Plan sponsors are using new weapons in the attraction and retention battle.

Talent shows haven’t changed much over the years. I remember watching Star Search years ago; today, we have Canadian Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. But the basic formula has stayed the same: contestants still turn up in droves to showcase their skills and face fierce competition to win the judges’ approval.

You could say that, for many years, the Canadian labour market followed a similar formula. Employers made up the judging panel and had the luxury of auditioning any number of prospective employees for a particular role. Would-be employees had to work hard just to get an interview and—if they were lucky—a callback.

But that’s all changing. Canada’s demographics are shifting dramatically: Statistics Canada predicts that the proportion of the working-age population will decline steadily over the next two decades. As the baby boomers move into retirement, there just won’t be enough workers to replace them.

Western Canada is already experiencing labour pressures, as a thriving economy driven by the demand for natural resources means that employers are struggling to fill the roles they need. As our Report on Western Canada describes, retaining valuable employees and attracting new talent is a real challenge for organizations out West. To help get new workers in the door—and keep the ones they have—many employers in Western Canada are reviewing how employees are compensated, including their pension and benefits plans.

On the benefits side, they’re looking at nontraditional benefits such as eldercare and wellness initiatives to put their companies in the spotlight.

On the pension side, stakeholders are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Alberta/B.C. Joint Expert Panel on Pension Standards, hoping that its recommendations will lead to changes in pension regulation to give employers more flexibility in the retirement arrangements they can offer.

Whatever the future holds, the balance of power in the Canadian labour market is shifting. The employees are becoming the judges; the pressure will be on employers to shine and meet their high expectations. Employees will be able to audition prospective employers for the job, and not everyone will make the cut.

But the show must go on. Get ready, employers— you’re on next.

Alyssa Hodder is the managing editor of Benefits Canada.

> click here for a PDF version of this article

© Copyright 2008 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the October 2008 edition of BENEFITS CANADA magazine.