Your Reading List

Putting Staff First Is The Key To Retention

Peet on Pigs

“We offer clear goals and acknowledge success. We do not take their accomplishments for granted.”

Bernie Peet is president of Pork Chain

Consulting Ltd. of Lacombe, Alberta, and editor of Western Hog Journal. His columns will run every second week in the Manitoba Co-operator.

Employers that put their staff first, treat them with respect and allow them to take responsibility for their work will be more successful at recruiting and retaining employees, says Carol Martens, manager of human resources for Manitoba-based Hytek Ltd.

Speaking at the Banff Pork Seminar in January, Martens said keeping staff happy involved saying what you do and doing what you say. This starts at the recruitment stage by being open and honest about what the job entails and the working conditions.

“If you are specific with what will be expected from the beginning, the employee won’t feel overwhelmed or misled once starting in the position,” Martens said. “We demonstrate the job so there are no surprises.”

She advises that employers provide a job description in writing because this benefits the employee as much as the company. “We also provide an employee handbook and specific instructions applicable to their department and find that the employee appreciates the clear definition of their job because it allows them to do well at it,” she said.

Potential employees are also offered the opportunity to “test drive” the job. “Our goal is to demonstrate what a positive experience it is to be a part of the Hytek team and to sign a mutually beneficial contract at the end of

the day,” Martens said. “It gives them confidence that they are accepting a career they can excel at. If the experience proves the position and the candidate not to be a good fit, we shake hands and wish them well.”

Retaining staff for the long term requires employers to be aware of the reasons that good employees quit, Martens says. Apart from being honest about the job, giving staff respect and autonomy is essential.

“We respect the opinion of each and every employee and recognize that they were hired for their own specific skills; we do not micro-manage,” Martens said. “Unless an employee is on performance probation due to performance issues, closely monitoring your employees every detail will make them dissatisfied and unproductive. At every level, we allow them to make some decisions and we find they respond well to the responsibil ity and take pride in their work. Empower them, trust them to do their job well and allow them to contribute as they were hired to do.”


New employees are welcomed into the position by taking them on guided tours and making personal introductions during the employee’s first days. Training is also provided, which encourages people to get to know one another. Hytek has an open-door policy where everyone is welcome to approach his or her manager, co-worker or executives and everyone knows each other by name.

“We recognize birthdays, tenure and have staff and family appreciation events,” Martens says. “These little things go a long way to ensure the employees know they are valuable to our company.”

Feedback on employees’ performance and accomplishments is also vital, Martens believes. “We have a policy in place to communicate with our staff on a regular basis and not to save compliments or concerns for scheduled performance reviews,” she said.

Regular reviews and good communication demonstrate to the employee exactly how they are doing. “We offer clear goals and acknowledge success. We do not take their accomplishments for granted,” Martens stressed.

Part of ensuring staff satisfaction is enabling staff to advance in the company. Hytek offers courses, supports outside courses, assists in personal development by providing language classes to immigrants and rewards excellence with promotions. Martens believes that employees will leave if they feel they have reached a plateau within the company.

“Lateral moves can be rewarding if a new challenge is required but employees work well knowing they can be promoted,” she said. “We post all jobs internally first and encourage staff to contact their manager if they are interested in another position. They are not discouraged from working towards a higher pay rate or more responsibilities.”

Employees moving to a management position don’t automatically have the skills required to inspire and encourage their team, Martens notes. They will have learned by example from other managers but Hytek enhances this knowledge with extensive courses in management and leadership.

“Consider the dynamic of the ent i re team when you promote from within or bring in management from outside,” she advises. “Management should also be consistent from department to department; inconsistencies send mixed messages and also can pit departments against one another and cause negativity within your workplace. Job dissatisfaction is rarely about money, but it can be.

“We strive to be fair and keep our wages and benefits on a par with industry standards or above and within what is standard for the community and province,” says Martens. “If employees are satisfied with their workload and work atmosphere then this will be acceptable to them.”


The job is not as expected

Lack of autonomy and respect

Feeling undervalued

Unclear performance goals

Unclear performance goals

Management lacks interpersonal skills

Below-average pay and/or benefits

(Source: Carol Martens, Hytek)

About the author

Ernie Peet's recent articles



Stories from our other publications