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Our 5 tips for attracting and retaining employees

Words of wisdom | June 4 2018

The Montréal economy has reached nearly full employment. Skilled workers are in high demand. In other words, managing talent in your SMB is more essential than ever. How can you make your business stand out? Here are a few strategies to get candidates knocking on your door, and staying with you once they’ve come on board.

1. Flatten your organization chart

As a company grows, it gets harder and harder for the boss to maintain direct contact with employees. You start your business with a small team, where you know what everyone does. But then one day you find your workforce has expanded to more than 20, and you have to delegate managerial duties. As the CEO gradually becomes less involved in day-to-day operations, the gap widens between the top and bottom of the organization. This can affect employee motivation.

One way to avoid this problem is by having an almost flat hierarchical structure, with an emphasis on self-direction, consensus, sharing, freedom to act, attentive listening and small teams. That way every team member can contribute ideas and initiatives to the project, rather than just carrying out assigned tasks. Bit by bit, a natural, informal hierarchy will take shape.

This approach, adapted from “design thinking,” will help you manage the talent within your firm. Design thinking lets you come up with innovative products and services allowing you to respond directly to a customer’s needs. The approach is based on alternating between analytical and creative thinking, so as to quickly arrive at a product ready for testing. When this approach is applied to managing talent, it can be summarized in three words: defining, ideating and testing.

You won’t find the perfect match just by posting a job offer. The values your business embodies are also a factor in attracting and retaining employees.

The idea here is to recognize individual employees’ contributions rather than just asking them to apply ideas passed down from above. People in the field, who talk with customers and suppliers or who are involved in manufacturing, may have valuable knowledge that could let your firm innovate. Think about creating small multidisciplinary teams and giving them an hour now and again to talk about issues they have noticed in your firm. By involving everyone in this problem-solving process, you’ll increase all employees’ sense of belonging and involvement.

I have seen this approach applied in many of the companies I have visited, especially those run by young entrepreneurs. By granting employees a bit more autonomy and responsibility, you will usually boost their motivation.

2. Innovate with “the employee experience”

Companies that stand out are those that focus on “the employee experience.” This means listening to employees and recognizing their contribution, practices that are especially valued by younger team members.

Start by creating a work atmosphere that fosters this kind of sharing, setting aside emotions and concentrating on respect and objective, rather than subjective, viewpoints. You can use a formal structure for this, during a monthly or quarterly review, for instance, and/or an informal one if you feel that your employees would like more frequent feedback on their work. There’s more than one solution… so use a case-by-case approach. Praise their efforts and achievements. Talk to them about your own ideas and feelings, too. Show them that you want the whole team to succeed.

3. Build a strong “employer brand”

You won’t find the perfect match just by posting a job offer. The values your business embodies are also a factor in attracting and retaining employees.

What are these values? To identify the most important ones, think about how your company currently operates. Flexible schedules, room for initiative and creativity, environmental awareness and making work “fun” are all values likely to appeal to potential employees.

Careful, though – sincerity is paramount. The image you are conveying must actually reflect your company’s culture or the set of values on which it’s built. You have to walk the talk, or you won’t fool anyone. Make sure your values are embodied in everything your firm says and does. This image must also be communicated during the hiring process, starting with a candidate’s first interview. If you succeed in charming him or her, chances are that word will get around.

You have a number of options when it comes to “advertising” these values. A blog talking about what is going on at your company is a good place to start. By posting these articles on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, you’ll boost your visibility. Another way is to promote your firm’s support for a humanitarian or environmental cause.

By devoting a bit of time to broadcasting the image your firm wants to project, you’ll become a real talent magnet.

4. Think about your employees’ well-being

More and more people consider quality of life an important factor when choosing one employer over another.

Think about organizing your employees’ schedules to give them some down time. This could not only improve productivity but also help you attract and retain staff.

Offering flexible hours is only a start. Survey your employees to find out whether they’d be interested in yoga sessions or a weight room, for instance. Access to shared recreational activities can be a valuable team-building tool.

5. Offer micro-training sessions

Just because your employees are no longer in school doesn’t mean that they’ve given up on learning and acquiring new skills. You need to offer them short training sessions not only to reach your company’s objectives, but also to interest them in developing and expanding their skills within the firm. Training needs are bound to soar in years to come with the advent of new computer solutions based on artificial intelligence and other technologies. You and your employees have to get ready and stay abreast of trends.

Online or interactive training is the best option. Web-based training has come a long way, and you can now find webinars and appealing educational platforms. Why not ask your staff what kind of training they would prefer?


Employee commitment will have a major impact on your firm’s overall performance. Ask your employees what would motivate them. In fact, employee commitment surveys are available on the market and can help you identify your employees’ needs, much as you try to define your customers’ needs. Figuring out what motivates your employees will help you boost their commitment and performance.

This article was written by Christian Vaillancourt, CRHA, business and talent advisor with PME MTL Centre-Est.

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