HR Market Update – Summer

Storm Clouds on the Horizon

Summer is notorious for wicked storms that creep up out of nowhere. And this summer we have had more than our fair share it seems. But unlike the storms that surprise us, the economic storm clouds have been gathering for some time. For the better part of the last year or so, economists and prognosticators have been predicting a recession, telling us to be prepared. We have been hearing this for a while and the evidence continues to mount.

Currently, we are seeing rising interest rates and inflation, while unemployment remains low. In no small part, this is due to population growth outpacing job creation. However, despite job creation in June, the unemployment rate rose 4.9%

It is the rising unemployment rate that may be a canary in the coal mine. Doug Porter, BMO’s chief economist, in a recent note to investors, warned that rising rates have a near-foolproof record of forecasting a recession. In the US, there is a rule that recessions have started when the 3-month moving average of the unemployment rate rises 0.5 points from the 12-month low.   In Canada? The moving average is at 5.2% in June, up 0.3 points from the 12-month low. “We’re not quite there yet in Canada, but we will be if June’s rate holds in the summer,” Porter said.

And how about those interest rate hikes? – The Bank of Canada is using interest rates to cool inflation (another 1/4 pt rise in July) and it seems to be working (June inflation came in around 2.8% – the first time “2” was uttered in a long time). When you couple the employment rates with the interest rate data, consumers will feel the pinch.

Taken altogether, the evidence sure points to an economic downturn.

At Ahria, we know that successful organizations position themselves well for what seems like an inevitable downturn in the economy. The lawyers, accountants and finance folks will focus on traditional advice like cost cutting, protecting profit margins etc. All solid measures. We believe the way to ride out a recession is to double down on your Employer Brand.


Employer Brand

Employer brand refers to an organization’s reputation as an employer and the perception it creates among current and potential employees – and it becomes crucial during a recession for several reasons. Firstly, a strong employer brand helps attract and retain top talent who are seeking stability and security. Secondly, a positive employer brand enhances the organization’s reputation, making it more attractive to customers and clients during uncertain times. Thirdly, a strong employer brand fosters employee loyalty and engagement, resulting in increased productivity and better performance. Lastly, during a recession, organizations may need to downsize or make tough decisions, and a strong employer brand helps mitigate negative impacts by maintaining trust and credibility with employees and the wider community.


Economic downturns require organizations to rethink their recruitment efforts. While the labour market may start to loosen up, it still remains competitive and requires a concentrated effort. While it may be tempting to short-change this process with “quick wins”, these can often result in the wrong people who can destroy a culture and implode productivity. We recognize there is a lot of noise in the marketplace, so we think doubling down on best-in-class recruitment is critical to weather an economic storm. Think of three Ps – purpose driven, planned and partnered. Ensure candidates are aligned with your purpose, plan out your approach and treat all candidates as if they were an investment partner. Reach out to Ahria’s Managing Partner, Kelly Gillis, to learn more.

Help your Leaders

Downturns cause increased angst among your employees adding to mental health stressors in the workplace that remain a top concern. While your leaders are just getting back on their feet after surviving COVID, they will be tested again. Leaders well-equipped to coach and support their teams will help build your employer brand as employees feel that they are cared for and valued for what they offer the organization. Our leadership development programs are being redesigned this summer to help leaders weather the storm. Reach out to Kristy McQueen to learn more.

Mental Health – Career Transition Link

Organizations that take care of their employees enhance their Employer Brands.  Mental health initiatives like promoting work-life balance, providing access to mental health resources, offering employee assistance programs, creating a supportive and inclusive environment, and raising awareness about mental health issues are all excellent ways to build a supportive culture. Sadly, a recent trend in organizations is having a negative impact on mental health at the same time these other initiatives are in play. Prior to the shift in the labour market, employers often provided terminated employees with outplacement (Career Transition) support. However, with a large number of job openings, some employers have moved away from this support, thinking employees should be able to find a job quickly. Outplacement is about more than just writing a resume and landing a job. In fact, outplacement has a positive impact on mental health for everyone in the organization.

Here is the rub: Losing a job can be a significant stressor and can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s mental well-being. This mental stress inhibits their ability to move forward and find their next employment opportunity. Professional Outplacement services provide practical and emotional support, including personal and career coaching, job search assistance, and networking opportunities on top of the more obvious resume writing, and interview preparation support. These resources help individuals regain confidence, maintain a sense of purpose, and reduce the negative psychological effects of job loss, such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. This support is also recognized by the employees across the organizations who know that if they get caught up in a downsizing, they will be well looked after, thereby lessening the fear and anxiety of potential job loss and strengthening your employer brand. Finally, a good outplacement provider works with the managers who have to deliver the news that someone’s employment is terminated. Considered one of the more stressful aspects of being a manager, outplacement consultants work with managers to ensure their stress is mitigated through the process and that they deliver the news in a professional and caring manner. To learn more about how Outplacement support may be another tool in the mental health toolkit, reach out to James Coolidge.

Coming this summer to a workplace near you

Workplace safety is paramount in fostering a healthy and productive environment for employees. In Ontario, the Ministry of Labour plays a vital role in upholding these standards through regular inspections.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour inspections serve as a crucial component of their mission. Trained inspectors visit various workplaces to assess safety practices, identify potential hazards, and enforce compliance with provincial regulations. These inspections cover a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and more. By conducting thorough assessments, the ministry aims to prevent accidents, injuries, and occupational illnesses.

Starting in March of this year, Phase 1 was focused on education, outreach and awareness. Phase 2, now in full swing, involves workplace inspections, often referred to as “blitzes”. Are you and your organization ready? Our HR advisory team is standing by to help ensure compliance and that you and your workforce become the shining stars of this year’s blitz! Reach out to Michael Little to learn more about what you can do to be better prepared.


Quick Takes

  • DisruptHR – Coming Sept 20, 2023! DisruptHR: A fast-paced event that challenges norms, sparks innovation, and fosters creative thinking in the workplace. For more information, click here Tickets available here
  • Coming this Fall – London’s Best Places to Work. Ahria Consulting is partnering with London Inc magazine to bring the fifth iteration of this award. We know that to be successful, organizations need to know where they are. That’s the motivation behind our annual Best Places to Work program, which gives employees the chance to rate their workplace. Using a science-based approach to measuring employee engagement, this program helps organizations determine where their workforces shine as well as where there may be gaps that need some attention. More detail to come in September – watch your inboxes or reach out to [email protected] for information.
  • Calling all HR Professionals – Sign up here for our weekly HR job postings
  • Our Learning and Development Series continues – To register or learn more, click here
  • Our job search group is back and OPEN TO ALL! We have rebranded it as “The ONE Group” (Opportunities to Network for Employment Group) – Send us an email to join [email protected]

Summer Reading

Yep, we are biased. We think Desuckify Work by our President & CEO Terry Gillis is the perfect light summer read. Packed with great tips and insight on how to make sure everyone has a great place to work, we think it is summer reading list worthy.

And have we got a deal for you. Desuckify Work is available on Amazon for $24.99 BUT if your reach out to us at [email protected] with the code “summer reading list”, we will send you a personalized signed copy for $20.


Is your organization finding its way in this unique economic environment? Has the talent crunch got you baffled? 

Looking for unique approaches to your talent issues? Looking to up your leadership game? Have leaders who need to reach the next level? Are you working to ensure you are engaging and retaining the best people? Concerned about future business success?

We’re here to help. I invite you to book a quick 15-minute chat, and let’s have a sounding-board conversation.

Terry Gillis

President & CEO