Americans have been leaving the workforce in droves, a phenomena known as "The Great Resignation". But what does the Great Resignation mean for Canadian businesses?

Research suggests that the Great Resignation hasn’t hit Canada the same way it has the United States. In fact, recent reports show that Canada’s job market is slowly recovering from the pandemic, with the national unemployment rate decreasing for the 5th consecutive month in October 2021

Although this data reflects relatively little change in the rate at which Canadians are leaving the workforce, there has been a palpable shift in overall attitudes toward work, life, and how the two coincide with each other. Failure on behalf of Canadian companies to meet the shifting expectations of the Canadian workforce could lead to a Great Resignation here in Canada as well.

Here are a few insights that allude to a shift in how Canadian professionals are now thinking about work, and what could happen if companies don’t start adapting to these shifting attitudes. 

Millions of Canadians launched their own businesses during the pandemic

According to Intuit’s The Future of Entrepreneurship in Canada 2021 report, 2 million Canadians have launched businesses during the pandemic, and that number is still growing. Although many of these new entrepreneurs launched side hustles, this statistic does show that many Canadians are actively thinking about and investing in income streams beyond their regular jobs.

Job seekers want more than money

When on the fence about new jobs, Canadian workers take more than just the offered wages into consideration. Robert Half, a Canadian staffing firm, found that Canadian workers also look for: 

  • Flexible work schedules: 75 per cent
  • Remote work options: 61 per cent
  • Employee discounts: 40 per cent

These insights suggest that Canadians are thinking less about direct financial compensation and more about how their current or potential employers will integrate into their lives.

“Companies need to align their total compensation package with market trends and employee expectations,” says David King, Canadian senior district president of Robert Half. That applies for both new and existing employees. “While hiring is top of mind right now, keeping current employees motivated and engaged also needs to be an ongoing priority for organizations.” 

Employees will leave over conflicting values

A 2021 study on Job Optimism said that “Twenty-seven per cent of professionals said they had a shift in perspective due to the pandemic and prefer to work for an organization that better aligns with their personal values. In addition, 75 percent of employees would leave a company whose values don’t align with their own.” This confirms our core belief that more and more professionals want to work for a company that is representative of their own values. The pressure is on for businesses to incorporate real-life values into their business model and company culture or risk losing talent to companies who put them at the forefront. 

Remote work is preferred, but the expectations fluctuate by industry

A 2020 PWC report on the Canadian workforce suggests that the larger the organization, the higher the likelihood of employees preferring to continue working remotely post-pandemic. While many organizations are adapting to these expectations by offering flexible work arrangements, those that don’t will likely face challenges in attracting and retaining employees in the coming years. 

The urgency to adopt a remote-first or flexible work model varies by industry. Employees in industries like financial services, tech and telecom and government are as much as twice as likely to prefer remote work environments than employees in manufacturing, health care, and not-for-profit sectors. 

What’s a Canadian company to do? 

These insights may seem intimidating for managers and HR teams who are looking to retain their employees and attract top talent. The truth is, the state of the world is constantly fluctuating, and with that so are expectations of employees. Now is the time for business leaders to keep an open flow of communication across all levels of the organization, remain agile in their employee engagement and retention strategy, and focus on improving the employee engagement metrics that matter most to them. 

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