01/06/2015 12:55 EST | Updated 03/08/2015 05:59 EDT

Employees stress out as companies plan to grow without hiring

Most Canadian employers expect to grow their business in 2015, but the majority plan to do it without hiring new workers, according to an annual survey from Hays Canada.

The other key finding of the survey — Canadian employees are suffering increased levels of sinking morale, burnout and stress-related absences.

Hays, a recruiting company that annually studies hiring plans and pay scales, based its findings on a survey of 500 Canadian companies conducted in November.

It found that 70 per cent of Canadian employers anticipate increased business activity in 2015, an optimistic outlook that speaks to Canada’s growth potential for the year.

About 49 believe Canada’s economy will strengthen in the coming year, a 10 percentage point increase from 2013.

38% plan to hire

But only 38 per cent plan to add new permanent staff. And only 36 per cent had created permanent jobs within the last year.

At the same time, 31 per cent say there has been a spike in employee stress leaves and 34 per cent say staff morale is low.

Employees have experienced years of downsizing and reduced resources, including a shortage of talent, Hays found.

Potential growth could prove difficult to achieve as employers try to stretch current workforces to do more, according to Rowan O’Grady, president of Hays Canada.

“Looking at the results this year, we have to ask ourselves whether employers are asking too much from their people in a quest to improve productivity and profitability,” he said in a news release.

On the question of salaries, more companies are reporting more generous plans to raise pay rates.

Skills shortages

About 32 per cent of employers plan to increase salary levels between three and six per cent, up from 29 per cent of employers in 2014.

After a year when the controversy over temporary foreign workers made headlines, Hays asked employers about skills shortages in their workplace.

Among those surveyed, 40 per cent said the absence of training and professional development is the reason for skills shortages in their own industry.

Many acknowledged they themselves could take steps to address the talent shortage, including measures such as promoting their industries at the post-secondary level and improving training options.

O’Grady urged companies to invest in skills development and in recruitment to reduce the stress on their employees and improve the morale in the workforce.