At the height of the global financial crisis in 2008, more than half of British Columbians identified the economy and jobs as the most important issue facing the province. A decade and a half later, that proportion has dropped to 12 per cent.
Housing, health care and public safety are currently more prevalent in the minds of British Columbians.
The fact that British Columbians are not as stressed about the economy as they used to be might lead us to believe that everything is proceeding smoothly. The unique Addressing the Labour Market Gap survey outlines some of the challenges that lie ahead.
The survey collected responses from two distinct groups: A sample of employers, which encompassed business owners and staffers who handle employment matters, and a sample of job seekers, which included adult residents of B.C. who are currently looking for work or who would entertain the opportunity to leave their current full-time or part-time position, if the right opportunity came along.
Each group is facing complexities when it comes to securing positions. More than three in five employers (62 per cent) say it is harder to find qualified candidates now than before the COVID-19 pandemic. The struggle is also real for job seekers, with practically two in five (39 per cent) declaring that it is harder to find a job now than in 2019.
The most striking gap is observed when employers and job seekers are asked about the most appealing elements of job ads. When writing about the positions they are about to offer, employers concentrate primarily on describing the work environment and office culture (50 per cent) and touting additional benefits, such as health, dental or wellness (also 50 per cent). Three other aspects are secondary: Work-life balance (45 per cent), opportunity for advancement (39 per cent and salary (38 per cent).
While the same five features are present on the “wish list” of job seekers, the emphasis is decidedly different. A majority (51 per cent) want to know about the salary first, then focus on work-life balance (42 per cent), additional benefits (39 per cent), advancement (34 per cent) and, ranked last, a company’s work environment and office culture (33 per cent).
This disconnect suggests how hard it is to communicate in the current labour market. With added inflationary and housing pressures, job seekers are desperate to know how much money they could make if successful in their application. Employers appear to be downplaying pay, hoping that a supposedly superior office culture will be enough to lure candidates.
There are other situations that are making it harder for employers and job seekers to connect. The grind of running a business takes away the opportunity to give all applicants a fair review. At least two in five employers in B.C. find it difficult to manage the administrative tasks associated with hiring (43 per cent), dealing with applications from unsuccessful candidates (40 per cent) and finding adequate time to respond to successful applicants (also 40 per cent).
While these numbers do not represent a majority of business owners and staffers who handle employment matters, they are still noteworthy. The chance to establish a successful connection may be lost if decision makers lack the time and energy to pursue a careful and equitable process.
Job seekers are having a hard time with their part of the equation as well. While technology has made it easier to post résumés and cover letters from anywhere, other aspects of the search are more convoluted. Almost three in five job seekers (59 per cent) admit that they find it difficult to negotiate salaries and offers, and majorities are also flummoxed by networking to find the right opportunities (54 per cent) and getting called for interviews (51 per cent).
There are other challenges that will be important to keep track of in the next few years. Three in 10 job seekers (30 per cent) say they experienced discrimination based on age, race, ethnicity, gender or LGBTQ2S+ status during a job interview process. In addition, a commitment to diversity and inclusion was important for only 26 per cent of employers.
Finally, the testimony of job seekers who feel left behind demands action. Some women painted a gloomy picture of the road back from being stay-at-home mothers. On age, we had a low proportion of go-getters being overlooked because of their youth, and a sizable number of Generation X and Baby Boomers who feel the interview process – and the ultimate decision – did not consider everything they could bring to the table.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
The Addressing the Labour Market Gap survey was developed by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction in partnership with the BC Chamber of Commerce. The results are based on an online survey conducted from Feb. 7 to March 3 among 812 employers and 1,225 job seekers in B.C