HR North: Connecting SMEs to Skilled Immigrant Talent in Northeastern Ontario

A new report calls for the development of a “one-stop” HR Support Centre to help SMEs recruit and retain skilled immigrants. (This report summary originally appeared on the Maytree Blog on July 4, 2012.)

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree Policy & Research Analyst

This report (funded by ALLIES, a joint project of Maytree and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation) provides support for the development of a “one-stop” HR Support Centre for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in four regions across northeastern Ontario.

This proposed support centre is the second component of the ongoing HR North project.

The first component, an online database and matching tool, is currently being developed in partnership with Skills International with funding from Industry Canada.

Why Is This Research Needed?

Previous research suggests that SMEs in northeastern Ontario are not reaching their full potential compared to similarly situated businesses in southern Ontario. Local SMEs face difficulties meeting their labour force needs. At the same time, many SMEs are unaware of the increasing business opportunity in hiring skilled immigrants and are not tapping into this talent pool.

The economic future of northeastern Ontario relies on the growth and development of small and medium-sized enterprises. More than 98% of employers in the region have fewer than 100 employees, making SMEs absolutely vital to the overall development and prosperity of the local economy. Previous research indicates that 60% of surveyed employers in the North Bay area expect the size of their workforce to increase in the next three years. Employee retention is a concern.

Identifying an HR support model that is tailored to SMEs can increase these employers’ capacity to hire and retain the skilled talent they need.

What Did the Researchers Do?

This study looks at SMEs in the districts of Parry Sound, Nipissing, Timiskaming, and Cochrane, and limits its definition of SME to those employers with fewer than 100 employees. A researcher consulted with and surveyed local SMEs about their current human resource practices and requirements.

What Did the Researchers Find?

  • SMEs in northern Ontario do not have formal internal or external human resource supports.
  • More than 90% of local SMEs do not have dedicated on-site HR support.
  • Many SMEs use online websites to source HR-related information.
  • Few external sources of comprehensive human resource support are available to SMEs.
  • Very few SMEs use external HR services.

In order to successfully hire and integrate newcomers, employers need several key HR services: recruitment tools, candidate screening, mentorship or internship programs, language training, workplace diversity training, funding and support for skills upgrading, retention tools, succession planning and community integration support.


The report supports the continued development of the online database and matching tool. It also recommends the development of a single source (“one-stop”) support centre for SMEs across the region that provides resources, tools, and live assistance with HR management issues. This support centre would provide:

  • Recruitment tools
  • Candidate selection and hiring tools
  • Language and communication training
  • Retention tools, including succession planning resources
  • Workplace diversity training
  • Licensing and skills upgrading, including funding for training
  • Community integration support
  • Mentorship or internship programs

How Can You Use This Research?

The combination of attracting, recruiting and retaining skilled immigrant talent is of interest to all employers, but especially to SMEs. Previous ALLIES research outlined the business case for SMEs making better use of skilled immigrant talent. We also identified some of the same HR challenges and solutions outlined in this report. The model proposed here may be of interest to policy-makers and service providing organizations in both smaller and larger centres.

Read the full report: HR North: Connecting SMEs to Skilled Immigrant Talent in Northeastern Ontario

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