As salaries fall, engagement is key

Employers more conservative with compensation, budgeting: Expert

As salaries fall, engagement is key

The average Canadian salary dropped an “alarming” 4.5 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic — dropping to $58,428 in July from $61,212 in January.

And for 2021, this flattening trend is expected to continue, says Andrea Bartlett, director of human resources at Humi, an HR software services provider, in Toronto.

“We saw an overwhelming amount of companies taking a hard stance on pay freezes during the pandemic and then also for 2020 as a whole, in addition to freezes in any sort of promotion,” she says.

“Rather than pay salary increases over 2020, recognizing employee work through bonuses is something that we’re predicting. And then heading into post-pandemic into 2021, we’re finding that organizations are overall being more conservative with their approach to compensation and budgeting, for a number of different reasons. It really changes depending on the industry or the organization.”

The company’s 2020 Canadian HR Benchmark Report is compiled from data from more than 1,000 small businesses and was collected between January and November.

Maintaining engagement

As many people continue to worry about the pandemic and their job futures, it’s important to maintain a high level of engagement with the workforce, according to Bartlett.

“Employee engagement is different in an online environment than what it is in office because when you’re not able to have those ad-hoc conversations as organically, it really has shifted what engagement looks like.”

For managers and HR departments, how engagement is characterized has changed in 2020.

“[It’s about] overall redefining what engagement looks like and, first and foremost, speaking to your team and checking in, getting a pulse with them in terms of what matters when they look at engagement is important,” says Bartlett.

Andrea Bartlett

That means a change in the frequency of check-ins with team members.

“And then monthly, general updates, quarterly performance discussions, and annual performance reviews. In terms of a trend, that is a big one that has shifted, and it’s pushed a lot of responsibility on managers to be more proactive about checking in with their team members because it’s a lot more challenging to understand how performance and engagement coexist in a virtual reality,” says Bartlett. “Being more proactive is something that we’re seeing.”

Even more workers are expressing a desire work from home than at the start of the pandemic, however, that also means longer hours for many of them.

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