An organization often chooses to reach beyond local boundaries to support growth. At other times, companies may have a position to fill that is unique in the province. Either way, the search must expand to a broader pool of candidates to find someone with a rare skill set.
Two things must happen for an effective recruitment process when bringing people to Saskatchewan. First, candidates must decide whether Saskatchewan will provide what they want for their personal life. Second, the recruiter must make sure the candidate will fit as an employee in a Saskatchewan company; every
community has unique traits that define how people do business there.
When recruiting from across the country, the process starts like it does for any other position: identify the education, experience, and skill set required for the position and the traits that will ensure a good fit with your corporate culture. “That information defines whether you recruit from across the street or across the country,” explains Tracy Arno, CEO at Essence Talent Solutions. Arno’s insight is valuable, having recruited employees to Saskatchewan from coast to coast. “The industry, role, and scope of responsibility will determine what markets across the country are likely to have potential candidates. These factors will provide some focus on where in Canada you should search for your ideal employee.” The principle applies to companies of all sizes but is clearly illustrated when Saskatchewan organizations planning for growth hire for a leadership role. “People we recruit need to understand the dynamics of a workforce with over 1,000 employees,” says Arno. “They would have experience with similar annual revenues. If the organization has multiple lines of business, the candidate would need experience with a highly diversified company.”
Entrepreneurial companies face similar situations. The type of person you search for is determined by traits particular to the situation, such as whether they will be managing front-line staff or middle managers, whether you have one or multiple operating divisions, and whether the company has consistent annual revenue or is experiencing rapid growth.
Reaching beyond provincial boundaries can be a bit of a shock for some employers. The challenge is Saskatchewan’s small population. Some people in larger centres view a community of one million people as a small, sleepy city.
“Someone recently asked me if Saskatoon had streetlights,” Arno said as she reflects on conversations she’s had with candidates. “Yes, we have streetlights. We also have the country’s only Synchrotron, which is a powerful microscope the size of a football field. This reputation is changing, but there is still a perception that our province lacks excitement and opportunity.”
The process is not just about recruiting an employee; it must involve the employee’s whole family. Challenges to moving include selling a house, access to good-quality schools, clarifying job prospects for the employee’s spouse, and identifying amenities that contribute to a desirable lifestyle.
The perception of Saskatchewan as somewhat bleak is changing. People from out of the province are now being exposed to stories about our province’s prosperity and growth associated with an economic boom. Only recently has Saskatchewan’s vibrant arts culture been recognized. The New York Times wrote about the Remai Modern Art Gallery in Saskatoon and listed the city as one of the 52 Places to Go in 2018. Forbes published an article about the beautiful fall colours in the forest at Pike Lake. It’s now common to find Saskatoon restaurants ranked high in lists of top places to eat in Canada.
LIFESTYLE, PEOPLE, AND FAMILY
Lifestyle is a key factor in attracting people to Saskatchewan. It is possible to achieve some level of work-life balance here and not be in a vehicle for two-and-a-half hours every day.
“People are Saskatchewan’s real strength,” observes Arno. “We are recognized for a sense of community. Employees we recruit here tell us that people are a little humbler than where they come from. We have a family feel in our organizations and there is a feeling that everyone is a big team. That mindset has got to be a fit for that person.”
Many Saskatchewan companies are successful and considered world class when competing on the global stage. But most do business a bit differently than companies based in larger centres. There are subtleties to the business culture here. As Arno describes the traits of people who do well once they move to Saskatchewan, she focuses on a willingness to listen and work collaboratively with others. “It’s a different type of thought process and work style. You must be willing to help others get to their next step and they’ll support you with what you’re working on.”
Those who understand and appreciate the differences are often facing burnout from the rat race in a large city, or they feel disconnected from their family. The difficulty is that if you haven’t experienced it, Saskatchewan’s lifestyle is hard to explain.
“When people take the time to fly here for an interview, make sure they spend time here and tour the city and province,” advises Arno. “Their significant other, who is probably a significant contributor to the decision, needs to feel what it is like to be here.”
The candidate might have built a company to a certain level and done these great things. But how they did it and what motivated them is equally important.
UNDERSTANDING THE PERSON
Recruitment is typically focused on qualifying candidates based on what they can do. Recruiters look at their resume, compare it to the job description, and ask questions pertinent to the job to ensure they can do it.
That’s the right thing to do. But understanding a candidate’s personal attributes, their values, and what motivates them in their life is often overlooked.
“What are they passionate about? What is their leadership philosophy? What is their communication philosophy? All of those things are going to determine if they fit in the organization, but these questions are rarely asked,” observes Arno. “The candidate might have built a company to a certain level and done these great things. But how they did it and what motivated them is equally important.”
Fit and culture are buzzwords in the recruitment industry, but many people don’t understand that these words get to the heart of why employees have performed the way they have.
There are two steps in identifying fit with your company’s corporate culture. Assessments that apply behavioural science theory help identify whether an individual’s attributes align with the organization. But there is also an art to the process because relationships are nuanced and human behaviour can be emotional. “The recruiter has to ask questions, listen, understand what the candidate is explaining, and grasp how it relates to the organization’s situation,” explains Arno. “These are people you are dealing with. Ask a series of questions to understand if there is some alignment with the organization’s culture. It requires intuition.”
When searching broadly to fill a vacancy in your organization, ensure that you provide information on our local community and insight into the nature of personal and business life here. Your result will be a greater ability to attract and retain the right people.
First published in the December 2019 edition of The Business Advisor.