Workplace Culture -III


Building and refining best-in-class Human Resources practices requires a comparative baseline. Here are six of the latest numbers from across Canada to guide you in the right direction. -- JILL MOTLEY

Canada’s business landscape has been changing rapidly over the last two years. What worked pre-pandemic isn’t quite right now, and many current HR practices were created as reactive responses to the national crisis. Now, as the country puts COVID in the rearview, it’s time to take a second look at Canada’s key HR metrics.

Canadians are taking less time off

According to research from Humi, Canadians are taking nearly 40 percent LESS time off than prior to the pandemic. In 2021, that worked out to about 10 days absent from the office, per the Conference Board Canada.

This is an interesting pair of statistics to consider, as the LifeWorks Mental Health Index (MHI), a monthly snapshot of Canadian’s feelings around work, reveals that as of December 2021 there’s one dominant perk workers want from their employers – more flexible time off! So, there’s a disconnect between available days of vacation, days taken, and the desire for time away from work.

Engagement numbers are at worrying levels

Globally, engagement numbers have been falling throughout the pandemic years. Some attribute it to shifting personal priorities – work/life consultant Paul Millerd, author of The Pathless Path, even going so far as to say that the pandemic marked the death of meaningful work for millions of Millennial and Gen Z workers.

Whatever the cause, the latest numbers from the Conference Board Canada put the current engagement rate of the Canadian workforce at just 67 percent. This means that fully one-third of those currently employed are disengaged from their jobs (and in addition to the problems actively disengaged workers can cause on the job, even pure “passengers” will create a drag on productivity and morale).

Job-hopping is rising (but watch out for generational variations)

Related to engagement levels, job-hopping is on the rise across Canada. Linked with the Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle, and various forms of “She-session”, more than 40 percent of those currently employed are actively looking to change jobs in the next year.

The tendency to switch roles at this time does show sharp generational divisions, however. According to research from Humi, Boomer and Gen X cohorts have the longest time in role and are less likely to switch, while Gen Z workers are more likely to make a move than their Millennial counterparts.

One contributing factor? Younger generations place a greater emphasis on feeling like their work gives them an opportunity to grow and develop their skills. Where promotions aren’t available, it could be beneficial to develop rotational programs or other internal work-share arrangements to keep younger generations feeling like they’re constantly learning new things. This can help prevent them from feeling stuck in their careers and going online to browse for new roles.

Salaries are falling

Although American workers are reporting average annual salary boosts of 10 to 15 percent, Canadians aren’t experiencing the same double-digit uptick. In fact, the average salary in Canada has actually gone down year over year.

The average Canadian salary dropped 4.5% during the COVID-19 pandemic, from $61,212 to $58,428 in July, according to Humi. There are a number of possible explanations, including workers voluntarily cutting back on hours to be with family and many leisure and hospitality industry workers being unemployed, which would bring down the national average.

Many experts feel wage dips like this will be temporary. Thanks to rising inflation, there’s upwards pressure on wages to help workers keep pace with costs. Further, quality talent always commands a premium. However, knowing that nationally numbers are down may provide an opportunity to take a second look at overall compensation rates for open roles and carefully consider what’s going to be a competitive offer.

Digital HR solutions are becoming more popular

Another place to carefully consider the best path forward is with digitizing elements of the HR function. During the pandemic years, many companies moved key documentations, forms, and employee benefits packets online, where remote workers could access them anytime in a safe, secure, and no-contact format.

New documents that moved online included many onboarding materials that would have previously been handed to an employee on their first day. Employee handbooks, codes of conduct, and many forms of training leapt into the cloud.

The part of the HR function least likely to go digital? Diversity and inclusion related materials. Fewer than one percent of Canadian firms made these documents, policies, and forms available in a digital format to employees, according to Humi.

To create meaningful gender shift in the workforce, put one woman in the C-Suite

Even as Trudeau lamented the emergence of a “she-session” with up to 500,000 Canadian women exiting the workplace during COVID, some firms did make major diversity gains. The difference for these firms? Having at least one woman as a part of their executive team.

Across Canada, women comprise a mere 21 percent of the C-Suite, though they are 50.37 percent of the overall population according to the 2020 figures from the World Bank. With women called away from work to juggle irregular school and childcare schedules, elder care responsibilities, and the lion’s share of household tasks during the pandemic, one might think that all firms saw a decline in female participations rates.

This was not true. For firms with no women in the executive suite, the workforce settled at 39 percent female to 61 percent male by the end of 2020. On the other hand, firms with at least one in the C-Suite balanced at 47 percent female to 53 male. Representation at the top clearly made a difference throughout.

Concluding thoughts

Canada’s workplace practices have shifted dramatically. Each organization needs to find its own way to excel in its niche with best in class systems and appropriate hiring practices. By understanding what’s happening across industries and within the average Canadian firm, companies can begin to see what to do to stand out in a positive way in a competitive landscape.