Impacting business of all sizes, what’s often referred to as The Great Resignation or The Great Re-think is a topic of regular conversation across many industries these days.
No matter what you call it, not only is there currently a labour shortage in Canada but also a notable shift in what influences the decisions people make about their careers.
From where we work, to when we work, to how much we work, to placing an increasingly greater importance on values alignment, balance and flexibility, for many job seekers the things that make an employer attractive have changed.
CWB’s Kelly Blackett and Blaine Forer are no strangers to this topic. They recently spoke to it in one of our Expert Series sessions (complimentary for CWB clients), and this article captures some of their insights to help business owners navigate today’s changing labour market.
What’s causing Canada’s labour shortage
“Two big trends are resulting in a tight labour market as we come out of the pandemic – the first is several years of limited immigration, and the second is accelerated retirement,” says Blackett, Chief People & Culture Officer. She explains nearly a quarter of Canadians will be 65 or older by 2024. This is coupled with the fact that Canada’s been missing out on hundreds of thousands of newcomers each year in a market that relies heavily on immigration to address labour gaps and offset domestic aging.
She adds there’s also been a change in the shape of today’s labour force and this is impacting recruitment and retention. “We’ve unfortunately seen an outflow of women, who’ve arguably had to grapple with the lion’s share of caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic. And, of course, talent is also re-thinking their work-life priorities, how they want to work, who they want to work for – and where. Particularly with remote work there are infinitely more options available. This presents both an opportunity and a threat for recruitment because you can cast your net wider, but competition for talent is also tighter.”
Tackling a tight market calls for an ‘always on’ approach
Recalibrating your people strategy for the current labour environment involves increasing your focus and attention on not just attracting new employees but retaining the ones you have, says Forer, Senior Vice-President, British Columbia Region.
“Many business owner clients I speak with talk about the importance of amping up their efforts on culture and work environment, as well as on the individual employee,” he says. “This means spending more time sharing what differentiates you as an employer within your sector. Why join your team? Generally, people like to work for winners. Make sure your team understands your story, how you’re growing, and how the team fits within that and adds value. On an individual level, this requires a strong emphasis on practicing two-way communication, including really listening and responding to what your people are saying and genuinely caring for and supporting them.”
7 tips for recalibrating your people strategy
These nuggets of wisdom from Blackett and Forer can help business owners take their talent efforts to the next level.
#1: Share your story – and what it means for your employees.
What’s your business and culture all about? What differentiates you, and where are you going? Why should teams and individuals want to be part of that? Don’t just nail this, also live and communicate it consistently with authentic and meaningful action.
#2: Put as much energy into your talent as you do into your customers.
Treat talent as part of building your business. Remember too, that just like with your customers, your employees are your best salespeople. Engage them in your recruitment efforts so they’re actively referring people who could be a good fit. During the hiring process, be sure to show candidates the very best of your organization (including the great people they’ll be working with).
#3: Cast your net wider.
The challenge of a labour shortage presents an exciting opportunity to look for talent in new places – both figuratively and literally, thanks to remote work options. This can mean hiring for fit and then training for skills. Be aware too that other companies are doing the same thing – that means your best employees may also be getting wooed from unexpected sources.
#4: Flex within the flex.
The desire for flexible work arrangements presents a great chance to co-create something attractive with your employees. Put great customer experience at the centre and work outwards from there to explore a balance between what’s possible within your service delivery model and what employees are asking for. Recognize too that a) this likely won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach across the business, and b) your first go at it isn’t going to be perfect.
#5: Being authentically good is table stakes.
Your diversity, inclusion and equity practices, how you care for your employees, how you support your community, your efforts to protect the environment. Not only is being a good corporate citizen the right thing to do, it also supports your attraction and retention efforts. You can expect that, in addition to your customers, both your candidates and current employees will be asking you where you stand on the causes and issues closest to their hearts.
#6: There are more tools in your toolbox than base pay.
Remaining competitive isn’t limited to salary – compensation is about the full package. Can you increase your health and wellness coverage? Or maybe introduce a performance or recognition percentage? What about offering something more transitionary to support your recruitment efforts through this labour shortage, like an allowance or advance?
#7: A leaky retention pipeline can undo your best efforts to attract talent.
Be ‘always on’ when it comes to attracting and retaining talent – this isn’t something you focus on occasionally. Always (and relentlessly) listen to and communicate with teams and individuals. How are you creating a sense of belonging for your employees (Tip: Employee Represented Groups are a great step)? How are you growing them? Supporting them? Why would they refer others to come work for you? Your people strategy isn’t a switch you turn on and off.
Bringing it all together
Within any challenge there are opportunities, and the current labour market is no different. Thinking about your talent as an essential element of building your business – and investing the same kind of energy you do into your people as you do in attracting and keeping your clients – combined with a heightened attention to best practices like great communication (and that includes listening), engagement, and inclusion can help ease the strain while also elevating your workplace story and culture.