by Heidi Riley
“It is a changing economy and a changing world, with lots of competing priorities,” says Linda Nazareth, a keynote speaker, economist, author, and futurist specializing in trends around the future of work, global economic change, and demographics.
“If PEI wants to be a leader and a place where people want to congregate, it will take planning and working together.”
Linda recently spoke at Workforce Day 2023, an event held by the PEI Department of Workforce, Advanced Learning, and Population, which provided an opportunity for employers from across PEI to come together to collaborate, learn and share experiences that will assist in strengthening our workforce on Prince Edward Island.
Linda says it is important to understand the megatrends and forces that affect the economy and the future of work, and what that means for the workforce and for employers.
Linda spoke about megatrends and world-wide concerns:
Demographics do not make it easy to hire workers. Considering the aging population, it will be increasingly difficult to find the workers needed now and for the next 10 to 30 years.
Population growth: Even with increased immigration, projections show that the demand for workers will continue to be greater than the supply. There will be more and more people in mid-career and retiring, and fewer young people starting their careers. There will be a much smaller pool of workers to draw from. Also, the aging population buys fewer consumer goods, which will affect the retail industry.
Emerging economies such as India have a much larger number of younger people. Canadian employers will have to consider bringing those people in to work for them. However, there is competition from other countries for those young skilled workers, and Canada may not necessarily be able to attract as many as we need.
Workforce participation: It costs about $41,000 to replace, recruit, and train a new worker. It is important to try to hold on to the workers you already have, and to encourage workforce participation of all ages. To make it easier for people to stay in the workforce, consider their unique needs. Older people may want to work fewer hours. Younger people may want subsidized daycare and a better work/life balance.
Technology is already replacing some jobs that are currently hard to fill. “Technology is changing faster than ever, and that will mean changes in the labour market. By the mid-2030s, we will see many more jobs disrupted by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The technology is not quite there yet, but it is improving.
“We need to be ready for that disruption and change. There will be more stress as people worry about the future of their jobs. More people may be forced to take multiple part-time jobs because they can’t find a full-time job. Technology has disrupted jobs before. For example, jobs like Elevator Operator no longer exist. We need to be ready for change and be able to turn it to our advantage.”
Climate change will affect everything, including the labour force. Drought, floods, windstorms, and heatwaves are a risk to agricultural output, financial markets, manufacturing, tourism, construction, and almost every other industry.
“We need to think about the labour implications as your industry is affected by climate change. We will have to consider the impact of increased energy used for air conditioning. We will need to change to adapt to climate change, and we will need more people working to understand it.
“As we consider reducing our carbon footprint, we will have to consider how your workers are getting to the office. Do you require them to drive to work every day? There are things we can change. We may have to change work locations, subsidize public transportation, or encourage more work from home.”
How will the redesigned world look, particularly in the wake of the pandemic?
“Many different things are happening at the same time, and you need to be ready.” Employers should think about the needs of a much more diverse workforce than in the past; there are many more single-parent households and people living alone.
Many younger people no longer follow the usual path of going to university or college and then working for one company their whole lives. People move around and change jobs a lot more often. They are looking for jobs that are hybrid, with flexible hours and work-from-home options.
“Remote work did not start with the pandemic, but now we have this great experiment happening, with more people working from home than ever before. Many workers love it, but many employers want people back in the office.
“Employers are all fighting for talent, so we will see who will win the battle. As pandemic restrictions lift, employers will have to decide whether remote work is a viable option. They may be able to reduce the size of their offices, which will save them money, but they will have to make sure they can monitor their workers from home.
“The positive effect of people working together and sharing ideas may be lost with remote work. Some employers have decided on a hybrid model with a mix of working at home and in the office. They have to be able to schedule their employees’ time in the office to make it work. Those who work at home may lose out on promotion opportunities, and those who do get promoted may only be those who can show up at work in person.
“Working remotely can also lead to burnout, so the culture of the workplace must take that into account. Employers learning how to manage a hybrid workplace can look at the examples of other companies that have made it work successfully.
“Working remotely leads many to a gig economy. PEI could take advantage of the idea that instead of hiring people who must move here and come to the office every day, people could be hired to work remotely only when needed for a certain project. We may need to train a whole generation to expect to work in a gig economy and be better at handling that. I don’t think that will go away.
“Workers will also have more say on how they want to work – be it full-time, part-time or by the project. Side hustles will also become more popular, where people supplement their main job with another job. Employers will have to consult with their workers and experiment with such options as a four-day work week.”
Creating a plan for change
“Employers facing changing demographics and worker shortages need to make a plan. Even for small organizations, it is worth sitting down and deciding what your business will look like in the future. Maybe you need to redefine workspaces, because now people are not working in the same way or in the same space at the same time.
“Maybe you could make meeting spaces more comfortable to make people happy. Maybe you should provide a creative art space to spark that creativity that does not show up in the workplace.
“Compensation is important, but people often don’t quit jobs to make more money, they quit because of the people they work with or they find the work is not what they want it to be.
“Leaders think workers leave because of money, but workers list many other reasons. Sixty percent of workers admit they are not engaged at work. How do you get them engaged? Happy workers are more productive. You can make them happy by giving them respect, giving them a creative space, and making them feel like they are making a difference. Make your company the best place to work – they will be less likely to leave their jobs.
“If you want to be the region or the industry that is most successful going ahead, you must constantly upskill and train your staff. If workers feel their employer is making an investment in them, they are much more likely to stay.
“Support for workers’ mental health matters, especially since the pandemic. Part of the solution is to give workers a voice. People on the ground know what is going on, and they should be listened to.”
Workers are looking for purpose, and employers need to make sure their workers understand the purpose of their company.
“We think about the damage done after a traumatic event like a pandemic, but there can also be post-traumatic growth – moving forward in a positive way.
“For organizations to thrive and move forward in this environment, they need a growth plan. It’s not just about hiring workers, it’s being willing to continuously train and grow.
“When I look at the economy ahead, this is the time for growth. I urge employers to ask themselves: What do I want? How do I get there? What am I willing to tolerate to get there, knowing it will not be a smooth path? I am optimistic as to what PEI will do.
“Governments can help this process by enacting legislation that makes it easier to work hybrid careers, supporting training and upskilling, streamlining immigration policies, and embracing technology.”