Higher pay, flexible hours and benefits: Employers need to get creative to compete for talent
A year ago, Vancouver resident Steven Dhaliwal was looking for a new job. The sales associate says that back then he was lucky to get a call from potential employers.
“The market was very competitive at the time,” he tells Global News. the new reality. “There were a lot of people looking for work but not so many vacancies. It was really tough.”
Fast forward to today, and the tables have turned.
“Recently, some of the positions I applied for now contacted me to see if I was still interested in pursuing the opportunity,” says Dhaliwal.
His experience is indicative of what recruiters call “a war for talent.” The balance of power has tilted in favor of job seekers. Employers are now pulling out all the stops and it’s not just about better pay anymore, there are some substantial job benefits on offer: work-from-home options, better benefits and a new focus on workplace culture. Even the way companies hire is changing to reflect the new reality.
As a principal investigator in Gartner’s human resources practice, Brian Kropp surveys millions of people and consults with thousands of human resources executives around the world.
“If you look at the data from Canada, there are about a million job openings, as many job openings as there are people looking for work,” he says.
“Employees are in more demand than ever in the tightest job market we’ve seen in 40 or 50 years.”
Canada’s unemployment rate fell to a record low of 5.3 percent in March. There is an exceptionally tight job market, spanning every industry from construction to banking to hospitality.
Flexibility above all
Kropp says that the most surprising change in this job market is the demand for flexible work schedules and hybrid work arrangements. Flexibility isn’t just about where people work, it extends to when they work: earlier starts or days with two- to three-hour midday breaks, even four-day workweeks.
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“The expectation that many employers had in moving to remote work was that we were going to have a lot of people sitting at home, watching TV, taking naps, eating pizza all day and doing nothing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In almost every situation, employee performance stayed the same or improved,” says Kropp.
Hybrid or remote work model failures are often a performance management issue, according to their findings.
Isabella Munro is Dhaliwal’s colleague at Wesgroup Properties. Although she likes having the option to work from home on occasion, she says that she is very glad to be back in the office. She likes “the idea of working from home,” but she finds it more difficult and time-consuming to complete tasks that require the participation of co-workers.
Now that he’s back in the Vancouver office most days, he appreciates the corporate culture his company offers.
“I think personally for the job, it’s never been a drop-in, drop-out type of job. But even more so now I want a community and I want a good culture in the company I work for, which is not just work, but also outside of work.”
Alisha Scichilone is Vice President of People and Culture for Wesgroup and has 24 years of human resources experience.
“I think good talent has their choice in terms of their employer, and we’re well aware of that.”
One of the benefits Munro can now use in his new job is part of the company’s health and wellness benefits.
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“We offer fitness programs twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday. Employees can go together and work out at a local gym, and that’s paid for by Wesgroup, and we also offer discounts at local gyms and personal training. And if employees complete 20 workouts, they get a free day off,” says Scichilone.
“It’s a great way to go out with my colleagues, work up a sweat, release energy, and then come back to the office with a fresh mind,” says Munro. “Mental health and wellness are really important.”
The pandemic and resulting labor shortages have prompted Scotiabank, one of the country’s so-called Big Five banks, to change the way it hires. More recently, that includes stripping resumes from many entry-level positions in Canada and the US to identify candidates who may have previously gone unnoticed.
“It’s about opening the door in terms of numbers of people and also types of backgrounds or profiles. It’s been an incredible journey where traditional hiring or traditional views of talent just aren’t enough,” says James Spearing, vice president of global talent acquisition at Scotiabank.
According to Spearing, the number of job postings nationwide on the job site Indeed increased 60 percent. Limit that to banking and technology and the increase is 120 percent from 2019.
In an effort to reach a broader pool of talent, Scotiabank partnered with Plum, the Waterloo, Ontario-based recruiting firm.
“The data we’re evaluating can’t be pulled from a resume, it can’t be found passively online,” says Caitlin MacGregor, CEO and co-founder of Plum. “You really need people to complete a 25-minute assessment and we measure their problem-solving ability. We measure their social intelligence and their personality in a way that they can’t fake or play.”
Instead of focusing on things like education types and previous internships, Spearing says Plum identifies the “level of talent” as well as the “skills and traits that will prepare people for the future.”
MacGregor says it’s about quantifying human potential.
“It’s about understanding what drives someone and gives them a sense of self-worth and, on the other hand, what drains them and eventually leads to burnout.”
This recruiting solution, used by Scotiabank, seeks to identify “innate talents”, such as the ability to innovate, communicate and work well in a team. MacGregor says this is key to matching hires to the roles that are likely to fill them and seeing them perform at a higher level.
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Another new hiring practice during the COVID-19 era is the need for speed when it comes to job postings. Spears says that extending a job offer within a week or even “on the spot” after the interview process has become common. She has also quickly tracked start dates.
“Traditionally, you wouldn’t have to worry as much about that period between accepting the offer and the start date. But now you do it because people don’t accept the offers and aren’t as worried as they used to be,” he says.
Value employees as people, not just as workers
A job that fits well is only part of the solution. Employees also need to feel appreciated, respected and understood.
“One of the most important things for me when looking for a new job is having an employer that really recognizes my hard work. I am very happy to work hours, but I would like to be recognized,” says Munro.
Kropp says it’s one of the most important things the pandemic has taught us.
“We don’t have workers working for us. We have human beings who have real lives, real jobs, real concerns, real families, real problems that are impacting them. And the best organizations realize that if you treat your employees like people, not workers, you not only get higher-performing employees who are more likely to stay, but it’s also the right thing to do.”
Only one question remains: Will the shift to accommodate workers in ways like hybrid work hold? Kropp thinks so.
“I think this is a change that is permanent, not temporary in the sense that the world we are entering will be hybrid and remote for as long as the eye can see right now.”
And companies that add to the needs of their employees will not only have happier workers, they will also be more successful.
Employees like Dhaliwal echo that sentiment.
“Before the pandemic, you were happy to get any possible job offer. But now, you can definitely look for the best option and be more selective about what you are looking for in a job, in a career and what will make you happier.”
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