Phew, the breakneck speed at which the business landscape has been changing lately has just been so profound! A pandemic, AI, shifting demographics, looming macro trends. It’s really kept us all on our toes, hasn’t it?

Need a minute? You’re not alone, bud.

Alright, now that we’ve got a little zen energy going on, let’s get into it. 

Yes, a lot has changed very recently and it is poised to completely transform the way we operate our businesses. But victory loves preparation – and we’ve got your back! In this article, we unpack 3 emerging business trends with tips on how to best equip yourself and your Canadian startup to not just survive, but thrive! We’re going to discuss:

  1. Canada’s Ageing Population and Millennial/Gen Z Surge
  2. Canada’s Culturally Diverse Population
  3. The Automation Revolution

Canada’s Ageing Population and Millennial/Gen Z Surge

Graph showcasing the age pyramid of the Canadian population

Source: Statcan

The bustling entrance of baby boomers into the workforce in the 60s and 70s triggered a massive boost to the economy at that time. Along with Gen Xers, they made amazing contributions to the world; but since 2011, their disappearance from the workforce ensued….

In the meantime, we welcomed Millennials. By 2017 millennials already accounted for 40% of the working-age population. And more recently Gen Z came of (working) age too!

It’s been quite a shift for the workforce, especially since the overall ageing trend led to a slight drag in growth, with not enough skilled population replacing their most experienced workers. However, Canada got lucky in this department, as Baby Boomers here actually showed some reluctance to retire which helped Canadian businesses escape potentially scary labour shortages.

But this isn’t going to last long. Today many Canadian organizations are increasingly becoming home to 4 generations of employees, making it super important to understand how to create workplaces that stay happy, harmonious, and humming with productivity now and in the future.

What Can You Do to Hold on to Baby Boomers and Gen X While Still Attracting Millennials and Gen Zs in Canada?

But, first, here’s some very encouraging news – a whopping 89% of folks think having different generations in the workplace is actually a bonus. And get this, 87% viewed the opportunity to learn from other generations as good for their career! So how do you make the most of this and bring in quality talent of all ages?

Holding Onto Baby Boomers and Gen X:
  1. Delay Retirement: Phasing out retirement is a great HR tool to allow Boomers and Gen X to continue working part-time. This would require you to create part-time positions with flexible hours to entice ageing employees to stay on a bit longer. In a survey, 64% of Gen X expressed this expectation. You will also find below how this could be a win-win for the younger generation too. 

2. Be Senior-Friendly: Another approach to retaining them is addressing issues that often prompt their retirement, even when they prefer to keep working. Consider aspects like, whether your workplace can be more accommodating to health needs, whether you can invest in upgrading health or pension benefits for employees that stay on longer, and whether you can incentivize them with profit-sharing arrangements. 

3. Appreciate Away: A good word goes a long way; 64% of Gen X and 59% of Baby Boomers rated job prestige as their top work priority! The desire for recognition and respect is a universal sentiment. You could address this by creating opportunities for appreciation, like public shout-outs, celebrating wins, or reward programs. 

4. Mentorship Matters: To make Baby Boomers and Gen X feel more valued, you can design mentorship programs where your most experienced employees can pass down their knowledge and skills to the newer workforce, which works really well both ways – in retention and training.

Attracting Millennials and Gen Z:
  1. Hybrid Work: 54% of Gen Zs and 59% of millennials think hybrid work is positive for their mental health, says Deloitte’s Gen Z and Millennial Survey, as it helps them save money by reducing expenses related to commuting, buying work clothes, and dry cleaning, as well as driving greater productivity and allowing them to stay focused without the typical distractions of an office environment. 

2. Empower Employees: Millennials and Gen Z crave authority to bring about change within their companies. 58% of Gen Zs and 55% of millennials say their organization presently asks for employees’ insights and includes their feedback. This is a no-brainer – creating a culture in your company where decision-making is not only a top-down process, makes employees feel encouraged to contribute, which is unquestionably excellent for business performance.

3. Values Alignment: If Gen Zs and Millennials do not share morals or convictions with a job or assignment, they tend to decline them. 44% of Gen Zs and 37% of millennials reveal they have turned down assignments because of ethical issues, while 39% and 34% respectively have refused employers that didn’t match their values. DEI, Environment and Sustainability, and Mental Health are some top concerns for employees of this generation. 

4. Social Media Savvy: Make your presence felt on platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram. Gen Z and Millenials are fans of social proof. Highlight your business’s strengths, share stories, and showcase why your company is a fantastic place to work in order to attract quality talent.

Canada’s Culturally Diverse Population

Group of Canadian nationals holding up Canadian flags

Source: SLMedia

Canada’s population is buzzing with change, all thanks to its approach to immigration. The mosaic of Canadian society is continually being reshaped and redefined, and there’s no hint of slowing down. 

In fact, Canada bounced back from the pandemic relatively quickly, and it attributes that to immigration. New Canadians added value to the economy by working, creating jobs and supporting local businesses in a time of need. 

In 2021, over 8.3 million people in Canada – that’s nearly a quarter of the population – were landed immigrants or permanent residents. This statistic crossed the 1921 record, making it the highest ratio since Confederation and a leading statistic among the G7 countries!

Now to state the obvious, since most migrants move when they’re young it creates a rich opportunity for employers in Canada to scoop up skilled talent. To put it plainly, currently, a sizable 64.2% of new Canadians are in the core working age group of 25 to 54.

