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The world is online – it’s time our government services are, too

‘Old-world’ approach practised by our governments is out of step with HR innovations


May 25, 2020
By Jeffrey Doucet

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The Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. (Adobe Stock)

Right now, all levels of governments in Canada are focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19. And while we’re not out of the woods, the measures we’re taking appear to be working.

It’s the other major challenge that has me even more concerned.

In the months ahead, Canadians will find themselves migrating from jobs and industries that are temporarily or permanently shuttered.

We’re facing a national challenge like we’ve never seen before and overcoming it will be neither easy nor straightforward.

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If our governments fail to support the more than 3 million Canadians currently out of work, we’ll face devastating social aftershocks, including increased rates of addiction, substance abuse, domestic violence and crime.

These largely avoidable outcomes will be most dramatically felt by the already marginalized groups in society.

Employment service delivery changes

What kind of government support am I referring to? Employment service delivery — or the ways that government-funded employment programs are provided to individuals.

There are hundreds of employment programs available throughout Canada for individuals and employers alike, such as employment insurance, social assistance and re-training or upskilling opportunities. These vital government services provide a range of proven economic and social benefits to people dealing with job loss or job insecurity.

But here’s what many people forget: Our economy has enjoyed steady growth and seen record low unemployment numbers for the past 12 years.

As a result of our economic stability, relatively little demand has been placed on our government-funded employment services — which means there has been no urgent need to modernize how these government-funded services get delivered.

Until now.

Employment programs and resources offered by governments have long been delivered in face-to-face environments, via physical paperwork and fax, and through mandatory in-person office visits. The need to embrace the digital delivery of this information and offer remote capabilities simply hasn’t been there.

As a result, the “old-world” approach still practised by our governments is out of step with the innovations that we’ve seen in the HR industry over the past decade.

Simply put, the needs of the Canadian population are changing — and so must the ways our governments meet those needs.

Time to modernize is upon us

Our governments must turn similar attention and urgency towards bolstering — and modernizing — the employment programs and social services that support individuals who are out of work and looking to re-enter the labour market.

We know that the number of Canadians who are unemployed will continue to grow across many sectors.

The cost of not effectively meeting their needs is dire, and the implications of a recession to our economy and our society will be profound and long-lasting.

The good news is that modern approaches to delivering employment services can be adopted with relative speed and ease. Resources can be made available online and on-demand 24/7, instead of through pre-scheduled appointments and required in-person office visits.

Documents and applications can be submitted via online forms and email — instead of requiring people to either physically mail paperwork or send a fax.

The traditional “one-size-fits-all” approach to employment services can be broadened to include self-assessment tools, upskilling, reskilling, soft skills training, mental-health support and career transition.

Can our governments acknowledge their infrastructure limitations and act quickly enough to leverage the modern employment service delivery models — digital, remote, automated — that are already working for millions of Canadians?

To their credit, our public sector has effectively leveraged the support of the private sector to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 — let’s hope they do the same to mitigate the next phase of the crisis.

Jeffrey Doucet is the CEO of Thrive Career Wellness in Toronto. The company is currently offering free access to their Career Wellness Platform for Canadians who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19.