Strategies for Finding Great Employees

Shawnee Love   •   September 28, 2018

It comes as no surprise that there is a labour shortage in Canada.  This shortage has been obvious to anyone trying to hire employees for the last couple years, and according to a recent study from the BDC, the shortage is here to stay for at least the next decade!!!

That means without a significant market correction (aka recession), the scarcity of good people looking for jobs is going to be with us for at least 10 more years.

I don’t blame you if this news is cause for sober second thought about owning or leading a business because this fact makes growing a company a heck of a lot harder.

I get calls weekly from clients and potential clients telling me how hard it is to find employees and asking for recruiting tips.

First, I commiserate. After all, I live with this reality too when helping clients hire and it is really frustrating to see relatively few good applicants.  Most great employees are already working.  In fact, they are probably overworking and don’t have time to look for a job even if they are unhappy, because their employers can’t find good people to fill jobs either.  Those that are qualified and “on the market” for a new job are often snapped up within a day of coming available courtesy of friends, family and colleagues also looking for great new employees.

Then, I get down to giving advice I hope will help.  Here are the basics:

  1. “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle”-Sun Tzu.  When it comes to the war for talent, the best way to ensure you have enough great people to do the work is to keep the great people you have.  (Next week’s blog will address this in more detail.)
  2. It’s no good to build a well when you are already thirsty.  Begin searching before you need to hire. If you are a growing company, recruiting needs to be a strategic priority.  Its a bit late when you already need somebody, but you can begin sourcing and screening candidates today for the jobs which will open up months down the road.
  3. If you need new people today, you can:
    1. Ensure you are using every possible recruitment method.  Networking, multimedia advertising, reaching out to business contacts, schools, professional associations, friends and family asking for referrals, put out a “Now Hiring” sign, etc.  Ask your employees and customers to help you find great people.
    2. Introduce a lucrative employee referral program.  The harder the job is to fill, the greater the finder’s fee needs to be.  If one of your employee’s social media posts lands you a new employee, pay them for it.
    3. Offer signing bonuses to new employees.  Again, the harder to find, the better the bonus.
    4. Increase wages for the position (beyond what your competitors offer). For this to be effective you must both advertise the higher wages to attract new candidates and ensure your current employees also benefit by their wages increase proportionately.  Beware of this approach because you are stuck with these wages when the market cools down and that can lead to massive burn rates and ultimately layoffs.  Additionally, I have seen situations where revenues from contracts signed long ago aren’t enough to cover the wages of the employees hired to fulfill the projects.  Clearly this isn’t sustainable in the long run.
    5. Consider hiring freelance or temporary help.  As noted, many employers getting current employees to work more hours to cover for the labour shortage.  Burnout ensues if this continues too long, so it is worth considering early on.
    6. Hire a headhunter.  Very expensive but worth it if they can bring you a candidate your recruiting methods aren’t accessing.  A headhunter is an expert sleuth who goes hunting for individuals to fill the role and fit the company.  This takes time of course but for specialized jobs they can be worth every penny.
    7. Reach out to past applicants and past employees. You never know if they are looking or know someone who is.
    8. Contact organizations with similar types of jobs who aren’t in competition to see if there is any way to share.  Clearly this doesn’t work if you are going full tilt and can’t spare anyone.  However, if your industry is cyclical or seasonal, offering your employees, i.e., on secondment to another employer in return for the same treatment in their slow period can be effective.  Think golf courses and ski hills for example.

We hope these strategies and tactics help your company thrive in today’s labour shortage.  We will have more on winning the war for talent in the coming weeks.