Janet Tobin
Janet Tobin, Director of Marketing & Communications

Five years ago the demographically induced labour market shortage was just a theory no one wanted to acknowledge. Two years ago it became obvious that the demographic crunch retiring baby boomers were about to create was right around the corner. One year ago it was on our doorstep and the awareness of the affect of an aging and shrinking population on the labour market was widespread. Today the shortage of labour and of particular skill sets are being felt across the region and cannot be ignored.

From our perspective we need to stop talking about the upcoming labour war for talent – it has begun. We now need to focus our attention on finding our competitive advantage and turn our attention to how to win the war.

As last month’s issue of Business Voice outlined, winning the war for talent means becoming an employer of choice. This may sound easy, a build it and they will come sort of scenario, but becoming an employer of choice involves many layers, and not all employees want the same things. Segmented by age, skills, gender, culture and even geography, what the employer needs to offer employees will vary even within the same workplace. And while not everything we outlined will work for every organization, it is important to find the right balance to ensure that your organization stands out as a desirable place to work.

This is an issue we know is increasingly important to our members who are feeling the effects of the crunch, and has had an impact on us.  The Chamber recently advertised for two positions: one in sales and one in marketing and PR. Finding people to fill these positions should be no problem at all, particularly the communications position – we seem to have more marketing and PR people in Halifax than any other city in Canada. But this was definitely not the case this time around; a job posting that would typically bring in well over 150 applicants had about half that with a smaller proportion than usual being potential superstars.

Even those at the top of the heap were quickly snapped up buy their existing, sometimes casual employers, who were offering wage rates way above what small business is capable of paying, and often by government, a sector we never thought we were competing with.  When we realized that we were now competing with an entity as large as government, the new wage leader, we knew that we needed to haul out our “weapons of mass employment”, and while we may not be able to compete on wages, we do have a trick up our sleeves – the total compensation package.

Good news for us, in today’s labour market, employees are looking for more than just a high wage; they want an employment package that balances salary with a fun & cool corporate culture, flexible hours, benefits and professional and personal development.  And I am happy to report that we have won our battle and hired two exceptional young people and we look forward to introducing you to them soon!