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Solving the SME Talent Gap and the $38 billion impact upon Small to Mid-Size Employers

Canada has a unique economy and one that requires differentiated solutions to ensure Small to Mid-Size Employers (SME’s), who collectively are the largest base of employers in Canada, and talent have direct simple access to each other.  Despite the existence of large recruiting platforms, the gap between talent and Small to Mid-Size Employers is significant and has a meaningful impact on communities, diverse talent, and the Canadian economy.

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB):

  • Small to Mid-Size Enterprises in Canada create approximately 85% of all jobs1
  • Yet 53% of SME’s reported not being able to get the staff the require1

The implications of the above are far reaching and impact financial and personal well-being, diverse talent and communities:

  • SME lack of talent resulted in $38 billion in potentially impacted revenue activity as 27% of CFIB survey respondents indicated they had to either turn down or delay contracts1
  • 38% said business owners who responded to the CFIB said their staff worked more due to personnel shortages2
  • Diverse populations including skilled new immigrants are impacted by the disconnect between talent and meaningful employment as seen by data suggesting 15% of immigrants leave Canada within the first 20 years and many leave in and around the 7 year mark3

Our interactions with both talent and SME employers reveal talent are unaware of meaningful opportunities with Small to Mid-Size Employers while such employers struggle with brand recognition. Talent research has been conducted via direct engagement at speaking events, campuses, mentorship and direct engagement. Our Small to Mid-Size Employer research has been conducted by direct engagement either through existing professional networks and conversations with the SME companies who use Getting Ahead  to recruit.

  • Young Talent:
    • “Unless our parents, a sibling, friend or friends parent work for a SME employer we will likely never have heard about them.”
    • “Access to such employers given current recruiting practices and platforms is very difficult given we just don’t know who to look for”
  • Experienced Talent
    • “As an experienced professional with a large corporate background, I am looking for something different yet am limited by my awareness of meaningful employment opportunities in smaller organizations.”
    • Yes our research also includes this ride share drivers as well. This concludes that in cities like the Greater Toronto Area, several highly skilled and experienced foreign and domestically educated and experienced professionals are actively searching for employment yet face barriers to entry such as requiring “Canadian experience” despite many of these drivers have 10 plus years of experience in technology, data, medicine and engineering educations and experience. These individuals include PHD’s in field such as Biology and Data Science and some who have post-doctoral experience at leading Canadian Universities in research and teaching
  • SME Employers:
    • “We are a globally renowned engineering firm yet existing practices and platforms do not work for us. We rely heavily on referrals but obtaining high quality referrals takes time which we often don’t have.”
    • Competing with large brands for talent is very difficult in markets such as Toronto where the market is dominated by some of the largest and well branded and funded companies in Canada

Coming from large corporate background over 20 years, my conversations with recruiters at some of the largest organizations in Canada results in clear statements of “We honestly get over 1000 applicants per role in many cases and we just can’t hire everyone”. Once we move out of this very large segment including at $200 million a year in revenue, let alone below, the challenge to access talent becomes formidable and we have heard similar themes and challenges associated with brand recognition and the cost of accessing talent prohibiting access to talent while jobs remain available.

Recent trends in the fight for talent in Canada involve the active participation of Economic Development Corporations throughout Canada advertising their city as great place to live and work while stressing such factors as the cost of living being lower than Toronto for example.  This is notable as a city comes together to compete for scarce human resources, yet the average small to mid-size employer outside these cities will not benefit from such efforts, nor will talent have access to the full breadth of opportunities available in Canada as cites, provinces and regions fragment the landscape further. This is not a criticism of such collective community efforts yet to replicate this model would require each city to fund similar initiatives leaving smaller locations with limited budgets at a disadvantage despite meaningful employment opportunities.

While topics such as technology, taxes and access to funding are significant to the well-being of the SME driven economy in Canada, labour with even basic digital skills is now an absolute must for SME’s.  Without labour the ability to generate the revenue required to either facilitate or realize the benefit from such digital investments will not be realistic.

Several solutions are required to simplify access between talent and SME’s while raising awareness of SME job opportunities, career paths and employer value proposition. Without touching on incentives, tax breaks and more policy driven solutions. These solutions must:

  1. Simplify access and awareness by centralizing SME employment opportunities in a manner that is known, easy to access and locate for talent.
  2. Provide a captive audience of skilled job seekers looking for SME opportunities directly to such employers across Canada
  3. Educate SME employers on how to market themselves to talent in a manner which differentiates them from large employers

Bridging the gap between talent and Employers in Canada will generate significant benefits related to economic growth, work life balance diversity and economic inclusion.  As a talent platform built exclusively for SME’s. Getting Ahead is on a mission to support both talent and SME employers and has been fortunate to find partners such as the CFIB, employers and diverse talent who share similar passions. Canada actually has an abundance of talent. Seamlessly connecting such talent to the SME’s who drive the Canadian economy is our objective at GettingAhead.

  2. omal, Laure-Anna, Vincent, François, The 8-Day Workweek: The impact of labour shortages on the number of hours worked byCanada’s small business owners. CFIB, April 2023


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