Companies struggling to attract critical-skill, high-potential workers

Mismatch between what's offered and what's wanted: Survey
||Last Updated: 09/25/2012

A majority of companies worldwide, including a growing number of Canadian companies, continue to struggle with attracting and retaining the high-potential and critically skilled employees necessary to increase their global competitiveness, according to a survey of 1,605 employers by Towers Watson.

Nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of Canadian respondents cited problems attracting critical-skill employees while more than 40 per cent are having difficulty attracting high-potential talent and 35 per cent are finding it hard to attract top-performing workers. More than 30 per cent of respondents also reported difficulty retaining critical-skill, high-potential and top-performing employees, found the Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey.

"The demand for the best talent is as strong as ever, especially given a challenging economy and ongoing growth in global competition. However, many employers are not taking advantage of opportunities to attract, retain and engage high-value employees by offering a work environment and total rewards programs that are most important to them," said Ofelia Isabel, Towers Watson's Canadian leader for talent and rewards.

There appears to be a mismatch between what employers are offering and what employees are looking for, according to Towers Watson. Canadian employees, including top talent, are more focused on competitive base pay and job security while employers are emphasizing other items such as challenging work and having a reputation as a good employer.

Canadian employees also continue to experience high levels of stress at work. Close to one-half (47 per cent) of respondents indicated employees often experience excessive pressure in their job and almost two-thirds (65 per cent) said employees have been working more hours than normal during the past three years. More than one-half (53 per cent) expect to maintain this trend for the next three years.

Performance management

Canadian companies see themselves as more effective than United States companies in two key areas of their performance management process, found Towers Watson. Sixty-four per cent of Canadian employers believe their performance management processes effectively link salary increases to individual performance results — which is similar to the global response of 62 per cent — but only 51 per cent of U.S. companies cited that same level of confidence.

However, Canadian employers see themselves as less effective at linking bonus payouts to individual performance results. While 65 per cent of companies globally believe they are doing an effective job with this aspect of performance management, only 55 per cent of Canadian companies responded similarly — and U.S. companies felt even less confident at just 44 per cent.

When asked to rate the effectiveness of managers in the performance management process, Canadian employers saw their managers as less effective at setting individual performance goals (41 per cent versus 52 per cent globally), giving employees regular coaching and feedback (28 per cent versus 39 per cent globally) and conducting career development discussions (26 per cent versus 33 per cent globally).

"As Canadian employers seek to grow profitably during a period of economic volatility, their focus needs to be on crafting an employee value proposition that helps to attract and retain talented and critical skill employees — and that engages the entire workforce," said Tracey Malcolm, a director in talent management at Towers Watson.

"Effective leadership development, performance management and succession planning programs will be keys to getting it right. While Canadian employers give themselves higher marks compared to their U.S. counterparts, the fact that they scored themselves lower than the global norms suggests that there is still room to improve our talent management processes and outcomes."

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