Talent Development Centre

All posts by Morley Surcon

What’s on the Minds of Canada’s CIOs?

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

What's on the Minds of Canada's CIOs?

 

While many CIOs are great communicators and share clear and motivating visions for the future, some can be tougher to pin down and it is sometimes hard to see what makes them tick. Even if the CIO at the company where you work is one of the former, it is hard to tell if he or she is part of the majority. Well, all this is to say that ITWorld Canada released the 2019 Canadian CIO Census and I thought I’d share some of the findings as they apply to IT Labour with you. This is particularly good information as it is Canadian-only data, and most of what you find online is US-content-heavy. So, without further ado, here is what the IT leaders in Canada have on their minds!

Hiring Plans for the Coming Year

Almost half (48%) of those surveyed are expecting to keep IT headcount at current levels, either by choice or due to a hiring freeze; while over a third (37%) are looking to increase the size of their teams. This makes for robust demand for talent in Canada. Only 4% suggest that they will decrease the size of their departments.

Day-To-Day Concerns

While 16 different “concerns” were cited, the top 5 things that keep most CIOs up at night are: Data Security/Privacy Issues, Uptime/Reliabilty Concerns, Compliance Requirements, Business Innovation Demands, and tied for 5th place was Making Data Actionable and Staffing.

CIO’s concerns for finding the right resources for their teams and projects has grown by over 55% over the past 3 years. This is a result of unemployment rates of IT workers in Canada hovering around the 2% mark, on average. Most economists consider “full employment” to be around 4% unemployment… as a consequence, most regions in Canada are in a supply-constrained state. With things even tighter in the US, they are exporting their labour shortages to Canada, enticing Canadian workers to travel down to work on their projects or they are employing “remote work”. The results are the same, save a global downturn of some kind, IT labour supply is going to become tighter and tighter… and our CIOs know this.

ITCT, StatsCanada Chart - ICT Employment

In-Demand and Out-Of-Demand Areas in IT

CIOs report having the hardest time hiring for the following areas: AI, Data Analytics, IoT, Mobile Development, and Cloud Services. Specific roles that are of particular interest include Enterprise Application Developers, Big Data/Analytics Specialists, Business Analysts, and Project Managers. All this was consistent with the CIO Census finding from last year, with interest in Application Developers growing slightly.

Given the focus that much of Canada’s IT sector has been giving to Cloud and As-A-Service technologies, it isn’t too surprising that the IT roles where they report “negative demand” is a tie between Data Centre Management and Application Maintenance and Support.

Although there aren’t many IT roles that CIOs claim might be reduced, there are some roles that may see some “turbulence” with some CIOs claiming to need to hire, while others are looking to shed workers. These include Help Desk, IT Support, Network Security, and IT Generalists… some of the people working in these roles may experience opportunities ending at certain companies, but demand from other companies will more than offsets the reductions that are expected, with the number of CIOs “hiring” outstripping those “downsizing” 3:1.

If you are interested in reading the entire CIO Census report, you may do so here.

 

Banking and Technology — Reaching an Inflection Point

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

The banking industry today is one of the drivers of innovation in Information Technology in Canada and around the world. Yet, many of the established big banks have legacy systems that threaten to drag them down in the coming tsunami of change. In times of great change and confusion, there are opportunities for the wise consultant.

It wasn’t that long ago that banks were using green-screen technology and were still doing so long after rolling out the first ATMs. They weren’t often thought of as being leading-edge users of newer technology; after all, they needed certainty of operation, maximum uptime, few errors. Bleeding-edge technology was often a bit risky in these respects. Furthermore, the processing that they did need required very large and very expensive (and very consistent/predictable) mainframe computers. They were a large investment that was needed to scale with the banks’ growing businesses. Much of this changed with advent of internet banks who limited the physical requirements of typical brick-n-mortar facilities and offered ubiquitous convenience of anytime, anywhere banking (providing you had access to the internet). These new banks were nimble, technologically-advanced and great marketers. Seemingly all-of-a-sudden, new products, new ways to reach people, and new technology became key differentiators for market disrupting upstarts and innovation became a necessity to the slower-to-change institutional banks.

Number of ICT Workers in CanadaThe big banks’ world was changing and they were being ‘leap-frogged’ by these borderless entities. The change was on! Today, Toronto and Montreal have a large share of the IT talent supply in Canada (45%+ of all talent in Canada) and at least some of this is the result of the strength of demand/needs coming from the strong banking sector. New technology and new ideas are being envisioned, piloted and rolled-out by even the stodgiest of banks. Digital and business transformation, the new paradigm taken up by so many of today’s companies and organizations, is absolutely rampant in the banking industry.

