February 26th, 2015

The Continuing Value of a Recruiter to The Client

invest in people There are many reasons why clients will go to a recruiter.  Some of those reasons are fairly common and others are not so common.  Typically clients look to a recruiter when they have an urgent need for talent … but an ongoing relationship with your recruiter will mean you can actually get proactive!

Today I will talk about the kind of situation many managers face, the need to bring new knowledge into the organization.  There are many reasons why this is needed.

  • You do not have a key skill amongst your employees;
  • A key resource leaves and the skill leaves with them; or
  • A new technology comes into the company and you have no-one with that skill.

Typically companies will approach these situations in a few different ways:

  • Hire someone new into the position who has that skill;
  • Hire a contractor into the position;
  • Muddle through; or
  • Outsource the responsibility to an external supplier.

There are however many times when you have good employees, who could do the work if they had the right experience.  They are also people you would want to reward with this kind of opportunity and if your could then it would strengthen their tie to your organization.

What can you do?

Your recruiter can help you to identify the right kind of contract resource, who can bring the experience and the skill.  Their task would NOT be to do the work themselves but to partner with the internal employee through the process of getting them up to speed, while ensuring the work is done well.  As a part of their mandate they could even train a few in house people in relevant skills to ensure adequate backup for your new in-house expert.  This approach is more attractive to in house resources who might resent the “sexy” projects being given to contract resources.

The short term cost might be a little higher than hiring a net new person, or even hiring a contractor for the duration.  Longer term you have the skills you need, happy employees and your costs are likely to be less.

“If you take care of your employees they will take care of your customers and your business will take care of itself.”  J W Marriott

It requires a little more planning and the right expectation setting with both the contractor and the employee.  It might require a willingness to put in a little extra effort on the part of the employee, but they will be getting new skills in return.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”  Chinese Proverb

This is just one more reason why hiring managers should have an ongoing relationship with their recruiter.  A good recruiter will be able to understand the business issue, find exactly the right candidate and set the right expectations with an incoming contract resource.
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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February 25th, 2015

The Value of a Recruiter to a Hiring Manager

Rob Crandall quote about upgrading your teamFor some people a recruiter is a “necessary evil” … someone that they call as a last resort, when they are desperate to fill a role.  The rest of the time they will avoid them.

The fact is that in addition to being a source of talent there are many reasons why a hiring manager should cultivate a relationship with their recruiting supplier, especially when there is no immediate and burning need.  The recruiter is a great resource that can elp with a number of management challenges … so I would counsel hiring managers to put their recruiters to work!

Today I will focus on how a good recruiter can help you improve your existing team.  This is especially important during a downturn in the market, which is the current state of the economy in Canada’s oil and gas sector.

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.”  Ronald Reagan

During a downturn, excellent talent comes on the market or at the very least is willing to have conversations about other opportunities.  It might be their company is struggling, a project lost funding or just the uncertainty of their particular situation … but it spells opportunity for the astute hiring manager.   Especially if they have a good recruiter finding these people for them!

In my management experience the number one source of pain has always been the underperforming employee with the attitude problem.  They might do just enough to “get by”, but they cause their manager heart burn, take more management time than the rest of your staff and they disrupt the team dynamics.

I would suggest that most managers that have a number of people on their project, or working for them will have their “problem child”.

Imagine how much better your days would be if that person were replaced by someone like one of your top performers!  Suddenly stress would be reduced, productivity would be increased and you would find time to spend on more enjoyable activities.  Your team would be happier and so would you.

If you have a relationship with your recruiter you can talk about these things.  You can have them keep an eye out for the “A’ player that might fit your team.  If you have a relationship they will know the soft skills that are needed, they will understand the hard skills that are mandatory and they will not waste your time by firing over resumes of people who might just be another problem child.

Companies always talk about the cost of recruiting and how expensive it is … well think about the real return on investment in this one move!  What dollar benefit would your company receive by replacing one poor performer with an “A Player”?

This is just ONE reason you need to have a relationship with your recruiter!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
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February 24th, 2015

Practical Tips for Driving Your Day

Jim Rohn quote about time managementI often talk about the need to take control of your time.  Too often we come to the office and just “do stuff”, which means that your day is driving you.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Yogi Berra

Sometimes when I talk about this subject I see heads nodding, the recognition that what I am saying makes sense … but all too often people don’t change how they operate.

