Your Company’s Culture: Will it Survive the Coming Labour Shortage?


We all know there is a skills shortage, and we need to find a solution, quickly.

Our aging population and declining birth rates are expected to create a shortfall of one million construction workers by 2020. Skilled trades are already the hardest employees to find and hire.(See “Where have all the Tradespeople Gone.”)

This isn’t just a Canadian problem – it’s a global one. Employers are struggling to fill positions within any industry that requires engineers, management, technicians, IT staff, sales representatives, and even office support staff. Meeting the current and growing shortage in Canada will require a comprehensive strategy (involving governments at all levels, along with businesses and academia to address our future labour needs.)

The Federal government is looking at policy changes to current retirement age proposals with the intent of retaining aging boomers. But, there are things you can do to improve your ability to attract experienced, qualified people. It starts with your Culture.

Today, company culture has become crucial in recruiting and retaining valuable employees. Money’s important, but, by itself, it can’t solve the challenge of motivating your employees so they aren’t easily poached by your competition. People are much more socially aware. Even the charities you corporately sponsor or support can influence how potential hires think of your culture.

One aspect of culture not often discussed is “fit.” You want employees who fit naturally within the culture of your organization. Like any good relationship, goals and attitudes need to be aligned. That means even as you are seeking to find scarce talent, the people you hire must embrace your vision and values. Hiring people who aren’t the right fit within your organization is a short-term solution with long-term consequences.

Create a culture of empowerment – promoting meaningful work, recognition and responsibility, which offers greater job satisfaction. Such a culture is the basis of building successful recruitment and retention for both large and small businesses.

Look at the tech sector. It’s no surprise that companies like Google and Facebook are renowned for their corporate culture. The tech sector in Vancouver has for years recognized the need to go beyond financial compensation.2

“Any forward-thinking company knows that you need to work at making sure you do what you can in keeping your employees happy,” said Meg Sinclair, Communication Manager for Facebook Canada, in an article on

As always, you need a culture of strong communication. And, communication needs to take place in a way that truly connects with employees and prospects. If you have sons or daughters, you already see how different generations communicate using different tools. As businesses scramble to snag top talent now, they must reach millennials where they are, in the digital world, like SnapChat, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

You know the skills shortage is coming. So don’t wait for it to become a more serious problem before building a culture that attracts and retains good people. In other words, build a company that the next generation of workers is going to want to work for.

Why now? Because it takes time to build a great culture. It doesn’t happen overnight. By the time the labour shortage hits with full force in the next four to five years, you don’t want to want to be trapped in having to pay premium wages to attract average employees. That is an expensive and losing proposition. If your employees aren’t excited about showing up for work in the morning, money won’t keep them with you for the long-term.

However, companies that have established a great culture have the advantage of recruiting like-minded employees. The result? These companies have greater success in attracting great talent, and more important, retaining the talent they do attract. Everyone wants to work for the best.

Here’s my challenge to you. When you interview a new hire, do you know what your cultural values are, and can you articulate them? Ask yourself: what are the three or four behaviours that are critical for people within your organization to demonstrate on a daily basis? Once you define these key values, make them part of your communication materials, including your website and recruiting tools. Make sure your recruitment ads reflect your business culture and connect them back to your core values.

P.S. Make sure whoever is responsible for interviewing and hiring within your organization has an excellent grasp of your business culture. You want these people to observe and look for potential employees who have both the skill sets and shared values to work within your company’s culture.


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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."