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Recruiting and Retaining Rural Employees

Rural manufacturers face a number of unique challenges when recruiting and retaining employees. How can they remain competitive with their urban counterparts?

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Employee recruitment and retainment is a prominent issue facing the Canadian manufacturing industry as a whole, but employers operating out of rural communities face particular challenges in obtaining labour. Reduced pools of potential workers, housing and transportation difficulties, and general disillusionment amongst current employees all contribute to the increased number of obstacles rural manufacturers must overcome when performing their duties outside of urban centres. As leaders in these areas, though, it is important that we identify the root causes of these issues, and determine methods to effectively circumvent them if we expect to remain competitive with businesses on a nationwide scale. Through informed judgement and proper communication, manufacturers based of out any location should have access to Canada’s full range of skilled, knowledgeable talent, and the incentives necessary to hold onto them.

The importance of branding during the recruitment process has never been greater, and this is exponentially more true for manufacturers in rural environments. As these employers will be competing with not only other industries, but other manufacturers in metropolitan areas, significant efforts should be placed upon the creation of job postings that strongly appeal to their target demographics. Outlining a wide range of unique and accurate employment benefits will be tantamount to capturing a rural labour base, but an according amount of attention should be placed on the fulfilment of these promises. Maintaining an interested, driven workforce requires employees to feel validated and engaged, and these attitudes can only be solidified for rural workers through proper financial compensation, constructive work environments, and additional perks suited to their specific needs, such as transportation reimbursement or remote opportunities. In a post-pandemic world, employers have a responsibility to adapt existing leadership strategies to meet their labour base’s evolving needs.

Consider also the potential employee’s demands for career development opportunities. One of the major advantages of working in an urban environment is the ability to learn from and network with a large number of knowledgeable, experienced workers. Rural manufacturers also have the ability to increase their workforce’s transferable skills, but must do so without the benefit of higher employee concentration. Instead, these employers should take advantage of the resources they have immediate access to — the experience and wisdom of longtime employees, the assets provided by their Local Economic Development teams, and the connections they’ve built throughout their communities. The provision of universally-applicable skillsets, the assertion of job security, and the ability to develop professional networks with established workers are all major points of value for new employees, and do well to build trust and loyalty in their workplaces.

The acquisition and retainment of skilled labour in rural areas may seem like a challenging proposition, but rural employers can provide just as much value as their urban counterparts through effective promotion, suitable compensation, and the establishment of beneficial work environments. It is extremely important that these manufacturers recognize and address the delicacy of their recruitment situation, and ensure that their workers are comfortable, interested, and motivated — lest they be tempted away by urban competitors.

For more on employee acquisition and retention in rural areas, contact Craig Mannell, EMC’s Manufacturing Consortium Manager for Niagara, Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Owen Sound & Area. Attend EMC events frequently for knowledge and expertise crucial to leaders in the Canadian manufacturing industry.

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