CEO Blog

Category Archives: Staffing

All blog posts by Kevin Dee, Chairman at Eagle — Canada’s premier staffing agency, related to staffing and recruitment.

March Tech News

This is my 30,000-foot look at events in the Tech industry for March 2020. 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 March in previous years …

Five years ago in March 2015 HP paid $3 billion for Aruba Networks; Lexmark paid $1 billion for customer management software company Kofax; eCommerce company Rakuten paid $410 million for ebook marketplace Overdrive; Cheetah Mobile paid $58 million for mobile ad network MobPartner; TeraGo Networks paid $33 million for cloud provider RackForce; IBM bought natural language and image processing company AlchemyAPI; and in the cable TV world Charter Communications paid $10.4 billion for Bright House Networks.

March 2016 saw the $3 billion sale of Dell Services to NTT, a direct result of Dell’s IBM logorestructuring following the recent purchase of EMC. IBM was out bolstering its services business with a couple of acquisitions; the first was Optevia, a UK-based integrator focused on Microsoft Dynamics; and the second was Bluewolf Group, a global Salesforce consulting partner. Montreal-based Yellow Pages picked up Toronto-based Juice Mobile, primarily for its mobile marketing capability. Another Toronto company, Influitive, raised some cash ($8.2 million) and bought a couple of mobile app companies, Ironark Software and Triggerfox; and Netsuite bought IOity solutions, a cloud-based manufacturing software company.

Three years ago, in March 2017 Intel bought Israeli computer vision company, Mobileye, Amazon Web Servicesfor a hefty $15.3 billion. HPE bought storage solution provider, Nimble, for $1 billion. Amazon Web Services, a public cloud infrastructure provider, acquired Thinkbox Software, a company that provides software for managing media rendering workloads. Mozilla acquired Pocket, a startup that developed an app for saving articles and other content.

In March 2018 there was a significant amount of M&A activity.  The deal of the month saw Salesforce logoSalesforce pay $6.5 Billion for cloud integration company Mulesoft.  Plantronics paid $2 Billion for unified communications company Polycom; and Amazon paid $1 Billion for smart home company Ring.  Other deals saw eBay shell out $700 million for the commerce platform Qoo10; Cognizant buy Bolder Healthcare Solutions; HPE Aruba buy Cape Networks; VMWare buy security company, E8; and Deloitte pick up API Talent in New Zealand.  It is also nice to see Avaya buying Spoken Communications after leaving Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Last year in March 2019, the big deal of the month saw Nvidia shell out $6.9 billion for data centre solutions vendor, Mellanox.  F5 Networks paid $670 million for up and coming competitor NGINX; and Juniper Networks paid $40 million for AI startup Mist Systems.  Some other deals this month were Apple’s acquisition of machine learning startup LaserLike; Veritas’ acquisition of analytics company Aptare; Mastercard bought security company Ethoca; and Spotify added to its podcast capability with the purchase of Parcast.  Other companies in the news included Lyft, which was the first of several high-profile tech companies with planned IPOs in 2019; SAP who announced a major round of layoffs and SAS who joined the growing number of companies investing big in AI, announcing a $1billion investment.

Which brings us back to the present …

In March 2020, the big news is all about the impact around the world of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The economic and employment fallout have been dramatic, and there is significant uncertainty about how quickly people can get back to work.  So the messages for the period are stay home, wash your hands and don’t touch your face!  Stay safe people!

There was some M&A activity worthy of mention, including the $34.9 billion bid for HP, and HP logosubsequent withdrawal by Xerox.  No doubt that will resurface at some point in the future!  Veritas Capital is buying DXC’s Health and Human Services business for $5 billion; Private Equity firm Hellman & Friedman is paying $1.15 billion for software security testing  company Checkmarx; Palo Alto Networks is buying CloudGenix  for $420 million; and Accenture is paying $139 million for security consulting company, Context Information Security.  Other deals saw Watchguard buy Panda Security and NetApp buy Talon Software.

In the wake of so many layoffs there are bright spots around the world as some companies are staffing up.  A couple of notable announcements include Amazon, who announced they would be hiring an additional 100,000 people and increasing wages for their hourly workers; and Walmart who announced they would hire 150,000 people.

That is it for my monthly look at what was happening in the technology space over the last month, compared to the same month in previous years.  I’ll be back in about a month’s time, until then … walk fast and smile!

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Kevin Dee is the founder of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service ——————————————————————————————————————————

The Value of Recruitment Agencies Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Marc Beniof quote about importance of talentOur team has spent the last couple weeks connecting with clients to understand how they’re coping through the COVID-19 epidemic and new economy we’re all experiencing. Not surprising, every organization is experiencing different challenges.

There are devastating stories coming from industries like hospitality and oil and gas, where low demand has halted IT projects and layoffs are being announced in unprecedented numbers. Contrarily, in other industries, organizations have seen the development of new, urgent projects and demand for IT help can’t come fast enough. Telecommunications companies, for example, play a crucial role in a time like this as the world depends on their services — internet, telephone and media — to stay connected. Similarly, both retail and manufacturing industries require all the support they can get. Consumers are stocking up on items so much to the point that grocery stores can’t keep up. More importantly, healthcare services are lacking much needed equipment and manufacturing companies are shifting their entire operations to do what they can to help.

