If I were to poll 100 business owners, I would predict that over 90% would say that their people are their greatest asset. I am confident they would also say that one of their top concerns is talent management. And that is something I can understand, as the pursuit of top talent is more competitive than ever and with technology advances, skills shortages, and an overall desire by the workforce to work less/have more flexibility it is every business owner’s pain point.
So as business owners how can we adapt and ensure that our workforce remains our biggest asset?
I think the easy answer is that we need to look at who we hire as well as how we hire.
Earlier this year, the BDC conducted a survey by Maru/Matchbox which polled over 1,200 small and medium-sized businesses across Canada between April 30 and May 11 of 2018. In it, they asked what steps a business would take in the event of a labour shortage. The answers were many and varied, (e.g. hire less skilled candidates, increase salary ranges to attract the right candidate, etc.) however, only 18% said they would hire immigrants, despite the fact that they represent our largest labour pool.
A diversified workforce is important from several standpoints; not only does it have the power to enhance creativity and foster an integrative environment, but it potentially allows companies to tap into a much broader skill set. And with many SME’s concerned about a shrinking labour pool, tapping into a broader pool of talent will be necessary to survive.
And this is really the key. Invariably, we are all striving for operational excellence in our companies. We are looking for growth and continuous improvement so that we can drive customer and shareholder value. I think we can only do this with the right team; a team that pushes us to look at things differently, holds us accountable to streamline and/or automate our processes, and who have the variety of experience that allows them to bring new and innovative ideas forward.
Diversity can not only help drive this, but also fulfill labor shortages.
Recently we had a client who was looking for a new Controller and the candidates they had did not meet their expectations. Their part-time CFO suggested that they meet with an accountant whose skill set would be elevated but who had not quite mastered “spoken” English. I’m sure there was some initial hesitancy on my client’s part, as they were concerned about communication, but in the end it has turned out to be a great working relationship. One where the Controller and the client will grow together.
Without realizing it, you are likely already using a contingent workforce to support your business. You may be leveraging external service providers, independent contractors, freelancers, or temps.
I believe this trend will continue. The workforce is not only demanding more flexibility in the workplace, but they are also craving variety of work.
We are seeing many companies embrace the notion of having interim support in their businesses to complement their existing labour pool. However, more and more, I think business owners need to look at how they are hiring.
The client I referred to above engaged a Contract CFO to help them prepare for their next growth stage. They realized that they needed someone who could think strategically, build out financial models/tools, and mentor their existing team. They could not afford, nor did they need, a full time CFO to play this role. They choose to hire a strategic resource on an as-needed basis to complement their team.
If you are an employer and are not yet thinking about how to engage a variety of talent in your business in order to help with growth, succession (of you and your team) or exit plans, I would encourage you to think again.
Any model that helps you access the “right people, at the right time” is essential to your success.