Employer Flexibility Seen as Tight Labor Market Response

June 15, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Facing a tight labor market, Canadian employers are increasingly trying to find ways to attract and keep key talent, including offering flexible work schedules, according to a new survey.

The Hewitt Associates poll found that Canadian companies of all sizes, in all parts of the country, and in all industries are finding their hiring tasks increasingly difficult and that more than half (52%) are hoping their willingness to be flexible with work hours and benefits will help deal with the problem.

“Organizations are beginning to realize the need to convince older workers to stay on the job longer. At the same time, they want to convince Generation X and Y employees, those under age 40, to join them,” said John Tompkins, a principal in Hewitt’s Toronto benefits consulting group, in a news release. “With an employee population so diverse in terms of age, a ‘one size fits all’ approach is no longer effective. Employers who can identify and meet the different needs of their employees will be most successful in the current labor market.”

Hewitt’s survey revealed that three-quarters of the 232 organizations that responded are having problems attracting or retaining new employees. Forty-four percent are struggling with both attraction and retention. The problem is most severe in Alberta, where finding or keeping workers is an issue for 97% of respondents.

The problem is only expected to worsen, with half of the employees currently working at respondent organizations being baby boomers or older (age 40 or older). Employers indicated they anticipate close to 43% of their employees will take early retirement and less than 11% will work past age 65.

According to Hewitt’s survey, nearly 55% of organizations are expected to offer formal phased-retirement programs, in which older employees work fewer hours per week as they approach retirement, in 2009 compared with 26% currently. In addition, flexible arrangements such as job sharing, flexible hours, compressed work schedules, vacation buying and selling, and both paid and unpaid sabbaticals are all expected to increase in popularity over the next three years, according to the poll.