Inside Canada’s only recruiting firm for hourly workers

Mindfield CEO Cameron Laker | BCBusiness
Mindfield CEO Cameron Laker.

Mindfield CEO Cameron Laker reveals hiring trends to watch for in 2015

When Cameron Laker launched Mindfield with Jade Bourelle in December 2005, he was 26, had no recruiting experience and worked in the attic above Bourelle’s garage. To pay the bills, he took on everything from technology and senior sales recruiting to CFO searches. Then Mr. Lube came along looking for help hiring hourly employees—and Mindfield found its niche. In 2014, the company placed more than 15,000 people, approximately the same number as in its first four years of operation. Today it has 700,000 hourly job seekers in a database and represents more than 40 hourly employers and sub-brands. No longer above a garage, last year Mindfield moved into The Stables, a renovated three-storey, 16,000-square-foot heritage building in Gastown that once housed Vancouver’s police horses.

Why did you launch Mindfield?
I launched it originally because I felt like there was a gap in the recruiting world. Things like MySpace were starting to pop up, and the web was starting to become social around 2005, 2006. And I couldn’t understand how companies were being charged what they were for outsource recruiting services. On top of this, when I looked at what was available to these hourly employers, there wasn’t anybody who was saying, Listen, why don’t we cut through the noise here and just own the result of helping you hire great people really quickly.

What sort of workers are employers looking for?
To give you a little bit of context, some hourly employers are running north of 100 per cent turnover on an annual basis. So number one, they’re just looking for great people who act with integrity, who are great with their customers and who are reliable. Then you’ve got your stable full-time staff that is running your operations on a day-to-day basis. And then you’ve got that management tier—if you look at the managers running these multimillion-dollar shops in Pacific Centre mall, there’s a big responsibility there. So there’s a couple of different categories of the types of people, but the common theme is people are looking for people who are a cultural fit with their business.

That sounds tricky, figuring out fit for a business’s culture.
We look for behaviours that are closely associated with our customers’ values and people who live those values every single day. That then produces what we call a “like mind” or “best fit” scenario. And the candidate in this whole process is as much our customer as anybody, because one of the key values is best fit—not just finding people who are best fit for a customer but helping individuals find really great fits for themselves. We have a responsibility to make sure these people find great employment.

What are employers looking for that they can’t find?
If you think about core capabilities, companies that have never built capability on how to train and develop their people—that’s a major issue. Now all they want to do is hire experienced people. The companies that are succeeding are heavily investing in training and development. They’re hiring for personality but training for skills.

Thinking about the year ahead, what do you see for B.C.’s job market—and your company?
When I think about where the market’s going and employers are going, I expect companies to be using data and data analysis to improve their people systems and how they hire and how they retain. Not just gut feel anymore. Who are you? Where did you come from? Do you perform in the job? Why do you perform in the job? Did you stick around? If not, why? There’s a different level of embracement around recruiting great people, and the connection between competitive advantage in the workforce is becoming front and centre. At Mindfield, we expect to continue to grow probably by at least 30 per cent this year, because we know that companies, the progressive ones, are understanding that they have to hire awesome people, and they have to retain those awesome people.

Social media has kind of upended your whole industry, hasn’t it?
You don’t just go to a job board anymore. The job board game was about attracting a whole bunch of people to your site—versus now, what social media allows employers to do is much more of a one-to-one engagement. They used to pay to post their job; now they’re going to equip their staff with this really cool hashtag, and they’re going to go mobilize them and encourage them to share social content. They’re also going to make their social content—that user-generated content—part of their employment brand story. I can’t tell you the impact that Instagram is having for companies that are showcasing and letting their employees showcase who they really are as a company. The biggest, most interesting change is that there’s going to be a couple of key players that will reinvent the job world. LinkedIn’s already there, and there are some other major job aggregators like Indeed. Indeed didn’t exist five years ago, and now they’re the biggest job board in the world. How social gets integrated into a company’s recruitment strategy will be a key indicator of who’s winning the war for talent.