The brains are coming! The brains are coming!

Compared to Silicon Valley’s too-close-for-comfort competitive environment, a combination of Canada’s vast territory, lifestyle and telecommuting opportunities provide security against recruitment poaching for the high-tech industry. The brains are coming home.

It seems every week there is a new statistic on the brain drain issue and how it is going to be the downfall of the Canadian economy. Stats being what they are tend to reflect the past and do not indicate what is happening in the present. Every year our company talks with over 7,000 HR managers across North America about their recruiting strategies and their needs. Within the last six months, an interesting trend has developed that is not getting much attention in the media but is catching our eyes as the wave of the future. The brains are coming home and they are marching into Canada without much fanfare.

The economics
of the brain gain

The reason for this trend is simple. Companies located in the high-tech hotbeds like Silicon Valley are sick and tired of recruiting for their IT division in these regions. Think about it: A recruiter finds a hot prospect out of college or steals an employee from a competitor. It costs an arm and a leg to lure in the prospect because the market is extremely competitive. Once the employee is trained and brought up to speed it is only a matter of time before another recruiter lures the employee away. Why? Because the entire continent (dare one say world) is fighting for talent, and companies are recruiting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are hearing horror stories of employees going to bars, meeting someone, talking about their respective companies and within a couple of weeks a company has lost a “superstar” because of a night out on the town and a fistful of stock options. It is even to the point where employees walking to their cars in the company parking lot will be approached by recruiters desperate for talent.

So, the simple economics of supply and demand have led companies to Canada where it is less expensive to hire and retain technical talent and the competition is not as intense.

Several companies have keyed in on the fact that programmers can be located anywhere in the world and still work productively. It is the sales and business development teams that need to be relatively close to their prospective markets. So, the solution is to locate your sales people near your customer base and your technical people in Canada. The end result is that Canada is seeing a “brain gain” as companies set up their IT departments in the Great White North.

Marketing 101

We have always felt that people follow opportunities and if the top talent is going to the United States then Canadian companies should do a better job of promoting themselves to retain and attract top talent.

The best opportunities are not just south of the border, but sometimes just north of your city limits in the industrial parks that are popping up. Companies that promote themselves to students will find they can get the best Canadian minds to stay here, and the best American minds to relocate.

Recently, a high-tech company in Montreal attracted the world’s premier programmer in their field to move to Canada. They did it by selling the company, the opportunity, the city and the lifestyle.

Most companies stop at selling the opportunity and this is where they fall short. For instance, all things being equal, we are hearing a lot of people complain about the traffic in California and the long commutes to work. We are also hearing about the exorbitant cost of housing and the fact that it is really expensive to do just about anything in California. Now compare that to Montreal with its world-class nightlife, low cost of living, abundance of affordable housing, and proximity to the Laurentians.

In addition, if you have a cool company culture (which every company can have with a little effort) then you are on the fast track to retaining Canadian and attracting American talent. If the opportunities are equal, and your candidate can handle a little snow then you have a package that is very appealing.

The end result

People being people, there will always be those who think “the grass is greener” south of the border. Opportunities will look attractive in the United States and some of our best minds will go south. However, it is important to note that many are moving back to Canada because companies are locating their hottest jobs in regions that aren’t full of their competitors. We live in a global world and opportunities are no longer exclusive to a particular region. Canada is no exception. From coast-to-coast the IT divisions of companies setting up shop and trading in their zip codes for postal codes.

Nathan Laurie and Mark Laurie are the publishers of Job Postings Magazine ( They can be reached at 1-877-900-5627.

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