17 Jun The Human Element
One saying that I believe to be disingenuous and impersonal is: “Employees are your most valuable asset”. To me, assets are inanimate objects that can be bought and sold but loyal, dedicated, committed employees are so much more than that. In a small business, after the owner, the employees are the heart, soul, and face of the company. They represent the enterprise and they are critical to the image, growth, stability, and profitability of the company.
As a professional engineer, I did not receive any formal in-class training in human resource management, operations management, or marketing and sales, and I have minimal training in finance. These are essential business-related skills however, it is not necessary to gain this knowledge in a lecture hall as individual courses, advice from mentors, or simple experiences from the school of hard knocks can fit the bill. It doesn’t matter how you learn, as long as you learn the nuts & bolts of business. The largest single struggle for most companies today is not the ability to find business, it is finding employees and subcontractors to complete the work.
I recently attended the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Spring Dinner at which Patrick Sullivan, CEO, provided these shocking statistics:
1) Halifax currently has 4.9% unemployment (lowest since they started recording in 1976), which, based on my experience is basically zero, because those who are unemployed are often between jobs and not looking or possibly unemployable. When you are looking for skilled people, this low unemployment rate makes the potential employment pool very shallow.
2) Every Friday in Canada approximately 5,000 people are leaving the work force due to retirement. Even if 5,000 young people are entering, which they are not, we are losing 35-45 years experience per person which is equivalent to 175,000 – 225,000 years experience leaving the work force each week. This is mind blowing as the baby boomers leave the work force in ever increasing numbers.
If you don’t know this by now, let me break it to you, employing the right people is more important than your final product. Regardless of the quality of product or service your produce, without the right people, training, personality, and motivation your company will suffer. So what should we do with this challenging situation? These are a couple of things to consider:
- Consider immigrates. Either people recently arriving in our country or people who would love to move to this land of opportunity. Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) is a great place to start as they are able to guide you through the search and hire process.
- Seek out the underrepresented in our country whenever possible; woman, youth, minorities, or disabled persons. It may appear to be more work initially, but you will find the work is worth it when you find a gem you did not expect. As a society, we must look past the stereotypes and open our minds to the change that is hitting business like a tidal wave.
- Provide appropriate compensations, a living wage with great benefits, so a person can live a good, healthy life, raise a family, and not just scrape by. As an owner, I believe everyone should pay their people well, make sure they can go to the dentist when needed, and have pension when they retire. Let’s start taking responsibility for our employees so they can confidently represent our companies and take care of business.
I certainly do not pretend to have all the answers however, if this article helps you to think outside the box, even just a little bit, find one new person, or view your existing people in a slightly more positive and progressive light, then I am happy and you are welcome.
Dan Monk, P.Eng. / Red Seal Carpenter
Owner – MONK Renovations