Employer Support Resources: Retention Is an Extension of Recruitment

The Canadian energy sector looks to finally be showing some signs of recovery after an unprecedented period of change and challenge. Competition from other regions, lack of take-away-capacity, regulatory challenges and the pandemic led to some of the roughest times “the patch” has ever weathered.

Certain sectors of the industry are facing an acute shortage of skilled professionals, trades and labour and that is hampering efforts to fully take advantage of market demands for energy. “The downturn in the energy sector was pretty devastating,” says one energy industry recruiter. “We were forced to downsize significantly and for an extended period of time. That time has meant that our skilled, former employees were forced to take on other work, switch their career path and many left our industry permanently.”

This shortage of skilled workers means that employers are facing significant competition from sector peers and external industries in their recruitment efforts. They are also having to pay much more attention to retaining those workers they already have who may be tempted away by more attractive opportunities. The energy sector is facing the additional challenge of having to overcome significant negative perceptions amongst younger workers. 

Did you know?

In the Rethinking the oil and gas workforce in 2040 report by EY and Careers in Energy, findings from the 2017 EY Oil and Gas US Perceptions Study found that 62% of Generation Z and 44% of Millennials are not attracted to careers in the industry, results that mirror similar findings in a survey conducted by PwC which showed that Millennial respondents rated the energy industry as “least appealing”.

“We’ve moved away from an environment where companies could assume that once they had successfully recruited someone, they could relax knowing the employee “was theirs” and the job would be enough to keep them,” says the same recruiter. “It is an employee’s market right now so if you just keep with that assumption, you’re ignoring the fact that every one of your workers is open to other opportunities that your competitors might be dangling in front of them.”

Why It’s Important

According to, employee retention is fast becoming a key competitive differentiator. “A company’s ability to hold on to its talent — especially in tight hiring markets — has profound ramifications for its ability to operate at a high level, without the disruptions that employee turnover bring.”

In an article by Jim Wilson in the Canadian HR Reporter, he cites a study by Willis Towers Watson that found “the challenge of hiring and keeping employees has now spread from isolated industries and skill sets to most industries and workforce segments. To compete, it’s imperative for employers to take strategic actions and find ways to differentiate the value proposition they offer to current and prospective workers.”

Nearly seven in ten (69 per cent) of employers globally are struggling to find workers to hire for specific positions, marking a 15-year high, according to a separate report from ManpowerGroup. And Canadian companies have an average employee turnover rate of 21 per cent, according to a Mercer study. 

Did you know?

While the energy sector is aware of its talent challenges, so far it hasn’t taken sufficient steps to tackle the problem. In Canada, 52% of CEOs say attracting and developing talent is a key to success, but only 18% cite significant progress in establishing an upskilling program. Some players in the industry plan to address the shift by hiring the necessary expertise from outside the company. While there’s some opportunity to do so, the industry won’t be able to hire its way out of the problem.


It goes without saying that if you don’t have the right workers, it’s going to present a challenge to both your current business and your future growth prospects

What You Can Do

In an employee’s market, workers both current and prospective candidates will inevitably be looking at their options, so organizations need to devote as much attention and resources to retaining the talent they already have as recruiting the best candidates.  While you will never be able to completely stop your current employees from moving on to other opportunities, you can ensure that you provide a work environment that doesn’t encourage them to actively seek those out.

Companies will need to meet their talent needs through right-skilling and upskilling existing staff and contractors.  This is particularly true for automation and technology skills such as artificial intelligence, data analysis where the energy industry is in direct competition with almost every other sector for skilled talent.  Instead of seeing this as challenge, corporate leadership can embrace the situation as an opportunity to provide career development and retraining opportunities to workers looking for change or who might otherwise no longer fit a defined need within your organization.

In the article in CIO by Sharon Florentine and Mary K. Pratt, there are a number of strategies that as an employer you can adopt to recruit and retain the people you need.

  • Recognize that retention starts with recruitment
    • Know your company and emphasize the elements that set you apart during your recruitment processes.
    • Focus on candidates that have the right skills but who will also be the right fit for your organization.
    • Engage your employees through their career as much as you did when you were recruiting them.
  • Recruit candidates who are looking for a place to make a contribution and for that contribution to grow over time
    • Very few people would be satisfied doing exactly the same thing for long periods of time in their careers—especially GEN Zs and Millennials—they want variety and to progress in their careers—if they can’t get that from you, you can bet they’re looking for somewhere else to land.
  • The fit is as important as the skills and qualifications
    • Workers tend to stay longer at organizations where their values align well with those of their employers.
  • Provide workers with ongoing training, education and advancement opportunities
    • People want to progress in their career so you need to provide those opportunities, or they will look for them elsewhere.
  • Be prepared to be flexible with work options where possible
    • Workers are increasingly looking for flexibility in terms of work hours, job sharing, work-from-home possibilities.
  • Be competitive and flexible with your compensation offerings
    • Different workers place different emphasis on various forms of compensation whether it’s salary, vacation, education, medical and wellness benefits.
    • Know what your competitors offer and try to stand out against that.
  • Engage with your workers
    • Understand what they want and be clear with your short, medium and long-term goals for the organization and how they fit in to those.
  • Understand where you have turnover, why, and develop a plan to address it based on the points above.
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