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Tech Sector Survey Says: Your Employees DO NOT Love Their Jobs

This may come as a shock, but our Canadian tech companies may not be great places to work.

“But hold the phone!” you say. “What about our super cool coffee machines and our team excursions to the paintball park? We let our guys wear grubby old t-shirts and flip-flops to work. How could they NOT love this place?”

This isn’t our opinion, but is in fact what became painfully clear in a recent survey of tech employees. And you’ll want to read on because some of these employees may be sitting in the next cublicle, wearing flip-flops and not giving you their best efforts.

We recently teamed up with the research genius that is Material Minds to measure employee engagement in the Ontario tech sector, and compared this to findings from south of the border. Here is what we wanted to know:

  • Do the people of Ontario’s Tech Industry love their jobs?
  • Are they engaged in their work?
  • Would they promote their employer to their friends?

The results were surprising to say the least. You can read the full survey results Here. But here are some of the most insightful bits:

PromotersPassivesDetractors Tech Survey Says: Your Employees DO NOT Love Their jobs

Only 23% of the employees in our survey would promote their company and tell others that its a great place to work.

And the rest?

77% of Canadians are unenthusiastic or actively disengaged. Wow! Most shocking is the fact that 41% of survey participants are active Detractors, meaning that they may be out there bad-mouthing you as an employer right now!

You know this is bad, but there are measurable results to your bottom line to also consider. According to Gallup Consulting’s findings; companies with average financial performance typically have the full engagement of at least 33% of employees, while companies with world-class performance have at least 67% engagement. Our tech sector isn’t looking so good.

If it is any consolation, the findings from the American population of tech employees was only slightly better, with 29% of employees indicating that they would promote their company as good place to work.

So, can we fix this? Here are a few more insights that shed light on the problem. The survey shows that employees, for the most part:

  • Are not highly engaged;
  • Aren’t highly supportive of their employer’s mission;
  • Know what is expected of them but don’t have enough time to do their work;
  • Don’t get enough recognition; and
  • Don’t get enough feedback.

Amidst all of this doom and gloom, where can we find opportunity? What conclusions can you draw for a company that wants to do better and be better?

You can count on us having some opinions and ideas, but we want to hear what you think about these findings. Do you agree? Can the problem be solved?

(This post was co-authored by Alex Stobe, my colleague at The Laudi Group.  Check him out here (  He’s a smart recruiter and all around good human.)



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So You Need to Hire, What are you Excited About?

I’m going to share the secret to success in recruiting. It’s the one thing that makes your message stand out. It defines a great recruiter. And it’s really quite simple. Maybe even too simple. Are you ready? It’s… excitement.

That’s right, excitement is the difference maker. Now, it’s possible that I have the luxury of working with companies that are worthy of excitement. Or maybe, because my clients are smallish tech companies, every job is critical. But, I’m genuinely enthusiastic about every new search assignment and eager to find the lucky person to take on the role.

I’m not talking about tail-wagging, squirmy dog kind of excitement. This is about genuine, authentic enthusiasm. It needs to permeate everything you do and everything you say, and it needs to be real.

Here is what excitement looks like:

1. Your Company is Exciting

Are you doing something that is truly innovative? Are your leaders extraordinary? Is the mission inspirational? Your recruitment message needs to convey this, with credible and tangible excitement.

2. This Role is Exciting

excited Need to Hire? Here is Something to get Excited AboutIf you don’t really NEED to hire someone to do this job, why are you bothering? How does the role impact your company’s success?

Understand who is going to love this job and what will fuel their passion.
Make sure your actions reflect your words. Act with urgency and send a clear message that you are on a mission to find the best person for this important role. Your actions must speak louder than the words in your postings.

3. You are Excited about your Candidate

Start by understanding what will make a great candidate stand out, and show your enthusiasm when you find it. The best applicants want to know why you think they will fit. Give them some positive feedback. Sure, Negotiating and Interviewing 101 recommend a poker face and little else. But, if you mask your emotions with indifference, that indifference will come right back at you. Good candidates will most certainly lose interest and find an employer who sees their true value. It is possible to be excited while simultaneously evaluating fit.

These enthusiasm factors could easily serve as the outline for writing a job description, or pitching to a recruit at a networking event. One thing is certain, if you get the excitement right, it will have a measurable impact on who you recruit… and what you become as a company.

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Check your Attitude! The Buy and Sell Sides of Recruiting

So you’re trying to improve the quality of your recruiting.

You want to hire more people, people with talent who bring their ‘A’ game every day.

How do you do that? Do you need new tactics?

Better tools and technology, or a recruiter with a better network? Before you do anything, check your attitude. That’s right. The fundamental difference between success and failure in recruiting comes down to attitude and the role you choose in the process.

What’s your stance? Are you a buyer of skills or a seller of opportunities? You might think you’re a little of each, but most recruiters and companies lean strongly one way.

Don’t know which you are? Here are some hints.

