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Canadian Organizations Increasingly Concerned About Adapting to Rapid Change

Ottawa, February 6, 2017—Global market forces and accelerating technological advances are expected to exert significant pressure on Canadian organizations over the next decade, as business models and strategies transform to meet emerging customer needs. The Conference Board of Canada’s fourth Human Resources Trends and Metrics survey, released today, finds that Canadian HR leaders are increasingly concerned about their organization’s capacity to respond to the pace of change.

“Globalization, new technologies, demographic shifts and a slack labour market are just some of the labour force changes affecting employers and employees alike,” said Shannon Jackson, Associate Director, Human Resources Transformation Research. “Ten years of benchmarking HR practices demonstrates that organizations are significantly revamping their people practices to keep up with the pace.”


  • 26 per cent of HR leaders placed the impact of technological change as a top organizational challenge, up from only 4 per cent in 2005.
  • Leadership capacity continues to concern Canadian employers as the retirement wave hits its peak just as organizations transition to a digital economy.
  • Finding mission-critical skills remains a challenge for almost 60 per cent of organizations surveyed.
  • Efforts focused on employee engagement seem to be paying off with critical employee segments; retention of employees with critical skills is strong with an annual voluntary attrition rate of less than 2 per cent.
  • About half of the organizations are making efforts to bring in youth as we see an increase in internships and co-op placements of about 10 per cent since our last survey.

Leveraging technology has enabled the revamp of people practices in the past 10 years. Digital and web-based tools are replacing standard approaches to common HR services like recruiting. For instance, our survey shows LinkedIn has become the dominant method used by employers to find candidates making it the “new standard.” 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.

Digitally-driven technologies are also expected to lead to productivity improvements, but at the same time they will reduce the number of manual tasks and positions. The category of workers who will benefit the most from the adoption of new technologies will be the professional, scientific, and technical services. However, low- to mid-skill positions outside of the service industries will likely be the ones most impacted by technological advances.

Not surprisingly, the changing nature of work is a growing workforce challenge in 2016. More than one quarter of survey participants placed the changing nature of work a top challenge in 2016, compared to only 4 per cent in 2005. In order to address the challenge, HR leaders report their top priorities are developing managers and leaders, strategic workforce planning, and deepening the succession planning pool beyond the executive level. Most organizations viewed these as priorities for the next three to five years.

“Simply replacing the skills and capacity of retirees with similar talent will not be the answer for many organizations,” added Jackson. “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.”

The Conference Board of Canada conducted the survey into Human Resource Trends and Metrics between April and June 2016. 150 Canadian human resources leaders participated in the survey.

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