Talk of layoffs and an economic slowdown may seem discouraging for job hunters, but employers are still hiring and many are looking beyond credentials, diplomas and technical skills to fill roles.
Close to half of Canadian business owners are planning to add staff to fill persistent job vacancies or meet increased sales demand, even though many expect to pull back on overall investment, according to the Bank of Canada’s latest business outlook survey. Owners might be feeling more pessimistic — most think we’ll enter a recession this year — but that hasn’t erased the almost one million open positions still waiting to be filled.
Indeed, 40 per cent of employers are still intent on hiring, if only they could find the right candidates, said a recent survey by recruiter Express Employment Professionals. It’s not technical skills they’re necessarily looking for, given that nearly a third of them say they’re looking but can’t find people with crucial soft skills, including an eagerness to learn, dependability, problem-solving capacity and adaptability. Strong communication skills, a willingness to take initiative, critical thinking and the ability to fit in with colleagues are also top of mind for hiring managers.
What’s more, employers say they are willing to train people who have such skills to take on more technical roles, according to research by CERIC, a non-profit career development organization. That’s good news for anyone seeking out personal growth or a new job this year, said Candy Ho, board chair at CERIC, and an assistant professor of careers at the University of Fraser Valley.
“It’s more important than ever to focus on the transferrable skills we have, so that if our life priorities or circumstances have changed, we can think about pivoting,” she said, adding that companies are “looking for people who have a strong work ethic, who have a great attitude, who are willing to learn and who are adaptable and resilient.”
Workers appear ready to focus on building some of those skills. Last year was marked by trends such as languishing, a low-grade malaise from pandemic life that also permeated people’s jobs, and quiet quitting, a viral term for doing the minimum required. But there are signs employees are ready to get down to work this year. Adam Grant, the professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who came up with “languishing,” said he thinks the mood has shifted. People are “not just bouncing back, but bouncing forward,” he said.
Similarly, Google searches for “quiet quitting” have flatlined after peaking in September. That’s another possible signal that people are ready to put a bit more effort into growing their skills and careers.
For some, that may mean going back to school to gain credentials needed for a new profession. However, demand is also high for roles that require little technical training but still pay well, Randstad Canada said in a report on 2023’s top job trends. Though technical positions in health care, technology and skilled professions such as accounting made the list, others like warehouse worker, customer service representative, driver and sales associate are also in high demand. Those jobs pay more than one might think. For example, a customer service representative may earn between $43,000 and $74,000 a year, a driver may make up to $65,000, and a sales associate could command $46,000 to $84,000.
“It’s interesting to see that a degree isn’t the only path to steady employment and a secure income,” Nick Montesano, executive vice-president of Central Region at Randstad Canada, said in a news release.
Still, money isn’t the only thing people are looking for when they decide to find a new job, Ho said. The pandemic has shifted expectations about what employee want from their working lives, with many seeking to accommodate personal or family situations. That may include needing to take on the caregiving of elderly parents, or wanting the freedom to drop off and pick up their kids from school. Ho said those are fair expectations because work has become increasingly integrated with our personal lives. For example, it’s no longer abnormal to see a work laptop in the kitchen, enabling workers to answer emails before sitting down to dinner.
“During the pandemic … employees have not only been given freedom, but they earned it,” Ho said. “We have been able to show that working online … we are using our time a lot better. The Elon Musks of the world who don’t recognize that are all of a sudden going to be losing good people.”
Of course, the conversation goes two ways and employers have expectations that must be met, too. But the shift offers bosses and their staff the opportunity to work together to create flexible environments that promote productivity, well-being and meaning — a win for all involved.
Employees have not only been given freedom, but they earned it
Candy Ho, board chair, CERIC
The start of a new year is a good time for workers to begin developing their soft skills or finding another job. Ho suggests people use the pandemic as a reflection point and come up with a list of priorities before expanding the discussion to peers, possible mentors or a career development professional.
Maybe 2023 will be the year we put all that quiet quitting to rest and focus on growth, allowing more employers to finally fill some of those long-vacant roles with candidates who have such hard-to-find soft skills.