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Lisa Brown is the vice-president of talent for Vidyard, a leading video platform for business. Ms. Brown says as the company grows, the competition for new talent is becoming more fierce.GLENN LOWSON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Tech talent is in high demand right now, with small- and medium-sized businesses already ramping up hiring in anticipation of an economic boom this fall. As a result, qualified job seekers are finding lots of options out there while employers scramble for the best by offering the kind of flexibility and perks people want.

Vidyard, a leading video platform for business, is one of those small businesses chasing top tech talent. This past pandemic year, the company shifted to become a digital-first organization, rapidly increasing to nearly 300 employees across six countries and planning to open a new collaboration centre later this year in Kitchener, Ont., to support a hybrid work environment. Lisa Brown, vice-president of talent, says as the company grows, the competition for new talent is becoming fiercer.

“If you rewind to a year ago, I wasn’t faced with candidates bringing me competing offers from other companies that we’d be trying to match,” says Ms. Brown. “We’ve had some really late candidate declines, not many, but it’s hard getting somebody to what we feel is the finish line and then another company swoops in with what they feel is a better offer.”

As a recruiter, Ms. Brown says small- and medium-sized companies need their A-game all the time. Vidyard’s strategy is about creating “an amazing candidate experience” and working with urgency and speed. While bigger companies can throw more money at a candidate, she finds people often prefer smaller companies with more flexibility. When Vidyard loses a candidate, she solicits feedback to understand why.

“I wouldn’t say the big giants are stealing the talent,” Ms. Brown says. “The shift I’m seeing is that candidates have so many choices, we have to win them over and sell our opportunity for success above salary, but total compensation still has to be market competitive. I often say, we’re interviewing you but you’re interviewing us, and that holds true more than ever now.”

She finds what candidates care most about is that the company gives back to the community, focuses on wellness, including mental health, offers learning opportunities and gives employees as much flexibility as possible in how, where and when they work.

“The new expectation is, ‘Why can’t I be on the beaches of Sydney, Australia, for a month, and then skiing in Whistler as long as I can deliver on my job?’ ” she says. “And we the employers are struggling with what that looks like and how to make sure it’s legally compliant.

“If I can’t meet their desire to do that and another company can, I just lost my competitive advantage in hiring them. I want to ensure we’re on par with every other company – that if they’re allowing a work anywhere mentality, I can also accommodate that. So, I do due diligence on each one and really evaluate what the implications would be for the company, the employee and taxation.”

Maciej Lipinski, senior associate of employment and labour law with KPMG Law LLP, says the increased flexibility employers want to offer and that employees are looking for comes with increased complexity and potential risks on the legal front. In addition to tax-related issues, there are immigration, occupational health and safety, and employment standards issues, because depending on where employees are working, they may be subject to different laws, possibly in more than one jurisdiction. Planning in advance is essential.

“The last thing you want from a risk perspective is to offer flexibility and then not have the policies and procedures in place that allow you to hire a really good candidate that you found thanks to your flexible policy,” says Mr. Lipinski.

“Things can become complicated when an employee moves from a temporary travelling arrangement to where they’re setting down roots and residing somewhere new. Depending on the relationship with Canada, there could be tax filing obligations for the individual in both places.”

While he believes employers are welcoming the opportunity to change the workplace in terms of remote and hybrid arrangements – a current KPMG Canada survey found that 77 per cent of Canadians want to be able to work both in the office and remotely – what he’s seen so far is a cautious approach to building that into the hiring process.

“As employers become increasingly comfortable with the new reality and more step forward and take new approaches, the spirit of competition will result in more doing the same,” says Mr. Lipinski.

“It’s only a matter of time before we see significant changes. I expect a lot of employers are looking to see who will move first.”

Pamela Hampel, human resources director for Bits in Glass Inc., a software consulting firm with locations in Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Denver and Dallas, says while the war for top talent is intense, she’s also seen a dramatic increase of qualified applicants as well.

“We’re seeing high volumes of talented, qualified individuals applying directly for roles, so much that we’ve had to turn postings off so we can go through all of the applications or be inundated,” says Ms. Hampel.

“We’re also seeing that most candidates are weighing even three offers at a time, which is pretty unique.”

Instead of trying to compete with the big guys right now, the small business (currently with 106 employees) made a conscious decision to hire more new grads and promote from within as much as possible.

“When you see movement happening in a company, it makes you consider there’s opportunity to grow and that it’s really exciting here,” says Ms. Hampel.

“For example, instead of trying to find a senior developer, we’re going to look at our internal folks and see who could be ready and what can we do to get them there. It’s encouraging for retention as well.”

She’s also observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has given job seekers an opportunity to pause and reflect on what’s important to them. It’s all about their quality of life.

“A culture of work-life balance has always been an attractive part of Bits in Glass, so opportunities to work for a company where core values align with yours is really important,” says Ms. Hampel.

“We’ve had a lot of people moving out of their central city locations and going more rural, including candidates we’re in contact with. I really see this happening more and more over the next couple of years.”

Another thing Ms. Hampel noted is that younger candidates are calling their recruitment team on the weekend wanting to discuss opportunities and talk about the role, instead of waiting and calling on Monday.

“That’s a new norm for us,” says Ms. Hampel.

“It’s something we weren’t expecting, as well as texting which is more informal. I feel like people are blurring the lines between work and home life. It’s interesting and definitely caught us by surprise.”

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