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Mark Hickman is the managing director for Sage in North America, a leader in accounting, financial, HR and payroll technology for small and medium-sized businesses.

In the dynamic landscape that characterizes today’s business environment, the importance of resilience has taken centre stage, particularly for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). External pressures over the past few years have underscored the need for businesses to transform their operations to be more agile and responsive to sudden shifts in the market. Resilience has been a consistent theme driving businesses to adapt to economic challenges, not only to stay afloat during challenging times, but to succeed.

The past several years have imparted valuable lessons for building a business and culture of resiliency that can help not only weather future storms, but thrive in the face of uncertainty. However, many SMBs struggle with identifying ways they can transform their operations and empower teams to build and maintain agility and resiliency in an often-unpredictable business environment.

According to Sage’s latest Small Business, Big Opportunity survey, while Canadian SMBs are optimistic about the future, 75 per cent have concerns about escalating operating costs, citing increasing salaries and office-related expenses as financial pain points. Although 66 per cent of Canadian SMBs are satisfied with their current staffing levels, the skills gap in Canada is worsening and lags global counterparts that are actually closing the gap, the survey also found.

Business resilience begins and ends with people

Attracting and retaining top talent continues to be a challenge for businesses across all sectors. Meeting the demand for skilled talent continues to be a pain point for many organizations in the technology and professional services industries, with employees’ expectations shifting as employers compete for a shrinking number of knowledgeable workers.

According to Statistics Canada, more than half (56 per cent) of businesses in Canada reported skills gaps in their work force. Strategic talent management and investing in current and future employees’ professional and personal development and well-being will be critical to closing this noticeable gap.

Business resilience begins with having the right employees who feel supported and are given opportunities to thrive. Creating a culture of resiliency means providing employees with the skills, tools and resources to form nimble and efficient teams, equipped to respond to market shifts and make strategic decisions quickly. Providing employees with the support they need – such as equitable pay, professional development and training opportunities – allows them to be confident in their roles and abilities and committed to the success of the organization.

People who feel valued by their employer and happy in their positions are less likely to leave a company. Employee benefits play a big part in compensating people for their hard work as well as providing the right resources and programs to help them be more impactful in their roles.

Leveraging technology to work smarter

To navigate the many challenges posed by the widening talent gap, leaders should consider leveraging technologies like artificial intelligence and automation, which can free up employees by automating manual tasks and streamline processes, so staff can prioritize strategic tasks aimed at driving business growth. While technology will never replace employees’ uniquely human ability to innovate and think creatively, which helps fuel resilience, it can provide teams with their most precious and finite resource – time.

Every minute counts when operating an agile and dynamic business. According to a study from Salesforce, 79 per cent of employees say that increasing productivity is one of the biggest benefits of automation, while 85 per cent are more satisfied with how it enhances collaboration across teams.

Automating complex workflows, such as financial and accounting processes, lays the foundation for a more flexible and adaptable organizational and operational structure, removing hurdles and accelerating the decision-making process. As a result, teams have more control over their functions and can enjoy better collaboration across teams and prioritize more strategic and meaningful work.

A future of optimism

Embracing technological advancements, such as automation and AI, is a key enabler for improved efficiency, productivity and flexibility. It is also a strategy that empowers employers and employees to find and maintain a healthier work-life balance through skills development and higher engagement.

As Canadian businesses look to the future with optimism, the journey to resiliency continues; the technological advancements of today should be both carefully considered and strategically adopted to realize the best business outcomes.

Employers should create engaging employee experiences and foster a positive work environment that gives employees the opportunity to take ownership of their roles. By implementing processes that effectively free time and providing tools and resources that promote growth and innovation, organizations can create a support system that can help drive long-term success.

Business leaders and decision-makers can take pro-active steps toward a more resilient and adaptable future. By learning from the past and implementing key strategies for success, businesses will build resilience in their organization and team members for lasting impact.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

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