Desperate times, desperate measures (Web sight)

Employers in hot markets get creative to land talent
By Ann Macaulay
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/17/2006

Employers in hot labour markets are increasing salaries and bonuses, improving benefits packages and hiring from afar. Businesses will likely need to get even more creative to attract, motivate and retain employees in the coming years.

Alberta facing deficit of 100,000 workers

The article “Help Desperately Needed” on the Alberta Venture website looks at the labour shortage in Alberta. The article describes the labour shortage as reaching “a Monty Pythonesque peak of silliness. Every fast food outlet in Calgary now seems to have Help Wanted signs posted on its windows and some firms are offering iPods as a signing bonus. The Real Canadian Superstore, which needs 100 employees in Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie, has offered to pay folks from Halifax full airfare, $2,000 in moving expenses as well as first month’s rent for basic retail positions.” Since it often takes between 12 and 27 weeks to fill a job vacancy in the province’s tourism sector, restaurateurs recruit staff from other countries. The article tells of Edmonton recruiter Eric Germain of IS2 Staffing Services, who was looking for welders and heavy-duty mechanics to work on an oilsands project in Cold Lake. He couldn’t find any in Alberta, then heard of a strike at Teck Cominco’s lead/zinc smelter in Trail, B.C. He approached the United Steelworkers of America union and hired 20 workers who finished the oilsands project, even though they were on strike in another province. As Germain says, “You have to think outside the box in a market this tight in order to find people.”

Buying in a sellers’ market

This Financial Post article, “Tips on how to adjust to ‘sellers market,’” offers ideas for hiring managers and executives during a labour shortage. “Since almost everyone is hiring today, you have to stand out. Upgrade your recruitment ads to make them more relevant, effective and differentiated. Find new locations and new media (podcasts, anyone?) for communicating more directly, and earlier, with candidates and prospects.” If your budget is tight, “appeal to their long-term interests. Structure their compensation packages so they qualify for bonuses after they have stayed a specified time. If they stay at least two years, for instance, they might qualify for a $10,000 bonus. This back-end loading strategy could help you attract people who have been hoping for a higher salary than you can currently justify. Remind them that no boom lasts forever, so why not lock in the benefits now?”

Aggressive recruiting tactics

Philadelphia-based Mindbridge Software has “only one hard, fast rule when it comes to recruiting hot talent: Don’t break the law.” The article “Scenes From the Talent Wars” at says employers are going to greater lengths to attract top talent and asks: “How aggressive are you willing to get?” It cites the example of recruiters from Mindbridge who have poached employees from other companies, even going so far as to wait in the parking garage of a rival’s company to talk to a potential recruit. The company’s COO admits that some potential employees were turned off by the company’s tactics. “Yet for all the ill will that poaching can spawn, aggressive recruiters will always have one thing on their side: human nature. Who doesn’t love to be courted?”

Not just an Alberta issue

While Alberta’s labour shortages have made headlines, “the phenomenon of the short-handed economy is already emerging in pockets across the country, as the national unemployment rate hovers near historical lows,” says this Globe and Mail article, “Plenty of work, not enough bodies.” A Newfoundland pharmacist says job applications for counter staff have dropped by 90 per cent. “In Halifax, the key aerospace and defence industries can’t find tradespeople and are now mentoring high-school girls in the hope that one day they’ll be considered as employers. In Quebec, the biotech industry has resorted to recruiting in France.”

Ann Macaulay is a freelance editor and regular contributor to Canadian HR Reporter. Her Web Sight column appears regularly in the CloseUp section.

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