The labour shortage is here to stay. Now what do we do?

“For every person who leaves the workforce, 0.8 are added. The ratio between potential employees added to the market (aged 20 to 29) and potential employees leaving the market (aged 55 to 64) has never been so low in Quebec. Twenty years ago, this number was 1.3.”

Taken from a special segment in the daily newspaper Le Devoir, published in the fall of 2022.

This issue isn’t about to be solved anytime soon, either, according to the Institut du Québec. In their 2021 action plan, they note that there is no quick fix, and we’ll be dealing with this issue until at least 2030. It’s what they’ve labelled the “perfect storm,” and their publication looks at macro measures that governments can take as well as work recommendations for your company or organization. 

The Institut du Québec’s 2021 action plan also identifies priority action plans, which can be found on page 5 of the document. Their key recommendations are to break government silos to provide a clear picture of needs and priorities, review the job-creation paradigm for granting subsidies and other aid, focus on education and training, rethink work organizations, make up for lagging immigration, and maintain older workers or entice them back to the workforce.

The Institut names three key issues in their analysis: the complexity of the challenge, since the employment imbalance has multiple causes; the time factor, as labour shortages aren’t a quick fix; and the human factor, noting that workers have different preferences and motivations which can’t always be met by financial solutions.

In the meantime, running a business has never been so difficult for entrepreneurs, who wrack their brains to figure out how to fill empty positions so their business can survive—and thrive. So much energy is spent on simply recruiting and maintaining employees. Out of frustration, many have taken a guerilla approach to hiring by poaching employees from other companies, while others have padded work conditions—two tactics that may work… until the competition starts doing the same.

The challenge is twofold: attracting AND retaining employees

To fix this, we need to be providing more than just jobs. We need to present our organization with its own history, culture, and values.

Does your organization provide a stimulating and inspiring environment for employees, no matter their education level or how important their work is? Even if you answer yes, very often this is based on anecdotal feedback and isn’t a true reflection of how your employees really feel.

One way employees feel disillusioned is when a company’s values are nonextant, incoherent, or only partially embraced by management. They may be clearly stated on your website or on posters around the office, but are they truly reflected in day-to-day work?

Your employees know whether your organization’s values are there for the sake of marketing or for the benefit of the people who work there.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself: 1) Do performance-based benefits reflect and reinforce your company values? 2) What do you do with problem cases that do not support company values? Do you tolerate the intolerable? 3) When was the last time you sat informally with employees and had them share how they really feel about their work and your organization?

How many times have you heard friends complain about bad decisions being made within their organization? No doubt the same thing is happening at yours—without you even knowing it.

The culture of your organization—developed around key values—is like the cement that holds your reputation with clients and employees together. That’s why, after new recruits are charmed and hired, they may be disappointed to learn what you say doesn’t conform to what they’re hearing from others once the boss steps away.

The perceived value of your business depends on it

As an entrepreneur, you may find this approach a little too intellectual. After all, you need to fulfil client orders, manage production, and balance the books. Yet this is the fundamental value of your company, your brand, and your reputation. Not only will addressing this earn employment offers for your specific filed, you’ll also reinforce the value of your reputation because you will have a better idea of what’s important to employees and clients. This will enable you to better define how you evaluate employee performance assessments and how employees contribute to achieving objectives. If client satisfaction is the point, it’s difficult to achieve this when employees are unhappy and frustrated—and even less so when your turnover rate is high.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Brené Brown in her book Dare to Lead:

If we want people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts — so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people — we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected. ― Brené Brown, Dare to Lead


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