According to the 11th annual Hays Salary Guide, majority of Canadian employers feel confident about the economy and have a positive employment outlook, but that perspective is not shared by their teams. Reduced social interaction, increased workloads, and a lack of well-being and mental health support are among concerns cited by Canadian employees. The report also found 49 per cent of employees are seriously considering leaving their current role, which represents a nine-point jump over last year.
Completed in August against the backdrop of the pandemic, the 2021 Hays Salary Guide presents a snapshot of business performance and future plans together with sentiments from the country’s labour force. Heading into the last quarter of 2020, an encouraging number of companies said they were back to business as usual (55 per cent) or in growth mode (19 per cent) after several months of COVID-19 slowdowns. The data shows their staff have also been weathering the storm, but its effects are more deeply felt and their optimism is in short supply. Early in the year, 81 per cent of employees rated their well-being as ‘positive.’ However, as the lockdown unfolded, that dropped almost 20 points to 64 per cent. Adding to the challenge are the 54 per cent of employers who admit to doing nothing in the way of employee wellness or mental health assistance.
“Canadian employers are navigating difficult headwinds but the growing number of employees who want to leave their role, even in the face of a tentative job market, is a big problem,” said Travis O’Rourke, president, Hays Canada. “COVID-19 has left everyone exhausted and while many businesses are improving, staff are waving a white flag. Employees expect a company to have their best interests at heart and we are now seeing evidence that unsupported teams look for better opportunities. Once we turn a corner on the pandemic or see more signs of job market strength, those employees are gone.”
Raises, rehiring, and productivity versus efficiency
The salary guide found that most employers are treading water, a state reflected in their hiring and salary plans for the foreseeable future. One-third of respondents said they cut staff and 71 per cent froze salaries in response to the pandemic. Rather than growing their teams, they expect to recoup headcount lost over the past six months. As for raises, only 19 per cent plan to boost pay greater than an annual cost-of-living adjustment, and a further 29 per cent confirmed that no salary increases are planned for the next year.
“Employers have been battling through the greatest global downturn since the Great Depression and as we have seen from the country’s jobs numbers, they are primarily focused on rehiring and regaining lost ground,” said O’Rourke. “It is good to see that we are on the right path but it is clear that things like raises, employee training and wellness spending could be on the back burner for some time.”
Often considered an employment perk, working from home became the standard this past spring in job sectors where business can effectively be conducted outside a corporate office. Hays data confirms employees adjusted to the new arrangement, and one-third believes their productivity increased as a result. Employers report their trust in remote workers has shot up nearly 20 per cent in recent months, but they are not seeing the productivity gains noted by staff. Hays experts believe this is the result of staff wanting to be as productive as possible. However, working conditions have actually slowed the process.
Additional Hays 2021 Salary Guide highlights include:
- employment optimism is highest in Ontario and Québec (77 per cent), followed by British Columbia (74 per cent), and then Alberta (50 per cent);
- 46 per cent of Alberta employers plan no salary increases, followed by Québec with 33 per cent, and Ontario and British Columbia are tied at 23 per cent;
- employees are most ready to leave in Québec (54 per cent), Ontario (52 per cent), Alberta (48 per cent), and British Columbia (41 per cent);
- from a new role, employees want benefits (53 per cent), career development (44 per cent), and work-life balance (40 per cent);
- lack of social interaction (45 per cent), isolation (27 per cent), and increased workload (25 per cent) are affecting people’s well-being; and
- over the past 12 months 35 per cent of employers decreased permanent staff (looking ahead, 36 per cent plan to add headcount).