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Strategies, advice and opinions helping to define and develop the role of IT leaders and their staffs.

IT staffing: How to keep your top performers happy

The good news: According to Robert Half Technology’s most recent quarterly survey, Canadian CIOs plan an increase in IT staffing activity in the fourth quarter of 2012. It’s a sign of growing corporate confidence in the economy and in information technology as a means to take advantage of it.

The bad news: There’s already a shortfall in the skills most in demand. The Outlook for Human Resources in the ICT Labour Market, 2011-2016, a report produced by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) working with the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), predicted that between 2011 and 2016, Canadian employers will need to hire some 106,000 ICT workers—more than 17,000 per year. 

The competition for talent is heating up, particularly for experienced professionals, and since there’s a finite pool of skills that everyone is fighting over you can bet they’ll be coming after your employees. So retention is at least as important as hiring and while you’re looking out at the market for talent, you need to also be looking in at your current staff and figuring out how to keep them.

At one of our CIO roundtables on Winning Tactics for Hard Times, we asked what investments attendees were most anxious to defend. For the majority, what they would fight hardest for wasn’t technology, it was their best talent. As one said, “I have a list of 30 people who I’m supporting and fighting for and mentoring and going the extra mile for. Things are more aggressive than they used to be. I used to actively mentor 4, 5, 6 people. Now it’s 30.”

I’ve spent my share of years as an employer, many of them managing IT professionals. I’ve been an observer and conducted numerous surveys of the Canadian IT job market. And I’ve been particularly interested in the factors that contribute to job satisfaction and those that may lead employees to look for a change. Here are some of the things I’ve learned that may help you to hang on to your key players.


Pay is obviously a major component of job satisfaction as well as a means to lure away otherwise loyal employees. Now I’ve always considered my compensation to be a matter strictly between me and my employer. Maybe that’s an old-fashioned view because I’m constantly surprised by other people’s willingness to exchange details of their pay and benefits. So it’s dangerous to use over-the-top financial incentives to acquire talent, even if your budget and HR policies allow it. If your present staff discover that there’s a significant disparity in compensation for new people, they are sure to be unhappy…and more likely to look at opportunities elsewhere.

Bonuses tied to some aspect of performance are often used to incentivize employees. In fact, for the majority of CIOs a significant portion of compensation is typically in the form of bonuses, so you know what it’s all about. Bonuses that can be clearly influenced by one's own efforts provide the greatest incentive. Bonus schemes that depend on factors that are outside an employee's direct control, such as company performance or team performance, are somewhat less effective as incentives but may well have the desired effect of boosting income and overall satisfaction with compensation.

Employees earning performance bonuses typically have significantly higher overall job satisfaction, but there's a caveat. For employees who are on a bonus scheme but for whatever reason fail to meet its criteria, job satisfaction is much lower than for employees who were never on a bonus scheme in the first place. That’s the nature of bonuses; sometimes they won't be earned. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be used, it simply means that they need to be carefully considered and they need to be based on realistic and meaningful criteria, otherwise they can have the exact opposite of the desired effect.

There are, of course, other factors that contribute to job satisfaction. In fact, when compensation reaches a certain level -- which generally means competitive with the market -- then the other factors take on greater importance.

Work environment:

Your top performers, the people you most want to keep, are happiest when they're challenged by interesting work. It's not always possible to have the most challenging projects underway; sometimes there's a preponderance of important though mundane tasks. One way to keep key managers and professionals challenged is to create skunk works in which they can innovate, over and above their basic responsibilities, with the potential to create value through new or improved tools and technologies for the department and the company.

Smart people enjoy the company of smart people. Weed out the poor performers in your team. Give them the opportunity and the means to improve if you feel that improvement to an acceptable level is possible. A small team of well-paid, highly competent and motivated individuals is likely to be both more productive and cheaper than a somewhat larger team that includes poor performers who tend to demotivate and impede the efforts of their colleagues.

We all like to know that our efforts are valued. Feeling appreciated and recognized as a valuable contributor may have the greatest influence on job satisfaction. Employees are happiest when they understand exactly how their performance is viewed and how the work they do fits into the scheme of things. Provide positive reinforcement and support through regular feedback on performance, and from time to time review how the department and individual goals tie into corporate objectives.

Look to the future:

Finally, make sure that people have a clear understanding of their opportunities for career growth and what they need to do in order to take advantage of them. Provide the training and guidance that will allow them to grow and deliver their best performance. Identify the individuals with the potential for leadership, and nurture and support their development. It’s not just their future you’ll be protecting but also your own. Look after your key employees and they’ll reward you with their best work and, as far as it goes these days, with their loyalty.


