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By Kevin Lavoie
August 2, 2019

How to Retain Talent and Tackle the Labour Shortage by Rethinking HR

We can all agree on one thing: when it comes to labour, our industry is up against some real hurdles! Add to that the fact that we’re experiencing a labour shortage, and you’ve got the perfect recipe to give translation companies a headache. The Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés (CRHA) nicely summed up the predicament of SMEs in its article on HR planning: “On the one hand, SMEs have to limit their number of employees to ensure financial survival. On the other hand, they have to attract the best talent available in their niche if they want to grow and stand out from the competition.” Now, how can today’s translation companies meet these challenges and turn them into assets? They need a strong, flexible and innovative HR plan. At OXO Innovation, we’ve figured this out and taken the appropriate measures. Here’s how.

New Department, New Approach

Earlier this year, I was promoted to the position of Talent ManagerHowever, the leadership team could see that issues related to the need for talent were looming on the horizon, so they expanded the position to be more all-encompassing. I became the HR Manager, with the mission of establishing a structured HR department and preparing the company for the challenges ahead. The goal being clear, I was given carte blanche to make it happen. After only a few days in my new role, I quickly realized that the job market had changed a lot in recent years; we could no longer manage human resources as before. Times are changing and we need to reinvent ourselves, but where do we start?

Remember that not so long ago, there was no shortage of labour. Candidates had to stand out to be selected. They had to not only meet the necessary prerequisites, but also “click” with the employer. Today, there’s no way we can simply manage human resources as if nothing has changed. That’s when I realized something very important. If, back then, job seekers had to stand out for their interpersonal skills, it makes sense for the roles to be reversed today. Since employers have become the seekers, shouldn’t it be the company that “clicks” with the candidates? Of course, our goal is still to attract candidates who meet our expectations, but we can see that the effort to build relationships has become the responsibility of both parties. So if building relationships to attract the right candidates is the essence of what we do, why call our department “human resources”? That’s when the idea of “human relations” came to me.

Why Human Relations and not Human Resources?

I could have decided to name this department “human resources,” quite simply. After all, I do human resources management in the traditional sense. The term has the merit of being clear and, more importantly, known to everyone, which facilitates its acceptance in the industry. Any good change manager knows that to foster acceptance within a team, you have to create links between any new idea and known ideas. The new term has to resonate with both internal and external team members. So why take the difficult path and not just keep “human resources”?

Because I wanted to bring about a change in mentality from the very beginning of the department. Starting with the name. First and foremost, we don’t just create partnerships with collaborators, we create relationships with people. It’s that simple! I strive to build trust and lasting relationships with employees. It’s a matter of changing our perception and not considering employees as just “resources” for the company. In truth, it’s the opposite: we have business relationships with collaborators. You can say that it’s just a semantic detail, but if there’s one thing we know in this industry, it’s that words matter!

The OXO Family

Companies, and not just those in the translation sector, have to change their mindset if they want to survive the labour shortage. It’s no longer just a matter of offering a gym membership, organizing a happy hour or bragging about your ping-pong table, as is the case in many modern companies. The key is to build trust and create a safe space where everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves. As a translation company, our challenge is twofold—we have both employees and external collaborators—but that’s what makes it more interesting! To meet this challenge, OXO decided to start with the name of the department, but we didn’t stop there. Among many other measures, here are some of the initiatives that we’ve put in place: we have an open-door policy, we regularly run an anonymous internal survey to check how things are going, and our watchword is collaboration before competition. Of course, it’s all a question of context, as in translation! We already had a penchant for this philosophy because it fits with our family spirit. We’ve always treated our employees as members of the OXO family, but now it’s firmly rooted in our mission, vision and values.

A Future-Proof HR Strategy

Far too many companies are focusing almost all their efforts on building customer loyalty, and that’s totally legitimate. However, by taking the time to build loyalty in our network, we can build a pool of collaborators who want to stick close to our company. In other words, having healthy and positive business relationships is a way of attracting and retaining talent. This makes us better able to cope in times of shortage, and creates a positive environment for all employees. The department itself is still in its infancy, but I’m already looking forward to unveiling our new plans to our employees. One thing is certain: the future looks promising!

OXO’s Human Relations Department has a bold mission: to prioritize human connection first and foremost. Follow us to learn more! Interested in joining OXO Innovation’s network or getting to know us better? Write to us at rh@oxoinnovation.com and follow us on LinkedIn.

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