In December 2011, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) posed a question to 649 business owners: “How has the shortage of qualified labour affected you and your business?” In response, 30 per cent said they had not been affected, but those that were affected felt the negative impacts of a labour shortage in a few different areas.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • 54 per cent said the owner(s) were working more hours
  • 52 per cent said they were receiving poor quality applicants
  • 45 per cent said they had increased labour costs
  • 35 per cent said they saw deteriorating customer service
  • 33 per cent said they had high turnover and frequent retraining
  • 30 per cent said they had delayed or cancelled expansion plans

The CFIB joined the Alberta Coalition for Action on Labour Shortages (ACALS) a few weeks ago to help address these issues. The group is lobbying the federal and provincial governments for policy changes, similar to what the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is hoping for after introducing the Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness for Canadian businesses.

The Canadian Chamber president and CEO Perrin Beatty was in Calgary on March 15 to talk about some of those barriers and possible solutions during a luncheon hosted by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. While many of the strategies focus on policy or regulatory changes, Beatty did have some thoughts on what individual businesses could do to make an impact in their operations.

Beatty says bringing in outreach programs, such as providing English as a second language (ESL) classes for new Canadians can attract workers, as well as re-structuring job expectations to make it easier for women or recent retirees to re-enter the workforce. He also says more investment should be made in upgrading skills and professional development to have “world class workers.”

“We need to see education, not as a canning process where someone enters kindergarten and we open up the top of their head, pour in information until they graduate from university and put a lid on it,” Beatty says.