Hiring in a global context

Finding innovative ways to recruit overseas Canadians.

Earlier this year, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada released a report estimating that 2.7 million Canadians (over 8% of the country’s population) currently lived overseas. Slicing and dicing further, the Foundation reckons that while the vast majority of Canadians are working south of the border, about 700,000 are scattered around Asia, close to half a million work in Europe, and the rest work in countries like South America and Africa. Of those Canadians fleeing the country, a staggering 95% had some post secondary education or higher. The good news to come out of the report for Canadian employers facing a critical lack of future leaders is that while this talented group are building careers in everything from international banking to running large corporations, they still have a desire to return to Canada.

As recruitment and retention of top talent becomes the number one issue for companies — more important than even capital, strategy or research and development — finding these lost leaders could give you the edge on your competitors and drive your bottom line performance. And as businesses face increasing competition in a global marketplace from international industry and from governments, it’s becoming increasingly important to find innovative ways to attract global workers. One of the most effective ways is through a vibrant corporate culture.

At Boston Pizza culture is a critical component in hiring senior staff. Caroline Schein, vice-president of people development, says being recognized as one of the 50 best managed companies for the past 13 years along with loads of industry recognition and awards means they are able to hire top talent locally and keep them. Schein also adds that having senior management who live and breathe corporate values such as a focus on franchisee profitability and quality guest experience means that turnover among senior staff is very low. The situation though is completely different for skilled restaurant staff. Schein says in Edmonton alone, franchisees have brought in about 320 skilled workers through the temporary foreign worker program. The workers who are mainly cooks and come from countries as diverse as Sri Lanka, Morocco and the Philippines can stay in Canada up to three years and can then apply for permanent residency. “The turnover is high, especially in markets like Alberta where there is so much opportunity,” she says. “It’s quite a hard market, so the good franchisees are doing great things to focus on retention and the ones that aren’t on the ball are paying the price.”

So how do Canadian companies compete for talent in the global marketplace?

The increase in worker mobility and multiple citizenships creates both a challenge and a solution. Executives working overseas and married to Canadians are a prime target for recruitment. So are our educational institutions. Those international students who studied in our universities and colleges are highly educated, culturally attuned and often willing and able to return to work here.

Perhaps, though, the simplest solution is to get back our lost leaders. As the Asian Pacific Foundation’s survey shows, 69% of our globe trotting Canadians plan to return home, and corporations should be salivating at that thought. Why not make it sooner than later?

There are several ways that recruiters can reach and attract these overseas Canadians. The first is obvious. We’ve got to get in step with compensation. The vast majority of Canadian companies cannot compete with the U.S. — even with our strengthening dollar — or with most Western European countries for that matter. The other issue is that we have to think globally. The Foundation has identified at least 72 businesses, social and professional overseas organizations for Canadians abroad. As well there are Canadians studying at overseas universities and staying connected through social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Target these overseas workers with innovative advertising that extols both your company brand and Canada’s economic opportunities, political stability and access to health and other social services — all important motivations to lure Canadians home.

The Foundation’s study also found that two-thirds of the Canadians living overseas were born in Canada. Many are second generation immigrants who have graduated from our universities and colleges to follow high-paying prestigious jobs. It makes sense that if they were offered similar jobs and compensation they’d be willing to come home. When it comes right down to it, your ability to attract these global Canadians might be as simple as your corporate values and beliefs.