May 27th, 2021
Our workforce is undergoing significant changes, including a large shift in the skills our businesses are looking for.
Peterborough’s Workforce Development Board has been diligently monitoring these changes and engaging businesses to help them meet their needs. Recently, they partnered with workforce planning boards across
Eastern Ontario to conduct this year’s EmployerOne Survey. Highlights from the survey include:
Direct Impact of the Pandemic
This pandemic has had a substantial negative impact on 40% of businesses surveyed, with only 6% of businesses reporting a significant positive impact. We can also see that businesses took advantage of assistance offered to them, including 39% using the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. It has shifted how people work, with 52% of local businesses having at least one employee working remotely.
Turnover & Recruitment
Turnover is a concern for many employers. The main reason for employees leaving is quitting, with sales and service occupations struggling the most.
Compounding issues with high turnover are struggles with recruitment, including a general lack of applicants. Recruitment woes point to a few things, including a tight labour market where the most qualified workers are already employed. Other factors include not enough promotion for vacancies and concerns that the workplace may not have sufficient employee protection protocols for working during the pandemic.
While online job boards, social media, and company websites are used extensively, word of mouth is the most popular form of recruitment.
Specific positions and sectors are facing the most
challenges in recruitment. Currently, the most difficult positions to fill are:
• Home support workers, housekeepers and related occupations
• Construction trades
• Sales and account
representatives for wholesale trade
Why are some positions so difficult to fill? Of the local businesses surveyed, 70% cited lack of applicants and 53% pointed to lack of work experience from the
applicants they did get.
What are employers looking for?
When it comes to new hires, employers are looking for computer skills (including working remotely) topped by soft skills like the ability to work independently, time management, problem
solving, teamwork and
And businesses are looking to hire, with 54% anticipating they will hire in 2021. The main reasons for hiring are:
• Increase in sales
• Change in work processes
• Reorganization of
• Change in products or services
• Acquisition of new
• Adoption of new
While ridding the world of COVID-19 and moving out of our current social and
business restrictions will go a long way toward building a thriving business community, that’s not happening right away nor will it happen
quickly. It’s clear that
re-skilling and re-training are key to moving ahead. Various organizations, educational institutions, governments, and businesses are all working on new programs to train our workforce for the future. But it also hinges on our willingness to adapt. The jobs lost due to the pandemic aren’t the same ones that are popping up on job boards.
The success of our economic recovery hinges on
investments in our workforce to adapt to the changing needs of local employers.
Social issues are business issues
The last year has given new perspectives and new voices for business issues. Business issues that were once more easily pushed aside, dismissed, or ignored have been placed front and centre.
Traditionally, when we talk about business issues it’s discussed as a solitary entity, independent of life outside the business world. Then COVID-19 came along and turned everything upside down. As Joni Mitchell said, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” We’ve gone through a reckoning and have seen just how intertwined business is with everything else. I think many of us have known for a long time the importance of social issues for our economy and various movements have pushed that cause over the years.
Our recovery from this pandemic gives us an opportunity to take a huge step forward. When we talk about the “new normal,” let’s talk about what we want the future to look like.
Gender inequality is a business issue. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate economic impact on women. Women are more likely to beemployed in sectors facing shutdowns and layoffs, female entrepreneurs tend to be newer or smaller with less financial backing, and women have taken on the largest role in childcare and home-based education. This inequality is not a new challenge for the workforce, but the pandemic has illuminated shortcomings. Our governments are working to find ways to implement what has been dubbed the “she-covery.” Failing to address this issue will impact our nation’s economic recovery and drag it out longer. This is not just a moral obligation — it’s critical for our economy.
Childcare is a business issue. Quality childcare is nearly impossible to maintain while also working a full day of work, especially for jobs that can’t be done from home. When the childcare centres closed, thousands of adults removed themselves from the workforce.
Childcare has been an ongoing issued made much more challenging by the pandemic. Childcare spaces have been in short supply for years and the cost is a
significant challenge for families. The federal government is taking steps to address these issues through the 2021 budget, pushing more subsidies, increasing spaces, and investing in quality care. Giving parents the option of quality, affordable childcare is essential to engaging the full potential of our workforce.
Our schools are a business issue. Anyone attempting to help our children with online learning can attest to this. Much like childcare, many parents have had to make the choice to either remove themselves from the
workforce or burn the candle at both ends and get their work done after the kids are done school (or gone to bed).
Investing in our schools both helps our economy by training a better future
workforce and makes it so those who don’t want to be homeschool teachers can focus on our work. This is a resource a generation of parents will never take for granted again.
The line between the
workplace and home has become a bit blurred. While work has moved more into our homes, our lives have also become more entwined with our work. We’ve seen more prioritizing of physical health, mental health, and schedule flexibility. These are all part of the future business community.
