Alberta Chambers of Commerce’s summer 2022 survey paints a pained picture for local employers. Survey results indicate “the majority of Alberta businesses continue to experience staff shortages; four out of 10 employers anticipate their workforce needs will increase in the next six months and nearly 50 per cent say they are considering hiring outside of the province to meet labour shortage needs.” Yet, at the same time, a Statistics Canada labour force survey (April) points out that 32.9 per cent of Albertans in the survey are struggling through long-term unemployment – a rate far above the Canadian average of 20.9 per cent. Further, Statistics Canada’s August labour force survey reveals, “the unemployment rate rose to 5.4 per cent.”
We have employers desperate for labour and we have workers looking for employers – and yet there is a labour shortage. What’s going on?
Shannon Neighbour and Chantelle Svensen-Lewis, partners at Svensen Neighbour Recruiting, share their thoughts.
“With workers seeking more flexible work arrangements and having more control over their time, there has been a movement into entrepreneurship and others working in the gig economy,” says Neighbour. “Certain sectors are struggling more than others such as hospitality, travel and tourism. This is because at the beginning of COVID, these industries and workers were unable to work; therefore causing these workers to move into other industries. They have since not returned and likely will not return due to lower wages and lack of flexibility in the work arrangements.”
Svensen-Lewis adds, “Candidates are being much more selective with their roles. Over the past two and half years, preferences have changed. Candidates are looking for roles that align with those preferences such as flexible work environments or the ability to work remotely.”
Both agree that in order to fill staffing roles, employers must become more flexible.
Neighbour says, “Employers need to start looking at other ways to recruit, not just posting an ad on the same job site they always use. It is important to use a variety of recruitment methods in your search – your website, posting on job search websites, referrals, recruiters, post-secondary institutes, associations and perhaps working with non-profits that help assist those to get into the labour market (Gateway Association, AdaptAbilities, EmployAbilities, etc.).
That’s not all. Svensen – Lewis explains that employers need to actively engage their teams and potential hires to see how the workplace can best serve changing needs.
“Companies must talk to their staff and find out what is meaningful to them. Accommodating all employee requests isn’t always possible or reasonable, but employers must understand the motivation and needs of those who work for them – there is no need to guess! Just ask.”
Does that mean opening up to work from home (WFH) across the board?
“Not all organizations can accommodate WFH and not all jobs can be done from a virtual environment either, but it is worth looking into how it may be possible because it not only opens up the candidate pool locally, it may also give employers access to talent outside of the market where their business is located,” Svensen-Lewis shares. “There is a lot of technology that can assist with WFH as well as help with communication. Additionally, having WFH/hybrid policies are important so all parties have a clear understanding of the expectations. Focus more on the job outcomes and less on sitting at a desk between traditional office hours. Consider flexible schedules. Again, focus on job outcomes – don’t focus on ‘office hours.’”
Employees need to be proactive as well. According to Neighbour, “Employees should understand what is important to them – salary, benefits, WFH/hybrid, advancement, etc. and seek organizations that are in alignment with these needs. If WFH is important to the candidate, they should understand if WFH is temporary or if a policy has been created to allow for long-term remote working.”
Both advise employees to be open to recruitment and when looking at the requirements in the job posting, apply even if all the skills are not a direct match. Employers will consider transferable skills and a willingness to train and learn.
Svensen Neighbour Recruiting is happy to help both employers and employees by matching workers with companies that share goals and values. For employers, the firm:
- Crafts comprehensive and inclusive job postings.
- Helps identify candidates with transferable skills and a willingness to train.
- Audits the recruitment and election process, and provide an evaluation for better strategies.
- Helps seek out passive candidates by leveraging a variety of sourcing techniques.
- Provides a candidate assessment tool that helps employers understand communication style, motivators and competencies so managers can be more effective in onboarding and performance management.
- Performs a skills audit to discover what might be missing from the current team.
“We offer several different services to help with as much or as little of the recruitment process that our clients require. We tailor our approach to ensure we are being responsive to each organization’s unique needs,” Neighbour concludes.
One major employer, and outstanding Alberta success story, demonstrates how their commitment to providing an exceptional place to work has empowered the company and its many employees. That company is PCL who is, once again, celebrating awards from Canada’s Top 100 Employers and Alberta’s Top Employers.
“This nationally recognized award showcases to potential candidates around the world that PCL has a dynamic community of employee-owners who care as much about each other and giving back to our communities as we do about the projects themselves,” says Harmony Carter, vice president, people and culture. It proves that PCL is a leader in our industry and is committed to building people and growing careers. This recognition gives us an avenue to connect with candidates and proves that we have one of the best workplaces in Alberta and across Canada.”
Is PCL facing the same labour shortages as so many other employers in the region?
Carter admits, “With 116 years in operations and 1,000+ active projects across North America, we are in a position to offer a plethora of opportunities and experiences to anyone joining our PCL team. PCL’s reputation of iconic projects that can change the trajectory of communities puts us on potential candidates’ radar, but we are still suffering the growing pains of post pandemic demand for labour that far exceeds the supply across the construction industry.”
PCL is being proactive on this front. Carter explains, “We mitigate the skilled worker shortage by developing from within. Our internal training and programs help us to develop and retain our workforce. PCL partners with educational institutions for a collaborative approach to our student program where we have 500+ student placements companywide. We also partner with educational institutions by sponsoring scholarships and awards, which strengthen the skilled-labour pipeline in our communities. PCL also has a robust mobility program that allows our employees to gain experience on projects across North America and Australia.”
PCL has always had methodology in place to attract and retain top talent.
“PCL is a 100 per cent employee-owned company,” Carter says. “This ownership model allows employees to benefit directly from the success of the business and it motivates us to do our best work, drive our development, and create value for customers, partners and other stakeholders. This sets the tone for an innovative and collaborative culture. PCL goes above and beyond to support employee growth by offering education, exposure and experience that enhance skills, increase knowledge and improves overall career satisfaction.”
It’s a model that any company can benefit from when it comes to finding and keeping employees.
Carter concludes, “Culture is the heartbeat of your organization and inspires employees to achieve success and reach beyond the status quo. In times of change our purpose of build better futures, together guides our culture and supports our employees with flexibility and resources to manage their lives.”
In the disconnect between labour shortages and unemployment, the key is managing expectations and a paradigm shift on both sides. Employees want a new kind of workplace that provides more work/life balance, as the pandemic demonstrated that WFH and hybrid models are possible in some situations. However, employees are also responsible for identifying their own needs and values, then doing the work to find employers with similar goals and workplaces that are an ideal fit. With great places to work, like PCL, and help for employers and employees, with firms like Svensen Neighbour recruiting, both sides can meet their goals.