The Buyer:

  • Your recruiting function runs like a purchasing department and probably rolls up into Admin and Finance; you use words like Talent Acquisition.
  • Your job descriptions look like shopping lists; you advertise pre-requisite skills and qualifications.
  • You look for exact fits; square pegs to fit into square holes.
  • You focus on the quantifiable attributes of a candidate that are usually listed on the resume.
  • Your interviews have the primary goal of qualifying candidates and minimizing the risk of a bad hire.
  • You pitch a role based on the deliverables. “We need you to do this/ make this/ behave this way.”
  • You feel that you have the control and power in the recruiting process.

The Seller:

  • Your recruiting function is quite independent and might report to Sales, Marketing or the CEO.
  • You advertise jobs based on the opportunity, culture, perks and benefits to the candidate.
  • You create loosely-defined job descriptions, defining outcomes and projects more than qualifications
  • You look for great people and create roles so they can add maximum value.
  • Your interview is an extension of the sales pitch. And you often do much of the talking and ask questions to define what the candidate wants in a role, with the focus on how to close the candidate on a future offer.
  • You see the candidate as having the power in the recruiting process.
  • While each of these recruiting positions might have merits, the risks are worth noting.

To the Buyers out there, you are scaring off great candidates by treating them as though they are lucky to be under consideration. You are making offers to people who don’t mind this feeling, but understand that you are simply purchasing skills and output, but not loyalty. You and your company will have a tough time with employee engagement and retention.

And Sellers, you’re not perfect either! You tend to oversell jobs and are at risk of hiring underqualified candidates. You might also pay more per hire than is required. The people you hire may approach their employment with a sense of entitlement that may not be deserved.

So what’s a good recruiter to do? How can you effectively embody the best of both Buying and Selling and find a happy balance where the prospective candidate is seena potential partner.

Perhaps it is too simple to suggest that a change in attitude alone will immediately fix your recruiting woes. And the outcome will be many interactions won’t be an immediate hire. But I guarantee that when a hire is made and a partner found, the level of engagement and overall success of the relationship will be incredible.

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Congratulations! Your Company is Great at Not Hiring!

I have come to realize that I see recruiting in a way that is not shared by many.  Where most see an HR function, I see a Sales and Marketing challenge.  While many companies look at their recruiting challenge as one of ‘Talent Acquisition’, I quite frankly don’t get that at all.   Look at how recruiting departments are designed like purchasing functions, where orders are filled, scarce skills are sourced, candidates are treated like commodities and talent is acquired for the lowest possible price.

I do understand how historically this made sense.  I am from a mining town, where my grandfather and his peers would line up at the gates of the mine waiting to see who would be selected for work that day.  A manager would walk out in the morning and select his workers for the day, making selections based on physical appearances – who looks strong and capable enough to get the job done.  Labour was an abundant commodity, with plenty available to fill the order of the day.   HR departments were designed around these economics, and were trained to be discriminating buyers of manpower.

The doom and gloom of today’s general employment stats may lead you to believe that we can still hire this way.  “Post it and they will come.”  And maybe this is true in some segments of the economy, but certainly not in tech, or with any company that needs the best people to succeed.   When there are lots of great mines and few great miners, we have a problem and we need to throw all of our thinking about Talent Acquisition out the window.

No, the fact of a skilled talent shortage isn’t news.  So why then do so many companies behave like they have an unlimited supply of people and time?  Are we so stuck in our ways that we can’t evolve from the commodity hiring mentality?

I think something else is going on…

There isn’t a people shortage, there is a talent shortage.  Not the same thing.  The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough resumes out there.  It’s that most of them belong to people you shouldn’t hire.  What if the wrong people apply to work for your company and you don’t keep them out!  Yikes! It’s your job to weed out the imposters and the time wasters that want to sit quietly and take a pay cheque!  Hiring is risky business, because making a mistake is expensive.  If you hire no one and blame the talent shortage, isn’t that better than hiring a room full of potential misfits?

We have 2 problems that are in opposition.

  1. The wrong people want to work for you
  2. The right people don’t know you exist

Look at these 2 problems and choose the one you’d solve.  If you’re like most, you chose the one that avoids risk rather than the one with the big upside.  So you build a recruiting function to address the question of RISK, and it puts process, tools and rules in place to weed out the potential cultural misfits, technical lightweights and the unwashed masses.  In fact, most every HR person is trained to reduce costs and eliminate risk, and will focus on NOT hiring the wrong guy.   If you look for imperfection, you will find it almost every time.

I say it’s time we start working from a different set of assumptions.  Think of what would happen if you recruited like a sales team. Of course, qualifying people is a critical part of the process, but focus your recruiting energy on attracting and bringing in the best, then expect greatness from the people you hire.   Rather than looking for a perfect fit for your culture, you create a culture that is designed for the most talented people; that inspires their best work and accomodates their harmless imperfections.  Accept that you’ll fail a few times before you get it just right.  But in the process you’ll unearth hidden gems and build an environment that perpetuates success.


