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Workplace Trends in 2024

June 3, 2024

As recruiters, we are on the front lines observing the rapid evolution of the workplace. Each year, and even each season, brings its share of new developments, both in terms of employee expectations and company needs. Finding the right balance between these often-opposing forces is a colossal challenge for today’s managers! 

To help you meet this challenge, we will highlight three major trends we’ve noticed since the beginning of the year: 

  • The Return to On-site Work: Finding the Right Compromise 
  • Inflation and Salary Expectations: Realigning the Benchmarks 
  • Retirements and Organizational Transformations: Seizing the Opportunity for Change 

In the following lines, we will offer concrete solutions and ideas for reflection on each of these current trends. 

1. Work Under Scrutiny : An Imminent Return to the Old Model?

Facing a decline in performance observed in recent years and a parallel internal need for transformation, some employers have recently decided to bring their employees back to the office, either completely or partially. This decision, often driven by a desire for better control over activities, as well as to enhance collaboration and stimulate innovation, conflicts with employees’ aspirations who have enjoyed the benefits of remote work for several years. 

 Flexibility, Time Savings, Well-being… 

For many, remote work offers numerous advantages: flexible schedules, time saved on commutes, a better work-life balance, and the freedom to pursue passions or continue education at their own pace. These benefits influence their well-being and productivity, making them reluctant to return to a stricter office environment. 

*To Consider if You’re Recruiting* 

Many candidates view an employer’s openness to remote work as a sign of modernity and a good corporate culture. For them, stricter traditional work models might hide unpleasant surprises from an inflexible work environment. 

So, how do you retain your best resources and attract talent? 

To keep employees who value this flexibility, it may be wise to: 

  • Clearly explain the motivations for returning to the office and ensure these reasons are well-founded. 
  • Offer tangible compensatory benefits: on-site gym access, ergonomic and pleasant workspaces, professional development opportunities, and enhanced collaboration. 
  • Provide a grandfather clause for long-term employees you don’t want to lose due to a new on-site work policy that wasn’t in place when they were hired. 
  • Consider if your policy needs to apply to all types of workers (those in the field) as well as office workers and various team types. 

First, clearly define your goals for returning to the office. What concrete outcomes are you seeking? Once your objectives are set, evaluate their flexibility. Are there possible compromises to align your organizational needs with employees’ aspirations? 

Identify areas where you could be more flexible while staying true to organizational requirements. 

The more an employer is flexible, open, and attentive to employee well-being, the more they can attract and retain top talent, even the most demanding ones. 

Rather than a simple step back, the need to reduce virtual collaboration is an opportunity to rethink the organization of work profoundly. By exploring all possible options, we can create a more productive and fulfilling professional environment for everyone. 

2. Inflation Disrupts Salary Expectations and Company Budgets

Although inflation is lower than at the start of the year, it remains above the Bank of Canada’s target, significantly impacting employees’ purchasing power, influencing their salary expectations and demands. Employers now face a puzzle: how to keep their teams motivated without blowing the budget? 

Key Points to Consider

2.1 Loss of Purchasing Power

When salary increases don’t keep pace with inflation, employees’ purchasing power erodes. This means they can buy fewer goods and services with their salary, directly impacting their standard of living. 

For instance, as Alex Demers from Finance 360 highlights, the purchasing power of someone who earned $100,000 ten years ago is now equivalent to that of someone earning $200,000 today. Yet, few people have seen their salary increase by $100,000 over a decade. 

Employees in the finance and accounting sectors are particularly demanding regarding salary increases, and negotiations can be intense.  

The labor shortage further strengthens their bargaining power. 

This year, a strong candidate in finance and accounting: 

  • Actively job-seeking, receives an average of three job offers simultaneously. 
  • Passively job-seeking (interested only in your position), is 99% likely to receive a counteroffer from their current employer when they announce their resignation. 

Employers must respect pay equity while maintaining profitability, often challenged in the current economic climate. The challenge is to be creative to stay competitive despite the various factors to consider. 

