With the unemployment rate at historic lows, the demand for workers keeps growing, pushing businesses to look at new ways to recruit and retain employees.

John Hennesey is on track for his planned Canada Day kick off of Zups ByWard, which he calls a ‘slightly elevated’ poutinerie. The take-out restaurant is also a mini grocer featuring French-Canadian artisan foods and drinks.

“We’re hoping to provide a destination for people to come to and have what we think is the best poutine,” says Hennesey. “We think we need about 22 to 25 different positions to cover off seven days a week and three shifts a day.”

And even at a time where finding staff can be tricky, Hennesey says most of the positions have been filled.

“I’m offering $18.60 an hour which is trying to compensate and add some awareness about what it costs to be able to live in this city,” says Hennesey, who is also using a QR Code for applicants to submit resumes. “If you start with us and you are bilingual we’ll top you up from $18.60, 40 cents to $19 an hour to start. We back it up by offering free drinks and meals and everything else we offer it up by giving transportation stipends for anybody who’s working.”

Canada's unemployment rate fell to 5.1 per cent in May, Statistics Canada reported earlier this month.

It's the lowest rate since at least 1976, which is as far back as comparable data goes.

The tightening labour market is being driven by a robust pandemic recovery and changing demographics, which Tony Bonen, Labour Market Information Council executive director, says will create a very different situation then what has been seen in past decades.

“Workers in general will have a bit more bargaining power in the labour market going forward,” Bonon says. 

“It might mean that wages will continue to increase particularity for lower earning workers and helping sort of narrow the income gaps that we see. … Longer-term there is also a potential for businesses to innovate around this new reality in finding more efficient ways of doing businesses and more efficient ways to find workers retained and trained in their business.”

The construction sector has also been faced with sharp shortages and when skilled trades-people are required, John DeVries, president and general manager of the Ottawa Construction Association, says builders are engaging with those employees to ensure they are satisfied.

“To ensure they’re on a good career path that financially they are taken care of,” says DeVries. “Those are the progressive employers and I think are the ones who will succeed with retaining their people and attracting new ones.

“But there is loyalty as well, and you as an employer have to cultivate that loyalty.”

Hennesey says it’s important to get the right people for the job, and the extra incentives help to provide a better work-life balance.

“It may be that we’re new it may be that I have taken a different approach in that I’m not a restaurateur,” he says. “It’s to create an environment that is welcoming and open for people to be able to come in and not feel threatened or intimidated or pressured into being hired.”