Surrey company helps younger workers plot career road maps

Firm’s program seeks to keep talented millennials in the fold

Richard Sakaki, vice-president of human resources for Mainroad Group, says his company aims to keep young talent by offering career flexibility | Rob Kruyt

Gone are the days of one job, one career. Millennials are fast reshaping the workforce, focusing more on career exploration than on traditional ladder climbing. Multiple recent studies have shown the average millennial (someone born between the years 1982 and 2004) stays in one position no more than three years before leaving – often for an entirely new industry.

In 2014 Statistics Canada released a report stating millennials now comprise 36% of Canada’s workforce – the largest demographic in the country – compared to the older generation X (33.9%) and baby boomers (31%). 

The decline in the number of baby-boomer employees, who value stability and security, and growing ranks of younger employees, who are more inclined to leave than to wait for a better position to open up, has forced many companies to rethink their employment tactics.

Mainroad Group, a Surrey-based road maintenance company that specializes in product and construction services for civil infrastructure works and commercial building projects, is hoping its new program, which it calls Career Paths, will help keep younger employees within the company.

Richard Sakaki, Mainroad Group’s vice-president of human resources, said the idea behind Career Paths is to offer flexibility for the company’s workers if they get the career-change itch. 

“We’re finding our newer employees, the younger employees that have interest in broadening their experience, we don’t want them to leave Mainroad,” Sakaki said. “So we’re saying, ‘Hey, if you have some interest in contracting, we have a career path for you in contracting even though we hired you in maintenance.’”

Career Paths is a computer network that gives employees access to documents that explain career paths, leadership structures and department specifics such as job requirements, training specifics and salary structures.

Sakaki said Mainroad employees can use the network to look into other avenues if they’re not feeling fulfilled in their current positions.

Jenna Sturrock, 21, an accounts payable clerk with Mainroad, said the program allows her to clearly look at career possibilities.

“Career Paths has given me the opportunity to see the progression of positions I am interested in and is a helpful tool to plan out my career,” said Sturrock, who started working for the company at age 18. “For me, being young and having seen and heard how my co-workers have advanced throughout the company, I’m excited for my future with Mainroad.”

A recent survey shows that 59% of Canadians polled are unhappy at work. Sakaki said Mainroad’s Career Paths is trying to find that balance between giving employees flexibility and creating a culture of job-hopping.

“You always have that concern that people will just keep looking for that new job that they can apply for,” he said. “It is a bit of ‘the grass always looks greener on the other side,’ but now there’s a lot of information available to our employees and external candidates where they can look at all aspects of the job before they would make that leap.”

Elizabeth Model, chief executive officer for the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association, said she has been seeing more and more companies start to shift their priorities to fit the needs of employees. Since the global financial crisis, many people have shifted to temporary work, patching together smaller jobs to make ends meet. For the period from 2009 to 2012, temporary work grew at a rate that was more than three times greater (14.2%) than the growth in permanent jobs (3.8%).

“A couple of companies I’ve spoken to have done contract positions with benefits tailor-made to the individual’s specific requirements,” Model said. “At the end of the work project, based on the time estimated, the individual moves on for more experience or another project and the job is renegotiated. It’s one way of attracting the demographic, keeping them engaged and interested but giving them the freedom to move on as well.”