The Three Rs: Recruitment, Retention and Respect

UBCM convention looks at finding the right people for the right jobs, then keeping them

The fall UBCM convention in Victoria, British Columbia.

The fall UBCM convention in Victoria was a place to network, attend workshops and bring back ideas to municipalities throughout British Columbia. — Sandra Albers photo

Recruitment and retention of skilled workers at the local government and community level was one of the topics discussed at the recent fall conference of the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) in Victoria.

Trina Harrison, director of human resources for the City of Victoria, talked about the importance of forecasting and succession planning.

"The cost of recruiting the right people may  be high, but (the cost of) not doing so may be higher," she said.

Harrison said it is important to create a workplace that is free from harassment, that celebrates employees, and that creates an engaged culture. She cited recognizing milestones as one way to do that.

Harrison noted that employers need to be aware of differences in the generations: the older generation of workers often value loyalty, while the younger generation may be more interested in rising to the top right away.

She also pointed out that the younger generation tends to place a high value on work-life balance and on flexible work options.

She identified the five things people want at work (roughly in order of importance):

  • job security
  • compensation
  • respect
  • work-life balance
  • health and wellness programs

Harrison said we are experiencing the tightest labour market since the 1950s and that the pool of skilled workers is decreasing. As a result, she said it is important to keep your talented workers "tuned in and turned on" and to give them meaningful and challenging work.

"It's all about the people," she said, about "having the right people doing the right job."

At the same forum, Tom MacDonald, who is the executive director for the Local Government Management Association in British Columbia, said many city employees throughout B.C. at all levels—from CAOs to lifeguards—are retiring or soon approaching retirement.

He anticipates a "retirement flood" in the not-too-distant future, noting that the number of city staff drawing municipal pensions will grow by 10,000 in the next three years.

He said 42 per cent of CAOs are expected to retire within the next five years.

During comments from the floor, one person said that staff burnout can also lead to early retirement.


The Local Government Management Associaton (LGMA) of British Columbia has an excellent human resources tool kit, according to Trina Harrison. To find out more, go to

Sandra Albers

Since 2007, Sandra has enjoyed hearing about new businesses, expanding businesses and unique businesses, as well as learning more about the long-time successes in the business community of the Kootenays. She writes, as well as copy edits and proofreads, for both magazine and website, and welcomes input from our readers. View all of Sandra Albers’s articles

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