Who Will Train Whom in HR?


Professional training for the HR professional has always been required, and traditionally, they’ve had to keep up their professional development on the following topics, which were always changing:

  • employment laws
  • leadership and organizational trends
  • economic trends around employee recruitment and retention

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as the digital and Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution, however, is here and transforming the workplace drastically. How much will workplaces change, and how fast? Many are afraid that AI, deep learning, and robotics will eliminate all human work. Although it is true that many jobs—and even whole industries—will change, and possibly even disappear, not all human workers will.

It is interesting to ponder what the role of the HR professional will be in this Fourth Industrial Revolution. Richard Baldwin, in his book The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work, outlines a key insight of what HR professionals could do: “Realize that humanity is a competitive edge, not a handicap.” This is a very powerful statement, which should inform the fundamental goal of all HR professionals and HR departments—seeing where workers can do their best work with the greatest impact.

Perhaps it is now time in the HR world to take the often-administrative tasks of job design and analysis and make them strategically important to ensure human skills are used to their full potential. Marty Neumeier, in his HR article, discusses key human skills and their innately human qualities, such as:

  • creativity
  • intuition
  • system thinking

Click here to read in greater detail about the human skills required in future workplaces.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will certainly disrupt current workplaces, jobs, and even entire industries, but by combining the thoughts of Richard Baldwin and Marty Neumeier, HR professionals may be able to create more engaging and meaningful work for the new workplace reality.

Discussion Questions:

1. Research and review a Job Analysis (JA) process. From that research, develop a process and create a JA form that takes into account the key human skills required in the future workplace, as outlined by Marty Neumeier and Richard Baldwin.

2. Once your new JA process is complete, prepare a five-minute presentation that would convince your VP of HR that they should adopt your new system of Job Analysis.

Time to Rethink the Layoff

Eric Von Seggern/Shutterstock

Many companies use the layoff as a tool to manage their human resources capital, but it may be time to rethink that practice. Taking into account the efficiency and labour costs of their businesses, many CEOs use layoffs as the primary way to reduce costs, thinking it the most efficient way to do so. The costs of layoffs, however, may be more than CEOs ever anticipated, and HR professionals have to be able to convince their senior leadership teams of the true price of layoffs.

Some interesting research from an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), regarding what happens to companies after layoffs, shows that a 1% downsizing can create a voluntary turnover rate of 31% a year later. The article continues on to state that companies that were able to keep on employees during an economic decline actually did very well in coming out of a recession and beating their competitors by 10% in sales and growth.

What can companies do instead of layoffs? Here are some potential strategies for success that companies could implement before or during an economic downturn:

  • Preparation for an economic crisis before it hits; in other words, having a contingency plan in place.
  • Decentralization; decentralized companies do better than centralized companies in times of economic crises.
  • Implementation of alternative options to layoffs, such as reduced work weeks for employees.
  • Investment in technology; for better preparation in the future.

During this pandemic, businesses have been placed under tremendous economic pressures and millions of workers have been laid off. Organizations that can weather the storm and keep on as many employees as possible will be better off in the future, according to the HBR article.

Discussion Questions:

1. Research an organization that has been successful in avoiding layoffs during economic downturns and summarize the main strategies they used. Use that research to assist your presentation development for question 2.

2. Develop a 5-minute presentation to review the top ways to avoid layoffs and still reduce labour costs for your VP of HR.

Time to Put the Human in Human Resources!

Everett Historical/Shutterstock

In this time of crisis, as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, governments are trying to simultaneously cope with the situation and support their citizens. Most governments are being very supportive with generous financial support, but some are using this time to make some controversial decisions, such as the current Canadian Liberal government attempting to give themselves sweeping powers without democratic oversight—in the end, the Canadian federal democratic system determined that oversight will still be provided.

This is a time of great chaos for our modern society, but it can also be a time of great reflection on how we want to better our society for the future. In the media, one is hearing calls for improvements, such as more respect and greater compensation for our frontline workers, including—but not limited to—grocery store clerks, truck drivers, and personal support workers.

