Talking TAP 2022 Tech Salary Survey with Stephanie Hollingshead: Surging Salaries, Global Competition and the D&I Opportunity
October 3, 2022 | Jason McRobbie
UPDATED FOR 2022! This essential reference guide to HR law outlines critical legal considerations for Canadian employers. Topics include hiring, contracts, ESL, leaves of absence, right to disconnect, OHS, terminations, and more. Download a copy for you and your team.
With the numbers now in and TAP Network’s 2022 Tech Salary Survey now available, we sit down with TAP Network’s CEO Stephanie Hollingshead to talk about what sets this year apart from any other in the survey’s history. In short, it was a year of great movement, surreal pay increases and competition from all over the globe for Canadian tech. Digging into the data, Stephanie looks to the trends confirmed and the very real opportunity for greater equity and diversity that such volatile change presents for the industry.
- TAP Network’s Salary Survey confirmed all the stories about talent leaving as the Great Resignation has hit in 2022;
- Greater numbers of tech employers are putting forward salary increases of over 10 per cent across a wider swath of talent than ever to protect from poaching and compete globally;
- With Canadian tech companies now effectively competing in a remote, global marketplace for talent, greater innovation is needed when considering benefits and total compensation.
Software engineering talent crunch across Canada is the challenge to be reckoned with! Latin America represents the opportunity to tap into a completely new talent pool in a convenient time zone, solid communication skills, hire quickly, and at a 30-40% discount to your local market rate.
For TAP Network’s CEO Stephanie Hollingshead, the results of their 2022 Tech Salary Survey—a survey rooted in TAP’s 30-year existence—are both without precedent and a direct reflection of the tales of talent woes and wooing heard over the past year in headlines and along grapevines alike.
With origins reaching back to 1994 in B.C., the survey has grown alongside TAP Network’s membership and served the province’s tech sector for decades. Having since expanded into other provinces, this year’s survey results mark the first year of fully national data at a time when salary questions have taken on global dimensions for Canada’s tech industry.
“This 2022 Salary Survey is our biggest year by far. It has national compensation data on over 30,000 incumbents at 216 tech companies, so there is a lot of data in there—not only compensation data, but the broader policy and practices data that people are really interested in whether that is workplace benefits, remote work, vacation time, overtime, all those different aspects,” said Stephanie.
At the core of survey findings is a confirmation of not only the rise of remote work, but the new framework of global competition with which Canadian tech companies are grappling, giving rise to a greater wave of wage increases in 2022 than any preceding.
“The Great Resignation was very much confirmed in the data. The competition is national and it is global,“ said Stephanie. “The stories were rampant, but when you look at the data and see that voluntary turnover has almost doubled in a year’s time…that is really significant. When we looked at it by sub-sector, some of them, particularly e-commerce, visual effects and animation, they really, really saw increases in turnover.”
“What I find fascinating—and Covid definitely escalated this—is the rise of remote work opportunities for people living in Canada,” she added. “Go back three years, you ‘were’ competing with global tech companies because they were coming into Canada, setting up offices and hiring people here. That is still happening and an incredible part of the tech sector in Canada, but what is also happening is that people are working remotely for organizations that aren’t in the same location as them now.”
That opening of opportunity, Stephanie noted, was realized by employees and employers alike, with greater voluntary movement paralleled by greater numbers of Canadian companies seeking compensation data for wider swaths of geography—as well as raising wages across the board.
“We have been asking about turnover during Covid and this past year in particular. This spring when we asked our members to give us a snapshot of their turnover, a quarter of the people leaving voluntarily were leaving for jobs remote to where they lived. So that is significant competitive pressure that did not exist three years ago,” said Stephanie. “On the flip side, organizations have realized they can look anywhere in this talent pool, so employees are spread out. We could see this beginning to happen even before Covid with requests for data across Canada, but Covid just sped it right up because people were moving to all sorts of places. It used to be location is everything, but now it’s not anything at all.”
As for the aforementioned salary jumps, Stephanie is still processing the magnitude and expanse of increase noted in the 2022 Salary Survey.
“Another thing that really jumped out at me from this fall survey is just how many jobs—over 40 per cent—had an average salary increase of more than 10 per cent. I’ve been in HR and the tech sector for 25 years looking at salary surveys and there are always hot jobs and a handful of jobs that go over 10 per cent, but this is a tenfold increase in what we’ve seen in the past,” said Stephanie. “To have 40 per cent of the jobs with increases that high, tells me that those stories we were hearing for the past year—about people leaving for a 50 per cent pay increase or massive signing bonuses—were true. We knew it was happening, but what surprised me in the data was how widespread those huge increases in the salaries were. To see that much data go up by that much means it wasn’t just a few companies making bold compensation moves. It was the majority of the sector making these big moves to keep and attract talent.”
