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A plea (and business case) for the arts

The local culture scene is important for jobseekers, according to a survey


By Todd Humber

When you’re house-hunting, there are always a few “must-haves” — things like a two-car garage, central air and that chef’s kitchen you’ve been salivating over where you can slice and dice garlic to your heart’s content.

But there are other factors that come into play, items on the periphery that have little to do with the actual bricks and mortar or how recently the bathroom was renovated: Location, proximity to good schools, your workplace, recreation, shopping and other amenities.

The same logic holds true when you’re jobseeking. Yes, the job itself is critical — things like salary, responsibilities and the working culture are given make-or-break factors. But a decision to take a job — especially when it comes to moving to another city, province or country — is also heavily influenced by periphery factors that are far beyond management’s control.

One of those factors is the local culture scene, according to a survey of 500 skilled workers and 508 employers in Ontario.

Full disclosure — this survey was commissioned by Business for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and conducted by Nanos. So, yes, be skeptical and take it with a grain of salt if you must. But you can’t argue that the amenities a community offers plays a major role when it comes to making a decision to relocate your family.

So what matters to skilled workers when it comes to making a decision to move for a job? At the top of the list is parks and recreation activities followed closely by proximity to natural environment (sea, mountains and countryside.) Parks and rec are a given in most Canadian communities, and you can’t really control the natural environment — you’re either blessed with a coastline or not.

Next on the list are restaurants and cafes — also a given in this day and age. Who doesn’t love a good patio in the all-too-short Canadian summer?

But dig a little deeper into the wish list and you’ll find game-changing recruitment elements that both communities and businesses can control and influence — things like theatres, plays, concerts, festivals, museums and galleries. Thriving arts and culture scenes are a given in large cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Small to mid-size cities can level the playing field with a little legwork from individuals and investment from local employers. Many employers make funding the local arts scene a priority, but the report tries hard to make a connection to finding talent.

“There is a risk here that businesses do not see the potential to attract skilled workers to their community because they overestimate how well the community provides what skilled workers think is important,” it warns.

It notes that businesses rated sports facilities as more important than any of the culture elements. But sports facilities scored lowest on the scale when it came to what was important to workers, trailing theatres, festivals, concerts and museums and galleries.

It’s a plea from the nerds to not give all the money to the jocks. Or, to put it more eloquently — and I’ll yet again dig into the wisdom of the character of John Keating from the 1989 film Dead Poets Society — “Medicine, law, business, engineering. These are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love. These are what we stay alive for.”

So yes. It’s a biased poll pleading for arts funding. But as an HR and general quality of life strategy, I’m buying it.

Nominations still open for the 2016 National HR Awards

Don’t miss out on the kudos your HR department so badly deserves. There is still a bit of time left to get your nominations in for the 2016 National HR Awards. We are handing out hardware in the following categories:

• Venngo Healthy Workplaces Award

• Queen’s University IRC Professional Development Award

• Best Diversity Program

• Best Recruitment Program

• HR Challenge Award

• Employment Lawyer of the Year, sponsored by Canadian Lawyer magazine

• Employee Engagement Award

• Best Corporate Social Responsibility Program

• Best Recognition Program

• Technology/Innovation Award

• HR Professional of the Year (New for 2016)

• Best Teambuilding Program (New for 2016)


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Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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