Talent Attraction and Retention Best Practices - Event Summary

May 16, 2019 Bren de LeeuwBC Lower Mainland 237 Views

Talent Attraction and Retention Best Practices

Our first BC Lower Mainland Consortium Event focused on one of the largest challenges manufacturers in all sectors across Canada currently face:  Talent Attraction and Retention.  Regardless of size or location, businesses in today’s competitive landscape require skilled, committed and engaged workforce members to meet customer demands.  Understanding where opportunities to enhance your talent management strategies lie, could truly benefit your organization's growth. 

A very special thanks to our host, AIT – Advanced Integration Technology in Langley, who provided a wonderful overview of their initiatives and experiences and our guests from across the region who joined us in discussion relating to the topic at hand!

Did you know that, according to the 2018 British Columbia Labour Market Outlook, it has been forecasted that BC will have 903,000 job openings over the course of the next ten years?  With the Provincial unemployment rate at the lowest it’s ever been and a prediction by the Conference Board of Canada that industry will continue to grow in the Province over the next three years, the challenges of both finding and retaining talent will continue to escalate.

Learning from AIT (Advanced Integration Technology):

Our host, AIT (Advanced Integration Technology) is the world's largest provider of automation, factory integration and tooling solutions dedicated to the global aerospace, defense, and space launch vehicle industries.  (

After a general overview of the company, AIT Leaders shared experiences and perspectives relating to Talent Attraction and Retention including the challenge of finding people and explorating Apprenticeships, Colleges and Co-Op Project placements.  We also reviewed the differences millennials bring to the workforce and the opportunities that might be available through hiring mature students.

It was agreed by all that if you find good people, you definitely want to keep them.  Employee Surveys revealed that one of the key reasons people stay with their employer is a result of the people they work for.

AIT strives to build and foster a positive culture and through programs such as their Step-Up Meetings, they build better departmental understanding.  They offer continuous improvement opportunities, toolbox sessions, leadership training, weekly talks and KPI’s to communicate company goals and guide performance.  They also have RSP contributions.

One of the most important aspects of employee retention is being open to what people are saying.

Roundtable discussion then followed and general comments are summarized below:

What are the key factors that you feel makes your company attractive to a prospective new hire?

In response to the question above, some excellent thoughts were shared:

  • Sole ownership
  • Family atmosphere
  • Variety of jobs available
  • Interesting place to work and learn
  • Growing business
  • Flexibility in work schedule
  • Working Team atmosphere
  • Culture – positive vibe
  • Competitive wage rate
  • No layoffs
  • Access to machine shop for personal projects
  • Ability to adapt quickly

What strategies/tools/means are you deploying to attract candidates?   How are you developing your talent pipeline?


Current Practices

  • Word of mouth referrals including those from family, friends, current staff
  • Multi-generational hiring of family members from current talent
  • Signing bonus’
  • Social Media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Etc.
  • Recruitment agencies
  • Temporary labour agencies
  • Development and maintenance of Company Website Job Boards that speak to values, social responsibility and corporate mission and available positions
  • Cross training and training – taking experienced people with an interest in growing to fit into areas of need

Job Boards and Potential Organizations to Connect With

  • WorkBC – - also linked to Industry Associations and has a plethora of information on the current labour market as well
  • Local Job Boards/Training Authorities
  • Website Boards – ie.
  • Sectoral groups
  • Chambers of Commerce

Special Programs to Explore

  • Apprenticeships – Tax Credits
  • Co-Op Placements
  • Community and Employer Partnerships – Career Paths for Skilled Immigrants/Job Readiness Training
  • Partnering with Colleges and Universities


  • Reservists - may need leave now and again
  • Immigrant Talent – may require flexibility and cultural observances
  • B2B Alliances – Work Share Programs that build on the highs and lows of seasonality between companies
  • Marketing Videos – develop a promotional video on your company and talent needs and explain why a candidate might want to work for you
  • Secondary School job seekers – is there an opportunity for part-time, casual, refined/shift work/seasonal employees


If an interviewing or general outreach experience is positive, a candidate could potentially recommend that company to their contacts.  It is also important to remember, that a bad experience might culminate in negative comments.

While discussing our pipeline development, we also looked at what employees need to find job satisfaction, which led into an interesting discussion on the Rockefeller Habits (focus, priorities, alignment, and benefits).

