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All posts by Morley Surcon

Customer Service – A Challenge for the Service Industry

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

A common challenge for any company in the service industry is building and maintaining strong, positive customer service. One airline in Canada recently sent out an email campaign thanking us for voting them the “best airline in North America, again.” I won’t mention names, but think about ANY airline that you know – there is so, so, so much room for improvement with all of them. You’d think that if they wanted to be honest, they wouldn’t say they were the best airline industry in North America, instead they’d use the slogan “we suck less!”

Staffing agencies struggle with this as well – yet we absolutely offer legitimate value in the service we provide. Without staffing companies, hiring would be extremely inefficient. Our industry’s intense focus on this one aspect results in our use of people, processes, and technologies that wouldn’t be cost-effective for individual companies to purchase/hire. The staffing industry saves our economy millions of dollars vs. what would need to be spent if there were no agencies. And from the consultant’s perspective, it is very hard to work on assignment and still find time to market themselves. Agencies have insight into opportunities that would be near impossible to find on their own.

Yet, our industry has an image problem. We are often seen as a “necessary evil”, rather than being embraced as a partner. As hard as we try, we are not able to please everyone all the time. Some relationships become strained and the result is dissatisfaction. At Eagle we try to be as reasonable as possible. But we still have a business to run, staff to pay, and technology in which to invest. We make it a point not to take advantage of people, but we cannot allow people to take advantage of us either. We try to set realistic expectations with both clients and consultants and do what we can to remain true. Sometimes business realities change and make it impossible to hold the line set. But when this happens we try our best to work through things with as much fairness and transparency as possible.

Eagle is ISO 9001:2015 certified, meaning that we have a quality framework that we use to manage our business and that the management team and staff are knowledgeable about our processes and committed to delivering quality always. Part of being certified is measuring how we are doing against our quality goals. For this we conduct monthly surveys with both our consultants and our clients to solicit feedback – what we’ve done well, what we’ve done poorly, and we look for opportunities to make our processes even better. All in all, this has worked well for us over the years.

However, the staffing industry, despite having strong industry associations such as ACSESS and the NACCB, requires no/limited licensing or certification requirements to participate. Anyone can hang a shingle on their door and they are a recruiter. Published codes of ethics for agencies exist and most follow the code set out by ACSESS, but they are not compulsory. Here at Eagle we have also implemented our own code of ethics. But a few bad apples can spoil things for all.  A case in point is the new “protective legislation” that the Ontario Government has put into place. The legislation is meant to protect at-risk temp workers, but as is often the case, the unintended consequences result in burdens on our industry and in some cases, the legislation actually hurts the very people that they were intending to help.

And what about incorporated consultants and contractors? They provide a service too. Their company is part of the service industry and has many of the same customer service challenges. If a consultant contracts directly to the end-client (a practice that has seen dramatic reductions thanks to some of the government legislation and CRA deemed-employee rules) then their client is the company that they work for. If, however, a consultant works through an agency then they have two clients – the agency who hired them and the company at which they are providing their services. Do contractors think of the agency as their client? Do they treat their agency as they would with other clients? The most successful consultants work in partnership with their agencies, coordinating and collaborating to find lucrative and successful engagements. These contractors are re-engaged by the agency for other opportunities as often as possible. Consultants offering poor customer service are not.

The service industry can be exciting, fast-paced, and rewarding. But it is hard as well. Any services-based company relies on their reputation to win new and (especially) repeat business and a big part of this is the level of customer service that is provided. This is important to Eagle as evidenced by our extensive investment in and commitment to our ISO quality standards. Managing a services business, regardless of its size, requires one to treat both customers and suppliers well. This is true for all companies within the Service Industry – airlines, staffing agencies, and for independent incorporated contractors alike.

Has The Calgary Market Finally “Turned The Corner”?

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

It has been two (plus?) very long and difficult years for the Alberta economy, especially so in Calgary. Tens of thousands of people had lost jobs and/or have had to take wage or rate cuts. The trickle-down effect from this to the broader economy was huge. Compared to the economic dip created during the 2008/2009 world financial crisis, this was a “valley” for the local economy. During this time, Alberta went from a “have” province to a “have-not” one, adding deficit spending in the billions of dollars. Market rates for contract work fell and more closely matched those in the rest of Canada. The “Alberta Advantage” had all but disappeared.