“The only possible way to have it ALL is with structure and the discipline to keep to it, to make it a routine.” Margot Hattingh

Here are some ideas about exactly HOW you can drive your day using goals, routines and priorities.

  1. Set some goals … they can be your own or set by the company. g. If you are in sales you may have a goal that supports meeting your sales quota.  If you are a recruiter you might have a goal of interviewing 2 people a day.  Other examples might be learning goals (1 one hour seminar a month etc.) or numbers of people to talk with or meet with.
  2. Understand which tasks have the highest priority related to your job. If you are in sales they might be client meetings or calls; if you are a recruiter it might be conversations with candidates or interviews.  These tasks will be the ones that have the most impact.  These are “A” type priority items.
  3. Understand what the mandatory “other tasks” are in your job. These might be internal reporting, meetings with your boss etc.   These will be “B” type priority items.
  4. Create your Master To Do list. I always suggest having this separate from your notebook (or wherever you capture notes).  I like to capture what I have done in my notebook, and keep a separate list of things I need to do.  Identify which are high priority tasks, which are
  5. Create a standard “start of day” routine with reminders generated in your calendar. These could be “Start of Day routine” … review To Dos; identify what to do that day; book time in calendar for specific tasks (more later).   This should be done BEFORE opening email or listening to voicemail.  It should be revised if necessary after those tasks.
  6. Create a standard “end of day” routine (again with reminders) Review To Do’s; Identify calendar items for next day & any required preparation; celebrate completing tasks etc.
  7. Create a standard end of week routine; a standard end of month routine (that might include monthly report generation etc.)
  8. Measure yourself against your goals regularly … as it makes sense. If your goal is to have 10 client meetings a week, then you can measure that every day … meetings you have had plus those planned gives you a shortfall to correct.
  9. Always put the emphasis on high return (A type priorities).
  10. Build time into your day for the “B type” activities.
  11. Build time into your day for breaks.
  12. When NOT on a break focus on work!

If you can do that you will be driving your day.

“Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement.” Brian Tracy

What did I miss?  What else could you do?


Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) VirtualRecruiter service?

February 13th, 2015

A Mentor/Mentee Relationship is Attractive BUT Hard Work!

Quote from John Maxwell about mentorshipMentoring is very often cited as an excellent way for “up and comers” to learn, and it can also be very rewarding to the mentor as they help those early in their career.

“There are two ways to acquire wisdom; you can either buy it or borrow it.” Benjamin Franklin

I read an excellent article from Brian Tracy a number of years ago called The Value of Mentors which appeared on the CPSA website (Canadian Professional Sales Association).  The focus of the article was on the mentee, and gave a number steps that a mentee can do in order to take full advantage of mentors.

I have had mixed success as a mentor, and while some people will say I have helped them in their career, there have been a number of occasions where I felt I had provided very little value and in fact the experience had been a waste of my time and their time.

Given all of the above I certainly can’t profess to be a great mentor, but I can share some of the lessons I have learned, the hard way:

  1. Put the emphasis on the mentee.  They need to do the work of deciding where they need help.
  2. Have a formal agenda, ahead of time, for any meeting.
  3. Don’t wing it … know the topics for discussion ahead of time.
  4. It is OK to let the conversation wander, after the agenda is done.
  5. The concept of a mentor/mentee relationship is often very attractive, but there is a lot of work involved … don’t commit to the relationship if both parties are not willing to commit to the work!

Informal chats with people can bring value, but it can equally be a waste of time.  My advice to anyone considering being a mentor is to ensure the mentee is prepared well (Brian Tracy’s article is a good place for them to start.

“For every one of us that succeeds, it is because there’s somebody there to show you the way out.” Oprah Winfrey

I will reiterate that there is much to be gained from having a mentor and in being a mentor.  The effort is worth the result, but without the effort it is very likely to be another conversation with little value.

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) VirtualRecruiter service?

February 11th, 2015

Email Etiquette – 20 Tips!

Quote by Geroge Bernard Shaw on CommunicationEmail is both (i) a fantastic tool and (ii) the bane of our lives … all at the same time!  It brings to mind an old saying, “can’t live with it, can’t live without it!”

While the main cause appears to be volume, there are things that we can do to help ourselves.  Certainly within our own companies we can develop a set of guidelines that will help.

“Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few.” Pythagoras

I thought I would start the discussion with some of my thoughts on the subject of email etiquette.

  1. An email should in most cases be about one subject.  If you have three different subjects to discuss then send three different emails.
  2. Emails should use good grammar. Do not use texting “shortcuts.
  3. The subject line is important, it should provide some indication about the content.
  4. The message should be clear … if in doubt try it out on a trusted person first.
  5. As a manager if I am sending an internal email to someone who reports to another manager then I should copy that manager.
  6. Sometimes a subject is too complex, or involves too many people, to be just an email.  In those circumstances a meeting would be a better choice, a conference call would be a good option.  The results could then be documented in an email for everyone to ensure they are on the same page.
  7. If you are writing an email and feeling emotional then most likely you should just pick up the phone or wait until you are calm again.
  8. An email provides a good history of an issue or topic, so it should be clear enough that it serves that purpose when you look back at it several months later.
  9. Always use spell checker.
  10. If you are replying to an email as one of a number of recipients then you need to think about whether a Reply All is necessary … hint, we all get lots of emails already!
  11. If you are sending an email to a group and want responses to go to everyone then indicate that in your message.
  12. There is little value in a reply that says “me too” … or words to that effect. Unless you are asked to confirm your agreement to something you would do better to not reply.
  13. If you find yourself agonising over an emailthen it is probably the wrong tool.
  14. If action is required then a timeline should be added. g. Please respond by noon on Thursday Dec 25th
  15. Include a courteous greeting and closing. It’s a small thing but it helps make the email not seem demanding or terse.
  16. Use of capital letters means you are shouting, so please don’t, unless you really want to.
  17. If you are sending an attachment be sensitive to the recipient. It is often better to cut and paste the content of a small attachment so it can be read in the email (especially good for mobile).
  18. Use a standard font that is easily read.
  19. Use formatting to highlight important words, or points.
  20. Do not let email become your only form of communication if you expect to build and maintain relationships!

“Communication works for those who work at it.” John Powell

What rules/guidelines would you like to add?

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Centre!
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February 9th, 2015

Positive (or Negative) Influences Can Change Your Life

Make the right choices to be happy. quote from Francesca ReislerWe all know those “glass half full” people who always seem to be positive.  We also know negative people who always seem to have something to complain about.  Both of these characters can have a profound effect on our own mood, lifting our spirits or dragging us down.

The best thing you can do for your own happiness is to seek out the positive people, and spend as little time as possible with the negative people!

Positive people are a joy to be around, their energy is contagious and even inspiring.  When we spend time with them we feel good about ourselves, they lift our spirits and we too are more positive.

Negative people have a way of sucking the life out of you.  There is always some problem and it is everybody else’s fault.  They have a black cloud hanging over them and they pull you under it too!

“Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?” Dennis and Wendy Mannering

Here are some ideas for you:

  1. Make a list of the people you spend your time with and rank them on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is very negative and 10 is very positive.
  2. For all of the people that scored extremely low create a plan to either stop spending time with them, or at a minimum reduce the time you spend with them.
  3. For all the very positive people, make a plan to try and spend more time with them.
  4. Join organisations that have positive people … entrepreneurial organisations, learning organisations and charities are just some great examples.
  5. Do your part … be one of those positive people that others seek out.

This is easier said than done, but you can make a plan to improve things over time, just by increasing the time spent with positive people and decreasing the time spent with negative people.

Three classic issues you will need to contend with:

  1. Some of those negative people will be family! Clearly avoiding them altogether might be tough, but establishing new routines that decrease the time spent with them will work.  You may feel a little guilty but at the end of the day it is the right answer.
  1. How do you get to spend time with entrepreneurs and successful people? Get introductions, join clubs, get involved with charities and get creative with your networking.
  1. Do you need to tell the negative people that you don’t want to spend time with them? There is no need to be rude or even obvious about this, just change your routines a little at a time and it will happen naturally.

“Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.”  Oprah Winfrey

If you can spend the majority of your time with positive influencers it will change your life, and that is worth doing!


Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) VirtualRecruiter service?

