Organizations vulnerable to employee "flight risk" as economy rebounds

Canadian organizations face heightened “flight risk” as employees evaluate new opportunities in a recovering economy. Employers cannot afford to be complacent about employee engagement; they need to invest in workforce strategies to both attract and retain employees. The findings of The Conference Board of Canada’s second Human Resources Trends and Metrics survey, released today, provide data and measures that allow human resources (HR) leaders to make sound decisions about their workforce planning.

“The recession gave employers only a brief reprieve from looming workforce shortages and an ongoing competition for talent. A growing economy and an aging workforce mean that it is just a matter of time before pressure in labour markets begins to build again,” says Ruth Wright, associate director, Leadership and Human Resources Research.

“The demand for skilled people never went away during the downturn, and concerns about skills and talent shortages are evident even at the highest level of organizations. Management and leadership development, and succession planning, are high priorities for HR leaders. Many organizations-particularly in the private sector-are identifying key leadership positions for the purpose of succession planning.”

Survey participants are well aware that their workforces are aging. Close to half of the collective workforce in the responding organizations is over the age of 45. Retaining employees and building leadership capacity are among the top challenges facing organizations, along with attracting and recruiting employees. It is therefore not surprising that management and leadership development and strategic workforce planning are seen as priorities both in the short term and over the next three to five years.

Succession management, as well as knowledge transfer and management, are rising as priorities – surpassing even employee engagement in importance. The priority placed on knowledge transfer and management, in particular, has increased noticeably since the first trends and metrics survey conducted in 2005 (as well as other Conference Board surveys).

Indicators of leadership “bench strength” for top executives have remained constant (at about one-half a successor for every senior leadership position) compared to the previous trends and metrics survey. However, succession pools for second-level executives and senior managers (which were even lower in the previous survey than those of top executives) have increased since 2005. More organizations are identifying “mission-critical” positions and are grooming high-potential employees for these roles than they were in the 2005 findings.

The Conference Board conducted its second survey into human resource trends and metrics in late 2008 and early 2009. The findings are published in Valuing Your Talent: Human Resources Trends and Metrics, based on the responses of 167 Canadian human resources leaders.

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