Past Attendees

ADP - VP Architecture & Infrastructure

AESO - VP, Information Technology

Agnico Eagle Mines - VP, IT

Agrium - Global Mgr., IT Security

Agrium - Senior Director IT Shared Services

Aimia - SVP & Global CIO

Ainsworth Engineered - Director IT

Air Canada Vacations - Director IT

Alberta Energy Regulator - Director, Office of the CIO

Anthem Properties - VP IS

AON Risk Solutions Canada - Head of IT

Avison Young - VP Global Enterprise Architecture & Integration

Aviva Canada - VP, Architecture & Strategy

Bank of America Merrill Lynch - CTO

BC Ferry Services - VP & CIO

Bell Business Markets - Director, Strategy & Planning

Bell Canada - National Director, Digital Transformation

Bellatrix Exploration - Director, Information Technology

Bentall Kennedy - VP IT


BFL CANADA - Director, Cybersecurity & IT Risk Management

Black Press - CTO

BlackBerry - VP Corporate IT

BMO Financial Group - Director, Technology & Operations Transformation

BMO Financial Group - Head of Services Delivery

Bombardier Aerospace - CISO

Bonavista Petroleum - Head of IT

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP - Global CIO

Bow Valley College - Director, IT Services

Bridgewater Bank - Head of IT

BuildDirect - VP IT

Bulk Barn - Head, IT

Burnco - CIO

Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec - VP, IT Planning, Architecture, Governance, Operations

Calfrac Well Services - Head of IT

Canada Goose - CTO

Canada Live - VP of Technology

Canada Mortgage and Housing - VP, Information & Technology

Canada Protection Plan - Head of IT

Canadian Depository for Securities - CIO

Canadian Direct Insurance - CTO

Canadian Payments Association - VP & CIO

Canucks Sports - Head of IT

Capgemini - Service Delivery Director


Cardel Homes - VP MIS

Cargojet - CIO

CBI Health Group - CIO

CCS Corp. - VP IT

CDSPI - Board Director

Centerra Gold - Director IT & Comm

CI Global Asset Management - VP of Enterprise Infrastructure $amp; Operations

CIBC - Senior Director, Infrastructure Planning & Engineering

CIBC - SVP & CIO, Retail and Business Banking Technology

CIBC Mellon - AVP, Enterprise Architecture

CIBC Mellon - SVP & CIO

Cineplex Entertainment - CTO

City of Brampton - Senior Manager, IT Architecture & Planning

City of Richmond Hill - CIO

City of Toronto - Director of Strategic Planning & Architecture

CN Rail Service - Chief Information Security Officer

Coast Capital Savings - VP Technology

Colliers - Head of Technology & Data

Concordia University - AVP & CIO

Crescent Point Energy - Head of IT

Dairy Farmers of Ontario - Head of IT and Administration

Dale Parizeau Morris Mackenzie - VP, IT

Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP - Director, Information Technology

DealerTrack Canada - Director, Technology

Defence Construction Canada - Corporate Manager, IT

Deloitte - Director, Risk Advisory

Dentons - Canada CIO

Devon Energy - Director, Integrated Business Services

Direct Cash - VP IT & Security

Dynamic Tire Corp - CIO

D+H Partnership - VP, Head of Canadian Mortgage Technology

eHealth - EVP, Technology

eHealth Ontario - VP, IT Systems & Services

Encana - Director, InfoSec

Enbridge Inc. - VP, Technology and Information Services

Enerflex - CIO

Enerplus - VP. IS


Equitable Bank - CIO

Equitable Bank - CISO

Equity Financial Trust - VP, IT

Essential Energy Services - Director, IT

Expedia Cruise Ship Centers - VP IS

FGL Sports - VP, Information Technology

Finastra - SVP, Head Technology Managed Services

Fix Auto Canada - COO & SVP - CIO

Freedom Mobile - Head, Customer Applications, Experience, & Strategy

FT Services - CIO

FundServ - CIO

Genus Capital Management - CTO

Genworth Financial Inc. - VP IT

Geotab - Board Member

Golder Associates - CTO

Gran Tierra Energy - Director IT

Grant Thornton LLP - CIO

Grand River Hospital - Director, Data Governance & Analytics

Greenwin Inc - VP, Information Technology

Groupe Dynamite - Director, IT

GSK Canada - IT Director

GTAA - Acting CIO

H&R Block Canada - VP IT

Haventree Bank - VP, Technology

Hewitt Equipment Ltd. - VP & CIO

Hitachi Vantara - GVP & Global CTO

Home Trust Company - CIO

Home Trust Company - CTO

Home Trust Company - VP & CISO

Horizon North Logistics - CIO

HSB Canada - VP IT

IBM Canada - Associate Partner, Payments Industry

Indigo Books and Music - CIO

Interac Corp - Director, Platform Engineering

ivari - SVP & CIO

JP Morgan Chase Canada - Executive Director, Information Risk Management

Keyera Energy - Director, Information Technology

KFC Canada - CTO

KnowledgeOne - CIO

LaFarge Canada - Director, IT

Landmark Cinemas Canada - VP, IT


LCBO - Director, Applications Systems


Leisureworld Senior Care Corp - VP IS

Lifeguard Digital Health - Chief Security & Informatics Officer

Loblaw Companies Ltd - Senior Director, Customer Engagement Technology

London Drugs - GM IT

Loto-Quebec - Corporate Director, InfoSec

Magna International Inc - VP & Global Leader, IT (CIO)

