After the pandemic comes to an end and we enter our new normal, economists are expecting a record number of Canadians to quit or retire from their job. This comes as data shows that when COVID-19 was first declared a global pandemic uncertainty in the labour market kept Canadians in the jobs they were in.
According to a new report by RBC Economics retirement numbers fell by 20 per cent between March 2020 and February 2021. In that same time period the number of people quitting due to job dissatisfaction dropped 40 per cent, compared to the year before.
Now as the economy opens up and the job market recovers the number of people leaving their job is expected to accelerate beyond normal levels.
Economists say this will create a skilled labour shortage in every industry.
Brendon Bernard is a senior economist with the job search site indeed.ca. He says his company is seeing a spike in job posting this year. “As of early July, job postings on indeed are up 33 per cent, from their pre pandemic levels. This is an environment where employers are clearly looking to hire,” says Bernard.
He agrees that some of the hiring is catch up activity from a year that was essentially missed because of the pandemic. He says even industries most affected by economic shutdowns, since March 2020, are starting to perk up and hire again.
“Job postings are strong across a wide range of sectors. These include technology, healthcare, construction, manufacturing, customer service and retail. Even some of the pandemic exposed sectors have started to reopen like food services, so there’s clearly a lot of demand for labour out there,” says Bernard.
In his expert opinion, the industry that will face the biggest highly skilled labour shortage, is healthcare. He says the pandemic has highlighted this industry’s importance to everyday life.
But increased work brought on by the pandemic has left many healthcare workers burnout. The industry, he says, needs extra hands to get the work done. But he points out that finding qualified workers such as medical receptionists, therapists, nurses and doctors, is not easy.
“Thinking about an area like nursing, for instance. Someone can’t just one day decide to become a nurse and get a job. It requires a lot of training and specialized education, and can take years,” says Bernard.
He says pay may also be a driver in highly skilled workers leaving. For this reason companies will have to increase budgets to attract the most talented people.
Laura Williams is an employment lawyer and HR consultant with Williams HR law. She has been busy getting her clients ready for the post pandemic work world. Williams believes workers will demand conditions like hybrid work, flexible hours and better pay. But she believes the best companies are already on board with all of this.
“On our consulting side what we have been experiencing are employers coming to us and saying, you know, what, we’ve got to make sure that we’re competitive from a compensation and benefits perspective,” Williams says. Williams adds if employers can’t accommodate these requests, workers will be likely to quit. Especially if they know their skills are in high demand.
She adds employees also want to work in places that align with their own values.
“One thing that employers have to do better is they have to embrace promoting the type of work environment they have. The type of culture they have, and what employee experience will be like. Wrong corporate fit is causing a lot of employees to leave,” Williams says.
The RBC reports says Canada will increasingly need to rely on immigration and other sources for labour force growth. But Williams says looking outside of Canada will only do so much.
“I think that that may be a partial solution. But I also do think that organizations have to get their acts together. I think the talent, is here, but it is an employee, buyers’ market, and employees are really being selective,” says Williams.
RBC says data shows in June 2021, for example, three times as many people quit their job due to job dissatisfaction compared to June 2020. This shows that the employee job movement has already started. If companies want to retain their top talent, they will have to focus on workplace culture, pay competitive rates and provide flexible work solutions.
These experts say a highly skilled labour shortage is coming and companies that prepare now will be the ones that are least affected by this shortfall.