By Martin Parnell
I have just returned from a trip to Ontario and, whilst waiting for my flight to leave Sudbury airport, I picked up a copy of Northern Ontario Business.
In it, I read an article by Lindsay Kelly, entitled Employer toolkit promotes hiring by design and subtitled Recommendations to aid Timmins employers close labour gaps. Kelly reports that “The Timmins Employer Council has published a new guide to help local employers find and keep workers.”
I found the piece very interesting as the report addresses issues relating to the recruitment and retention of employees. Launched in May 2019, the Employer Toolkit outlines strategies employers can use to help close a widening labour gap.
Apparently, “Statistics show attracting and retaining workers is a growing problem in the area. According to a 2018 report published by the Far North East Training Board, 40 per cent of Timmins’ current workforce will retire in the next decade.”
Although the report focuses on the problems employers are experiencing in this area of Ontario, I know there are other communities where the same problems arise. Therefore, I thought I would share the rest of the article with you.
Council co-chair Mike Resetar said there aren’t enough workers to fill current gaps, and businesses are struggling to expand because they don’t have the staff required.
“We’ve been seeing it over a few years with the number of retirements that were happening, and we were quite alarmed when we saw what the statistics were,” said Resetar, vice-president of human resources at the Timmins District Hospital.
“We’re looking at 1,100 workers leaving the workforce, so in order to maintain current productivity or service, that’s a lot of workers that need to be replaced.”
Jessica West, project coordinator, said that successful employers are seeking workers from diverse groups, including Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, newcomers and young workers.
“The general public, or many employers, may not realize how valuable these employees can be,” West said. “They shy away from targeting or attracting these groups, when they’re really valuable employees and they have great things to bring to the table.” There are sections of the toolkit dedicated to each demographic.
For example, hiring Indigenous people can mean lower recruiting costs because workers already live in the community and are likely to remain long term, the toolkit suggests. Having a more diverse workplace can also help create an inclusive community and bridge cultural gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations.
To make a workplace more attractive to Indigenous workers, the toolkit suggests implementing meaningful inclusion practices, training staff on cultural awareness, encouraging Indigenous employees to take on senior roles, and understanding traditional practices and community obligations.
Resetar said it really comes down to employers shifting their mindset during the hiring process.
“We always want the perfect candidate with the five to 10 years’ experience,” he said. “Maybe look at individuals with not as much experience and invest those monies in terms of training them on the job.”
Though the toolkit is still newly released, Noella Rinaldo, council co-chair, said what’s most important is the community is now aware of the issue.
“I think there needed to be a realization of the problem first,” said Rinaldo, executive director of the Downtown Timmins Business Improvement Association. “I think people were in the trenches and they weren’t taking a breath to kind of look at the big picture.”
The hope is that now that people are aware of the issue, they will start to change their approach to hiring and work a little differently, she said. “We’re dealing with different age groups and they all have something that makes them tick and makes them want to stay,” Rinaldo said.
As a follow-up to the toolkit, the Timmins Employer Council is in the process of forming a task force, which will plan and implement city-wide projects to attract and retain a more diversified workforce. “It’s already attracted representatives from 38 groups, and new members continue to come on board.”
According to the article, the group’s first task came on June 25 when it met to develop a community-based labour force attraction and retention strategy.
If you are having problems recruiting new employees, it’s worth thinking about some of the comments made and one in particular by Noella Rinaldo: “You have to be very flexible. You can’t be a one-trick pony; you can’t do just one thing. You have to be able to work with every employee that’s there.”