Canadian employers are optimistic about this year. With a lower dollar and signs of strong economic recovery in the U.S., businesses expect 2015 to be a boon. But, according to a recent survey by the recruitment company Hays Canada, employers intend to grow their businesses without hiring full time employees or significantly increasing salaries. The fifth annual Hays Canada Salary Guide interviewed 4000 employers across the country in November 2014. It asked them about salary predictions for this year, but also about workplace conditions and their prediction for business activity over the next 365 days.
Profit Without Growth
Almost half of the employers surveyed believe our economy will get stronger within the next six to 12 months and an impressive 70 per cent expect business activity to pick up in the coming year. In fact, optimism is at a five-year high and has jumped 15 points since it hit a low in 2011. But despite all these rosy predictions, a mere 7 per cent of employers expect to increase salaries more than 6 per cent and 62 per cent plan to grow profits without adding to their current head count. This worries Rowan O’Grady, President of Hays Canada. He says, “Looking at the results this year, we have to ask ourselves whether employers are asking too much from their people in a quest to improve productivity and profitability.”
From an economic perspective, a freeze on hiring will detract from jobs growth – one of the key benchmarks watched by the Bank of Canada when deciding to tweak monetary policy.
Also Read: Canada Budget: A Focus on Jobs and Growth>
Addressing the Skills Shortage
Experts say Canada is facing a skills shortage. There are many jobs that can’t be filled domestically because there’s no one trained to do them. Now, a healthy one third of employers are saying they’re to blame for the lack of manpower. They admit that their own lack of professional development programs contribute to a shortage of talent, especially in the most hard-to-fill senior roles. According to the Hays survey, 70 per cent of employers say recruiting for senior roles is the most difficult and can take anywhere from two to six months to fill. It’s great that employers want to support their existing staff towards promotion and better salaries, but O’Grady warns it’s with employees who already feel overstretched, adding that aggressive targets could be seriously undermined if current staff are made to bear the burden.
A Focus On Training
Employees need to feel there is a plan for them personally if a boss expects them to grow within the company, says O’Grady. He adds, “Employers should be investing in skills development, recruitment and succession planning to keep pace with their ambitions.” The good news is more than 50 per cent of employers say they want to do better at training their current staff. It’s positive that companies and employers realize they are part of the problem when it comes to comes a skills shortage in Canada, but now they need to take action to change that trend. The survey also shows staff morale has declined this year and that suggests growing workplace dissatisfaction could hamper expectations of growth through productivity gains
Keep Expectations in Perspective
Employers need to manage expectations this year. Yes, our biggest trading partner – the U.S. – has an economy that’s improving and that’s great news for Canada. But employees can’t be expected do more for less. Employers have already acknowledged the talent issue is within their control. Now they need to find a reasonable approach to fill that gap without burning out their employees.
They are willing to add solutions like, work-from-home options, flexible hours and extended benefits in an effort to attract talent, so they can see their business grow without too much change to their workforce. “It appears Canadian employers are poised to capitalize on their positive outlook although I sincerely hope a focus on short-term gain doesn’t distract them from resolving the looming challenges ahead,” says O’Grady.