Small Business Staffing – How you can attract and retain great employees

CEDC Job Staffing

CEDC Job StaffingTHUNDER BAY – BUSINESS – You and your staff are the heart and soul of your business – the lifeblood of the entire operation. Finding the right employees is critical, but staffing can be one of the biggest pain points for business owners. The Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC)/Thunder Bay and District Entrepreneur Centre (EC) works closely with agencies like YES Employment to assist businesses in hiring the right people while supporting the growth of jobs.

Yes Employment
YES Employment works with businesses to attract and retain the best employees.

YES Employment receives about 13,500 job seeker visits annually and the agency works with 300-400 employers to find the right staff.  Jack Cleverdon, Service Delivery Support at YES, takes a one-to-one approach to help businesses with employee attraction and retention, providing assistance with forecasting staffing needs, mapping out skills and requirements for positions, putting together job descriptions, planning interviews, and achieving retention. Here’s how Jack outlines the general process for hiring the right employees:

  1. Forecast your staffing needs

Think about why you need to hire someone. Is it temporary, during peak season only, and when would they start? Do you have enough cash on hand to keep your employees if the business experiences a slump? Jack advises businesses to plan their hires and consider outsourcing options (contracting and cost sharing) if a full timer is not needed. Employers can use Working in Canada to access pay grades to help budget the cost of hiring an employee and assigning an appropriate wage.

It is important to know when you would need an employee to start working, so that you can post the job opening about 60 days prior to their expected start date. This is to allow enough time for resume screening, interview scheduling, the selection process, and for successful applicants to satisfy any conditions of employment (ie. police checks, tests, etc.).

  1. Write an Accurate Job Description

The job description must match up with the requirements of the position if an employer wants to attract the most appropriate candidates. Jack advises, “Employers need to be clear and accurate about what position they want to fill. A cashier is different from a Customer Service Representative, and an Inventory Manager is different from a Shipping and Receiving Clerk.”

Start by determining the main tasks and responsibilities of the job, and from there, decide which skills are needed and assign weight to them based on their relevance to the job. Do not limit potential employees by asking for unrelated qualifications or criteria. “People will surprise you. Asking for things like a post-secondary education and a driver’s license when it isn’t needed to do the job discounts very employable people who have a lot to offer.”

Include a closing date no less than 10 business days from the when the job was posted and specify how to apply (through email or in person). Also ask for references on the job description. Jobs can be posted to various local job boards at YES Employment and Northwest Employment Works (NEW).

  1. Interview and Selection

Select 3-5 candidates and compile a list of 5-8 questions to ask during the interview. Within those questions, Jack suggests throwing in a few ‘rattlers’ – questions that ask the candidates about their personal interests to help the employer assess the person-organization fit of each interviewee. Begin with an ice breaker such as ‘What brings you here today?’ and later ask about hobbies and interests. Catching them slightly off-guard sets the tone for the discussion and encourages a more organic response.

“Employers should watch for flags during the interview, and inquire about employment gaps and other areas of concern to feel out whether or not the candidate is the type of person that they want to hire.”

Interviewers may test the hard skills of candidates with an exercise or written component. “It is still common to have someone interviewing for a carpenter apprenticeship to mark measurements on a sheet of paper, or have someone interviewing for an administrative position to handwrite a coverletter.” Also assess the soft skills of the candidate – the way they act and present themselves – to help determine the best person for the job.

  1. Retention

Provide adequate training that is adapted to the learning skills of each hire to equip them with the tools they need to perform and excel as a member of your team. YES Employment will follow up with employers to ensure the new hires are meeting their working projections. YES Employment gathers feedback regarding skill development and will help to provide additional training if needed as well as supports to the employees to help them keep their jobs.

Jack encourages employers to set probationary periods which can last 3 months, 6 months, or up to a year where appropriate.

YES Employment is a non-profit, charitable, community-based organization that exists to connect job seekers with jobs and employers with employees. YES provides free access to information and resources, workshops, as well as training support and job retention services. Contact Jack at to learn more about attracting and retaining great employees.

The Thunder Bay and District Entrepreneur Centre offers FREE and confidential services to help businesses start up, expand, and succeed. Whether you’re looking for funding, training and education, or new and better ways of marketing your products and services, the Entrepreneur Centre is here to get you on the right track to success. Call (807) 625-3960 or visit to book an appointment.

CEDC Community Economic Development (CEDC) Entrepreneur Centre
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