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Unusually high employee turnover, reservations about returning to the office and lack of engagement are all familiar pain points for employers and people managers across the country. Any one of these issues can be written off as temporary, but employers should not look away from the alarming reality that millions of Canadian workers are unhappy.
A recent study by Navigator’s Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation reveals that a full 42 per cent of employees are considering a job change in the next year. This desire for change is in part fuelled by views that their employers are more focused on profits than people, as well as concerns about work-life balance, flexibility and inclusivity. As the pandemic drags on, all of these views revolve around an underlying drop in employee morale that will outlast the latest round of restrictions.
If we accept that talent is the most important asset of a business, then employee morale needs to be elevated as an issue requiring C-suite attention, focused resources, and an empowered team to make tangible improvements. Addressing this challenge head on is central to an organization’s ability to retain talent, improve productivity, and bolster its recruitment.
Mental health has for years been an issue that employers have been reluctant to shake the tree on. Today, they have no choice.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, nearly 75 per cent of the population are facing increased mental health and substance challenges. The isolation, anxiety and confusion that so many have felt in the past two years has cast a new light on the diverse and complex mental health needs of Canadians. No longer just a problem that people are grappling with behind closed doors, this is an occupational safety issue.
A Morneau Shepell (now LifeWorks) survey on mental health found that working Canadians were significantly more distressed than they had been pre-pandemic, citing increased mental stress and strain at work as the top factor that would motivate a job change. According to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the cost of mental health to the Canadian economy is over $50 billion annually, or nearly $1,500, per employee.
It may feel crass to discuss mental health in dollars and cents, but the conclusion is unavoidable: inaction has a cost.
Many Canadian employers already take this challenge seriously. We have seen an increase in flexible hours, meeting-free days, and strengthened benefit plans. Experts in the private, public, and not-for-profit sector have all compiled best practices guides for employers looking to improve in these areas.
Yet, for many companies, the problem persists. Like most societal challenges, the mental health crisis has been years in the making. It stands to reason that it will take years of hard work, strategic thinking, and humility for employers to emerge as leading the solution, and even longer for them to reap the cost benefits.
As employers undertaking this journey, it’s important to maintain the basic fundamentals of management and leadership. Having a plan beats no plan. What gets measured gets done. And the best way to build trust is through authentic and frequent communication.
Resilient, creative, businesses will find ways to adapt to the changing needs of their employees. This aspiration starts with an understanding of where their responsibility lies and an acknowledgement that exponential improvements are required to address a problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
If corporate Canada hopes to reverse the massive increase in employee turnover, it must embrace change. Its future, and the future of Canadian workers, depends on it.