Best known for its picturesque, beautiful beaches and parks, Parkville on Vancouver Island is also known for its high population of retirees. In fact, the median age of the population is just shy of sixty, twenty years older than the median age provincewide. Laurie Sagle, former Director of Human Resources for the Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort & Conference Centre in Parksville, has tapped into the boomer labour pool for years now and has some valuable advice to share.
“We currently have 56 workers over the age of 50 which is about 22% of our total workforce. If you add in those who are 40-plus years old, it is close to 40% of our workforce,” says Sagle. “And most of our 50-plus workers have been with us for a long time.”
At Tigh-Na-Mara boomer-aged staff work in all types of roles and departments including administration, banquets, food and beverage, kitchen, front office, housekeeping, sales and marketing and spa. The gift shop and maintenance teams include many year-round team members over 50 years of age, says Sagle. “37 are full-time employees, the rest are part-time with one casual at this point.”
Commenting on the health and safety aspect Sagle says, “There have not been more injuries with our older workers. We don’t do anything different. We don’t have a specific multigenerational program and we treat everyone as a team. There are younger managers who are managing older workers at Tigh-Na-Mara, but it’s not a twenty-year-old managing a fifty-year-old and we haven’t found it to be an issue.”
In a smaller community Sagle finds local career fairs to be an excellent recruitment venue. “We see all ages represented from twelve-year-olds to people in their seventies. It’s a great way to recruit people because you get to meet people in person. I meet people whom I may not have called in for an interview because nothing on their resume matches, yet when I meet them, they are so friendly and personable and I can see them doing a certain role.”
Sagle acknowledges that the labour market is tough right now in her region. “We have such a small pool to pull from here, and especially for positions such as culinary, massage therapists and leadership roles. I have had a housekeeping supervisor position open for a year; we can’t find anyone. We have been doing without which is not good as we are moving into our high season..
Flexibility is one of the keys to success for Sagle. “For example, one of our more senior staff who work in a small department takes off for 6 to 8 weeks per year. But she’s a star employee and a couple of other workers are happy to pick up extra shifts. We wouldn’t have had her as long as we did if we weren’t able to accommodate her lifestyle.” She suggests that employers be more flexible where possible with scheduling. “Older workers bring this wonderful wealth of experience and a strong work ethic; there are some real advantages,” says Sagle.
Sagle offers advice for other employers looking to recruit boomers, highlighting the need to be clear with expectations. It’s about being clear about what the job is about whether there are computer requirements, physical demands or other. “It’s about finding the best people you can, training them properly and having clear communication lines where people understand what is expected of them. Being fair, clear and consistent with everyone no matter what age you are,” says Sagle.
“As the labour shortages continue, we will need to start adapting more than we already are. Moving forward we will have to start looking at more part-time shifts, maybe two people that work a shift if that’s what you can find. I think we are going to have to look at the flexibility a lot more,” comments Sagle.