The Many Services of the Staffing Industry

These are just a few examples of the range of activities happening at companies across Canada. Regardless of the specific situation, uncertainty and stress levels are through the roof.  As we have conversations with clients and learn about what’s driving their stress, we’re proud that our industry is able to provide support in various capacities:

  • Finding the needed resources for companies who need to hire urgently;
  • Managing those contract resources who are no longer required by unburdening clients and working with contractors to understand how we might help;
  • Bringing ideas and stories to clients about what others in their industry are doing;
  • Sharing our own experiences with work from home, pandemic planning etc.; and,
  • Being another resource to talk with, for both clients and contractors, which is always important in times of stress.

Some Examples of What Eagle is Seeing and How We’re Bringing Value

We’re currently working with companies who are scrambling to hire and build teams that make website updates and build applications literally within hours. Others need extra resources to ensure their workforces of hundreds of people are set-up to work from home securely and efficiently. That requires rolling out new hardware and making configurations on mass scales.

Eagle has been able to bring relief to these organizations in a number of ways:

  • We already have networks of readily available IT contractors.
  • We find the right person quickly because we track IT contractors across Canada, we know which industries and technologies they specialize in, and we have knowledge about who’s available and when.
  • In many cases, our recruiters reach out to contractors with experience and knowledge specific to a hiring organization, meaning they can start working at full capacity on Day 1, with little onboarding.

Overall, we’ve been successful at helping clients ramp up projects immediately so they can get their product and information to customers as quickly as possible.

On the flipside, as noted, we’re also having an unpleasant amount of conversations with clients who are struggling. Organizations where the leadership is working as hard as possible to keep things afloat, but the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible to sustain existing projects. Work is being cancelled, people are out of jobs, and productivity comes to a standstill. Eagle continues to bring value and support to these organizations too:

  • We help deliver bad news to contractors who suddenly find themselves out of work.
  • We do what we can to find those individuals new gigs with organizations needing skilled IT labour.
  • We research and make available information in one place for contractors impacted by layoffs, which has also proven to be useful to clients who can share this information with their own employees.
  • We work with managers to plan for the future.

Although slowing down today, we are hearing from these clients that their project plans, while on hold, are still very important.  This will result in a pent-up demand once things settle.  By better understand these upcoming requirements, even if the time is uncertain, we are able to help with planning for potential hires.  Some clients are proactively hiring, with start dates quite far in the future.  Some clients are interviewing (remotely) now, such that they can make hiring decisions faster when the time comes.  Others are hoping that their staff being laid off will be available in the weeks and months ahead when they are needed again.  Staffing companies are able to provide help with understanding rates, projected demand and projected availability to assist in making these kinds of decisions.

This is not an easy time for anyone. Companies and individuals are dealing with stress and anxiety from all angles, whether it be concerns with financial stability or health. The recruitment industry prides itself on building solid teams that keep companies successful and that is what Eagle has vowed to do for the coming months. We encourage all organizations, those who are hiring and those who are hurting, to reach out to their staffing partners today. Learn what we can do for you and take advantage of our expertise wherever possible. We will all come out on the other side stronger when we stick together.

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Kevin Dee is the founder of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service ——————————————————————————————————————————

Canada Job Market Update March 2019

Here’s a look at Canada’s job market, specifically for IT, as we finish up the first quarter of 2019.

TSXThere are a number of indicators that I have used over the years to give an idea of how things are going, one such indicator is the markets.  For this purpose I focus on the TSX.  The markets have been fairly volatile for some time now, but The TSX was sitting at 16,000 at time of writing.  This is not that different from this time a year ago, although we have seen some wide swings during that time.  The relative stability of the economy here is always a good factor when looking for employment.

Parliament building in OttawaObviously the unemployment rate is a decent indicator and at 5.8%, the job situation is fairly positive.  This indicator would also suggest unemployment in the skilled, in demand professions is probably 50% of that number … which at less than 3% is effectively full employment.  Canada has created 370,000 jobs (270,000 full time) in the last twelve months, which is not at the pace of the US, but is still a healthy growth, particularly since 270,000 of those were full time jobs.  In a tale of two provinces Ontario has seen the strongest growth in employment in the last few months, whereas Alberta has struggled and has an unemployment rate of 7.3% primarily due to a hurting oil patch.

canadian flagSome stats worth noting when looking at the job situation in Canada; the biggest 4 provinces represent close to 90% of employment in Canada, with Ontario the largest (close to 40%); Quebec (approx. 23%); BC (13.5%) and Alberta (12.5%).  BC has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada (4.5%), with Newfoundland & Labrador the highest (11.8%); Quebec and Manitoba enjoy good unemployment rates (5.3%); Ontario has a respectable 5.7% rate.  So, when considering where to look for jobs a province that employs a lot of people and has a relatively low unemployment rate is a good place to look … BC, Quebec and Ontario all fit that bill.

oil rigsOne of the big factors affecting the Alberta market is the price of oil.   The price of a barrel in Canada is probably $10 a barrel less than on the world market, given our only customer is the United States.  Until there is a clear change that will likely remain a factor in Alberta’s economy.  The current price in Canada of less than $60 a barrel, coupled with the barriers presented by the Federal Government and other governments means that investment in the Canadian oil industry is significantly reduced which would suggest it will be some time before we see a boom in employment in that sector.  Having said that there are still opportunities in Alberta, just not the booming demand we saw in the past.

