Mid-Market CEOs Speak; Talent & Succession Planning

By Michael Henry

The war for talent is raging. And Canadian mid-market companies are feeling the pressure. Unemployment is at historic lows across our country. Competition for key skills (particularly in the STEM fields) is heating up. Tenures are shortening. Finding, developing and retaining the talent that businesses need – particularly at a management level – is becoming increasingly difficult.

It is not surprising that many mid-market CEOs say that talent acquisition and retention is the biggest challenge now facing their companies and their industries.

Houser Henry & Syron LLP recently asked select Canadian mid-market CEOs and Founders how this war for talent is affecting their companies growth. We talked about their management succession plans.  We also discussed winning strategies for attracting, developing and retaining key talent.

Our conversations indicate that Canadian mid-market firms are employing a range of different strategies to help solve their workforce challenges. Here are five common themes:

  1. Competing on culture. Many mid-market firms are attracting new talent by showing that they have a vision beyond simply making profits. Some, particularly those in the healthcare and services fields, are focusing on their ‘higher purpose’. Others are drawing new recruits with their family-like culture and relaxed work environments.
  2. Leveraging their networks. While recruiters and headhunters were cited frequently by mid-market CEOs, the vast majority also noted that they were taking a much more personal approach – pressing friends, family, networks and colleagues for potential leads on new talent. Many also participate in apprentice, co-op and internship programmes with local colleges and universities.
  3. Rebalancing the workforce. A handful of Canadian mid-market company CEOs are starting to think about how they can shift their resource allocation by leveraging new technologies like automation and robotics. They are also thinking about what skills they may need in the future and are updating their talent strategy accordingly.
  4. Reviewing the succession plan. Recognizing that much of their top talent – particularly in management – is nearing retirement, most mid-market firms are broadening and accelerating their succession planning to include not just key leadership positions, but also critical capabilities throughout the organization.
  5. Assessing their own exits. When it comes to their own succession plan, many CEOs and Founders seem to expect they will sell their companies (either to a competitor or another family member) rather than find a replacement. Those with other exit plans are working hard to groom existing executive team members to replace them.

In our conversations, we were struck that every CEO sees talent as both a key enabler and a barrier to growth. If they could get the right talent, CEOs felt confident they could achieve significant growth. But they also know that, if they start to lose the war for talent to their competitors, they will suffer a significant competitive disadvantage.

Our view is that Canadian mid-sized firms need to execute a variety of strategies to ensure their workforce is engaged, stable and capable. That will require a flexible workforce strategy and a robust succession plan.

Our conversations with mid-market CEOs and Founders touched on many of the big challenges and opportunities facing Canadian firms. Our firm recently wrote a similar article exploring their views on the current trade and regulatory environment. Our next article will focus on the current competitive pressures in the Canadian mid-market.

At Houser Henry & Syron, we focus entirely on serving mid-market businesses. We recognize that the mid-market is the engine of Canada’s economy and we are dedicated to helping this vital segment succeed. Our professionals work with mid-market decision-makers to help them plan the best future for their businesses. That is why our firm is increasingly viewed as the Champion of the Mid-Market in Canada. We are proud of our reputation!

To learn more about the issues facing mid-market organizations or what mid-market CEOs are thinking, we invite you to subscribe to our newsletter.  To discuss your own unique business challenges and opportunities, we encourage you to contact Michael Henry – Managing Partner at (416) 860-8021 or Lisa Hegedus – Director of Marketing & Client Development at (416) 860-8032.

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About HHS

Since 1934, Houser Henry & Syron LLP has provided legal services to Canadian and foreign private businesses, helping them deal with complex legal challenges to grow and manage risk successfully. We simplify advanced matters such as succession and estate planning, M&A deals, reorganizations, shareholders disputes and agreements, corporate financing as well as commercial agreements and employment contracts.  We also pride ourselves in practising in Plain English.