Ok… You’re saying, ‘So tell me something I don’t know’.  Well… How about a short history lesson that might shed some light on what the banking industry may be facing?

For those of us with some grey hair, this situation is quite reminiscent of what happened around the turn of the century in the Telco space. What happened there was that large, ponderous, Regional Bell Operating Companies (to use the old vernacular) had been implementing massive telephone technology systems, incurring huge costs to do so and then amortizing the expense of it all over decades. They had near (or actual) monopolies, long distance calling rates were atrocious, and they had time on their side with little enticement to innovate. Canadian company, Northern Telecom (later Nortel), was a mainstay in the industry, selling their telephony solutions to the world. Then came Internet Protocol (IP)… and the game changed for them and for the RBOC’s, seemingly overnight.

In reality, it wasn’t really all that fast (not by today’s standards) but they were about to be one of the first large industries to learn the lessons that disruptive technology has taught to so many since then. Smaller, more nimble telephone companies began popping up everywhere (CLEC’s – Competitive Local Exchange Carriers) leveraging newer technology that took advantage of high-bandwidth data trunks and new switching technology. Although still expensive, they were able to piggy-back on the networks that the RBOC’s had built (Gov’t regulators demanded the RBOCs allow them to do so). The cost per call was dropping dramatically as a result and data was able to be transmitted in volumes that actually made sense for businesses. The internet had its highways. What came of this was that the well-financed old equipment companies and the quick-and-nimble upstarts were pitted against each other — companies like Nortel coming from the high-reliability world of telecommunications and those like Cisco coming from the world of data-networking. Initially Nortel joked that they’d learn to spell ‘IP’ before Cisco could learn to spell ‘reliability’ and, for the most part, they were able to hold their own. At one-point, Nortel employed over 60,000 people in their research-and-development facility (BNR – Bell Northern Labs) alone. Both sides created great new products. Nortel had age-old client relationships with the telco’s on their side along with excellent quality products, and the likes of Cisco produced innovative and cheaper alternatives. It was the ‘space race’ of the telecommunications industry. Fantastic new products were coming out quicker and quicker… which sounds great …until it wasn’t.

Their customers — the RBOCs and the CLECs — were in a feeding frenzy of buying. It seemed that every 6 months, a better, faster, more progressive solution was coming out. CLECs were leap-frogging the RBOCs to offer better and cheaper service to consumers. Then the RBOCs would leap-frog them back again. The problem for all the players in this industry was that they no longer had time on their side. They didn’t have time to amortize the very high costs of the new technology before the next iteration came out and they were forced to buy/implement/replace or be unable to compete. It was a global race to the bottom and RBOCs and CLECs alike were running out of money — especially the CLECs, many of whom were relatively new business start-ups, part of the dotcom craze. Nortel’s clients couldn’t afford the new gear anymore so Nortel began ‘selling’ their new products and taking equity in these companies as payment. The whole industry and their supply chains became dangerously over-leveraged, a veritable house-of-cards. Then the dotcom bubble burst and most of the CLECs went out of business, dragging the over-leveraged Nortel (and many of their suppliers) down with them.

So, back to the Banking/Finance Industry today. Some of the obvious parallels are the ‘old guard’ who were titans in the industry with wide moats to protect their market share and had relatively little technical innovation for many years. Then come the upstarts, leveraging new technology to change the game. And then the response from the established banks to modernize to be able to compete and, in fact, push on the boundaries of what was possible before. The big banks also have a similar challenge to the Regional Bell Operating Companies, and that is they are somewhat handcuffed by the older, legacy systems that they’d deployed. The new companies don’t have this to worry about. They can move 100% to new technology, whereas the big banks have huge investments tied up in their mainframe technology and, worse, no easy or quick or cheap ways to get off this technology.  As the legacy banks struggle with this piece, the staff that they have managing this infrastructure move dangerously close to retirement — and there are not a lot of Cobol programmers out there ready to step into the vacated roles!

Of course, there are a lot of differences between the Telco and Banking scenarios as well. It has been almost 20 years since the dotcom crash, and everyone has seen lesson after lesson on the disruptive impact technology can have on entire industries, and people are quicker to react to the challenge. And banks are definitely not cash strapped — they have the ability to invest in new technology, in transforming their business, in moving into or out of markets. And, most important to IT experts/contractors, they have the ability to hire many of the best IT people the market has to offer!

