Did digital transformation displace workforce management?

Canadian execs say they underperformed in certain areas during pandemic

Did digital transformation displace workforce management?
Seventy-eight per cent of Canadian leaders feel the pandemic has increased their strategic focus and investment in their people.

While more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of Canadian employers believe that they did better in terms of their digital transformation efforts during the pandemic, 32 per cent say that they underperformed when it came to workforce management.

That’s according to a study by EY Canada that also found 78 per cent of Canadian leaders feel the pandemic has increased their strategic focus and investment in their people.

"As Canadian executives examine lessons learned from the pandemic and prepare their path forward, they must put humans at the centre of their focus, apply technology with speed and innovate at scale in order to succeed," says Doug Jenkinson, partner for strategy and transactions at EY Canada.

"Canadian companies that do, can do more than prosper — they can make bold moves and create exponential value that lasts."

Digital transformation

While 82 per cent of respondents indicate their companies undertook a comprehensive strategic and portfolio review in 2020, 68 per cent say they are planning to increase strategic focus and investment in digital transformation.

This increase is already underway for 74 per cent of executives, according to the report.

"Investments in digital may have been a reactive trigger to the pandemic, but moving forward, executives are looking to drive opportunistic investments to create more flexible operating models and greater cost efficiencies," says Jenkinson.                                                              

"Optimism of a rapid return to pre-pandemic revenues, coupled with low interest rates, are motivating executives to capitalize on new opportunities for growth — predominantly through mergers and acquisitions. For many companies, this includes divesting non-core assets and redeploying capital in a buy vs. build approach to accelerate growth and compete on a global scale."

In March, Canadian executives’ level of confidence in the three-year growth prospects for the Canadian economy rose to 81 per cent, up considerably from 48 per cent six months earlier.

People management

Fear of change appears to be a primary concern for Canadian companies regarding their employees, says EY Canada.

“The rapid shift to full-time remote working may have amplified employees’ feelings of isolation and disconnection to the purpose and strategic direction of their organizations. At the same time, companies have discovered opportunities to bring global teams together and gain access to specialized skills without having to fly people around the world.” 

These shifts may permanently change what the organization’s workforce looks like, it says.

“Organizations will be able to look farther afield for top talent, create team hubs in smaller markets, and consider hybrid and fully remote work models. However, Canadian companies will also need to create an employee-centred culture that nurtures connection and engagement to retain top employees in an increasingly competitive talent environment.”

More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of Canadians want the flexibility to work both in the office and remotely, and 71 per cent believe a hybrid workplace should be the standard model for all organizations.

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