ON THE JOB by Nancy Clark

Today in Ottawa, the market is strong for technical folks in the software, hardware, RF design and wireless fields. We also see strong demand for support functions in IT, HR, accounting, finance and management. All of these roles are increasingly difficult to fill.

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Employees gain the upper hand as workforce shortage takes hold
From SCAN's Print Edition

Today’s employment market in Ottawa is experiencing a shift from an employer’s market to an employee’s market. Demographics alone identify the workforce shortage that is quickly coming upon us with the aging baby boomers starting to retire and the workforce generations X and Y simply not matching the sheer numbers of the boomers.
Anne Stevenson, founding partner of Stevenson and White, specializes in financial and accounting recruitment. She is seeing fewer candidates available in today’s market while demand is increasing. Anne has found that “we need to cast a much wider net. It is no longer possible to just rely on posting the position on the internet. We are having to do a lot more direct recruiting, networking, etc.” Other recruiters and career transition counselors agree. Doug Tansley, a senior coach from KWA Partners feels it is “an employee market, without question, best I have seen for about seven years.”

Not all employees have the luxury and peace of mind that comes with knowing they could easily find a job tomorrow if the need or desire arises. Jobs for entry level developers, general admin and less skilled help, continue to be fairly easy to fill. It is the skilled employee with specialized qualifications and certifications who is in the most demand. Today in Ottawa, the market is strong for technical folks in the software, hardware, RF design and wireless fields. We also see strong demand for support functions in IT, HR, accounting, finance and management. All of these roles are increasingly difficult to fill.

The challenge in recruiting this sought after talent is identifying a competitive differentiation. Employers have to be able to define and explain what is unique or special about their company and the particular opportunity that will entice a candidate to come on board.

Candidates who have been affected by layoffs often are more demanding in their negotiations. Good candidates are reviewing multiple offers at the same time, each with good compensation packages. Employers have to move quickly while balancing the challenge of ensuring they have taken the time to thoroughly interview the candidate and that there is the right “fit”. Recruiters are also seeing more specific demands from candidates. They want a targeted salary including bonuses and RSP matching contributions before they will leave their current employer. But more importantly they want to know about their specific career path options and development opportunities, work life balance, vacation entitlements etc. as well as the corporate culture and goals. Stock options no longer hold the “big pay-off” appeal they once did. Employees want to see their total compensation package in quantifiable terms, not “pie in the sky” potential.

Along with the aging boomer crunch, Ottawa companies are also seeing increased competition for talent from government. Although on the surface this competition may seem unlikely for the typical adrenalin-fueled high tech junky, many middle-aged employees are looking to slow down and ease into their retirement years. Transitioning into a government role for the remainder of their working life has its appeal for those seeking to get out of the competitive race but are not quite ready to be at the cottage year round.

I lived through an employee’s market during the high tech craze. The competition was fierce and companies were throwing high salaries and multiple perks at candidates to entice them to come on board. I saw a lot of job hopping and the lure of higher salaries seemed to be the main motivation. I don’t expect to see that same level of employee market craze but employers are experiencing recruitment challenges greater than any in the past seven or eight years.

If you are fortunate enough to be a skilled employee in today’s market you have the opportunity to think about your career aspirations and to review a number of openings right now. Take the time to research the company and position you are considering and ensure you have found the right fit for yourself. Job hopping is never ideal. During an interview, for each change in your résumé you will have to give the reason why. Believe me, “more money” is not the answer hiring managers want to hear. If you are getting the itch to make a change don’t rule out your current employer, as many would rather look to find you a more suitable position within instead of receiving your letter of resignation and losing your talent completely.

Nancy Clark, president and CEO of Enavance Consulting Inc., is an HR development professional who has been through every mill from the explosive growth of JDS Uniphase in the late '90s to a government agency in reorg mode, with stops at Marconi, Iogen and other hot spots in between. She can be reached at nancy_clark@primus.ca

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