Some employers are having to go beyond the usual incentives like pay hikes to attract and retain workers, as they face a labour shortage exiting the pandemic. 

“Once the Covid-19 pandemic hit the global economy, we all believed that the days of labour shortages were behind us. However, it is very clear now that with the economic recovery, employers are facing yet again the challenges of a labour shortage,” Patrick Essiminy and Lorna Cuthbert, labour lawyers with Stikeman Elliott said in an email. 

While the problem is widespread, the reasons behind the shortages can vary depending on the industry.

The hospitality sector, for example, is having trouble rehiring former employees after prolonged lockdowns forced many of them to change careers, while the demand for workers simply exceeds labour availability in other industries, the lawyers said. 

A recent report by RBC Economics’ Andrew Agopsowicz suggested the labour shortage could worsen before it gets better as the job market recovery firms up and people feel more confident in retiring or quitting their jobs. 

“The number of recently non-employed people who left their positions due to dissatisfaction lifted significantly in June,” Agopsowicz said in the report. “Retirements have also started to tick higher already, and we expect a return to long-term trends to be continued into the second half of the year, driven by the large cohort of aging baby boomers.” 

Stikeman lawyers Essiminy and Cuthbert said they’ve seen many companies revise their pay structures in recent months and even add special hourly premiums to keep employees from leaving. 

“In the unionized environment, employers have taken the initiative to reopen collective agreements before their expiry to ensure that they remain competitive on their pay scales and other compensation components,” they said. 

Experts also recommend employers go beyond the usual playbook of pay increases. 

“It is important to keep in mind the total compensation package,” said Stephen Liptrap, CEO of HR services firm Lifeworks, in an email. 

“This includes, not only salary, but also customizable benefits, a comprehensive retirement plan, mental-health support, recognition, perks, a supportive and open culture, and a leadership team that is taking clear steps to advance diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said. 

Executives should refrain from a “one-size-fits-all approach,” and instead “listen to their employees,” said Liptrap.

Many employers also have a relatively newfound tool in their arsenal to attract and retain employees post-pandemic: remote work flexibility.

Essiminy and Cuthbert say companies should be mindful of work-from-home policies as they formulate their strategies for the return to the office.

While only time will tell how long the worker shortage might persist, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem told reporters in a press conference Wednesday that he believes it’s a “temporary adjustment” as the economy reopens. 

“One of the things we’ve seen repeatedly through this crisis is there’s a lot of ingenuity on the part of companies to figure out how to cut through these supply issues,” Macklem said. “That’s what we expect to continue.”

“Wages are really quite subdued. If we did see wage growth running well ahead of productivity, that would be a sign of concern, that would be a sign of increased risk of broad-based inflation – so far, we’re not seeing that.”