The continued growth in the US market has led to skills shortages, and significant cost increases for companies with large workforces.  This has created an opportunity in Canada, where large US companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google etc. are adding to their Canadian presence to tap into the talent up here.  We have seen big announcements in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto in recent months and I expect this trend to continue.

cn towerIf there is one market to highlight it is the Toronto area, which is Canada’s largest market, the fourth largest city in North America and home to more head offices than any other city in Canada.  The financial sector is largely headquartered here and is a huge employer, as is the telecommunications industry.  The GTA represents 60% of Eagle’s business and probably 60% of tech jobs in Canada.

Depiction of a connected worldTech job activity is relatively strong in most markets across Canada.  Even Calgary, which has not returned to pre-oil crisis levels of activity is seeing some demand.  This makes sense if you recognize that even at a 7.3% unemployment rate that probably represents a less than 4% unemployment among professionals and in-demand skills.

Eagle LogoEagle’s focus is technology professionals and the most in demand areas/skills recently have included: Cloud, Healthcare, Government, Telecom, Banking, CRM, BI and AI; Project Managers, Business Analysts, Change Management, Quality Assurance, Architects, Sys Admins, Full Stack developers, Database Admins & Dev Ops engineers.

In summary, people with tech skills should have little difficulty in finding employment, either contract or perm for the foreseeable future.  A willingness to relocate to the bigger centers will only increase their marketability.

There is continued concern about an economic slowdown, which will of course affect hiring.  In the short to medium term I don’t expect a big change in the job market.  Perhaps as the election approaches in the fall we will see some impact.

Our advice to clients is to ensure there are clear, clean hiring practices that move quickly through the hiring process.  It is a candidate market again and that means the best talent is snapped up quickly, often with multiple offers.

10 Reasons to Attend Canada’s Staffing Conference – Niagara Falls in May

I recently blogged about the value of attending industry conferences for anyone, in any industry.  If you are in the staffing industry in Canada then the ACSESS conference is coming up May 15, 16 and 17 in Niagara Falls.

ACSESS Conference 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Here are ten reasons you should attend

One.  Our industry is already being changed by new technology, including bots and Artificial Intelligence … find out how.

Two. Learn from industry leaders what kind of disruption is happening already and what is coming.  What starts in the US, Europe or Asia will surely find its way here sooner rather than  later.

Three.  Listen to a legal panel discuss some of the changes affecting our industry … such as Bill 148 in Ontario, and what might happen in other provinces.

Four.  There is an opportunity for a full day of learning with noted industry trainer Peter Leffkowitz.  If you don’t know who he is … then clearly you need to cone to the conference!

Five.  Mike Lipkin gives the opening keynote … if you are not energised after listening to this guy then maybe you need more coffee!

Six. There is a closing keynote from Dr Greg Wells who will draw comparisons between elite athletes and top executives … sure to get you thinking.

Seven.  There will be networking opportunities allowing you to meet industry leaders one on one, build relationships and find opportunities.  One side benefit I have found over the years is that when you have a relationship with a competitor then tough situations can more easily be defused … worth the price of admission!

Eight.  The setting is Niagara Falls … with a trip to one of the local wineries.  A must visit destination.

Nine.  Sitting with your industry colleagues over a coffee or a beer can offer many benefits, with insights into common issues, answers to troubling situations and the possibility of shared opportunities.

Ten.  ACSESS devotes considerable time and energy lobbying various levels of government on behalf of the industry.  This is one way they pay for it.  You benefit, so chip in by attending conference.

Eleven.  Bonus …. the price is excellent value compared to most conferences!

Click here to sign up today!

I will be taking the opportunity to get some riding in, and will arrive on my motorbike … what could be better?  Networking with my industry colleagues, enjoying one of the nicest areas of Canada AND getting some motorbike time in!

Riding my Indian Chieftain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See you there!

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Kevin Dee is the founder and Chairman of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?
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Canada’s Job Market – Fourth Quarter of 2017

Canadian Job MarketGeneral Observations:

The unemployment rate at the end December was 5.7%.  This was the lowest rate in forty (40) years, and a significant improvement over September when it was 6.2%.  During the previous 12 months, Canada added a very strong 422,500 jobs of which 394,200 were permanent full time jobs.

As just one indicator of the markets, and for the purposes of this report I focus on the TSX which showed strong growth during Q4, ending with a reading of 16,200 which was an improvement of 600 points from the end of Q3.

The price of a barrel of oil saw a little resurgence in the final quarter of 2017 reaching heights it hadn’t seen for a few years now.  It remains to be seen whether a price near the $65 range is sustainable, or the result of some OPEC activity but some companies are reacting positively.

The Canadian dollar continued to operate in the 80c US range, which was very similar to Q3.  This was positive given how well the US economy has been performing.

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 reading latest reading Q4 was close to its high, at 123.  This was a big jump from its Q3 reading of 109 and a reading of 116 in Q4 of last year.

Eagle logoHere at Eagle, demand was about as expected in Q4 which includes the holiday season.  Client demand dipped about 15% and was very similar to demand in Q4 of last year.  The number of job applicants was up more than 20% from Q4 of a year ago, and very similar to last quarter when we would have expected a seasonal dip.

