, while being a place where people want to work and live (Calgary ranks second of major Canadian cities for healthy lifestyle and life satisfaction according to the Conference Board of Canada).  AND NOW… we have ample (and affordable) downtown office space and available highly motivated and educated workers too.  This is an unprecedented opportunity to bring in new industries.

Rising EconomyThe CED have set targets for themselves based on the goals of increasing levels of employment, filling unused office space and diversification of the local economy.  To accomplish this, they target companies that require knowledge workers and who struggle in their “local” labour market to attract/keep top talent.  Some smaller to medium sized high-tech companies struggle to hire technologists with competition the likes of Google and Apple.  Other US-based companies have hired huge numbers of foreign workers for their expertise in areas such as engineering, software development, and technology hardware; and, with the new Trump administration threatening to “send foreign workers home”, there is an opportunity to potentially move these people lock, stock and barrel to Calgary and continue to have them be productive employees.  Yet other companies are looking for affordable places where people want to work to help start-up companies get a foothold and succeed…  Rocketspace is such a company and is one of the first to commit to opening new offices in Calgary.

After a couple years of economic misery, there is a new “buzz” in Calgary and a new feeling of optimism as the city rebuilds (and rebrands) itself!  New opportunities are coming… as a professional contractor, are you ready for this?  Do you have the right “transferable skills” to take advantage in new industries?  People who have chosen to specialize in Information Technology have embraced the notion of life-long learning and, as such, can and will adapt and pick-up the needed knowledge to enable them to work in any industry.  The following are links to other TDC articles written on the topic of professional development… I hope they share some insights that you will find useful!

Permanent Employment vs. Contracting: A Fine Line with No Clear “Right” Answer

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

As a tech professional, whether you prefer being an employee or an independent contractor, it’s best to take a focused approach.

Contractor Making a DecisionContractors (or rather those considering becoming a contractor) frequently ask me whether being a permanent employee or a contractor is the best way to go.  There’s no correct answer to this question.

Certainly, the world is heading towards what many are calling the “Gig Economy” and this means that not only will contingent workers be more in demand, people will begin differentiating themselves from their industry peers by marketing themselves as professional contractors.  Eagle has witnessed fantastically talented people who, having been an employee for many years with the same company, struggle to find work as their “loyalty” is actually viewed as a detriment to their resume – how different the world is from that in the ‘70s and ‘80s when longevity at a single company was a filter companies used to identify good “company” men and women.

That said, companies often do show more loyalty and will make greater investments into the skills of their employees.  Contract professionals are expected to keep themselves up on the latest technologies, approaches, etc. and it is expected that they come to a new position ready to go and able to deliver.  Even so, job security for employees is not what it once was and, when times are tough, they can see themselves between jobs just as easily as contactors.

Many people are trying to sell themselves as interested in both – employee positions and temporary contracts.  But there is a drawback to this as well.  Prospective employers may be concerned that a person’s interest in one or the other is only temporary and they may fear that you will not be as committed to this course as others might be.  We have seen over the past 5+ years that specialization, especially within the IT industry, has trumped generalization.  Eagle used to track which people were specialists in a certain area or areas and which people had more of a generalist capability.  The companies that Eagle works with have almost exclusively moved to a “specialist-only” mentality when it comes to hiring contract workers; and there has been a noticeable trend toward this for full-time permanent employment positions as well.  We now focus only on what applicants are best at and we market this to our clients.  Hiring managers want to know what people stand for, where their interests lie and what they are good at. So, saying you are interested in both contract and permanent opportunities in equal measure no longer makes you a match for either.

The key to making the right choice (for you!) in this matter is to “Know Thyself”.  Know what you really want from work and your career; and design your education and your work experience to reflect your goals.  That way your personal branding can be clear and on-point. If you are clear on what you want and build your resume accordingly, companies will see that you know where you are heading and you will set yourself apart from these other “lost souls” that try to sell themselves as a jack of all trades. Whichever direction you choose to go, do so with a plan and arm yourself with the knowledge and expectations needed to fit in and be successful.

Here are some links to articles on the web that can help inform you so that you may chart your course…

Take a Break, Gain a New Perspective!

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Take a Break, Gain a New Perspective!When determining whether or not to go the consulting route (vs. finding a job as an employee), there is an old adage often used: Which fallacy do you prefer? The one that suggests employees have more job security or the one that suggests that consultants have more flexibility in choosing their own work hours?