It has also been brought to our attention that we need to do more to improve the fundamental working and living conditions of our long-term care homes as well. The Quebec government have proposed an idea to redeploy education workers to work in long-term care facilities. To understand why the government can do this, we need to have a history lesson on the foundations that formed the employer and employee relationship in Canada, as we know it today.

To understand Canadian employment laws, you have to go back over 400 years to England, to the 1563 Statute of Artificers Act, which basically stated that if you refused to do or quit a job, you would go to jail. It was a very draconian concept, but at the time, this was seen as an efficient way to deal with poverty.

Then, in the 18th century, there was a development of what were called the master and servant laws, and these laws now act as the foundations of our current employer-employee relationship. Only a change in the name of these laws, and not in the legal relationship itself, has occurred; we have just replaced the word “master” with “employer” and “servant” with “employee.” The fundamental power structure supporting this contractual relationship, however, remains the same. All the power rests with the “master,” or employer, and the “servant,” or employee, must follow their demands. Even though we have other laws, like the Employment Standards Act and the Human Rights codes, the ultimate balance of power still rests with the employer.

This is what the Quebec government seem to be relying on, believing that they are the “master” (and they do have the legal right to be) over their employees (the teachers), who are their “servants.” The government then believe that they have the power to decree whatever work their employees should do. In a case like this, we are using contractual laws that are hundreds of years old to decide what our employees should be doing.

Even in a time of crisis, perhaps it is time to embrace a more egalitarian view of the employer-employee relationship. Perhaps it is time to put the word “human” back into “human resources,” and treat workers with the respect and dignity they deserve. Perhaps it is time to dismiss the outdated belief that workers are just “servants” to their employers.

Discussion Questions:

Click and read the following two references: here and here. Reflect and prepare to debate one of the following positions with a partner:

  1. It is time to change the concept of “master” and “servant” in relation to the employer-employee relationship.
  2. There is no need to change the concept of the “master” and “servant” relationship in an employer-employee relationship as other employment laws have already done so.

The Costs of Attracting Generation Z

Sarawut Aiemsinsuk/Shutterstock

During times of great chaos, most organizations do what they must to make it through the storm; however, once the chaos of the immediate disruption is over, organizations should not forget the value of strategy.

The role of HR in the development and implementation of an organization’s strategy is to continually assess if the HR strategy aligns with the overall business strategy. This blog post will discuss the importance of compensation strategies on the recruitment and retention of Generation Z employees.

Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has made all employers and employees anxious about their personal and professional lives, but even before the spread of COVID-19, Generation Z employees stated that their biggest barrier to professional achievement was anxiety!

According to research from the Workforce Institute, posted in an HRD article, 34% of the Generation Z survey participants felt anxiety was their top barrier to workplace performance, with women reporting a higher level than men—39% to 29%, respectively. When the responses were examined by country, the statistic rose to 44% in Canada—higher than the U.S., which reported 40%.

These are revealing statistics that show a significant number of Generation Z workers have anxiety, and it is holding them back in their performance in the workplace. Additionally, the article references the American Psychological Association 2018 report, titled “Stress in America: Generation Z,” which found that “77% of Gen Z adults in the U.S. were stressed about work versus 64% of adults overall.”

So, what does workplace anxiety have to do with strategic compensation? If you refresh yourself on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid, you will recall that the first and second level are physiological needs and safety needs, respectively. Organizations know that one of the best ways to reduce anxiety in the workplace is to ensure employees’ basic needs are being met.

All employees, including Generation Z employees, need the security of a full-time job and benefits to flourish in the workplace. Organizations should consider the needs of Generation Z when designing their strategic compensation programs.

Discussion Questions:

1. Click to see a research article from the Workforce Institute. Read through the article, and prepare a list of what Generation Z would like to see in the workplace from the perspective of compensation and benefits.

2. Based on the list from question 1, create a summary presentation to convince your CFO that these principles should be integrated into the organization’s strategic compensation plan. You can add supporting research to your work as well.