Kara Biles, Director of Leadership and Learning, Canfor
What’s the secret to attraction, recruitment and retention of the future workplace? Unfortunately, there is no secret solution, at least not one that we’ve found at Canfor. But what we do know is that we need to be more innovative as we work to recruit and retain future employees.
We all know that Canada’s population is aging. According to Statistics Canada (2018), there are two people poised to retire from the workforce for every one person joining. We’ve felt the impact of retirement at Canfor as valuable knowledge and experience retires with these employees. At the same time, we’re experiencing the increase of younger generations in our company and feel the pull of global competition for skilled talent and angst of difficult-to-fill positions.
At Canfor we’re challenging ourselves to find new ways to rebrand and attract talent, transform our people practices, onboard quickly, train continuously and work to individually engage the new workforce. Our success and success throughout the industry requires innovation, digital skills development and the ability to transfer knowledge and capabilities as baby boomers retire.
These challenges present us with opportunities to develop and update new ways of thinking to create a workplace that future employees will choose.
1. Brand and promote industry sustainability to overpower inaccurate views of a “sunset industry” and negative perceptions. We need to work together to shift and grow attraction to cast a wider net to untapped labour markets both domestic and international. Younger employees increasingly state that they value corporate social responsibility, community support and sustainability. Focusing more around green products produced, involvement in our communities and using descriptors such as “green, modern, climate friendly and sustainable” will help support branding efforts and attract talent. We need tell stories about tall wood builds, how forests help fight climate change and how technology is modernizing the forest sector.
2. Advocate for inclusion and diversity by educating employees, at all levels, on the competitive advantages, benefits and strength of a diversified workforce, including strategies on inclusion. Research has made it clear that diverse companies perform better financially. Working to increase diversity isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense. Historically, our industry has attracted a fairly homogeneous labour pool and it’s imperative that we find new ways to attract and retain underrepresented populations or we will not be successful. There simply is not enough skilled talent to go around.
3. Become learning machines by promoting continuous learning and opportunities for on-demand, informal learning, mentoring and easily accessible mobile learning. Rethinking outdated HR policy bans on mobile phones will be required for video and on-demand access to learning content. Many millennials will be entering the workforce for the first time and need significant investment in training. We’re working on developing effective learning and onboarding programs to expedite employee learning curves and create connection to the workplace.
4. Foster mobility and flexibility in our workforce. Without offering real or virtual freedom of movement for employees, our options will be severely limited. This includes use of social media, mobile technology and working from home. In short, we need to create organizational support for a mobile workforce. The new workforce expects us to examine and provide opportunities for adjusted shift schedules, part-time and contract opportunities, job sharing and, where possible, flexibility to work remotely.
5. Build digital skills and leverage technology such as drones, LiDAR remote sensing, AI, robotics and others. We’ve already leveraged many technologies at Canfor and will only continue to see digital impacts of how work is organized, distributed and completed across the industry. And, we’ll need to attract and support our workforce in adapting to this new reality.
As Canfor looks to the workplace of the future, we know everything will continue to change. Preparing today, for tomorrow, and welcoming transformation will be critical to a sustainable future.
Kara Biles is the Director of Leadership and Learning at Canfor and a part-time human resources instructor in the School of Business at the University of Northern British Columbia.