You need a plan for this

The Great Retirement is under way in Canada

Over the course of the last year, you’ve no doubt read about the “Great Resignation” in the U.S. People came out of Covid lockdowns with a new perspective on life, and for many that meant new priorities. Lots of people quit jobs they’ve had for a while in order to get more out of life. It’s had an impact on the economy.

Canada’s version

In Canada, pundits are calling it the “Great Retirement”. It’s not so much that people are just quitting, they are deciding to retire earlier than anticipated. Consider these facts, gleaned from the most recent census data. (Source: Statistics Canada.)

  • Nearly 1 in 5 Canadians are 65 and older (19%).
  • Over 1 in 5 people of working age (15 to 64) are aged 55 to 64 (21%)
  • The number of seniors in Canada is growing 6 times faster than that of children aged 0 to 14. (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are the only Canadian provinces where children under age 15 still outnumber seniors 65 and older. Nunavut is by far the youngest territory, with 32.8% under 15.)
  • A record number of Canadians aged 55 to 64 reported they retired in the previous 12 months.
  • The overall population of Canada was reduced by the Covid pandemic. In addition, birthrates have fallen since 2016. At the same time, due to border restrictions, only about half as many immigrants entered Canada in 2020 as had the year before (185,000 compared to 340,000.)

(Read more detail in the Statistics Canada report, this CBC report and this European Times report.)

So what?

Look out across your production floor. What colour do you see? Not skin colour, hair colour. Do you have a young team? (If so, pat yourself on the back and treat them well.)

If you are like most employers in our industry, an awful lot of your truly skilled employees fall into that 55 to 64 category–and they may be planning to retire when you least expect it. Think you have another 10 years with them? Think again.

As fewer people enter the workforce (whether by growing to the age of employment or through immigration) it will get harder to find hands to fill the jobs you have. And as more of your older employees seek to take life a little easier through retirement, the skill-set drain will be enormous.

What can you do?

Some things are beyond your control (like the birthrate and immigration policies.) Focus on the things you can control.

  • Do you know your employees’ future plans well enough to accommodate them? If not, better start listening and talking.
  • How appreciated do your employees feel? One of the primary reasons people are either walking away from jobs or retiring early is job dissatisfaction. A key component of that is when a worker puts out day after day and does not feel appreciated for what they do. An appreciated employee is less likely to want to leave.
  • What is your internal mentoring program like? Are you pairing skilled people with newbies so they learn what it takes to move up or handle more responsibility? Do you only train someone on a machine when you lose the current operator? How’s that working out for you? (Instant panic, hasty training, lots of stress no doubt.) Workers who really know their stuff like the boost of sharing what they know and training others–so long as it’s clear you’re not trying to edge them out the door.
  • How willing are you to take on a green employee and train him or her from the ground up, knowing they may leave you? If your attitude is blocking the process, it will be hard to get new, younger people. You moved up in your career. They’ll want to do the same. Sometimes you are training someone else’s next great employee–but sometimes they are training yours. That’s how the industry grows.

You can’t run your company alone, at least, not for long. And not if you want to remain sane and succeed. It takes a team. Teams take planning, building, training and encouraging. Don’t lose key members before their time by putting your head in the sand and pretending the problem will go away. Take control and navigate this difficult time with purpose.

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