IT pros can better negotiate salary in 2011: survey

In 2011, IT professionals will have the opportunity to negotiate for higher compensation as the economy starts to look a little rosier and employers want to again start filling full-time positions instead of relying mostly on contractors in their IT departments.

This is in stark contrast to 2010, when employers had the upper hand of picking and choosing, during the recession, specialized candidates at a wage about three to six per cent lower than normal, said Travis O’Rourke, the IT division manager with staffing firm Hays Specialist Recruitment Canada.

O’Rourke said that as employers will want to lure candidates away from more expensive contract rates, he expects about a five per cent rise in what will be offered in 2010.

The chance to negotiate will be available to both new hires as well as existing employees because companies will want to keep the staff they’ve already invested in from leaving for greener pastures, said O’Rourke.

“The reality is they will have to give an increase to those on staff because they will still have to pay the market increase to new hires,” said O’Rourke.

Also revealed by the survey findings, based on responses from the IT recruiters for 470 companies spanning large to small, is that, in 2011, the rate at which companies will be hiring for IT professionals will jump. Fifty-one per cent of employers expect their IT staff to grow in number. Last year, hiring in the IT sector was just 30 per cent.

O’Rourke explained that while the recession forced many IT projects to the back burner, relatively rosier times are allowing IT departments to refocus attention where funds may have been cut.

“All these ideas and projects that were put on the shelf are coming off the shelf,” said O’Rourke. “And companies can re-invest in upgrading the operating system across the company.”

At a more granular level, recruitment across the country varies. Calgary will lead IT hiring, with 70 per cent of employers saying they’ll add IT staff. Vancouver shows a rate of 50 per cent and Toronto a rate of 43 per cent.

O’Rourke said employers will also have to offer better compensation packages as a result of scarce specialized skills, the Hays survey found that positions requiring ETL, Murex and SAP expertise will be scarce, making the market for that talent competitive. Almost 50 per cent of businesses will consider sourcing candidates from abroad because qualified local talent may have already found employment in 2010.

Last year, expertise in business intelligence, SAP and project management with financial services experience was in high demand and also difficult to source by the close of 2010.

Staffing firm Robert Half International Inc. in Toronto, recently released results of a new survey that reveals professionals are more confident to ask for better compensation packages with existing and potential employers.

“The job market has definitely impacted the level of confidence people have in negotiating their salaries,” said Geoff Thompson, director of technology services with Robert Half.

Twenty-six per cent reported being very comfortable negotiating, and 35 per cent said they were moderately comfortable.

Thompson’s advice for professionals at the negotiating table is to research the job position in question and know what other companies are offering. That, in turn, feeds confidence, he added.

But compensation is more than just salary, so other perks such as health benefits, vacation and flex hours are valuable components. “Look at more than just what the dollar figure is from a salary perspective,” said Thompson.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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