The labor issues plaguing businesses across the country didn’t start with the pandemic, but they have accelerated the problem to a point where it’s one of the biggest issues holding back economic growth. .

According to a survey by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC):

  • 55% of Canadian entrepreneurs struggle to hire the workers they need

  • 64% say labor shortages are limiting their growth

  • 61% need to increase their hours and/or the hours of their employees

  • 49% need to raise wages and benefits

  • 44% delayed or failed to deliver orders to customers

Lack of access to a workforce with the right skills is holding businesses back, and hiring challenges are increasing in smaller communities.

Nationally, unemployment fell to 5.2%.

Our economy is recovering, but this is putting additional pressure on companies’ ability to hire. Projections vary on when things will return to “normal”, but we can say with confidence that these challenges are not going away in the short term.

These issues had been in the works for decades, but ultimately what’s important is finding the way forward.

What companies are doing according to BDC:

  • Offer flexible working arrangements (e.g. telecommuting, flexible hours, compressed work weeks) – 37%

  • Internal training of less skilled workers – 35%

  • Recruitment of young workers and/or students – 26%

  • Hiring of freelancers or contract or freelance workers – 25%

  • Recruitment of immigrants and/or foreign workers – 10%

  • Automation of certain areas (for example, use of robotics, cognitive agents, intelligent workflows or advanced analytics) – 10%

  • Recruitment of older/formerly retired workers – 9%

BDC notes that increasing diversity and flexibility is important for business growth, particularly in three key areas: youth, immigrants and older workers. Immigration to Canada has slowed during the pandemic. Young people and immigrants bring skills and a willingness to grow and develop. BDC recommends providing more opportunities for young people and immigrants to better utilize our workforce.

When it comes to older workers, we need to address the issue of flexibility. They have an incredible set of skills and experience that our economy has relied on for years. Workers approaching retirement may no longer be interested in full-time work, but could be open to part-time and hybrid options.

More and more companies are turning to automation to streamline their operations. For most companies, it’s not about a robot replacing a staff member – it’s all the little things that add up to a more efficient process. Examples include:

  • Automated email marketing campaigns

  • Chatbots and automated messaging systems

  • Sales lead generation and management

  • Touchscreen control

  • Self-service checkouts

  • Online booking and automated appointments

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems

  • Collect applications

Businesses can further streamline by adopting new technologies such as updated email systems, shared digital calendars, and cloud-based workflow systems.

There is no single solution that will address our workforce challenges. The local business community has shown its ability to adapt, pivot and invest in new technologies. The challenges facing businesses continue to change, but our economy is growing and to grow with it, businesses need to be open and flexible in growing their workforce.