The labour shortage in Canada has presented a new set of challenges for human resource (HR) professionals to combat. To provide advice to SMEs facing attraction and retention obstacles, we interviewed three Canadian experts about the state of the labour market and the HR hiring tactics that are working now.

HR hiring in the labour crisis

SMEs may have traditionally struggled to compete for talent against larger, higher revenue companies, but the current struggle for workers is unprecedented. The unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio has reached historical lows, which means there are more open jobs than there are Canadians available to fill them. Amidst an extremely competitive labour market such as this, how can small and midsize businesses attract and retain talent?

The onus of hiring challenges often falls on human resource departments and their technological solutions, such as applicant tracking tools and employee engagement software. To give HR employees a full picture of the current challenges, we reached out to three local human resource specialists to discuss which HR hiring tactics they’ve used to address them. 

Understanding the priorities of jobseekers in Canada

With more unfilled jobs than there are available employees, jobseekers have some leverage to demand the perks they most desire from potential employers. When looking for the right HR hiring strategy in light of the labour shortage, companies should start by discerning the ways that employee expectations have changed.

Though employees began to work from home to comply with the social distancing requirements brought on by COVID-19, they may have realized additional benefits of remote working, such as a higher likelihood of positive mental health of employees. Flexibility, company stability, and opportunities for growth may have also become priorities in light of the changes to the workplace.

When wondering how to recruit employees in this economy, the best person to ask is the potential employee themselves. Whether they’re purely after a high salary, or alternative benefits like performance bonuses or mental health resources, HR departments won’t be able to create a job offer that appeals to them before asking.

Samuel Isaac, a senior partner in talent acquisition, has seen hiring success when directly asking about a candidate’s needs, despite not always being able to offer the highest salaries. 

how to recruit employees using benefit packages

Discover common challenges in attracting talent (and how to overcome them) through Samuel’s professional experiences in his full interview below.

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Tip for HR departments: Opening a dialogue about employee priorities can help HR retainment strategies as well as HR hiring ones. However, not all employees may feel comfortable speaking candidly about their personal needs with others in the company. To encourage fear-free participation in employee surveys, allowing people to answer anonymously can help.

How to recruit employees amidst the labour shortage

With a variety of changes occurring in the labour market, HR hiring practices should be multi-pronged and creative to overcome them. Our experts helped explain how to create a diverse yet holistic package to entice employees.

Creating a holistic company culture

In a job market where employees are spoiled for choice, most would prefer to work in a safe environment where their voices are heard and their contributions are valued. Amongst other things, the way employees are treated by the company constitutes its company culture, which has become a priority for many Canadians. 

With many ways of implementing company culture, some SMEs can get distracted by easy, one-off solutions such as organizing free lunches or holding ping pong tournaments. While they are fun, these actions don’t necessarily constitute a well-rounded corporate culture —which could lead to attrition. 

Jerry Gratton, co-founder of an organization specialized in implementing company culture, explains that connecting employees to a business requires a holistic approach: 

how to establish company culture

He goes on to explain that culture is “interwoven with the employee experience,” or how employees engage with their employers and the overall feelings their interactions impart. The way to convince employees that a company lives up to the values of their company culture is to show them, starting with leaders. In an open and respectful work culture, employees are likely to feel secure in their jobs, cared about by their employers, and empowered to put forth their best work performance. 

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Tip for HR departments: When aiming to make employees feel appreciated and engaged in the workplace, employee recognition software can go a long way. Soliciting feedback, offering coaching, and giving awards are just a few options to incentivize employees to put their best professional foot forward.

Designing an employment value proposition (EVP) 

For employers to effectively compete and thrive, they can’t treat potential employees as if they are simply another business resource. Companies should have a human-focused approach that doesn’t leave jobseekers feeling dispensable. That’s where the employee value proposition, or EVP, comes in.

An EVP is a unique set of benefits offered to an employee with the goal of creating an exceptional employee experience. With the lines between work and personal life more blurry than ever, EVPs seek to address employee needs from a human perspective, not simply a work-related one —which, according to Gartner research, can lead to higher employee satisfaction.

Sarah Jodoin-Houle, an HR specialist and consultant, explains why EVPs have become vital for HR hiring: 

use EVP for attracting talent

To learn more about how HR departments can build and market EVPs to job candidates, read more in Sarah’s interview below.

Read full interview

Tip for HR departments: Make benefit packages easier to manage by organizing a portfolio of employee benefits instead of maintaining them one by one. Empower employees to access and sign up for benefit programs from a single platform, which can then be used to generate data and insights on the most self-selected, and thus most valuable, employee perks.

Opening the job search to nontraditional candidates

With demand for employees at a high, many hiring managers have opened up their job search to include candidates they might not traditionally consider. To fill positions involving niche skills or experience, some hire underskilled or junior employees, then provide the training they need to fulfill their job requirements.

According to Samuel Isaac, companies only have three strategic options to source talent during the labour shortage: 

  • Keep expectations the same and continue struggling to fill the role
  • Increase compensation and run the risk of having to navigate equity amongst all employees
  • Open up the job search to those with adjacent skills and competencies and invest in their development

The good news is that there are training programs and strategies for upskilling employees, perhaps because it’s becoming a popular practice. Equipped with learning management software, HR specialists can make sure employee education is well-structured, well-monitored and, ultimately, successful. 

Tip for HR departments: Junior employees aren’t the only ones who may need extra support. Those in management roles may also need guidance, as some may have been promoted to leadership positions without a plethora of related experience. To avoid creating a leadership gap, be sure to offer support in the form of learning and tools to employees of all levels.

The main takeaways for creating HR hiring strategies

Although only snippets of our expert interviews are prominently featured in this article, we’ve compiled a list of the most important takeaways based on all the knowledge and experience shared by these labour market specialists. If you’re interested in the context surrounding these tips, download the full interviews by clicking the links above.

  • Create an open dialogue to get employee feedback on the most effective benefits
  • Foster a positive and holistic company culture
  • Be transparent about company values to help employees connect to them
  • Design EVPs that offer value on a human level
  • Support professional growth through transparency and investment in development
  • Take time to consider and invest in nontraditional applicants to roles
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