Taking It To The Top


Q: What does it take to become ‘an employer of choice’ in Canada?

A: Employee engagement

Every year, industry analysts who specialize in surveying Canadian workplaces publicize the list of top employers across the country.  In 2019, the list of honorees included the 50 Canadian workplaces who excel at employee engagement.

Click here to read the top 50 list and selection criteria.

Air Canada is one of the repeat winners to make it to this list. This does not happen by accident or default. The commitment Air Canada has made to employee engagement comes from the strategic alignment of its business strategy to its human resources strategy.  As noted in the article, Air Canada promotes its ‘people first culture’ as a business priority. The setting of this priority gives us a great example of a strategic initiative which establishes both a company and industry benchmark dedicated to excellence, which then drives organizational success.

As a result, Air Canada has been recognized for multiple award-winning industry and human resources initiatives, including Canadian top employer and diversity categories.

Click here to read about Air Canada’s award winning profile.   

Employee engagement is more than measuring whether or not people feel good about their jobs when they complete a survey. It comes from a consistent application and belief in ‘people first’ strategies through all aspects of the company hierarchy. We see this through the title of the person holding the senior human resources position at Air Canada. The leadership role for this particular senior vice president includes accountability and responsibility for a strategic commitment to human resource management with a portfolio dedicated to ‘People, Culture and Communications’.

Industry awards provide us with great examples of how standards of excellence can be applied and achieved. In the case of Air Canada, we see how leadership commitment from the top to its people and culture results in being at the top of the list for industry awards.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you rate the commitment to employee engagement at your current workforce?
  2. Select one or two companies from the top 50 list noted in the article. Provide an internet search on each company’s profile, including their strategic plans. How is employee engagement reflected in each plan?
  3. As an HR professional, would you be motivated to work for one of the top 50 companies? Explain your rationale.

Upcoming HR Trends, 2018

HR trends may not be radically changing year after year, but they are becoming more intense and more critical to organization success. Every year the HR professional should consider what the current success driver for HR is in their industry. You never want to be the dinosaur asking, “does anyone else feel it’s getting colder here?” To avoid becoming obsolete in your profession you need to stay on top of what is happening in the external business world, and reflect on industry trends.

  • Here is a 2017 survey that sums up some of the current HR trends:
  • Less transaction, more strategy
  • Less formal but more frequent feedback
  • Less manual process, more data

Click here to read about the Paycor HR trends survey.

These are not radical trends, nor are they particularly disruptive, but they are important changes in HR. Each one should be reflected upon by the HR professional. All HR professionals should ask themselves the following big questions every year:

  1. Which transactional activity does HR do that is obsolete?
  2. What is the most important area of business strategy I should focus on this year?
  3. How can HR improve the employee performance management system this year?
  4. What HR data should we keep tracking? What data should we stop tracking? What data should we start tracking?

Doing this on a regular basis will keep you and your organization current, and will enable your organization to be proactive instead of reactive. This is what Jim Collins calls the flywheel effect in his book “Good to Great”.

Combine the flywheel concept with a reflective HR practice and there is business success in the forecast.

Discussion questions:

Read the Paycor HR trends and survey. Pick the HR trend you feel is the most important, explaining your decision. In addition, research a company that is a leader with respect to that trend.

Click on this link. Pick one of Jim Collins’ articles and create a 3-minute presentation summary of the topic.


Strategic Bullying

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The changes to the minimum wage rate in Ontario are not just about compensation increases.

In January of this year (2018), legislation came into effect that amended numerous working conditions for employees in Ontario, including a stepped increase to the minimum wage for workers. Prior to the implementation of this particular piece of legislation, there were numerous headlines outlining the potential benefits and negative consequences impacting every employer in Ontario.

It should be no surprise, then, to read and hear about controversial employment practices as a result of these changes. Leading the negative storyline were the corporate heirs and franchise owners of the Tim Horton’s restaurant chain. The owners not only removed existing paid breaks and other paid benefits from employees, they also required existing employees to sign a document acknowledging (and accepting) these losses.

Click here to read the CBC report on this issue.

The premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, has called out the actions of the owners as ‘bullying’.

In her statements, the premier accuses the owners of taking out their frustrations with the legislative requirements on their employees and identifies this a bullying behaviour. This is an example of employer conduct, which identifies the actions and behaviours of the employer as setting the tone for the entire organization. If the employer acts in a way that is disrespectful of the law by de-valuing and de-grading their employees, what types of strategic messages or corporate values does this particular employer promote?