February 6th, 2015

Technology Industry News for January 2015

Tech pictureThis is my 30,000 foot look at events in the ICT industry for January 2015. What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of previous year’s Januarys …

The apple logo and apple with a bite out of itFive years ago in January Twenty-Ten there was cautious optimism about recovering from the recession, but no real blockbuster M&A deals.  Oracle, Apple, EMC, and Cisco did continue to demonstrate their appetite for acquisition.  Perhaps the most interesting acquisition saw PWC here in Canada return to the IT consulting business with the acquisition of Allstream’s non-telecom consulting business, several years after exiting the business by selling it to IBM.  It is worth noting that Apple released its brand new iPad .  In January 2011 economic news was generally positive, Steve Jobs announced his leave of absence from Apple and Larry Page assumed the CEO role at Google.  There were also some big M&A deals, the largest being the $3.1 Billion acquisition of Atheros Communications by Qualcomm.  Verizon paid $1.4 Billion for Teremark Worldwide and IGate paid $1.2 Billion for Patni Computer Systems.  Also out spending money were Dell, Google, Cisco and Salesforce.com. Things were very quiet in M&A three years ago in January 2012.  Former tech giant JDSU was back on the acquisition trail, even if just to pick up a small Vancouver based company, Dyaptive Systems.  Symantec paid $115 million for LiveOffice to help with its storage capabilities, Google bought a bunch more IBM patents, and blackberry 10Xerox picked up Laser Networks in the managed printing space.  Rim (now Blackberry) also announced a change in leadership.  Two years ago in January 2013 Cisco bought mobile network software company Intucell for $475 million and sold its Linksys division to Belkin.  The biggest dollar value deal was AT&T’s purchase of some of Verison Wireless’s airwaves for $1.9 Billion.  Other deals saw NCR buy video software ASTM company uGenius Technology; Canon Canada acquired long-time partner and document management company Oce Canada; NetSuite bought retail management systems company Retail Anywhere; and AVI-SPL bought Duocom-Duologik.  January 2014 was an interesting month with a few big M&A deals.  Google was an especially busy player, selling its Motorola Mobility handset unit to Lenovo for $2.9 Oracle logo a large software company originally noted for its databasebillion but paying $3.2 billion for Nest Labs and the company also bought Bitspin.  The other big deal saw VMware pay $1.17 billion for mobile device management company AirWatch.  Other big names on the acquisition trail included Oracle who bought cloud based service delivery company Corente;  Microsoft paid a reputed $100 million for cloud based service company (seems to be a theme) Parature;  Ricoh purchased IT service company Mindshift from BestBuy; and Hootsuite bought analytics company uberVu.

Which brings us back to the present…

January 2015 in the technology business world was an interesting one, as we deal with dropping oil prices, changing currency rates and their affects, both good and bad on various industries. January did see some interesting M&A activity, a US economy that seems to just keep rebounding and a Canadian economy that seems to be slowing somewhat.

YahooOn the M&A front the biggest deal, should it materialize will impact mobile users in the UK, reducing competition, with Hutchison offering more than $14 billion for O2. Other big dollar news sees Yahoo looking like it might be remaking itself, spinning off its $40 Billion stake in Alibaba to become smaller, leaner and either buy or be bought!  The final M&A activity involving a “B” sees Telco equipment company Commscope offering $3 billion for TE Connectivities network business.

Facebook logoThere were also a number of very well-known companies out buying in January, and in no particular order … Amazon is paying something like $300 million (approximate) for chip designer Annapurna Labs; Expedia is buying its online travel competitor Travelocity for $200 million; Samsung is buying Brazil’s largest print company Simpress for reputedly close to $100 million; Google is chasing mobile payments company Softcard (again $100 million seems to be the ballpark); Facebook has bought Wit.ai a company that has a Siri like solution that can be embedded in other products; Dropbox is buying CloudOn a document editing and productivity tools company; Twitter is paying somewhere between $30 million and $40 million fpor Zipdial, an Indian company that does some funky marketing thing with phone hang ups (I don’t get it); and finally Microsoft made two acquisitions, startup text analytics company Equivo and in a departure from its history it bought open software company Revolution Analytics.

IBM logoOther companies in the news included IBM who refuted rumours that they would be laying off up to 26% of their workforce, with the explanation it would ONLY be thousands.  It appears that EMC results, caused by the strength of the dollar will result in layoffs there.  Spacex got an injection of $1 billion to help fund its projects, which just might mean supersonic train travel … bring on that Hyperloop!

canadian flagThe US economy seems to be on fire adding more than 200,000 jobs a month, with 240,000+ in December, a growing GDP and lots of positive indicators.  Canada on te other hand thought it had added 185,000 jobs in 2014 … and had to revise that down by a third to 120,000.  Canada’s GDP was down and the unemployment rate sat at 6.7% in December.  Canada’s dependence on its resource base might be cause for concern as we move through the year, given the price of a barrel of oil.