The City of Calgary has been working very hard to attract new companies to the city and diversify the industry. Over the final months of 2017, Eagle had witnessed some new, small projects popping up here and there. This was partly due to M&A activity, but was mostly outside of the Oil and Gas (O&G) space. This new activity was spotty at best and all companies didn’t participate in a general sense. However, since the New Year the feeling has been more optimistic across a broader base of companies. Big O&G companies are holding their own, although they’re not driving a lot of the new projects. But outside of these, work is beginning to show up again.

In the Information Technology and Communication sectors we are seeing cloud, security, infrastructure, and some new development projects being rolled out. And there does appear to be more companies participating this time. Rates have halted their decline, although there hasn’t been much upward movement either.

Also, an interesting situation has occurred on the skills side of things. It had been common practice that IT consultants relied on new, leading edge projects to keep their skills up-to-date. However, with the lack of projects available over the past two years some are finding their experience/skills have fallen behind where technology is at today. And as companies spark up their new projects, they are looking for employees/independent contractors with knowledge and experience in the latest technology. Oddly enough this has created a skills shortage in certain areas within the market, despite supply and demand being closer to a balance than it has been in a very long time. It will be interesting to see where this takes us.

So, has Calgary officially turned the corner economically speaking? It feels as if it has. I would love to be able to report emphatically and with confidence that things are on the upswing. However, only time will tell. When Calgary came out of the financial recession in 2009/2010, we had one of the busiest summers ever. People were trying to make up for lost time on the projects and lost billings for their businesses. Work and projects were plentiful, and we saw many people foregoing their vacations in favour of getting caught up.

But will this time be different? After two years of depressed economic conditions, one would think that there would be some appetite to make hay. But people are also fatigued. Over the past years, those that were able to find opportunities had to push through working as many hours as possible. When between assignments, they were working extra hard to find their next gig. There wasn’t a lot of rest or downtime over this very long period. So maybe a rest is needed and work will slow over the summer. The continued growth of our economy requires that we get our second wind and push through. The activity level over the next two months will show whether Calgary is back to growing again or whether this will be the new normal (for a while longer, at least).

What do you think? What are your feelings on this subject? Share your prediction by leaving a comment below!

Changes at Eagle (and for Me!) Expected to Drive Opportunities into Our Contractor Base

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

I am pleased to announce that my position as GM/VP of the Calgary region is changing. Kelly Benson will now take over the branch management responsibilities from me, which is allowing me to refocus my efforts externally. My new title is VP, Strategic Accounts and Client Solutions and my area of responsibility will be Western Canada.

This change is exciting for a couple of reasons. First, is that I believe Kelly will do an excellent job managing the Calgary branch. She’s a very capable and enthusiastic individual and has a great base of experience from which to draw. The branch is in very good hands. Second, is that for some time now Eagle has been internally/operationally focused and this change will have me pro-actively engaging in the market once again!

One of our company’s core values is Innovation. Over the past year or so, Eagle has introduced a number of technological innovations to support and enhance our processes. These innovations enhance our onboarding, candidate sourcing, contractor management, and compliance/safety programs. Together, they have an impact on all of our internal processes, making us more efficient and effective in our business operations. And if that wasn’t enough, we have also gone through the process of recertification for our ISO quality system, moving from the older 9001:2008 standard to the current 9001:2015 standard. All these changes meant that management needed to be introspective. These technological innovations have made us better at what we do and kept us on the cutting edge, which is critical in our hyper-competitive industry. However, in doing so we’ve had reduced connections, at the executive level, with the broader market.

My new role will see me re-engaging with our clients at senior levels, acting in an advisory capacity and building value by sharing Eagle’s accumulated knowledge of the contingent workforce industry. Additionally, I will work with companies to consider innovative alternatives to the typical temporary staffing model. I will essentially be a resource to support their own labour-planning process. My expectation is that I will learn of companies’ business challenges at both strategic and tactical levels. As a result, I’ll need to engage with thought leaders, business consultants and subject matter experts from our contractor database across Western Canada to create solutions for our clientele. These solutions will require resources and Eagle’s recruiters will be calling out to our contractor database to check on availability and gauge interest. The more successful I am, the more opportunities there will be for our contractor partners!

