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Building a Skilled and Sustainable Workforce: Strategies for Hiring and Training Employees in Canadian Small Businesses

Building a Skilled and Sustainable Workforce: Strategies for Hiring and Training Employees in Canadian Small Businesses
August 22, 2023

In today's rapidly changing business landscape, small business owners in Canada face many challenges when it comes to hiring and training employees. With Canada's aging population and the need for upskilling, it is more important than ever to invest in employee training and management.

In our latest Q&A, we sat down with Driven’s Head of Recruitment, Krupa Dave, to discuss strategies for Canadian small business owners to build a skilled and sustainable workforce, including effective hiring strategies, training methods, and employee management strategies. By following these strategies and taking advantage of government grants and subsidies, small business owners can create a positive work environment and build a motivated workforce that will help their companies thrive.

Hiring Strategies

What should be done before starting the recruitment process?

Before initiating the recruitment process, it's important to analyze the business needs and conduct Human Resource Planning (HRP) to identify skill gaps. This allows the company to plan strategically and hire individuals who can fill those gaps effectively.

Additionally, it is crucial to prepare an effective job description that adheres to legal requirements and includes company details, culture, job summary, roles and responsibilities, as well as necessary skills and qualifications to attract suitable candidates. For instance, imagine you are a small business owner looking to hire a marketing manager. Begin by identifying the key skills and experience required, such as "5 years of experience in digital marketing, proficiency in social media advertising, and a track record of successful campaign management." This clear understanding will attract the right candidates and save time during the hiring process.

Can you provide some examples of recruitment tools that small businesses can use?

For small businesses, there are various recruitment tools available. Internally, they can tap into Employee Referral programs and consider promotions and transfers. Externally, options include Campus hiring, utilizing social and professional platforms like LinkedIn and GitHub for passive candidate search, participating in networking events, leveraging job boards such as Indeed and Monster, and engaging with staffing agencies. While internal platforms are cost-effective but limited in candidate reach, external tools help broaden the talent pool, albeit sometimes at a higher cost.

Small businesses can leverage various recruitment tools depending on their needs and budget. For example, consider a startup tech company seeking software engineers. They can use online job boards to reach a wide audience. Additionally, utilizing specialized tech job platforms like Hackajob can help target candidates with relevant skills.

How can you efficiently screen applicants during the recruitment process?

During the initial screening process, you can filter out unsuitable candidates by setting specific criteria. Let's say you are a retail store owner hiring a sales associate. Your minimum requirement could be "at least one year of retail sales experience." By implementing this step, you'll focus your efforts on the most qualified candidates and streamline the hiring process.

What are some effective interview techniques to find the right candidate?

To find the right candidate, use behavioural interview questions that require candidates to provide real-life examples of their skills and problem-solving abilities. For instance, if you're hiring a customer service representative, ask, "Can you describe a challenging situation with a customer and how you successfully resolved it?" This approach will give you insights into the candidate's practical experience and fit with your company culture.

To effectively identify the right candidate during interviews, consider asking follow-up questions to gain deeper insights into their responses. Observing body language can provide additional cues beyond verbal communication. Tailoring the interview process with role-specific assessments, like case studies or presentations, helps evaluate candidates' practical skills and their ability to apply knowledge.

Can you provide an example of how checking references can influence the hiring decision?

When checking references, a company first obtains candidate consent for background verification to ensure legal compliance. Depending on the job requirements, various verification options such as credit, criminal, professional, and academic checks are considered. For instance, if a reference check highlights a candidate's exceptional teamwork skills, this positive feedback can bolster their suitability for the role and positively impact the final hiring decision.

Let's say you are a restaurant owner considering hiring a new chef. By conducting reference checks, you discover that one of the candidates has a history of innovative menu planning and has received accolades from previous employers for exceptional culinary skills. This confirmation strengthens your confidence in making the right choice and selecting the chef who will likely elevate your restaurant's reputation.

Training Strategies

How can a company identify its employees' training needs effectively? 

Effective identification of training needs involves various methods. For example, a software development firm could conduct skills assessments and performance reviews to identify areas where their developers require further training, such as "advanced programming languages" or "cloud computing platforms."

To pinpoint employees' training needs, a company can conduct a Needs Analysis aligned with its mission and goals. This assessment helps identify the skills, competencies, and knowledge required. Employee feedback, performance reviews, one-on-one discussions, and surveys are also valuable tools for understanding training gaps.

What are some training methods that a company can consider?

Companies can utilize a mix of training methods based on the nature of the skills being taught. Suppose you run a graphic design agency and need to train your designers on the latest design software. In this case, a combination of instructor-led classroom training and online tutorials could prove effective, allowing hands-on practice and flexibility.

How can ongoing training benefit both employees and the company? 

Ongoing training benefits both employees and the company by enhancing skill sets and knowledge, leading to improved job performance. It increases employee satisfaction, reduces turnover, promotes adaptability, fosters innovation, and ultimately contributes to better company performance and success.

For example, if you own a manufacturing company, providing regular training on new safety protocols ensures employees are up-to-date and reduces workplace accidents. Consequently, your company becomes more productive and maintains a strong safety record.

Can you provide an example of how a company measures the effectiveness of its training program?

Let's say a financial services firm invested in a comprehensive leadership development program for its managers. To measure effectiveness, they tracked the performance of newly trained managers against a control group of untrained managers. By comparing key performance metrics, such as team productivity and employee satisfaction, they could evaluate the program's impact and identify areas for improvement.

Employee Management Strategies

How can a positive work environment positively impact employee retention?

A positive work environment fosters a sense of belonging and satisfaction among employees. Suppose you manage a tech startup with a positive work culture, including regular team-building activities and recognition programs. This positive atmosphere increases employee retention rates as they are more likely to stay with a company that values their well-being and promotes professional growth.

Can you provide an example of how providing feedback improved employee performance?

Imagine you are a retail store manager who provides regular feedback to your sales associates. By praising a sales associate's excellent customer service skills and suggesting strategies for upselling, their confidence and performance improve significantly. As a result, their sales numbers increase, benefiting both the employee and the company.

What are the consequences of not addressing performance issues promptly?

Delaying the resolution of performance issues can have negative consequences for both the employee and the company. Suppose you manage a customer support team, and one of your representatives consistently receives complaints about rude behaviour. If the issue is not addressed promptly, it may result in decreased customer satisfaction, loss of clients, and damage to the company's reputation.

In addition to these strategies, Canadian small business owners can also take advantage of hiring and training grants and wage subsidies offered by the Canadian government. By investing in employee training and management, small business owners can build a strong and motivated workforce that will help their companies thrive.

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