Edmonton is still in the recovery stage following a recession that forced a lot of businesses to turn to diversification in order to pull through, but where has this left Edmonton’s recruitment practices?
As Anurag Shourie, partner at Davies Park, describes, “A combination of factors has led to a pickup in recruitment” in today’s economy, but the biggest is diversification itself.
“Despite the recession, Edmonton is more diverse than places like Calgary in terms of industry and the kinds of positions that come up through the public, private, and non-profit sector. There has also been a shift, either in individuals at the retirement stage (Baby Boomers), or in those retiring early because there have been too many economic ups and downs. The result is that there are a lot of positions opening up that employers may have been waiting to fill, and they can’t wait anymore.”
Of course, the factors that are leading to the increase in recruitment are also changing the shape of recruitment trends, Shourie describes, “Positions in the financial sector or in human resources are the kinds of positions currently being sought by a variety of organizations in the broad-based sector. Organizations look to human resources when there is a downturn. It becomes important to retain good employees, but also to make sure those who are being let go or laid off are being looked after and treated properly.”
However, these are the conditions that bring executive recruitment into demand as well. “When it comes to unique or leadership roles, companies often need more thorough and expanded research to identify talent,” says Shourie. “It’s important to recruit for specific kinds of positions. At end of the day, any company or organization wants qualified, experienced executive employees who can help shape the business as it moves into the future.”
Does that mean more businesses are hiring externally to fill the new positions required by the business after it diversifies? Yes and no.
“We find that there is always a combination of internal and external hires,” Shourie explains. “The primary reason is that any board, council, or organization head wants the best person for the position. If that person is internal, that’s wonderful; but an external candidate could bring in skills that are more relevant, or that may not exist within internal candidates.”
In other words, external hires can complement the diversity a company needs to achieve to continue moving forward in a tough economy, “but the good people are still working within the organization,” Shourie adds. “Organizations always take a downturn in the economy as an opportunity to right-size and look at the talent they can afford to maintain.”
That’s where the retirees and Baby Boomers are making an impact on the shape of recruitment: “We are finding a lot of individuals at the latter stages of their careers who have taken early retirement from long-term positions, but are still young enough to take on other roles; these people are offering services on contracts or as consultants,” Shourie explains. “Employers are becoming more accepting of these types of employees now, not only because they understand the value of individuals who are at a later stage of experience, but also because there are benefits, when facing uncertainty, to hiring short-term employees who can help coach other employees and help succession plan for the future of the business.”
Shourie continues, “Entrepreneurs say that the best time to develop is during a downturn of the economy. The downturn provides the opportunity to right-size the company so it can get the right talent to build more effective plans to carry it through a tough economy. During an upswing, organizations require bodies and talent without looking closely at the future or fully appreciating the value an employee can provide the organization in the longer run. A downturn provides the opportune time for a company to make sure that the right talent is being brought in and mentored (whether by the Baby Boomers or retirees). It’s also the perfect time to diversify, and with diversification comes an upswing of new job creation and an ability to hire new talent, whether internally or from out-of-province.”
An economy that requires diversification, says Marcie Kiziak, B. Mgt., CPHR, vice president of people & safety for Magnum Energy Services, and vice chair of the Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA), provides the perfect economic conditions to retrain to promote diversity within Alberta’s skilled workforce, too.
“These are exactly the market conditions that demonstrate the need for cross training and flexible employees,” Kiziak describes of a tough Alberta economy that has forced businesses to diversify in order to remain operational. “I would suggest that, unless a required skill set totally changes, employers would want to keep the existing employees and continue to build on their abilities whenever possible. Diversification isn’t the same as changing the direction of a business, so the previous skill sets are often still needed.”
In other words, diversifying the skill sets of current workers is a good way to strengthen the company’s ability to operate flexibly within the demands of the market economy.
“This year, most of our candidates are local to Alberta, which is helpful when onboarding and allocating resources,” Kiziak describes of the shifting trends in the job market, noting that the HRIA hasn’t noticed as much of a shortage in skilled or qualified candidates as was expected or seen last year.
Kiziak also noticed a shift in the employment market. “The employee market has undergone significant correction to return wages, variable pay, and perks to a manageable place, and in some cases, perhaps, overcorrected. As we start to see the economy stabilize, we will see employee total compensation and employee tenure do the same.”
However, with respect to hiring practices, Kiziak says diversity is paramount. “Employers are often looking for employees who demonstrate skill and attitudinal flexibility as we are still stretching resources while everyone recovers.”
Cam Macmillan, president and co-founder of The Headhunters Recruitment Inc., reports that, “We are seeing cautious optimism in the market. Business has steadily increased in the first quarter of 2017, and our clients are discussing strategic hiring with us on a regular basis. Many businesses try very hard to retain their existing staff. Helping staff to retrain is frequently offered, but when counselling our candidates, we encourage them not to wait: take the initiative and keep your skills cutting edge for a changing world.”
In other words, the key to surviving a tough economy isn’t just diversification of the company, it hinges on the ability of employees to diversify their skills as well. A downturn provides opportunity—and an important reminder—but the true key to employment success lies in maintaining that ambition for diversification when the economy is good, too.
“I really believe it is so important for everyone to take control of their personal career,” Macmillan stresses. “Take those courses, read books and magazines to broaden your experience, meet with industry groups, and network!”
“We are a resource-based province, so we will remain dependent on that sector for years to come,” says Macmillan, “but I do think this last downturn marked a dramatic shift, particularly in how many of our business leaders are thinking about the future.
“We have a vibrant start-up community with organizations like the University of Alberta Venture Mentor Services, chaired by one of Alberta’s most successful entrepreneurs, Ray Muzyka (co-founder of Bioware), leading the way. Many of the start-ups are not resource-based companies. There is a real mix of socially conscious, really innovative companies leading the charge. There is a powerful group of business leaders helping to lead the next generation of entrepreneurs; those small business owners who provide the bulk of the jobs in our economy. Another interesting trend is how so many of our companies are expanding outside of Alberta, either nationally or on a global basis.”
“For successful recruitment practices,” Macmillan concludes, “it’s all about diversification. The need for innovation, hard work, and ethical behavior will be key.”