How to attract, engage and retain talent

Home BlogHow to attract, engage and retain talent

When we share about labour shortages and challenges, employers (leaders and managers within organizations, small business owners, and/or HR personnel) often ask, “What can we do about this?”

As we’re hopeful that a better understanding of the problem will lead to better solutions, let’s start by examining labour market dynamics. We recommend employers to first learn about our current workforce (job seekers and employees) – Who are they? What makes them tick? Then, adapt and generate talent acquisition and retention strategies to meet the workforce where it’s at.

Why are there labour shortages? 

There are two major factors leading to shortages right now: 
One, our workforce is aging out (Figure A details how Niagara’s population is changing) and, 
Two, our emerging workforce has increasingly diversified work options – thanks to globalization, the rise of technology and the Gig Economy – and is re-evaluating work and life priorities balance like never before (read: The Great Resignation).

Figure A. Niagara’s Population by Age. Sources: Statistics Canada. 2022. (table).

Recommendations for employers:

  • Understand the needs and values of key workforce segments 
    Much of our research this year is focused on understanding what job seekers and employees want from local employers. Specifically, we’re seeking to understand the perspectives of youth, women and immigrants better (see Additional Insights below for more). 
    For example, as younger generations are prioritizing mental health, it is becoming the norm for employee benefits (e.g., psycho-social support and programming) and policies (vacation, disconnecting-from-work, absenteeism, etc.) to center wellness and, then, serve as attraction and retention strategies. 
  • Compensate competitively and creatively 
    We’re seeing local employers extend their wage comparisons to Toronto and other labour markets as, in many cases, geographic boundaries are becoming less significant (e.g., remote working; between April 2020 and June 2021, approximately 37% of workers living in Hamilton-Niagara were in jobs that allowed them to work from home).  

    We’re also hearing of employee perks that include stipends for fitness clubs and equipment, housekeeping, home Wi-Fi and office furniture (particularly for those working from home). 
  • Design for flexible work  
    Research throughout the pandemic suggests that flexible work can boost productivity and employee wellbeing. These findings now beg us to question: How much work can be done flexibly (e.g., not limited to the hours of 9-5 in a 40-hour workweek; remote from home or anywhere; in a hybrid working model – sometimes in office and other times remote; strengths-based, self-managed teams in project-based work)? And, what systems should we put in place to support flexible work? 
    Approximately 40% of work can be done remotely and the remaining work needs to be specific to a geographical “place”. And, yet, we’re seeing some employers getting creative with facilitating remote work/learning benefits even for place-based workers (e.g., allocating 10-15 workdays per year that affords employees to experience their work outside their place of work). 
  • If telecommuting is not an option 
    If work is place-based or “in place”, consider other ways to minimize barriers for workers to access your workplace and thrive at work (e.g., housing and food security). 
    Affordable housing is a real and significant issue in Niagara and it might be preventing people who want to work with you from doing so. Is it possible to include transportation costs as an employee benefit? Consider acquiring/developing staff housing? Coordinating and/or (co-)paying for daily, healthy meals at work could help to alleviate food insecurity, which many Niagarans face.  
  • Lead people to bring their best to work 
    Humans are social, emotional beings. Feeling good about our work can contribute greatly to our overall sense of wellbeing and that gets translated positively back into our work. When we feel that our work is meaningful, we feel more devoted to it. When we feel dignified and respected at work, we feel valued and included as a member of our workplace community. Employers who lead and model this gain trust, and develop belonging, loyalty and devotion from staff.   
  • Communicate the Employee Value Proposition 
    Be explicit about the positive aspects of working for your organization (pertaining to any of the above) and try to tailor communications to the workforce segment.  

    For example, if efforts are geared towards recruiting immigrants and newcomers, consider giving prospective applicants insights into the following: Do you promote diverse hires? Will you help employees’ family members to relocate and settle (e.g., help spouse to find employment)? Which languages are spoken by coworkers/managers? 

    General tips for crafting talent attraction strategies (from career opportunity pages to interview process): 
    – post the salary directly in the ad; inclusion of salaries/wages in job posts is valuable to over 65% of job seekers 
    – include current employee testimonials and/or invite candidates to spend time with employees to help them experience your work culture firsthand 
    – invite applicants to interview YOU! In a “job seekers market”, prospective employees need to know why they should choose you over the myriad of options out there right now.

Additional Insights 

Figure A. Niagara’s Population by Age. Sources: Statistics Canada. 2022. (table). Profile. 2021 Census of Population. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-316-X2021001. Ottawa. Released April 27, 2022. Available here. Statistics Canada. 2017. Niagara, RM [Census division], Ontario and Ontario [Province] (table). Census Profile. 2016 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-316-X2016001. Ottawa. Released November 29, 2017. Available here  

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