2020 forced businesses around the world to rethink the way we worked, and it quickly became obvious that our modern business world wasn’t quite ready. With fear of catching COVID on everyone’s minds, next to no work policies in place, and uncertainties around what the “new normal” would look like, Canadian professionals had a challenging year. Lay-offs, reduced hours, and poorly thought out remote plans had us on our toes as we scrambled to just make things work with half-baked solutions – one thing led to another and the new not-so-normal continues to linger longer than expected.
By the time 2021 rolled around, it became outright irresponsible for employers to forgo implementing long-term people strategies to help adjust to the post-COVID world. Recovery from the pandemic was starting, and vaccinated employees were on the rise – it became hard to get away from conversations about whether or not companies would be returning to the office. Many companies experienced false starts to their return-to-office plan while others made the decision to go remote, forever. Topics such as compensation, communication, company culture, and new workflows (just to pick a few from a constantly growing list) are now ever-present in the professional world.
One thing is for sure: 2022 will be an unprecedented year in the search for new talent. HR leaders and recruiters are expected to move quickly as workers are leaving their old roles at record rates. Canadians are recognizing the value of work-life engagement, a better and fuller compensation package, and the value of feeling like they belong.
We surveyed our clients, made up of HR professionals, and looked into our own database of 4000+ companies to build this People Report. Equipped with this year’s data and insights, we hope to help HR leaders, business owners, employees, and everyone in between to stay informed and make decisions that put people first.
Whether it’s wearing masks for extended periods, the dryness of our hands from constantly sanitizing, or not seeing coworkers on a daily basis, it’s undeniable that the way we work has changed. In this section, we’ll explore what hiring and working looks like currently and what it should look like in the future.
Historically, most employees are recruited during the summer months because it’s the last push to hire before companies enter their last quarter, just before budgets run out. Our survey shows an even larger spike in hires during the summer of 2021 as a result of hiring freezes being lifted as companies continue to recover from the pandemic. We also saw that March was another strong performing month for filling roles as books typically close in February, and annual budgets become available in March. Who would have thought: more money, more hires.
The market is only going to get more competitive. Many people were laid off during the pandemic and as we recover and businesses start to grow again, the demand for talent will only increase. As a result, we expect the talent war to continue with great candidates having more options, negotiating power, and the ability to accept offers quicker than historic timelines.
Canadian companies need to reevaluate their hiring practices, recruitment initiatives, and people operations to ensure that what’s being offered to candidates is in line with (or ahead of) market trends. Heads up for companies who aren’t up to date with the modern day needs of employees, this goes beyond a “competitive salary.” At Humi, we’re upfront about what we offer to our employees early on in the recruitment process – we share our work perks right on our careers page.
Beyond work perks, we also expect to see an increase in investments for upskilling and reskilling talent. With the talent war at large, there’s an opportunity here for companies to create more internal opportunities for promotions and lateral movements in an effort to retain talent and strengthen the compounding value of organizations.
With COVID-19 numbers going down and the increase in people getting vaccinated, we’re at the cusp of another turning point – do we return to the office full-time, part-time, or not at all? In March 2020, before the pandemic, our survey showed only 38.6% of companies had a remote work policy. After March 2020, 80.1% of companies reported they implemented a remote work policy, giving us an increase of 41.5%. There were also major changes to remote policies that were in place before March 2020, including making it such that employees could work remotely more easily, approval processes were eliminated, and increasing the number of days employees were able to work remotely.
Forcing your employees to be in-office when they can do their job just as effectively remotely is no longer acceptable. At the end of the day, people are the greatest assets of a company and they appreciate having options. In order for Humi to keep being one of Canada’s most impactful companies, we made the decision to become remote-first, giving employees the opportunity to continue working remotely, adopt a hybrid model, or return to office full-time.
Our survey shows 83.8% of respondents will return to the office in a full-time or hybrid capacity. 67% of respondents who indicated they were excited to go back to the office said that it was solely due to seeing their coworkers again. Many Canadians are looking forward to building culture, collaborating, and socializing in the office setting again. During the pandemic, we’ve seen reports showing six in ten Canadians feel lonely during the pandemic and that interactions with coworkers, alongside neighbours, friends, and family, combat feelings of isolation.
On the flip side, the excitement to go back to the office isn’t universal. Regardless of if respondents are excited to return to office, 74% shared the one thing they’re dreading the most is commuting again. Other respondents are unsure about the transition back to the office due to the loss of flexibility in their schedule and work-life balance, fear of catching COVID, and escalating levels of social anxiety. Employers can help alleviate the anxiety around returning to office by offering resources and programs like an EFAP, creating a commuter slack group, starting a buddy system, and providing branded commuter kits that include gloves, masks, button pusher, and more.
When creating any hybrid policy, remember: for those returning to in-person work, how can your office become an inclusive and safe place to socialize again? For those staying remote, how can you participate and feel like you belong from afar?
