The slow-moving tsunami that was building over the years has finally hit our shores. It’s easy to draw quick, mostly anecdotal conclusions to what caused this to happen.
According to a report by StatsCan, Canada’s employment rate stands at 62.5 per cent, up from 62.3 per cent in 2019. In the same period, Canada welcomed a record 1.3 million new immigrants, boosting labour supply. The reality, therefore, is this: the labour supply has not shrunk but the demand for labour has increased.
Canada is a rare exception and a model for planned immigration in a world growing increasingly hostile to newcomers. All federal governments, present and past, must be given credit for that. In other words, governments have (and continue to) do their part. The challenge for the private sector, therefore, is to do its part by becoming more creative and resourceful.
The data seems to suggest that wages paid by the accommodations and foodservice sector are on par with those offered by the broader service sector. According to the same StatsCan report, the average wage (for all service sectors) grew by 16.5 per cent bet- ween 2018 and 2022. In comparison, the wages for the accommodations and foodservice sector grew by the exact same amount during that period.
While competitive wages are a very important consideration, it is only one of the many reasons why people choose careers. According to a study conducted by Indeed, Gen-Xers and millennials seek workplaces where they can apply their talents, while being compensated, in addition to flexibility, career development and a sense of purpose.
Here are some strategic solutions and approaches to creatively addressing this chronic issue.
Automate where possible
Are all jobs in our sector essential? It’s time for the industry to take a decisive step towards automation in a purposeful way for front of house, back of house, and wherever it makes sense. Yes, there will be some teething troubles, expectation adjustments, but with time and thoughtful launch protocols, this will dissipate.
A senior executive at a large hotel company recently lamented to me, “most of my guests are frequent flyers, perfectly okay with checking in online for their flight, yet when they show up at our hotels, they expect a smiling front-desk agent to check them in”. Let’s assume some short-term pain for clear and decisive long-term gain.
Don’t forget the students
Each year, Canadian colleges and universities welcome thousands of international students, giving the industry a ready and willing pool of talent to tap into. Associations such as the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA) are making concerted efforts to tap into this segment with the Ontario Hostelry Institute (OHI) re-launch, but more remains to be done.
If you are an employer looking for next-level talent, reach out to a college near you. They have what you need and would love to collaborate with you.
- Working with post-secondary institutions that carry programs in Hospitality, Culinary Arts, Event Management & Tourism can take many forms, such as:
- Offer your services as a guest speaker.
- If the college has one or more capstone courses, offer your
- company as a project. A capstone course allows college students to demonstrate expertise in their area of study, typically involving a project
- such as a final paper, a portfolio, perfor-
- mance, or investigation /research. For example, students in a hospitality – management program may elect to do a research project on reducing the carbon footprint of a restaurant.
- Offer scholarships/ bursaries.
- Offer internship opportunities.
- Participate in the college’s job fair and placement activities.
- Ask to see if you can join the college’s PAC (Program Advisory Committee)
Find a college/program that offers programs in hospitality-related disciplines that you can work with, look for the main contact as advertised on their website. Often, this will be your first and best start.
Design Creative Ads
Hiring a good candidate must be a two-way street. Certainly, as employers you want the best talent, but what about the prospective employee you are looking to hire? What’s in it for them? Why should they choose to work for you?
Create job ads that are exciting, inviting, and meaningful to the candidate. After all, ads are a marketing tool, designed to find and capture the best talent, much like your ad campaign that is designed to capture the best customers. Speak about your values, your work culture, your internal-growth policies, and your passion for finding the best team players to enhance your product or service offering. Candidates today are looking for more than just a job or a paycheque, they want to be part of an organization and team that will allow them to grow.
As competition for talent continues to grow, you will need to look beyond traditional workplaces and compensation packages to attract, recruit, and retain talent. Visionary leaders recognize that concerted efforts are needed to help address the unprecedented labour shortages in Canada. By embracing and promoting forward thinking workplace cultures and increasing dialogue with employees, the benefits from flexible, motivated, and highly skilled workers is assured.
Canada’s hotels are well capitalized and extremely professionally managed, and they have the resources and ability to bring creative solutions to this problem. The future of our industry is bright.
BY GOPAL RAO, CONESTOGA COLLEGE