Happy Small Business Week

The Western REN started the week off with a bang! Our 4th Annual Summit, Landing Talent, took place on Tuesday at the Clare Veteran’s Center in Saulnierville.

Seventy-four individuals attended from both the private and public sector, neatly divided at 50% from the private sector, including employers and employees, and the other 50% were from the public sector (including Western REN staff).

Attendees also came from a wide range of industries. The private sector participants were most commonly entrepreneurs (self-employed) and then fishery related industries. Some of the region’s largest employers sent HR staff.

Photo credit: Michael Carty

The Summit brought together employers, potential employees, and service programs for both. Our panel discussions explored expectations, challenges, and possible solutions from both the employer and employee perspective. These conversations revealed much.

Employee perspectives:

There is a need for more employers willing to invest in the region’s workforce, including: workplace education to keep pace with a rapidly changing work environment, implementing accommodations as required to access available workforce, and participating in co-op placements from high school program. The latter are intended to demonstrate to young people the types of vocations and opportunities that await them when they graduate or return from travels/studies.

Employer perspectives:

Finding and keeping the needed talent is a struggle for employers dealing with a large entry-level workforce, all the way down to highly specialized professions. Many employers are not aware of the variety of services available to them through public sector programs. Also, recruitment efforts need to be enhanced in order to access the right fit for the job and the organization. Finally, retaining an engaged workforce can be challenging for larger, entry-level employers; clearly identifying potential career paths and providing an enriched workplace are two tools being applied by some employers.

Shared learning is a core offering at our Summits and this year we focussed on some very basic requirements of managing human resources. Participants did a brief exercise around communication styles that impact not only how we get our messages across to one another, but also how we best receive information. This self-awareness is critical to successful HR management.

Employee challenges are employer challenges. One of our activities demonstrated the loss of productivity and increased frustration faced by employees provided unclear job descriptions. Finally, we explored the differences between writing a clear job description (which provides instruction) and developing an appealing job posting (which sells the position). Both are crucial for recruitment and retention – though they are not interchangeable.

Landing (and keeping) talent is an extremely complex issue and cannot be resolved in a half-day event. Our goal was to introduce small, but practical, tools for employers to apply right away. Our work doesn’t end here – we support regional businesses, year-round, through Western REN regular programming.

Our BusinessNow program, lead by Victoria Brooks, is for both developing relationships with individual business owners and providing evidence for advising solutions. Our Western Connector program (announced at our 3rd Summit) is headed by Brenda LaGrandeur. This program supports job seekers who lack networks to connect with employers. Our newest addition, Gino Thibeault heads the Immigration program providing information concerning reaching out beyond the province for talent needed. About 15 people stayed for an optional Immigration for Employers Clinic following our Summit.

A huge THANK YOU to everyone for another successful Summit and we look forward to continuing our work with the good people of Western Nova Scotia.