While the option to work remotely has become a popular trend to attract and retain talent, there are many conversations outside of where employees are working and are transcending to now focus instead on rather how and how much employees will work. Companies are starting to explore the four day work week with 18% of respondents sharing they offered “flexible Fridays” in summer 2021. Less than 15% (12.2%) of those who had summer hours indicated they will continue to offer it beyond summer 2021 while 21.9% shared they were considering a four day work week model. Proud to be at the forefront of progressive thinking around work-life balance, Humi is now offering long(er) weekends where our hours of operations end at 1 PM ET every Friday so Humigos can get a head start to their weekend, every weekend.
If you’re moving to a hybrid model like 62.6% of survey respondents are, you’ll want to consider some of the inherent biases when it comes to raises and promotions between those in-office and those who are remote. For many managers, some of their greatest remote workers may be passed up for opportunities because they’re “out of sight, out of mind.” Try to be cognizant about biases like these that may arise.
HR leaders and people managers may also want to consider the generational differences among employees. Young employees such as recent grads entering the workforce for the first time post pandemic may have missed out on the opportunity to work in-person. This creates a learning gap for younger generations when it comes to soft skills and working in an office environment. These gaps can make things more challenging as they progress in their careers where it may be required to be in-office. Consider creating flexibility by offering an office space for your employees to drop into if they would like to be in-person and develop these skills.
Another consideration for making your business a great place to work is offering more flexibility to your employees. Some companies have implemented “core hours” where employees are expected to be logged on only during that time period. Core hours are typically not the length of a full work day as it aims to allow employees to log on and off earlier or later based on their needs. As for the rest of the work day outside of core hours? It’s entirely up to employees to decide when and how they get their work done.
Remember two words; retention and recruitment. By offering this level of flexibility, you’re creating a workplace that employees actually value being a part of. By actively choosing to be more progressive with your policies, you're enhancing your employer value proposition. Think about how you’re attracting and retaining talent – what are your key motivators for keeping employees happy? What innovative initiatives can you implement to keep them happy?
Creating a workplace culture that is equitable, diverse, and inclusive is essential in today’s work environment. Companies working without regard for this are at risk for falling behind and can expect to see higher turnover rates, disengaged employees, and the inability to attract great talent. When employees spend 40 hours of their week with your company, employers need to create a space where employees are comfortable and confident to be their authentic selves.
EDI has become more important for all modern companies. With near endless benefits like being able to leverage more perspectives that result in creative solutions, you are ultimately creating a positive culture that enhances employee satisfaction and the bottom line. Unfortunately, our survey shows that EDI policies are not a priority at most companies (yet, we have hope). Only 36.3% of our respondents said they had an EDI policy in place in 2020. In 2021, this rose to 50.7%. It’s hard not to question – why is there a lag with the other 49.3% of companies?
According to McKinsey and Company’s “Diversity wins: How inclusion matters” report, companies with more than 30% women executives were more likely to outperform companies with 10% to 30% women executives, and in turn, these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives, or none at all.
While equity, diversity, and inclusion are three key terms many of us continue to hear about and embrace, our data is showing that we’re not as equitable, diverse, or inclusive as we think we are. Our database shows that roughly 21% of companies have women in C-suite positions. What stands out in our findings is that companies without women in C-suite roles tend to employ fewer women to begin with.
Representation matters. Not only does having women in C-suite positions affect the overall performance of a company (because of the additional diverse perspectives), it also shows women within the company and future employees that there are leadership opportunities available for them too. At this point, nobody should be surprised – you can’t be what you can’t see.
In addition to gender distribution discrepancies, there is a clear gap between salaries when comparing men and women. Read more about our findings in section “Have we finally abolished pay inequity?” located in chapter three.
In 2021, 47% of respondents reported that their company provided educational resources and training for EDI purposes. This is alarming as if you are in Ontario and have over 50 employees, you are required to have at least one EDI training session annually. Additionally, employers may be providing some EDI training during onboarding but no additional training thereafter. Even if your company does the minimum, having that foundation is not worth patting yourself on the back for. So, what else can you do?
While companies are starting to move towards prioritizing EDI, there’s plenty of ongoing conversation around how. Many are shifting towards adopting the terms “belonging and inclusion” to really get to the core of celebrating and welcoming diversity. Some of the sentiments of EDI remain but the terms may become ones of the past due to its gateway to tokenism and potentially dismissing real experiences of marginalized employees.
Building a true, EDI workforce starts with the leadership team. Over 50% (51.8%) of respondents consider their senior leadership team as diverse and inclusive while another 32.8% consider it to be neutral. This creates opportunities for companies to lead by example and from the top-down. At the core, policies are a bare minimum and employers need to do more.
When you're able to compete with above market salaries, hiring is easy - but this isn't a luxury everyone has. What happens if you’re a growing business and can’t afford to pay at that level for every position? In this section, we take a look at sustainable and competitive compensation packages and planning for the full employee journey that don't necessarily break the bank.
