Hire for the future today… Your competition is.


The future is now. We’ve been worrying about the pending labour shortage for years, but in many industries, it’s already upon us. Many of us need a hiring strategy today to deal with the dearth of talent.

Over the past year I’ve witnessed first-hand how difficult it is for our suppliers, dealers, and even the contractors we serve across Canada to find good young people willing to work within our industry. I’m not talking just about skilled trades! I’m also referring to young unskilled workers who have an opportunity to learn, grow and excel within the building/construction industry.

Fact: as millions of Canadian baby boomers retire and exit the workforce, we are witnessing a massive shortage of workers, both skilled and unskilled. Even with more boomers working into their 70s, it’s still inevitable.

And we’re already seeing it. In its most recent annual Talent Shortage report, ManpowerGroup Inc. found that more than one-third (34%) of Canadian employers struggle to find the skilled workers they need.1 The number one area of difficulty in North America: skilled trades, of course.

As early as 2012, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce was predicting massive numbers of unskilled workers struggling to find a job (more than half a million in 2016, and well over a million by 2021). At the same time, the group estimated 1.5 million skilled job vacancies in 2016, climbing to 2.6 million in 2021.2 The people are there, or at least some of them; but we as business leaders need to do a better job on selling our industry to attract young people in the twenty first century.

Ours isn’t the sexiest industry. It’s sometimes hard and demanding work, but we need to attract young workers and show them that they can thrive and succeed.

In the trades, this will require breaking the misconception that trades are low-paying jobs with no future. In fact, the exact opposite is true. But as business owners and leaders today, how do you go about recruiting and retaining from the pool of talent that is shrinking?

How will you recruit in the 21st Century?

Obviously recruiting today means hiring from the generation coming up in the workforce. Commonly dubbed Millennials, this group born in the ’80s and ’90s was raised on the Internet and digital technology.

In many ways, the current generation isn’t as different as you may think. But there have been some major shifts in work priorities. While past generations strove for tenure and stability – a lifetime at one company was the brass ring – today’s employees crave more flexibility, more freedom. With Millennials it isn’t just about the money.

Corporate culture is a more important factor in employee satisfaction than in past decades. Studies suggest that Millennials seek work-life balance more than any other generation, and look for employers who prioritize health and happiness, even above pay.3

Professional development and providing a challenge are still important – perhaps even more so. Talented employees need to be engaged and challenged or they become bored. Remember: we’ve known for more than half a century that doing meaningful work, a sense of achievement, career development, recognition and responsibility are the keys to job satisfaction.4

But while these are not new to hiring and retaining top talent, Millennials have brought them to the forefront.

Recruitment tips

So how do you go about hiring Millennials? Experts have a few tips:

  • Don’t wait for them to find you. The best and brightest aren’t going to be looking for you. You have to find them. Jason Hiner, editor at ZDNet suggests targeting potential candidates and reaching out to them with an email.5 Engage Millennials where they live, and that’s on social media. This means having your own social media identity authentic and up-to-date. Future employees will want to connect with your online presence.
  • Get ’em early. It’s believed by many that the best time to snatch up the top talent is fresh out of college, for example through paid internships. To be successful, some suggest going beyond that. Start to identify prospects and build a relationship, through apprenticeship programs, even before they graduate. That way you can secure future hires.
  • Be flexible. More than past generations, Millennials seek flexibility and autonomy in their work environments. While this is usually a factor of scheduling and teleworking, think about what flexibility means in the hiring process. Consider, for example, dress code expectations. How would you react to a candidate under-dressed by traditional standards during an interview? But also ask yourself, is it an important success metric?
  • Try them out. Many hiring experts suggest putting Millennial candidates on a trial run. Why? Some stereotypes around sense of entitlement, etc., may very well be true. At the same time, many Millennials are brilliant, hard workers. There’s only one way to know for sure to separate the wheat from the chaff.
  • Expect and accept failure. Entrepreneurial Millennials need a culture that tolerates failures on the road to success.6 Remember Edison’s famous maxim on innovation, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
  • Avoid stereotypes. While today’s workforce definitely has different priorities than past generations – 72% of Millennials want flexible work schedules and 68% want work-from-home options – they also include greater diversity than has been seen in a century.7 Lumping them together with a one-size-fits-all approach, or not recognizing their individuality, will set your recruitment efforts up to fail.

In recent years, most recruiters and business leaders have started to recognize that Millennials want the same things that employees have always wanted – flexibility, challenges, a rewarding culture, respect, professional opportunities and recognition. They just prioritize these benefits differently.

If you want the best (or even good) candidates, you’ll need to create a culture that’s engaging, with a path to growth and self-fulfillment. Otherwise, you may find yourself with employees who are not motivated and work only because they have a “job,” not a fulfilling career. This does not serve your customers or your bottom line.

Ask yourself, what type of employees do you want for your business? Are you prepared to create a culture that challenges and rewards your employees? Are you prepared to empower your staff, allowing them the freedom to make decisions (and mistakes) that serve your needs and those of your customers? Is yours a workplace culture where current candidates – of which Millennials represent the largest group – would want to work?

A fitting quote from Doug Conant, former President and CEO of Campbell Soup Company: “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.”


  1. http://www.manpowergroup.com/talent-shortage-explorer/#.WfDGv7pFztQ
  2. “The future of jobs in Canada”, Chris Sorensen, Maclean’s, March 19, 2013
  3. “How Millennials Are Reshaping What’s Important In Corporate Culture”, Larry Alton, Forbes.com
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-factor_theory
  5. http://www.zdnet.com/article/video-3-tips-for-hiring-millennials/
  6. https://insights.dice.com/2012/05/23/hiring-millennials-tips/
  7. http://www.cspdailynews.com/industry-news-analysis/technology/articles/3-tips-hiring-and-retaining-millennials#page=0
Previous articleIs Government Sucking the Life Out of Small Business?
Next articleThe Invincible Spirit of Canada’s Entrepreneurs
Ken has worked in the LBM business for over 17 years, including senior management experience in the manufacture of building products. He has a keen understanding of the relationship among vendors, manufacturers and the independents, as well as a thorough understanding of the contractor and consumer base in every region of the country. Ken's highest priority for Castle is to "buy competitively day to day" in order to keep its independent dealers competitive. "The result is that Castle shareholders enjoy greater returns today than ever before. There can be no greater testament to the strength of the team we've built," says Ken. "My job is to make them stronger and stronger."