RonaldNg PhotographyClick image to enlarge

Retaining your highly valued employees

by Tim Wilson

We hear a lot about the difficulty in finding good people. However, the flip side of this reality is mentioned less often: how to retain those high value employees after you've hired them.

"To keep good people, competitive wages and benefits are a given," says Graeme Simpson, program co-ordinator of the Human Resources program at Humber College. "What makes a difference is the organizational culture, the work climate, and the transparency and leadership of the management team."

One challenge is that many workers see HR as doing management's bidding, as opposed to being an advocate for the worker. This is complicated by the fact that HR professionals are trained in such areas as payroll, benefits administration, and recruitment, and often put less emphasis on designing career paths, training, and employee satisfaction.

"We have worked with large and small manufacturers, and have found that an employees' council is an effective way of addressing retention issues," says Janet Salopek, president of Salopek & Associates, an HR consultancy in Calgary. "If you have mixed representation, and access to the president, it makes a difference."

To keep good workers there has to been an effective, open and reliable means for those workers to communicate with management. And once that communication is made, a worker has to feel that he or she has been heard. A reluctance to invest in training, or to participate in a shared vision for a career path, is a recipe for attrition.

"For those important employees, you need to have a conversation with them to find out what they need–not everyone is interested in money," says Maurice Mazerolle, associate professor of HR at Ryerson University. "Some workers want to broaden their skill base, or to travel and adjust their work-life balance."

But the benefits of engaging employees and making them feel like they are part of a shared enterprise can be scuttled if a worker feels that his or her efforts only serve management. Innovative programs for profit sharing can help keep good people around, particularly in non-union shops.

[subhed]Trust and transparency builds loyalty

Union or non-union, it is the lack of trust and transparency that can get in the way of building strategies to retain valuable workers. The good news is that HR can play a pivotal role in making sure those essential people are retained.

"The challenge is that not everyone likes to hear criticism, so you have to find ways for safe communication," says Mazerolle. "One way is to use anonymous employee surveys, and also exit interviews. Often, employers are stunned when a top-notch worker leaves, and yet with proper communication, and a proper response, the problem might have been addressed before it was too late."

And management has to do its work outside of the immediate employee relationship, too. It is really up to a company to have a granular understanding of competitive salary and benefits structures for its industry and geography.

"A company can purchase an external survey to ensure they are competitive with job benchmarks in their industry, and can also use benefits brokers," says Simpson from Humber. "As well, smart companies will take into account geographic considerations, and address cost-of-living issues."

From there, it is crucial an organization commit to ongoing employee development, and that this reflect the worker's interests. It may mean upgrading skills in a specific area, or working on a job path that will lead to another field altogether. Employers should be open to the possibility, for example, that a machinist may one day want to shift to technical sales.

"We see a lot of need for cross-training for continuous learning," says Salopek. "Younger workers in their 20s and 30s will stay if they feel an employer is paying attention to their needs."

Which brings us to loyalty. One of the biggest misconceptions is that an employer's investment in training and professional development can backfire, with these workers then taking those skills elsewhere. In most instances, the exact opposite it true: investing in your employees builds loyalty, and is more likely to ensure long-term retention.

Retaining diversity

Some workplaces are notable for the extent to which they have failed to take advantage of the demographic diversity in Canada. Most job shop floors are populated with men, and many under-represent Canada's cultural strengths. This is a huge missed opportunity for Canadian employers.

"One way to solve this is for management to have pay incentives to meet diversity goals," says Maurice Mazerolle, a professor in HR at Ryerson University. "This is a professional development process that fits onto a larger cultural change, which can take years."

For many employers, this kind of cultural transformation may be a low priority, but it ties in with the larger challenge of workplace stability and employee retention. If you are only accessing and welcoming to a narrow demographic, you will be in a weak position competitively over the long haul. That said, if your workplace is diverse you might also need to address more complex retention issues.

"Once hired, to ensure retention you have to open up decision-making roles," says Mazerolle. "You have to realize this is the 21st century, and yet still we have under-represented groups, which is a challenge when the make-up of the business does not reflect the customer base."

This will be a factor for Canadian manufacturers in the coming years, as retention issues will increasingly reflect the reality of a more diverse workforce. Getting ahead of this scenario, however, will turn a challenge into an opportunity to ensure long-term stability and growth.

Tim Wilson is a contributing editor. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Double digit, record-breaking year for Linamar: Q4

Linamar's fourth quarter results marked the 9th consecutive record breaking year of double digit earning growth.

The Smarter Factory

by Noelle Stapinsky

Canada’s job shops are expanding with increased automation, putting them on the path to a fully autonomous future

Growing With The Flow

Story and images by Noelle Stapinsky

Evolving with a constant investment in technology keeps a family-owned fab shop meeting demand and expanding its business

Airbus selects Magellan Winnipeg and US plants for parts

Airbus has selected Magellan Aerospace to produce exhaust systms for the aircraft builder's A320neo PW family of aircraft, and the parts will be designed, developed and manufactured at Magellan's Winnipeg, MB, facility and at the Middeltown, OH plant.

Skilled Labour to the Rescue

By Michael Ouellette, editor

Manufacturing Day improves industry profile: survey

Manufacturing Day 2015 events across North American have helped to improve the perception of industry among the public, according to a Deloitte survey.

Choosing a welding helmet

by Jamy Bulan

Balancing safety, productivity and comfort

Vehicles of the future

What futire transportation systems might look like.

Bombardier Aerospace on a roll

Recent aircraft deals valued at close to $1.5 billion

Bombardier Aerospace has had a recent slate of good news that is helping to spur growth in Canada’s aerospace parts manufacturing sector.

Simultaneous five axis with a range of features

The Methods MB 450U Bridge-Type machining centre from Methods Machine Tools Inc., is a Taiwanese made model that offers five axis simultaneous machining. The Fanuc 31i-MB5 control enables full five axis precision machining of challenging parts, significantly reducing the need for multiple setups.

Smart Machining

The problem
Improving productivity in a highly competitive aerospace market

The solution
A Makino machining cell adds new level of five axis automation and productivity in titanium machining

Machining cell helps aerospace parts maker improve productivity

Ontario equipment maker lands $300 M deal

Niagara, ON, equipment manufacturer Whiting Equipment Canada Inc. has been awarded a multi-million dollar contract to supply salt evaporators and potash crystallizers from VALE for the company's potash plant in Argentina.

Disney develops acrobatic robot

Robotics has come a long way in a few short years. This new acrobatic robot from Disney could put stunt performers out of work.

Field Notes: BySmart fiber laser/Xact Smart press brake

Product: BySmart fiber laser/Xact Smart press brake
Supplier: Bystronic
End User: EPP Metal

Stay In Touch

twitter facebook linkedIn