Canadian IT starting salaries to rise 3.5 per cent

Canadian IT professionals will see a starting salary boost of 3.5 per cent this year, with operations managers and data security analysts enjoying the highest raises in base compensation.

Technology staffing firm Robert Half Technology on Thursday released its annual Salary Guide, which is based on negotiations and placements from its own team of recruiting specialists. The findings indicate that operations managers will see starting salaries of $58,000 to $70,000 annually, an increase of eight per cent over last year. System administrator salaries will climb 4.9 per cent to $48,000 to $70,250. Data security professionals could start work at anywhere from $71,750 to $102,000, Robert Half said 

Sandra Lavoy, vice-president with Toronto-based Robert Half Technology, said the increases were a reflection of a shift in the overall health of the economy and of the demand for skilled labour.

“They had no choice,” she said. “When we went through the recession, salaries had gone flat or had decreased . . . what we’re seeing now is people sit still when there’s a downturn because they’re afraid to leave in case it doesn’t work out. Now people look around.”

According to Lavoy, 84 per cent of IT professionals are “passive candidates,” which means that they will consider listening to a job offer even if they aren’t actively looking for a new position.

The challenge to attract and retain talent was echoed by recent interviews with CIOs for a Computing Canada roundtable.

Wally Curry, CIO of Enersource (formerly Hydro Mississauga) in Mississauga, Ont., said he is expecting to see some turnover this year.

“It’s going to be harder and harder to replace good people at the salary we are paying them,” he said. “We try to reward people by trying to be more flexible if somebody has sickness in their family, and things like that. We try to cover it off in the softer areas.”

Len Nicolas, CTO and COO at Nygard, agreed that hiring is becoming a huge priority.

“This is what’s taking most of my time in terms of interviews and trying to find out what is happening,” he said. “Worse yet, the consulting firms are raiding private companies such as ours where we have dedicated ourselves to technology, we have trained people, we have hired juniors, and now we are ripe for picking.”

Christina H. Medland, a partner in pension and employment at law firm Torys LLP in Toronto, said it could be that the technology profession is maturing to the point where it is adjusting to market norms.

“The technology industry has always had a higher weighting of incentives or pay-per-performance,” said Medland, who also writes a blog on executive compensation. “It was common to take lower than market base salary and higher than margin option grant.”

Lavoy said companies are going to have to be creative as they adjust compensation packages to retain staff long enough to do succession planning.

“If you’re working on projects, you can’t have turnover,” she said. “Some skill sets are hot – for people to stay in their places you have to give yearly bonuses.”

Nicolas said much the same thing. “If I don’t have people, forget missions and strategy, I can’t do anything.” 

Large companies operating under legislation such as the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act have a lot more reporting to do, Lavoy added, which accounts for the great IT-related starting salary jump. Technical writers will get paid in the range of $41,250 to $68,000, a nine per cent increase.

Robert Half’s Salary Guide said there were regional differences in terms of the demand for IT talent, but the oil and gas industry would be among the biggest employers of technology professionals this year.

–With files from Martin Slofstra


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