As businesses start to recover from the pandemic, we’re seeing some upward trends when it comes to salaries. According to our records, employees saw a 7% increase in salaries in 2021. We were curious though: how was this increase distributed between men and women? The average company saw:
In 2020, men were 10.7% more likely to receive a raise than women and in 2021, this decreased to 4.4%. While we’re seeing pay equity level out, it’s hard to ignore that the average increase women are seeing is 5.03% less than men when it comes to our database.
There could be a few reasons for this discrepancy including different power structures, the style in which people negotiate, the number of women in C-suite positions, and roles within the company and industry. As employers, it’s important to ask ourselves where we can put in structures or restrictions to help eliminate these biases.
Companies often use benefits as a differentiator for recruiting talent. 94% of survey respondents indicated that their company offered a benefits plan. The majority (53.6%) of companies shared their benefits premiums with employees while 42.2% of companies paid for the full cost of benefits premiums. While most companies offer a benefits plan, consider how much employees actually value yours. For example, does your benefits plan have low maximums per category in a way that leaves employees mostly paying out-of-pocket? Is there flexibility within the benefits plan for employees to shift how they use their benefits depending on who they are?
Beyond benefits, some companies also offered RRSP matching and/or pension planning but this was a minority.
Many companies look at benefits as an added financial cost but employers need to reframe how they view and approach employee benefits. We encourage employers and employees to start thinking about the full employee cycle – beyond the period of time spent with a specific company – and explore innovative ways to create new added benefits.
For example, RRSP matching is a great benefit and it can be done in stages. Keeping in mind that companies may not have the budget readily available, consider providing resources that support financial literacy. Giving employees access to training materials is an added benefit that doesn’t have to be costly to your company. Another step is starting off small by offering an RRSP program without RRSP matching. This allows your employees to start saving up for retirement immediately. Eventually, if you’re able to offer RRSP matching, your employees will feel more comfortable with navigating those conversations as they would be more prepared. As an employee, see if this is something your leadership is already planning for and if not, it can be a great opportunity for you to plant the seed.
Note that considerations about savings typically don’t happen until later on in an employee’s journey because instant gratification is typically more exciting than something long term. Some more immediate or short term benefits like access to mental health support, legal services, and physical wellness providers could be great differentiators for a company. By including benefits like group retirement or will and estate planning, you’re considering the full employee journey – from the beginning of each person’s career to their retirement.
Employers can also add a health spending account (HSA) to give more flexibility without having to redesign the current benefits plan. This gives employees the opportunity to choose what they want to spend their money on based on where they’re at in the employee journey.
While the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) stipulates the legal minimum requirement for parental leave, we wanted to know: how many companies offer more than the minimum for their employees?
Turns out, not many.
64% of survey respondents said their company does not offer a maternity and paternity leave policy above the ESA requirement.
For companies that provide some sort of top up, almost half (49.1%) are doing just slightly above the ESA requirement – a 10-25% salary top up.
But as we know, salary top ups are just one of the many benefits companies can offer. Respondents shared that their companies offered the following either in addition to a salary top up or on its own:
For those who are planning to build their families and have kids, parental leave benefits can be a deal breaker. When evaluating your company’s total compensation package, consider more support in this area especially as it relates to parents in the workplace. In wake of the pandemic, many families were forced to make the difficult decision to become single-income households which resulted in a mass exodus of women in the workforce. Employers must question themselves about their level of support for employees who are planning or already have families. Companies need to question if they’re having enough meaningful conversations and if they’re assisting employees with life planning beyond their careers.
The world of work is far from stabilizing – giving us ample opportunity to craft and build our workplaces to ones that operate effectively but more importantly, a place where people are engaged. After all, we choose to spend 40 hours each week working for the company we’re employed at; it only makes sense for it to be a place where we feel we belong, are compensated appropriately, and are excited about the future.
You’re now equipped with a better understanding of your people’s needs. We encourage you to reevaluate your company’s current people operations to create a better, more progressive workplace.
Finally, consider providing your HR team with the best tools for enablement.
We can conclude that employers are empowering their HR staff to do their jobs well by providing the right tools that enable them to do so. In order for your company to stay competitive, you should consider making the investment in the tools that your employees are going to use – especially those that will be used regularly. There’s nothing more frustrating than a tool that constantly lags or is a pain to update.
Beyond enabling your HR staff to do their job effectively, a good HRIS also keeps your employees engaged or at the least, informed. An HRIS can act as your accessible, digital house for important documents like employee handbooks, policies, and employee data. HR team members – let’s put our foot down this year and say “no more” to duct tape solutions that end up causing more headaches for you and your leadership in the long run.
Humi believes in providing a people-first product, backed by data, to create a great experience for HR leaders and employees. We’re constantly making improvements based on quantitative data like the statistics in this People Report as well as talking to real clients on a regular basis.