Canada and The Talent Revolution

 Mar 28, 2019 9:00 AM

Revolutions are messy. They disrupt and challenge what is currently in place, without fully revealing what is to come. When living through revolutionary times, it is easy to think that the full story can be known. We tell ourselves narratives that make the changes of the day less painful or more aligned with our own values, interests and beliefs.   

The Talent Revolution is also messy. There are many topics and technologies, groundswells and gurus all competing for attention to help paint a picture of the Future of Work.   

I always encourage our Challenge Factory team to stop looking for answers and start watching for clues. The future of work is not a pre-defined puzzle to be solved. It is an unfolding mystery with plot twists and new characters that continually change the story.  

The Federal Budget gives us a few clues that are worthy of note. Before the budget came out, government spokespeople signaled that older workers and later-life training would be a focus. On budget day, the new Canada Training Credit was introduced. It provides Canadians with a notional account that collects $250 per year to be used toward retraining, to a maximum of $5,000 over the course of a person’s lifetime. I believe there is one hopeful and one disappointing clue buried in the introduction of this new credit.  

Hopeful: Encouraging culture of life-long learning and career development  

The existence of this credit is an important signal. It encourages Canadians to consider taking ownership of their own training throughout their life and not just early in their career. In fact, the small annual amount accrued should reinforce that there can be significant training and career shifts that take place later in one’s career. Someone who has worked for a longer period will be able to take advantage of a more meaningful benefit, presumably allowing for more significant skill and career development. It is a benefit that is structured to support older worker training and development. That the credit offers a relatively modest amount of funding is something to improve upon over time and should not overshadow the cultural implication of the credit’s introduction.   

When compared with other countries, Canada as a nation does not rank high on scales measuring cultures of life-long learning and innovation. I am curious to see if the Canada Training Credit, which takes 20 years to accrue to its maximum payout, shifts the discussion and culture.  Will parents provide a different type of modelling for future generations as they explore new training 10, 15 and 20 years into their careers? This credit is a baby step towards a more ingrained culture of life-long learning and individual career ownership and agency.  

Disappointing: Outdated perspective on aging, longevity and workforce engagement  

If we are looking for clues to indicate how ready Canada is to re-imagine the world of work and create a future where everyone can thrive, there is one aspect of the Canada Training Credit that disappoints. The Credit is structured so that Canadians have until age 65 to use the amount that has accrued in their individual notional accounts. Why 65? We know that Canadians are living and working longer. That unemployment among older workers is a significant problem and that one of the fastest growing cohorts of entrepreneurs is women aged 55+. Why introduce a new approach to life-long learning, training and career development and then limit its use to an age that was set as the retirement age in the 1930s when life expectancy was only 62 years?  

The introduction of this age limit has clear and powerful underlying consequences. In The Talent Revolution: Longevity and the Future of Work,” my co-author and I identify and dispel with data the five myths that keep companies and countries from making smart workforce decision and policy. The new Credit falls victim to 3 of the 5 myths. First, it reinforces the false belief that there is a “best before” date for workers. Second, it communicates that there is a chronological, universal age at which training is no longer appropriate, needed or useful. Finally, it asserts that retraining workers over age 65 is a poor investment. These three myths are all false, prevalent and powerful. They sound reasonable. But the data shows that they are not. This new Credit only reinforces these pernicious myths, adding legitimacy to beliefs that limit productivity in every industry, company and community across Canada.  

Life-long Learning? Really?  

We need to examine the underlying stories and narratives being told as new policies, announcements and company programs are implemented. A culture of life-long learning and commitment to career development is powerful as we navigate the talent revolution and shape the future of work. Let’s just make sure we truly understand what “life-long” actually means and the opportunity it can present. 


Spring Forward

 Mar 11, 2019 10:00 AM

Spring forward, fall back. This bi-annual ritual is one way we mark time and, each time, there is a combination of sweet and sour associated with the act of changing our clocks. In the fall we welcome the extra hour while lamenting the marking of the beginning of darker days. In the spring, we focus on the lost hour all the while knowing it means brighter days and warm summer ahead.

This cycle of light and dark, gaining and losing time, appears more broadly in our careers and lives, too. We know that there are times when we need to push through less than ideal conditions and remain in jobs that do not fully satisfy our needs – those related to finances, schedule, growth, recognition, location, impact or relationships. We default to taking comfort in what remaining in place can offer.  It’s easier, familiar.  It feels less risky than change - the career equivalent of the extra hour gained in the fall as we head into cold, dark winter. Then, as we move through different phases of our career, we look ahead and recognize that, while there may be temporary discomfort, the time has come to move forward.  We experience both excitement for what lies ahead while expressing apprehension and preparing ourselves for the fatigue that can result from undertaking change.

Experts tell us that Daylight Saving Time, which we have just entered, is preferable to Daylight Standard Time. Originally designed to conserve energy and fit an agrarian schedule, Standard Time no longer serves the way we live, work and consume. In 2019 we are more active at twilight and in the evening than early morning. Most benefit from the light that extends our hours rather than greeting us in the earliest moments of the day.

Shifting to Daylight Saving Time can also be a symbol for how we mark time, more broadly.

We expect students and early adults to take some time to find their way. We encourage university students to pursue common first-year curriculum rather than declaring majors before exiting high school. We provide opportunities for internships, co-op and experiential learning so students can assimilate what is being learned in the class with what is happening in a rapidly changing world of work. We allow for self-exploration and taking time to know one’s self not as the exception, but as the norm. We allow for more time early in our careers to explore a bit in the dark, knowing that clarity will eventually come.

Likewise, we know that shifting our society to expect longer periods of productivity later in life suits our times. We have more to contribute later in our careers than ever before and even the definition of when “later” is continues to get pushed farther and farther back. We crave every drop of light so our work and contributions remain visible. We find new projects that are meaningful and pursue them before it becomes too hard to continue. In context, the extra effort to remain engaged or to re-engage later in life is worth it, like the lost hour we experienced this past weekend. It can leave us a bit bleary – but the brighter, longer hours of sunshine beckon us to find the energy and explore new paths that have been previously hidden in the darkness.

Let’s Spring Forward in our careers and how we think about work. Let’s put in the effort to see past outdated rituals and structures to find what truly serves us all as we move into the future. Let’s challenge assumptions about the possible/impossible to recognize that we have the ability to shape our own environments and futures. Let’s harness time to have it serve us as we create, collaborate and connect. Let’s shake off the fatigue associated with change and move to reveling in the joy new beginnings present.

Let’s bring our best work into the light.



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