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What Makes People Stay?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers have significantly heightened their expectations for jobs and employers. As a business leader, how can you adapt to meet these expectations and retain a passionate, engaged workforce?

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On Thursday, September 23rd, manufacturers across New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI gathered to share information on modern employee acquisition and retention strategies. Hosted by EMC’s Joan Richard and Jen DeWare (Kikkert) of Visualiiz, this event allowed EMC members to thoroughly examine the root causes of labour shortage, discuss effective recruitment and retainment methods, and identify issues affecting certain employee demographics. The following article serves to describe and expand upon the event’s core themes.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the Canadian labour market, it can be difficult for employers to recruit skilled, qualified workers— and even more challenging to retain these employees. Competition between manufacturers to obtain high-quality labour has never been fiercer, and re-evaluation of previously-used management strategies is essential to keeping employees engaged, motivated, and effective. As the hybrid model of work becomes an unavoidable reality, the individual needs of each employee are made prominent, and up-to-date retention strategies must be utilized to prevent workers from leaving their posts.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a mass exodus of employees due to burnout, anxiety, and re-evaluation of lifestyle priorities has been recorded, with highest dropout rates seen among women. As the primary caretakers of their homes, working mothers no longer see financial compensation as the only motivator in their career, and demand both policies that meet their specialized needs and opportunities to develop transferable skills. Recognize that there is no “one-size-fits-all” set of guidelines for employees — each must be communicated with on an individual level, have their specific expectations considered, and receive customized support to achieve their greatest potential. Issues with equity in the workplace have always existed, but have been exacerbated even further by the pandemic. As the national workforce begins to regroup and determine next steps, it is important now more than ever to put the desires of our employees at the front of our minds.

Consider also the expectations of younger employees — members of the “Millennial” and “Generation Z” demographics. An educated, active, and socially-conscious group, young workers meticulously analyze their organization’s impact on the world, and strongly consider these factors when deciding where to apply and how long to stay. What is your company’s environmental impact? What can be learned under your leadership? Can a new employee solidify a career with your team? These questions and more weigh heavily on the minds of young workers, and the answers to them must be defined clearly and presented effectively to secure their commitment. As an administrator, the use of empathy in employee interactions must be constantly applied, and a greater deal of worker autonomy and independence must be allowed. Remember that providing flexibility and trust to your workers doesn’t lessen productivity — if able to work how they feel most comfortable and secure, employees will feel a far stronger sense of motivation and confidence, staving off apathy and boredom.

Updating long-held management processes is always complex, but employers have a duty to adapt their methods to the modern world. The “surge capacity” of a workforce — its ability to perform under pressure — must always be considered and kept in check. In these harsh times, empathy, trust, and communication are integral elements of the employer-employee relationship, and liberal use of these attributes will lead to a strong, energized, and dedicated team. 


For more on employee retention and acquisition, contact Joan Richard, EMC’s Operations Manager for Eastern Canada. Attend EMC events frequently for knowledge and expertise crucial to leaders in the Canadian manufacturing industry.

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