It’s estimated that there are currently as many as one million job vacancies across Canada spanning across many sectors including healthcare, manufacturing, construction, food services and retail.
Coupled with other pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic, an aging working population and young people delaying launching their careers, small- to medium-sized businesses have found themselves competing in a war for talent to not only hire but retain employees in Canada.
A recent panel discussion at the Canada 360° Economic Summit moderated by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce explored how employers can use untapped talent to help their businesses not only survive, but thrive while fostering inclusive economic growth for all Canadians.
Embracing an inclusive approach to hiring and retaining talent will help small- and medium-sized business owners acquire the employees they need by tapping into talent pools that have been overlooked in the past, says Mark Patterson, the executive director of the social innovation platform Magnet.
“COVID has highlighted a lot of the challenges that have existed before,” he said during the discussion in early February.
“It’s created a lot of opportunities… (of) thinking differently and being agile.”
One example, he notes, is that currently there are more than 550,000 people who are on disability income support across Canada, with an estimated half of whom hold post-secondary degrees.
If employers are successful at tapping into this group, either through recruitment, upskilling or reskilling, then it would not only help solve hiring woes but also support the economy with savings of up to $6 billion a year.
“As the economy continues to recover, the pressure on employers is just going to intensify,” said Laura Didyk from Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).
“It’s important that all companies look at this and address this.”
One way of doing this is by increasing diversity, which will attract more candidates.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are often rated high priorities for young job seekers and new Canadians and it’s “something that has to happen” if businesses want to attract and retain talent, she added.
Employers need to foster a welcoming and safe environment that measures diversity initiatives, develop an actionable plan and be committed and accountable at the management level.
“It starts from the inside,” she said.
At BDC, some of the measures taken include the implementation of an annual company-wide survey on DEI, annual listening circles that specially raises these issues, required workshops for all staff on topics such as Indigenous history and being an ally in an anti-racist workplace.
Watch the full recording below: