Vol. 81, No. 2Panel discussion

Two male officers listen to another officer while standing outdoors in winter.

What’s the best way to retain employees?

Employees value the chance to learn and grow. To help retain them, supervisors should provide training opportunities while employees themselves must show they're willing to tackle new assignments. Credit: Serge Gouin, RCMP

When RCMP cadets graduate from Depot, they begin their careers full of energy, hope and optimism. While many continue their careers with this mindset, others lose their enthusiasm and motivation. We asked four RCMP employees for their views on what keeps people satisfied, and how to best help them enjoy long, fulfilling careers.

The panellists

  • Karine Labranche, manager, RCMP Operational Communication Centre, Westmount, Que.
  • A/Commr. Jasmin Breton, Commanding Officer Depot Division, Regina, Sask.
  • Cst. Guillaume Martel, Grande Prairie detachment, Alta.
  • Julie Gallant, RCMP human resources advisor, Fredericton, N.B.

Karine Labranche

It's no surprise to anyone that staff retention has become a hot topic at the moment. So what are the best approaches to keep employees motivated? How do we, as an organization, ensure we're able to retain talented, diverse and motivated employees? Good question!

I've been supervising employees in the RCMP Operational Communication Centre (OCC) for a decade and, for me, it's about the people — the person behind the position or the title.

Whether they're an operator in the OCC, a police officer or an executive assistant, there's one common denominator: they're all human. Employees are the RCMP's greatest asset and the way we treat people is directly linked to performance, motivation, engagement and retention.

Therefore, as managers, we have the ability to affect employee retention every day through our actions.

I was once told by someone who I highly respect that possessing strong "soft skills" was the most important quality as a manager, even more than technical skills or knowledge. These include social and communication skills, specific personality traits and emotional intelligence — traits that, in my opinion, have the power to greatly influence the people around us.

In my experience, it's all about the little things we do. Actions speak louder than words.

Whether it's creating genuine ties with people and investing in interpersonal relationships (by making ourselves available to listen and being supportive), or contributing to and promoting a positive work environment (by being involved in daily operations and offering feedback and recognition), it's important to show commitment to our employees. Trust me, it all matters. A lot.

We need to assess ourselves continually through introspection, and choose who we want to be, not only as a leader in our respective units but also as an RCMP ambassador. It's hard work but you get it back in loyalty, engagement and productivity. As I said before, leaders have the power to impact people and, in today's world, the stakes are extremely high.

I don't deny that other factors in the workplace contribute to job satisfaction: training and development opportunities, autonomy in our role, the "why" do we do what we do, a sense of making a difference, clarity of the organization's mandate and mission, and so on.

Also, I'm aware that there are multiple external factors that we have little control over such as salary, benefits and compensation. However, we must invest our best efforts in our immediate sphere of influence.

We've had hard times in the OCC in the past few years, facing a variety of challenges pertaining to recruiting and employee retention, which probably don't differ from other sections. But I can proudly say we've successfully overcome them. We've done it together.

How can we retain our employees?

Just focus on the people.

A/Commr. Jasmin Breton

Keeping talented, diverse and motivated employees is critical for the current and continued success of our organization. Retention should be a word that all employees, including supervisors, managers and senior management, can define and clearly understand.

Even though the list of potential contributing factors is very long, I've chosen to identify five that I think we should pay a bit more attention to as we move the organization forward.

The first should be to establish a positive and healthy work environment across the organization, where people feel respected and valued. Our people-first approach in Vision150 will help us lead the RCMP to continued success. We all have a stake in making and contributing to this environment of trust and respect. It's easy to criticize the organization but I would challenge all employees to be active participants in making the RCMP the organization of choice for current and future employees.

Second, I believe that our employees value the opportunity to learn and to grow within the organization. Supervisors and managers must provide opportunities with a path and level of expectation. Naturally these opportunities must be matched with employees' willingness of to take on additional training and to tackle new and exciting assignments. Our Educational Tuition Reimbursement Program is a great example of a support process that provides our employees the chance to complete educational courses on their own time to further their growth within the force.

A third area of focus should be recognizing the contributions of our people. In some parts of the organization, we do a great job but many employees value overt and public recognition. Using the formal process, such as the Honours and Recognition Program, is often appreciated but there are many more ways for employees to be recognized. As an organization, we must show each other that we care about the great work we do every day and continuously celebrate our accomplishments in formal and informal settings.