Manulife - Global Head of Private Markets & Real Estate Technology

March Networks - VP Professional Services & CIO

MaRS Discovery District - Managing Director, Fintech and Commerce

McCain Foods Limited - Manager InfoSec

McInnis Cement - Director of Information Technology

Medical Pharmacies Group - VP, Information Technology

MEG Energy - Manager, Information Technology Solutions & Services

Metrolinx - EVP & CIO

Minto Group - VP IT

MMM Group - CIO

Montreal Police Service - CIO

Morguard Investments - CIO

Moulding & Millwork - CIO

MullenLowe Group - Global CIO

National Bank of Canada - Information Security Officer

National Capital Commission - Chief, IT infrastructure & Support Services

NHL Players' Association - Head, Security & Technology

Northbridge Financial Corp - CIO

OEC Group Canada - Vice President, Information Technology and Client solutions


Oildex - VP, Architecture & Infrastructure

OPTrust - AVP, Enterprise Data Services

Olympia Financial Group - CIO

OMERS - EVP, Data & Technology


OMERS - SVP, Data & Advanced Analytics

Ontario Pension Board - CTO

Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan - SVP, Product & Delivery

Ontario Trillium Foundation - CIO

Osum Oil Sands Corp - Manager, IS

Ottawa Police Service - CIO

Pacific Western Transportation - CIO

Packers Plus - Global IT Director

Pason Systems - Manager, Digital Communications & Corporate IT

Patient News - CTO

Peel District School Board - CIO

Pengrowth Corp - Director IS

Penn West Exploration - Snr. Manager, IT Operations

Peterson Investment Group - Head of IT

PFB Corp. - CIO

Pizza Pizza - CIO & VP, IT

Precision Drilling - VP, IT

Precision Drilling - Director, IT Infrastructure & Security

PSP Investments - Snr. Director, Internal Audit & Business Infosec

Public Works and Government Services Canada - Director, IT Security Directorate

PwC - Managing Director, Real Estate Technology Advisory

Pythian - CTO

Qantas - Global CIO

Queen's University - Director, Information Technology

RBC Royal Bank - Head of Application Security, Data Protection & Security Consulting

RBC Royal Bank - VP, Technology Platforms & Risk Management

RBC Royal Bank - Global Cybersecurity VP

Regal Lifestyle Communities - CIO

Revera Inc. - CIO

Revera Inc. - Security Architect

Rheem Manufacturing - CISO & Enterprise Architect

Ricoh Canada - VP,IT

RioCan Property Services - VP IT

Roche - Head of IT Americas – Operations

Rogers Communications - SVP, Customer Experience IT


Russel Metals - VP,IS

Salvation Army Canada - Board Director

SCI Group - CIO

Scotiabank - Head, Systems Architecture & Platform Modernization

Scotiabank - VP - International Systems Technology

Scotiabank - Head, System Architecture & Platform Modernization

Scotiabank - Global Head, GBM Compliance & Transformation

Sears Canada - Divisional VP, Information Technology Services

Secure Energy Services - GM, IT

Shaw - Head, Customer Applications, Experience, & Strategy

Shaw Communications - VP, Technology Operations

Shaw Communications - Director, Risk Management

SMART Technologies - Director, IS Corporate Services

Smartcentres - Director IS, IT

SmartOne Solutions - President & CIO

Societe de Transport de Montreal - Division Head - Security and Compliance

Street Capital Financial - CIO

Sun Life Financial - AVP, Data & Business Intelligence Services

Sun Life Financial - VP Application Ops & Services

Sunco Communication - COO

Suncor Energy Inc. - Director, Application Portfolio Optimization, I&PM, Business Services

Symcor - CTO, VP Technology Services

Talisman Energy - SVP IT & Business Services

TD Bank - Enterprise Architect

Teknion - SVP, CIO

TELUS - Chief Security Architect

Tervita Corporation - VP, Information Technology

The Hudsons Bay Company - VP Technology

The Hudson's Bay Company - SVP & CIO

The Source - VP, Information Technology

TMX Group - CISO & Global Head of Infrastructure Services

Toromont Industries - VP & CIO

Toronto District School Board - Chief Technology Officer

Toronto Hospital for Sick Children - Director of Technology

Toronto Parking Authority - CIO

Toronto Police Services - CISO

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - Chief Enterprise Architect

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - CIO

Toyota Canada - National Manager, IS

Transamerica Life Canada - CIO

Trican Well Services Ltd. - Director, Business Information Systems

Tridel Corporation - CIO

Trillium Health Partners - IT Director, Applications & Clinical Informatics

UFA Cooperative - VP & CIO

University of Calgary - Executive Director, Development Services

University of Ottawa - CIO

University of Ottawa - Senior Director IT Services & Infrastructure

University of Toronto - Director, Centre for Management & Technology

University of Waterloo - Director, Technology Entrepreneurship

Valencia Risk - Managing Director

Vancity - VP Technology & Solutions

Viterra - Director Enterprise Technology

Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company - Director of Innovation Outpost

World Health - Director IT

Wolseley Canada - CIO & COO

WSIB - Board Director

Yellow Pages Group - Director - Enterprise Data Management

York Region District School Board - CIO

York University - Board Director

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