Finally the Global Talent Competitiveness Index tells is that Canada placed 5th in the world, one place behind the US and 2 places above the UK.  Not sure how real that is … but 5th isn’t so bad in the whole world!

January certainly saw a lot of activity and if Canada can take advantage of the strength in the US economy it could bode well.  An increase in the price of oil wouldn’t go amiss either!   That has been my look at the tech news for January … Walk Fast and Smile!
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Centre!
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January 28th, 2015

Attitude Matters … A Little Humility is a Good Thing!

Quote about nurturing relationships from Linda KaplanThe world is a fickle place, and it can be easy to find ourselves in a “comfort zone” or getting a little complacent because we have had some success.

Our world changes around us at a phenomenal pace, and what makes us successful today is not guaranteed to make us successful tomorrow.  Indeed what makes us successful today in one company is not even guaranteed to make us successful today in another company!  The business world has many stories of people who were unable to recreate their former glories after moving to another company.

The last recession cause a downturn in fortunes for many who had been riding high previously, and quite likely the current drop in oil price will have a similar affect.

This is a very practical reason why we should be a little humble, especially when things are going well.  Yes you can probably get away with a little attitude when you are having success. Yes you can probably bend the small rules, not be so good with your paperwork and perhaps even rub your colleagues the wrong way, when things are going well.  As always there is a price to everything, and the person with attitude will pay the price when their fortunes change.

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; noting on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” W. W. Ziege

Here are a few things to think about:

  1. The minute you start to think that you are good, others will recognize that … and you will begin to alienate people.
  2. To be “technically” good at our job is really just expected these days.  Once that is “under control” we can aim to over achieve, but it is also important to work on all of the other aspects of our game … personal brand, communication skills, presentation skills,  and attitude.
  3. Situations change … the markets go soft, a client decides to move their business and all of a sudden your “star” might lose its shine and that is not a good position if you are also labelled as having an “attitude”.
  4. Good habits are developed over time and need to be maintained over time, so it is important to always work at being on top of your game, if you intend to get there and stay there!
  5. If you are sloppy about “the little things” then it will reduce your effectiveness. If you work at the small things it can only help!
  6. Sometimes what are “the little things” to you, are not considered the same way by others.

We all need to avoid that “comfort zone”, pay attention to the little things and work on our personal brand.  It will stand us in good stead for the long haul!

General Colin Powell’s Rules:

1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
2. Get mad, then get over it.
3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your
position falls, your ego goes with it.
4. It can be done!
5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone
else make yours.
8. Check small things.
9. Share credit.
10. Remain calm. Be kind.
11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.


Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) VirtualRecruiter service?

January 25th, 2015

Surviving a Downturn (in Alberta?)

oil rigsHere in Canada, where the resource sector plays such a big role in our economy there is some concern about what kind of economy we are going to see in 2015.  The price of oil is unlikely to recover quickly and the conference board is suggesting that Alberta will head into recession.

This will have people wringing their hands and concerned for their future.  The most pragmatic will already be making plans for the new realities and those who have not yet done that will either throw your hands in the air and hope for the best … or better yet will knuckle down and do what is needed!

The following is advice that I remember reading from Tom Peters at the start of the last recession … it was sobering, but reality.  It seemed like a good time to pull it out again.

I am constantly asked for “strategies/’secrets’ for surviving the recession.” I try to appear wise and informed—and parade original, sophisticated thoughts. But if you want to know what’s going through my head, read the list below:

