1. War for Talent 

Job-hopping has become a common trend of the Canadian marketplace in recent years. We have found that with the rise of social media, talent—particularly top performers—are continuously searching for new positions. In many cases those searches are passive and in 2017, we anticipate recruiters will be more determined than ever to hunt for passive candidates in the hopes of finding the best talent in the market. The large influx of Millennials entering the workforce only adds momentum to the job-hopping craze, and retaining this generation will be much more challenging due to their transient nature.

So how do we make our organizations more attractive to job seekers? Build an attractive brand and overall employee value proposition that is creative, flexible, unique and one that the organization can deliver. In a global survey conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers, it was found that millennials were most attracted to jobs that provided opportunities for career progression (52%). The second most influential factor was competitive wages/ financial incentives (44%). And in at a close third came excellent training and development programs (35%) and attractive benefits packages (31%).

Organizations are also starting to gravitate more towards hiring consultants, freelancers and contractors, in an effort to save money and gain a competitive advantage. This adds yet another layer of complexity to attracting and retaining star performers; particularly those who are not full-time permanent members of your team.

What else can be done to retain our best? If managers want their star performers to stay, they need to think carefully about how employees are treated. Employees need to be well supported, treated with respect and given a range of opportunities to develop. Employers will need to be thoughtful and take some time to understand the different generations in their workforce, help the future leaders of tomorrow develop through consistent feedback and provide a supportive learning culture.


2. Employee Engagement 

Business leaders are talking about employee engagement these days and with all the material that is out there on different strategies your business should undertake, organizations are feeling employee engagement overwhelm.

Here are the fundamentals: Engaged employees drive innovation, revenue and growth. The key drivers for employee engagement are critical with an increased emphasis on businesses paying particular attention on how leaders are working with their teams, how a learning culture is embedded in the business and how overall opportunities are being created for talent.

Focusing on the most influential driver, “the manager,” a study conducted by Gallup in 2015 arrived at some interesting findings. The research conducted indicates that a manager’s engagement or lack of engagement directly affects the engagement of their employees, which ultimately creates a ripple effect. Gallup studied engagement data from 190 diverse industries and found that “managers who are directly supervised by highly engaged leadership teams are 39% more likely to be engaged than managers who are supervised by actively disengaged leadership teams.”

According to Gallup, employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers.

The focus for 2017 should be for managers to direct their energy towards focusing on the team’s strengths, offering challenging assignments to increase breadth of experience, keeping employees “in the know” and involving them decision making.


3. Increased need for HR Data and Analytics 

Now that HR has a seat at the table, the pressure is on them to continue demonstrating value to the business. Companies want to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace and in order for HR to partner with the business to achieve this, we need to leverage analytics and data to gain insights on workforce trends.

A significant portion of the costs incurred by organizations are directly or indirectly related to its people and if analyzed correctly, can provide many opportunities for cost savings and expense control. For example, baseline metrics that we would recommend include recruitment costs (i.e. average cost per hire and vacancy fill rates), turnover and retention rates (i.e. turnover frequency, onboarding cost per hire, average retention rates for different generations), engagement levels (i.e. benchmarking employee opinion survey results year over year, engagement vs. productivity analysis) and compensation packages (i.e. compensation comparisons to market, benefits utilization rates, incentive plan payouts).

By understanding these metrics, businesses can realize savings, produce greater returns and higher productivity and ultimately ensures that HR continues to have a valued seat at the table. When HR proposes solutions that actually decrease expenditures while increasing productivity, we not only gain credibility and validate our seat at the table, we also become true business partners and advisors to the organizations we work so hard to support every day.


4. Millennials closing the Leadership Gap 

As predicted last year, the Millennials or Gen Y’s – individuals born between the early 1980s and early 2000s – are the next generation to lead businesses into the future and have been quickly filling the leadership gap as the Baby Boomers continue to exit the Canadian workforce. It isn’t easy for Millennials who experience competition from their fellow Gen Xers, who have the advantage to move into leadership roles because of their sheer experience. However, according to a report published by Price Waterhouse Coopers, Millennials will make up 50% of the global workforce by the year 2020, a mere three years away. In order to set these individuals up for success, organizations must give Millennials equitable opportunities to gain real experience and have mentors and sponsors who challenge them within their everyday roles.

Employers need to start thinking about devising a focused response to these fast approaching circumstances. Millennials possess a particular set of characteristics which include their ambition and desire to keep learning and moving up through an organization, as well as their willingness to move on quickly if their expectations are not being met. Millennials want a flexible approach to work, intentional and regular feedback and encouragement. They want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being valued and recognized. Ultimately, we have some work to do in this area.


5. Desire for Workplace Flexibility 

Advancements made in technology over the past several years have drastically changed the working landscape for most employers. It is now possible to connect into your organizations intranet and have access to everything you need from virtually anywhere. As a result, people want to be able to customize their work and schedules around their personal lives to decrease stress and allow for more of a work-life balance. How can businesses deny these requests when they have no real justification for why employees need to work onsite from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.? And if anything, organizations also stand to benefit as telecommuting and flexible work schedules can allow for desk sharing and reduction of physical office space needed, which will decrease operating costs in a time where the economy is struggling to avoid a recession.

In a study conducted by Ernst & Young on 1,200 cross– company professionals in the USA, flexibility was cited as the most important non-cash benefit/perk. These findings demonstrate that flexibility is a motivator for all, not just an accommodation for some. And if flexibility is in fact a key motivator for most employees, they are more likely to experience higher productivity if provided flexibility. Employers will have to begin shifting their mindset to creating flexible options available in the workplace that mutually benefits both parties.


6. Streamlining Work Processes 

With the Canadian dollar dropping down to its lowest levels in several years, many businesses are feeling pinched with the increase in costs. According to the Bank of Canada’s quarterly survey, hiring and spending plans in 2016 for businesses are weaker than they have been since the aftermath of the 2009 recession. What does this mean for us in the world of HR? Well, there is going to be more pressure to decrease spending/expenditures, increase productivity with less and substantiate the value of HR programs you are proposing and/or currently have in place. As a result, HR professionals may be put in a position where we will have to shift gears and start thinking about reevaluating job design, finding efficiencies, streamlining work flow and process and restructuring organizations to allow them to operate on leaner resources.