Canadian IT workers stand by their firms

Despite mass layoffs, wage rollbacks and dwindling benefits, a new report says Canadian high-tech workers remain loyal and committed to their organizations.

Aon Consulting’s High-Technology@Work studies, which measure workforce

commitment in Canada and the U.S. through a series of questions about productivity, pride and retention, found technology workforce commitment in both countries is on the rise.

The study shows only one in four employees in Canada has concerns about the future of their company and more than 90 per cent believe their organization will be doing better a year from now.

Marilynne Madigan, senior vice-president with Aon Consulting in Toronto, says the results are surprising considering the current economic climate and its effect on the high-tech sector, which include massive layoffs and significant change management.

“It’s interesting to see the level of commitment so high.” She says it’s notable in the U.S. that after Sept. 11, commitment levels shot up. She says overall, given the economic turmoil in both Canada in the U.S., it’s not unusual to people settling in where they’re at. “People don’t want change.” Instead, Madigan says, they’re waiting to see what happens.

Aon’s U.S Workforce Commitment Index (WCI) in technology was 106.9, while the first Canadian measurement — with figures calculated on a different scale than the U.S. — was 103.6. This is up compared to Aon’s original benchmark of 100, while other national WCI measurements conducted by the firm have gone down. This is the first time the study has been done in Canada, and the second south of the border.

The picture is not all rosy. While Canadian high-tech workers are committed to their organizations, there are signs that commitment could waver. Many are not satisfied with the rewards they receive in the form of compensation and benefits they receive, although Madigan notes in the latter case, dissatisfaction is a lot lower compared to other sectors of the economy.

The Aon report also found technology workers show a weaker sense of affiliation to their organization than would be expected; it recommends management continue to focus on ways to build spirit and pride in their organizations as a key to spurring commitment in the coming year.

Overall, says Madigan, “the findings are favourable given the turbulent times in the tech sector.”

Herbert Hess, president of Toronto-based recruiting firm Hess Associates, says the inclination of workers to stay put may have less to do with loyalty and more to do with a lack of mobility, noting job growth in Canada of late has been in service areas, not high tech.

“Over the last two years, the level of employment in the IT and tech area has decreased dramatically, so moving to another firm on an average of between seven months and 1.5 years is no longer possible,” Hess says.

He notes the nature of the relationship between worker and employer has changed significantly over the past decade.

“About 12 years ago there was a change in loyalty and commitment between employers and employees,” he says. “Previously, if you did a good job the company would employ you for life — it was a mutual understanding between employers and employees.”

But then companies started downsizing employees almost indiscriminately, which completely changed the dynamics of the relationship. Hess says that’s where the “”loyalty”” between both parties ceased to exist.

“The companies started it, and not the employees. And recently it is the companies that are complaining about the lack of employee loyalty,”” he says.

“As soon as the opportunity level increases dramatically — and it will fairly soon — then the apparent loyalty level will decrease just as dramatically. Keep your eye on the marketplace and form your own conclusion.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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