The struggle to find, and keep, great employees is real: according the BC Chamber of Commerce’s recent COVID-19 Pulse Check Survey, a clear majority (59%) of businesses said they were having a hard time getting staff.
To be sure, labour shortages are nothing new—finding and keeping skilled workers was a big challenge before COVID-19. But with the eventual easing of pandemic restrictions, BC’s economy will be primed for bounce-back mode; June figures from Capital 1 Economics forecast a 5% boost to the province’s GDP for this year and still-strong 4% growth in 2022.
At the same time, many workers have left public-facing businesses like retail, hospitality, and restaurants and found work in other sectors. The result is a bottleneck, with more demand for goods and services and not enough workers available to supply them.
Pinched between rising demand and rising costs
When faced with conditions like these, the natural response is to offer higher wages. But as you likely know all too well, workers’ pay demands aren’t the only cost that’s rising: input costs are ticking higher, too—Canada’s inflation rate jumped to 3.7% in July, its highest level since May 2011.
And let’s not forget the hidden costs of turnover, from lost productivity (including the period after an employee gives notice and before they leave, during which—let’s be honest—they’re not likely to be as focused on their job) to the time cost of recruitment and more lost productivity as the new hire comes up to speed.
There are plenty of estimates of the cost of turnover out there, but the one thing they have in common is that none of them are low: they range from 30% of the employee’s yearly salary to more than 200%.
So how do you find, and keep, the people you need? Here are six strategies you can start using today.
1. Looking for your next big hire? They could already be working for you
Before going on the hunt for new talent, do a thorough assessment of your staff, and the experiences and talents they bring to the table. Are they underutilized? Do you have a candidate inside your organization who would be a good fit for the position you need filled?
If so, consider promoting them. Doing so would reduce the likelihood of early turnover, because they’re already familiar with your company. Promoting from within also opens up a lower-level position that could be easier to fill from outside your company than a middle- or upper-management role would be.
To take this idea one step further, don’t hesitate to reach out to people who’ve left your business. Bringing back a talented former employee (who left on good terms, of course) is a great way to reduce the time you need to devote to onboarding and training. And they just may be looking to make a change: 21%, or just over one-fifth, of people who responded to a June 2021 survey by Robert Half Talent Solutions said they’d be looking for a new job in the following months.
2. Reconsider your approach to interviews
In today’s “seller’s market” for labour, you’ll want to ensure the tone of your interviews is that of a conversation between two parties looking to see if they can form a relationship.
This is not the time to treat interviewees like the subject of an interrogation or ask obscure questions (like what’s your favorite colour and why?) to test their response time or how well they think on their feet. That’s only likely to irritate them, and it risks distracting from what you’re there to do: clearly communicate your company’s values, procedures and expectations and get a sense of whether the interviewee could be a good fit.
3. Hiring remote workers? Base their salary on their location
The option to work remotely is a well-known perk you may be able to offer, depending on the industry you’re in and the nature of your business. But you can take it a step further by going beyond places that are expensive to live, such as BC’s Lower Mainland. That not only gives you access to a wider talent pool, but it can actually reduce your costs, too.
Consider, for example, that Vancouver consistently ranks as one of Canada’s most expensive cities. The upside of that is you can both widen your access to talent and lower some expenses by targeting other locales in Canada with different base salary expectations. The one hitch? If you go with a salary-by-location approach, things could get sticky if your employee moves and requests a change in salary based on their new location.
4. Be ultra-clear about the position (and your expectations)
One thing you want to avoid at all costs is losing employees just weeks or months after you hire them, a situation that’s more common than most people think: 31% of respondents to a 2018 study done in the US by human-resources software maker BambooHR said they had quit a new job within six months of being hired.
When you put that in the context of the turnover costs discussed above, you can see just how expensive it can be to lose new hires. The answer is to make sure you’re being upfront about the position and what it entails, both in interviews and in any job ads you post. You’ll also want to make sure you provide support and guidance and are open to feedback at all times (especially in those critical early weeks).
5. Take a direct role in training (from their first day to their 10th year—and beyond)
When you do bring new employees aboard, ensure that you or one of your managers takes a leading role in their training. BambooHR’s study found that a plurality of new employees (33%, to be precise) prefer to have a manager guide them in the early days of their employment, rather than a colleague or HR person.
The value of on-going, management-supported training goes well beyond onboarding. For example, according to PwC’s 2020 study on the Canadian workforce of the future, 81% of employees stated that upskilling opportunities improved their overall job performance. With management behaviour being one of the top reasons why employees leave their job, supporting their ongoing career and skills development is an easy win for you.
Showing your support can also be achieved in other ways. One thing that goes a long way is for you and your company’s managers to simply be seen on the floor, dealing directly with customers and making decisions in the moment. Also, be sure you’re quick to praise employees when work is performed well. That sounds simple, but most employees will tell you it’s something managers often forget to do.
Other simple (and free) thing you can do, according to a December 2018 article in HR Daily Advisor, to make people feel valued is to ask for their opinion, include them in business decision-making and make sure their work matches their level of experience, so they don’t feel their skills are going to waste.
No matter how you proceed, making employees feel valued and engaged are some of the most important things you can do to keep them happy and loyal—a key thing to balance, especially when the annual Hays Salary Guide for 2020 reported that 41% of workers in BC were thinking of quitting their job.
6. Enhance your company’s health benefits
For our last point, let’s get to the real meat of the matter: dollars and cents. Raising employee pay and offering more perks, such as flexible schedules, a more permanent work-from-home setup and additional vacation time are no-brainers when it comes to increasing employee satisfaction (and these are all things your BlueShore Business Advisor can help you evaluate with your current cash flow).
But there’s another area you should not overlook: employee health benefits, especially during the pandemic, when more people than ever before are paying more attention to their, and their family’s, health.
While universal healthcare is a proud boast for many Canadians, things like prescription drugs, paramedical services, eye care, and dental work are typically not covered. This is true for BC’s health care plan. Such services can also be very expensive, especially without supplemental insurance. For many employees and job seekers, a health benefits package is no longer considered a nice perk, it’s expected.
Fortunately there are cost-effective options that have been specifically designed for small to mid-sized businesses. Depending on your needs, your budget, and your relationship with your employees, the cost for these plans can be shared between employer and employee. And some plans exist that allow for pooling resources with other businesses or through an organization such as a chamber of commerce.
Our BlueShore Financial Wealth Protection Specialists can help you select the right health and dental plans† (or expand your current ones) to fit your employees’ needs and your business’s budget. Get in touch today to learn how we can help you up the ante on your employee recruitment and retention plans in a way that meets your business needs.
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