Lee Valley Tools put up a hiring sign outside its Ottawa headquarters a few months ago with a line reflecting a corporate change: “No experience necessary.”
The company, which has retail stores across Canada as well as an Ottawa-based manufacturing arm that builds its tools, was in desperate need of staff.
Known for attracting older workers in the retail sector, Lee Valley had seen a wave of retirements during COVID-19. But with demand for his products increasing as people took up hobbies like gardening and woodworking during the pandemic, President and COO Jason Tasse initially turned to hiring members of a local lacrosse team. that he trains to fulfill orders.
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When the restrictions were lifted, the company decided on a long-term strategy. They would pay more, offer better benefits, increase flexibility in shifts, and invest in training those whose skills had not yet been developed in the required areas.
“We abandoned most of the traditional hiring practices and protocols,” Tasse said. In the past, they told prospective employees what kind of hours to expect, as well as requiring specific skills and references. Now, Tasse said, “that’s all gone out the window.”
Similar conversations are taking place in organizations across Canada, according to Bank of Montreal senior economist Robert Kavcic, with companies in many sectors reworking their hiring practices as they face high post-lockdown demand for services and a tight job market. .
Kavcic said labor participation “is pretty much back to where it was before COVID, if not higher, across all age categories. So it’s not a case of people not wanting to work.”
Kavcic acknowledges that there are a number of different reasons behind the labor shortage, but the biggest factor, he said, is that Canada’s boomer generation has started to retire en masse. Pandemic working conditions and a strong stock market may have spurred some people to leave earlier than planned, he said, “but whether now or in the next few years, this was something that was coming anyway.”
In fact, more than 300,000 Canadians have already retired so far in 2022, according to Statistics Canada, up from 233,000 last year. Additionally, the number of people approaching retirement age is higher than ever, with more than one in five Canadians of working age between the ages of 55 and 64. With an average retirement age of 64, that means many more Canadians are ready to leave their jobs.
Even employers that haven’t yet seen a large number of retirements are starting to plan ahead.
Recruitment through TikTok and Instagram
With increases in condominiums and other construction projects, the City of Toronto needs engineers, developers and other workers now.
Last month, the municipality ran a recruitment drive, posting videos on TikTok and Instagram, soliciting candidates for positions at Toronto Water in areas such as wastewater treatment.
Gord Mitchell, who runs the RC Harris water treatment plant in the Beaches neighborhood, said the number of retirees has remained minimal at his location so far.
“But, you know, you see the tsunami coming,” he said.
“We have a lot of staff with 30+ years of service, maybe 35. Fortunately, it’s a great place to work [and] people don’t want to leave,” he said, “but sooner or later they all leave.
City spokesman Brad Ross said upcoming retirements are always top of mind these days.
“People will retire, people will move. Therefore, we must continue to keep that pipeline open,” he said.
Beyond the social media recruiting campaign, he said, the city has implemented other strategies to attract and retain new workers.
These include partnering with local universities to hire engineering graduates and tapping into underemployed populations by working with nonprofit agencies that focus on inclusive hiring, anything to “attract new, younger talent who would be willing to stay and then grow in the organization”. Ross said.
Back in Lee Valley, Tasse said his new hiring policies have helped attract 232 new employees in the past year, a number that is helping them expand their operations.
On the retail side, flexible work options and higher salaries have even allowed stores to attract some people who have recently retired from other organizations.
Offering “opportunities for people to come back on their own terms” while aligning with their personal interests around tools, Tasse said, means retiring boomers are actually “a good match” for the company.
With the economy expected to cool in the coming months, Kavcic said the intensity of competition around jobs in Canada could lessen. But as the country’s population continues to age, pensions will almost certainly continue to rise.
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