Most Canadian employers expect to grow their businesses in 2015 but intend to do so without boosting headcount, according to the Hays Canada Salary Guide.

Optimism and progress outlook among employers has never been higher but these sentiments are not shared by their staff, for whom sinking morale, burnout and stress-related absences have spiked. The report suggests hitting aggressive 2015 business targets could be seriously undermined if current staff are made to bear the burden.

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The survey found 70% of Canadian companies anticipate increasing business activity in the coming months. Nevertheless, only 38% of employers intend to add headcount during the same period. A third also admit that their own lack of professional development programs contribute to a shortage of talent. The inability to find qualified help puts pressure on existing teams — 31% report spikes in employee stress leaves and 34% say staff morale has declined.

“Looking at the results this year, we have to ask ourselves whether employers are asking too much from their people in a quest to improve productivity and profitability,” said Rowan O’Grady, President Hays Canada. “Adding to this concern is the fact that nearly 40% of employers believe that the absence of training and professional development is the reason for the skills shortage in their industry,” O’Grady added. “Employers should be investing in skills development, recruitment and succession planning to keep pace with their ambitions.”

Employers acknowledge that many of the factors that impact the talent issue are within their control. Thirty-five percent feel they have a responsibility to boost numbers of qualified graduates by promoting themselves and their industries at the post-secondary level.

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Equally important is succession planning. Few employers (12%) say they are preparing for the future with active succession and knowledge transfer plans. With respect to salaries as a talent enticement, half say they’re unsure if what they offer applicants is on par with the market average.

Positive signs

Despite unpredictable markets worldwide, responses from Canada’s employers show that just under a third (32%) percent of employers plan to increase salaries by up to 6% in 2015 and half (49%) believe that the country’s economy will continue to strengthen throughout the next 6-12 months. This level of optimism is at its highest point in five years and signifies a 15 point jump from its lowest levels in 2011.

Additional highlights

  • Over 50% of employers believe their company’s reputation and low profile are barriers to recruitment
  • 70% say recruiting for senior roles is the most difficult and can take anywhere from 2-6 months to fill
  • 82% of employers say they made the wrong hire likely due to desperation and a lack of time
  • Work from home options, flexible hours and extended benefits are the top-three incentives employers want to add in an effort to attract talent

Read: National job vacancy rate climbs

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