15 July 2019

What does the future of business hold for you?

A recently released international survey shows Canadian businesses are more optimistic about the future of business than they were a year ago and that four in five businesses expect to grow in the next two years. Almost as many expect to achieve that growth by investing in research and innovation as they do by investing in skills training and employee well-being.

These are just some of the findings from HSBC Group’s Navigator: Made for the Future survey of more than 2,500 companies in 14 countries and territories, including 200 leading companies in Canada. Decision-makers shared their perspectives on business opportunities and challenges, as well as short-term investment priorities.

Watch a video to find out how businesses see the future.

Innovation will fuel growth

Almost all Canadian companies surveyed agreed that innovation is key to business growth, and over half (54%) plan to invest in research and technology to drive that expansion. Businesses see the most promising opportunities emerging from initiatives to adopt new technologies (24%), improve productivity (22%) and enter new markets (19%).

Investing in people

The survey also showed that planned investments to support innovation go beyond technology, operations and equipment. Survey respondents identify a skills shortage as a key barrier to achieving innovation targets. Close to three-quarters of businesses recognize that, regardless of the technology propelling change in their industry – machine learning, AI, the Internet of Things, 5G or other high-tech platforms – there’s an increasing need to invest in workforce training and skills development. Further they consider people-focused investments as good for business, with benefits that include a culture of innovation among employees, increased technical knowledge and skills in business technologies, and an enhanced customer experience.

It’s not surprising then, that two of the top five priority investment areas among Canadian respondents are investing in skills and training (47%) and employee well-being (42%). These came out ahead investing in logistics and operations, business restructuring and equipment.

“This survey demonstrates that technology is only half the story; business leaders recognize that we need to invest in people to be successful,” says Daniel Leslie, deputy head of Commercial Banking at HSBC Bank Canada. “Businesses made for the future will need their people to be highly trained and highly engaged – or they may take their skills elsewhere.”

Check out an infographic (PDF, 95KB) on what leading Canadian businesses see ahead.

A Canadian approach to future-proofing a business

At a higher rate than their global counterparts, Canadian business leaders believe investments in employee well-being are a way to future-proof their business. When asked specifically what they thought businesses like theirs needed to do to ensure future success, Canadian companies were much more likely to mention initiatives connected to people. The top three elements that were seen to contribute to future success are investing in employee well-being (23%), being more agile and responsive to change (22%) and leveraging technological innovation (21%).

What’s ahead?

Canadian business leaders were also asked how they expect their business to change in the next one to two years. Innovation and technology topped the list, followed by changes in products and services and selling online.

Businesses plan to support these changes through:

  • greater spending on research and development, increasing automation and bumping up spending on sustainability improvements;
  • expanding the range of products and services they offer or upgrading through innovation; and
  • taking more business online.


The Navigator: Made for the Future survey allows us to take the pulse of global business leaders and compare how organizations in different countries and markets are addressing challenges and planning for growth.

If anything is clear, it’s that the future of business – as always – is a future of change. Whether organizations are preparing for change by investing in technology, entering new markets or enhancing products and services, prioritizing spending on skills training and employee well-being are seen by Canadian companies as a sound way to future-proof their businesses.

Read the global HSBC Navigator report now


The information presented is not meant to be comprehensive and does not constitute financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this document without first obtaining specific professional advice. While reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, HSBC does not make any guarantee, representation or warranty (express or implied) as to its accuracy or completeness. The information presented in this document is subject to change without notice.

Certain of the products and services offered by HSBC and its subsidiaries and affiliates are subject to credit adjudication and approval. This document does not constitute an offer to provide the services and products described and the provision of such services and products remains subject to contract.

Issued by HSBC Bank Canada ("HSBC")

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