2.2 Financial Worries and Stress

  • For some employees with average salaries, making ends meet can become challenging. They face tough choices: should they go without, delay bill payments, or turn to credit? Some choose to resign for higher-paying jobs or take on a second job, which poses risks for them (fatigue, decreased productivity, lower motivation and concentration) and for their employer (absenteeism, time theft, loss of engagement, etc.). 
  • Saving for retirement or other goals becomes a luxury that many can no longer afford. 
  • But inflation doesn’t just hit the wallet; it also impacts morale! Stress, anxiety, depression… the mental health consequences can be severe, affecting both employees and the company (costs of sick leave, hiring expensive consultants, etc.). 

🗨️ If you find yourself managing a sudden illness leave or departure, Kenova offers temporary staffing and consulting services at very reasonable prices. Contact us to learn more. 

2.3 4 Proposed Solutions

For businesses, it is beneficial to help their employees face this difficult situation while ensuring they stay on track regardless of economic fluctuations: 

  1. Invest in Employee Training: Invest in training employees to acquire new skills and increase their market value. This also improves their productivity and motivation. I strongly recommend focusing on future skills to better anticipate upcoming changes. As you know, with AI, some jobs will disappear, and new ones will emerge. 

Examples of transferable (future) skills include: 

  • Critical Thinking and Complex Problem-Solving: Develop the ability to analyze complex situations, identify innovative solutions, and make wise decisions. 
  • Adaptability and Agility: Be able to quickly adapt to changes, learn new skills, and retrain if necessary. 
  • Emotional Intelligence and Collaboration: Build strong relationships, communicate effectively, and work harmoniously in teams. 
  • Creativity and Innovation: Generate new ideas, find original solutions, and propose novel approaches. 
  • Digital and Emerging Technologies Proficiency: Program, analyze data, use digital tools to automate tasks, improve efficiency, and learn to utilize AI. 

2. Offer Suitable Working Conditions and Work-Life Balance: Providing a good work-life balance is a major asset for attracting and retaining talent in the 4.0 era. 

3. Restructure Your Teams: By analyzing the skills and expertise of your employees, you can identify opportunities to redistribute them within the company to create more efficient and versatile teams. This can also help reduce costs by eliminating task duplication and optimizing human resource utilization. 

4. Hire Young People: If you are willing to invest time in training and mentoring your future high-potential resource, hiring enthusiastic young graduates can be a very interesting option! 

  • They are often more willing to work for lower salaries compared to more experienced employees. 
  • You will have more choices given the high unemployment rate among young people. 
  • You are investing in the future of your organization. 
  • You add diversity to the team: they are often very proficient with new technology, avant-garde trends, and creativity. 
  • By hiring more junior profiles, you allow your internal resources to evolve further, contributing to greater retention of your current team. 

Are you hesitant? Start by hiring your new recruit as an intern, allowing you to try them out for three months at a very low cost. You can offer them a permanent position afterward if you wish, minimizing the risk of a wrong hire. 

3. Retirements and Organizational Transformations: An Opportunity for Change

The retirement of the most experienced employees currently affects all sectors, including finance. According to Statistics Canada, about 500,000 Canadian workers will retire between 2024 and 2025, roughly 1 in 10. 

This year, even more than last year, we see a significant number of CFOs, VP finances, CFOs, and GMs retiring. Far from being a crisis, this phenomenon is an opportunity for our clients to transform their finance function. The departure of these leaders, usually stable in the company for many years, allows an organization to rethink practices, improve efficiency, restructure teams, and integrate new technologies, such as new system implementations and the integration of artificial intelligence into their activities. 

In this context, it is evident that finance leaders who possess both strategic and operational vision, versatility, high adaptability, and skills in technology and process improvement are more sought after than ever in the greater Montreal area, across all sectors. Since the beginning of 2024, 9 out of 10 finance executive recruitments have been for transformational leadership positions. 

In brief, the first months of the year place decision-makers at the center of a whirlwind of changes. Balancing employee aspirations with economic imperatives remains a significant challenge. Flexibility, open-mindedness, and creative problem-solving are essential to navigate the return to in-person work, rampant inflation, and massive retirements. 

Instead of being overwhelmed, bold managers embrace this transition and focus on innovation. By riding the wave of change, these leaders become the pioneers of the company of tomorrow. At Kenova, we are proud to support many inspiring clients who are at the forefront of this new reality! 

Marie-Eve Cloutier, CRHA  

President and CEO, Kenova 

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