So, what’s the problem?
To attract and retain workers, rural communities need to be more creative and attentive than their urban counterparts. In urban areas, there are a lot of features to attract workers– the variety of restaurants, tons of entertainment activities, and close proximity to all the services you could need. On the other hand, in rural communities, you need to work a bit harder to showcase the many wonderful features like short commute times, privacy, lower housing costs, and the beauty of your surrounding environment. On top of this, businesses need to put in effort to keep their workers by offering extra perks, a good working environment, or higher pay. But, higher pay isn’t always an option. Luckily, there are a ton of options that won’t break the bank and some options where you can cost-share with other local businesses.
Flexibility, meaningful work, and good work culture!
It’s all in the title – workers are looking for flexibility, meaningful work, and a good work environment. First, let’s look at what employees don’t want. In rural communities, some of the main challenges expressed are boredom and poor work culture. According to *a study done in Prince Rupert, BC, workers found themselves looking for new opportunities or challenges. However, employees expressed certain opportunities that would be easy to introduce:
- High importance placed on work culture and environment – I mean, who wouldn’t want a fun place to work? Consider adding an area where workers can go to unwind for a couple minutes or considering adding perks like snacks and coffee.
- Meaningful work with clear objectives – when objectives are clear employees receive a greater sense of completion and satisfaction. This can help employees work efficiently while feeling more comfortable and confident in their tasks.
- Flexible Schedules – “side gigs” and passion projects are becoming increasingly popular either to gain additional income or pursue a dream. Flexible scheduling allows for workers to have a reasonable work-life balance.
- Opportunities to work remotely – if there are certain tasks that your workers could complete remotely, consider letting them work from home every once in a while. A change of environment can promote productivity and your employees will be happy to have the option!
- Casual dress code – doesn’t everyone love casual Fridays? Let your employees dress down occasionally.
Don’t worry about having to do it all on your own either. A lot of these initiatives can be shared with other local businesses. Considering creating a shared space with a neighbouring business for your employees to relax or mingle. You can also consider coordinating casual Fridays so employees across the community are happy. There are endless opportunities – ask your employees for their ideas as well!
What does it mean for you?
There are tons of reasons to improve your business and community worker retention. Not only will your employees be more loyal to you, and happy in their positions, there is also economic gain for the business. Think about it – how many hours do you put into human resources through hiring practices? For each hire, how many resources do you need to train a new employee? If you keep your workers happy, your workforce will likely be much more successful, skilled, and efficient.
Do you have any more ideas on how to improve worker retention in rural communities? Or, if you’re a business owner, would you consider making these changes?
By: Shauna Sanvido (Policy and Program Assistant Economic Development Division)
*Recruitment and retention of low and medium-skilled workers in Prince Rupert and Port Edward by Christopher Armstrong, Kristi Farrell, and Karen Sawatzsky