You work longer.
You work harder.
You may well work for less; and, if so, you adapt to the untoward circumstances with a smile—even if it kills you inside.
You volunteer to do more.
You always bring a good attitude to work.
You fake it if your good attitude flags.
You literally practice your “game face” in the mirror in the morning, and in the loo mid-morning.
You shrug off shit that flows downhill in your direction—buy a shovel or a “pre-worn” raincoat on eBay.
You get there earlier.
You leave later.
You forget about “the good old days”—nostalgia is for wimps.
You buck yourself up with the thought that “this too shall pass”—but then remind yourself that it might not pass anytime soon, so you re-dedicate yourself to making the absolute best of what you have now.
You eschew all forms of personal excess.
You simplify.
You sweat the details as you never have before.
You sweat the details as you never have before.
You sweat the details as you never have before.
You raise to the sky the standards of excellence by which you evaluate your own performance.
You thank others by the truckload if good things happen—and take the heat yourself if bad things happen.
You behave kindly, but you don’t sugarcoat or hide the truth—humans are startlingly resilient.
You treat small successes as if they were Superbowl victories—and celebrate and commend accordingly.
You shrug off the losses (ignoring what’s going on inside your tummy), and get back on the horse and try again.
You avoid negative people to the extent you can—pollution kills.
You eventually read the gloom-sprayers the riot act.
You learn new tricks of your trade.
You network like a demon.
You help others with their issues.
You give new meaning to the word “thoughtful.”
You redouble, re-triple your efforts to “walk in your customer’s shoes.” (Especially if the shoes smell.)
You mind your manners—and accept others’ lack of manners in the face of their strains.
You are kind to all mankind.
You leave the blame game at the office door.
You become a paragon of accountability.
And then you pray.

Thanks Tom!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
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January 23rd, 2015

CANADIAN JOB MARKET Review Fourth Quarter 2014

General Observations:

newspaper job sectionEach quarter I try to provide the reader with an understanding of the Canadian job market based on a regular set of indicators.  In addition to public market indicators I use Eagle’s experiences serving our clients across Canada.  The hope is that job seekers will gain some insight about where opportunities might be, and hiring managers will gain some value for their hiring aspirations.

Timing of course is everything, and while this is a retroactive look at the 4th quarter of 2014 I am acutely aware that 2015 has started with a bang, due to oil price dropping like a stone, the Canadian dollar dipping and large retail companies either closing shop or laying off (Target, Sony, Mexx, Holt Renfrew etc).

As of Q4 the employment situation in Canada was looking OK.  The unemployment rate had dropped to 6.6%, from 6.8% at the end of Q3, and 2014 had seen Canada add about 186,000 jobs.  Most of that gain had come in the latter six months of the year.

TSXThe TSX, like most of the markets had been fairly steady through 2014 but as the year ended it had a reading around 14,700 which was down from the 15,500 it had reached at the end of Q3. This was still better than its low point in 2014 which was around 13,700 and as I write this piece the index appears to be staying above that low.

Oil canCanada’s oil sector fell off a cliff in Q4 with the price of a barrel dropping from around $85 at the end of Q3 to less than $50.  What is worse for this sector is there is no short term sign of recovery and forecasters are pessimistic that we will ever get back to the $100+ range.  There are winners and losers with cheap oil but we can expect the Alberta economy to take a hit, and the Conference Board is predicting a recession in Alberta.

dollar splitAnother big employer in Canada is the financial sector, centered primarily in Toronto but with a healthy presence in Montreal. There are many reasons why this sector remains busy including its highly competitive nature, evolving technologies, regulatory change and volatile markets.  I expect this sector to remain busy in the short term.

The telecommunications sector is another big employer in Canada.  The demands on their infrastructure, technology advancements, retiring boomers and expansion into new markets are all drivers of their need for people in addition to the ongoing need to compete in a very competitive space.

ConstructionThe construction industry continues to be a great place to find work, both in the trades and in the head offices of the large companies. There are construction sites in most major cities with infrastructure projects, office towers and condo developments. There will be some fallout from the drop in oil price, particularly since the oil sands are en expensive extraction method.  Time will show the extent of the impact, but if oil prices rebound a bit over the coming months the impact should be minimal.  If the price stays below $50 there will be a big impact.  There will always be demand in the home renovation market, if you have ever tried such a job you will know how hard it is to find skilled tradespeople available.

Parliament building in OttawaDespite the need for governments to contain costs we have seen a fairly steady demand in Federal, Provincial and Municipal Governments.  They are huge employers, and people with the right skills are always in demand. The required downsizing is generally achieved through attrition and there is always work to be done. Regulatory change, policy development and general administrative needs dictate the need for a large and skilled workforce that receives competitive incomes and very attractive pensions and benefits. The wild card here will be the effect of lost oil revenue taxes, so this will be a space to watch.

