Canadian employers increasing focus on social responsibilities in 2021: report

Canadian businesses are taking a wider view of their social responsibilities amid the coronavirus pandemic, economic disparity and protests against racial injustice, according to a new survey by Mercer Canada.

It found 65 per cent of Canadian human-resources leaders believe their company has continued or stepped up the pace towards an environmental, social and governance- and multi-stakeholder business approach Of those now moving forward with stakeholder capitalism, 57 per cent are tying ESG goals to their purpose while and 41 per cent are embedding ESG metrics into executive scorecards. However, only 12 per cent of surveyed Canadian plan sponsors currently direct their retirement portfolio investments toward sustainability.

Read: Pension plans focusing on streamlining ESG strategies in 2021

More than half (58 per cent) of Canadian companies are re-examining what’s most relevant to different persona groups, signaling a shift towards greater personalization of inclusive benefits. The survey also noted only 18 per cent of HR leaders are taking into account the impact of 2020’s transformation or right-sizing plans on various minority groups and just 13 per cent are considering the pandemic’s impact on these populations. Additionally, almost a third (31 per cent) of Canadian companies plan to improve analytics on pay equity in the year ahead.

The survey also found 53 per cent of Canadian companies plan to offer more access to remote health and benefits options and 64 per cent plan to add benefits to address mental- or emotional-health issues. In addition, 50 per cent are training managers to spot mental health issues, compared to only 29 per cent of companies globally.

Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of HR leaders surveyed expect the pandemic to impact their business negatively and while 23 per cent of Canadian companies agreed the lockdown has flagged the need to outsource investment and/or fiduciary management to enable HR to focus on core workforce activities, only 50 per cent have outsourced plan management or delegated fiduciary duties.

Read: To achieve DEI goals, plan sponsors can start by reviewing benefits plans

More than four in five (83 per cent) Canadian HR leaders report that skill development will continue to be a focus in 2021 and while 49 per cent said reskilling toward critical talent pools is a priority, only 31 per cent of companies are gathering information on individuals’ current skills and just 12 per cent have increased spend on workforce upskilling or reskilling for the entire workforce.

Nearly two-thirds of companies (60 per cent) said adaptability was the most important resiliency skill, followed closely by collaboration (58 per cent). Two in five organizations (42 per cent) made it easier to share talent internally in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and a further 22 per cent plan to do so in 2021.

“A successful shake-up of our workplaces requires trust on all sides,” said Daniel Imbeault, partner in talent strategy at Mercer Canada, in a press release. “Contributing to collective responsibility will require companies to align benefits goals to business priorities, interrupt gender and race inequities, deliver on flexibility for all and engineer a step change in the employee experience through radical HR transformation, all of which are essential to the reinvention this new era demands.”

Read: Coronavirus crisis accelerating virtual health care, focus on mental health