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Excited Apple employees celebrate the release of the iPhone 5.

LUCAS JACKSON/Reuters

It's never been a better time to be an employee in many professions across Canada.

With the Baby Boom generation retiring en masse, job-hopping becoming more common and competition for skilled labour increasing, employers are working overtime to attract and retain workers.

According to the Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2014 Survey, staff retention and engagement remains the second-biggest challenge for companies after leadership, which can cause headaches as costly staff turnovers slow productivity. Workers who leave are also taking crucial knowledge and skills with them, while losing employees to the competition can be bad for a corporation's reputation.

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A 2012 study from employee engagement services company Hay Group says companies with strong employee engagement saw 2.5 times the revenue growth compared to those with the least, and exceeded industry averages in measurements such as return on assets, return on investment and return on equity by 40 to 60 per cent.

"Firms with high levels of engagement show employee turnover rates 40 per cent lower than companies with low levels of engagement," the study says.

It estimates the cost of replacing employees to be between 50 and 150 per cent of salary, depending on the organization, which has sent companies scrambling to figure out what makes employees want to stay.

At Vancouver-based Talk Shop Media, formed in 2011 through a merger of two smaller public relations firms, the founders say they set goals early on around retaining staff.

The company, which today has about 17 employees, has seen very little turnover and works hard to motivate and empower staff to grow with the business.

"We wanted to make sure that the team that started with us understood that they could grow with us," said Talk Shop principal and co-founder Sara Padidar.

In addition to a mentoring program, Talk Shop hosts twice-annual staff town hall meetings where they talk about goals and open up the books to show how the money is being made and spent.

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"With transparency comes a greater level of trust and authenticity," says Padidar. "We felt our employees could continue to believe in where we're driving the ship if they knew more details about it."

Carswell, a division of Thomson Reuters, has received numerous top employer awards in Canada over the past decade, which it believes is due in part to initiatives such as dedicated training and development programs for its managers, along with a library of online learning courses for all staff.

"We're very proud to have been an award-winning business for the past 11 years. It's not something they take for granted," says Carswell president and CEO Don Van Meer, especially as the recognitions help attract talent referrals, which he says are critical hiring tools.

The company also offers employees options to work from home, in addition to encouraging its staff to give back to the community by paying them two days a year to do volunteer work.

"We believe that as an organization, we've created a culture where every employee feels ownership and accountability to make this a great place to work and each one of them believes they can make a difference. Our employees trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with … and we've made a conscious effort to work at this every day."

Employers should also keep in mind the decisions they make regarding factors outside their control, especially during industry downturns, according to David Sissons, vice president of Hay Group.

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The ongoing drop in oil prices, which has led to spending cuts and layoffs across the energy sector, is a good example.

"All of those have a direct impact in terms of the level of engagement," he says. "They may be the right decisions for the business in the longer-term, but you need to make some conscious choices about that because it can make people frustrated and leave you when the times get better."

Shannon Young, director of human resources at Randstad Canada, also says more employers need to understand that employee satisfaction doesn't always include loyalty.

"You can have a highly satisfied workforce, it doesn't mean they are going to be loyal," Young says. "Employees see themselves as free agents these days. They think that employer loyalty is fleeting so they are less willing to commit if they don't feel they're getting that same reciprocal commitment from an employer."

She says more employers need to dig deeper, especially because many experts say that the employee engagement survey is not enough to track employ satisfaction anymore.

But she also provides a caveat – employers better be prepared to listen and make changes.

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If you ask, people will expect you to take action on it, she warns.


Numbers are step one. Capitalize applies context to data – helping professionals leverage powerful information to make confident decisions. For more information, go to www.thomsonreuters.ca

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This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's advertising department, in consultation with Thomson Reuters.  The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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