Filling The Gap: Canada’s War For Talent

According to a recent study, one of the 10 biggest risk concerns for board members and C-Suite leaders around the globe is talent acquisition.

In many cases, changes in digital technology are driving the war for talent. The transformation of workplaces due to AI advancements is forcing organizations to hire talent with specific skills, or develop strategies that require re-training for current employees.

From a technological perspective, Canada’s business and government leaders play an important role in developing workplace and ongoing skills development for employees. Although employers play a key role in educating individuals, an article published by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce suggests that, for Canadian executives, the two biggest roadblocks to addressing skills shortages were a lack of interaction between industry and academia and a lack of individual motivation to update and improve skills.

In Canada, the war for talent applies to just about every sector. A Canadian small business report published by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) states that a skills shortage is the most significant factor affecting growth. More than 40 per cent of small and mid-sized employers cited a shortage of qualified employees. The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) suggested that over half of entrepreneurs would limit investment due to a lack of qualified workers in 2019.

The manufacturing sector is also hit hard by the talent shortage. A skills survey by Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) shows that out of 225 manufacturers, 85 per cent of companies are having trouble filling job vacancies. This skills shortage is making it hard to remain competitive on the world stage.

The finance sector is also feeling the pain and is finding it hard to fill positions in a highly competitive market. Raffi Toughlouian, Vice-President at International Financial Group (IFG), says that “during my 17 years in the staffing industry, this is easily the hottest hiring market. The shortage of available skilled talent is very evident and companies are definitely feeling some hiring pains.”

As far as contract employees are concerned, Toughlouian says that the market is also slim due to a lack of skilled professionals. The full-time/permanent market is also challenging due to an abundance of multiple and counter offers.

Faced with significant competition to attract and retain the best talent, what strategies are organizations putting in place to address the issue? In an effort to source new talent, several U.S. tech companies are looking north of the border to tech talent hotspots such as Toronto, Vancouver and Waterloo.

For American companies, Canada’s emphasis on workplace diversity is compelling as the U.S. continues to make changes to their Visa programs that impact the onboarding of skilled talent.

While the current buzz seems to focus on a talent shortage, some suggest that organizations aren’t looking in the right places for talent. There are still pockets of potential employees that are being missed or overlooked due to existing perceptions or stereotypes. For example, what younger workers may lack in experience might be offset by their energy, passion or willingness to implement new ideas.

Canada also hosts large numbers of qualified new immigrants every year who are looking for a chance to get into the market and prove themselves. Older or retired workers who might otherwise encounter ageism can be great assets to a team environment and still have lots to offer the modern workplace.

The ongoing war for talent means that employers will have to up the ante when it comes to pay, benefits and overall employee experience. Friday beer hour and ping pong tables might be great, but might not matter as much to employees who feel they are valued and taken care of financially. Today’s employee wants a stake in the game –a bigger piece of the pie.

According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, evolving skills are the currency for future economic growth and Canada’s labour force will either accelerate or constrain this growth. The way in which Canada’s leaders respond to this opportunity will determine our level of economic prosperity and maintain our reputation as a major competitor in the global marketplace.