Some of the sectors with big talent demands.

Piggy Bank accepting moneyThe financial sector is a huge employer in Canada and top talent is always in demand.  Technology is a huge part of their ecosystem and they invest in leading-edge technologies to gain competitive advantage and to improve productivity.  The banks have been leaders in automation (ATMs etc) and invest in AI, technology incubators and all of the latest innovations.  There will continue to be a demand in their technology shops into the foreseeable future.

Like the banks, the telcos are big believers in technology and invest heavily.  They have large technology groups and are always looking for ways to differentiate and gain competitive advantage through the use of technology.  While they demand the best talent in order to compete, they are also careful about keeping employment costs under control, particularly as they are also acquisitive, which can mean a big focus on integration of acquired companies.  Some of the drivers of demand here include the highly competitive nature of the business, investment in infrastructure, technological innovation and a need to plan for a retiring “Boomer” workforce.

The US economy continues to add jobs, and with the recently introduced tax changes we can anticipate more investment and an even bigger appetite for talent.  The demand for skills in the US coupled with Canada’s increased tax burden will ensure that Canadian talent continues to head South.

ConstructionThe construction industry continues to thrive in Canada, and presents a good career opportunity.  The never-ending demand from the big projects (look at the skyline in just about any city), coupled with the demand for home renovation projects will ensure this demand continues for some time yet.  The aging workforce will also present opportunities, as workers retire.

The three levels of government in Canada are big employers, employing more than 20% of Canada’s workforce (CFIB).  These are well-paying jobs with great benefits, and with the retiring baby boomer generation comes a continuing need for talent.

More Specifically:

cn towerThere are more than six (6) million people living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and it is home to more than 50% of Canadian head offices. It is the 4th largest city in North America, and represents about 60% of Eagle’s business.  As such it remains Canada’s busiest market, with the biggest appetite for talent.  The financial, telecommunications, insurance and services sectors are all busy.  The construction business is booming and there is a vibrant high tech/startup community.

The Saddledome in CalgaryThere are plenty of signs that Western Canada is recovering from the oil sector meltdown.  While the oil and gas sector itself is not particularly vibrant, it has turned the corner and the worst of the downsizing and layoffs are finished.  Large companies will always need talent, to replace their retiring employees, for new projects and to bring new lifeblood into the organisation.  Governments in Western Canada are continuing to implement programs and projects that require talent, infrastructure spending is happening and there are opportunities, particularly in the larger centres.  BC is enjoying the lowest unemployment rate in the country and Alberta is starting to see jobs come back.  Saskatchewan continues to be a leader in promoting business and hence job opportunities and Manitoba too is doing well.  Overall the West is in a good place.

Parliament building in OttawaEagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal & the “Maritimes”.  Ottawa is very much a government town again, and there are opportunities in the Feds, which is returning to its employment highs of some years ago.  The tech sector in Ottawa is alive and well with some up and comers, like Shopify and Assent Compliance joinng the Mitels and others that have been around a while.  While not providing the opportunities of Toronto, Ottawa does have some demand for talent.  Quebec appears to be enjoying a renaissance as its unemployment rate is now better than Ontario’s, in addition to having healthier finances.  They have been able to attract industries (such as large data centres) to help the economy and add jobs.  It doesn’t hurt that their hydro rates are very competitive as opposed to Ontario’s situation.  The Maritime Provinces don’t represent a great opportunity for the job seeker, however PEI and Nova Scotia are both showing signs of an improving economy.

The Hot Client Demand.

At Eagle our focus in on professional staffing and the people in demand from our clients have been fairly consistent for some time.  Program Managers, Project Managers and Business Analysts 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. Digital, big data, data scientists, analytics, CRM, web (portal and self-serve) and mobile expertise (especially developers) 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. Expertise in the Capital markets, both technical and functional, tends to be a constant ask in the GTA.  Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that also sees plenty of demand.  This demand fluctuates based on geography and industry sectors, so we advise candidates to watch our website and apply for the roles for which they are best suited.

Outside of Eagle’s realm some of the in-demand skills include the classic tradespeople, drivers, and new tech skills like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, video gaming skills etc.

 Summary:

Canada added more than 422,000 jobs last year, and with the unemployment rate at its lowest in 40 years it is a good time to be looking for work.

There are a number of factors creating this positive situation, including demographic shifts (retiring Baby Boomers), jobs moving to Canada from more expensive places like Silicon Valley and companies developing new technologies.  The large employers, such as banking sector, insurance sector, retail sector, telecommunications sector and the construction industry continue to demand talent. The growth of the “gig economy” creates new opportunities for people to define their own destiny and become mini-entrepreneurs, or build new enterprises.

Job seekers should research and understand the growing sectors and where the in-demand jobs are.  They also need to be willing to go where the work is!  If I was looking for work I would be moving to the larger centres, investing in in-demand skills and increasing my marketability with the right “attitude”.  Clearly the biggest job market is the GTA, but opportunity exists across the country.

