Hunting For Good Hires
By Colleen Cross
Many water well drilling businesses say they have trouble attracting quality, long-term employees, a problem faced by other skilled trades and industries across Canada.
Canadians have been lamenting the lack of qualified employees in certain sectors – a skills gap – for several years now. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce identifies skills shortages as one of the top barriers to competitiveness, and the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum has led the way in promoting the rewards of a career in the trades through advertising campaigns, surveys, skills competitions and other programs.
We’re not just talking about technical skills such as those required for certification. The Chamber reports that poor literacy, numeracy and digital skills are limiting productivity in segments of Canada’s workforce.
Other hard-to-define skills often are taken for granted but much prized by employers. Common sense, good manners, a positive attitude, critical thinking and empathy fall into this category. So do situational awareness and problem solving.
But while it’s clear there is a need for workers who are trained as water well drillers and pump installers, it also appears there are trained and talented people out there looking for that ideal boss whose values match their own.
The problem is not just finding qualified workers but also attracting and retaining the stars.
If it’s a straightforward case of not finding the employees you need, you may want to try a more aggressive strategy. Human resources trainer and author Eric Chester suggests employers hunt rather than fish for employees. While it may be tempting to simply place an advertisement and reel in the applicants as they come downstream, actively hunting for star performers may bring home better results. Get involved with high schools and colleges through trade shows and by donating equipment, suggest and help sponsor a skills competition through the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and look within your own ranks for talent. Do you have an employee who possesses the skills or core values you hold dear? Look to your shining examples for inspiration – and for referrals. They may well have like-minded friends with similar values who would be good candidates for an apprenticeship.
If it’s a case of finding but not securing good employees, you may need to up your game.
One way to do that is to provide training in the so-called soft skills. In a recent poll of millennials by online training company Mindflash, the skills most sought after were project management, interpersonal communication and problem solving. Providing training in these areas and others is good for workers because it invests in their personal development. It’s good for your business because having literate, positive problem-solvers represent you can’t help but enhance your reputation as a professional service provider.
You may also want to widen your talent search. For example, if you’re not already doing so, consider bringing more women on board. In our cover story, “What young drillers want,” Carolyn Camilleri talks with several up-and-coming drillers from Fleming College, including a female student and a recent female graduate now working in the field. Both are skilled, competitive and up to the physical demands of water well drilling.
As added incentive, know that, according to new research by business advisory firm Korn Ferry, women scored higher than men on nearly all emotional intelligence competencies, among them coaching, conflict management, organizational awareness, adaptability and teamwork.
Clearly there are other labour-related issues at play in the industry too complex to explore adequately in this space, some of which boil down to the value of working together as an industry to common standards and goals.
The Canadian Ground Water Conference and Expo is a great place to talk about these issues and to compare notes with fellow contractors. The event, hosted by the Ontario Ground Water Association and set for June 8-11 in Niagara Falls, welcomes ground water professionals from across the country.
Ground Water Canada will be there, and we encourage you to flag us down and tell us what’s on your mind!