Top talent getting harder to find: Survey

Nearly one-half of small businesses anticipating labour shortage

When it comes to seeking out and securing great staff, 69 per cent of Canadian small business owners are confident in their ability to attract and keep good employees. However, when hiring, 11 per cent of these owners never find the right person and 28 per cent had the job open for up to three months before finding the appropriate candidate, according to a survey by American Express.

Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of small business owners believe it is getting harder to find good employees and 64 per cent believe the demands of today's job applicants exceed their qualifications. Most (84 per cent) small business owners believe they keep their best and brightest employees but fewer (64 per cent) say they consistently hire the best and brightest in their industry.

In fact, only 11 per cent of the 520 respondents strongly agreed they were able to do so, found the quarterly American Express Small Business Monitor.

With much of the baby boomer generation set to retire, 46 per cent of small business owners anticipate a shortage of qualified job applicants in the coming years. A further 32 per cent are concerned about the impact this will have on their operations and 23 per cent expect to replace a significant proportion of employees during this time frame.

Nearly two-fifths (39 per cent) of respondents believe it will be difficult to replace retiring employees. Despite this, 69 per cent haven't put a plan in place to deal with the impending issue, such as modifying employment practices or offering incentives to employees to stay on after retirement age.

"Strong talent is the cornerstone of good business, especially small business, where the right people can mean the difference between a loyal customer and high turnover," said Abhijeet Rege, director of small business services at American Express Canada. "Businesses should start looking to the future by thinking about the void that will be left as skilled workers start to exit these higher-level positions."

Money isn't everything

When asked about what incentives were most effective for small businesses looking to attract or retain staff, flexible hours were on equal footing as higher pay — with 72 per cent of respondents ranking each as effective. Other top perks include: having a dynamic business culture (62 per cent), offering share or stock options (61 per cent) and better health benefits (54 per cent).

"We've seen changes in the way people are approaching their careers today, as people become more lifestyle-oriented they are seeking improved work-life rhythm," said Rege. "The biggest draw of working for a small business is job independence and flexibility. And while money remains important, business owners realize it isn't the only factor to attracting and retaining top talent."

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