Canada’s job market remains exceptionally tight: The country’s unemployment rate is at an historic low, job vacancies are high (employers looked to fill more than one million jobs in July, according to Statistics Canada) and finding strong candidates is incredibly difficult. We recently spoke with Veronica Frisch, executive vice-president and head of Randstad Sourceright Canada – a firm offering staffing, recruitment, outsourcing, consulting and workforce management solutions – about what it takes to win the war on talent. (Hint: it takes more than just dental benefits!)
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Employees have the upper hand in a hot job market. How should companies rethink how they hire, attract and engage both full- and part-time staff?
Where organizations are going to make a difference is where they start to invest in people through re-skilling, up-skilling, showing them a path forward in their career and [providing] opportunities to grow within the organization. Think about the benefits packages in a different way – not the standard, “Here’s your dental, here’s your vision, here’s your two weeks off.” That’s just table stakes. Get creative about what you’re offering employees [because] that’s how you’re going to retain them
What perks are employees seeking?
It used to be dental, vision; now it’s about access to mental health, not just awareness and training, but actually having the benefit to seek out additional help. Think about how many people lost loved ones through COVID. Think about how many people found themselves having to stay home and care for somebody else. What do they need? They want things like life insurance. They want things like RSPs. They want things like profit sharing. They want things that are going to impact their life. They want support for their aging parents. Also, ask them. See what matters to them and then try to embed that.
What should companies consider when developing a talent acquisition strategy?
The talent acquisition strategy has to be reflective of the problems and the nuances that you’re facing. It will change again, so be adaptable and flexible in your strategy. It also needs to be people focused. Where are we going to find our people? How many people do we need? How do we avoid the burnout? And how do we continue to attract talent, but then use our own workforce to fill the spots of the future within our organizations.
A lot of companies talk the talk, but they’re out of touch with the true impacts of what’s going on in the market. They think, “Oh, we don’t have to increase our rates. We don’t have to increase our benefits packages.” Well, you do. If you want to be competitive in the workforce, and you want to attract talent, you need to consider those things.
What about companies with front-line staff?
Listen to them, hear what they want, understand what their needs are and understand they go above and beyond. They don’t have that privilege to work from home, so incentivize them and reward them and let them know they’re being heard, too, and that their voice counts and their work counts in the overall output of an organization.
Employee expectations have changed thanks to the pandemic; no longer wanting to commute, taking back more of their personal life and finding that work-life balance.
How should companies rebalance their expectations and priorities to match this new expectation?
That new expectation of having flexibility and being able to work remotely isn’t going away. One thing COVID taught us is that we need to be more flexible and agile in that space. So, where employees were commuting before and they were spending long hours in the office and then getting home to their office, no longer is it just a perk to work remotely, but it is a necessity and a demand for a lot of people.
Companies have to be prepared to handle a hybrid work environment or a permanently remote work environment. But, they've also got to meet the employees where they are, which means keeping them engaged with the rest of the business or with the rest of their colleagues, offering them flexibility through things like shifts, compressed workweeks or schedules. So there's a lot of different things that I think companies have to do in this new world of work in order to meet the employees where they are these days.
How do you maintain or inspire creativity in a hybrid work environment?
The use of things like technology platforms, video conferencing, hybrid setups within the office, where you've got some people in the office and you've got some people virtual, absolutely needs to be a necessity. I think when we just leave people working alone; they miss the social element. They miss that interaction with their colleagues and that opportunity to learn from their expertise.
How does this apply to front-line staff?
In those cases, I think you need to show more flexibility in terms of the overall shifts, or some type of hybrid that gives people the opportunity to do something a little bit differently than they normally would – maybe it's job sharing, maybe it's shift sharing, maybe it's trade-offs of shifts.
People have unique and individual circumstances. Some people have aging parents at home. They've got kids at home. Allowing them some flexibility and finding a way to meet them where those needs are.
Skilled talent is in high demand and in short supply. As this shortage continues, how can companies thrive when there are more jobs than people to fill them?
Automation and technology is going to be a big part of the future. We need to address the population that is still in the workforce and make sure they don't leave the workforce and make sure they feel empowered and like they're part of something meaningful, but we also need to close the gap with automation.
For example, if we can find repeatable tasks that can be done through automation, if we can find different tools and platforms that can make it easier for employees to do their job, I think it makes it a lot easier. Again, companies need to get out ahead. The market is flooded with technologies right now. Some are great, some are not so great but we've got to find ways to make it easier for employees to do [their jobs] so we don't continue to see the exodus that's going on in the market.
Be open to listening to what the workforce is looking for. We need to be ready for the changes happening in the workforce. It’s not a bad change, it really isn’t. It’s about better work-life balance. It’s about feeling better about the organizations that we work for. It’s about having pride in what we do. It gets bumpy along the way, but I think those companies that get people focused faster are going to be the winners at the end of the day
This article was first featured in Canadian Grocer’s September/October issue.