Study paints rosy picture for recruiters

‘Dramatic’ drop in number of Canadian employers having trouble filling jobs: Manpower survey

When it comes to talent shortages, Canada has moved into a much stronger position in 2007 and is sitting comfortably compared to many other countries. That’s according to a global survey by staffing firm Manpower that found only 36 per cent of Canadian employers are having difficulty filling positions, almost half of the 66 per cent reported in 2006.

“Quite frankly it looks like a typo, it’s very dramatic,” said Melanie Holmes, vice-president of corporate affairs at Manpower’s international headquarters in Milwaukee.

Impressively, Canada saw the largest drop (30 percentage points) in difficulty filling positions, compared to all other countries. The closest were Germany (down 29 percentage points) and Spain (down 24 percentage points). Countries seeing the greatest jumps in difficulty were New Zealand (up 37 percentage points), Australia (up 29 percentage points), Hong Kong (up 18 percentage points) and Singapore and France (up 10 percentage points).

While Manpower does not have definitive answers as to the “why” behind the findings, Holmes said one possibility is that hiring in general is considerably down in Canada, possibly because the automotive industry and different tiers that supply the auto industry have suffered major setbacks.

Global numbers stable

Globally, the numbers stayed relatively stable, with 40 per cent in 2006 and 41 per cent of employers in 2007 saying they are having difficulty filling positions.

“We attribute that also to a softening in clients hiring new people,” said Holmes. (Manpower surveyed more than 36,000 employers in 27 countries and territories in January 2007.)

Canada fares well in comparison to countries such as Mexico (82 per cent), Australia and Japan (61 per cent), Hong Kong (49 per cent), the United States (41 per cent) and France (40 per cent). However, countries having an easier time finding talent than Canada include China (19 per cent), Ireland (17 per cent) and India (nine per cent).

The numbers vary by industry, but one of the main challenges is demographics, said Holmes.

“The supply of people is shrinking because of retiring baby boomers so the actual raw numbers of warm bodies is shrinking and when you couple that with people having to have the right skill in order to fill a position, it’s the perfect storm.”

Manpower also revealed the top 10 “hot jobs,” meaning those positions expected to be the hardest to fill in 2007. Globally, the number-one job was sales representative, followed by skilled manual trades, technicians, engineers, accountants, labourers, production operators, drivers, management/executives and machinists/operators. Canada also saw shortages in customer service representatives and mechanics.

There are a lot of blue-collar jobs and “that’s good news for that underserved population that might not have the education they need,” said Holmes. However, if people are not going into vocational schools and obtaining apprenticeships and learning the skilled trades, the workforce just won’t get the numbers it needs, she said. That is consistent around the globe, although some countries are faced with higher numbers of senior workers and lower birth rates, adding to the dilemma.

“This dual reality of unemployment and talent scarcity is creating a unique, self-reinforcing cycle and presents governments and employers with a human resources paradox: how to find the right people at the right time in the right place and fill the dearth in the midst of plenty,” said the Manpower white paper, Confronting the Talent Crunch: 2007.

What will happen in the next decade

The paper also takes a look at emerging or existing trends in talent shortages that are likely to intensify over the next decade. In addition to demographic evolution, Manpower cites increasing global competition for customers as emerging economies join the fray; technological progresses that will both eliminate jobs or require jobs with new skills and competencies; and economic development taking place at a different pace in different countries, meaning manufacturing jobs may move out of talent-poor developed countries into lower-wage, emerging economies while fast-rising wages in these recipient economies experience talent shortages.

To deal with the talent crunch, employers can take several steps, either as a quick fix or long-term solution, said Holmes. For one, the private sector and business in general need to develop partnerships with schools to make sure the education system is producing people with the talents needed and “meaningful work-placement opportunities” are provided. Employers should also focus on training and development of existing employees, along with retraining and “reskilling” or “upskilling.”

Another solution is to reach out to under-employed or unemployed people who may have the skills but are ignored, such as single mothers, homeless youth or people with disabilities.

“They may need additional training, but it’s worth spending the resources,” said Holmes.

Employers should also get a good understanding of which employees will be retiring in the near future and, if they are valuable, try to prolong the working life of that person or get a mentorship or partnership going now so when the person does leave, his much-needed skills don’t leave as well, she said.

“HR is no longer a personnel department, they’re a strategic part of business planning now and they have to be,” said Holmes.

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