Talent Shortage is a Strategic Imperative

Pierre Cléroux, chief economist for the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) said in Canada’s Globe and Mail even last year that Canada’s small and medium-sized companies must find ways to adapt to worker shortage which was the “new norm” and likely to be with us for a decade or more.
Statistics Canada estimates Canada’s unemployment rate at five and a half per cent or so – the lowest since the mid seventies. The strength of the economy is the key factor but equally important is supply with new comers not matching the numbers retiring despite many people working beyond traditional retirement dates.
Approximately 50 per cent of the Canadian economy comprises small to medium sized businesses and a BDC survey indicated 39 per cent were having difficulties hiring. The size of the challenge is affected by industry, skill set and location but all businesses will have to adapt with strategies that reflect this new environment.
Recruits have a choice of opportunities and will check out a prospective employer’s reputation using one of the many employer ranking sites and the best way to get these to reflect a positive employment brand is to have one! Aim to be the best. You just can’t fake it and don’t worry about the odd critical comment; they will soon be drowned out.
The important thing to keep in mind is that maintaining a positive work environment is never done – it is a way of life but progressively will attract and help you retain superior employees, improve productivity and increase the value of the business to a potential buyer.
Increase compensation won’t help – pay inflation continues to remain low despite the talent shortage. Throwing money at the problem will not attract the best fit candidates who will not risk leaving a positive work environment or joining a poor one for more pay.
Talent selection systems often exacerbate the shortage by narrowing the funnel of potential candidates. Discipline applied to selection introduces consistency but setting the gauge too narrowly will miss able candidates. Employer selection systems tend look at performance in a vacuum and out of the context of the environment which contributes significantly to how an individual performs.
Retirees and new Canadians may be an answer but don’t be attracted by the misguided belief that these cohorts may want less pay. That is just not sustainable in a workplace that aspires to be equitable and fair. Younger less experienced candidates are perceived to be less costly than wiser, older heads but compensate with more energy. Don’t be tempted to under skill a role which will lead to value destruction.
BDC has identified that labor shortage is hampering competitiveness and causing low-growth and companies in rural locations fair worst. Wherever the business and whatever its size the new normal has arrived and it will need to respond.

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