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Attracting Staff in Rural Alberta

Rural businesses traditionally fill job openings through internal postings, referrals from friends and relatives, word of mouth, and advertising in local newspapers. But when those methods don’t work, finding candidates with the right skills can be a challenge, and hiring someone can take longer than expected, particularly when labour is in short supply locally.

If you are having trouble finding new employees for your rural business, maybe it’s time to look at some alternative recruiting practices.

Network and collaborate

Reaching a larger talent pool with your job postings could be a good first step and may be no higher in costs than the conventional advertising you currently do.

Consider free or paid advertising using:

Reach out to your local economic development agencies: 

Talk with other local employers who may have similar needs. They may interview a candidate that isn’t a fit for them but would be for your business, or they might know of a job applicant’s spouse or family member who will also be looking for work if they move to your community.

Also look outside the pool of candidates you normally look for. Target underemployed populations such as youth, people with disabilities, or members of the Indigenous community.

Train to retain

You may be competing against highly specialized industries for workers if your company is located outside of major population centres. Make sure to highlight the personalized training options you can offer to develop and retain the loyal, qualified employees you need.

Highlight any training incentives you can offer. Contact your local Alberta Supports Centre and other community business services organizations to learn about available funding options for training.

Consider training options you can offer new employees: 

  • In-house training 
  • Paid online or community college courses 
  • Formal or informal opportunities to provide feedback and exchange ideas 
  • Mentoring to promote ongoing employee growth 
  • New skill acquisition through committee work, special projects, promotion, or assigning new tasks

Be flexible and creative

Job seekers aren’t just looking for competitive pay, job security, and benefits. When they are deciding where to apply for jobs, they also look for prospective employers who will:

  • Treat them with respect 
  • Offer interesting work that gives them a feeling of accomplishment 
  • Promote good communication with co-workers 
  • Provide a safe and healthy working environment

As the employer, you can control the type of workplace you provide for your employees, and you can highlight these benefits in job postings.

Think about options that can give employees more flexibility and balance between their work, family, and other commitments: 

  • Flexible working hours 
  • Shorter work week 
  • Job sharing 
  • Telecommuting (that is, working from home using a computer)

Consider benefits that can help newcomers to your community make contacts and feel at home, such as free membership dues to a local service club, tickets to local sporting and entertainment events, or staff social activities.

You could attract young employees by offering bursaries or scholarships in exchange for summer jobs, apprenticeships, or co-op opportunities leading to full-time employment. More senior employees might be attracted by personalized, flexible employee benefit programs providing job-protected time away from work (such as personal leave or professional development leave).

Promote your region

You know the benefits of living in rural Alberta and have made it your home for a reason. Share those reasons with potential employees, attracting people who appreciate some of those same values. You may be able to highlight benefits like:

  • Lower cost of living
  • More affordable housing
  • Reduced commuting time
  • Closer family life
  • Access to parks and natural areas

You may also want to provide applicants with information on housing, health care, schools, libraries, places of worship, recreational facilities, minor sports teams and so on.

Work with your local municipality, the chamber of commerce and other employers in your area to find information about your community that you can use to promote it as an attractive destination to live, work and play.

Your local Regional Economic Development Alliance (REDA) can also help you find:

  • Information about the advantages of the region as a place to live, work, and invest
  • Links to community, tourism, and other local websites
  • Links to social media resources, such as tourism videos you can share

Attracting staff to rural Alberta may take some creativity, hard work and networking with like-minded business owners, community organizations and development agencies. Chances are the same traits that attracted you to the small communities can also attract job seekers from urban centres.

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