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Your Managers are Sabotaging your Recruiting – Part 2: A Little Prep Goes a Long Way

In my last post, I wrote about how your efforts to build a dream team are being thwarted by managers who fail to share your sense of urgency, who stall the process and withhold feedback.  Sadly, there are other ways that your team is slowing the growth of your company, by hindering your efforts to attract and impress the best prospective employees.  The next offence is the manager who fails to prepare.

SIN #2 – “Who are you and why should I care?”

You would probably fire a sales person who went into a pitch knowing nothing about the prospect, but do you know how often your interviewers  fail to prep adequately for a meeting with a potential employee.

It is all too common that a resume is quickly reviewed in the 5 minutes between the calendar alert and the meeting.  Not only does the quality of the interview conversation suffer, but you’ve failed to impress upon this person that they will be valued as part of your team.

The excuses are noble.  Your interviewers have important jobs, and their work performance is measured on tangible results that are not directly linked to recruiting.  So an interview that pulls them away from their ‘real job’ feels like an interuption.

But will you land the top employee prospects if he or she is made to feel like a nuisance?  And will your organization seem truly dedicated to growth if your team is sending the message that it doesn’t respect the time and effort of a qualified candidate.

Here are some simple tips:

– set calendar reminders at the beginning of the week and at the start of each day for all upcoming interviews

– attach resumes and all interview notes, including those from your recruiter or from previous interviews to the calendar event

– use tools like google docs to share notes, if not a proper candidate tracking tool

– make sure your interviewers are confident in their interviewing skills by providing training and sample questions

– set specific interview objectives, outlining the skills that each interviewer needs to assess in the meeting (technical skills, leadership style, overall fit)

– and lastly, be sure that everyone knows that their role is also to be interviewed and to help land the candidate; so prepare them to answer questions from the interviewee and explain why they love the company

So, set the expectation with your employees that interviews require planning, and model the right behaviours at a leadership level.   If you drive through the organization a message that hiring and growth is a priority, your team will do their part to help you attract and hire great people.

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Thinking of changing jobs now … are you nuts!?

No of course not, but if you’ve decided that now is the right time in your career to find a new employer, you likely have some concerns.

Not surprisingly, I have been talking to many people who want to know if now is a good time to make a move. Fewer companies are hiring, there are more and more unemployed people on the market, and the risks involved in starting a new job are amplified by personal and corporate financial uncertainties.

Regardless of the economic realities of the day, a career move is a decision to be regarded with a big picture perspective. The end of the year is a great time to step back and ask yourself what will make you happy and what you want to achieve in the coming year – both personally and professionally. A move should be measured in terms of how it enables you to reach your goals – whether that means that you are learning something new, improving your quality of life, opening new doors for advancement or doing something that just makes you happy.

I recently met with an impressive young guy who said he wanted to work with really smart people, he wanted to be challenged and inspired and he wanted to create something important, something that he could be proud of. And he wanted to know that his company valued his contribution and respected his personal commitments. This was great. He was real, he was passionate, he knew what he wanted and it was relatively easy to measure. There was no question, his current employer isn’t providing the work, environment, or rewards that he needs – so time to make a move.

If you are presented with a new opportunity, or you reach a point where your current employer is no longer helping you reach your goals, the state of the economy will surely weigh into your decision-making. There are indeed fewer opportunities to choose from and seemingly more people out there choosing. But the silver lining here is that the remaining open jobs (for the most part) represent very real opportunities with well planned objectives and financially justified deliverables. And most companies are recognizing that they cannot buy bargain talent if they expect solid results and loyalty, so salaries remain competitive. Companies that can use this time to invest in themselves, will be best positioned to lead their market when the economy turns around (and we all know that it will).

Like most of the people I talk to, I also have a mortgage and a family and countless service providers that want me to pay my bills on time (the nerve!). So, of course, you’ll need to understand the risk implied in making a move vs staying where you are. Get all of the information before deciding that any change is risky. Get to know the company, the team and the job in as much detail as possible. Be sure that you can succeed in the new role and that you will be provided with a supportive environment for learning and success. Though the hiring organization wants to limit risk by selecting the right person, you should have an agenda for the interview process so that you can effectively evaluate the opportunity. Do your research and prepare some questions.

So it is not a crazy time to make a move, as long as you understand both the risk and the opportunity that you are moving into.

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Why blog?

Why am I here?  No, I am not contemplating my existence, just the reasons to write in a public forum.

It’s simple.

I meet lots of really interesting smart people as part of my work.  I hear about what people do when they are at a professional crossroads.  I hear about why they make decisions and about what really matters to them personally and professionally.  I learn from every person I talk to.

I also work with many cool, fast and sometimes flawed companies.  I help with figure out why to hire, who to hire, how to hire … sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t.  And no matter what they do, how they do it, or what the result is – I learn.

So it’s simple.  I learn lots of great stuff and keeping it all to myself just doesn’t seem fair.

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