Tech is booming and recruitment pressure is at an all-time high, driving tech salaries up, and fast. see more
The Cost of Tech Labour in Western Canada
Spoiler alert – it got a lot higher in 2021.
We recently released our 2021 Tech Salary Survey, with data from over 25,000 incumbents at 184 BC and Alberta tech companies and it came as no surprise to learn that tech sector salary increases blew past compensation budgets this year.
The sector is booming and recruitment pressure is at an all-time high. The average planned headcount growth this year for the 184 companies in our survey is 37%.
Meanwhile, large international companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Disney and Mastercard are continuing to build development offices and studios in Vancouver and in Alberta, both Calgary and Edmonton have seen staggering growth numbers in their tech sectors. According to a study by Alberta Enterprise Corporation, Alberta is now home to 3,083 tech companies. Three short years ago that number was 1,238. Alberta has also created a new business accelerator to help tech companies scale up by plugging into global investment money.
All of this recruitment and retention pressure is pushing salaries up, and quickly.
Common incumbents in our survey (employees in the same jobs in the same companies) saw a year over year median salary increase of 5.4%.
Pay for some jobs is particularly hot right now. Key technical positions in the survey saw average base salary increases of 6%-12%. Skills such as DevOps, Full Stack Software Development and Data Science were identified as some of the most difficult to recruit skills and showed up in the list of jobs with the fastest moving pay.
These positions had the fastest moving pay, with common incumbents seeing median base salary increases of 10% or more:
While Vancouver tech salaries reaching par with many North American tech hubs, there are still regional differences, and the Software Development position highlights those differences:
From our 2021 survey data, the average salary for an Intermediate Software Developer in the Vancouver area is $98,000. On Vancouver Island that average is $81,000 and in Alberta it’s $84,000. We anticipate regional pay differentials will become smaller over the next couple of years with the normalization of remote and even global teams.
Many of our member companies are adjusting salaries twice this year, to keep pace with this market.
Stay informed and compete for tech talent with HR Tech Group’s Tech Salary Survey.
things to keep in mind, along with specific examples, to help you find and secure top AI talent see more
Proven Tips for Landing Top AI Talent
Written by AInBC's Administrative Manager and Athena Pathways Project Lead: Norma Sheane
Artificial intelligence is a new and emerging field and there are some unique characteristics to look for when hiring for AI roles. Here’s a list of things to keep in mind along with specific examples to help you find and secure top talent.
1. Define the role with specific terms
It’s important to be specific about the AI skillset you need.
For example, are you working with neural networks, and if so, do you need someone with experience with GANs? Until recently there were no degrees specifically in AI so there weren’t the obvious pathways into a career that more established disciplines have. Yes, many practitioners have studied machine learning in a Masters or PhD capacity, but you often encounter people skilled in this field who have come to it through a more generalized area of study like mathematics, computer science, data science, or physics.
If you need to hire someone who can speak French, stating that you need someone from Europe is not specific enough. You need to know what part of the AI universe your job candidates are coming from.
2. Find lateral thinkers
The skillset for AI positions is different than for typical software development roles.
In the case of developers, projects are typically well defined and structured, with clear milestones, start and endpoints, as well as little follow-up. AI projects often require exploratory and experimental work with unclear timelines. Plus, the nature of an AI system is that it will improve significantly once it gets exposed to first training data and then production data. It will constantly be improving and may require continual attention from the developer.
AI roles often require interaction and teamwork with a number of people in the organization because data may come from a number of different areas. This is also because the AI teams within a company are typically not large so practitioners need to handle many different parts of the project and the people in the company who interface with the system.
Role requirements should include variety and critical thinking because the person in this role may need to "wear a lot of hats" and interface with many different parts of the organization.
3. Set your expectations on salaries
Here are general salary ranges in Canadian dollars for some typical roles:
ML Researcher - $125,000-$350,000
Data Scientist - $55,000-$190,000
ML Engineer - $75,000-150,000
Data Engineer - $55,000-130,000
In more senior positions, there is a big difference between good and great in terms of how far someone will be able to take your company. Expect to pay competitive salaries for people who can easily pick up a job in global centres like San Francisco or Singapore.
4. Work with agencies who know the area
If you went to France not knowing the language, would you want a foreign tour company to show you around or a French one that’s connected to the local businesses and knows the language?
In AI, there are many places you can look to find different levels of talent but using a generic recruitment agency may not produce effective results as this area is highly specialized. Work with a recruiter with demonstrated knowledge and a network in this area - for example AInBC’s AI role placement service: https://www.ainbc.ai/placements
Job boards are typically effective however they can generate hundreds of applicants for a single role creating the challenge of filtering through and finding the small percentage of qualified candidates. Some VP’s say that 80% of the applications they’re receiving are not even relevant. For senior roles, the applicant pool may not produce even one individual who will be able to do the job at a high level.
5. Ensure ethical alignment
If you are building something that operates in an ethical gray zone - due to it being a rapidly developing area or otherwise - ensure you check the applicant's comfort level. For example, if you aim to make facial recognition technology, the person designing it will need to be comfortable with how your company will deploy it (i.e. for human health vs. for law enforcement).
6. For junior talent, ask around at universities
When looking for junior talent, contact universities as they can provide a number of opportunities to find talent. Professors can make recommendations of top students. You can sponsor hackathons and attend university hiring fairs and poster sessions. Also consider specialized talent programs that recruit students, programs like Insight Data Science.
