The labour issues hitting businesses across the country didn’t start with the pandemic, but it did accelerate 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):
Lack of access to a workforce with the right skills is holding back businesses and hiring difficulties increase in smaller communities.
Nationally, unemployment has fallen to 5.2%.
Our economy is bouncing back, but that’s putting further strain on business’ ability to hire. Projections range on when things will return “back to normal,” but we can say with confidence these challenges aren’t going away in the short term.
These issues were decades in the making, but ultimately what is important is finding our path forward.
What businesses are doing according to BDC:
BDC notes Increasing diversity and flexibility are important for business growth, including three key areas: youth, immigrants, and older workers. Immigration in Canada slowed to a crawl through the pandemic. Both youth and immigrants bring skills and a willingness to grow and develop. BDC recommends offering more opportunities to youth and immigrants as a way to make better use of our workforce.
When it comes to older workers, we need to address 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 working full-time hours, but could open to part-time and hybrid options.
More and more businesses are turning to automation as a way to streamline business. For most businesses, it’s not a case of a robot replacing a staff member — it’s all the small things adding up to a more efficient process. Examples include:
Businesses can further streamline by adopting new technology like updated email systems, shared digital calendars, and cloud-based workflow systems.
There’s no single solution that’s going to answer our workforce challenges. The local business community has shown its ability to adapt, pivot, and invest in new technology. The challenges facing businesses continue to change, but our economy is growing and to grow with it businesses need to be open and flexible to growing their workforce.
Cybersecurity is one of those topics that affects the majority of businesses in some form, but it’s something businesses are hesitant to talk about.
According to Mastercard, attacks on small businesses increased by 424% in 2020 and the issue is only growing as many invest further in digital systems.
A report from Fundera indicates:
• 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses
• Only 14% of small businesses rate their ability to mitigate cyber risks and attacks as highly effective
• 3 out of 4 small businesses say they don’t have the personnel to address IT security
• 54% of small businesses think they’re too small for a cyber attack
• Human error and system failure account for 52% of data security breaches
• Industry experts say a small business’s cyber security budget should be at least 3% of a company’s total spending
The business community is often reluctant to talk about it because as victims, there are feelings of shame and embarrassment as well as fears that their business might lose customers.
The truth is that business owners are required to be experts in everything from government legislation to marketing to construction projects and juggle all of those roles in any given day — yet they’re up against people who are dedicated to finding security breaches and exploiting them.
Typically, they’re after your data, whether to hold it ransom or steal it. Businesses and organizations that deal with large amounts of customer data, specifically in the government, retail and tech sectors, deal with the vast majority of attacks.
Even at a personal level, Statistics Canada found 42% of Canadians experienced some type of cyber security incident in the first few months of the pandemic.
Cyber security is a fundamental business issue right now. We’ve come to appreciate just how vulnerable our supply chain network is. An outbreak in a factory, a war on another continent, or a protest at a border crossing are all capable of grinding business down to a crawl. When you look at the statistics of just how prevalent cyber security incidents are and see how many businesses and organizations are involved in moving the goods and providing the services we rely on, there’s little doubt that someone in that network is either dealing with a cyber security incident or struggling with the fallout from one.
We’re encouraged to see our governments investing in helping our businesses thrive online through programs like Digital Main Street and the Canada Digital Adoption Program. Those investments are needed to move our economy ahead. But as our businesses move into new, uncharted waters, they need confidence that they’re going to be reasonable safe.
Cyber Security has been a common theme for chamber advocacy, including the Canadian and Ontario chambers of commerce who have been working hard to put this on the agenda for budget allocations and election platforms.
With employers across the country facing significant barriers to finding the skilled labour they need to thrive and expand, there’s one solution that we need to do better on — hiring persons with disabilities.
In a time when accommodating the health and safety of employees has risen to new priority levels and technology that has made it easier than ever to adapt and accommodate, there’s little excuse for not expanding our mindset on what the physical requirements of the job are.
According to the Discover Ability Network (DAN), 6.2 million Canadians have disabilities and it’s a group that anyone can be a part of, whether temporarily or permanently. More than 75% of people with disabilities acquire them as adults.
Hiring persons with disabilities typically leads to cost reductions related to turnover, absenteeism, safety, and improvements to productivity. In addition to finding a new talent pool, companies that hire persons with disabilities find that bringing people with different perspectives and experiences improves their products and services.
The DAN also has found that there is typically no or low cost to provide accommodations.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the Discover Ability Network to help provide employers with the tools and resources they need to expand their workforce in a more inclusive manner. When it comes to hiring people with disabilities, the business opportunity is irrefutable.
