How to attract and retain top talent in Ottawa’s hot job market

With unemployment at its lowest in more than a decade, local employers are applying innovative strategies to engage their top staff
A lineup of businesspeople

Ottawa’s hot economy continues to add jobs month after month, leading to the region’s tightest labour market in a generation.

Statistics Canada recently reported that Ottawa-Gatineau’s unemployment rate sunk to 4.4 per cent in April, reportedly its lowest level in more than 30 years.

While that’s great news for job-seekers, it can present challenges for employers.

A low unemployment rate means there are fewer job candidates on the market. It also means that those candidates who are looking for a career change get snapped up quickly and have more leverage when negotiating salary, vacation time and benefits.

To thrive in such a hot job market, there are several steps employers can take to ensure they attract and retain the city’s top talent.

Attracting the best

“Because of the talent shortage, it’s become increasingly important for companies to appeal to candidates,” explains Matt Stevenson, a partner and recruiter with Stevenson & White.

The local recruitment firm specializes in filling finance, accounting and payroll positions, and has a wealth of experience navigating the challenges of a candidate-driven market.

As Stevenson explains, one of the most important things for employers to realize is that the job market has changed significantly in recent decades. Gone are the days when employees were expected to prioritize work above everything else in their lives – now, many candidates put work-life balance at the top of their list of deciding factors when considering a new job.

“A great way to lose an excellent candidate is through lack of flexibility,” says Stevenson. Whether in terms of work hours, remote work options or time off, employers must be conscious of coming off as old-fashioned or rigid.

“The process has to be shorter. It can’t drag on for two months, because candidates will get an offer somewhere else."

With fewer candidates to choose from, employers must also be decisive when conducting a talent search.

“The process has to be shorter,” says Sharon Lloyd, a recruiter with Stevenson & White. “It can’t drag on for two months, because candidates will get an offer somewhere else.”

Stevenson & White helps its clients control for this by streamlining the extension of job offers between hiring companies and selected candidates.

By hand-picking a shortlist of highly qualified candidates, the firm cuts down on the time it might otherwise take for a client to find a similarly skilled selection on their own.

Once the client chooses a particular individual, the firm’s recruiters then act as a mediator in the negotiation of the employment terms. As full-time hiring experts, Stevenson & White is able to focus all of its efforts on closing out a talent search, which can make a big difference in situations where in-house HR professionals are required to divide their attention between several equally important tasks.

Talent retention

Unfortunately, the challenges don’t end when a firm hires the best person for the job.

The nature of today’s job market means that employees, especially younger ones, are more apt to seek a change every few years.

For employers, the first line of defence in retaining top talent is to be honest about the opportunity when conducting a search. Misrepresenting the scope of a position or the company’s culture will ultimately work counter to the hiring company’s goals, as candidates will be quick to leave if they discover they were misled during the hiring process.

“That’s one of the benefits that we bring,” says Lloyd. “As outsiders coming in to meet with a company, we can get a sense of the culture and be a little bit more objective about what we’ve seen.”

Once a new hire is onboarded, there are measures employers can take to ensure staff remain fulfilled by their work.

Growth potential is a major consideration for employees debating a career move. Whether in the form of a promotion, mentorship or professional development, today’s workforce wants to know they’re benefiting from time spent with an employer.

Similarly, it’s important to show employees that you appreciate the contributions that they make to the company.

“It can be as little as a compliment or it can be as big as a bonus,” says Stevenson. “If people don’t feel that appreciation, they’re going to move on.”

Finance. Accounting. Payroll. Stevenson & White can help. Head to stevensonandwhite.com for more information or call 613-225-5417.