Hiring to increase in Canada, despite market volatility: Robert Half study

The job market has been facing the changing demands of a new workforce and a new economic environment, but it remains robust. More than half of Canadian companies are planning to hire early this year, a new study by recruitment agency Robert Half found.

A survey of over 1,400 managers was conducted on behalf of Robert Half from Oct. 20 to Nov. 3 2022. The respondents had hiring responsibilities in finance, accounting, technology, marketing, creative, legal, administrative, customer support, and human resources at companies with 20 or more employees in Canada.

The survey found that 51 per cent of companies plan to hire for permanent positions. The administration, customer service, marketing, and creative divisions have the highest staffing needs.

Source: Robert Half

The survey showed that the top traits employers look for in potential hires are timeliness and professionalism during interviews, knowledge of the company, and passion for the company’s mission.

Gartner’s “9 Future of Work Trends For 2023” study, in comparison, points out that organizations are diversifying their talent pipelines by pursuing nontraditional candidates. Hiring managers are less concerned with industry experience and technical skills than they once were, and are now looking to assess candidates solely on their ability to perform in the role.

Companies also aim to have more people back in the office, but need to work on striking the right partnership with employees looking for more choice and flexibility in how they execute their job responsibilities, said David King, senior managing director, Robert Half, Canada and South America.

Furthermore, over 60 per cent of respondents in Robert’s Half study say that they are swinging towards adding more contract staff as a tactic to manage heavy workloads, increase support for key projects, and reduce burnout, King explained.

Having more contract staff aligns better with the newer generation that mostly anticipate to stay at a job for a maximum of 2-3 years and then transition to the next opportunity. “That whole gig economy mentality is very much alive in our newer demographics in the workforce. Let’s face it, they’re no longer being typically offered the attraction of a pension plan or things like that, that may have been more in fashion in past years,” stated King.

Accordingly, Gartner says that savvy HR leaders will leverage alternate approaches to recruitment by hiring gig workers or calling in former employees to flexibly bring in talent only as needed, a practice known as “quiet hiring”. Quiet hiring also includes upskilling existing employees and focusing on internal talent mobility to address organizational priorities without changing headcount.

Efficiency is also a key factor that the new workforce is looking for, despite the concern that automation and artificial intelligence might take away everyone’s jobs. 

In fact, what automation actually does is change the nature of work and add a whole set of newer jobs, said Jeremy Shaki, chief executive officer of tech education firm, Lighthouse Labs.

Shaki added that companies mostly use new technologies to enhance productivity and tasks, instead of replacing people. But employees also need to ensure that they are comfortable and up to date with the use of technology, AI, and data, because at some point in their career, these new technologies will interact with their roles in a more meaningful way.

In addition, big tech companies that are laying off thousands, and subsequently automating roles like marketing, customer service, and sales, are taking big risks in doing so, said Shaki, because customers, in general, still have a much higher preference for talking to a person than an AI.

“When you deal with customer service coming from anywhere other than in your own backyard, and not with a person, you tend to hear a lot of complaints and negativity about that. And I don’t think we’re there yet [with AI],” affirmed Shaki.

Recent tech layoffs have, without a doubt, raised anxiety over impending job losses, but King argued that the “headlines” fail to include the type of profiles being let go, and are hence not an accurate reflection of the broader tech market, that, in fact, still has a high demand for digital talent.

These layoffs are rather result of a hiring spree during the pandemic that does not fit today’s reality and economic conditions. The number of layoffs appears massive, but it is, in fact, only a fraction of new headcount added in 2022 alone, tweeted Tom Goodwin, author of Digital Darwinism.

Headcount added (purple) versus layoffs (orange), from Yahoo Finance

Furthermore, the Robert Half study stressed the need for a streamlined hiring process. Employers claimed that they conduct about four interviews with a candidate before extending a job offer.

“Hiring mistakes and regrets can occur when the pressure to staff a role overrides the search for the right candidate,” King noted. “However, drawn-out hiring processes can also be an obstacle in securing top talent, who may lose interest or accept another offer if the timeline is not streamlined.”

More organizations are using AI in their hiring process, and while it can be effective when dealing with large numbers of applications, some companies will use it poorly and “automate out” talent, Shaki said. 

Gartner pointed out that the ethical implications of using AI for hiring, in terms of fairness, diversity, inclusion, and data privacy, are also becoming increasingly salient. Organizations and vendors that use AI and machine learning will face pressure to be more transparent on their AI use, publicize their data audits, and give employees and candidates the choice to opt out from AI-led processes.

An efficient hiring process helps with the branding of a company, and so does the information that they put out there, King noted. “Given the reality of social media and access to information, companies have to be very mindful of their brand. And if their brand is not one of being supportive of initiatives like DEI or ESG initiatives, it could portray a negative brand to the market, and that may impact the ability to attract talent.”

But implementing new HR measures that align with a new generation and a new set of values can irk existing employees. Gartner’s study showed that a significant 42 per cent of employees believe their organization’s DEI efforts are divisive. And two out of five agree that a growing number of employees feel alienated, or even resent their organization’s DEI efforts.

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Ashee Pamma
Ashee Pamma
Ashee is a writer for ITWC. She completed her degree in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She hopes to become a columnist after further studies in Journalism. You can email her at [email protected]

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