If the strategic, corporate objective is to earn profits, then the employer should be clear and direct that this is the first priority. However, when the employer promotes Canadian, family-based, feel-good values as part of its marketing campaigns, the implementation of bullying practices in order to achieve the strategic objective of profits at all costs, leaves a very bitter taste.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What types of values does the Tim Horton’s brand promote in its media campaigns?
  2. From an HR perspective, how should these values present themselves within a Tim Horton’s franchise?
  3. How does bullying ‘from the top’ influence organizational behaviour?
  4. From a values perspective, identify specific changes you would make, as an owner of a Tim Horton’s franchise, in order to
    1. comply with the new legislation.
    2. benefit both the employees and the organization.


What Is Going Wrong in Canadian Workplaces?

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The numbers are in and they do not look good.

In a recent HRNOW posting, it was reported that a 40% leadership failure-rate exists in the workplace.

This week’s upbeat HR research is even more alarming. Hays Canada has been conducting workplace satisfaction surveys since 2013 and the changes they have found this year are alarming:

  • Work satisfaction is down 19%.
  • 8% of Canadian employees would consider leaving their job for another position, an increase of 12.2% from 2013.

Here is how I interpret the above numbers on what Canadian employees are really trying to say to their leaders. The message is loud and clear: We are not happy with our work and we are ready to leave you.

When almost 90% of the respondents want to leave their organization it is time for Canadian employers to step up, look in the mirror, and ask why is this happening?

Many leaders will default to claiming that people want to leave their company to get more pay elsewhere. That’s not it; research is also illustrating that 75% would accept less pay for their ideal job, and that 41% are ready to leave for better company culture.

Could this sad state of employee relations possibly be linked to our management and leadership practices? Of course, the answer is yes.

Click here to read 2017 What People Want Survey: Fact Sheet from Hays.

Canadian employers must start to take these concerns seriously and become proactive in evaluating and improving company culture, and in focusing on employee satisfaction. Consider the above research alongside the fact that Canada is seeing its lowest unemployment rate in 9 years. Employee retention and recruitment may soon be a significant problem and HR departments have to start developing solutions. Solving this problem in your own context may begin with improving your company’s perceived organizational culture.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Identify two companies you would like to work for, research their company culture and explain why you would like to work for them.
  2. What would you recommend if your VP of HR asked you to conduct a corporate-culture survey? Where would you start? Develop an action plan to present to an HR department.


Human Resources Strategy First

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Sometimes, when companies are in turmoil, they seem to miss the most obvious elements that would provide strategic solutions to calm turbulent corporate waters.

Uber Technologies Inc. (Uber) is a prime example of an organization facing critical leadership gaps resulting in a lack of an overall strategic vision. Uber, the ride-hailing company, has been in the news recently due to the high profile ‘resignation’ of its co-founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick. Mr. Kalanick’s resignation came as a result of serious business errors and leadership mis-steps leaving the organization to face numerous crises and on-going internal chaos. A new CEO (Dara Khosrowshahi) has been appointed, who faces multiple challenges to get the organization on to a cohesive and clear strategic path.

An analysis of the key issues that must be addressed has been highlighted in a recent article through HRD Canada.

Click here to read the article.

Of the items that must be addressed by Uber’s new CEO, establishing a new executive team with experienced leaders is the number one suggestion.  However, of the executive positions to be filled, there is no mention of a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). Of the seven immediate crises facing the organization, on the face of it, five of them are clearly human resources issues. Each requires an integrated, comprehensive and strategic human resources management approach that should be enveloped within the overall organizational strategy.

Without the key strategic pillar of human resources strategy in place, it is difficult to see how the organization will be able to move forward successfully. Perhaps the plan is to have the CEO fully responsible for human resources strategies and decisions. That plan was, apparently, already in place under the former CEO, providing us with evidence of the negative consequences and unfortunate results.

In order for organizations to change, they must try something different and new. Perhaps it is time to create a seat for Human Resources at this particular corporate table.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Of the list of issues outlined in the article, which one do you think is the most important to implement from a Human Resources perspective? Explain your rationale.
  2. What types of Human Resources strategies need to be in place in order to have successful implementation for each of the items listed in the article?
  3. As a consumer, does the current state of crisis at Uber impact your purchasing (use of Uber) decisions? Explain your rationale.