Having the right people for the job can make or break a small business. With a smaller team to rely on and fewer resources to devote to hiring, any position unfilled is a strain on productivity. So it’s not surprising that when I speak with business owners, the shortage of qualified labour is one of their most pressing concerns.
In fact, the shortage of skilled labour is the top factor limiting businesses’ sales and production growth, according to CFIB’s monthly Business Barometer. A vacant post means work going undone or a heavier load on your other employees – and often on you as the business owner. In the second quarter of 2019, 3.1 per cent of all private-sector jobs in New Brunswick sat vacant for at least four months due to a lack of qualified candidates. That’s a lot of lost productivity.
As an employer, you know that it’s never as simple as putting any warm body in the job. You need employees with the right combination of skills and attitude – something that’s proving difficult to find for many small business owners.
In a 2015 CFIB survey, 73 per cent of business owners agreed that the work ethic of new hires has deteriorated in recent years. Workers who spend too much time on personal tasks at work, such as chatting with coworkers or browsing the internet, are some of the biggest irritants that we’ve heard about.
With a labour shortage, you are competing with big players like government and large corporations to attract and retain a shrinking pool of qualified talent. But what can you do about it? Alone, you can try your best. Together with other business owners, you have more power.
With the backing of the 110,000 small and medium-sized businesses that are our members, CFIB is asking the federal government to put in place measures to help businesses like yours staff up: encouraging youth employment by instituting an EI holiday for workers under 24; offsetting the cost of formal and informal training; and making it easier for small firms to hire foreign workers when they can’t find qualified candidates in their markets.
But in the meantime, you should make use of every resource you have available to attract and retain your workers.
Get expert advice as soon as you need it
Most small businesses don’t have HR or compliance specialists on staff, so hiring workers, administering benefits and complying with new and existing regulations falls squarely on your shoulders.
CFIB’s members have the benefit of calling our expert team of Business Counsellors with any question they may have, such as how to give employees a great onboarding experience, draft an offer letter and employment contract, and administer government-mandated programs like workers’ compensation.
They can also access resources like compliance checklists, a drug and alcohol policy and up-to-date information on new rules and regulations. These tools are easy to adapt for your business and they help avoid problems you may run into.
I’d encourage any CFIB members struggling with filing a position to call our Business Counsellors for help with drafting more effective job postings, finding government programs or grants for hiring, contacting their local colleges and universities’ apprenticeship programs, or starting the process of recruiting a foreign worker. CFIB is here to support you and has many resources to offer.
Offer an attractive benefits package without breaking the bank
In some cases, you can also consider offering an overall benefits package to your employees and prospective hires. You may think these programs are too expensive and complex for your small business to compete with the big guys, but it may be worth a close look at CFIB’s preferred rates for group insurance through Primasure.
CFIB’s members also save on vital services with companies like Payworks to help manage payroll, time-off requests or vacation pay, freeing up valuable time for business owners. Importantly, this service also produces T4s and records of employment at no additional cost. CFIB members also have access to Vubiz which can provide your staff with free online training on important topics like marketing and customer service.
Play to your strengths as a small business
Lastly, don’t discount the benefits of working for a small firm over a large corporation or government. In fact, employees of smaller companies report higher levels of workplace satisfaction than those who work for larger organizations.
Small firms can often be much more nimble, so consider offering your employees flexible working hours, part-time or seasonal jobs, the opportunity to work from home, and time off in summer, when you can recruit students to fill in. Working for a small firm often also allows employees to grow faster, branch out and learn new skills by collaborating with people with different expertise, and have a tangible impact on the business. Make these benefits clear to candidates in your job ads and during the recruitment process.
You are not alone
Owning a small business can be a lonely calling, particularly when you’re understaffed. The current labour shortage is especially challenging for businesses that want to grow and thrive. Having someone in your corner, with the right mix of policy solutions and support, can make all the difference. That’s why 110,000 business owners have joined CFIB and trust us to push governments to act, provide support and answers to their questions and get them better deals to offer more to their employees and save money overall. If you’re not already a member, you’re missing out on all of this. But it’s not too late – visit cfib.ca to find out more.
Dan Kelly is the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses.
This story is sponsored by CFIB.