Banks, old and new, need to get their technology/business process mix just right. Their continued market success and very survival depends upon it. Innovation = Technology + People. With enough money, the Technology part of this equation is easy… the People part is what is strategically important! As I mentioned earlier, in times of great change and confusion, there are opportunities for the wise consultant.

Disclaimer:

I’m going to pre-acknowledge (before anyone chooses to call me out) that, for the purposes of this blog post, I’ve oversimplified the Telco/Nortel/Cisco/market crash scenario. There were many, many additional factors that played out. However, this is how I remembered it and the lessons that I took away. I worked during those years for Northern Telecom, and a failed CLEC (Norigen), and was part of companies (Anixter and ADNS – Ameritech Data Networking Solutions) building out the data-highways to which I refer in this blog post. I was part of the industry at that time and lived through the ups and downs of it. So, I ask that I be allowed to share my opinion based on what I witnessed directly.

That said, if you have other opinions or experiences of your own and would like to share with our readership… please do so by leaving a comment below!

Hiring Trend Stats… What the “Other Side” is Thinking

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

Eagle collects, compiles and analyzes labour market statistics on an ongoing basis. Keeping our finger on the pulse of market movements and trends is a full-time job. In these Talent Development Centre posts, we often share general data points on market demand and indicators that we feel would be directly pertinent to our contractor partners… after all, building value through education is the driving purpose of this blog site! I thought I’d take a bit of a detour on this post, sharing some ideas/statistics that we’ve collected that would typically be of value to the companies that hire contractors for their operations and projects. Sometimes there’s value to be found in reviewing what your customers are thinking about or are concerned with.

With that said, here are 5 research findings that reflect your customers’ intentions/beliefs/experiences:

1. The Challenges in Finding Tech Talent

The CompTIA IT Industry Outlook for 2019 showed that 50% of Canadian companies (and 53% of US companies) are finding it either more difficult or significantly more difficult to hire the Tech- People they need.

  • They are hiring to support company expansion (58%), for new skills (52%), and as replacements for departures (43%)
  • Top hiring challenges include: Finding workers with the skill/experience in emerging areas, Finding workers with the needed soft-skills, intense competition for tech talent, rising salary/rate expectations, and having a limited pool of available workers in their “local” region.

2. Discouraged from Using More Contract Workers

Per an Okta Digital Enterprise Report, the Top 5 reasons that discourage a company from using more contract workers include:

  • Security Concerns — over 40% of companies report having significant concerns that contractors increase the threat profile for their companies.
  • Efficiency Concerns — they are not set up to manage contractors effectively and doubt whether they can make proper use of contingent labour
  • Regulatory Concerns — both south of the border and here, in Canada, increasing government legislation/involvement are raising risk factors for businesses. It is increasingly challenging to stay on top of legal requirements and stay on-side of CRA expectations
  • Collaboration Concerns — related to efficiency concerns, about a third of companies surveyed aren’t convinced that they know how to manage contingent workers to the degree needed to ensure a successful engagement
  • Budget Concerns — IT departments are continually under pressure to “do more with less”. Over 30% sited this constraint as a limitation to using more contract workers despite having a robust project list

3. Sought-After Soft Skills

A survey completed by CareerBuilder in March of this year identifies the 3 most sought-after soft skills that they look for when completing their hiring – Team-Oriented Mindset, Attention to Detail, and Customer Service Orientation. Companies are taking on highly-complex undertakings such as “Digital Transformation”, Cloud, and ERP projects and these impact entire organizations, crossing boundaries between IT and other business units. As hard skills in brand-new areas are still relatively thin, soft skills have never been more important. In a LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report companies claim that, when looking at bad hires, they are 4X more likely to be a result of people lacking soft skills vs hard skills.

4. Remote Work Allowed by Industry

LinkedIn’s recent survey shows that Software and IT, Finance, and Corporate Services are most likely to allow/encourage remote working environments. Healthcare and Manufacturing were least likely. The companies surveyed believe that work flexibility (remote work) provide the following benefits (top 5):

  • Improves work-life balance
  • Encourages retention
  • Attracts candidates
  • Increases productivity
  • Expands the available talent pool.

5. Digital Transformation Projects Abound

Constellation Research completed a survey late last year to gauge companies’ readiness to implement their digital transformation plans. They found that an astounding 94% of respondents need to hire additional human capital to implement Digital Transformation solutions.