In the hotter markets we are seeing clear skills shortages and the “in demand” people are receiving multiple job offers, giving them the ability to “pick and choose”.  So … IF you are looking people, and want to hire the best talent here are some things you should consider:

  1. Start the process early with a strong PLANNING phase;
  2. Develop very clean processes to find, screen, choose, hire and onboard these new resources (if you drag out the hiring process you WILL lose);
  3. Know that you will have a lot of competition and therefore speed in decision making will be critical;
  4. The job doesn’t stop there … a great retention strategy will be critical!

That was my look at the Canadian job market for the third quarter of 2017 and some of its influences.

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Kevin Dee is the founder and Chairman of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?
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Internet Advice

Truth OR Opinion?The internet is an amazing resource.

We can instantly get answers to all sorts of questions.

The caution here though is that you will need to understand whether the “fact” you are getting is actually a fact or is it someone’s opinion, or even a straight out fabrication (fake news?)!

Some things are pretty easy … if you want to know who starred in a particular movie or who was the former Prime Minister of Canada the answer should be forthcoming quite easily.

If you want advice on dress code, the length of your resume or whether you should divulge your previous salary when discussing a potential job offer you will get (very strong) advice that is “all over the map”.

My (internet) advice to you is similar to advice I received from a math teach many years ago.

He said that I needed to be able to understand math enough that I could, with a degree of certainty, accept or reject  the answer my calculator gave me !

In the same way, you need to have enough of an understanding, or have done enough research, on the various answers you get to know if the one you are accepting is OK with you.

When it is YOU sitting in front of that interviewer are you really going to refuse to divulge your reported income for last year?  Do you REALLY think that is a unreasonable question?

Your call.

“The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.”  Arnold H Glasgow

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Kevin Dee is the founder and Chairman of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?
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Independent Contractor or Employee (Canada)

Henry Ford quote about business ownershipBefore I get into this blog post I will post a disclaimer … I am not an accountant or a lawyer, so this article cannot be construed as “advice” from a professional.  I am a staffing company owner who has been in the business more than 20 years and have been very involved with this issue at an industry association level.

In Canada independent contractors are typically one person corporations that offer their services on a “just in time” basis to many organisations.  That flexibility is good for our economy.  Some (small) percentage of those independent contractors will go on to create bigger companies, and that is also good for our economy.

I have written previously about the importance of independent contractors to Canada’s economy …  Independent Contractor Myths and Realities in Canada.

The Federal and Provincial governments have a problem with independent contractors because they often believe they are “employees of a different type” and thus are avoiding paying taxes, EHT, CPP, EI etc.   Obviously in such a climate it is prudent to do everything possible to be “onside”.

“A large percentage of small businesses are actually just ways for wealthier Canadians to save on their taxes …” Justin Trudeau

If you are an independent contractor it is imperative that you operate like a business … here are just three reasons.

  1.  The CRA look at independent contractors across a lot of different industries and are constantly evaluating whether they are true businesses.  If you are deemed to be (a) an employee (worst case) or (b) a dependent contractor (bad news) or  (c) operating on a Personal Services contract (also bad news) the tax implications are significant.
  2. The Ontario Government are likely to pass bill 148 with its effect starting in January 2018.  Some aspects of the bill address  independent contractors including  an increase in fines associated with misclassification.  They are also hiring 175 new employment standards officers, who will be focused on the new Bill 148 changes.
  3. The Federal Government recently tabled tax changes for small business, because they believe some people incorporate to avoid taxes.  You do not want that scrutiny.

Government continues its assault on the independent contractor, so independent contractors need to clearly demonstrate that they are a legitimate business.

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”  Peter Drucker

Here are some common sense (although not always common) suggestions:

  • Incorporate.  Yes, you can operate as a sole proprietor … BUT as a sole proprietor your agency must deduct CPP and EI, and there is even some debate about EHT.  This makes you look like an employee …  you do NOT want to look like an employee.  If you are serious about being a business then incorporate. PS More and more agencies are refusing to work with sole proprietors.
  • Get advisers … an accountant (who TRULY understands the nuances of this space … most don’t) also get a lawyer.  Sure its OK to do your own books, but still engage these professionals.
  • Have your own website.  What other business do you know that does not have a website?  This is just basic stuff.  You MUST operate like a business.  Your own domain would be a good idea.
  • Have business cards.  Even in the digital age I know of no service business that operates without business cards.  Considering the cost, why would you NOT get them.
  • Have a separate business phone number.
  • Have business insurance.  This is good business sense, and is the right thing to do professionally.  It is available at a reasonable rate and is a business expense … so just do it.
  • Advertise your services … on your website, and perhaps job boards.
  • Participate in industry associations such as AQIII or APCC.
  • Invest in yourself.  Take courses on your own time, learn new skills, spend some of those revenues on increasing the capability of your company (you).
  • Do NOT OPERATE like an employee.  If you are operating on a client site then invariably there will be employees there, with similar skills to you.  You should try to differentiate yourself, to avoid the appearance of being an employee.  Some ideas (and there are plenty more)
    • If you attend a company social, pay your own way;
    • If you take any training through the client, pay for it;
    • Do NOT adopt the rigid 9 to 5 mentality … you are a business, do what it takes.  Leave after the employees and if possible arrive before them.
    • Never get involved in company politics, part of being an independent contractor is remaining independent.
    • Do not get paid like an employee … every business I know gets paid monthly or based on milestone deliverables.  Getting paid every two weeks (or twice monthly) just looks too much like an employee.
  • Have your own tools. This is a big indicator in the CRA tests but most (maybe ALL) IT contractors cannot take their own tools to work, typically for security concerns.  However you should have your own tools for marketing purposes, writing proposals, accounting purposes, training purposes, tracking expenses etc.  Any demonstration that you have your own tools helps.
  • Take on risk.  This is another key indicator for CRA.  Sometimes you may get an opportunity to bill Statement of Work activities rather than time and materials, but most often you are paid an hourly rate.  You should accept contractual risk (non competes, monthly payment terms paid only on acceptance of work etc.).  You accept the risk of being responsible for your own future, training and your next contract.  Anything you can do to exhibit an entrepreneur’s mindset on risk will help.
  • Control. Where possible you should get terms removed from your contract that demonstrate a control over you, such as an employee would have.  Eg Hours of work, dress code, how you do your work etc.  This is a difficult one and end clients are often hard to convince, but it’s worth the effort.
  • Sole client. The longer you work at one site, in the same role, the more you begin to look like an employee.  Despite opinions, there are no hard and fast rules about how long is “safe” or pushing the limits.  You can be pretty sure that if your contract is going into years then it is likely to be scrutinised more closely.  That doesn’t mean you can’t be a contractor, it just makes it harder to justify.  Can you have other clients?  Perhaps a part time role supporting someone else?   If it is a long term contract could you change the terms to a higher risk based reward such as a deliverables based contract?  You could offer your services to charities and give them “in kind” donations of your time.
  • Educate yourself. Do not fall into the trap of reading the US articles, their laws are very different than ours.  Understand how the various levels of Canadian government look at independent contractors.  Be CLEAR about ALL of the things that differentiate you from an employee … hopefully most of the ideas here, but also no pension, no sick days, no vacation.  You accept the risk of no pay if you are not working.
  • Have a Sideline. Many large companies were started by contractors, or a group of contractors.   That is one of the values to the Canadian economy that contractors bring.  Your “sideline” could be Canada’s next big company … it could be anything such as an app, a software or hardware product, a services company.  Have a business plan, work with partners, explore the potential.  It could grow from an interesting hobby into something significant.

All of these ideas are just normal practice for a business, so the overriding consideration for anyone operating as an independent contractor is Think and Operate like a business.

To someone starting out this might seem a little onerous, but really none of these are BIG things and they go some way to telling the world that you truly are an independent business.

As already indicated, these are my personal thoughts on this subject and cannot be viewed as professional advice.

 

The following are some links that might be useful:

Government of Canada CPP & EI Explained (IT Consultants)

AQIII (Quebec Association of IT Freelancers)

APCC (Association of Professional Canadian Consultants)

SMB Statistics in Canada

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Kevin Dee is the founder and Chairman of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?
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Canada’s Job Market – Second Quarter 2017

General Observations:

The unemployment rate at the end of the first quarter was 6.5%, an improvement over the 6.7% unemployment rate at the end of the last quarter.  During the previous 12 months, Canada added 351,000 jobs (almost 250,000 full time).

For the purposes of this report I focus on the TSX and during the second quarter it slipped about 400 points from 15,600 to around 15,200.

Oil canThe oil patch continues to struggle, and while the price of a barrel has been in and around the $50 a barrel range, it actually finished the second quarter down in the $45 range.  The foreign investment money that exited the Canadian oil patch is unlikely to return unless there is a significant shift in political support for this sector.  Even the approval of some pipelines has not generated the positive job impact it might have done a couple of years ago.

Canadian dollar the LoonieThe Canadian dollar had seemed to be settled around the 75c US level, but during Q2 edged up to 77c. (It should be noted that post Q2 an interest rate increase has driven the Canadian dollar even higher.  It remains to be seen whether the increased cost of borrowing will have a negative impact on the Canadian economy.)

There is little change in the banking sector, which is one of the bigger employers in Canada.  The talent demands for the banks address areas such as regulatory changes, new product development, new service offerings and addressing the aging workforce.  On the other side, new technology and offerings also displaces some of the roles traditionally found at the banks.  The banks remain a good place to find employment, but increasingly the skills needed are specialised.

The telecommunications sector is another large employer in Canada.  Like the banks, this sector is operating in an environment affected by new technological change, demographic pressures and regulatory change in addition to extreme competition.  While they demand the best talent in order to compete, they are also careful about keeping employment costs under control, particularly as they are also acquisitive, which can mean a big focus on integration of acquired companies.  Some of the drivers of demand here include the highly competitive nature of the business, investment in infrastructure, technological innovation and a need to plan for a retiring “Boomer” workforce.

The US economy continues to add jobs in significant numbers, averaging more than 200,000 jobs a month over the last quarter.  The demand for skills in the US is luring talent from Canada which is good for the individuals but not so good for Canada in the long term.

The demand for the “trades” continues unabated, as the construction industry seems to be forever busy.  Cranes dot the skies of Canada’s largest cities, and home renovation projects are hard to staff!

The three levels of government in Canada are big employers.  Municipal, provincial and Federal governments employ a lot of people.  Under the current Liberal administration the Federal workforce has grown significantly, with about 150,000 employees.   All levels of government are dealing with the issue of retiring “boomers”, among the executive ranks in particular.   The pensions are so lucrative that large numbers of civil servants are eligible for, and invariably take, retirement at a very early age.  This will create opportunity for new jobs, but will also result in a significant brain drain from our government.

