How can you be sure to keep the staff you have?

The cost of losing staff is high when you consider the time and money invested in recruiting, training, on the job mentoring, and team building. Frequent staff turnover can mean that the quality and delivery of program activities are inconsistent. It can be hard to gain momentum and build a robust and impactful program when staff changes.

Here are some key areas to focus on when thinking about the best ways to keep staff.

Wages

If possible, set equitable and competitive wages that are similar to other employment opportunities in your community or region. If you can’t pay as well as others or offer full-time work, provide other kinds of incentives or benefits to attract and keep people on. Create a supportive and flexible work environment that accommodates and supports staff needs. For example, some people prefer seasonal over year round work because it allows time off in the winter for other activities.

Policies

Clear compensation policies are essential. Be clear on:

  • Pay scales
  • Overtime
  • Travel expenses
  • Time in lieu

When everyone is clear about what to expect, they will likely be more accountable, cohesive and function better together. Staff morale, job satisfaction, and absenteeism can all improve with clear and equitable policies.

On-Going Learning and Training

Provide opportunities for your staff to continue learning and take on more responsibility. Align training and work activities with the personal and professional goals of each guardian and build leadership training, mentoring and coaching into day-to-day work. When possible, consider pathways for people to advance in their jobs, such as opportunities to move into full-time work, a supervisory position, or a technical specialization. See the chapter 'Develop Training and Build Capacity' for more ideas.

Recognition

Lastly, look for ways to enhance your guardian’s role and standing in the community by recognizing them and the importance of the work they do. Celebrate successes and achievements.

“I pay my crew for 10 hours a day, whether they are on the water for 6 hours or 12 hours. If they work hard, get the job done, they are efficient, it works out in their favour. There are days in the field that are long and crappy, but this is made up for the days when things are smooth and they get home early. You have to offer a fair wage that is competitive with the region around you. You will have a lot of turnover if you are offering low wages.”

Bruce MacLean, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree
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“I pay my crew for 10 hours a day, whether they are on the water for 6 hours or 12 hours..."

“Something that I’ve found very useful in helping to retain staff is to give them more responsibility by engaging them at management decision making and updating leadership. Staff want to see that the information they have is really valuable and needed, and that they are appreciated and their work is making a difference. They contribute to decision making as a valued part of the team, rather than just being a labourer. All these things can help retain staff even if your wage is low and you have no benefits to offer.”  

Anna Schmidt, Taku River Tlingit
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“Something that I’ve found very useful in helping to retain staff is to give them more responsibility by engaging them at management decision making..."