Even before the coronavirus pandemic, employers were predicting challenges around meeting the demands of unfilled roles in the skilled trades.

For the last decade, the trades workforce has been gradually ageing out. Now, tradespeople are retiring at unprecedented rates and it isn’t slowing down. While businesses in the sector have traditionally attracted employees with certain characteristics, wants and expectations, generation Z views the workplace and their employer much differently.

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Meeting this generation’s needs starts by getting a good understanding of what they’re looking for. In many cases, employees born after 2000 want innovative, digitally-driven employment that will expand their skills, talents and experiences. They want to work for a company that values training, education and upskilling as much as they do wages, benefits and pensions. This is a significant shift from the retiring workforce and employers are enacting more initiatives around diversity, equity and inclusion, early career development, First Nations hiring programs and re-focused workplace culture.

Young employees also demand more from their workplace and are willing to find work elsewhere if their current employer isn’t meeting their needs. It’s become far less common, regardless of industry, to maintain one employer for the entirety of a career. These workers are savvy when it comes to their employment — seeking growth opportunities, internal mobility, salary transparency, clarity on career paths and a sense of ownership and purpose in what they do. They’re also more engaged in evaluating benefits and pension programs. They also value work-life balance — many skilled job seekers are looking for a career that supports their way of life, rather than the other way around.

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The skilled labour shortage, combined with the war on talent, has had a detrimental effect on some organizations. Every employer wants to attract the best talent, but how can they go about that when they have a need that’s greater than the supply?

For employers, it means being attuned to employees’ needs and getting creative to meet them, including the implementation of incentive programs, flexible benefits programs or allowing employees to choose the option that best suits them. This approach also extends to competitive retirement packages, as well as other benefits, such as mental-health services and employee assistance programs. It’s also important for companies to stay on top of compensation reviews to make sure they’re staying competitive and continuously evaluating benefits, retirement packages and other employee programs to attract and retain qualified talent.

The hiring process has also undergone a transformation. Being progressive isn’t only about ideas and innovative solutions; sometimes it’s as simple as changing language. Shift the conversation from your standard ‘Now hiring’ to one that tells the story of the organization and why a candidate should choose to work there. And building out a brand is key as more candidates ask themselves, “Why do I want to work for this company? Do their values align with mine?”

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Attracting workers while creating long-term talent sustainability requires a coordinated approach from all stakeholders. It demands innovative thinking, challenging outdated mindsets, removing stereotypes and tapping into a wider talent pool. When these goals are achieved, workplaces become a place where everyone can see themselves represented with pathways to successful and rewarding careers — a win-win for both employers and employees.

Lisa Marillier is talent acquisition manager at Finning Canada.