In some industries, the wave of employees leaving their jobs has driven business leaders to distraction. But for many organizations, the solution is hiding in plain sight: their existing workforce

Workers in Canada are aware that we’re in a time of economic change and are increasingly interested in reskilling opportunities, says a new report from Athabasca University.

In a cross-country survey, researchers found that three-quarters of all employed Canadians want to reskill to “keep up with their job’s changing needs,” while seven in ten want to deepen their existing expertise to advance their careers.

The most in-demand area for new skills is, unsurprisingly, in the digital sphere, which were a top priority for around 70 per cent of respondents. The total number of employees interested in learning new digital skills was close to the number who are also interested in soft skills, too, with just as many respondents saying they wanted to improve things like communication, conflict resolution and team-building.

“The data from this study is telling us that Canadians almost can’t keep up with the dizzying pace of technological growth in the workplace, yet our need to improve skills that support better human connections have never been greater,” said Dr. Alex Clark, Athabasca University president. “It’s almost like we need some post-pandemic interpersonal reskilling, hence our deep thirst to take more courses to improve our leadership-focused soft skills.”

That jives with what businesses are saying, too: back in 2021, Canadian business leaders reported that soft skills (like creativity) were a key reason why they were struggling to hire.

It’s an interesting data point to consider in light of longer-term economic trends. There’s clear demand among workers to get access to upward advancement, to put more skills to better use and to invest in themselves as workers ― all good news in a big-picture kind of sense, especially when you consider lagging productivity metrics.

And yet it will also take some buy-in from employers to grant their employees time and space to do this reskilling. The report found that 20 per cent of workers say they can’t find time to re-skill, while an additional 28 per cent say they can’t afford to pay the associated costs that often come along with re-skilling.

But this too might offer opportunity — as business struggle with talent retention, joint investment in an employee’s skills could be an easy way to boost morale, productivity and an employee’s sense of buy-in with their employer.

Content written by Kieran Delamont for Worklife, a partnership between Ahria Consulting and London Inc. To view this content in newsletter form, click here.