Of course, there is some truth to both but anyone who has been a part of the IT industry for any length of time also knows that neither is always the case! As my blog entry today is aimed at contractors or aspiring contractors, I thought I would share a few thoughts on the topic of using some of your “flexibility” by building in some down time for yourself.

This, it turns out, is really quite hard to do. It takes planning and conviction; and potentially some negotiating as well. A common prairie saying is “Make hay while the sun shines“, meaning that while you’ve got the work, you should be doing it. Especially for those working here in Calgary, given the down-turn in the economy, it is really hard to set some time aside for yourself knowing that many others don’t have the work opportunity that you are enjoying. Additionally, as a contractor, if you’re not working you’re not billing, and that can be a powerful detractor as well.

That said, many contractors have been “running hot” for a long time. Burn-out is becoming more common place, as are mental health issues which can range from being slightly irritable to limitless issues that can be caused by working too hard for too long in a too stressful a situation. There are rare individuals who are truly (and healthily) motivated and invigorated by this lifestyle, but most people would benefit from some respite. Most companies demand that their employees use the vacation time given to them each year and, as an incorporated contractor, you are running your own business. Part of your responsibility as a business owner is to look after the health of your employee(s)… which in most cases is just you.

How would your client/agency like you to plan time off? The key is to begin discussing this early. It gives them a chance to work it into their schedules. Also, being as flexible as possible shows that you are intent on your project’s/work’s success and will make it easier to accommodate your absence. Finally, look at the milestones set for your project and speak with your management contact to decide where your absence might have the least negative impact. There will be times/projects/clients where they simply cannot accommodate an absence request for a certain period of time, but those are more rare and most people are quite reasonable… especially if they recognize that there is likely to be a productivity and/or quality boost to your work when you return fully recharged!

One of the aspects of taking a break from work that has made the biggest difference to me is that it helps to regain a sense of perspective. When you’ve been head down/tail up working for many weeks/months straight, one tends to lose a broader perspective or, rather, your perspective becomes fixed and rooted in the day-to-day problems and issues. Creativity suffers and you can quickly find yourself in a “rut”. Some ruts are straight-up bad while others can become “comfortable” and these are the ones that can last a long, long time. The daily grind becomes routine, you aren’t as bothered by your failures, and you can become numb and ambivalent to both your work and your life outside of work. A good break changes things up, it allows you to see the bigger picture and your role in it, and it both refreshes and regenerates. That way, when you return to your work, you do so with renewed enthusiasm and energy.

If this last paragraph at all rings true for you, you may be overdue for a vacation. Instead of trying to decide whether you can afford to take a break, consider whether you can afford not to. There are plenty of benefits to taking a vacation, and this article perfectly summarizes 7 of them.

Summer is coming soon! What are your plans??!

Staffing & Recruitment Industry South of the Border

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Staffing Industry Analysts LogoLast week I attended the Staffing Industry Analyst‘s conference that was held in San Diego. In addition to taking a break from the cold Canadian winter, it provided the opportunity to get a sense of the current state of the staffing market in the USA.  This is important as the American market tends to lead the Canadian market in trends and innovation. It provides a glimpse into what may be coming for us in Canada.

Before I share some of my observations, let me explain what the Staffing Industry Analysts organization is and does.  The SIA describes themselves as:

Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) is the global advisor on staffing and workforce solutions. Our proprietary research covers all categories of employed and non-employed work including temporary staffing, independent contracting and other types of contingent labor. SIA’s independent and objective analysis provides insights into the services and suppliers operating in the workforce solutions ecosystem, including staffing firms, managed service providers, recruitment process outsourcers, payrolling/compliance firms and talent acquisition technology specialists such as vendor management systems, online staffing platforms, crowdsourcing and online work services.

This organization is really connected. Their research is significant and the huge sample-size ensures accuracy.  Eagle is a member and we follow their publications religiously.  Over many years, their outlook has consistently been proven correct.

