Has employee retention since the pandemic been more difficult for large employers or small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? Is employee mental health more of a challenge for rural or urban employers? In which region of the country do employers put the most effort into recruiting from underrepresented groups? The answers can be found in newly released data from CERIC’s Career Development in the Canadian Workplace: National Business Survey.

On CERIC’s behalf, Environics surveyed 500 Canadian executives in more than 11 industries including service, retail, hospitality, construction and manufacturing. The survey explored Canadian organizations’ views on skills gaps in the labour market; hiring as part of equity, diversity and inclusion strategies; and investing in employee career development. The national findings were released earlier this year at the Cannexus conference. Further survey findings are now available by employer size, location and region.

Employer size

A shortage of skilled workers is being experienced more sharply by larger employers with 100% of employers with 50+ employees reporting a shortage. Meanwhile, a shortage is still cited as the biggest challenged faced by employers with <10 staff as well as those with 10-49 employees.

The survey showed that larger employers have a greater number of employees working from home or hybrid at 52% compared to 33% (<10) and 31% (10-49). Larger employers are also better equipped in terms of the career management and mental health support offered to employees working from home.

The struggle to recruit is felt by employers of all sizes. Larger employers are more likely to have experimented with new recruitment policies and practices in the past two years (50% vs. 21% <10, 37% 10-49). In particular, SMEs put less effort into reaching members of underrepresented groups.

The impact of the pandemic on the retention of employees has been more challenging for employers with 50+ employees. Among larger employers, 55% find it more difficult to retain employees compared with two years ago.

When it comes to career development for employees, 57% of the employers with 50+ employees offer career management programs, compared to 17% of the smallest employers with <10 employees and compared to 34% for employers with 10-49 employees.

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Among the top challenges facing business, employee mental health was cited by 50% of the employers surveyed who were located in major cities and outside major cities, compared to only 23% of rural employers.

Recruitment has been proving more difficult for rural employers (53% say it is very difficult) than the ones in major cities or outside major cities. A key factor cited is low/uncompetitive wages offered by employers in rural areas.

There are some differences in the importance allocated to soft skills by location: Only 7% of rural employers mentioned communication skills while, for the employers located in major cities or outside them, an employee’s communication skills are very important (26% and 24%).

Employers located in rural areas are also less concerned about investing in upskilling employees and then losing them to other organizations than their more urban counterparts.

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Agreement among employers surveyed that a skills gap exists between the skills the organization needs and the skills that jobseekers possess is strongest in Ontario and lowest in Quebec: 41% Ontario, 35% Prairies, 34% BC, 28% Atlantic and 20% Quebec.

Conversely, targeted efforts to recruit among underrepresented groups is highest among employers in Quebec and lowest in Ontario: Quebec 27%, BC 20%, Prairies 17%, Atlantic and Ontario 14%.

Among the top challenges facing businesses, finding young employees was a concern for three out of four Quebec employers but fewer than half of employers on the Prairies: Quebec 75%, Ontario 72%, BC  67%, Atlantic 57% and Prairies 44%.

There was very strong agreement with the statement “Employers have a responsibility to provide career management programs for their employees” in Ontario and lowest agreement in Quebec: Ontario 48%, Prairies 40%, BC 25%, Atlantic 23% and Quebec 15%.

Awareness of CDPs was similarly low across all regions of the country. In Atlantic, BC and Quebec, 17% of employers indicated both knowing of and having worked with CDPs, with that number being 11% in the Prairies and 10% in Ontario.

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