As your Chamber of
Commerce, it’s our duty to advocate for a thriving
business community. We know addressing social
issues goes hand-in-hand with advocating for
traditional business issues.
This recovery is our chance to work together and make some positive change.
Finding stability in uncertain times
It’s no secret that businesses thrive on a certain level of consistency and stability.
Knowing what to expect allows business owners and managers to plan and invest for the future. That same logic applies to plans for next weekend as well as five years down the road. It impacts how many staff to bring in and how much product to order as well as investments in expansion, renewal, and succession.
Unpredictability has become one of the few constants for many businesses. Being able to accurately predict economic and social trends has always been a key part of running a business, but not to this level.
Pressure is mounting on our federal and provincial governments to release their plans for moving into
recovery from this pandemic.
The current stay-at-home order expires May 20. While there is an expectation that some form of lockdown will continue, especially in certain regions, there are insights that could be shared that would help businesses figure out staffing, product/supplies, and promotions for the
coming weeks and months.
Federally, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is adding some pressure by calling on the government to release a roadmap for the restart of domestic and international travel. At this point, air travel isn’t expected to fully recover until 2024. This impacts tourism, international business, and cargo capacity.
As per the Canadian Chamber of Commerce: “Canada cannot afford to wait until after the pademic is over to develop the travel restart plan given, the lead-time required for implementation. In executing a roadmap,
government needs to present a plan that is underpinned by three traits: clarity in its intent and objectives rather than based around outlier
issues; trustworthiness that is it based on solid evidence that it will protect the health of Canadians; and
predictability that the plan is durable and will only be changed under well
telegraphed circumstances.” (see full letter at chamber.ca)
I would emphasize that we can’t afford to wait until the pandemic is over to
develop recovery plans for any economic or business sector. Knowing the “how” without a firm date on the “when” will still add a significant level of certainty for some sectors. Not only how are we going to roll back restrictions, but what is the path forward. The future of business is going to be different from where we left off in 2019 — rolling back restrictions doesn’t roll back the clock.
We know our governments can’t predict every zig and zag of this health crisis. Many of the public health and economic experts the
governments have been relying on have made their assessments and best-guesses public. We know they’re hard at work on getting us through this and into better times. That has been the focus of the recent federal and provincial budgets.
Sharing their plans for recovery will give businesses assurance that there is indeed a plan ready to go, provide expectations of how things will roll out, and hopefully give a bit of stability and certainty to our business community.
Ontario is planning to go digital in a big way with the government recently
announcing its Building a Digital Ontario strategy to move our province ahead online. This strategy has involved two years of consultations with organizations, businesses, municipalities, experts and community members.
We’ve heard a lot about going digital for the last while, with a lot of it focused on shopping and ordering takeout online. But there’s so much digital can do to make it easier and more
cost-effective to access services, get help, and interact with our institutions.
The push to take government services and departments digital may be getting a little extra motivation from the current pandemic, but it has been a pressing need for years.
Our provincial government’s plans to go digital include:
Taking healthcare digital includes expanding virtual care options like video visits and secure messaging to find ways to best meet the needs of patients. It includes online appointment bookings and easier access to your own health information. For healthcare professionals, it means more tools and better data.
The Province plans to roll out a new digital ID this year. This will be optional electronic identification for both
individuals and business to prove who you are for
accessing services. People can use it to check in for virtual medical appointments, get a birth or marriage certificate, apply for government
assistance, or update
Businesses can use it as part of the hiring process, apply for grants or loans, open
business accounts, or verify the identity of customers or other businesses.
Being able to access more government services online means more immediate
results and the ability to
access services outside
traditional hours. The Province is also investing in making our businesses more competitive in a digital world through programs like Digital Main Street — offering grants, supports and
one-on-one assistance from experts.
Broadband and mobile
Access to digital services is only as good as the
connection. Both the federal and provincial governments are aggressively rolling out programs to improve access to high-speed broad band internet and mobile data. It’s estimated that as much as 12% of the province is unserved or underserved for internet access. This is key for any plan to improve digital access to healthcare, education, business and the workplace.
The Building a Digital Ontario strategy calls for more supports to help people learn the skills and tools to improve our overall digital literacy. Just as high-speed internet is key to making services accessible, people also need to know how to use it effectively and safely. Driving strong digital literacy will also improve people’s overall online experience, including access to their local businesses, while tackling cyber security issues like fraud and misinformation as part of increasing consumer confidence.
The Ontario government’s digital plan is a welcomed step forward. There is still room to improve and
progress with many
government offices, services, and institutions still
struggling to adapt to a less physical workspace and
access to the public.
Greater online access needs to go hand-in-hand with
increased security. The Province is promising the security will be there.
Hopefully, consumer confidence and digital literacy will help move it all forward.
Moving to a digital public sector is a big win. It will increase access for people. It will save businesses time and money. Ultimately, it will lead to a better, more efficient and more competitive Ontario.