Amidst the global talent shortage, SMEs are wary of losing employees they can’t replace. To help human resource (HR) departments focus on employee retention, we present five important workplace trends discovered through the meta-analysis of multiple surveys commissioned by Capterra and its affiliate companies. The HR Trends report provides key insights and recommendations on how businesses can keep up with employee expectations in 2023. The study methodology is at the end of the article.

5 workplace trends for HR departments

Many changes have impacted the labour market in the last few years, such as labour shortages and transitions to remote or hybrid models. As the workplace changes, so do employee expectations, and meeting them could be vital for staff retention.  

HR professionals are often tasked with adapting to new workplace trends, which they’ll need to understand fully before changes can be agreed on. With a special focus being put on employee retention due to the labour crisis, trends in human resource management have become especially important.

Before building a business case related to the latest HR trends, consider why these trends are growing. Among the reasons for the changing workplace, the following catalysts are just a few of the major drivers of the ‘new normal’.

COVID-19 distancing requirements pushed remote work models

Due to pandemic-related restrictions, nearly a third of Canadian employees began working from home in 2020, according to Statistics Canada. The majority of teleworkers also reported being as productive at home as they were in the office, so it’s likely that many employees will resist a full return to the physical office.

The rapid growth of digitalization within companies

As remote work models grew in popularity, organizations of all sizes turned to software to carry out business functions virtually. 84% of SME employees felt their workplace had been digitized to some degree in the 2021 Digitalization Survey; however, their comfort levels with the use of new tools is less clear.

The Canadian labour shortage and the candidates’ market

The talent shortage in Canada has influenced not only the availability of potential employees, but also their expectations when applying for jobs. Because there are more unfilled positions than there are jobseekers, candidates have leverage to demand the benefits and resources they find most valuable from their potential employers.

1. Invest in learning and development

By now, it’s widely accepted that the pandemic was a driving factor behind the speed of digitalization in companies. In fact, 63% of employees of SMEs with at least one digital process in place reported in the 2021 Digitalization Survey that they had at least one new software introduced into their workflow since the arrival of COVID-19. 

With the rapid introduction of new technologies, plans for employee education and training must be prioritized. 40% of employee respondents from the same survey felt inconvenienced to some degree by the new digital processes of their workplace. When asked what aspects of digitalization they found most frustrating, the top answer, given by a fifth (19%) of these inconvenienced employees, was unclear or poor training.

Not only should HR departments implement learning management systems to help employees navigate their digital workplace, but training can also influence employee satisfaction. In our 2021 HR in the New Era Survey, SME employees cited learning and development opportunities as the fourth most important factor when considering a new job.

job factors that employees consider important in 2023
Tip for HR departments: Opportunities for career-related development are important for candidates, and showcasing those opportunities is vital in attracting top talent. Make sure the list of benefits on job board postings reflects the investments your SME is willing to make in its future employees. 

2. Inform employees about monitoring practices

As software solutions began to pervade the workplace, the use of employee monitoring software became a controversial topic. Over one-third (35%) of Canadian employees interviewed in Capterra’s 2022 Digital Monitoring Survey said their company is using at least one employee monitoring tool. 

It’s understandable that businesses would want to monitor some aspects of employee operations, such as by tracking attendance. However, the company culture can be negatively affected when communication around employee monitoring hasn’t been provided or is unclear. According to Gartner research, even when there is communication on these topics, the quality of that communication tends to be poor, resulting in limited employee understanding and awareness of personal data usage.

Despite the need for more transparency, only about a third (37%) of monitored employees in our 2022 Digital Monitoring Survey were trained and/or signed a consent agreement concerning the monitoring software used. To avoid damaging employer-employee trust, create a holistic plan to inform workers about monitoring practices via employee portals or other communication methods they can revisit.

Tip for HR departments: Establishing trust in the workplace has many benefits, such as helping overcome employee disengagement. To find ideas for ways to create a work atmosphere where workers feel safe and valued, visit our guide on building trust with employees

3. Promote social connection between colleagues

Working alone can be a stress factor for employees, whether fully remote or hybrid workers. During the pandemic, employees spent long periods without physically meeting their colleagues, which led many to feel disengaged from the workplace. This continued even as pandemic restrictions relaxed this year; in our 2022 Mental Health in the Workplace Survey, nearly one in five (18%) of remote and on-site employees regularly felt isolated as a result of their jobs.

