Workplace debates can be enlightening. I often incite a debate if I’m working on a policy resolution.
It helps test out the recommendations we are considering to put forward to government.
Recently, we had a really good in-depth conversation about workforce. What are the challenges?
Where are all the people? How do we find the right fit for the culture in our offices, shops, factories or farms? How do businesses entice consistent productivity from their employees?
For the sake of context, our Chamber office is made up of three millennials, three Gen-Xers and a Baby Boomer (we even had a good debate about that!). So, this article is through that collaborative lens.
At the Chamber’s Business Summit a few weeks ago, we hosted a panel about workforce based on a BDC report titled "Labour Shortage: Here to Stay". The report identifies that workforce growth has declined since 2000, mainly the result of the large baby boom generation heading to retirement. Although immigration has been identified as one of the ways to grow the workforce, growth rates for workforce are expected to remain below 0.2% for the next decade.
The challenge is that one of the main business classes, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), driving the economy is bearing the brunt of the impact of a smaller workforce. The BDC survey supporting the report found that close to 40% of SMEs are already having difficulty finding new workers. The report goes on to identify that this is impacting those businesses in a variety of ways from unfilled client orders, todeclining competitiveness, and deteriorating product/service quality.
Given the above as the base situation, employers can’t sit back; change is afoot. Embracing change with different hiring strategies, developing a value proposition for employees, new operating strategies, and HR policy development will be important.
The research on workforce is also growing and while the BDC report explores the role of employers, a report by RBC entitled “Humans Wanted: How Canadian youth can thrive in the age of disruption” explores the qualities and opportunities for future generations.
The working definition of a skills economy in the RBC report is “a mobile, skilled workforce, constantly learning, training and upgrading to meet the demands of a changing world.” This is a fulsome
definition, but not prescriptive in how that learning is accomplished, which, I would say, is disruptive in itself. The source of constant education can come through on-the job training, returning to school, or working while upgrading and there are a variety of government and non-government programs to access.
The RBC report identifies ten learnings from their research including grouping jobs into six clusters based on essential skills by occupation rather than by industry. Those six clusters are doers, crafters, technicians, facilitators, providers, and solvers. Within these six clusters, RBC identifies that there will be 2.4 million job openings between 2018 and 2021, so the world is a job-seekers’ oyster.
That said, this new way of identifying how one fits into the workforce is different for both employer and employee. Society is starting to fully emerge from the cocoon of decades of a consistent approach to hiring and job expectations. Now, employees are more outwardly vocal about their workplace ideals and employers are more open to creating a more collaborative culture to keep their employees and their productivity high.
During our office workforce discussion, we came to the conclusion that we have to stop applying stereotypes to paint a generation, whether it be millennial, baby boomer, Gen-Xer or whatever. It’s been a difficult transition with the biggest challenge being how these two ideals are defined – what is a good employee and what is a good job. The definition of these concepts can be very individual by person and by sector.
So, what can be done to avoid being trapped by a loose-fitting definition, whether you are a job-seeker or hiring for a position? Openness to possibilities. As an employee, maybe the job isn’t where you want your working life to end, but what are the qualities that could make it a good place to start? As an employer, maybe the pool of people who have applied are not who you were expecting, but what are the qualities in an
employee that are required and who in the pool has those?
Our workforce and businesses are also not trapped by previously held conventions. Success is not solely determined by the length of time with a company. Loyalty to a company is not automatic, but rather something that a business has to earn. Companies have the ability to truly build and define the culture they want to project. Businesses have the opportunity to be leaders and a voice in the communities in which they operate.
It’s a shift. It’s not wrong or right. It’s just different. It’s innovative. It’s a new way of doing things. And we, collectively, need to figure out how to adapt.
To that end, Si Grobler, Member Relations at the Chamber recently posted this to his LinkedIn profile:
"I have read two articles this past week that got me thinking about what businesses can do to help address their staffing concerns (the most common issue I hear from business owners):
The RBC report wraps up with Six Things You Need to Know about the Future of Work. This is a good list for businesses and workforce.
So let’s get moving on adapting and taking the best advantage of our skills.
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