As my move into this role is still very new, it is hard to say just where the successes will come; but opportunities for Eagle’s contractors and consultants will certainly be a result.  I’m looking forward to engaging with both clients and consultants in the upcoming months to drive out this new initiative!

If you have a strategic or out-of-the-box idea to share, I can easily be reached via my LinkedIn profile

Regional Job Market Update for Calgary

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

Calgary Job Market Outlook: The New NormalCautious optimism.  That is how the job market in Calgary might be best described.  Eagle has witnessed more new hiring over this past quarter than we’d seen of any previous quarter in the past couple of years.  Still at far lower levels than prior to the Oil & Gas meltdown, it represents a marked shift as a broader range of companies have participated in the hiring.

Economists from the National Conference Board and ATB are predicting that a lot of the growth will be seen coming from new, smaller and start-up companies.  There certainly appears to be more activity in these areas.  As the City has made significant efforts to diversify its corporate company-base, new-to-Calgary and start-up companies are building on their infrastructure.  They tend to have fewer requirements than the traditional O&G corporations, but there are more of them.  Certainly, a trend to watch over the coming months and years.

Supply of resources available also appears to be returning to normal levels.  In March, Eagle’s Calgary office had significantly fewer people apply to online job postings compared to the same period in 2017.  Rates have remained stable for quite some time now after having been knocked back due to the local recession.

Top IT Job Titles from this past month include:

  1. Developer
  2. Business Analyst
  3. Systems Analyst
  4. Support
  5. Quality Assurance

There hasn’t been too much variability in these top requests over the past months.  However, new requests for people with skills in Cloud and Cyber Security have been growing.

One disturbing trend that we have noticed is that there have been fewer contract extensions offered vs. times past.  Despite the uptick in new roles coming out, there is trend across the industry seeing a drop in extension rates.  The reason for this is not exactly clear but could be a sign that companies are shifting the way they use contingent labour.  Certainly, there are more companies that have implemented maximum tenure rules and that may be having an impact as well.  But it is something that we plan to follow closely.

What does the future hold?  It is still difficult to say with any level of surety.  I do expect that new, smaller companies will continue to drive innovation and will be a source of new opportunities here in Calgary.  Should some of this pipeline mess be resolved in favor of new capacity, there would likely be a “bounce” in the O&G market, with Oilsands companies, particularly, having some relief.  Regardless, it will take some time for local investment by the O&G industry to come back.  A lot of investment dollars have been committed to projects (and acquisitions) elsewhere, often south of the border.  Clear and decisive government intentions/policy will likely be needed before true confidence returns to this industry.

Has IT contingent labour hiring turned the corner for good? The last 3 months would indicate an improved and sustained hiring environment.  But only time will tell if this will be a long-term trend.  I expect that until the end of June, at least, there should be stable demand for IT resources.  Then the summer months will hit, and all bets are off.  Some summers can be very busy, while others are quiet.  When we came out of the 2008 – 2009 general recession, the summer was super-busy as people worked hard to make up for lost time.  However, that particular slow-down (although sharp and deep) was short in duration.  Things bounced back quickly.  This time around, we have been dealing with a depressed market for 2+ years, our economic muscles have atrophied, and companies have made structural/fundamental changes to their IT organizations.  This makes it difficult to predict whether our local economy continue to drive the need for jobs over the summer months.  As time goes on, be sure to watch the Eagle job boards, confer with your recruiter contacts, and keep active in your professional networks to gauge for yourself what is to come.

Best wishes for good business in the upcoming months!

Canada’s Small Business Tax Changes from the New Federal Budget

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

Canada's Small Business Tax Changes from the New Federal BudgetI thought I would write this blog entry as a follow up to another that I’d written a number of weeks ago entitled, “Canada’s Proposed Tax Changes for Small Business” where I encouraged the contracting community to take notice, get educated and have their voices heard.  With the presentation of the new Federal Budget, these are no longer “proposed changes” but are, in fact, the new reality of the corporate tax system and its policies.

What was presented was a good news/bad news story for the small business owner. Finance Minister Bill Morneau was forced to consider the backlash from the policy changes that he and his government proposed several months ago, resulting in a somewhat softened stance when it came to Small Business Tax policy.  The final policy, presented along with the rest of the Federal Budget, took some of the sharp edges off their plans for reform, but it will still have its impact felt by the small business owner.