With this said, I’ll share a sample of interesting things that I learned… some of which may confirm what you already know/believe while some others may surprise you as it did me:

  • There is a world-wide shift in employment from permanent employees to contract/temporary labour.  This is both being driven by the people themselves as their preference and by employers recognizing the value of employing contingent workers.
  • Contingent workers grew from 12% of the working population in 2009 to 22% in 2016 with 44 million American workers now doing contingency work.
  • The adoption of MSP (Master Services Providers) has plateaued in the USA.  Although this offering is still growing globally, it is no longer the case in the US market.
  • Moreover, I was surprised to find that there was a marked move from outsourced, off-shored service solutions, back to in-house-managed solutions; companies are repatriating their business and technical teams to manage their own projects and operations.
  • The staffing industry in the USA is also getting crowded with nontraditional service providers such as online staffing solutions, cloud-based solutions with AI (artificial intelligence) and Robotic solutions coming on strongly.  This is resulting in a more complex and potentially confusing ecosystem.
  • Niche/specialized contingent labour providers are growing their market share at the expense of the generalists.
  • Globalization of staffing companies appears not to be growing as quickly as it had previously.  Through technology, globalization is in the reach of most companies big or small, but “buy-local” political philosophies and increasingly complex legal structure, laws and regulations are curbing the ease of expanding to new markets.

Although this is a very short list of information from the conference, you can find many more reports and statistics at SIA’s website:  http://www2.staffingindustry.com/row/Research/Research-Topics-Reports.

In summary, the staffing industry in the USA is very active and the outlook is quite positive. Technologies are coming out that will change the way recruitment agencies and the hiring companies source candidates and appears to be playing the role of disrupter for MSP’s going forward.  The overarching trend is for companies to bring their own projects back in-house after having tried off-shore or outsourced solutions.

The Significance of Supply Arrangements to Contractors

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

What are Supply Arrangements and Why Should a Staffing Agency’s Matter to IT Contractors?

Supply Arrangements: What are they and why should they matter to IT contractors?Within the staffing industry there are a dozen or more business models employed by various employment agencies.  There are the smaller staffing agencies who focus their marketing efforts on smaller companies, on very specialized niches, with a handful of very strong relationships they might have, or a combination of these.  There are the huge international recruitment agencies that tend to focus on companies with international operations and may be generalists in the sense that they support multiple lines, from casual labour to general staffing positions to professional positions to technical positions, in an attempt to serve companies that want a single vendor to handle all of their contingent workforce needs.  Between these two extremes, there are the Regional and National staffing agencies that often service or specialize in only one or two different types of hiring needs, but often limit these to provide the level of expertise/focus that means so much to their clients.  Then there are mixtures and blends of the above.

The one thing that most recruitment agencies have in common is that they work to put formalized Supply Arrangements in place with the clients that they service.  A supply arrangement is simply an agreement that defines the relationship between the agency and the company that they serve/support.  Typical to most supply arrangements are the following:

  • Term of Agreement (date range within which the agreement will be valid)
  • Definitions (define the terms used in the agreement)
  • Commercial Terms (concerning insurance, rates, timesheets and invoicing)
  • Performance (defines the service the agency will be providing)
  • Termination (terms under which the agreement might be concluded)
  • Confidential Information (how to manage and keep safe important company data)
  • Indemnity and Limitation of Liability (keeping each party “safe” and legally separate from each other)
  • Signatures/Sign-Offs/Dates/Etc.

If these look familiar, they should!  They are the very same components that incorporated contractors find in any sub-agreement that they would sign with a staffing agency. After all, we jointly enter into a company-to-company relationship, so the terms should include the same content.  In fact, a good number of the terms that a contractor finds in their sub-agreement with their staffing agency are actually “flow-down” terms from the agency’s own supply arrangements with the end client.  That is often the reason why agencies cannot be very flexible with the terms — they have committed contractually to work with their clients in certain ways and must, legally, have their sub-contractors comply to the same terms.

Despite a lot of similarities in the terms between supply arrangements, it is extremely rare that any two supply agreements would be exactly the same.  Employment agencies are required to be chameleons, adapting perfectly to the business requirements of each of their clients.  The best agencies have detailed processes to ensure their compliance across many different agreements. For example, Eagle has tools and processes dedicated to this and is part of our ISO 9001:2008 quality framework.  That big stack of paperwork that we present to contractors at the beginning of each assignment is part of that process.  In this way, we ensure that both Eagle and our sub-contractors stay “on-side” of our supply agreement Terms & Conditions.