Chart by Constellation Research: Does your organizationhave the workforce talent it needs to implement successful digital transformation solutions

Themes in these 5 questions include such things as companies’ sensitivity to security/risk, applicants’ needs to demonstrate strong soft skills when applying, companies’ various internal and external challenges finding (and landing) the talent that they need, and the pervasiveness of digital transformation (however DT might be defined by companies surveyed). Perhaps these data points will provide you with some insights as to other non-skills-related experience that you may want to include in your discussions during interviews. The data points shared were common for the vast number of respondents and they are likely to be on the minds of your next interviewer as well!

Where is the ICT Labour Market Going — Part II

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

In my last Talent Development Centre post, I spoke about the looming tech skills shortage. One that is beginning in the USA and is expected to be “exported” to the rest of the world. In this post, I’m taking the discussion a bit further by discussing a “leading driver” for this shortage — Digital Transformation Projects.

According to a recent Mulesoft Connectivity Benchmark Report, almost all companies surveyed are either implementing a digital transformation strategy or are planning to deploy one within the next 3 years. From the same report, the top 5 goals of digital transformation are reported to be: Increasing IT’s operational efficiency, improving customer experience, increasing business efficiency, introducing new products and services faster, and improving employee experience.

Is your company currently undertaking digital transformation initiatives?
Source: Mulesoft Connectivity Benchmark Report 2019

Strategies such as these, and the projects that follow, require heavy investments in technology and in the people needed to design, built, test and implement the new solutions. Unsurprisingly, given the huge number of organizations working towards this, there is a growing skills gap — one that threatens to impact the industry. According to Constellation Research, they found that IT and Business leaders now see this as the greatest threat to their strategy’s success. In fact, recent reports suggest that lack of talent/human capital is a leading factor impeding US economic growth. They are currently experiencing 50-year lows in their unemployment rate.

The Factors Impeding Digital Transformation

This is great news if you are an ICT contractor! …especially if you have the right, in-demand skills. From Eagle’s own experience across Canada, these skills/roles would include the following:

  • Project Managers
  • Business Analysts
  • Security/Cybersecurity
  • Cloud
  • BI, Data Analytics and Data Science
  • Business Transformation/Change Management
  • Agile Developers
  • Mobile Technologies Experts
  • SAP
  • AI/RPA/Automation Testing

In case there was any question whether the skill shortages experienced south of the border might make its way to Canada, the table below, created with data from e-Talent Canada, suggests that we are already at full-employment right across Canada (or already constrained in some regions).

ICT Employment Across Canada (December 2018)
Source: e-Talent Canada

These are exciting days to work in the field of Technology!

Where is the ICT Labour Market Going?

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

Although there is no “crystal ball” when it comes to forecasting Labour Market trends, there are several sources that tend to be leading indicators if one looks in the right places. To begin, I will share a couple charts that provide historical insight into the Job Market in Canada:

The first was put together by Statista using data from StatsCanada and ICTC. It shows the trend for ICT unemployment rates to be consistently lower than the overall unemployment rates by about 4% in each of the past 15 years.

Unemployment rate of the ICT sector compared to the overall rate in Canada, from 2001 to 2017
Statista.com – Sources: StatCan; ICTC

The second chart was compiled with data from ICTC’s e-Talent Canada portal. It shows the ICT unemployment rates for the major cities in Canada.

ICT Employment Across Canada (December 2018)
Source: e-Talent Canada

I believe that these confirm the relationship to overall unemployment rates quite well. What these two charts suggest is that the ICT labour market is at full employment or is actually in a supply-constrained state across Canada.

I recently attended an industry conference in the USA where it was explained that the labour-supply situation in the USA is even more dire; there, they are calling it a crisis. This is important as the US typically leads Canada by 6 to 18 months in this respect and the trends that they see make their way to Canada eventually. These critical labour shortages are coming.

Although this can be good news if you are a contractor/consultant as it encourages rates to remain high and opportunities to be plentiful, it does provide headwinds for the industry as a whole. Automation and AI are becoming more mainstream and will certainly cover some of the gaps for more basic-level work. However, the presenters at the U.S. Conference suggested that a growing skills gap is forming. They estimate that of the open STEM positions that exist in the USA today, 1/3 remain unfilled. The people who are losing jobs due to technology do not have the necessary skills for the new, high-tech jobs that are being created. The staffing industry south of the border believes that, with remote-work becoming more mainstream, U.S. companies may begin hiring more foreign workers or move some operations out of country to tap other labour markets. It seems that the “labour-crunch” that has been predicted for decades has already begun in the States; and it is expected that they will export this shortage to the rest of the world, further impacting global labour availability. We at Eagle have collected anecdotal accounts of this happening now — American companies are reaching out to highly-skilled Canadian contractors to work as remote members of development teams, as architects, etc.

