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6 Tips to Retain Top Talent in a Competitive Labour Market

By Diane Amato

Published August 24, 2021 • 6 Min Read

While hiring in a tight labour market may be challenging for Canadian businesses, establishing a strong, healthy team doesn’t rely on recruitment alone. In fact, one of the best ways to maintain a robust workforce is to keep your top employees engaged in your business — and to keep them happy. RBC connected with HR experts who identified some of the best retention tactics for this labour environment.

Ensure a positive onboarding experience

You’ve attracted the right person and successfully hired them. Great! Now it’s important to keep up a positive experience. “The onboarding experience should be ongoing and start the moment an employee accepts the job,” explains Ann Buckingham, Executive HR Relationship Manager with ADP Canada. “It’s the last stage of the recruitment process and the first step toward employee retention.”

In fact, a positive onboarding experience can increase retention by 82 per cent, while a negative one doubles the likelihood a new hire may soon look for opportunities elsewhere.

Offer training and upskilling programs

One of the best ways to retain and engage your existing workforce is to give them opportunities to develop and grow their skills. In doing so, you’ll help increase both their productivity and their loyalty. And, when you create this versatility by reskilling or upskilling your staff, you create a rewarding reciprocal relationship, giving them desired opportunities for career advancement without having to leave your company.

“Employees value companies which will invest in them and their professional development,” explains Buckingham. “Establishing a program that promotes and focuses on increasing the hard and soft skill sets of employees is also a fantastic way to attract candidates thinking about long-term career development.”

Set up regular salary reviews

Given the state of the labour market, your top employees are likely getting approached about positions elsewhere — positions which may come with higher pay as companies anxious for talent up the ante. At the same time, if you’re actively recruiting, you may need to be offering higher pay to attract new staff. To keep your existing employees feeling like they’re compensated fairly, Joanne Acri, Partner and Executive Recruiter with Junction Collective suggests creating a schedule of salary reviews for all employees.

“Whether you’re onboarding new hires or trying to retain established staff, promising to review salaries in three months and again in six months will help keep compensation equal and ensure you’re not jeopardizing the people you already have,” she advises.

Provide a feedback outlet (and act on it!)

Having an open dialogue with employees and establishing feedback mechanisms is critical to understanding their morale, challenges, successes and more. Whether you offer surveys or regular check-ins, you can implement quick ways to open channels of communication and invite feedback.

“But the one thing with feedback, of course, is to make sure you act on it,” advises Buckingham. “While it’s important for employees to know it’s okay to give feedback, if you do something about it, it’s huge for them.”

Steve Cadigan, talent strategist, company culture expert and one of the foremost authorities on the Future of Work recently joined Tony Chapman on an episode of Chatter That Matters and echoed Buckingham’s perspective. Cadigan feels two-way dialogue serves to ‘build a bank of trust and respect’ employers may need to draw on later. “Leaders should be present and available and offer lots of opportunities for employees to participate in surveys, provide anonymous feedback and share real-time feedback. Even if you can’t deliver on everything they ask for, the fact that you listened and they were heard builds trust in the bank.”

Offer workplace flexibility

“The pandemic presented a life-changing moment where we see the world differently,” says Cadigan during his chat with Tony Chapman. “It has accelerated the creation of different choices people want to make — ‘I don’t want to commute. I want to be able to shop in a grocery store when no one’s there. I want the freedom to manage my life differently. And I’m not willing to give that up.’ If organizations are blindly telling everyone to come back because they’re uncomfortable managing in a different way, it’s really going to limit the talent pool coming their way,” he adds.

As Acri works with employers and candidates during this extraordinary time, her perspective is similar. “Nobody — nobody — is saying they would love to go back to a two-hour commute into the office. No one wants that. So being able to offer some kind of balance is going to go a long, long way,” she says, explaining she has heard from many individuals who are willing to leave their current employer if they’re made to go back to the office full-time.

As people reimagine their lifestyles, values and priorities, understanding how your employees’ relationship with work has changed will be critical to retaining them. And considering every person’s situation is different, the more you can tailor arrangements to individual needs, the better.

Create an engaging company culture

Finally, creating an environment people enjoy being a part of — one they believe in and that aligns with their values — is crucial for both attracting and retaining engaged and loyal staff. “If you have a really good, open company culture, if you have regular interaction with your staff and a good commitment to ethics and philanthropic activities, it all contributes to building an amazing culture — and that’s when people want to work for you,” says Buckingham.

Cadigan, who is renowned for leading LinkedIn’s talent push from 400-4000 in 3.5 years and was responsible for architecting its world-famous company culture, agrees becoming a place where people want to be will help distinguish your workplace from others. While he was competing for talent with tech giants such as Google, Apple and Facebook, he had to find a way to set LinkedIn (at the time a start-up) apart. “We found that what we could control at no expense was a great culture. While employees might not make as much as they could in some other places, we were going to guarantee that they would make the biggest impact, learn the most and make the biggest difference in the world,” he says. “Culture was the one thing we could invest in that was going to make us different.”

Bottom Line

While many businesses may address labour shortages by focusing on recruitment, it’s more important than ever to retain the employees who have performed well for you. Focusing on investing in ongoing personal and professional development, gathering and responding to feedback, and creating a fulfilling and engaging workplace will help you maintain a team committed to your ongoing success.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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