The Future of Work and Learning Brief
Issue 41 | December 2023

This brief focuses on talent attraction and retention strategies as employers seek new and creative ways to find and retain talent. If you know of something relevant and want to send for inclusion in the next brief, email

Sectoral-approaches to workforce attraction

While companies across the country in sectors from biotalent to media to technology laid off workers in 2023, others still struggle to attract new talent. Food Processing Skills Canada estimates the food and beverage manufacturing sector will need 95,572 workers by 2030 to fill positions which become available through expansion and replacement. The electricity sector will need almost 28,000 employees by 2028 with most growth in renewable energy. The reports note that new strategies to attract underrepresented groups, particularly for newcomers, may be needed across both sectors.

The insurance sector, which Crawford and Co.’s Kelly Stevens describes as experiencing “a war on talent” may provide some good talent attraction ideas. The company’s Fast Track program allows recently hired immigrants to work with a mentor for individualized training to get them up-to-speed on the workings of the insurance sector. The company also works with youth to help them map out their career trajectories not just within their own company but across the sector. Instead of competing for talent, insurance companies can seed and grow talent together.

British Columbia’s restaurant sector, in partnership with the provincial government, takes a sector-level approach to workforce development through the Chefs’ Table Society of B.C. The pilot program will provide restaurants with guidance to build and assess “people-first” workplace cultures and create more consistency in restaurants across the province.

The pool of tech talent in Calgary is helping to attract businesses. Stephen Tabb with Ireland-based Global Shares told European start-up outlet Sifted that the company was “spoiled for choice” during recruitment. In addition to talent, affordability of homes and office space, government support and relative proximity to the United States make Calgary an attractive destination for international tech companies.

Benefits and hiring shifts

Companies such as Starbucks Canada and provincial governments, including B.C. and Ontario, are enacting pay transparency policies and legislation. In the announcement of its pay transparency move, Starbucks also highlighted its new Partner Choice benefit for workers who can choose between a health spending account or personal wellness account and now offer a North America Barista Championship. HR Grapevine finds that benefit trends for 2024 in Canada and elsewhere will expand on what employers traditionally provide to include mental health, financial well-being support, family-forming benefits, and menopause support and that being “proactive, not reactive” to expand benefits can mean the difference in talent attraction.

Attraction in the global competition for talent

Canada ranks 13 out of 134 on the latest Global Talent Competitiveness Index which is predominately due to Canada’s ability to attract (10th) and grow the talents (9th) of newcomers and domestic Canadians. However, Canada ranked 28th for talent retention which suggests Canada could do more to keep the talent pool it successfully attracts.

Employer retention strategies

According to a survey by EY Canada, 34 per cent of employees are willing to switch jobs within the next 12 months.. The survey suggests employers may have underestimated the impact of economic challenges on employees’ desire to keep their jobs while overestimating the effectiveness of flexibility in retention. The primary concern for employees is their salary. “… it’s no surprise that higher pay is now the biggest motivation for changing jobs, particularly given that most Canadians are already working for companies that offer flexibility in some form,” explained Darryl Wright, Partner at EY Canada.

The advantages of work experience enhancement gain prominence, as highlighted by Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 2024. “… creating new ways of working, anticipating employee’s needs and focusing on future skills development” are key areas of focus for competitive employers, suggests Kristina Leung, managing editor at the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project. For the full list of 2024 of Canada’s Top 100 Employers 2024, click here.

Employers take innovative approaches to retention challenges. Stay interviews’, as suggested by Bellrock (a B.C.-based management consulting firm), offer a proactive way to understand an employee’s job satisfaction, motivations and reasons for staying with the company. Such interviews provide a unique advantage over the traditional exit interview, as problems and dissatisfaction can be discussed before they escalate to the point of employee departure.

Technological adaptation in workplaces

Office workers want digital adoption to alleviate repetitive work as staff report spending more time on menial tasks according to a report by ServiceNow. The report highlights an opportunity for employers to invest in productivity-enhancing solutions. Respondents acknowledge the potential of AI to improve productivity and expect to receive AI-related training. “Technology is not the panacea, but as we move forward, it will be the great enabler for work, making it better for everyone,” says Kelley Steven-Waiss, Chief Technology Officer at ServiceNow.

Leveraging technology to improve productivity and satisfy employee demands is reinforced by experts such as Leon van der Poel, Senior Business Advisor at Business Development Canada (BDC. “…getting robots to do these repetitive tasks frees up human workers to do more interesting and innovative work that has more value for the business,” says van der Poel in a BDC article on using technology to increase employee retention.

Other news

  • The average cost of a four-year post-secondary program in Canada will exceed $75,000 next year, according to a forecast by Embark, a Canadian RESP Company.
  • The number of western Canadian businesses who have submitted a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to hire temporary foreign workers increased 83 per cent from November 2022 to November 2023, according to statistics from Employment and Social Development Canada. The national average increase was 39 per cent. Nunavut led for total LMIAs submitted, followed by the Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
  • UBC engineers are turning construction machinery into intelligent robots to combat labour shortages in housing construction. While robots enhance efficiency and safety, they’re seen as supplements, not replacements, for skilled workers.
  • The government of Saskatchewan passed the Accessibility Act on December 3, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which aims to prevent and remove accessibility barriers for people living with disabilities.

The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane, and Ethan Johnson. If you like what you see, subscribe to our mailing list and share with a friend. If you have any interesting stories for future editions, please send them to .