Boulangerie St-Donat tackles the issue of labour scarcity

Lanaudière's Boulangerie St-Donat opened its doors more than 70 years ago and, for a while now, the bakery has been having trouble hiring new staff. Over the years, management has developed effective strategies to attract--and retain--employees, even during high-growth periods.

Marie-Ève St-Amour, the President-General Manager of Boulangerie St-Donat shares the bakery's best practices.

Promoting community life

"St-Donat is the first inhabited natural park," said Marie-Ève St-Amour proudly. "There are two big, beautiful lakes and several smaller ones, two ski stations, lots of trails for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing." The family business culture really contributes to and enhances the countryside lifestyle. "We have a great work environment and we have fun. We also run a weekday schedule, something that's quite uncommon for a tourist hotspot like St-Donat," said Marie-Ève.

Group insurance and pastries

As a native of St-Donat, Marie-Ève is keen on sharing her love for the region. But she also wants her employees to feel appreciated so they, in turn, can share their love of baking through their pies, cakes and pastries. In an effort to boost staff retention and loyalty, the bakery offers its employees a group insurance program after only a month on the job and recognizes employee seniority. Another perk of working at the bakery is that every week, employees each get to take home two pies.

Merging traditions with automation

The bakery has invested in automated equipment to improve productivity while making sure not to compromise the quality of its products. Marie-Ève made the decision to cut a number of repetitive and redundant positions for which human beings weren't adding much value. "I like to believe that people still think some grandmas are rolling out the pie crust on their kitchen table with a rolling pin. But, obviously, when you make 17,000 pies a day, you can't just rely on grandmas," said Marie-Ève with a smile.

Agency staff

Due to increased demand, the bakery turned to a recruitment agency 2 years ago for help with staffing. Some of the employees lived in Montreal and a number of temporary employees were impressed with the employee retention strategies. "Some people loved our work environment, so they came back. We've seen some job stability from the agency staff and they've helped us through the summer and fall, which is our busiest season."

Staff training

Whether the bakery hires someone permanently or temporarily, it always ensures effective staff onboarding. "Whenever a new person joins us, whether they're from an agency or not, we offer them best practices training," said Marie-Ève. It's an investment with a long-term return that also promotes team bonding and contributes to the business culture.