How to Survive a Tight Labour Market

naomi-main By Naomi Dunaway
Published: July 29, 2015



Companies are struggling to find enough employees to keep up with business as Squamish sees an expansion in population and tourism growth.
It’s a domino effect. As business owners scramble to keep up with the demand of their growing businesses, quality declines, stress rises, staff burn out, and people leave. Now you have a recruitment problem and a retention problem. At the end of the day, business suffers, and so do the people involved.
A sizeable portion of our local labour force is either not sticking around because of housing unaffordability, or they are seeking higher-paying jobs in Vancouver or Whistler that make commuting worthwhile. The result: We are seeing a highly competitive labour market where businesses need to get creative in attracting employees with the same enthusiasm and creativity that they attract customers. Companies spend a lot of time and resources marketing their service or product. However, many business owners do not recognize the value in investing time and resources in the staff that contribute to their success.
This is not only a local problem. According to a labour market conference I attended in the Fall, a tight labour market is expected in BC from 2019-2022. A million new job openings are projected by 2020, yet the demand for workers is expected to outpace the supply in 2019. The largest volume of job openings projected are for retail salespersons and managers, administrative and regulatory occupations, cleaners, kitchen help, and cashiers. If you have difficulty finding people for these positions now, wait another five years. If you’re in hospitality and tourism, be warned. It’s going to get harder.
So how do businesses attract and retain the right employees? One thing’s for sure: We can’t keep doing what we’re doing. Demographics are changing. The workforce is a very different group than it was 10 years ago. To find the right staff, creative approaches are needed. It’s time to think outside the box.
Many preconceptions and hangups may be holding us back. Ageism, for example, is rampant in our hyperactive adventure town. Are you overlooking qualified candidates because of their age? Mature workers tend to be loyal with a strong work ethic, take the same amount of health days as younger workers, and can offer valuable mentorship for new workers. Do you struggle to understand how to work with the millennial generation (i.e. the youth)? Search ‘multi-generational workforce’ on the Internet, and you will find a plethora of resources to learn how to manage the new workforce dynamics. You may be losing the experience and skills of parents because of inflexible schedules. Or missing out on the talents of new parents choosing not to re-enter the workforce because of daycare costs. Why not offer a daycare subsidy plan as part of the benefits package?
Get creative with compensation and perks. For example, a local cleaning company has arranged for employee discounts for dental work through one of the dental offices they clean. This company has a low turnover rate and many of their employees have been with them for over five years. Can’t afford higher wages for your staff? Let me ask a different question: can your business afford the current cost of turnover? A couple of extra bucks an hour to make a liveable difference for a valued employee is far less costly than the time, resources, and funds you put into hiring and training a new person over and over again.
I highly recommend the 2015 Summer Labour Market Conference in Vancouver July 30-31. The topic could not be more timely: Employers and the Emerging Labour Market. Find out more at