HR firm sees high-tech raises of 3.4 per cent in 2006

High-tech professionals will likely see a modest raise next year along with the prospect of a career path that doesn’t necessarily force them to become senior managers, according to a survey released by a human resource consulting firm on Thursday.

While average salary increases are expected to hit 3.4 per cent across the high-tech industry, compensation for sales positions at high-tech firms in particular has increased in a rage of 15 per cent to 45 per cent, according to Mercer Human Resources Consulting. The Toronto-based firm attributed the boost to larger incentives and commissions as companies attempt to reward top performers who can drive revenue growth.

Besides sales, there are still a  number of good opportunities for professionals specializing in software and even the development of hardware such as ASICs, said Danielle Bushen, principal at Mercer. The salary increases refer to the “merit budget” management would use to increase compensation according to quality of work and quality of life issues, she said, not promotions.

While most of the high-tech HR professionals surveyed for the Mercer study cited the familiar challenge of attracting and retaining talent, 80 per cent also said they found it difficult to differentiate the big performers, Bushen said. Ensuring pay for performance was also a struggle for 70 per cent of respondents.

“It sends a message,” said Bushen, because it may mean some workers get only a three per cent raise in order that a higher performer can get a six or seven per cent raise. “It can set the corporate culture of the organization in that it shows the individual’s success is directly tied to the success of the organization.”

Bushen said close to 80 per cent of the total would be in the professional category, and that some of them aren’t ready to move into the 12 per cent of managers.

“You may find a strong contributor with skilled expertise reporting to a manager and actually earning a higher salary than that manager,” she said. “It extends the concept that you can progress in your career in a way that keeps you on the technical side to that the role is quite senior but not managerial.”

Perry Martel, who leads an Ottawa-based recruiting firm that recently surpassed 900 executive placements representing over $150 million in negotiated salaries, pointed to companies like Cognos, which have streams that allow more flexible career paths.

“The feeling over the last 10 years or so has been that I have to go up or out,” he said, “but this is still an immature industry. We’re just starting to grow up now.”

Mercer’s survey was sponsored by the Information Technology Association of Canada, and includes data from 77 organizations representing approximately 49,500 Canadian high-tech sector employees.

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