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How your company can keep pace with disruption

VP of sales and country manager, LinkedIn Canada.

Canada's work force is in a period of unprecedented change, with shifting demographics and technological innovation dramatically altering what it takes for both businesses and professionals to be successful.

Seniors out-number children for the first time ever, and our working-age population is steadily declining.

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Yet the trend with the greatest potential to transform our work force is innovation. The blistering pace of technological change makes it difficult for schools, governments and business leaders to properly train workers for existing and future jobs, which is widening the gap between the skills professionals have and the skills employers need.

One of the best ways to narrow skills gaps is by sharing new insights that complement existing economic indicators and can help workers better navigate their careers.

We recently released LinkedIn Canada's first Workforce Report for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), harnessing our data from millions of members in the region and thousands of companies using LinkedIn to uncover key work-force trends on hiring rates, skills gaps and talent migration.

It's our vision to create economic opportunity for every worker across the globe, including every Canadian worker. We hope workers use these insights to better navigate their careers; employers use these insights to upskill their teams and stay competitive; and government leaders use these insights to make more informed decisions on policies that can help narrow skills gaps.

Here are a few things we've learned and how you can think about applying them to your organization:

Develop curriculum with schools to ensure students learn the skills you need

Business leaders, educators and policy makers need to recognize the role we play in training our work force and empowering them with the tools they need to learn new skills. A crucial part of this is understanding your company's emerging skills gaps. Then you need to take steps to ensure your employees and future employees get the skills they need to qualify for your open jobs.

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According to the World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs, half of subject knowledge gained during the first year of a four-year technical degree is already outdated by graduation day. We need to work directly with educators to develop new curriculums and ensure that students – a.k.a. your future employees – gain the skills needed most today and those likely to be in high demand tomorrow.

For example, Shopify and Carleton University recently announced a first of its kind, four-year Bachelor of Computer Science internship program to help students learn industry-leading skills and explore opportunities in software and computer science. We need more programs like this to teach students about the current business landscape and encourage them to stay curious and on the cusp of emerging technology trends. This is how we foster skill sets that match the speed of innovation.

Keep your team agile with continuous learning

These days, school is never out. You and your team should always be looking to keep pace with what's changing in your industry. Careers exist now that were unimaginable a decade ago, such as machine learning developers, cloud computing specialists and driverless car engineers. Training and development can feel like a moving target in this landscape, but teaching your employees new skills on an ongoing basis will make sure you stay competitive as new fields, tools and technologies emerge.

Fifty-four per cent of all working Americans think it will be essential to develop new skills throughout their working lives. For adults under 30, that number goes up to 61 per cent. Do you have a continuous education strategy for your employees? Have you talked to your HR lead about how to integrate education into your benefits package? If you're not investing in upskilling your workers, you're falling behind.

This also applies to soft skills. Ensure that you're building a team of adaptable problem-solvers with the strategic chops to help you shift as needed to keep up with the pace of change, and invest in training on collaboration and communication for your existing team. Not doing so can wind up costing you in productivity and sales performance.

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Offer a career, not a job

Professionals are holding more jobs over the course of their careers than any previous generation and are taking their job search global. Continuous learning isn't just a vital part of your growth strategy – it's crucial for employee retention.

We've seen that Toronto is losing skilled workers to cities such as New York and San Francisco, while attracting them locally from Montreal and Kitchener. In a global talent market, it's clear that the stakes are higher than ever to hold on to your best and brightest.

Attract and retain your top talent by keeping employees challenged and fulfilled. Work with HR to bring attention to new roles available within your company to current employees, providing them with options for growth and development.

While making a good salary remains a key factor for many, it's also important to emphasize the softer benefits of a role and the unique experiences your organization offers. Ensure you're able to articulate who you are and what your company does, and keep the channels of communication open.

Replacing an employee can cost up to 40 per cent of his or her salary according to Manulife Financial, so investing in ongoing upskilling offers significant return on investment when it comes to maintaining your competitive edge.

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Preparing your business for what's to come can be difficult, but taking care to use real-time insights to keep pace with the disruption that accompanies technological change and demographic shifts will go far in putting your employees and organization in the best possible position for success.

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