The Discover Ability Network provides tools and supports through in-person workshops, webinars and online resources to help businesses understand the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, why and how to become a more inclusive employer, and how to hire and retain talent from the persons with disabilities labour pool.
Local chambers of commerce and boards of trade, industry associations, not-for-profit organizations, and businesses can request in-person and online training on a variety of topics related to accessibility, inclusion, and hiring from the persons with disabilities talent pool. Training is also available to staff of organizations that support job seekers with disabilities, such as post-secondary institutions and employment service providers, as well as training targeted to persons with disabilities to help them become more confident job seekers. Find out more here: https://occ.ca/discoverability/
The DAN highlights proven advantages to employing people with disabilities:
• Increasing the size of its skilled labour pool
• Reduced costs associated with turnover, training and safety
• Improving the engagement of all your employees
• Harnessing the value of innovative processes and new perspectives
• Attracting an underserved consumer market worth $55 billion per year in Canada
If you’re an employer interested in learning more, join us for the virtual Discover Ability Network ROI Conference May 25 and 26, 9 am to 12 pm. This free conference will discuss the value of hiring inclusively, the tools and resources to support building disability-confident organizations, and the importance of inclusive hiring to workforce development and future economic prosperity.
Get your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/diversity-in-business-roi-conference-tickets-310056205457
Find out more about hiring persons with disabilities and what resources chambers of commerce have to offer on the OCC discoverability page: https://occ.ca/discoverability/
The Government of Ontario’s budget is out, addressing some pressing issues for local businesses while falling short on others.
A budget released days before an election writ drops carries a bit more politics than it might in another year, but poll projections hint that there’s a reasonable chance our current government could be re-elected and implement this budget later this year.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce response to the Ontario budget highlights some welcome news:
• Measures to address Ontario’s current labour shortages and future workforce needs
We welcome commitments to reduce barriers to foreign credentials and new investments in the skilled trades strategy.
• Commitments to support business predictability
Ontario’s Plan to Stay Open focuses on improving pandemic preparedness and addressing key challenges such as labour shortages in the healthcare sector.
• Pro-growth policies
The proposed modernization of capital markets and venture capital investments will enable small businesses and entrepreneurs to access growth financing. Additionally, the Building Ontario Business Initiative seeks to level the playing field for Ontario businesses competing for government contracts.
• Initiatives to bolster our health care system.
Expanding medical training and investing in health care infrastructure and capacity are critical. Plans also focus on Ontario’s aging population through the dementia strategy, seniors care at home tax credit, and investments in long-term care.
• Continued action on critical transportation infrastructure
Rail, roads, and public transit will help businesses connect with workers and markets more efficiently.
On the what’s lacking side of things are four key issues we’ve been advocating for: immigration, supply chain, interprovincial trade, and climate change.
Immigration starts at the federal level, but our provinces play a large role in where people settle, what skills we recognize, and how they are supported. The government has made significant strides in addressing labour market issues through immigration, but one missing aspect has been the where. Approximately 35% of all immigrants moving to Canada locate to Toronto. Though Toronto is going through labour force challenges of its own, its concentration of new immigrants can be problematic for other communities facing low or even negative population growth. We would like to see our provincial government provide more supports to encourage immigration to rural and northern communities.
Chambers of commerce from across Ontario are calling on our provincial government to create a task force in partnership with private sector leaders to take a holistic approach to addressing our supply chain challenges and vulnerabilities. It’s a critical component of our economic recovery. Businesses are struggling to get raw materials, retail inventory and ingredients in a timely, consistent manner. The costs have gone up while service has declined. We need investments in physical infrastructure as well as cyber security to protect our supply chain and get our goods moving in timely and efficient manner.
Participating with the Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table is helpful, but we need to do more when it comes to interprovincial trade and making labour more mobile. We want to see our government take on a lead role in unlocking internal markets for local businesses. We would like to see Ontario sign a mutual recognition agreement with other provinces and territories.
Climate change is a business issue. It’s going to cost us money to address it, but the status quo is already costing us significantly and will cost more yet down the road. We’re encouraged to see more investments in electric vehicle supply chains, but the budget lacks a more comprehensive approach to climate change, including a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across sectors, industries, and communities.
Our role as a chamber is to be non-partisan advocates for our business community. Regardless of what political party leads this province moving forward, our economic recovery is going to take investments that enable our private sector to do what they do best and create prosperity.