It’s hard not to notice the number of “Help Wanted” ads from tourism and hospitality employers in every region across the province. Recent studies confirm that about half of BC’s tourism employers could not hire all the people they needed to run their business at full capacity and/or expand their business in the past couple of years. Add to that historically low unemployment rates in BC and it makes for a story of business closures, reduced product offerings or hours of service, turning down business, deferring expansion, increased overtime, staff burnout, and declining customer service. While BC businesses (even large, well-established ones) are struggling to find workers, the tourism industry, with a high number of front-line, customer service and seasonal workers, are feeling the pinch even more. According to the 2018 BC Labour Market Outlook branch of the BC government, the tourism industry will have over 106,000 new job openings in the next ten years and an anticipated shortfall of 15,000 people to fill them.
Why is this happening?
In large part it’s because there are not enough young people entering the workforce. Canada’s youth population has been declining for many years; a trend that is projected to continue until 2025. In addition, aging baby boomers are leaving the workforce in large numbers, which significantly increases the competition for the shrinking number of young workers entering the workforce. The tourism industry is particularly dependent on young workers – 31% of its workforce is between the ages of 15-24, compared to 13% in other sectors. In BC, it is projected that there will be 40,000 fewer people in this age group over the next five years; hence, it is imperative that tourism businesses change their recruitment and retention strategies in order to survive in this changing labour landscape.
What can I do to adapt?
Shift your paradigm – in this market you need to let go of your expectations of finding that perfect candidate. There are a lot of great workers who may not necessarily cross off every item on your list, but who can be shaped into great employees with just a bit more training, time and investment.
Cast a wider net – there are many options for finding workers in this economy if you’re willing to do things differently. Throwing an ad on the same job board every time will not net results in this market. Post your job on diverse job boards (go2HR job board, Indeed.com, WorkBC and industry association job boards). Attend job fairs and make career presentations at schools and colleges. Target under-represented groups – people with disabilities, indigenous youth, students, and new immigrants. There are often government wage subsidies for hiring from under-represented groups, which could offset additional training time.
Networking with people in and outside of your industry can be an excellent way to keep your potential employee pipeline full. “Do you know anyone who …” should be a conversation you have often as you meet people in various work and social situations. Getting referrals from your existing employees is another great way to tap into a direct network of potential employees.
Build your brand – there are a lot of things in this market you can’t control, but you can control how you shape your business culture, and how you communicate that to people who are looking for work. When you post your job vacancy, tell potential employees what you offer that’s unique. Focus on the candidate experience. Keep them up-to-date on the recruitment process so they don’t go weeks without hearing from you. Make them feel valued for what they bring to the table. A positive recruitment experience may tip the scales in your favour and word about your brand will spread, making you an employer of choice.
Focus on retention – pay attention to what’s important to the people who are already on your team. Consider conducting “STAY” interviews (the opposite of exit interviews). Ask employees what they find great about working for you and areas they think could be improved and take action on what you learn. Happy employees are your best recruitment ambassadors so find out what it takes to keep your existing employees from looking for work elsewhere.
What’s important to younger workers?
Shifting your recruitment strategy is important, but understanding what matters to younger workers can also give you an edge over companies who don’t. Here are some strategies:
- Offer flexible schedules – they value free time for lifestyle choices so flexible jobs are more appealing
- Speak their language – use social media, blogs, your website, etc. to tell your brand story. This is how they will find and be attracted to you.
- Focus on professional development – development opportunities are key to attracting quality talent.
- Offer interesting, meaningful work – if you can connect them with exciting opportunities and the impact of what you do, you’ll catch their attention.
- Challenge and trust – find ways to give them responsibility and let them run with it.
If you want your business to thrive in spite of the worker shortage, take stock of where you need to change both your attitude and your practices to reflect the current realities. Finding great people may continue to be a challenge in the years to come, but shifting your paradigm, using smart recruitment strategies, building your company’s reputation, retaining the strong performers you already have and understanding what attracts younger workers will give you an edge so that in spite of the current labour force dynamics, your tourism business can flourish.