The Canadian Staffing Index is an indicator of the strength of the largest provider of talent in any economy (the staffing industry) and an excellent barometer of the health of Canada’s economy. The index overall seems to trend down slightly from 2013 but was rebounding slowly through the first three quarters.  Q4 would suggest a slowdown of that recovery and a slip backwards.  Having said that the index is 10% higher than its reading when introduced in 2008 just before the recession.

Here at Eagle we continue to see shortages of “in demand” skillsets, and a steady supply of candidates with skillsets in other areas.  The flow of available talent over the fourth quarter was the same as Q3 and marginally down from Q4 of 2013.  The demand from our clients was down about 10% in the fourth quarter and about the same as Q4 in 2013, suggesting a fairly normal seasonal swing.

More Specifically:

cn towerThe GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is the largest market in Canada with the most head offices and hence a big appetite for professional talent. This market accounts for approximately 60% of Eagle’s business which comes from the major industries here, which include the financial, insurance and telecommunications sectors.  There has been plenty of retail demand although recent events might change that and a fair bit of demand in the engineering space, in addition to a fairly strong construction sector. A large part of the Ontario provincial government is here too, which is another sector that demands talent. This is the city offering the most opportunities in Canada, and where I would want to be looking if I were unemployed.

The Saddledome in CalgaryCalgary is the “hub” for Western Canada as the capital of the oil patch. The city has the second largest number of head offices and the attraction of the low Alberta tax rate (for now).  The current oil price situation has created a ripple in this economy and many oil related companies are cutting back on investment and slowing projects.   Edmonton will also be affected by the oil price as The Alberta Government is dependent on taxes from oil revenues.   Saskatchewan is also generally a fairly hot market for talent but will feel the effect of a lower oil price.  All in all Western Canada is going to be a little slow in hiring, we may seem some downsizing and it maybe some time before it booms again. Having said that, there are always opportunities for people with great skills, and in companies with a large Boomer population approaching retirement.

LighthouseEagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal and “the Maritimes”. Montreal continues to be relatively busy, particularly in the financial sector, the telcos and the construction industry. There will be some impact from the oil price felt particularly in Newfoundland.  This region is typically slower for job creation at the best of times, so I expect it to be even slower than normal until we see an uptick in oil prices

AT Eagle our focus in on professional staffing and the people in demand from our clients has been fairly consistent for some time. That would include Program Managers, Project Managers and Business Analysts who always seem to be in demand. It might just be our focus, but Change Management and Organizational Excellence resources are in relatively high demand too. Big data, analytics and mobile expertise are specializations that we are seeing more and more. On the Finance and Accounting, side we see a consistent need for financial analysts, accountants with designations and public accounting experience plus controllers as a fairly consistent talent request. Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that sees plenty of demand


magnifying glass over the word jobsThe fourth quarter had been following the predictable path demonstrated through 2014 of steady improvement in the unemployment rate and decent job creation. The huge drop in the price of oil right at the end of the year will have a ripple effect but it was harder to spot during the usual seasonal slowdown.  Our expectation is that demand in Western Canada will be down significantly, creating an opportunity for companies to pick up the usually rare “top performers” should they become available.  Companies will want to improve, but not necessarily increase the size of their teams.  There will be some downsizing, we have already seen reduced investment but I don’t anticipate huge layoffs in the short term.  If the price of oil does not improve soon we might see more drastic measures.

There will be an impact on the retail sector with the already announced layoffs due to Target and Sony exiting Canada plus the financial woes of Mexx and Holt Renfrew.  The dropping Canadian dollar will only hurt those companies that import their stock but it will be a boon to Canadian exporters.

Elsewhere the other big sectors such as Financial, Insurance, Telecommunications and Construction should not be greatly affected by the price of oil. As such I don’t anticipate a big decrease in demand in the GTA, other than a “stutter” caused as companies assess the impact on them.  There will continue to be skills shortages in our knowledge economy, partly fueled by the boomers retiring, but also caused by our education system not turning out the right skill sets and the advancements in technology creating a shortage as the skills catch up.

The unemployment rate at 6.6% is better than it has been for more than 5 years, and if we can avoid driving that up too much because of the oil patch then it will be a good sign for job seekers. It should also be noted that the employment rate for professionals is more like 3.5% or 4%, which is very near to full employment. This means that professionals should be able to find work if they are willing to be flexible in their demands.

That was my quarterly look at the Canadian job market and some of its influences.
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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