The Challenge of Virtual Onboarding
In November, Canada’s employment numbers rose, adding 154,000 jobs for a new total of 19,316,000 (+0.8%). Consequently, the unemployment rate fell, dropping -0.7% to 6.0%—within 0.3 percentage points of its February 2020 benchmark.1
Gains were found in both part- and full-time work as the industry segments most impacted by the pandemic continue to recover. Part-time work grew by 2.1%, adding 74,000 jobs. Full time work increased by 80,000 or 0.5%, further demonstrating the unprecedented levels of activity within the labour market.1
“It’s an ‘employees’ market’,” says Henry Goldbeck, President of Goldbeck Recruiting. “And employers must be strategic to remain competitive.”2
Survey by Region
Employment was up in six provinces in November with Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island posting increases. Once again, British Columbia held ever steady, while Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick also showed little change.1
In Ontario, growth was concentrated mostly in healthcare and social assistance, wholesale and retail trade, construction, and finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing. This makes for the sixth consecutive month that Ontario has posted consistent growth; the unemployment rate fell to 6.4%, the lowest since February 2020.1
Quebec also posted gains which caused its unemployment rate to match that of February 2020. This is mostly owing to gains in part-time work, and across manufacturing and services-producing sectors. Notably, the Montreal census metropolitan area also posted its first significant increase since June 2021 (+56,000; +2.5%).1
In British Columbia, employment held steady. The Labour Force Survey (LFS) data collection week occurred before the severe weather and flooding events that took place in Southwestern BC; it is possible damage from the floods will produce a measurable impact in December’s LFS.1
Survey by Sector
Notably, the number of people employed in the healthcare and social assistance sectors rose by 44,000 (+1.7%) in November—the first increase since June 2021. These gains were found mostly in Ontario and British Columbia and included a significant increase among assisting occupations in healthcare, including positions such as nurse aides, orderlies, and patient service associates. The increase follows a rise in corresponding job vacancies to 131,000 in September—more than double the number recorded for the same period in 2019.1
November also brought an increase in the goods-producing sector—the first since March 2021. Employment in the sector rose by 26,000 (+0.7%), with gains concentrated in Quebec and British Columbia. These gains were felt mostly in part time work; Statcan notes that even despite these gains, the sector remains below its March 2021 and February 2020 benchmarks.1
Meanwhile, gains were also observed in retail trade (+34,000), professional, scientific, and technical services (+28,000), and manufacturing (+35,000).1
|Industry||November 2021 Jobs Change||October Change|
|Natural Resources ( Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction)||-2.8||-7.8|
|Transportation & Warehousing||18.2||-1.2|
|Finance & Insurance||5.7||7.4|
|Wholesale & Retail Trade||28.3||80.5|
|Professional, Scientific and Technical Services||28.3||-21.8|
|Information, Culture and Recreation||10.3||15.1|
|Accommodation & Food Services||5.2||-27.0|
|Business, Building & Other Support Services||7.4||-22.8|
For Employees, Hybrid Working is Non Negotiable
The great remote/in-person work debate of 2021 is far from over. And in this market, in fact, it’s more critical than ever.
“Hybrid working is non-negotiable for most of the candidates we place and speak to,” says Goldbeck. “And many companies, still, are not ready to accept that.”2
Generally speaking, this isn’t a case of an organization maintaining a brash disregard for candidate preferences.
While there are a handful of companies—mainly cut from “old school” cloth—who decline to entertain any remote work setups on principle, most that insist on full time in-office work are simply unable to make the transition.
“Depending on the industry, legacy systems and structure of the company it can cost time, money, and strategy to enable your workforce to be effective, when remote,” says Goldbeck.2
“But the reality remains: if you cannot guarantee some form of hybrid working, as an employer recruiting new employees, you are not going to be as competitive as you could be all else considered,” adds Goldbeck. “Your pool of qualified candidates to attract and hopefully choose from is guaranteed to be smaller than that of a competitor offering hybrid or remote opportunities.”2
In Recruitment, Planning Ahead is a Must
While workforce planning is never a simple task, it is proving to be one of the most critical aspects of forward planning—especially in this labour market.
“A lot of companies I’ve worked with have had that gap in mid-term planning,” says Chris Koehler, supply chain and operations professional. “They may be great at short-term planning; being rarely reactive, but rather tactical. Or they may be great at planning for the long-term, five-to-ten year goals. But many companies struggle with the one-to-three year range.”3
What happens in the span of one to three years? Recruitment.
“There are so many things that you need to be considering in that range. It takes a long time to do your organizational development, to begin the process of recruiting, and to actually hire someone,” says Koehler.3
“It’s critical that leadership takes the time to establish these medium-term plans—not only for recruitment, but also for capital expenditures or operational changes,” says Koehler.3
“This is especially true today, because all of these points—recruitment, capital expenditures, and strategic pivots—are taking longer than before. In this market, the stakes are a bit higher,” says Koehler. “You need to plan ahead to mitigate that risk.”3
Can Legislation Fix the Labour Shortage?
Two proposed solutions for the labour shortage include easing immigration rules and the governmental backing of industry-led institutional education.
As for the latter, the need has long been apparent for better (and more incentivized) training available to a variety of workers. There is such a dearth of adequately skilled workers coming out of schools that some private stakeholders are taking matters into their own hands.4
The auto industry, for example, is anticipating a massive seismic shift in product and process over the next ten years. The problem? New workers are being skilled in traditional automotive manufacturing practices; in reality, college grads may already need an altogether different set of skills in order to succeed.4
So, some companies and consultancies across Canada are partnering with colleges to design and support curricula that will, hopefully, alleviate this skills and knowledge shortage in a few years’ time.4
“This is what we need to be seeing more of,” says Goldbeck. “Some industries have faced a decades-long shortage. It’s about time that better training with more incentives became available to students. If it’s private industry that has to lead the way, the government should at least accredit and help facilitate this kind of program.”2
Legislation may also be the answer to the question of immigration as a labour shortage salve.
“Legislation and government’s tactical priorities regarding immigration will have a huge impact on our economy over the long term as we compete globally for skilled and educated immigrants,” says Goldbeck. “Legislation and implementation policy and resources must continue to improve its ability to enable in-demand workers to come to Canada and do the work they are trained to do, without undue burden on them or the companies that choose to employ them all while preventing abuse, allowing for security concerns and protecting jobs and incomes of current citizens and residents. Not an easy job for sure.”2
“It’s always going to be a challenge to go through the visa sponsorship process,” says Koehler. “It may be manageable for bigger companies with dedicated legal and human resources teams, but for small to midsize organizations, bringing a skilled worker into Canada can be costly and difficult.”3
“It would be understating the issue to call the process inconvenient,” adds Koehler.3
Enabling the immigration of in-demand workers may seem an obvious choice, like providing appropriate education for young workers entering industries under strain. But without suitable legislative action, the shortage may continue indefinitely.