Over half of companies see labour as their primary challenge

The growing shortage of qualified workers in Canada is forcing private companies to work harder to  get the right people in  the right jobs - and place a higher priority on keeping them. According to  research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a full 61 per cent of private companies see labour as their primary challenge in 2008. However, there are steps private companies can take to attract and retain  the right people.

"As baby boomers retire, there are not enough young workers available to fill the void," says Don  Edmonds, PwC's private companies services leader in the audit and assurance group in Toronto.  Employees know they are in demand, and private companies need to come up with creative ways  to attract and keep them. On a positive note, our research shows that in 2007, 85 per cent of private companies increased their focus on retention."

Ian Gunn, partner and leader of PwC's private company services in Calgary adds, "It is not enough  to throw money at people - especially in western Canada, where wages are already above average. Private companies need a consistent, systematic approach for creating conditions to attract qualified  employees and to work with them to keep them engaged."

Edmonds and Gunn suggest that private companies develop a strategy to attract and retain  employees. Some examples include:

  • Hire right. Have a very clear understanding of your culture and the type of people who best fit.
  • Be clear with expectations. Companies that score high on employee satisfaction, have regular, formalized feedback processes in place.
  • Be flexible. Flexible work arrangements including shorter work weeks and telecommuting are a business reality.
  • Share the growth of the company. Go beyond cash bonuses-create a phantom stock plan, or allow employees to participate in the ownership of the company.
  • Listen to your people. Create an environment that allows employees to enjoy what they do and to do what they do best.

PwC's 2008 Business Insights Survey, an annual survey that analyzes the opinions of private business leaders and provides benchmarking for similar companies, will be available after the summer.