Critical-skill employees hard to attract, retain

Top-performing workers also a challenge: Survey

Given the uncertain economic outlook, many Canadian companies are finding it relatively easy to attract or retain workers, with one major exception — critical-skill employees, according to a survey from Towers Watson.

More than one-half (57 per cent) of Canadian companies are having problems attracting critical-skill employees compared to 20 per cent for their workforce overall, found the survey of 98 organizations. Forty-three per cent are also have difficulty attracting top-performing employees and 39 per cent are experiencing challenges retaining critical-skill employees.

"Although hiring rates have increased moderately since 2009, employers are still experiencing difficulties finding and recruiting employees with critical skills," said Ofelia Isabel, Canadian talent management and rewards leader for Towers Watson. "Organizations are taking longer to fill these positions, and more of them are open. There is clearly a greater than normal mismatch between the skills employers seek and those that are available in the marketplace. In short, organizations need a more appealing offering to attract critical-skill employees."

In addition, 60 per cent of respondents reported employees have been working more hours over the past three years, and 47 per cent expect this trend to continue over the next three years. And one-quarter said employees have been using less of their vacation or personal time off over the past three years, found the Towers Watson Talent Management and Rewards Survey, which surveyed 316 North American organizations in total.

Almost one-half (48 per cent) of Canadian organizations are concerned about the long-term effects of changes they made during the recession on their employees' ability to maintain a healthy balance between work and their personal lives. And with good reason: Employees, who were surveyed separately, consistently ranked work-related stress as the top reason they would leave an organization.

Given the ongoing economic and workforce pressures, 62 per cent of organizations reported making significant changes in the HR area — reward and talent management strategies, organizational structure, job evaluation process and competencies — and many expect to continue to do so.

"In the short-run, having employees work extra hours can increase productivity but in the long-run, extended hours can negatively affect employee well-being and retention," said Julie Naismith, a senior rewards consultant at Towers Watson. "Employees at many organizations are already suffering from change fatigue. As a result, when the labour market does recover, employers can expect a sharp increase in voluntary turnover, especially if they do not address employee concerns and deliver reward and talent management programs more effectively."

Latest stories