So, why should this matter to independent contractors?  Well, that’s a question with many answers. Here are just a few of the reasons why contractors should want to work with agencies that A) create good supply arrangements with their clients and B) have strong mechanisms in place to ensure adherence to the terms (both on their side and by their sub-contractor partners):

  • Legitimacy – Having an official supply agreement in place signifies a deep level of commitment between staffing agencies and their clients. It suggests that the company is committed to using the agency and that there will be a certain level of exclusivity.  If a technology contractor is working with a recruiter that has a supply arrangement in place, you can be confident that the recruitment agency has the right to represent you and that there will be some standardization in place to manage the hiring process.
  • Access to the Best Companies/Jobs – The best staffing agencies have the best relationships. Often there is a barrier to entry for agencies who do not have supply arrangements in place with companies.  By partnering with staffing agencies with many supply arrangements, it means that you will have access to suitable roles that come available at these companies.
  • Confidence in Staffing Agency Rates – Supply arrangements often define what levels of profit are associated with the services provided (also defined), so recruiters are working off a prescribed methodology for setting their rates. Companies agree to pay staffing agencies “X” for their services should they identify, qualify and place top resources into their open roles. For contract work, that means that independent contractors set their rates “Y” and the client is charged “X+Y” (or “X x Y” if “X” is a %).
  • Risk Mitigation – Working for a recruitment agency with a supply arrangement in place ensures that the “rules of engagement” have been set out. Working with recruitment agency who has strong compliance mechanisms in place means that the recruiter will set you up for success and ensure that you are protected against potential missteps.  Be aware of the 2 to 3 page Sub-Agreement contract!  Eagle’s sub-agreements are typically 8 pages at a minimum, but depending on the flow-down terms and requirements, it could add up to 20+ pages for your review.  Ultimately, this all protects you from risk.

Eagle has numerous supply arrangements in place with many of Canada’s largest companies across multiple industry sectors and across all levels of government.  We are national leaders in Oil & Gas, Energy, Telecommunication, Education, Health Care as well as having 3 of Canada’s 5 big banks as our clients.  Our Supply Arrangements with our clients are often 80+ pages long and our sub-agreements to our sub-contractor partners are often 10+ pages long. Although more work to put in place, this is a good thing.  Through this process we ensure our contractors’ success and, in doing so, our own as well.

Next time you’re interviewing recruiters to decide on your preferred staffing agency, remember to ask how many supply arrangements they have. A response to that simple question will speak volumes in terms of their legitimacy, access to opportunities, rates and risk mitigation.

Liar, Liar…

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Liar Liar

Shocking news — people lie!

There are many, many sources on the web showing how prodigiously people fib on their resumes and social profiles.  One such article suggests that over half of resumes and job applications contain falsehoods.  Misrepresentations can range from job titles and dates of employment to out-right lying about where one has worked and the education that they have… and everything in between.

In a slower economy, where there are more applicants than jobs, staffing agencies have witnessed a greater “stretching of the truth” by some independent contractors.  For example, something that our company has been calling “resume blurring” becomes much more common.  This is less of an outright lie, but more of a stretching of the truth.  Resume blurring comes into play when people re-write their resumes to broaden the types of roles for which they might be a fit.  For example, an IT contractor who has been a Project Manager might now have a resume that appears that they’ve got a lot more Business Analysis experience than they really do, or vice versa.  As the two roles work so closely hand-in-hand, it is often difficult for clients and employers to weed out the candidates that kind of know the job versus the ones that have actually been doing the job and are experts at it.

Other times the deceptions are even more blatant.  We have seen instances where contractors actually “buy” resumes and other people take phone interviews for them to win them the job.  We’ve even had someone complete a skype interview for another person!  (That’s a harder one to pull off)  Regardless of what the falsifications are, it comes down to the fact that there needs to be a much deeper level of due diligence completed by recruiters.  Honest contractors deserve a fair shake and the only way this is going to happen is through deeper background and reference vetting.

Again, when the economy offers fewer jobs than there are qualified applicants, companies often feel that they don’t need the services of employment agencies as they can gather more than enough resumes on their own.  But given the propensity of some people to embellish or outright lie on resumes/applications, this is the time when they really need a good staffing agency partner the most.  At Eagle, over our 20 years in business, we have come to know a large percentage of the independent contractors in the market. We’ve tracked their careers and we have relationships with many that span years.  We know these technology professionals, we know what they do and have done, we know that they are the “real deal” and we share this information with our clients.  And for contractors that are new to us, we complete a series of interviews, background vetting and reference checks before sharing their information with our clients; in this way, we get to know them and ensure they are what they claim to be.

For the reasons listed in the paragraph above, honest and professional contractors should make it a point to build strong relationships with their recruiter partners as we can be the voice of reason helping you to compete with the desperate people (or outright charlatans) in the market.