Interesting times are ahead. In a labour-constrained, gig-economy-friendly world, it will be a good business environment for highly-skilled consultants as the services they provide will be in high demand. However, competition for these open roles is expected to become more global. Over the upcoming years (and perhaps decades), countries will compete for skilled labour and their economic prosperity will depend on how well or poorly they attract highly skilled immigrant experts. Today, Canada is a strong competitor for global talent – this World Economic Forum article shows Canada ranking 3rd overall as a preferred destination for the global workforce behind the US and Germany. With the recent insular direction of US-politics and policies, Canada is further benefiting via the ease with which students and skilled workers can attain the necessary visas versus the USA. However, long term competitive advantages are not easily created or maintained. It will be interesting to see if “remote work on foreign projects” might be an answer for foreign, skilled workers who would prefer not to relocate but, rather, live/work in/from their own countries.

What have been your experiences and observations? Please share by adding a comment below!

Working Through the Contract Extension Process

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

Your contract term is coming to an end, but there’s still work left to be done… or maybe there’s another project for which you’d be a strong fit… or, perhaps, the company at which you are working is cash strapped and may not be in a position to consider an extension to your contract. All these scenarios and others may be playing out for you. There are so many possible outcomes, not to mention all of the “opportunities” at other companies that begin to pop up.

What’s a contractor to do?

As an independent incorporated contractor, you are running a business. You want to do what’s best for your business, so your options must be considered based on a number of different (and sometimes competing) aspects – financial concerns, your company’s image, branding, reputation, and the interest of staff members (you). Also, you must balance all this with what’s in the best interest of your business partners and clients. After all, repeat business relies on leaving your customers satisfied. A bad reputation will propagate as people familiar with a tough situation move between companies.

Tricky scenarios pop up frequently around extension time. The following are some ideas that may make the road less bumpy:

  • Communication and transparency are key. Be open, honest and professional when speaking with your onsite supervisor and your agency partner (if there is one involved). Share your hopes, fears and interests clearly and try to remove the emotion that you might be feeling to get the best results/response. (To help with the emotion part, see the point below) Also, it is important to let all sides know if you are applying to new roles and, if it is really what you want, communicate your sincere interest in staying/receiving an extension. Everyone involved wants to avoid a situation where an extension is offered and refused due to a surprise job offer from elsewhere.
  • Start communicating early. For longer term contracts, begin a conversation with your recruiter and supervisor as much as 6, or even up to 8, weeks in advance of your contract ending. Challenges are much easier to manage if all parties have time to properly manage. If it is clear that there will be no extension, your recruiter might even be able to find you your next role and help to manage the transition from the current one.
  • If you have competing offers, my advice is to give priority to the project or client on which you are currently working. All things being considered, they are likely counting on you to see things through to the end. No amount of “knowledge transfer” will make up for losing a key member of their team. Leaving to take another role elsewhere risks your reputation and that can have long term impact to future job prospects.
  • If there will be an extension and there is a legitimate case for a rate increase, I highly recommend that you speak first with your Recruiter. There are several reasons for this. First, the Recruiter may know of opportunities or challenges concerning rate increases of which you aren’t aware. Second, companies often have a formalized process for rate increase requests and expect them to be followed. Again, your recruiter will know how to do this. Third, your recruiter will be able to help you build your case. They know what arguments might carry more weight with the customer. And, fourth, your Recruiter can have an unemotional and very candid business conversation with the customer avoiding any hurt feelings that might negatively impact your ability to work with the client going forward.
  • Be flexible. As described earlier, a business decision will have competing issues to consider. There may need to be give and take required to get the best overall result.
  • Whichever decision you make, be sure to manage your relationships with professionalism and tact; and give your best effort to mitigate any negative repercussions as much as possible. It will be noted by those observing such things and will help keep your reputation whole.

Whatever decision you make, be sure to manage your relationships with professionalism and tact; and give your best effort to mitigate any negative repercussions as much as possible.  It will be noted by those observing such things and will help keep your reputation whole.  And, remember the importance of having a positive reference on your most recent contract – the saying in the industry goes: “You are only as good as your last project reference.”  This is a good statement to keep in mind as you are exiting a project.

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!