According to two recent surveys released by global recruitment firm Robert Half, Canadian workers feel that their careers have been stagnant since the beginning of the pandemic. Worse, a third party could resign if they had to return to the office full time!

The term “new normal” is used today in every way, after the global pandemic on both sides of the globe. The labour sector is no exception, particularly the career paths of Canadian workers.

More than one-quarter of workers say the pandemic contributed to a career setback

Based on an initial survey conducted by Robert Half of 500 workers 18 years of age or older (collected from March 26 to April 15, 2021) and 600 senior managers (collected from November 19 to December 18, 2020) in companies with 20 or more employees in Canada, we learn that more than one quarter of professionals (27%) said their career has stalled since the start of the pandemic. This number jumps to 55% for those aged 18 to 24.

The following are areas where workers experience a stalled career reported feeling stuck:

  • Salary growth: 62%
  • Career advancement: 62%
  • Skills development: 42%
  • The ability to grow their professional network: 42%

Retention of the teams in question

Managers also confirm this finding. In the second part of the survey, 49% of senior managers revealed that they postponed promoting top performers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 61% of those respondents worry about staff retention. Especially in this context of labour shortages in Quebec and tension in the talent market.

The threat is indeed not illusory, according to the same study: 28% of workers said they had changed their outlook because of the pandemic and wanted to have a more significant or satisfying job.

“Along with significantly changing the hiring landscape for job seekers in Canada, the pandemic has also interfered with employees’ career trajectories,” said David King, Canadian senior district president of Robert Half. As we look toward the future and a more active job market, now is the time for organizations to put programs in place that are designed to retain top talent. This includes specific initiatives that will appeal to younger workers and opportunities for all employees to build skills and advance their careers.”

In an article published in January 2019, Robert Half gave some good practices to improve employee loyalty. More topical than ever, he evoked for example:

  • Onboarding and orientation

“Aim to develop an onboarding process where new staff members not only learn about the job but also the company culture and how they can contribute and thrive, with ongoing discussions, goals and opportunities to address questions and issues as they arrive.”

  • Recognition and rewards programs

“Make it a habit to thank your direct reports when they go the extra mile, whether it’s with a sincere email, a gift card or an extra day off. Show your employees you appreciate them, and share how their hard work helps the organization.”

“Encourage staff to take vacation time, and if late nights are necessary to wrap up a project, see if you can offer late arrivals or an extra day off to compensate and increase job satisfaction.”

One in three remote workers could resign if required to return to the office full time

This retention issue related to the lack of professional progression is also reinforced by… the prospect of returning to the office! According to another study of the form of recruitment, published last April.

According to the responses, data from March 9 to 16, 2021, by more than 500 workers aged 18 or older who work for businesses in Canada, one in three professionals (33%) currently working from home due to the pandemic would look for a new job if required to be in the office full time.

A thorn in the side of the employers. What do employees want? More than half of all employees surveyed (51%) said they prefer a hybrid work arrangement, where they can divide time between the office and another location.

Here are the main ways companies can support them according to them:

  1. The freedom to set preferred office hours
  2. Commuting costs paid by employers
  3. A personal, distraction-free workspace
  4. A relaxed dress code
  5. Employer-provided childcare

Despite this, professionals also expressed the following hesitations about working from home full time, underscoring the need for organizations to offer flexibility:

  1. Relationships with co-workers could suffer: 39%
  2. Fewer career advancement opportunities due to a lack of visibility: 21%
  3. Decreased productivity while at home: 16%

“After more than a year of uncertainty and pandemic-induced remote work, there is a growing desire among some business leaders to return to business as usual, including welcoming employees back to the office once it is considered safe, said David King. However, companies should be prepared for a potential disconnect between their ideal work structures and that of their employees. As we reimagine the future of work, now is the time for managers to engage in mindful discussions with their teams to determine what they most want and need.”

In short, there are still many challenges ahead!

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