What Can You do to Design a Culture of Diversity and Build a Multicultural Workforce in Canada?

Diversity is more than race, it also spurs diversity in opinion and innovation. In a study where 600 decisions were made by 200 teams, the findings showed that diverse teams saw a 60% improvement in their decision-making abilities, and they also outperformed their homogenous group counterparts 87% of the time. Here’s how you can create this for your startup:

  • Actively Shape Policies: The top method to enhance diversity in your workspace? Actively shape company policies that cherish all communities and identities. Think- running internal campaigns to educate your team, adaptable time off across various religious holidays, and genuinely celebrating diversity as part of your workplace culture to attract more diverse talent. 

  • Go Blind: Navigating the interview process for diversity can be tricky. A lot of times, decisions can be impacted by unconscious biases. To keep things fair, try using blind interviews. Send out questionnaires to get detailed information on candidates’ skills before you even meet them. Ensure your interview panel is diverse to help make the call. 

  • Add Diversity to Your Recruitment Goals: For instance, aim to boost the percentage of qualified visible minority employees by 10% in the upcoming six months. Accenture Inc. in Toronto, one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers in 2023, keeps tabs on their workforce goals every month. They pull up a Canadian scorecard that lays out the numbers – this way, they stay on track toward their workforce representation goals.
  • Look Beyond the Usual Places: Ditch the ‘quick hire’ and actually make your search intentional. Create tie-ups with communities to open up channels to hire, reach out to ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) who push for inclusive change and help with insights about the needs of diverse employees and clients, and take advantage of Canadian government programs like the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the Global Talent Stream.

The Automation Revolution

graphic showing the automation revolution

Source: Progressive Automations

Automation has already left its mark on most industries – from manufacturing to banking to retail operations. Tech tools are doing a ton of tasks without needing much help from humans, indicating a pretty serious paradigm shift in how businesses will function.  

After the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on operations, it ended up accelerating the adoption process of automation. Slack’s State of Work 2023 report suggests that almost half of their respondents used automation to accomplish more work in a shorter time and with fewer resources. An impressive 74% have freed up at least two hours weekly, now reallocated to tasks that make a more significant business impact.

So, what is automation in business, exactly? 

Automation, in itself, has gone through quite an evolution. We can try to understand it in 4 levels:

  • Foundational Automation generally takes care of basic tasks and activity-based automation using software algorithms. An example is workflow software, with some robotic process automation capability, which removes the need to manually perform repetitive tasks.
  • Advanced Automation is where humans and machines team up. It manages more complex processes and unstructured data, using machine learning and natural language processing. Think – a customer service chatbot, capable of understanding and responding to detailed customer inquiries.
  • Intelligent Automation steps it up by utilizing AI to minimize human intervention even further. It can autonomously monitor systems and send out alerts. For example, a security system that detects unusual activity and immediately sends out a notification to the homeowner. 
  • Enterprise-Wide Intelligent Automation is a holistic approach. It’s about integrating intelligent automation in every aspect of the business. An example is an organization where every department, from HR to supply chain, is optimized with AI and automation, creating seamless, efficient operations across the board.

Well, can you take a wild stab at which phase of automation we’re gearing up for?

You guessed it – it’s enterprise-wide intelligent automation!

Various sectors have already integrated automation into many departments. The tech folks are, of course, leading the charge in adopting automation, particularly in the realm of file sharing and storage. Engineering, IT, and Design teams utilize AI, while teams in sales, service, and marketing are sitting on a gold mine of untapped opportunities to harness the latest tools.

Chart showing the teams that use automated processes the most; including engineering, IT, design, marketing, service, and sales

Source: State of Work 2023

What Can You Do to Prepare for the Automation Revolution in Your Canadian Business?

For Canadian entrepreneurs aiming to stay ahead, embracing automation is beyond enhancing productivity and cutting costs. Automation is here to make your business agile, speed up your time to market, and make you more responsive to what your customers need – which essentially spells out the ultimate competitive advantage. 

In fact, 80% of organizations scaling intelligent automation expect to outperform the competition in profitability within just 3 years!

Here’s what you can do to prime your business for a smooth enterprise-wide automation transition:

  • Analyze Your Business Processes: Start by charting your business processes. Delve deeper into which functions are sucking up the most time and effort. These areas are perfect candidates for early adoption of automation.

  • Engage Your Employees: Ensure your employees are a part of the technology selection process. They understand your business processes intimately. Involve them in choosing and implementing new systems. Hear out their concerns and offer the right training to smooth over the switch.

  • Explore Your Options: Before making an investment, rigorously evaluate the available systems to find the most compatible one for your business. Consider factors like anticipated growth, vendor reliability, product functionality, and availability of third-party add-ons. While custom systems can be very tempting, off-the-shelf products often do the job at a much better cost with fewer future complications.
  • Seek External Guidance: You may not understand all the possible automation systems, and that’s completely fine! Acknowledge the limitations and reach out to consultants who can provide insight and support to ensure your investment in new technology propels you forward without unexpected setbacks.

By keeping a close eye on these up-and-coming trends and adapting ahead of time, you can set your business up as a trendsetter in your field! The future’s in the hands of the prepared, we hope you use these insights as a ticket to making sure your business keeps on winning.

Want to Launch or Expand a Business in Canada?

We are BHive, a startup incubator located in Brampton, Ontario. We offer international startups the tools, resources, and space to establish – and quickly scale – their businesses in Canada and North America. To apply to our Global Entrepreneur Incubation Program, click here!