Are there specific challenges that add complexity to your hiring plans?

In addition to finding the best means to recruit talent, sometimes there are additional challenges that add another level of difficulty in the recruitment and retention process such as:

  • Automation – special equipment that requires 6 months to 3 years to master
  • Transportation – there are no bus routes to some communities, rural areas
  • Housing costs – difficulty for perspective employees to lay down roots

How are you creating a positive candidate experience?

An article produced by Venture Kamloops - Talent Attraction and Retention Strategy – for the Manufacturing Sector provided some great ideas and was shared with those in attendance.  As an example, some elements regarding retention to keep in mind included:

  • You need to get to know the candidates
  • Get them to see themselves as part of the team
  • Promote the company and the culture
  • Keep the lines of communication open

(From:  Talent Attraction and Retention Strategy – Venture Kamloops)

Bren passed on experiences from other EMC Members.  As an example, one company has their candidates job shadow on the line followed by an opportunity for an employee/candidate conversation so that they can have a clear picture of what its’ like to work in that environment.

Others shared the importance of creating a “personal experience” with the company and making sure if the candidate is the right fit from a corporate cultural perspective.  We all agreed that we need to be accessible – get back to our Applicants right away (if you wait 2-3 days, they are gone) – nor can we be robotic in approach/response.

What are some of your best retention strategies/practices?

Onboarding and Orientation

  • Of job and culture – making it easily accessible
  • Job shadowing and trainer support

Mentorship Programs

  • One example shared included the hiring of Retirees or Seniors on a part-time/occasional basis to mentor

Employee Compensation

  • Profit Sharing
  • Annual bonus – personalized letter thanking them for their efforts with a hat, shirt and pen
  • RSP Contributions

Recognition and Rewards Programs

  • Celebration of excellence – peer driven program – the selected person gets a dedicated parking spot
  • Summer choices - $100/employee which they can then use for a family activity of their choice
  • Supervisor can give gift certificates on the spot

Training and Development

  • Making sure there are leadership development opportunities and right tools to do the job
  • Leadership training
  • Visible training programs to help in growth and development
  • Cross-training opportunities

Communication and Feedback

  •  Step-Up Meetings (to build better department understanding)
  • Visual Management Systems
  • Communication Boards with KPI’s, etc.
  • Weekly talks
  • Town Hall Meetings
  • Toolbox sessions
  • Active listening
  • Importance of being transparent
  • Providing feedback and keeping communication lines open

Fostering a Positive Culture, Teambuilding

  • Outing – teambuilding (ie. bowling)
  • Every other paycheque – hot dog lunch
  • Pot-luck – creates family atmosphere
  • Summer BBQ/Christmas Events
  • Special two-hour lunch with food trucks and team interaction


With a growing number of retirees, how are you ensuring knowledge transfer?  Do you have a strategy that enables senior employees to continue with the company by sharing experiences, learnings, wisdom etc.?

We need to be prepared for a changing workforce, and the increasing number of employees reaching retirement age every single day. 

Participants felt that it would be best to have an honest discussion well ahead of time to determine an employees’ interest in continuing work once retirement age is reached.

Bren mentioned that one of our members is bringing retirees back one or two days a week to act as mentors.  Another company has paired their teams with representatives from different generations and provided training relative to understanding the generational differences in an effort to effect more cohesive teamwork and the transference of knowledge.

How do we change the perception of manufacturing? Do you have ideas on engaging youth in industry?

Our session ended with an open dialogue on the advancement of manufacturing in technology, automation and robotics and how, looking at the future generations to come, we educate, engage and build interest in students to actively pursue a career in our industries.

  • We need to highlight our facilities, our corporate social responsibility, our products, the markets we are in and exploring and the breadth of available positions and qualifications
  • As one member from Canada shared, it’s important that we “Be Where the Youth Are”
  •  School Talks
  • Student Tours
  • Donations to Shop Class, etc.
  • Social media promotions
  • Take advantage of opportunities to hire students, co-ops, summer placements, apprentices!

Supplementary articles on Talent Attraction & Employee Retention were shared along with a calculator to determine the cost of lost talent.

Our Event finished with a bit of roundtable, some Q&A and an awesome tour of their facility!

All the best as always!

Bren de Leeuw, Western Canada Operations
Excellence In Manufacturing Consortium - - 519-372-6009