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 reading at the end of the second quarter was 110, which was unchanged from the first quarter.  The reading is not adjusted and so is affected by number of available working hours etc.  Having said that, the indication is a positive one.

Here at Eagle, we experienced consistent demand from our clients in the the first six months of 2017.  This is a positive indicator given that demand represents a 25% increase in demand over the fourth quarter of 2016. Eagle did see a big increase in people looking for work in the first quarter (20%) and the second quarter saw another increase of 16%.  There could be many factors at play, but one that we are seeing is both an increased demand for contract talent and an increased interest in the gig economy by professionals.

More Specifically:

cn towerThe Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is Eagle’s busiest region, representing about 60% of our business.  It is also the 4th largest city in North America, containing more than 50% of Canadian head offices and with a population of approximately six (6) million.  This market continues to be one of the busiest markets in Canada, and we see strong demand from our clients for skilled talent.  There is some concern that new legislation from the Ontario Government (Bill 148) will have a negative effect on the temporary help market in particular.

The Saddledome in CalgaryWestern Canada continues to be most impacted by the woes in the oil patch, but there are some positive indicators.  The oil patch has settled into its “new normal” and continues to employ a lot of people, albeit nowhere near the highs of the boom times.  The various levels of government are working hard to replace some of those jobs by attracting new industries, such as technology companies, offering educated and affordable workforces, especially compared to Silicon Valley and more affordable and yet attractive lifestyles. The Conference Board expects Alberta to be the fastest growing province in Canada for 2017.  The BC housing market has been affected by recently introduced legislation to curb foreign investment and a minority government will mean less affective decision making and an uncertain economy.

Parliament building in OttawaEagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal & the “Maritimes”.  Ottawa is very much a government town again, although there are some smaller tech companies rising from the ashes of Nortel, JDS and the previously large tech sector. The government continues to employ a lot of people (22,000 more in The NCR since the Liberal government took office) but the unemployment rate in Ottawa rose steadily in the second quarter. Quebec leads the country in job gains, and have improved their unemployment rate to 6% and added 122,000 jobs in the last 12 months.  The Maritime Provinces continue to struggle to create employment and we don’t expect much change there.

The Hot Client Demand.

At Eagle our focus in on professional staffing and the people in demand from our clients have been fairly consistent for some time.  Program Managers, Project Managers and Business Analysts 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. Digital, big data, data scientists, analytics, CRM, web (portal and self-serve) and mobile expertise (especially developers) 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. Expertise in the Capital markets, both technical and functional, tends to be a constant ask in the GTA.  Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that also sees plenty of demand.  This demand fluctuates based on geography and industry sectors, so we advise candidates to watch our website and apply for the roles for which they are best suited.

Outside of Eagle’s realm some of the in-demand skills include the classic tradespeople, drivers, and new tech skills like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, video gaming skills etc.

Summary:

Canada added 351,000 jobs in the last year which is good news for today’s job seekers.  Forecasters are optimistic for the next twelve months, in fact the Bank of Canada just raised interest rates sparking a recovery for the Canadian dollar.  If we can keep new legislation (CASL at the Federal level, and Bill 148 in Ontario would be just two examples) from hurting job growth then we should enjoy a period of growth.

For job seekers there are bright spots, caused by demographic shifts (retiring Baby Boomers), jobs moving to Canada from more expensive places like Silicon Valley and companies developing new technologies.  The large employers, such as banking sector, insurance sector, retail sector, telecommunications sector and the construction industry will always require large work-forces representing job opportunity. The growth of the “gig economy” creates new opportunities for people to define their own destiny and become mini-entrepreneurs, or build new enterprises.

The effect of US policy changes by the Trump administration remain to be seen.  Having said that, early indicators could see immigration (positive for Canada); trade agreements & protectionist policies (possibly negative for Canada); and defense (possibly negative for Canada) all having some impact.

Job seekers should research and understand the growing sectors and where the in-demand jobs are.  They also need to be willing to go where the work is!  If I was looking for work I would be moving to the larger centres, investing in in-demand skills and increasing my marketability with the right “attitude”.

That was my look at the Canadian job market for the second quarter of 2017 and some of its influences.

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Kevin Dee is the founder and Chairman of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?
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Why Clients Should NOT Source Their Own Contract Talent

CEO of Pepsico on the value of talentThere are 3 compelling reasons why clients should NOT source their own contract resources:

“Competition is always a good thing. It forces us to do our best. A monopoly renders people complacent and satisfied with mediocrity.”   Nancy Pearcey

  1.  PRICE
    •  At first it seems counter intuitive, but if you think about it, the competitive process will almost always give you the best price.
    • Our experience at Eagle would demonstrate that “client sourced” contract resources cost 10% more, on average, than contractors sourced in a competitive process.  Don’t take our word for it, do a little investigation yourself!
    • Experts offering “shop in your own database” options sell their clients on the concept of saving agency fees.  Don’t get blind-sided.  What matters is what you actually pay all-in, not what you pay the agency
  2. GOVERNANCE
    • A hiring manager who identifies a contractor to do some work has a vested interest in their success … that can create governance issues.
    • Will they be subjective that they are choosing the best person for the job?
    • Will they be willing to make tough decisions as quickly as an agency sourced contractor who is not performing?
    • Will they negotiate the best rate or just pay what the contractor asks? (Part of the reason for the price differential.)
  3. RISK
    • In Canada the CRA are very interested in contractor relationships.  If you sourced the person and pay them then are they your employee?
    • Do all of your hiring managers truly understand the risks associated with contractor mis-classification?
    • Do your processes fully protect your company?

