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British Columbia’s tech leaders may be the first to complain about the dire need to attract local tech talent. Now it seems they’re doing something about it. BC tech professionals saw a 5.8 percent wage jump overall compared with 2015, according to HR Tech Group’s annual BC tech survey.
The survey includes data from about 15,904 individual salaries from 112 companies. It included 10 major representatives from BC’s growing visual effects and animation industry, such as SONY Pictures Imageworks, Industrial Light & Magic, and Technicolor’s MPC.
“Tech salaries in BC are growing faster than the national average,” said Allison Rutherford, executive director of HR Tech Group. “In 25 years of conducting the BC Tech Salary Survey we have not seen such large salary increases. This demonstrates what tech companies across the province are experiencing first hand: there is increasing competition for tech talent in BC.”
This contrasts with relatively slower wage growth in other sectors and regions. Mercer consultants recently released a study showing Canada’s employers overall increasing wages just 2.6 percent. Thanks to salary freezes stemming from troubles in Canada’s critical energy sector, wage growth in 2017 may be as low as 2.3 percent.
The HR Tech Group survey results highlighted that management roles in the tech sector saw particularly big increases. Product development managers saw their wages go up 16.5 percent. Sales managers’ compensation went up 10.5 percent.
Meanwhile, senior animators’ salaries rose 7.6 percent, attesting to the increased relevance of BC as a video game and digital entertainment production center. “The VFX and animation sector is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing industries in the BC economy,” Rutherford explained,
The technical people who actually make the technology might not see as big wage rises, but compensation is still high compared with other sectors. “Actual developers for specific kinds of development jobs, such as anything to do with mobile or java, are in high demand,” she added. Junior software developers earn an average of $74,500, up from $73,000 last year. Senior software developers with four years of experience can see salaries of $93,900.
There’s a big crush in Vancouver’s tech hub for talent, Rutherford said, noting that companies are paying more attention to retaining their talent, not just hiring. “Payroll is the biggest cost for any organization, regardless of size. But when you lose a tech worker, you can lose three times their annual salary out the door. There’s lost product knowledge, the recruitment cost and training cost for the next person.”
The big wage increases are a marked change, she added. “This is just the start. Traditionally, Vancouver tech companies have paid low. Finally, we’re seeing some big increases in other categories.”
Some factors that might be expected to push down wages aren’t having that effect. For instance, Startups increasingly are being forced to pay market rates to compete with more established tech enterprises. As well, tech workers in Victoria or the Okanagan may see comparable salaries to Vancouver, partly because tech employees can work anywhere.
As salaries rise, failures in hiring or retaining workers become more costly, so there is now pressure for tech startups to invest in better HR practices earlier. “Startups often fail on people issues,” Rutherford explained. “You promote a developer as a manager when he doesn’t have the people skills and the company falls apart. This is the time for companies to learn what they can do right from the beginning.”
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