Seven Strategies to Mitigate Labour Shortages in Your Organization
By Arlene Keis, Associate HR Consultant, Chemistry Consulting Group
It seems as if every day there are headlines regarding staff shortages in virtually every sector of the economy and in every province and territory. While the reasons for such shortages are many and complicated, they do not appear to be going away anytime soon. The issue has become a business imperative in boardrooms across the country as organizations large and small grapple with the economic fall out of this gap in labour supply.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to address labour shortages, but there are many things that an individual business or organization can do to minimize the impact. Many are finding that a multi-faceted approach gives the greatest odds of weathering the perfect storm that has produced the labour challenges. Consider applying the below strategies to your business strategy in the long and short term.
- Become an Employer of Choice
In any competitive environment, people choose to go where they see the best value proposition. This applies to their choice of employers, and the perceived value goes beyond just the salary. The best employers recognize that creating an environment that shows their current and prospective employees they care for them gives them an edge in the war for talent. Becoming an employer of choice involves not only providing competitive compensation and benefits, but prioritizing topics such as: recognition and appreciation, flexible and hybrid work schedules, open two-way communication, work-life balance, fair and respectful workplaces, mental and physical well-being, strong leadership and mentoring, opportunities for advancement and growth, diversity and inclusion, innovation, corporate culture, efficient and well-maintained tools and equipment, community involvement and last but not least, FUN!
- Focus on Retention
Just as it is with customers, keeping employees you already have is easier and less costly than finding new ones. When employees leave, it is important to conduct exit interviews to gain insight about the reasons for their departure; better still, canvass your current employees to find out why they stay and how you can keep them engaged There are dozens of tactics, strategies, and many books and articles on how to improve retention, but one of the best ways to find what works best in your organization is to ask your employees. This can be done through employee engagement surveys or focus groups, and fostering a culture of open communication and an authentic, listening management team from the top down. Employees have choices and most prefer to work for a great company with a positive and healthy culture so there is great value in focusing on becoming an Employer of Choice.
- Raise Awareness About Your Brand
Whether they know it or not, most companies have an external employer brand that can help or hinder their recruitment efforts. The brand may be positive or negative, well known or obscure. Clever employers are using the same marketing and brand awareness tactics for recruiting that they use for attracting customers. If you have a great brand and are a good place to work but nobody knows about you, then focus on getting your brand out there. Visit local job fairs, sponsor school or community activities or sports events, create a careers page on your website and get active in social and other media, engage your current employees & families in recruitment efforts by offering referral bonuses. Above all, if you find that your employer brand is not very appealing, or is getting bad reviews, fix it. Reflect on what may be tainting your brand, and take focused and determined steps to improve how your organization is perceived.
- Fish in a Different Pond
With the strong competition for workers, you are not able to rely on the old tactics of just putting an ad out, sitting back and waiting for the resumes to come pouring in. Go fish where the fish are – which means looking for under-utilized labour pools, such as hiring across generations. For example, many baby boomers have retired from their professional careers and therefore may not be considered as available labour, however many still want to stay involved in the workplace. Such individuals have skills to offer, have a home and vehicle, don’t require high salaries and don’t want to climb the ladder and take over the manager’s job. Other untapped labour pools are Indigenous youth, people with disabilities, new immigrants and individuals re-entering the workforce after lengthy absence. Each labour pool provides a number of strengths and advantages, and this may require you to get out into the community to tap into these circles.
- Recruit Nationally and Internationally
Community or provincial labour pools may not be big enough so efforts to find someone locally may not be successful, especially if you are located in a rural or remote area. Casting a wider net and recruiting across the country and internationally may achieve better results, but not without a cost. Relocation, housing and immigration issues need to be factored in so the recruitment budget should be adjusted to provide assistance as needed. International students are also another valuable resource as they can work while going to school and could be eligible to sponsor for permanent employment and immigration through various provincial nominee programs such as in BC.
- Invest in Training and Development
It is important that your staff have the skills to do their jobs today but training them for potential jobs or promotions in the future can help you avoid having to go to market and compete for new workers. “Grow your own” by training and developing individuals also provides a wide range of benefits to your business from improving customer service, motivating your staff and supporting succession planning. You could also provide training opportunities to those who are still in school and could become part of your future workforce. This could include hiring a co-op student, summer student, work experience or sponsoring an apprentice (which may be eligible for tax credits or government subsidies in some jurisdictions). Many of these students or learners could evolve into wonderful and loyal employees.
- Increase Productivity
“Doing more with less” can cultivate innovation and creativity in improving both worker and workplace productivity. Productivity gains could be found in areas such as organizational improvements, busyness vs. work that adds value, inefficient meetings, emails, time management, putting off technology improvements, staying with manual processes etc.
In summary, while we are in this extraordinary labour market of competing for employees, an organization’s HR practices are now under the spotlight. Those companies that pivot quickly and embrace new ways of thinking about the employee experience may find they have an edge in the war for talent.