Employers underestimate employee desire to quit, finds EY survey

Pay, flexibility, and new technologies prolong workplace tensions as a quarter of Canadians likely to switch jobs

Employers underestimate employee desire to quit, finds EY survey

While attracting and recruiting talent remain top priorities for Canadian companies, the survey reveals a disconnect between employee and employer expectations and motivations. The ‘EY 2023 Work Reimagined Survey’ reveals that a majority (57 percent) of employers believe that slowing economic growth is reducing employees' likelihood to quit, while less than half of employees agree. At the same time, pay remains a top concern for 40 percent of Canadian employees, but falls to third place on the list of employer concerns.

"Employers are at risk of underestimating the fluidity of the labour market, but with the right strategies in place, organizations can preserve their talent and ultimately build trust," says Danielle Laramée, People Advisory Services leader at EY Canada. "This starts by providing total rewards that reflect employees' changing priorities, taking into account factors like the upskilling needed to succeed in a world of continued work flexibility."

Push and pull factors 

Employers also risk overestimating the sway of flexibility as an incentive to attract new talent. The research shows that 85 percent of employers believe that offering flexibility will positively impact their ability to recruit talent, but only 62 percent of employees agree. 

"With inflation on the rise, it's no surprise that higher pay is now the biggest motivation for changing jobs, particularly given that most Canadians are already working for companies that offer flexibility in some form," explains Darryl Wright, partner, People Advisory Services at EY Canada. "But while over a third of workers want to be fully remote, there's still a large proportion of employers (56 percent) that want their staff to be in the office two to three days per week – and that divide needs to be addressed with considerations around how businesses reshape the in-office experience."

The research also looks at generative artificial intelligence (GenAI). It says that while the potential of this technology is still being realized, there is growing momentum and a generally positive outlook on how it will impact new ways of working. Forty-two percent of employees anticipate GenAI will improve flexibility and 84 percent of employers currently use or plan to use GenAI within the next 12 months.

Thriving in new ways of working

Despite both employees and employers ranking ‘learning and skills’ as one of the top factors to ensure employees thrive in new ways of working, only 22 percent of employers plan to provide training on GenAI-related skills, leaving a clear gap between employers' and employees' expectations around the future of work. The survey finds that while three quarters of employers agree managers and leadership are aligned on new ways of working (e.g., learning, work scheduling, remote and hybrid work), only 52 percent of employees agree.

"Technology won't completely upend the structural talent issues facing employers, but to fully benefit from new tools, the workforce needs to be trained and empowered to reimagine work in a way that embraces new capabilities and still keeps humans at the centre," says Wright.