“Data beats emotions.” Sean Rad

If those “compelling reasons” were not enough, then consider this

The staffing industry is a $13 Billion industry in Canada designed to find talent for their client in a hyper-competitive market.

  • Do you want to recreate that capability within your organisation, or should you focus on your core capabilities?
  • Will your internal sourcing be as competitive as companies designed solely for that purpose?
  • What is the cost of your internal recruiting organisation?
  • Do you measure that cost against “saved agency fees” or against “reduced contractor spend”?

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Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?
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The Value of the Staffing Industry

Hiring quote by David OgilvieThe staffing industry comprises “middle men” who find talent to meet their client’s demands.  In the optimal case they find the perfect candidate, in a timely manner and at a good price.

Of course “middle men” have been targets for disruption for years.  Technology will replace them (travel agents) or better business models will replace them (taxi companies using the sharing economy).

The recruitment industry can be a frustrating one for both clients, and the talent they pursue, which just increases the desire of innovators to replace the industry, either with technology or just a better way of doing things.

Everyone thinks they can do it better.  AND truth be told the industry continues to evelve and get better … and we are still here!

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”   Red Adair

Over the years, within the industry, we have seen some major changes that were predicted to cause that disruption.  There were job boards that would allow clients to access the candidates directly.  There was technology that would restrict a client’s staff from engaging “unapproved staffing vendors”.  More recently there have been technology innovations using Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, Big Data and analytics in addition to crowdsourcing, shared economy solutions and just about any option using pieces of the above.

Yet here we are.

Why has this industry survived?

  1. It is not as easy as it seems. How hard can it be?   The client needs someone, you find a qualified person, you match them up and there you go!  Well it is just not that easy … here are Just SOME of the challenges:
    • Understanding the client need is not simple. Job descriptions are never complete, different industries use different language to describe the same roles, acronyms are widespread & inconsistent.  Job roles change and very often client needs “evolve” as the search progresses.  Staffing companies understand this world, and trained agency staff work hard to become proficient in this environment.
    • Clients have many competing priorities and the hiring cycle can suffer, meaning that quite often they lose great candidates because they couldn’t act fast enough. Yet the staffing companies keep coming back with more.
    • We have many, many GREAT candidates … BUT also many, many candidates lie! Big lies and little lies, and certainly more often than you would think.  On their resume, in their interviews and we have even had different people interview than showed up to sign the contract!  Agencies use experience, process and tools to be able to manage this.
    • Among the candidates that don’t “lie” are the many candidates who oversell themselves. Just because they say they can do the job, and their resume might be written that way, it does not mean that they can!   Agency recruiters learn to identify the real candidates.
    • Attracting more candidates seems like a good thing to the casual observer, but in reality higher volume just equals LOTS of extra work. Staffing companies cope with this and work to serve their clients.
    • Many clients have challenging expectations. Expecting “A” candidates for below market rates, expecting experts when all the job needs is a journeyman, expecting great talent in extremely competitive markets etc.  But that is just a staffing company’s reality …if we don’t deliver, then we don’t get paid.
    • Demographics and global competitiveness are conspiring to create serious skills shortages … finding talent is getting harder. It’s what staffing companies do.
    • Candidates can be challenging too … changing their mind, having unreasonable expectations, expecting Champagne service on a beer budget (despite the fact that they pay nothing), leaving jobs early, playing clients off against each other, playing staffing companies off against each other.  The experienced agencies understand this world and work hard to ensure things are handled professionally.
    • Our “product” is people! With all of the differences inherent in the human race and while we have never seen it all, the average staffing agency has dealt experience with these kinds of issues.
    • I could go on …
  2. The Staffing Industry has been doing this a long time. We understand the challenges and have developed the processes, capabilities, training and tools to deal with them.
  3. The Recruitment world is hard work! Recruitment companies hire, train and set an expectation of their people that their job will be hard, every day”.  From the outside it looks easy, but once you understand the nuances and take into account the human factor you quickly change your mind!
  4. The successful recruiter is a sales person in addition to all of their other skills. These are hard skills to find, and to train.  The recruitment function within companies tends to be an HR function … which is not typically associated with a hard charging, sales culture (I am generalizing of course because there are SOME very successful internal corporate recruiting teams).
  5. The Staffing Industry continually evolves as the landscape changes. We take advantage of the new technologies, new approaches, and tools.
  6. Focus brings success. Car companies focus on building cars, banks focus on finance and staffing companies focus on talent acquisition.
  7. Profits in the staffing industry are skinny. To compete and be successful staffing companies have to be good at what they do.

I have no reason to believe that the changes in today’s environment will signal the end of our industry.  In fact the growing need for talent (#1 on CEO wish lists worldwide), the growing skills shortages and hyper competitive nature of business today will just mean an even stronger staffing industry!

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”  Lawrence Bossidy

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Kevin Dee is founder of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?
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