Finding, keeping workers a trial: Report

Effective hiring, employee engagement key in recruitment-retention cycle
By Marcel Vander Wier
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/28/2016

Canadian employers continue to grapple with the challenge of retaining and attracting valuable employees — one-half have trouble attracting employees in key workforce segments, according to surveys by Willis Towers Watson.

And one in four Canadians are intending to leave their current position within the next two years, found the surveys of 1,003 workers and 88 employers.

Changes in expectations

As technological advances and the shift in employee demographics rapidly reshape Canadian workplaces, expectations of prospective job candidates are changing, too.

“Employees are looking for more than a job,” said France Dufresne, head of talent and communication business at Willis Towers Watson in Montreal.

“They expect a personalized work experience aligned with their values and preferences.”

 While lower-skilled workers may continue to struggle to find work, companies have much more difficulty attracting top-end talent due to fierce competition, said Dufresne.

“Critical skills are in demand and maybe not as much in supply,” she said. “High-performing employees and high-potential (employees) are even more important, and they know their value, so they can make choices.”

Retaining employees is not as much a challenge — with the exception of critical skills because they are in short supply, said Dufresne.

“There is more of a challenge with attraction. More and more talent wants an individual response to their own experience as an employee. It’s a never-ending challenge, but never exactly for the same reasons.”

Outside of that candidate group, however, companies remain in the driver’s seat, she said.

“The economy makes many workers in the world and Canada prudent in changing jobs, so that’s helping retention.”

Attracting top talent difficult

If someone is out of work or desperate to find something because she’s in the wrong role, the leverage moves to the organization and the hiring manager, said Neale Harrison, CEO at Talent Matters in Toronto.

“Those who are confident — typically — are passive candidates. They have a good sense of what they can do in terms of creating value and what they can do in terms of creating value and what they need from organizations.”

Only 20 per cent of the working population fits that category, said Harrison.

When it comes to recruitment process, “top talent always has the advantage,” said Jeremy Tiffin, president of Horizon Recruitment in Vancouver, likening the situation to free agency in sports.

“Top players in any professional sports league are always sought after. Any team would take them,” he said.

“And those that are on the cusp on the bottom line? The team has the advantage. There’s a point in that continuum where it shifts to one party or the other.”

Effective hiring needed

Organizations need to take a longer look at their hiring processes in order to secure the correct talent, said Harrison. More time needs to be spent mulling over how individual candidates will fit with specific business leaders, as well as how well their personal career goals fit with a particular company.

“Take the time to really make sure you’re hiring effectively,” he said. “It’s about understanding what the organization, function, leader needs, understanding the leader and what can that leader offer? Really push candidates to provide checklists because if you’re not getting it, you’re buying something with a big question mark.”

People quit their managers, he said.

“I’ve seen a lot of leaders mis-hire or not take the time to really do the due diligence around hiring for what they need in the near-term. There’s not as much emphasis placed on fit with the leader of the business and truly getting to the bottom of what a candidate is looking for in terms of that next opportunity, beyond the foundational pieces being met.”

“People hire a candidate into a role,” said Harrison. “They think they’re a high performer. They come with the right credentials. But, very quickly, there could be a mismatch between what the manager and leader requires and expects from a behaviour or a mandate, and what that candidate truly desires.”

Human resources professionals or hiring managers need to inquire about candidates’ specific career goals, understanding that all potential employees will put on their “best face” throughout the interview process.

“Realistically, if there’s only selling and no questioning around ‘This is what I need from a team, my peer group, a leader in the business,’ then all you’re getting is someone who’s desperately trying to portray themselves as the right candidate versus being true to themselves.”

Many organizations have significant leakage in their recruitment experience, according to Tiffin.

“Organizations are spending a lot of money on their corporate career site. They’re going to career fairs. They’re investing in blasting messages out on social,” he said.

“That’s all good, appropriate and necessary, but then when you, as an individual, experience what it’s like to work with or interact with that organization, in many cases it all falls apart.”

There have been significant shifts in the way business is done, with technology, big data and social, said Tiffin.

“Many businesses and people haven’t really been able to keep up,” he said.

“That gap of individuals who understand where business and industry is going — that gap between those who have those skills and those who don’t — is just widening. And so the demand for people who understand some of these things is increasing, and those people are being bombarded with messages from competitive industries, sectors, employers.”

Workplace demographics are also changing, said Tiffin.

“By the time 2020 rolls around, it will be the first time in history that we’ve had five generations active in the workforce. That means grandpa is working right next to grandson. Because people are working longer, the impact that has on the hiring process and how organizations need to be able to communicate to their stakeholders and people that are potentially going to work for their organizations is becoming more and more complex. How do you appeal to the older generation, the newer generation and everything in between?

“Does one message cut it? I don’t think it does. I think that’s something a lot of organizations are grappling with and may not even necessarily be conscious of.”

Long-term no longer the norm

Alongside transparency in the recruitment process, companies should not surmise they are hiring an employee-for-life, said Harrison.

“If you’re getting three years out of an employee, consider yourself fortunate,” he said.

Companies should be hiring with the notion that they will likely get 24 to 36 months’ service from an employee before they are no longer able to give what is needed from a mandate or leadership-style standpoint, said Harrison.

His comments follow those of Canada’s federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who called on Canadians to get used to “job churn,” and said high employee turnover and short-term contract work would continue in young people’s lives, according to media reports.

“How do we train and retrain people as they move from job to job?” he said. “Because it’s going to happen. We have to accept that.”

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