Canadian Rental Service

At your service: Challenge accepted

By Russ Dantu   

Features Business Intelligence

Keep employees engaged for best results and retention.

I spent close to 25 years in the trade show rental industry. After about 10 years, my manager knew I was restless and needed more to keep me happy and challenged. I had been fine helping out setting up trade shows, dealing with show managers and running a crew but after several years of that, I was getting stale and my manager knew it. The job had become just that: a job and nothing more. I still showed up for my shifts, worked plenty of overtime and enjoyed most of the staff there but the work was no longer challenging me. There was no room for me to advance into management and I was thinking about moving on.

My manager, Chuck, was a great guy and taught me lots. After chatting with him about how I was feeling, he agreed to give me more challenging work. I started drawing floor plans (back then it was a Staedler pen, a scale ruler and a numbering template – yes, I’m getting old). I enjoyed it and was good at it. From there, a position opened up for someone to set up and run the sign shop. No one else volunteered so I got to do that. It was a Gerber 4B vinyl cutting machine hooked up to Coreldraw 1.1 (again, I’m dating myself here) but I loved the new challenges. We also started drawing floorplans on the computer, which challenged me even more. Then I got into sales, joined a few networking groups and learned how to work the room. Every time I started getting stale, my manager would get me working on new projects. He even had me ordering all the uniforms and swag for our company.

So why do I mention this? In 2023, it’s harder than ever to keep employees happy and around very long. Statistics show that Millennials will change jobs at least seven times during their careers (they are known as the job-hopping generation). Many will change far more often than that. So how do we keep them happy and engaged? Here are some ideas:

Mix things up. Yes, they were hired to do something specific but if you sense they are not being challenged enough or not using their skillset to their fullest, throw different projects their way. Maybe they’d be great at organizing a company teambuilding event or Christmas party. Maybe they are wonderful foodies and know some great caterers for your next employee rally. Maybe they have hidden talents that could help you branch out further with your business.


Provide feedback more often. This lets them know they are an important part of the team and their work and input is valued. If you change it from telling them how to do things to coaching them and mentoring them, you get them solving more problems on their own, which also makes them feel more important.

Check the stress levels. We all go through stressful times, especially during our busy rental seasons. If your employees are overworked look for ways to help them. Hire part time staff to assist them. Shift people from different departments that may not be as busy. Dangle a bonus for when things slow down. Take them out for lunch or buy the crew dinner if you are working late. Anything you do to help alleviate stress will be greatly appreciated.

Give them opportunities outside their work scope to grow. Think about sending workers back to school for something they love to do. Enroll them in a group that they might like. Get them involved in a community initiative.

I had the same manager throughout the first 18 years in the trade show decorating industry. He taught me a lot and kept me interested most of the time. Eventually, I jumped ship to a direct competitor where I became the manager because there was no further chance of advancement with the prior company. If you could keep every employee you had for a minimum of 18 years, how would that change the landscape of your company?

Take care of your employees…and yourselves! 

Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. Visit

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