The following are some of the take-aways from the new budget as it pertains to Small Business Taxes and their implementation:

  • Income splitting has now been addressed and curtailed
  • New passive income taxation rules won’t have much of an effect on newer businesses or very small businesses starting out; but will impact older, better established and/or highly successful businesses whose passive earnings are already built up and substantial. Any company earning $50,000 or less in passive income will qualify for the Small Business Tax Rate but, once more passive earnings are reported, the tax rate will gradually increase until the point where passive income equals $150,000 (or more) and at that point passive income will be taxed at the General Corporate Tax Rate levels.
  • A concern that is getting a lot of attention is the widening gap between Canada and the USA’s corporate and personal tax environments. With the new tax reforms south of the border, there is a more significant tax advantage in doing business as a US-based entity; and this provides their companies with economic advantages over Canadian businesses. Investment becomes more difficult to attract which impacts Canadian companies’ ability to innovate and build. Moreover, there is a growing fear that mobile professionals such as doctors, scientists and technology professionals may choose to relocate state-side to take advantage of higher wages (paid in US$) and lower taxes.

There’s quite obviously a lot more to it than the above three points.  You can read more about it by following the links below:

If you have ideas, comments or opinions about the new Federal Budget that you would like to share with our readership, please leave a comment below!

What Makes a Client Hire Quickly… or Take Forever to Decide? (And Why Independent Contractors Should Care)

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

What Makes a Client Hire Quickly or Take Forever to Decide? (And Why Independent Contractors Should Care)Many factors impact just how quickly a company will progress through the hiring process.  Having a sound understanding of the speed of hiring can help a contractor immensely.  For example, if you are on contract and your assignment will be wrapping up, knowing how long the hiring process will take ensures you begin earnestly looking for your next “gig” at the correct time – not so soon that a new offer comes in before you’ve fully completed your assignment; and not so late as to have an uncomfortable gap in your work and income.

Having multiple offers in hand is a great scenario for a contractor but having multiple interviews on the go and one mediocre offer in hand is a little more difficult to manage.  Do you turn down the offer in the hope that one of the better interviews results in some business?  After all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  Having a solid understanding of the timelines involved may help you to determine whether you can wait to provide your acceptance of the present offer or whether you need to jump at what you’ve got for certain.

The following is a list of factors that lengthen or shorten the hiring cycle and why:

  • Reason for hire: Is the company initiating a brand-new project?  If so, there could be delays in the process.  Or are they replacing a key person within an ongoing project?  This could indicate a need for someone very quickly.
  • Interview Process: How many interviews will be required as part of the client’s hiring process.  It isn’t uncommon for some companies to have one interview and make an offer.  However, some clients like to have multiple interviews before settling on their candidate of choice.
  • Market conditions: When supply of contractors is robust vs. the demand for work, we often see companies taking more time to make a hiring decision.  The opposite is also true… tight labour markets mean that qualified contractors need to be snapped up more quickly or risk losing them to another company.
  • Complexity of the job description: Some customers ask for a “shopping list” of qualifications and experience that is so long that no-one exists with everything that they want. These clients need to scale back their “must-haves” and will begin interviewing the candidates that have portions of what they desire.  These customers are often slow to make a hire, hoping that some unicorn-candidate will magically become available.
  • Number of candidates being considered: If a company interviews 2 or 3 potential candidates, they tend to make quicker decision than companies who interview 7 or 8 or more.
  • Motivation of the hiring manager (or lack thereof): Deadlines, looming vacations, competing priorities all factor into the level of urgency hiring managers will have.
  • Level of bureaucracy: Some companies have an extensive internal hiring process that require levels of approvals and sign-offs that can drag offers out for weeks.
  • Dynamism of the environment: Many corporations have a very fluid environment, where programs and projects are continually in flux.  Timing of hiring is often impacted when this occurs as they attempt to coordinate the entry of the new contractor(s).  Depending on the situation, this could speed up the hiring process or slow it down.
  • Timing of other, similar projects in the local market: Projects may be delayed or fast-tracked based on other projects of a similar nature either starting up or winding down elsewhere in town.  For example, if there are a number of simultaneous SAP projects already in-flight in the local market, a company wishing to start one of their own may delay their hiring to coincide with one of these other projects winding down.  The opposite can also be true… back when everyone had a Windows 7 implementation in their plans, the companies who moved fastest to hire/build their teams were able to acquire the cream of the crop… they were motivated to move quickly.

