In business, during the past two-plus years of Calgary lockdowns and disruptions, there have been many changes made. Business priorities have changed. The labour market has changed. Calgary’s commercial (office) real estate market is regrouping. The workplace has changed. Work routines and schedules have changed. And subtle but significant employee expectations, attitudes and perspectives have changed.
For some industries, especially where shiftwork and overtime are basic routines, the workplace has mostly returned to pre-pandemic and new normals. For several reasons, service industries like restaurants, retail and others still deal with staff shortages.
In many conventional Calgary businesses, where people traditionally work at desks in offices, there is a seismic and sometimes contentious workplace transformation. The two-plus years of lockdowns, and scrambling, may be permanently redefining where and how Calgarians work.
Although technology and particularly the past two years have accelerated the pace of work-from-home routines, they have also sparked a trend for flexible work times. Employers are dealing with opinions about staffing shortages, the viability of flex times, hybrid work schedules (some in-office and some remote) and considering other business pros and cons of working remote versus the social interaction of an office.
“While we’ve seen transformational change with our workforces and in our workplaces over the last two-plus years,” says Holger Kormann, president of ADP Canada, the global provider of cloud-based human capital management (HCM) solutions, “the fundamentals have stayed the same. From the Great Resignation, proximity bias, quiet quitting and now the Great Recognition, business conversations about the workplace are top of mind.”
He cites the 2022 ADP Workplace Insights Survey, which monitored the evolving priorities of working Canadians and particularly their prioritization of flexibility in the workplace. The survey identified flexibility as one of the key determinants for Canadians who plan to leave their current employer within the next six months.
“Businesses need to actively listen to what employees are saying, regardless of where they’re physically located. Let’s face it,” he says with emphasis, “once uncommon, the flexible work model is now our everyday. The most successful companies, those with the most engaged employees, will be the ones who have sensibly woven employee expectations around flexible work into their recruitment and retention strategy.”
Janet Salopek, president and founder of Calgary’s Salopek & Associates, points out that factors like employee needs and expectations and the work culture are vitally important in today’s business. “A definite key is flexibility that allows for work-life balance. But it goes way beyond the desire to simply work from home. It’s a new culture which organizations are realizing they need to embrace.
“For any business, it’s crucially important for employers to consult with employees to find out what is needed and expected for them to achieve a work-life balance. Encouraging employees to have balance in their life and attend to family and interests outside of work, is good for an employee’s physical and mental well being.”
She explains that more and more Calgary employers are changing with the new work routine times. “Especially when it comes to flexibility in working hours, with set core hours when everyone needs to be connected and available, or a hybrid model of set days when everyone comes-in during core hours, two or three days a week.”
From extensive Calgary business experience, Salopek explains that working by remote and flexible hours are now at the top of today’s job searcher needs-and-wants lists and negotiations. “Also, personal days off to attend to family and individual mental health, benefit spending accounts important for an employee’s mental and physical health (like yoga and gym memberships) and also benefits that include pets, which are family members for some employees.”
“Often, benefits expectations also include compensation for commuting to work, reimbursements for gas and parking and compensation to properly set up a home office,” she adds.
ADP’s Holger Kormann underscores the relevance of the new ways of doing things in the workplace. “Canadian workers have expressed a need for flexibility and their expectations around the hybrid workplace model,” he says. “Our survey found that, while employees and leaders agree that hybrid work options are desirable, 63 per cent of working Canadians believe that in-office employees have inherent career advantages, including better relationships and improved opportunities for career advancement.
“Regardless of any workplace model, there will always be pros and cons. From the employer’s perspective, significant obstacles include addressing the widely varying needs of individual employees and keeping everyone engaged. One of the remarkable benefits of the hybrid model is that it provides employers multiple channels to connect with their teams – online and in-person.
“Employers who proactively managing employee touchpoints, quickly identify both the key retention factors and the pain points for employees,” he says. “Sound qualitative and anecdotal data provides employers with the insights to outpace their competitors and attract and retain top talent.”
And one of the key new normal for many businesses, particularly in Calgary, is attracting talent and, what some employers warn, is a labour crunch. Some industries and businesses report ongoing labour shortages. A glut of Help Wanted and We Are Hiring signs reflect the recovering business reality that many are anxious to hire and actively looking for staff.
Statistics Canada tracks that the job vacancy rate in Canada was at an all-time high in the first quarter of 2022 and, according to recent Alberta figures, the main areas of labour shortages are construction, transportation and warehousing and hospitality.
While some Calgary employers report a lingering labour crunch, various jobs are in demand and several have even experienced strong growth in the past couple of years. The numbers show that this year has actually seen job increases, from labour work jobs such as truck drivers and general labourers to other jobs like receptionists, administrative assistants and project managers.
Despite reports about some high job vacancy rates, there is a major demand for skilled workers such as:
- Key account managers, representing strategic partnerships for their business, providing sales and customer service efforts to help retain profitable clients.
- IT developers and Cloud architects, as businesses continue to turn to technical solutions move toward remote work.
- Marketing managers to help businesses implement marketing strategies both online and offline, especially with the projection that there will be over 19,000 marketing, public relations and advertising manager jobs created by 2028.
- Registered nurses are in demand across Canada. Due to a labour shortage during the pandemic, nurses have been receiving a growing number of bonuses and perks.
- Customer service reps (CSRs) to help problem-solve with customers in person, by, email, via virtual chat or via a phone call.
- Welders, with Canada expecting to add 23,000 welding positions to the economy by 2028.
- Engineers, working with physical or virtual infrastructure.
The jury’s still out, and there are conflicting opinions about the rates of women either entering or re-entering the workforce, particularly after taking time off during the pandemic. According to a recent RBC Special Report, “Canada’s working women surged out of the pandemic. After taking an unprecedented blow at the onset of the crisis, prime-aged women saw their labour force participation rate not only recover but soar to a record 84 per cent.”
The Labour Market Information Council, the not-for-profit organization providing consistent and accessible labour market information for Canadians, shows that two years after the start of the pandemic, jobs recovery for women in Canada has been rapid and is now slightly ahead of men’s recovery.