Skills shortage challenge: Recruitment and retention

Employees want greater flexibility and a company that matches their values

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Finding and retaining good employees in today’s economy is becoming increasingly competitive.

“We have to be aware that this is such a candidate-driven market,” said Alisha Adams, co-founder of Talent Lab. “Your employees are being reached out to all the time. They’re being recruited whether they want to admit it or not.”

Research into millennial job turnover conducted by Vanessa Shum, a PhD student at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, found that better benefits and opportunities for advancement with organizations that more closely align with their views are among the top reasons they leave one company for another.

“I think that’s hard for organizations,” said Shum. “The paradox is that managers always think their employees are unhappy, and they’re doing something wrong so they focus on employee satisfaction, but that’s not always the right thing.

This is especially true in a tight labour market like B.C.’s, where industries ranging from construction to trucking face labour shortages.

B.C. has been leading the country with the lowest unemployment rate for roughly three years. Its job vacancy rate of 4.7% is more than 1.5 times the job vacancy rate of other provinces, which is regularly around 3%.

Meanwhile, Canada has the world’s fourth-highest employee turnover rate (16%) behind only France, the U.K. and Australia and is well above the global average (12.8%), according to a LinkedIn study.

The report notes that B.C.’s largest employers, including retail and the public sector, are among the sectors with the highest turnover.

The problem is particularly acute in Metro Vancouver, which faces significant housing costs and other affordability issues that hamper employee attraction and retention.

“There’s no magic answer to it,” said Adams. “[Businesses need to] put on this hat where your company should be starting to think a little more creatively.”

This means breaking out of the typical 9-to-5 office routine.

Expectations of what constitutes a typical workday and a good employee have changed significantly.

Adams said because employees are now expected to be always connected, answering emails and phone calls, employers need to provide more flexibility in an employee’s workday, including the opportunity to work from home. Allowing employees to telecommute from more affordable areas of the Lower Mainland is another way employers can help address Vancouver’s affordability challenges.

Tailoring strategies to fit your company culture and individual employee needs is key to retain employee attraction and retention. Local examples include O2E Brands’ 1-800 GOT-JUNK. Its #101lifegoals program encourages employees to post their goals on a board at their head office. The company then helps fund and support those goals.

“It really set the bar within reward and recognition and has been a tremendous recruitment and retention tool. And they have seen an increase in productivity as well,” said Adams. “They have sent employees to Wimbledon and swimming with whale sharks.”

Natalie Zhao, a Beedie associate professor of management and organizational studies, said companies also need to make it a hard choice for employees to leave by creating an environment conducive to friendships. Zhao added that it’s also important to look at overall employee rewards packages, not just their financial components.

However, both  Zhao and Adams agreed that rewards are taking a back seat to a company’s culture and values.

“Millennials pay more attention to the values of an organization,” said Zhao. “They want to do something meaningful rather than just doing something for a living; that is not their priority.”