These are just some of the things that can impact the speed at which an offer is made.  Be sure to ask your recruiter about these the next time they speak with you about a new opportunity and you will understand the issues at play – the better the information that you collect, the better your decision making will be.

Contractors/Small Business Owners: Your Agency is an Extension of your Marketing Department

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

Contractors/Small Business Owners: Your Agency is an Extension of your Marketing DepartmentAs an independent contractor, you are a small business owner. And just as every business needs to sell its products and services so, too, must you from time to time. Long term, multi-year contracts aside, contractors’ businesses are very often defined by frequent client engagements. When you are busy delivering your service it can be a challenge to find the time to market your company, after all there are only so many hours in a day. Likewise, sales isn’t typically your primary business and many contractors and consultants struggle with this part of their business (or, at least, it isn’t their favorite part of running the business).

What’s an independent contractor to do? There are some basic things that every small business can do to ensure they are getting their brand out to the market. These include:

  • Maintain a nice clean, easy-to-navigate website that lets prospective clients know what you do best and have accomplished
  • Ensure your LinkedIn profile is accurate and up-to-date… and “connect” with as many people as possible… and participate in work-related, online forums and chat groups
  • Invest in business cards and stationery, an important part of your branding strategy
  • Network, network, network… Just as a restaurant’s success has a lot to do with its location, your business success is a result of people in your industry knowing about you and the work that your company does better than anyone else. Getting out where industry peers and potential clients meet and engaging with these people is vitally important
  • Work your “champions”. If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you will have made some deep and lasting professional relationships. These people will want to see you succeed and knowing that you are interested in pursuing new opportunities, they will do their best to help you identify new prospects by making introductions.

…And, as the title of this blog suggests, leverage your staffing agency partners to the fullest! Your agency doesn’t technically work for you as it is their customer base that hires them to conduct searches on their behalf; but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from your affiliation with them. Especially when it comes to marketing your business. Eagle, for example, holds multiple networking events each year, we send out industry and market updates regularly, and our Recruiters are great sources of information and ideas. Staffing companies make their business by finding the best possible talent for their clients and, if you happen to be a good fit for one of their open roles, they will do the selling for you!

Staffing companies do not charge you (the contractor) to work for them. Instead their clients negotiate hourly fees that they will pay over and above the rates that you charge. Most end-clients are content to pay a premium to off-load the search, vetting, qualification, onboarding, hiring, and payment functions to staffing specialists as it is much more efficient and cost effective than doing so themselves. And they find the best talent available in the market this way. Therefore, you are able to charge your regular rates and get the benefit of agencies selling your services for you. Be sure to visit their job boards regularly and by responding to their Recruiters when they call, you will be better aware and engaged in new opportunities.

Other things you can do to help your agency partners to make a better impact on your sales efforts is to be consistent in your messaging. Branding is very important for any business… what is it about your business that sets it apart? If your website,and resume and “elevator pitch”/sales messages are all on-point and consistent it makes it much easier for Recruiters to understand your value proposition and to sell your company to their clients. Recruiters will often prefer a consultant who does one thing very well (and can demonstrate this through past work experience) to people who are good at a lot of different things. It is easier to sell and easier for the end-client to see where the “fit” is in their own teams; so tailor your branding and messaging to the job you want and communicate this to your agency.

Another little thing that makes a big difference is to invest some time into building relationships with key Recruiters that you trust. With very little effort you can build your Recruiter contact into a business champion of yours. Ensuring that you are reachable and making yourself available to meet or talk goes a long way towards building a Recruiter’s preference for working with you.

A lot has been written in Eagle’s Talent Development Centre blog site over the years about building strong and successful relationships with agency Recruiters. Any and all of these hold great tips that will turn an agency into a salesforce that works for you! Here are some links to these past articles:

Breaking the “Working and Not Selling” and the “Selling and Not Working” cycle takes some focused attention… but by spending some time getting your business’s Marketing program in place, you can avoid some of the time-gaps between engagements and develop your career in the direction for which you’ve planned!

