You’ve Hired Em’, Now How Do You Keep Em’?

As Alberta still struggles with the economic downturn, we are starting to see more stability. According to results of the most recent Alberta HR Trends Report conducted by HRIA, fewer organizations are expecting further layoffs, with about 45% of Alberta companies surveyed expecting their staffing numbers to stay the same. In fact, about 25% of companies surveyed are expecting to grow and increase their number of employees over the next 6 months.

For those employers looking to hire, they are in luck! Due to the large number of people out of work, the current talent pool is vast. But more than that, there is a plethora of highly credentialed, high quality talent out there to choose from, making it much easier for companies that are hiring to find great people. According to the Alberta HR Trends Report, organizations are feeling very confident that they will be able to find good, qualified people for open positions. While hiring time has stabilized over the past year, organizations are still able to fill a significant number of jobs in less than one months’ time, especially administrative staff and tradespersons and journeypersons. Even specialized positions continue to be filled in short time, including almost 60% of executive positions and nearly 70% of managerial positions, in under three months.

With access to all this incredible talent, the bigger question remains…now that you have them, how do you keep them? Companies should be asking themselves, “if the economy suddenly took a turn for the better, would my top talent stick around, or are they just waiting for the dust to settle, so they can move on to the next best thing?“

Creating and maintaining an engaged and loyal workforce is an on-going struggle, in good times and in bad. Engagement and retention should definitely be a focus for employers now.

Effective engagement and retention strategies have to permeate the entire employee lifecycle. Despite the fact that it’s an “employer’s market” – it’s not just about employees needing to work, its about creating a place where people want to work. And this starts right at the beginning, with your hiring practices.

Recruitment and Hiring

When it comes to recruitment, it’s not just about finding the most qualified person for the job; it’s about finding the best fit. Organizations should focus on hiring employees whose beliefs and behaviours are in alignment with the organization’s core values and company culture.

When there’s a good match between the employee and the organization, retention is less likely to be an issue. People who fit well into their company generally feel greater job satisfaction, perform better and are more likely to remain with the same organization for a longer period of time.

Orientation and Onboarding

Onboarding is a critical part of the hiring process and another area where it pays to have effective processes in place. Not only does a good orientation make new employees feel welcome and comfortable in their new surroundings, but having a systematic, structured, and comprehensive onboarding program also helps to bring employees up to speed quickly and efficiently, minimizing the time it takes for them to be productive. A well-designed and engaging onboarding process can positively impact an employee’s satisfaction, retention, morale, and overall performance.


Even in an “employer’s market”, compensation is one area that organizations want to ensure they are being fair and competitive. When you hire an employee, what you pay them can set the tone for long-term satisfaction or disappointment with their compensation. Offering things like competitive salaries, profit sharing, bonus programs, RRSPs, health spending accounts, and paid time off as part of an employee’s total compensation package sends a strong message to employees about how much the company values them. Therefore, an important aspect of using compensation as part of a retention strategy is to ensure the organization is communicating these details to employees, making them aware of all the benefits the organization provides for them.

According to the Alberta HR Trends Report, organizations in Alberta are not expecting to give big raises this year, and anticipate only about a 1.7% increase to base salaries. Many organizations are changing their benefit plans as a way to cut costs, with 52% of companies making changes within the last year. However, even though cuts are being made, there is also a trend toward making benefit packages more customizable for employees. When you have up to 5 different generations of employees in the workforce, each one of them is going to have different needs. Allowing employees to customize their plan is a great way of appealing to the masses while ensuring everyone’s needs get met.

Career Development

Employees are more likely to stay engaged in their jobs and committed to an organization that makes investments in them and their career development. Lack of career opportunity and insufficient personal and professional development are major reasons people quit their jobs. If you want to keep good employees around, provide opportunities for them to grow and learn. Talk to them about their career goals and let them know what career development plans you may have for them, as well as what opportunities are available to them within the company.

Create room in your budget to provide training and development opportunities and help pay for continuing education classes. Give your employees challenging and stimulating work, and allow them to focus their time and energy on projects they enjoy. If you want to keep your good employees for the long term, actively help them map out how they can attain their career goals within your company.

This year, we are seeing Alberta companies increasing their budgets for learning and development, investing around 4% of their total budget, up from 3.4% in the last Alberta HR Trends Report.

Reward & Recognition

Don’t underestimate the power of recognizing a job well done. While monetary rewards are always nice, making employees feel appreciated can go a long way in creating good will and loyalty. Employees will go above and beyond if they feel directly responsible for the results of their work, feel their efforts are viewed as worthwhile, believe their jobs make good use of their skills, and receive recognition for their contributions. When employees feel undervalued and unappreciated, it’s not surprising they look for other employment.

When there isn’t a lot of room in the budget for expensive gifts or bonuses, reward for good work can be as simple as a “thank-you”, giving kudos during team meetings, or taking the team out for lunch or drinks. The key to making reward and recognition truly motivating is to give it often, in a timely manner, and do it sincerely. Reward and recognition are not only top drivers of engagement, but are also one of the easiest areas a manager can improve upon.

Coaching & Feedback

Good old fashion communication never goes out of style. It’s the key to any successful relationship, including the employer / employee one. Giving employees meaningful feedback and coaching on a regular basis helps ensure the work they are doing is aligned with business objectives and that they are meeting expectations. When employees know what they’re doing well and where they need to improve, everyone benefits. Feedback has one of the greatest impacts on an employee’s performance, and at a time when budgets are tight, the good news is, it doesn’t cost a dime!

Employers in the current economy are facing some interesting challenges. While the access to an abundance of high quality candidates makes it easy to fill positions, the bigger concern is how to engage and retain them for long-term business growth, especially at a time when organizations are under pressure to keep their costs down.

Employers who focus on key engagement drivers to improve and maintain employee engagement levels will set themselves up for continued success. It starts with understanding what actually engages employees, and then applying that to all phases of the employment cycle—from recruitment, to training, to performance management, and career development. When employees are engaged and committed to the company’s success, it becomes much easier to retain them.

This article was originally featured in the HRIA Essentials Fall 2016 HR Trends newsletter. Check it out for more great HR Trends articles.


Alberta HR Trends Report – 6 Month Outlook – August 2016

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