Trust would be the fourth element that contributes to retention. Employees need to feel trusted and managers must recognize the importance of showing their own vulnerability. We need to create an open and honest work environment where everyone takes the time to listen to each other. As someone who grew up playing team sports, I continue to value and appreciate that my supervisor, my peers and my subordinates always have my back.

Finally, employees need to be empowered and given the opportunity to lead. Egos must be left at the door. Everyone should join the organization knowing they have a leadership role within their own work environment. To improve and grow, more focus and energy must be given to leadership development through seminars, courses and practical opportunities.

In our current environment, where the attrition rate is creeping up and recruiting is a challenge, we need to place more attention on retention. The list above is a small sample of positive steps we are taking — or need to tweak — to make us more attractive to current and future employees.

We all have a role to play in continuing to make the RCMP the organization of choice.

Cst. Guillaume Martel

I graduated from Depot, the RCMP's Training Academy, two years ago. When was asked for my opinion on what keeps me with the force, my gut reaction was that I love my job.

But when I gave it some more thought, I came up with three main reasons why I remain in my job: work environment, training and work schedule.

First, work environment. I've always felt that it's tough to be motivated if you don't like going to work. That's why the right work environment is key for me.

I've been posted to Grande Prairie, Alta., for two years now. I'm 4,000 kilometres away from my family, but I wouldn't trade my work team for anything.

I could go on for hours about how awesome my colleagues and supervisors are. I have an excellent relationship with my co-workers and consider most of them to be friends. And friends are important for me because I'm so far from home. My team is like my second family. I'd say part of the reason I enjoy my job so much is the people I work with.

Training provided by the organization is very important. I'm lucky to work in a detachment that offers plenty of training opportunities. Which I much appreciate, because it's a chance to develop new skills and fine-tune existing ones. It helps me be better at my job and provides me with skills that will serve me well throughout my career.

Work schedule is another key component. As a police officer, I work during the day and at night. I work on a four-day rotation, so four on four off. I love it. Granted, we work 12-hour shifts and that can make for some long days, but once I'm done my four days on, I then have four days off to relax, do activities, etc.

In closing, I'd say the best way to retain employees is to listen to their needs. If you aren't happy at work, you will end up leaving eventually. If you're not given the opportunity to improve, to learn new things, to advance, you'll feel useless. And if you can't have a personal life or are unable to balance family and work, you won't stay. So for me, those are the three keys to employee retention.

I must admit that I feel very lucky because these are non-issues for me.

Julie Gallant

A quick Google search will provide a flood of advice for employers looking for ways to retain their talent. Work-life balance policies, competitive compensation packages, career progression plans and mentorship programs, to name only a few. Although there are many ideas that could be explored further, there are two that stand-out as foundational. In general, employees who feel proud of their workplace and who have a strong sense of belonging to their organization, tend to stay longer.

These can be seen as fuzzy concepts that may be difficult to achieve in a tangible sense. However, there are very concrete actions that can be applied and measured towards achieving them, at little cost.

For example, organizations looking to retain talent must first focus on trying to attract employees who are the "right fit" for the organization.

Beyond ensuring that potential employees have the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for the job, employers should look to communicate the organization's culture and core values as part of the recruitment process. This allows both the employer and the potential employee to make an informed decision regarding fit in the workplace.

Communication is key when it comes to retaining existing employees. To feel proud of their work, employees need to know how their work connects to the mission, vision and mandate of the organization. Leaders at all levels must be able to communicate to their staff the value of their work and its link to the bigger picture. These discussions should, at the very least, be part of the organization's cyclical performance management process.

Managers play a critical role in retaining talent and creating a sense of belonging.

First, regular coaching and feedback from their supervisor helps employees feel engaged and valued. Feedback on performance should be ongoing and delivered in a way that encourages an open dialogue on what's needed to achieve the desired level of performance and work objectives.

To make this happen, managers need support from their leaders to make ongoing performance management a priority alongside operational objectives.

Second, managers who take the time to get to know their employees as individuals and make the effort to build a relationship with their team, create an atmosphere where employees feel like they belong and that their contribution matters. Trust and respect are a must within any workplace and managers are responsible for setting the tone within their team.

All of these activities should be part of an organization's normal business practice. Although they are simple ideas, they're critical when trying to retain talent. To make sure an organization doesn't lose sight of these key activities in the face of operational pressures, having concrete measures that can be reported regularly will help keep them at the forefront.

An organization's work towards retaining talent is never done but doing the basics well can certainly set the foundation for success.

Date modified: