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‘It’s like a secret club’: A glance at the recruiting philosophy at EACOM’s Elk Lake sawmill

March 22, 2017 - A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That proverb is the main recruiting philosophy at EACOM’s Elk Lake sawmill. Here, hiring is based on values, not just skill-set.

“It's like a secret club, you have to be taught the secret handshake and you have to be the right type of person. It’s all about the outcome, whatever it takes,” mill manager Mark Everard explains.

Dedication to the job is the reason why Everard says new hires will never be recruited on a whim at Elk Lake, despite a town population of just a few hundred, and a consequent need to find people from nearby areas in the Timiskaming District of northeastern Ontario.

“We can teach anyone how to run a canter, we can teach a lot of people how to maintain a canter. We can't teach the attitude of staff getting a call that, ‘It's nine o'clock at night, we're in trouble here; I don't know what happened here but every log is jamming,’ and the reply is,  ‘Hmm, well I'll put the kids in bed and I'll be in in a half an hour to help out,’” Everard illustrates.

Everard says. “We have a pretty good group here. We have several vacancies but we are not in a hurry to fill them. We will wait until we get what we want.”

Some potential employees can on occasion be lost to other sectors like the mining industry when they are doing well. Still, Everard says the sawmill will never settle for less than what it’s looking for in a new recruit.

“There have always been good people here and we're helping to direct those energies in a productive and focused way,” he says.

As important as work values are to Everard, he also places some weight on the kinds of values that would make a person appreciate a northern lifestyle. Those are the hires that tend to stick.

“[If you ask the canter operators], they'll talk about Lake Trout fishing last week and how good it was… and the Speckles were biting too! That's the type of lifestyle people enjoy here, hunting and fishing. If you like that, this is paradise,” Everard says with a laugh.

He says chances are high that once someone gets through the initial evaluation period, they won’t be quick to change jobs again.

“People come for the money and stay for the people and lifestyle.”