“In times of economic uncertainty, there is nothing more important or strategic that we can be doing to ensure continued business success than talent management. Now more than ever we need to be focusing on high performers, hiring the right potential and developing talent.”
     - Tess Reinhard, Director of Organizational Capability, CDW



Why Workforce Management?


Managing in these turbulent times can be very challenging for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs, which in many cases are experiencing low sales volumes, high costs and significant uncertainty, and rarely have the time to think about human resources and talent management.


Human resources (HR) costs tend to be the largest component of expenditure over time. Thus, there is significant potential to proactively use talent management strategies.

Many challenging workforce issues relate to HR, including:

  • Heightened competition for skilled workers
  • Under-employment and under-utilization of human potential
  • Impending retirement of baby boomers
  • Low levels of employee engagement
  • High cost of turnover
  • Arduous demands of managing global workforces
  • Importance of succession planning


This requires new thinking and a new mission to achieve business success. These factors – coupled with the need to align people directly with corporate goals – are forcing HR to evolve from policy development, cost reduction, process efficiency, and risk management to driving a new talent mindset in the organization.


Human capital is the most flexible of all resources that can bring in an upturn as:

  • Talent drives high performance
  • Talent helps expand and penetrate markets
  • Talent initiates productivity, creativity and innovation


In current economic conditions, many companies have felt the need to cut expenses. However, in doing this, companies are losing human capital and all the above that the company can achieve. This should be the ideal environment to execute a workforce management system as a means of optimizing the performance of each employee and the organization. There is a need to focus on workforce management, as SMEs have to adapt, innovate and improve their bottom line.



The Changing Role of the HR function


Conventional HR function in SMEs tends to focus more on administration, payroll accounting, statutory compliances, welfare and ‘operational’ human resource issues. In the present situation, SMEs need to leverage HR into their business vision, mission and objectives and create a “strategic” focus. SMEs need to create a mindset change on their HR function, expanding to introduce and enhance its talent management for better performance and higher productivity.


It has been proven through research and experience that SMEs have benefited through making a paradigm shift in their HR function to encompass various elements and processes of talent management over time. They key for an organization is to gradually change the focus to better utilize its human capital.


"Benefits, in traditional HR, are about 'being good to our employees.' From a talent-management perspective, benefits are about attracting and retaining talent—or in the more modern lingo, “reinforcing our employment brand.” Furthermore, HR is also deeply involved in the complexities of administering benefits—an activity that would not be considered talent management."

Talent Management - The Special Challenges of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - Human Capital Institute position paper 2004


In this new model—instead of being the owners of processes, forms, and compliance—HR becomes the strategic enabler of talent management processes that empower managers and employees while creating business value. The traditional role of human resources management being the responsibility of the HR executive or manager is fast changing. CEOs and the senior team members of SMEs are progressively and actively participating in the talent management and development of its human resources. Talent management is one of the hats all managers must wear.

Put simply, talent management is a set of tools and technologies that help organizations make good decisions about talent existing and future. Talent management is a complex collection of connected HR processes that delivers a simple fundamental benefit for any organization. It is a fact that teams with the best people perform at a higher level. Leading organizations know that exceptional business performance is driven by superior talent. People are and make the difference. Talent management is the strategy.


What is Talent Management?


A lot has been written on this topic since the term emerged in the 1990s to incorporate developments in Human Resources Management, which placed more of an emphasis on the management of human resources or talent. The term was coined by David Watkins of Softscape published in an article in 1998. It introduces a strategic focus to the conventional personnel or HR function. It breaks from the traditional administration- and compliance-related emphasis and broadens the scope of Human Resources Management.


Workforce management refers to the skills of attracting a highly skilled workforce (including internationally educated immigrants), of integrating new workers, and developing and retaining current workers to meet current and future business objectives. The process of attracting and retaining productive employees, as it is increasingly more competitive between firms and of strategic importance, has come to be known as "the war for talent." Talent management is also known as HCM (Human Capital Management). The term 'talent management' has different meanings to different organizations.


The issue with many companies today is that their organizations put tremendous effort into attracting employees to their company, but spend little time retaining and developing talent. A workforce management system must be worked into the business strategy and implemented in daily processes throughout the company as a whole.


Workforce management generally includes the following:


Talent Acquisition

  • Sourcing, attracting, recruiting qualified candidates with competitive backgrounds


Onboarding and Integration

  • Alignment of objectives and defining performance


Talent Retention & Management

  • Compensation management
  • Performance management
  • Retention programs


Talent Development

  • Career planning & development
  • Training (learning) and development
  • Succession planning, promotion and transitioning


The above list of topics is not all inclusive and can have redefined areas added to the processes.


In the context of hiring immigrants, SMEs have to start at whatever stage they are in at present and gradually expand into increasing the scope and functions to cover all or most of the above functions in varying degrees. For SMEs the situation is dynamic and the role of Talent Management would be nebulous depending on the requirements and prevailing circumstances. However, it is imperative that in order to reap the benefits of hiring immigrant workforce, cultural diversity factors and integration would also play a major role.


It is crucial that SMEs commence their journey by formulating a workforce management strategy taking into account the Canadian environment, demands of looming workforce shortages and the need for including skilled immigrant talent into the workforce.


Research report

Immigrant Labour Market Integration in York Region and Toronto

Identifying Needs and Opportunities for Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Contact Info

Think Talent, Think Global

17705 Leslie Street, Unit 11, Newmarket, ON Canada