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With all the hype about the war for tech talent – cybersecurity specialists, software developers, big data analysts and the like – Canadian job seekers might not be fully aware of the range of “hot jobs” for non-techies.

Recruiting firm Hays Canada reports high demand for executive assistants, law clerks, supply-chain managers and continuous improvement professionals. Commercial-property managers, mining engineers, e-commerce specialists and senior tax managers are also hot. There is intense competition for seasoned project managers in a number of fields, including IT, construction, architecture and design, Hays found in a survey of more than 3,000 Canadian employers and employees in late 2019.

While overall hiring activity is expected to cool in 2020, “there are still loads of opportunities out there in a lot of sectors,” says Travis O’Rourke, a Toronto-based vice-president with the recruiting firm.

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Many of the hot occupations listed in Hays’s 2020 salary guide are roles that combine a deft human touch with business acumen, and they typically require an on-site presence – “you cannot offshore them,” Mr. O’Rourke says.

The executive assistant role, for instance, has evolved beyond “purely administrative functions, there are strategic elements to it,” he says. Organizations increasingly recognize the value of the communication, problem-solving, diplomatic and networking skills their executive assistants employ on a daily basis. Current job postings for executive assistants offer opportunities to participate in major projects, career advancement prospects, competitive pay, fitness-club memberships and flexibility around family needs.

The Conference Board of Canada, in its compensation planning outlook for 2020, said 62 per cent of the 326 organizations it surveyed in October, 2019, were having trouble recruiting or retaining employees in some fields. The professions or specializations most in demand, according to the Conference Board, are IT, management, skilled trades, engineering, accounting and finance.

The Conference Board also found that turnover rates increased to a national average of 8.9 per cent in 2019, up from 8.1 per cent in 2018, "suggesting that employees are feeling more comfortable about changing employers."

The Hays researchers found a strong current of discontent among the employees it polled, with 58 per cent of employee respondents expressing “serious interest in leaving their current role.”

One of the key irritants appears to be increased workload, Mr. O’Rourke says.

“Despite a general state of economic optimism, only 40 per cent of companies said they would take on additional permanent staff over the next year – a 12 per cent year-over-year drop,” Hays said in its report.

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Even with average pay increases in 2020 expected to exceed the rate of inflation, “larger paycheques are typically eclipsed by heightened stress and staff burnout [if staffing levels are too low],” Hays Canada president Rowan O’Grady said in releasing the survey findings.

All this churn, of course, opens up more opportunities for employees who want to jump ship. An added incentive, to prospective job hoppers, is that 66 per cent of employers who participated in the Hays survey are willing to exceed payroll budgets to attract new hires. But it can be extremely demoralizing for current employees to discover that new colleagues in the same role are being paid considerably more, Hays added.

Mr. O'Rourke suggests that organizations invest more in their own employees to keep them on board. They should consider whether their pay rates are fair and competitive.

If they can’t pay top dollar, they could offer more in the way of professional education and advancement opportunities − and consider bringing in more temporary employees to cover staff shortages if they want to run lean, he says.

Flexible work arrangements are also an increasingly valuable benefit to current and prospective employees. And it’s not just people in the “hot jobs” employers should be concerned about, the Hays report added.

"Each year, employers report a persistent skills shortage and this year was no different. In the past, the skills gap primarily affected productivity levels and limited new projects. Increasingly, it is affecting employee satisfaction as well," Mr. O'Grady wrote in his preface to the Hays report.

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“Today, more than half of surveyed employees report higher stress levels on their teams as workers strive to produce the same results with fewer resources.”

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