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Recession and Labor Shortage | Will companies drop the ax?



Economic slowdown and recession are usually synonymous with layoffs. But with a record number of vacancies, will companies take the risk of dropping the ax if the pessimistic scenarios are confirmed? To avoid losing employees who may never return, employers seem willing to go out of their way to avoid this scenario.

“What I hear is that we want to keep our people as much as possible,” summarizes Julie Lajoie, director of Altrum Reconnaissance, a firm specializing in human resources. “It’s so difficult to keep your employees, and when you know that the slowdown or the recession may be temporary, there is a reflection. »

Shared work, training and carrying out projects that were on the ice: there are many ways to avoid having to lay off if the volume of business is no longer there.

It remains to be seen whether companies will be strong enough to absorb any shocks while avoiding cutting staff.

The work-sharing program consists of offering employment insurance benefits to employees whose work schedule is temporarily reduced when a drop in activity occurs in order to avoid layoffs.


Julie Lajoie, Director of Altrum Recognition

“There may also be relevant projects that we have in mind and which have not been carried out in the past due to lack of time, such as continuous improvement projects, explains Joy. This is part of the creative ideas to retain employees, recognize them and support them in a downturn. »

change of tone

No one has a crystal ball to know for sure what the future holds, but dark clouds are looming on the horizon. In his economic update presented on December 8, the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, finally included a recession scenario in his forecasts.

The Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), which presents itself as the largest group of employers in the province, remains confident. More than nine out of ten members have “labour shortage issues,” recalls the president and CEO of the organization, Karl Blackburn. In the event of a deterioration of the economic context, “what happened before will not happen”.

“There are labor needs in all sectors,” he says. The number of vacancies will not decrease significantly. But if that changes, the continuous training component is a way for companies to retain employees with specific programs. »

The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic had tested the resilience of companies that were already struggling to find the necessary personnel.

The president and CEO of Groupe Meloche, Hugue Meloche, does not know what the future holds for the manufacturer of components for the aerospace industry. One thing is certain: if the situation gets tougher, he intends to have the same approach as at the height of the health crisis.


Hugue Meloche, President and CEO of Groupe Meloche

“The watchword was not to make layoffs, explains the businessman. Even if the context suggested doing so, we knew that demand would return and that it would be extremely difficult to rehire quality workers afterwards. We welcome it. It was not easy financially, even though there were programs like the wage subsidy. Luckily, we weren’t in much debt. »

With about forty positions to be filled, Mr. Meloche anticipates that a drop in activity would essentially shorten the list of candidates sought.

Planning in motion

The fact remains that managers reflect on the yellow lights that appear on their dashboards, underlines Marie-Ève ​​Drouin, president and human resources strategist at Équipe Drouin RH. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with less than 60 employees represent the majority of its clientele.

“Our customers are anticipating what’s to come,” she explains. If the slowdown is not too severe, we don’t want to be the first to release workers. Competitors could hire them and when business picks up, we will have a problem. I think companies will play it safe. »

Sign that companies want at all costs to avoid losing employees: the firm of Mme Drouin has already been contacted by SMEs that do not foresee layoffs, even if they anticipate a decline in the level of activity. They want to make sure they are well equipped “so as not to lose good players who could listen to the market” if they begin to have doubts about their future.

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  • 6.2%
    Vacancy rate in the second quarter. It was 3.6% in 2019.

    source: government of quebec

    Unemployment rate in Quebec last November. A record low.

    source: statistics canada

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