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Employee attraction, retention key takeaways of Saint John symposium

By Scott Pettigrew May 25, 2023 | 11:33 AM

Envision Saint John released its strategy to attract and retain workers in the Port City, at the Powered by People event held at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre on May 24.

The regional economic growth organization showcased its campaign, featuring video advertisements highlighting the career opportunities and lifestyle advantages afforded by the Saint John region.

The ads are part of an effort being made by the organization to attract and retain international migrants, interprovincial migrants, and youth.

The announcement was part of the Powered by People symposium, aimed at helping employers address talent needs as well as the new challenges of hybrid and remote work.

“I think it’s great!” says Daniel Rito, director of growth and workforce development at Envision Saint John, of the synergies happening at the Powered by People event. “I think the intention of having the entire development ecosystem in one room was achieved. I see a lot of connections happening, I see a lot of people taking those nuggets and taking those relationships to do the next steps.”

Rito says the new talent strategy campaign builds on the previous work of the agency to attract and retain employers and workers to the region.

“This year we turned it into three marketing campaigns with three different messages. The first one is awareness for youth of what the opportunities are [in Saint John]. The second one is going to external markets and trying to get those folks that are in Ontario, thinking about a different kind of life that they can have here in our region.”

“The last campaign is going to be hitting the ground in the fall, it’s about retention.”

The vibrant and compelling video spots drew cheers from the audience of employers, NGOs, and educational institutions at the Powered by People event, as Envision presented its new campaign following the keynote address.

The speaker, Tanya Chapman of the strategic management consulting organization the Chapman Group, encouraged the audience to embrace flexibility as their mantra for 2023. In the presentation, Chapman laid out the benefits for both employers and employees of having a flexible workplace

“It isn’t just about work from home,” she says of flexibility. “It’s more about demonstrating flexibility. So flexibility in shifts, flexibility in when you take your lunch, flexibility in when you take your break, flexibility in part-time offering.”

At the four breakout panel sessions, experts held discussions about how to navigate the tricky waters of finding and retaining talent. For Coast Tire’s human resources expert, Shirley Mitchell, says it’s about letting employees know that they are a valuable part of the team.

“I want what you bring to the table,” she says of her approach to recruitment.

“We had twin brothers that were from Syria, one of them ended up working at our counter and he said to the manager, is it okay if I speak my mother tongue to some potential customers, and his manager said, I don’t care what you speak to make the sale.”

She says that through working with trade and skills-oriented programs at NBCC (New Brunswick Community College) as well as the PALS (Partners Assisting Local Schools) mentorship program in high schools with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Coast Tire has had success with its recruitment efforts, in conjunction with the big network of connections she and her team have built over the years.

“You’ve got to put yourself out there first and foremost,” she says of HR efforts to recruit students while speaking at the ‘From Students to Staff’ panel session.

“You need to know where your vacancies are going to be, where you need to fill some of those voids…then go talk to those institutions and say you’re interested in having students.”

“Make it a meaningful experience,” she says of work placements with students. “If you want to hang on to them, or even if you don’t hang on to them, they’re still going to go out and talk about your organization when they leave. You’re always branding.”

Her last piece of advice is to not bring on new people like students without consulting existing staff, who may be expected to act as mentors or provide other guidance, first because “communication is key.”

“I got a nice compliment from one of my international students,” she says. “They said: ‘The fact that you talk to me a lot makes me feel comfortable.’”

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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