Technology is advancing at an accelerated rate, and organizations across Canada are feeling the pressure to keep up.

Approximately one in four Canadian human resource (HR) leaders are concerned with their organization’s ability to respond to the pace of change, according to the Conference Board of Canada’s (CBoC) fourth “Human Resources Trends and Metrics” survey.

The report, released on Feb. 6, found that 26 per cent of HR leaders placed the impact of technological change as a top organizational challenge, up from a minuscule four per cent in 2005. But they have reason to worry: the survey warns that while technological advances are expected to improve productivity, especially in the professional, scientific and technical services fields, it will also disrupt jobs, most notably in the low- to mid-level skilled positions.

“Globalization, new technologies, demographic shifts and a slack labour market are just some of the labour force changes affecting employers and employees alike,” Shannon Jackson, associate director of human resources transformation research at the CBoC, said in a press release. “Ten years of benchmarking HR practices demonstrates that organizations are significantly revamping their people practices to keep up with the pace.”

To address these challenges, HR representatives ranked “developing managers and leaders, strategic workforce planning, and deepening the succession planning pool beyond the executive level” as their top priorities going forward in the next three to five years.

Efforts to update people practices, particularly employee engagement, are also key and seem to be paying off so far. Retention of employees with critical skills is “strong,” the report found, with an average annual loss rate of less than two per cent.

R&R: recruitment and retirement issues

The CBoC surveyed 150 Canadian HR leaders between April and June 2016, and found that bringing people in with the necessary critical skills remains a challenge for almost 60 per cent of organizations interviewed. In an effort to combat this, approximately half of respondents are making attempts to bring in more youth, as the report found an increase of about 10 per cent in internships and co-op placements.

But these organizations are also leveraging technology to revamp the position of the HR representative itself. Digital and web-based tools are being used more frequently in the HR field, with LinkedIn becoming the “new standard” method to find candidates, the survey says.

Additionally, “platforms like Twitter and Snapchat are emerging as viable recruiting avenues and highlight how critical staying on top of data and trend analysis becomes for HR,” it adds.

But as Canada’s population continues to age and fewer people enter the workforce, retirement has become a big issue for organizations in the country, especially at a time when many of them are making the jump to a more digital economy.

“Simply replacing the skills and capacity of retirees with similar talent will not be the answer for many organizations,” Jackson explains. “HR teams are trying to balance meeting current talent requirements and quickly ramping up a future workforce, while the requirements for that future remain unclear.”

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