High salary expectations prove tough on Alberta small- and mid-sized businesses
CALGARY - Alberta workers earn the highest incomes in Canada and that's putting pressure on the province's small- and mid-sized business owners and operators.
ATB Financial's second quarter Business Beat Survey has revealed that Alberta business owners are struggling to meet the salary expectations of potential and current employees.
Sixty-seven per cent of small- and mid-sized businesses say finding and retaining experienced or skilled labour is an issue. Among those businesses, 37 per cent say they can't meet the salary demands of workers.
"Whether they are looking for skilled journeymen, technical computer skills, equipment operators—the challenge is widespread across industries and throughout the province," says Wellington Holbrook, ATB's Executive Vice President, Business & Agriculture. "And once business owners find employees who fit their needs, things like salary expectations make it difficult to hang onto them."
High wage expectations are forcing business owners to come up with creative ways to attract and retain staff.
Calgary-based DIRTT Environmental Solutions offers employees (affectionately called "DIRTTbags") incentives like flexible work schedules, a continental breakfast & hot lunch program and on-site fitness facilities.
"As a manufacturer in a city where energy is king and salaries are high we have to make ourselves a desirable employer in other ways," says DIRTT's Julie Pithers. "First, we prove we are loyal to our people. During the lowest point of the U.S. economic downturn we were asked if we were going to lay off people in production. We knew we would never get those people back in the Calgary market, so we cross-trained teams, tidied up the factory and when that work was done, we organized teams to work at local charities and paid them their regular wages."
According to the ATB Business Beat, other challenges with finding experienced labour include:
Shortage of skilled labour
Cannot compete with competition
People "do not want to work"
Business located in a small community/ rural/ remote area
Small (fewer than 50 employees) and mid-sized businesses (fewer than 500 employees) represent 99.9 per cent of businesses in Alberta.