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Tips for navigating the labour shortage

The hardest hit by the pandemic are people working minimum wage jobs or hourly labour.

By Lori Karpman

With the economy beginning to bounce back from the pandemic, the challenge is to find competent and qualified staff. Heavily impacted industries such as travel, hospitality, and retail are having the most difficulty with this task.

Canada’s unemployment rate reached unprecedented highs during the pandemic. However, the number of people willing to leave their existing jobs decreased with the uncertainty in finding new employment. It is not surprising there is a lot of uncertainty in the current marketplace and as such, the overall job applicant pool is decreasing.

The loss of an employee, especially one requiring training, can cost the company twice that employee’s salary to find and re-train their replacement. This proves it pays to invest in your current talent.

The hardest hit by the pandemic are people working minimum wage jobs or hourly labour. Pre-COVID, there was many people willing to work hourly jobs, but it has dwindled and left employers struggling to fill open positions as their businesses reopen.

In some cases, financial support from the government to those impacted by COVID-19 is more than would be gained via employment. Many candidates are staying home and not returning to the workforce. On the other side of the issue, the number of qualified franchise prospects has grown.

Create a great corporate culture

Creating an environment where employees want to work is key to engaging and retaining top talent. Company culture plays a critical role in attracting and retaining employees. Many job seekers cite company culture as being very important to them when they decide on an employer. The culture of the entire organization is set by its corporate leadership team and flows from the top down. Ideally it moves to employees as well. When leaders create a positive environment for people to work in and flourish, they will not only be more loyal, but will go out of their way for customers. It will also attract fresh and new talent to the pool through a solid brand reputation.

Support your employees

Emphasizing communication and teamwork is of the highest priority. Employees are being asked to go beyond the call of duty and monitor customers’ compliance with masking policies or instituting additional cleaning and sanitizing. Franchisees need to ensure employees have the proper training. This shows a candidate the company is willing to invest in them. They will feel supported and appreciated and perform at their best as a result.

Incentivize employees

Many employers are offering signing bonuses, financial assistance programs, and insurance plans which are all helpful in attracting and retaining good candidates. Benefits for hourly employees can include anything from flexible scheduling and overtime opportunities to professional training and development programs. Some brands in the food service industry, which relies heavily on part-time minimum wage employees, are offering perks just for filling in a job application. Franchisees using these types of programs report they receive a higher number of better-quality candidates. Business owners can also ask current staff for referrals and pay a bonus for each new employee they help recruit.

Industries with many entry-level positions are offering employment to younger people without any experience. They look beyond this factor and invest in skills and development training to help them in the position and beyond. Investing in employees is one of the strongest ways to ensure retention. A happy team will significantly increase a company’s bottom line.

A workforce should reflect the diversity of the community where the business operates.

Be diverse and inclusive with hiring policies

Over the past year, the topic of diversity has taken centre stage. A workforce should reflect the diversity of the community where the business operates. Employers should acknowledge social issues, diversity, and inclusion are important to employees. This helps augment the corporate culture and makes the business somewhere employees want to work.

Acknowledge and recognize

Employees like to be acknowledged for a job well done. It is essential to thank them for their contributions, regardless of the fact they are being paid for it. This can be achieved in many ways and begins with a formal awards and recognition program. Acknowledgement and recognition are impactful, as it is human nature to please and want to be praised. Making team members feel valued, even if it is just a public thank you, goes a long way towards engagement and loyalty.

Do a ‘labour check’ with franchisees

Franchisors should make sure franchisees support the corporate culture at the local level. Do they have a sense of the level of contentment and issues affecting their employees, and if not, where do they fall short? Is it a recruitment, training, or retention problem? It’s important to measure employee satisfaction on a regular basis. By documenting and measuring employee engagement, franchisors can see where there is room for improvement and if programs are working.

Invest in frontline workers

When discussing job satisfaction and retention, the hourly workforce is often overlooked.  Employers should be paying better attention to the issues of this demographic which make up most of the workforce.

Employee retention begins with ensuring all employees feel supported, respected, and valued in their role. It’s important to address the specific issues of frontline workers to ensure they are satisfied in their jobs, not only for their prosperity, but for the success of the company.

Creating an environment that emphasizes communication and teamwork is of the utmost priority.

Focus on the existing talent 

Businesses which are successful in the long term understand the employer/employee relationship is a partnership and not a hierarchy. Invest in the team’s education and training; this not only aids in reducing costly turnover, but also supports recruitment. It is an opportunity allowing team members to learn new skills and advance in their career. Every employee plays a pivotal role in a business’ success. It is critical employers realize placing value on employee satisfaction will benefit both parties.


Employees like to be ‘in the loop.’ For example, if there is a new program beginning, share it with employees and solicit input. This lets the team know employers’ value their opinion and respect them. Dropping a new procedure on employees last minute does not communicate respect. Treat employees like family and share good and bad news with them.

‘Human capital’ is the most valuable asset

With open workplace communication, leaders can better learn what is important to their employees. Each individual is unique and brings different skills to the table. Successful employers realize their most important asset is not real estate they own, but their workforce, their ‘human capital.’ Invest in them and they will invest in you; this creates a win-win for all. Establishing relationships across all levels of employees and emphasizing transparency from the start will help owners and management better understand what drives their workforce and help them to retain talent.

Lori Karpman is founder of Lori Karpman & Company (LKC), a Montreal-based franchising consultancy. For more information, visit www.lorikarpman.com.

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