The Next Trend in Employment – Retaining Workers in a Tight Labour Market

A new analysis of the labour market, focused on the growing challenge of retaining good employees as the labor market tightens.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of change in the local community,” said Curt Allison, an Express franchise owner in Coquitlam, British Columbia. “As the unemployment rate declines, workers are increasingly willing to change jobs for pay increases or better benefits. In many cases, this is because the demand for skilled labor is increasing, while the supply is not.”

Based on interviews with Express franchise owners in regions across Canada and the United States, Express has identified three actions employers are increasingly taking to improve employee retention.

1. Raising Pay

“It’s a wage war now,” said Dwayne Williams, a franchise owner in Guelph, Ontario. Even small increases in wages can be enough to entice employees to change jobs if they don’t feel invested in their current companies. Recent minimum wage increases in Ontario mean some workers now expect higher than minimum wage. “We also have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada, which means huge competition in our area. We’re working with companies to attract from a shrinking pool of people.”

Employers are more frequently evaluating their pay rates in comparison to their competition and prevailing wages in their communities. Those who aren’t re-evaluating are more likely to lose skilled employees.

“Right now, employers really need to keep on top of local pay rates,” Allison said. “Those who don’t keep up, risk losing their best people.”

“In Alberta, we are encouraging companies to pay attention to pay rates to retain their current employees,” said Jessica Culo, an Edmonton franchise owner. “They may not be hiring new people right now, but they need to be prepared for the near future. When things change here, they change fast.”

2. Recognizing Generational Differences

Compared to older generations, Millennials are more willing to change jobs frequently and to leave a job after a brief period of employment. That is due in part to the increasing burden of student loans.

“After finishing a degree, Millennials tend to prefer a job in their specific field and are less flexible,” said Annette Grant, franchise manager in Brantford, Ontario. “But when student loans are due, they may have to re-assess their choices.”

Employers who recognize that Millennials and Baby Boomers often value different things in the workplace are more likely to be successful at employee retention.

“Millennials think nothing of crossing the street for an extra dollar or two per hour,” Culo said. “You need to keep them interested in what’s going on and build the relationship.”

Whereas previous generations were more likely to remain loyal to an employer, Millennials are less likely to feel that level of commitment. Team building, effective communication, and providing a sense of direction are all key components to earning the loyalty of the younger generation.

3. Building Relationships with Employees – and Training Them to Move Up

Annette Grant explains that not all benefits are monetary. “Employees really value work-life balance and flexibility. It really means something to them. As an employer, it goes a long way to building loyalty.”

“Flexibility works both ways-if you show flexibility toward your employees, they will reward you by going the extra mile because you did it for them” Grant said.

Allison agrees. “On the West Coast, we seem to have a ‘work to live’ vs. ‘a live to work’ mantra. A company that recognizes and creates a healthy culture is tops when it comes to retention.”

“Today’s employees are enthusiastic about learning and training,” Grant said. “They are looking to gain new skills and continually build skills and experience. Good people appreciate-and stick with-the employers who provide growth and training opportunities.”

When employees join a company, managers should take the time to discuss their long-term opportunities for growth and advancement. Successful companies give employees frequent chances to voice frustrations, share concerns, and receive feedback. Weekly one-on-one meetings, when possible, can make a significant difference.

Employers who invest in training their employees to improve their skills also report better retention. While employers may see training as an investment in the company, employees also recognize that the company is investing in them.

When employees see their jobs as relationships, they’re less likely to leave without a second thought.

Robert A. “Bob” Funk is chairman and chief executive officer of Express Employment Professionals.

Express Employment Professionals puts people to work.

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