With nearly one million job vacancies open across Canada, employers are finding themselves in a battle to attract the best and brightest talent to their organizations.
But not all employers can offer in-demand job seekers everything they ask for: higher salaries, better benefits, and more flexible schedules.
Even those that can, are differentiating themselves even further by giving employees an often overlooked incentive: a workplace with social purpose.
At Cheekbone Beauty, founder and CEO Jenn Harper says one way they have been able to lure talent is by being transparent about what the company stands for.
“People take our jobs because they believe in the mission and vision,” she said.
“It’s very clear that the reason they’re working here is because they believe in the empowerment of Indigenous youth, as much as the brand… they’re here because they believe in what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Since its launch in 2016, the St. Catharines, Ont.-based company has donated more than $150,000 to Indigenous youth and women’s organizations and is the first Indigenous-owned brand to partner with beauty retail giant Sephora.
The company is upfront about only using compostable, biodegradable and sometimes plantable materials to package their cosmetics and sources plant-based, vegan and cruelty-free ingredients locally whenever possible.
Harper says all companies should have a “layer of social impact” written into their business plans, but that this should only be done authentically and with transparency.
At Halifax-based marketing and advertising agency WeUsThem, CEO Ashwin Kutty says it was clear to him that companies and organizations related to social causes were not getting the same advertising impact that private corporations were.
And he wanted to change that.
Over the past decade, the now 22-person firm has worked on marketing campaigns to help organizations connected to mental health awareness, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, poverty, homelessness and housing issues.
WeUsThem, which pays competitive industry salaries, is looking to hire two more positions and being able to talk about the content of their work has further helped them with recruitment.
“There is a huge difference that we can make and as a for-profit enterprise, we can actually do (financially) well in supporting these causes,” he said.
“And even though it wouldn’t bring us the bazillions of dollars out there doing for-profit work, it would kind of feed two things, it would feed the soul and feed the pocket.”
Kutty says his hires have told him they wanted to work at the agency because they had personally been touched by the social causes the company raises awareness for.
One employee had a family member who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was motivated to help with that campaign, while another said they learned more about mental health awareness at the agency than at any other time in their life.
Although this type of work can be extremely rewarding, it is not for everyone, Kutty cautioned.
“I warn them that it is very challenging work, and could be emotionally taxing,” he said.
In Toronto, food justice organization FoodShare saw some areas of their work grow exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance, prior to the pandemic, the group was packing 300 produce boxes a week to deliver to clients, and saw that number increase to 3,000 boxes a week when the pandemic started.
In response, it has had to hire quickly, and one way it brought in top talent was by being clear about the organization’s overall mission: “to build a Toronto where everyone can feed themselves, their loved ones and their communities with dignity and joy.”
FoodShare works towards this mission in a variety of areas internally, including by raising the minimum wage to $24 for all employees and publicizing the pay bands for everyone in the organization.
In March, it announced that it was going to start paying interviewees and providing compensation to complete tasks like presentations during the hiring process.
The group also de-biases the hiring process by stripping names, addresses, ages and does not give extra credit to education over demonstrable skills in resumes.
FoodShare director of advocacy and programs Katie German says by being upfront about its values, FoodShare shows prospective and current employees that the organization cares about them as people, and not just as workers.
German says gone are the days where organizations can get away with not putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak.
“The pandemic made people think about where they want to be and what they want to be doing in general,” she said.
German suggests putting in place more compassionate work policies as a good start for employers to show that they care, especially during the pandemic.
These policies can range from allowing workers to choose a four-day work week, not allowing work emails before 9am, after 5pm or during lunch or giving more personal days, she adds.