Taking care of existing staff while finding new hires poses a double challenge

It’s all about people and the year of COVID has driven that home more than ever. It’s added layers of complexity to an already difficult job market and the need for finding, and keeping, good people is paramount.

For Christian Leduc, who managed the RONA Plateau, a big box store in Gatineau, Que., As lockdowns occurred and the cases of COVID grew, he found the personal lives of his staff become more enmeshed than ever in their workplace lives.

“We always said, ‘take care of your employees,’ but under the pandemic last year, we had to be even more attentive about that. We had to be a big family and make sure everyone had good health.”

That holistic effort came both from store management and from head office. Lowe’s Canada provided a series of bonuses for workers in the stores and distribution centres through the worst of the pandemic. Money was also available for staff who needed support at home, whether for themselves or to take care of other family members. “People had money problems,” says Leduc. “We never spent so much time as we did last year to make sure our employees were safe and happy.”

This year, Leduc was transferred to the Réno-Dépôt store nearby and the same issues confront him at this location. Both stores had sales well above budget last year, which meant everyone was working harder than ever, often with a shortage of staff.

“Hiring is tough,” he admits, as he considers the challenges ahead. “I’ll be looking for 45 more associates this spring, for everything from the garden and seasonal departments to night shift workers. While the RONA store was in a power centre and accessible in the city, the Réno-Dépôt is a stand-alone store a little more off the beaten path. This presents an additional problem, as it’s tougher to convince potential hires to make the trek, especially if they rely on public transit. “That’s a challenge we have.”