Have you witnessed any new or innovative ways that some people try to fool their way into jobs?  I encourage you to share your stories below!

 

 

How to Improve Relationships During Your Job Search

Getting Better at This Will Improve Your Relationships with Clients and Recruitment Agencies

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Getting Better at This Will Improve Your Relationships with Clients and Recruitment AgenciesPeople crave feedback.  Most of us would prefer positive feedback but we know that the negative feedback is important too.  It may not be what you want to hear, but what you needed to hear.  For example, properly taken, feedback can give an IT professional the opportunity to make adjustments before a project gets too far off the tracks.  For this to work the best, one should solicit feedback early and often.

For independent contractors, feedback can be much more than just gathering ideas for improvement.  At its best, it is also about relationship building and requires you to be great at both receiving and giving.  When you are engaged in a discussion regarding feedback with your client or recruitment agency, you are saying that you care about the deliverable, that you care about the project, and that your good reputation and your relationship with the other entity is important as well.  It is hard to over-communicate in this respect.

As a staffing agency, Eagle cherishes our independent contractor partners that reach out to let us know how things are going — what’s going well and what could be better.  It keeps us in the loop and minimizes surprises.  We encourage our client contacts to do the same.   When we hear dissonance between the two sources, then we know we have an issue that needs to be worked out.  There’s often opportunity to “fix” an issue before it becomes a real problem.

Employment agencies do their best to connect at least once per month with the contractors that they have on assignment. If your recruiter reaches out to you to follow up, take that opportunity to really share how your assignment is shaping up.  It could be the best 20 minute investment of time that you make that day.

Calgary Job Market Outlook: The New Normal

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Calgary Job Market Outlook: The New Normal The New Normal” is a phrase that has been used to describe the aftermath of a paradigm-changing event.  As recently as 2014, Calgary’s economy/job market/opportunity outlook was very robust, then the floor fell out of the oil market.  Since then, over 40,000 knowledge worker jobs were lost and the city is sitting at 8.6% unemployment, 1.7% higher than the Canadian average of 6.9%.  Economists are predicting a continued contraction, but at a slowing rate, as Calgary find its new equilibrium.

Over the next 12 months, economic conditions will continue to improve, but few believe that the economic spin-off from the Oil industry can or will reach the pre-oil-crash highs.  Some companies are gone completely — whole industries have been shipped off to be served by the global labour force.  These are unlikely to come back.  Hence, talk of “the new normal”.

As the Calgary economy does begin turning around, it is anticipated that independent contractors (contingent labour) will be leveraged prior to direct, permanent job openings seeing a recovery.  New expectations with respect to lower contract rates and salaries will need to be adopted by the labour market, which is happening already. The premiums that Calgary workers have enjoyed for close to a decade will be brought in line, nearer to those of the rest of Canada. Companies will do their best to stick to the cost-cutting plans that they’ve put in place, resulting in limited opportunity to raise rates and build larger teams; and we may see stronger interest in “generalists” vs. “specialists” as the need to wear multiple hats will likely exist.

In the vacuum created by Calgary’s imploded Oil and Gas industry, we are seeing this city’s entrepreneurial spirit sparking to life.  Calgary has one of the youngest and best educated labour markets in North America.  Prairie values of strong work ethic and the ability to tighten belts are resulting in people making the needed adaptations to take transferable skills to other new and existing industries.  Organizations such as Calgary Economic Development are actively pursuing companies/industries remote to the city, encouraging them to re-locate or open new offices to take advantage of the surplus of knowledge workers, including many IT professionals, now available.  Some nay-sayers are beginning to draw parallels between Calgary and Detroit; however, the skills, education and entrepreneurial spirit truly set Calgarians apart.  A good article discussing Calgary’s favourable outlook can be found in this Globe and Mail article.

So, what is the “new normal” for the labour market in Calgary?  Well for the short to medium term, it is certainly going to mean continued pressure on independent contractor rates and employee salaries; and many Oil and Gas positions have left, never to return again.  However, in the medium-long term, Calgary’s prospects are still very bright — there will be a period of transition, re-building and re-tooling but the raw energy, enthusiasm and talent that exists in Calgary’s working population will help the City to re-invent itself.  The hurdles will be great, but our collective determination will be greater.  Calgary’s potential remains unmatched and it will, again, be the pearl of Canada’s labour market; Calgary’s economy will re-emerge, more diversified and, in this way, stronger than before.

My city’s new normal is coming and I, for one, am looking forward to our bright future!