The COVID-19 pandemic compelled many Canadian businesses to adopt a digital-first mindset to survive, but most organizations are struggling to find workers with the skills necessary to compete in today's marketplace, finds a new poll conducted by KPMG in Canada.

KPMG's Business Outlook Poll found that nearly 80 per cent of the businesses surveyed say they need more workers with digital skills, however, better than two thirds are having trouble finding and hiring needed talent. This inability to find or retain talent was identified as the number one threat to their growth prospects.

Notable survey findings include:

  • 79 per cent said the pandemic changed the way they work, and they need more employees with IT skills
  • 69 per cent said they plan to hire more staff over the next three years
    • 24 per cent ranked cyber/information security as the top skill they need to hire
    • 20 per cent ranked data analytics/analysis as the top skill required
  • 68 per cent of businesses said they are having a hard time hiring people with the skill sets they need to grow
  • 52 per cent are not confident they will find people with the skills they need and will consider recruiting outside Canada
  • 89 per cent are investing in developing their workforce's skills and capabilities

"The pandemic clearly provided a catalyst for many businesses to accelerate their digital strategies," says Armughan Ahmad, President & Managing Partner, Digital at KPMG in Canada. "But implementing these strategies is becoming more difficult, as the competition for digitally-skilled talent is accelerating globally."

"To address this, companies are looking inward for solutions, and upskilling their existing workforce to become more digitally focused. They're also starting to recognize micro-credentials to help expedite the upskilling of their employees. But for many businesses, these won't be enough as they need to innovate and re-think their business models, which will also require access to global talent to fill highly specialized roles," he adds.

A majority (82 per cent) of the more than 500 business owners surveyed from across Canada said they need to become a much more digitally integrated company, while 85 per cent are increasing capital investment in buying new technology. Roughly 77 per cent said the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated their plans to digitize their operations, and 76 per cent of companies said they view technological disruption as more of an opportunity than a threat.

"Canadian businesses understand the power of technology and most have been making the necessary investments to digitize their operations," says Mary Jo Fedy, National Enterprise Leader for KPMG in Canada. "The next challenge is ensuring they have the talent to use these new digital tools. While having the right technology is important, it's only effective if your team possesses the skills to leverage it."

Canadian companies are also working with outside parties to digitize their businesses.

  • 73 per cent are using or plan to use products or services from online platform providers
  • 63 per cent are looking to bring in third-party expertise and/or off-the-shelf software
  • 59 per cent are interested in partnering with an innovative start-up to bolster growth

About the KPMG Business Outlook Poll

KPMG polled 505 Canadian small- and medium-sized owners and decision-makers between August 6 and August 15. The online survey of business owners and decision-makers were all drawn from Delvinia's premier online research panel, Asking Canadians, through the Methodify platform. Of the 505 survey respondents to the KPMG Business Outlook Poll, 35% are family-owned businesses and 74% are privately held, while 31% have revenues over $100 million annually and 24% have annual revenues between $50-100 million.

About KPMG in Canada

 KPMG LLP, a limited liability partnership, is a full-service Audit, Tax and Advisory firm owned and operated by Canadians. For over 150 years, our professionals have provided consulting, accounting, auditing, and tax services to Canadians, inspiring confidence, empowering change, and driving innovation. Guided by our core values of Integrity, Excellence, Courage, Together, For Better, KPMG employs nearly 8,000 people in over 40 locations across Canada, serving private- and public-sector clients. KPMG is consistently ranked one of Canada's top employers and one of the best places to work in the country.

The firm is established under the laws of Ontario and is a member of KPMG's global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International, a private English company limited by guarantee. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such. For more information, see

For media inquiries:

Roula Meditskos
National Communications & Media Relations
KPMG in Canada
(416) 549-7982