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Workforce planning a must

Businesses and organizations will face challenges

April 28, 2015  By Brandi Cowen

In a changing economic and demographic landscape, strategic workforce
planning can help employers respond to factors affecting their

In a changing economic and demographic landscape, strategic workforce planning can help employers respond to factors affecting their workforce.

A recent report from the Conference Board of Canada reveals how an improving business environment, skills shortages, and an aging population are placing additional pressures on Canadian organizations’ ability to recruit and retain employees. But helping employers understand the factors affecting their workforce can allow them to identify the most effective talent management strategies to achieve their strategic goals.


“In today’s business environment, Canadian organizations need to more proactively compete for talent. Strategic workforce planning is an important business-planning tool that can help organizations ensure they have the right people in the right place at the right time and at the right cost,” said Ruth Wright, director of leadership and human resources research for The Conference Board of Canada.

The report, “HR Trends and Metrics, Third Edition: The Canadian Context for Strategic Workforce Planning,” provides insights related to Canada’s changing business environment, labour force, and demographics, and explores the implications of these trends for Canadian organizations and their workforce.

Key findings from the report include:
While a growing number of Canadian organizations are engaged in some form of strategic workforce planning, only 29 per cent indicated that they have a robust workforce-planning process.

Businesses and organizations will face challenges recruiting and retaining employees as Canada’s unemployment rate continues to fall. That rate is forecasted to drop to less than six per cent by 2018.

Canada’s workforce is aging, but there are significant differences among industry sectors and job categories. The median workforce age is 44 years and ranges from a high of 48 years in the not-for-profit sector to a low of 39 years in the accommodation, food, and personal services sector.

Senior executives (those reporting directly to the CEO) have the highest median age (52 years), followed closely by executives (50.3 years). Because these employee groups are similar in age, they will likely retire at similar times. To fill vacated senior executive and executive roles, organizations will have to hire externally or focus more attention on developing internal talent in the current management pool.

Although reported skills shortages vary across regions and industry sectors, they continue to be a concern for many employers. A large majority of employers report challenges recruiting quality candidates with critical skills (80 per cent) and candidates with hot skills (72 per cent). Investing in early career development and workplace training are two ways for employers to address these skills shortages.

The aging population also means that Canada will increasingly rely on immigration for population growth, making the country’s workforce more diverse. Despite this, only four per cent of organizations cited managing a diverse workforce as a top challenge in the long term.

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