Ask the Employee

May 06th, 2007

The Daily Courier, by Steve MacNaull

“Labour shortage means companies have to do what they can to keep quality employees, says Sandra Reder”

Here’s a novel idea: Ask works what they want. “Don’t guess,” recruitment expert Sandra Reder said last week at a Kelowna Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Coast Capri Hotel. “Ask your employees what they want, and, if it’s doable, give it to them. There’s a severe labour shortage on. Companies have to do whatever they can to recruit and then keep top talent.”

That was precisely the title of Reder’s talk: Finding and Keeping Top Talent. “Sit down with every employee and ask them what they want professionally and personally,” said Reder, who owns and operates Vancouver human resources firm Vertical Bridge Corporate Consulting.

Usually the answers will be an extra week of paid holidays, flexible work hours to handle family commitments and some sort of perks like a gym membership of free stuff.

“Because there is the real possibility that companies will lose good people, employers are making these concessions willingly,” said Reder.

“In the long run, doing these things means you have a happier, more productive workforce – and that’s good for profitability.” Reder also ran through a list of employers and what bonuses they offer to attract and keep good workers.

  • Nature’s Path Food: Daily healthy breakfast, extra holidays and $1,000 towards the purchase of a hybrid car.
  • VanCity Credit Union: Transit passes.
  • IBM: Paid for on-site day-care centre and maternity leave pay top ups.
  • ParkLane Homes: Four per cent off the purchase of a home, five paid days off a year to do volunteer work and three-day getaway to Whistler every year.
  • Earls: Fun policy and winner of air band competition gets a trip to Las Vegas.
  • Cobalt Engineering: Every Friday afternoon off.

There was skepticism among Okanagan business people 16 months ago when Reder gave her first labour shortage talk in Kelowna. “Well, the labour shortage is here now and even worse than expected,” she said.

“Every employer is experiencing it. For the most part, Interior employers are pretty savvy in dealing with it.” Reder stressed that there are no quick fixes or magic bullets for companies to deal with the labour shortage. But she did offer up a myriad of tips that can ease the pinch and make companies employers of choice:

  • Hire wisely
    When hiring, make sure you have a detailed job description and make sure the company and the prospective employee have the same vision.
  • Pay well
    Offer competitive wages, full benefits and all the big and little policies and perks that get workers feeling good and talking positively about you within and outside the company.
  • Clear communications
    Workers respect bosses who outline expectations and let them get on with the job.
  • Develop a recognition program It can be as simple as regular thank-yous and as extravagant as an all-expenses paid trip.
  • Assess your leadership structure
    Workers usually quit because they have a problem with their immediate supervisor, not the company. Make sure all managers have training so they can effectively deal with all kinds of people.
  • Offer workers learning and growth opportunities
    Paying for training programs and seminars and promoting from within indicates that you care about your employees and their development.
  • Treat employees with respect
  • Outline the company’s ethics, values and vision statement.
  • Offer profit sharing
    It’s considered one of the best incentive and retention tools.
  • Participate in co-op programs
    Hiring students is a great way to get workers, but also shows you are an employer who is willing to help develop young talent.
  • Utilize older workers
    They have a wealth of work experience and knowledge. Offer them part-time, job-sharing, or contract options.
  • Have flexible hours
    Offer part-time, job-sharing or contract options to workers if that’s what they want and it gets the best out of them.
  • Give them time off
    Offer three weeks of paid holiday a year to new workers, even though the law only requires you to give two weeks.

In thanking Reder, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce CEO Weldon LeBlanc said: “We (Okanagan employers) are generally not prepared for this labour shortage. That’s why we’re bringing speakers like Sandra in. She has really opened our minds to the possibilities.”

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