Recruiting & retaining talent: Edgy meets innovative

Local firms recruit & retain talent by empowering associates to take ownership and deliver excellence

Banfield construction
VBJ File

In today’s ever-changing business landscape, both large and small companies are looking to go above and beyond in their recruiting and retaining strategies. While employee benefits are still key, forward-thinking business leaders are coming up with innovative ways to keep and attract talent. Whether it’s having the option to work from home, providing training and tools for success, or offering day-to-day perks, companies are thinking outside of the box to not only recruit and hire new people, but to empower them to stay long-term.

One local company taking a unique approach to recruiting and retention is Banfield Pet Hospital. The Vancouver-headquartered firm allows employees to bring their dogs into the office and, for the past two years, has surveyed human resource decision-makers from across a range of industries about the impact of pet-friendly policies.

“Our research shows that employees are more likely to work for and stay with companies that allow pets in the workplace,” said Stephanie Neuvirth, senior vice president of People & Organization at Banfield, “so we’ve always welcomed dogs into our corporate offices and built our new dog-friendly Vancouver headquarters from the ground up with associates and their pets in mind.”

Banfield’s 2017 study of Pets at Work, which was published earlier this month, found that among millennials (ages 18-35), 73 percent believe allowing pets at work benefits employees. 60 percent of millennials surveyed said they would be more likely to keep working at a company with pet-friendly policies.

In addition to pet-friendliness, Neuvirth said Banfield works to build unity between associates and leaders.

“People, pets, and being a force for good in the community are at the core of what we do,” she said. “We believe a healthy and productive work culture starts at the top. We’ve worked to create an environment that fosters innovation and collaboration, no matter what your title is or where you’re based.”

The company’s headquarters also supports its philosophies of well-being by providing a free on-site fitness center, a large bistro where associates can eat together and numerous lounges and other meeting spaces for group collaborations and team brainstorming sessions.

According to Neuvirth, Banfield Pet Hospital associates are continually thinking about what’s next and how to further evolve. The company invests heavily in mentorship, leadership training, career planning and goal setting.

“We prioritize and reward leaders who embrace people leadership and professional development – and ask more, talk less,” she said.

That kind of investment in career planning and leadership is precisely what employees need to feel empowered and valued by their employer, said Ghaile Windeck, a coaching specialist at Advantage Learning Solutions in Vancouver.

Windeck believes companies that are known for unique policies and procedures are generally run by individuals in HR and management that are outside-the-box people.

“Companies large or small have to remind themselves that their proactive capabilities will make a difference,” she added. “Complacency and other futile solutions cost more money and do not encourage good employees.”

Gravitate, one of Vancouver’s larger digital marketing agencies, also emphasizes professional development. Colten Tidwell, Gravitate’s director of creative, believes that recruiting and retaining talent requires a personal touch and a complete team effort.

“Innovation in recruiting can mean a lot of things these days and with so many automated recruiting platforms and systems out there, the personal touch in getting good talent is getting lost,” said Tidwell. “Retaining employees really takes a team approach. It takes trust and open communication from top to bottom.”

If it’s done correctly, Tidwell said a team approach and environment of accountability can encourage employees to buy into what the company is all about, which ultimately leads to a greater quality of workmanship at the end of the day.

“We’re accountable to our internal teams, our client teams and ourselves when it comes to producing great work,” he said. “We’ve really taken the team approach to solving difficult and challenging problems. For example, if one of our designers is running up against strict deadlines and working late hours, I may not be able to jump and help in any way, but I can offer to get them dinner knowing that they will be in the office late. We give our employees the chance to forge their path here. Being able to think ‘outside-the-box’ is key and essential.”

Like Gravitate, Vancouver’s Sigma Design also promotes open communication and team-building to keep employees feeling empowered.

“By building a company with top performers who also share the same love of our company culture it provides a great pool of referral talent,” said Kylee March, Sigma Design’s HR administrative assistant & sourcing specialist. “In a tight ‘candidate-driven’ market, it gives us a leg up on finding and enticing top talent to leave their current positions. In addition to referrals, we find that leveraging social media channels is effective for recruiting as well.”

For Aaron Dawson, president of the fast-growing CPA firm Opsahl Dawson, recruitment is all about making the effort and investing the time.

“Hire the right person to begin with,” he said. “You have to take the time to interview, you need a large population to select from, and you have to recruit before you need the person. Last minute recruiting doesn’t work. Build a bench and hire before the work is there so you can grow.”

Dawson said that once his company finds the right fit for a position, the employee needs to be challenged, or they will get bored.

Day-to-day perks at Opsahl Dawson don’t hurt with retention either; the firm offers employees flex scheduling, fresh fruit to enjoy throughout the week in an employee lounge, and workstations that raise up so employees can stand and stretch during the day.

“Those tools can help motivate and inspire employees to stay around for the long-haul,” said Dawson.

Ultimately, companies looking to establish new, innovative procedures related to recruiting and retention must get buy-in from both current employees and managers, said Windeck.

“We cannot strictly enforce older ideologies that don’t work anymore,” she said. “Plus, if companies have the insight to not throw out what used to work when it’s applicable to today’s changes, there is hope for progress in the future.”

Windeck also recommends companies consider outside support sources and believes management should continually develop their talents and skills.

Innovation can be like a double-edged sword that’s not always communicated clearly in the workplace. However, Windeck said, with the right combination of creativity and coaching, innovation has the ability to empower associates to take ownership and deliver excellence on their own terms.

A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Brooke Strickland is a full-time freelance writer that specializes in writing blogs, website content, and business news for companies & publications around the country. She is also the co-author of Hooked on Games, a book about technology and video game addiction.