Calgary IT Job Market Update at the end of November 2017

By Morley Surcon (Vice President Western Canada at Eagle) and Brianne Risley (Delivery Manager at Eagle)

The following is a short summary of the IT Labour and Job Market in Calgary – supply, demand, and dynamics.

There are 3 “Trends” That Eagle has Noticed Over the Past Months:

Calgary IT Job Market UpdateCalgary has Developed an IT Skillset Gap: Information Technology changes and evolves very, very quickly. This means that what is “leading edge” today, may be “old news” in a matter of months. Over the past 18 months, Calgary companies have had a focus on sustainment. As a result, contractors have not had the opportunity to work on the technologies that are pushing the industry forward and a noticeable gap has developed between the skills available in the local Calgary IT community and the types of technology that are now starting to be requested by some organizations. Eagle is finding that in areas such as Dashboarding, SaaS, Front-end Development and Cloud development, it is difficult to find local people with the experience/knowledge in newly-in-demand technology. For example, we are now seeing demand for people with CSS/Javascript vs. the C# .NET that used to be so prevalent in the Calgary market. The same is true in the SAP space, where our customers are now looking for people with Fiori or HANA experience. We are seeing that companies are reaching out to out-of-town resources to fill these ‘niche’ skills and, in some cases, are paying elevated rates to do so. Companies may also be bringing in outsourcing companies and/or specialty partners to implement new-technology focused projects, going the way of out-sourcing or out-tasking to supply niche resources rather than running the projects in-house themselves.

Move Toward Greater Simplification:  Companies have been working towards consolidation and standardization over the past months. This encompasses both the technology that they use as well as the business partners with which they choose to work. Organizations in Calgary have shed roles over the past year(s) and must, therefore, focus on their core business/industry. It is increasingly difficult to find “the cycles” to complete projects that they do not have the in-house skills to complete. We are seeing much less custom development work in favor of their chosen ERP’s solution and/or implementing off-the-shelf software packages with little customization. And, instead of building up their own teams, more organizations have been opting to outsource or out-task project work to 3rd parties. Additionally, many of the companies in Calgary have undergone a vendor rationalization, reducing the number of suppliers/outsourcers that they deal with on a daily basis. This represents a clear shift in the quantity and types of roles for which staffing agencies are being hired and a greater degree of simplification for the companies themselves.

M&A Project Work: In Calgary, the majority of any new project work across many sectors is attributable to mergers and acquisitions. The necessity of integrating IT departments, reporting capabilities and business processes standardization work has created a short-term ‘bump’ in contract work. Many of the projects are due to be completed early in the New Year (or before). Once finished, these companies will be shedding staff once again to remove redundancies due to overlap in roles between the two companies and freeing up the staff that were solely employed for the integration project work itself.

The Following Market “Conditions” Have Also Been Noted:

Rates: Rates for non-specialized roles have remained flat for the past 6+ months. The exception is for ERP as demand has increased, albeit often for specialized skillsets as described above. Company “rate roll-backs” have halted as the employee and contractor rationalizations have been completed.

Skills with High and Growing Demand:  Eagle has noticed increased interest for contractors with the following skillsets:

  • Front-End Developers
  • Java Developers/Software Engineers/DevOps
  • Cyber Security Consultants
  • Project Managers (Agile, ERP, some Infrastructure)
  • ERP (Fiori/UI5) enhancement/upgrade work
  • IT Reporting – Cloud tools for data visualization – Tableau, Spotfire, Hana and related data warehousing/BI work. Predictive analytics and driving business value from data stores.

Skills with Neutral Demand:

  • Network/Storage Administrators
  • SaaS implementations (Sales Force, Service Now, Workday) + Traditional ERP (SAP/PS/Oracle)

Skills for Which We Have Seen a Decline in Demand:

  • .NET Developers (this is the first time in 10+ years that demand for Java/Front-end skills have outstripped .NET in Calgary)
  • Server Analysts/Administrators (Outsourcing companies are handling much of this demand by leveraging overseas options)

Existing open roles for Calgary can be viewed on here Eagle’s Job Board.

**Disclaimer: The market summary above reflects Eagle’s own experience. Please understand that this does not include interaction with 100% of the market. Eagle’s clientele tend toward the larger enterprise companies, therefore experience in Calgary’s SMB market may be substantially different.

If your experience or observations have been different, I encourage you to leave a comment so all may learn from your perspective as well!

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!!