The remote workplace is still new to many people, and navigating the downsides can be unclear. One of the main threads amongst the workplace trends is to implement initiatives concerning employee happiness; promoting a socially healthy workplace can be one of them. 

Company-organized social activities were agreed to be effective in creating connections between colleagues by three-fourths (75%) of survey respondents whose employers had held these types of events. Of measures that SMEs have taken to facilitate a more socially connected workplace, results differed slightly between Quebec and Canada as a whole.

social office trends in quebec and canada
Tip for HR departments: For fully remote workplaces, there are also digital means of facilitating social connection. In our 2022 Mental Health in the Workplace Survey, employees in SMEs with company-organized social events found that virtual coffee chats as well as games and quizzes were effective for connection by 45% and 42% of national respondents, respectively.

4. Keep an eye on employee workloads

The workplace has had to rise to various challenges over the last years, many of which have affected staff workloads. Whether caused by newly implemented strategies or the struggle to find staff, over a third of employees (37%) reported an increased workload in our 2022 Mental Health in the Workplace Survey. 

Not only do unbalanced workloads make it harder to achieve predetermined goals, but they also affect employee morale. 30% of surveyed employees felt their motivation had decreased since the start of the pandemic. Without a focus on keeping unforeseen pressure off of employees, employers run the risk of losing overstressed workers. 

Regardless of this risk, workloads are bound to fluctuate sometimes. To prevent employees from incurring undue stress, staying aware of individual task loads is a must. With workflow management tools, managers and HR leaders can monitor project progress, identify workflow bottlenecks, and balance employees’ work responsibilities.

Tip for HR departments: SMEs with few employees may find it hard to stay on top of numerous employees’ workloads. Keeping a line of communication between managers and employees can create a space to address potential issues in a one-on-one way. Meetings can be scheduled on a weekly, bi-weekly, or other semi-regular basis, and virtual options would work well in remote or semi-remote workplaces.

5. Reconsider the benefits offered

To keep a competitive edge for winning over current and future employees, a strong company culture is an attractive draw. Once an employee-first workplace is established, employees are likely to be attracted to join and stay. 

According to HR specialists in Canada, employees are ranking work-life balance and flexibility amongst their top priorities. A mentally healthy workplace is a happy one, and our 2022 Mental Health in the Workplace Survey of employees showed flexible work policies and access to mental health professionals were amongst top contenders for most valuable mental health resources. 

mental health trends in the workplace in 2022

Getting in touch with employees personally can help ensure investments are well-spent and appreciated by staff. Asking for employee feedback can give an overview of the initiatives that would be most beneficial for a particular company. 

Tip for HR departments: Benefit packages are easier to create and manage when organized in a portfolio of employee benefits instead of maintained separately. Empower employees to access and sign up for benefit programs from a single platform, which can also be used to generate insights on the most self-selected, and thus most valuable, employee perks of your workplace.

Changes to the workplace, both seen and unforeseen, are inevitable with time. Whether acting to entice new employees or prevent attrition, certain HR trends will be better solutions for some companies than others. To measure their effectiveness after implementation, look to tools that offer reporting features.

To sum up, here are five recommendations based on the emerging trends revealed by our research:

recommendations for HR projects in 2023

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This Capterra Human Resource (HR) Trends article identifies 5 trends that are the result of a meta-analysis of multiple surveys commissioned by Capterra and its affiliate companies.

This report includes data from online surveys conducted between January 2021 and April 2022. Each survey was sent to approximately 1,000 consumers. Participants are older than 18 and live in Canada. The results derived will be representative of the participants who took the survey and not the entire country/region.

Participant selection criteria for each of the surveys used for this report are as follows:

  • HR in the New Era Survey 2021: Participants were full- or part-time employees of SMEs (between 2 and 250 employees).
  • Digitalization Survey 2021: Participants were full- or part-time employees with either intermediate, junior, or trainee-level positions, or managerial/directorial positions working in SMEs (between 2 and 250 employees) with at least one digital process in place.
  • Mental Health in the Workplace Survey 2022: Participants were younger than 65 years of age and were full- or part-time employees with directorial, managerial, senior, mid-level, or associate-level positions in SMEs (between 2 and 250 employees) who had not changed jobs between January 2020 and January 2022. 
  • Digital Monitoring Survey 2022: Participants were full- or part-time employees who are not in ownership positions and worked at a company with at least 2 employees. They could identify what employee monitoring tools are after being provided with a definition.