How To Win At Hiring In A Tight Labour Market

It’s never been more challenging to find good employees than it is in today’s booming economy. In BC, we are enjoying a 5.1 percent unemployment rate, which drops to 4.6 percent in the capital city of Victoria making it by definition a full employment labour market.

On September 13, the job site Indeed was advertising 2,788 jobs on Vancouver Island, and Craigslist showed 1,344 in Victoria and 894 in Nanaimo. The most advertised jobs in BC were Retail sales, banking, insurance and other financial clerks, cashiers, grocery clerk and carpenters. Shortages are seen in construction, cooks and kitchen staff, education, shipbuilding, health care and high tech. This equates to 4.7 jobs for every 1,000 people.

Labour shortages are evident across the board, so employers are competing with all industries to hire staff. We’ve heard stories of cooks taking off their aprons, putting on steel toe boots and going to work in construction for higher wages. So how can employers find  and retain  great staff?

To begin with, how you recruit is more important than ever. Most job seekers are going online with their job searches, using both job search sites and social media. Employers have a great opportunity to show who they are on their websites and in their employer branding.

Consider this:

  • 69 % of candidates are likely to apply if an employer manages their brand (Glassdoor survey)
  • 76% want details on what makes the company a great place to work (Glassdoor survey)
  • 69% would not take a job with a company with bad reputation (Corporate Responsibility Magazine, Allegis Group Services)
  • 84% would consider leaving to go to another company with an excellent reputation.

Tell your story

On your website, tell your story: who you are and what you stand for, and evoke some emotion. As the above stats show, who you are matters, and we see that everyday amongst our clients, both employers and job seekers. Share your vision, what makes your company unique, and your values and culture. Talk about career opportunites and successes within your team. Help job seekers picture themselves on your team.

That’s what Marriott Hotels did when they launched the #PictureYourselfHere campaign. They took job
seekers behind the scenes into one of their kitchens. Do Marriott chefs spend their time tossing peppers about? Likely not, but the message is that they love playing with food and creating great experiences for their guests  and their staff.

How many of us wanted to be a police officer or a firefighter when we grew up? The City of Surrey, UK was banking on those memories with its “What do you want to be when you grow up?” ads.

The Lego® figure is a great touch to bring back that sense of childhood imagination. These ads evoke emotion, appealing to our sense of fun, joy and hopefully fulfilled dreams!

A recruitment study by Deloitte found that company websites drive more hires than other source, followed by job boards and internal candidates. With increasing numbers of Millennials (who are now outnumbering Boomers in the workplace) in the workforce, online recruitment will continue to grow.

The new workforce: Millennials

Millennials will dominate the workforce by 2025. They are often relationship-based people and rely on their friends and families for advice and referrals. Millennials want to know the details about positions, work environment, people they will be working with and if there’s an opportunity to learn. They are communicating by social media, so be in their space to get their attention.  Which makes sense, because here’s what we know about Millennials:

  • 70 % of Millennials (ages 18-34) hear about companies through friends and online job boards
  • 73% of Millennials are hired through social media
  • 83% of job seekers are on Facebook, 36% on LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn has 119 million users in North America
  • 79% of job seekers use social media in their job search (SHRM).

Mobile recruiting 

With almost 50 percent of job seekers using mobile devices for job search, employers must ensure their websites are optimized for mobile use. While you’re reviewing your online presence, we also recommend checking out your Glassdoor rating. This site features current and past-employee reviews of your company. Recent surveys show that just over half of job seekers read company reviews from their employees. You may be in for some surprises, but then you will at least know what to work on.


Reasons employees leave are for a better work/life balance, to work at better locations. have a shorter commute, or because the job isn’t what they expected. Potential for advancement and compensation play into employee turnover as well.

Some of the things that cause employees to leave can be  easy to fix, especially if you look at the price of doing nothing. The cost of turnover, recruitment, onboarding and training, loss of knowledge, business interruption and lost efficiency are very high. Some estimates are as high as $65,000 per employee over the cost of the year it takes for the new person to be completely productive. Suddenly, a few extra days of vacation and other compensation adjustments sound much more affordable.

Today’s workforce also looks at benefits in a different way then what has been the traditional benefit plan. They prefer flexible and individualized benefits, for example spending accounts rather than predetermined limits per benefit or service. And when it comes to annual reviews, rather than holding a formal performance review once a year, employees are looking for more immediate feedback, say quarterly sessions, and to be assessed on how they contribute to the team and others’ successes.

Being an employer of choice is the only way to win at hiring in this tight labour market. Forget the normal  experiment, have fun, be creative and venture out on a limb!

What are some ways you attract and keep employees? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Christine Willow is a partner in Chemistry Consulting and co-owner of GT Hiring Solutions.

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