7. Check for hard skills
AI sits within data science, and since data science is a broad discipline which encompasses many skillsets, any number of people can call themselves a data scientist. But that doesn’t mean they know enough to do the job you have.
Applicants should be able to demonstrate that they can work with the technologies needed to commercialize the product. Academics may not have needed to code production-ready systems and may have relied on others to do coding work.
Applicants should be given a scenario to solve, to demonstrate they can be creative and think outside the box. They should also be able to demonstrate that they stay up to date on the latest developments in AI since the pace of change in the industry is so rapid.
These tips can help you navigate the new realm of hiring AI talent. It also helps if you know someone who’s an AI expert. Reach out to them for a virtual coffee and pick their brain. It will be well worth it to get your data straight and your machines set on “smart”!
FOR MORE TECH INDUSTRY TALENT INSIGHTS, CHECK OUT HR TECH GROUP'S BLOG PAGE HERE.
Salary data and insights from HR Tech Group's 2020 Tech Salary Survey see more
BC tech salaries rise while other industries face freezes and cuts
This is not a sector in slow down.
We recently released our 2020 Tech Salary Survey, which we manage in partnership with Mercer Canada. The 2020 survey, which has data from over 22,000 incumbents at 150 BC and Alberta tech companies and tech divisions, provides some pretty eye-opening information on the state of the sector.
For example, despite a pandemic –
the average planned 2020 headcount growth in Digital Media and Gaming is 17%
the average planned 2020 headcount growth in Life Sciences is 27%
In 2021, Clean Tech companies are planning, on average, 16% growth in headcount.
Salaries are following suit.
Survey incumbents in the same job at the same company, saw a median salary increase of 3.5% from 2019 to 2020.
The top ten jobs with the highest increase in base salary for employees in the same job in 2019 and 2020 ranged from 7.1%-13.3%.
Senior Cloud Ops Engineer salaries increased 8% in 2020, to an average of $115,000. Web Software Developer salaries increased 13% to an average of $90,000.
The average salary across the 124 technology and new media jobs in our survey is now $97,000.
Tech salaries just keep climbing.
Yes, some tech companies are shrinking and cutting costs, but this survey, with data collected in the midst of a global pandemic, tells us that BC’s tech industry overall is continuing with strong growth in both headcount and salaries.
Last week Amazon announced they are hiring for 3,000 more tech and corporate jobs in Vancouver. Jobs like software development, UI/UX design, machine learning, data science and more.
As more and more large US companies hire tech talent in Canada, this increasing salary trend will only continue.
Winter is not coming in Canada’s tech sector.
Stay informed and compete for tech talent with HR Tech Group’s Tech Salary Survey.
Is your employee benefits program evolving? see more
The Evolution of Employee Benefits
This is the first in a series of blog posts leveraging data and insights from our 2020 Tech Industry Benefits Survey, our partners at HUB International’s National Employee Benefits Practice and an additional member survey done this September regarding the impacts of COVID on group benefits plans in tech.
Is your employee benefits program evolving?
A couple of years ago, several telemedicine providers burst onto the scene, making it easier for Canadians to seek treatment and advice from physicians and nurse practitioners, all from the comfort of their home or office; however, companies were slow to adopt this as a virtual health option for their employees.
Digital transformation has been a well-trodden expression for a few years now. For many of us, it’s been vague and intangible and not especially pressing. Until COVID-19 hit.
In a hot minute we’ve collectively transformed our personal lives, our education systems and our businesses to operate digitally. We need to do the same with our employee benefits offerings.
Health care providers have adapted and have new offerings. COVID-19 has pushed many physicians to offer virtual healthcare consults. My daughter and I have both seen our family doctor virtually over the past 6 months and last week my friend’s son had a virtual orthodontic check-up. Heath practitioners, from psychologists to naturopaths, now offer services virtually.
Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) is being offered through digital platforms. Counseling and support groups are available virtually. Virtual pharmacies like PocketPills enable people to renew prescriptions and receive medications without leaving their homes.
Fitness and wellness resources are online. Virtual personal assessment tools for mental health and nutrition were already available before the pandemic. My husband now participates in weekly virtual yoga classes, right outside my office door.
So how are you evolving your employee benefits in this time of dramatic change?
Our surveys showed three key HR and group insurance concerns for tech companies -
Employee mental health
We are seeing tech companies add coverage relating to mental health. They are increasing psychologist and clinical counselling visit coverage amounts. They are reimbursing for online fitness classes. They are putting in place Employee and Family Assistance Plans where they haven’t yet been in place. 24% of surveyed tech companies are planning on offering on-line health & wellness challenges within the next 12 months.
How are you evolving your benefits programs to better support employee health?
Only 50% of the companies in our survey provide maternity leave top-up pay.
How are you evolving your benefits programs to retain your employees? Who do you want to retain and what’s important to them? Are you looking to hire and retain women? How about parental leave top-up pay?
Adding flexibility to benefits programs
46% of tech companies surveyed provide Health Care Spending Accounts. Only 9% currently provide flexible benefits plans but an additional 20% are considering them.
27% are planning on adding a virtual healthcare option within their benefits programs within the next year. 16% are adding virtual fitness programs and 8% plan to add a virtual pharmacy option. How are you adding flexibility to your benefits programs?
Benefits programs are an expensive and important component of total compensation. How will you evolve your employee benefits programs this year?
Want to know more? Click here for more information on HR Tech Group’s 2020 Tech Industry Benefits Survey, produced by our partners at HUB International.