Event summary produced by The Globe and Mail Events team. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.
As the economy across Canada continues to reopen many small business owners are gearing up to welcome employees back or hire new staff. The Globe and Mail, in partnership with CIBC, hosted a webcast on July 9 to provide small business owners with insights on the labour market and strategies to re-engage their workforce.
Watch the full webcast below. Highlights from the discussion appear below the video.
Below are a few takeaways from the panel speakers:
1). Look for opportunities to upskill your workforce
Canada’s unemployment rate is approaching 15 percent, said Chris Roach, Mississauga, Ont.-based principal with David Aplin Group, a recruitment firm. It could be a good time to hire new individuals who have different or stronger skills. Many employees have checked out for the summer but will transition back to work in the fall, especially as COVID-19 government assistance programs wind down in October.
The supply of skilled and talented workers is still tight, Mr. Roach said, especially in sectors such as IT, finance and accounting. Still, employees might not be happy with how their companies are handling the crisis and could be considering a change. Small businesses with strong leadership and transparency are in a better position to attract and retain these skilled employees, he added.
2). Offer flexibility and reassurance to staff
Sheri-Anne Woolley, Markham, Ont.-based owner and founder of Mona Home and Office Cleaning, said some of her employees are fearful to return to work. Ms. Woolley also owns a franchise of Senior Helpers, a company providing in-home care to elderly clients. Both companies require employees to enter customers’ homes and some are afraid of bringing COVID-19 to elderly clients or contracting the illness themselves, she said. She is talking through new safety measures with employees, such as personal protective equipment and social distancing on the job.
Ms. Woolley said some employees are receiving benefits such as CERB (the Canada Emergency Response Benefit) and might prefer to stay home to care for families and protect their health. Both of her companies entail part-time work so she is able to offer employees flexible schedules or reduced hours to accommodate their family and financial situations.
3. Be a competitive employer
Some of the strategies working for Calen McNeil include paying above minimum wage and offering benefits. Mr. McNeil is founder of Big Wheel Burger in Victoria, and has several quick-service restaurants in B.C. After a brief shutdown, business resumed for takeout and many employees are already back. An automatic gratuity of 12 percent provides additional income for employees.
The company also has a foundation focused on providing meals to at-risk populations in the community. Employees donate 20 percent of the automatic gratuity to the foundation. Staff appreciate being part of a good cause and it helps with retention. Mr. McNeil considers Big Wheel Burger a premium employer and this approach is key to attracting and keeping good employees, he said.
4). Manage your cash flow
Hiring and rehiring staff impacts cash flow so it’s important for small business owners to check their expenses against revenue, said Hedy Afsharian, director of business banking with CIBC. Any time a significant change happens business owners should revisit their plans. She advised entrepreneurs to review their fixed expenses and develop a plan to either reduce or defer them if possible.
Business owners who have personal or business borrowing accounts might want to speak with their bank advisor to explore deferral options on payments. They should also look at variable expenses such as inventory and revise as needed. Suppliers might be willing to provide longer payment terms to help with cash flow, she added.
View the full webcast above.