It’s hard to walk down any city street these days without seeing “Help Wanted” ads in restaurants and storefronts across the province, and business in almost every industry are currently working under staff shortages. At the end of 2019, the Business Development Bank of Canada indicated nearly half of BC’s small and medium-sized businesses had a difficult time hiring new employees during the previous 12 months and that unemployment rates were at their lowest in history (4.2% in BC). That was prior to COVID and all the workforce changes that came as a result of changing expectations and realities for businesses everywhere. By all indications, labour shortages are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
What can you do to adapt?
With that reality in mind, retention is going to be a key factor to sustaining necessary workforce stability. Your key priority should be to do whatever it takes to keep the great people you already have. However, it’s likely, with so many options, even great team members may find their way to another employer. Hiring in 2021 is not what it was 18 months ago, and if you are to compete in the labour market you must think differently and change your recruitment strategies. Here are a few things to think about.
Change your expectations – When there were more workers than jobs, you could be picky and wait for candidates that had everything on your wish list. In this market, employers need to let go of their expectations for perfect candidates. There are a lot of great workers who may not necessarily cross off every item on your list but who can be shaped into great employees with just a bit more training, time and investment. This does not mean grab just anyone to fill a job vacancy. Hiring the wrong person can result in the high cost and frustration of turnover at the end of 90 days, or worse, costly litigation if things really go wrong. It’s better to be patient and wait for the right person – knowing right now it takes longer to hire – than to make a desperate hire that costs you more (training, low productivity, management time) in the end.
Expand your recruitment efforts – There are many options for finding workers in this economy if you’re willing to do things differently. Consider adjusting your recruitment strategy to better include workers from under-represented groups, like people with disabilities, indigenous youth, students, and new immigrants. There are often government wage subsidies or grants/incentives for hiring these populations, which could offset the additional time required for training.
Indeed.com is still the go-to for most online job seekers, however, you should have eggs in many recruitment baskets. Working with your local WorkBC office can give you access to a targeted workforce and potentially, to training wage subsidies. Networking with people inside and outside of your industry can be an excellent way to constantly keep your potential employee pipeline full. “Do you know anyone who …” should be a conversation you have often as you meet people in various work and social situations. Getting referrals from your existing employees is another great way to tap into a direct network of potential employees.
Consider compensation – Money isn’t everything, but when the labour market is tight, it’s more of a consideration than it usually is. When job seekers can find a dozen similar jobs and one or two pay more than the others, there’s a good chance they’ll take those options. You should be aware of where your company’s compensation sits in the marketplace if you want to be competitive. Here’s a great article if you’d like to learn more about conducting compensation research so you know what you’re up against in this area: https://www.mysmarthr.ca/hr-strategies/are-you-staying-competitive-in-the-labour-market.
Spice up your job postings – There are a lot of things in the market and economy you can’t control, but you can control how you shape your business culture and how you communicate that to people who are looking for work. When you post your job vacancy, avoid simply posting a lengthy job description. You should have enough information about the job to let potential employees know whether they have the required skills, but most of your post should communicate what’s awesome and unique about your business. This isn’t always about compensation – it can also be about culture, flexibility, wellness and other work perks. Culture is still a huge draw for most job seekers and many will still choose a great culture over a bit more money.
Focus on retention – Holding on to existing employees reduces the need to hire new ones. Pay attention to what’s important to the people who are already on your team. Consider conducting “STAY” interviews (the opposite of exit interviews). Ask them what they find great about working for you and areas they think could be improved. The purpose is to find out what it takes to keep your existing employees from looking for work elsewhere. Check out this article for ideas: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/how-to-conduct-stay-interviews-part-2.aspx. Happy employees are your best recruitment ambassadors.
Hire recruitment help – For some businesses, the amount of time leaders and managers spend in recruitment can be onerous and even detrimental due to the time it takes them away from the business. Consider partnering with an HR or recruitment firm to do the time-consuming work for you. The money you spend will likely not be more that what it costs your management in time, energy and productivity, and you may get better results.
While the worker shortage is very real, these strategies can give you an edge over companies who are doing things in the same old way.