As for what lies ahead, Stephanie notes that the churn is likely to settle, if not the ongoing competition for talent.
“Early in Covid everyone essentially just stayed put, so there were a lot of pent-up changes that played out too. It was very much felt in the tech sector and the churn has been a pain point. I do think there is a little more caution now with a quite a few high profile companies laying people off. That tends to make people a bit more cautious of leaving a secure environment where they are proven, liked and know they are performing well. That said, the majority of companies ARE still hiring,” said Stephanie.
And in terms of that hiring, remote work remains a core competitive advantage for the sector.
“Another thing we saw cemented in the data in the tech sector and that we’ll see continue especially was remote work. A lot of companies have been pulling people back to the office, but when we look at the tech sector, 99 per cent of the companies are now offering the option. Whether it’s fully or partially remote work, it’s here to stay for the sector. Candidates are demanding it. Employees are demanding it. Employers are enjoying the bit of breathing room they have for their space requirements,” said Stephanie.
As for areas of ongoing opportunity revealed in the most recent survey, Stephanie looks to tailored benefits and other innovative means of sustaining and improving upon the packages currently offered within Canada’s tech sector.
“Competing on cash has been a tremendous challenge for Canadian tech companies, especially the small to medium sized companies and that accounts for most of Canada’s tech sector,” said Stephanie, who points to historically high salaries already having been the norm. “The tech sector already has salaries that are high compared to other sectors and they’re hot right now, while increasing at rates significantly higher than other sectors too. For entry-level technical jobs in our sector, the average salary is now above 90K per year. The salaries are high and those global pressures will continue to drive them higher.”
For those looking to remain competitive, opportunities beyond salary need further exploration, something which more companies are exploring, according to Stephanie, but not enough.
“I think where the Canadian tech sector lags behind is in other cash incentives. When you look at more mature industries, they have used short- and long-term incentives more—bonus payments and stock options,” said Stephanie, pointing to the oil and gas industry in its heyday for comparison. “When the money was flowing, they would significantly use incentive pay because they could increase it or decrease it with financial performance. Another thing they used a lot was time off and other benefits as well.”
“You don’t see the tech sector there yet with these other levers to pull—the bonus cash, the long-term incentives, even benefits like RRSPs. Less than half the companies in our survey have RRSP matching programs,” said Stephanie. “It’s just a less mature industry, generally with younger workforces, but that is shifting as the industry comes of age.”
That said, she is seeing innovation emerging from within the sector.
“We are seeing companies experiment with other ways of attracting and retaining people. Programs like a four-day work week or other creative, non-cash benefits are being implemented to compete and it is working,” said Stephanie. “Companies are looking at the mental health and well-being of their employees, and working to provide healthy, flexible and psychologically safe work environments, along with opportunities for advancement—they are more holistically looking at the work experience.
The best are beginning to explore and live up to the potential of more fully, flexible total compensation packages more reflective of a maturing industry.
“They are also tailoring compensation and there is an opportunity to do more of that to meet employees’ needs through different life cycles. Needs often shift from cash to parental leave, daycare and then to retirement benefits,” said Stephanie. “We’ve talked about flexible benefits for decades, but when we really dig into it, it is not happening on a large scale. I think there is definitely opportunity there.”
Where Stephanie also sees room for tremendous opportunity is during these seismic shifts in staffing and compensation. It opens doors for real action to bring equity and diversity to Canada’s tech sector.
Regardless of whether these shifts are huge increases in the number of employees and salaries, or even layoffs, there is a huge opportunity to increase diversity and equity. I think it is really worth companies looking at that opportunity,” said Stephanie, who noted that greater numbers were generating D&I goals related to demographics. “This relentless hiring presents real opportunity to increase the diversity of a workforce. We’ve seen great examples of this.”
“A tech company a few years ago was set to do a hiring push and realized only 15 per cent of their software developers were women, so they put in a quota to change that within a year. Their goal was to double the number of women in their engineering roles and with all the hiring they were doing, they did it in five months—half the time predicted.”
Stephanie stressed how this type of decisive, positive change is equally available during the toughest of times.
“The same thing applies to layoffs. If you are having to let go 5-10 per cent of your workforce, you can look at retaining marginalized and racialized employees. These are actually moments of huge opportunity,” she said, looking to the road ahead as one of sheer potential regarding D&I.
In fact, Stephanie looks to the growth of companies collecting D&I data to be the purest expression of the ongoing maturation of the tech sector.
“Do you have specific demographic D&I goals? Five years ago, virtually no tech companies were doing that unless federally mandated,” said Stephanie. “This year 29 per cent said, yes, and when we look at how many have or are considering demographic D&I goals, that answer is now two-thirds. So for me, it’s with the demographic goals that the rubber really hits the road.”
For more details and specific salary figures, purchase a full version of the 2022 Tech Salary Survey online at www.tapnetwork.ca.