Forecasting the Future with MEC


The marketplace for the current retail industry is competitive and challenging. It also provides us with the opportunity to analyze the realities that businesses face in order to stay alive. MEC, formerly known as Mountain Equipment Co-op, is a case in point.

MEC is a Canadian outdoor equipment and clothing sales retailer with a targeted consumer base. Customers are members who can purchase a lifetime membership card to buy high-end adventuring products. If we were to apply one of the corporate strategies from our HR planning studies, MEC would most likely fit into the ‘differentiation strategy’ category. Established in 1971, MEC continued to persevere successfully until 2019, when it faced multimillion dollar losses as reported by the CBC.

As noted in the CBC article, MEC faced numerous environmental challenges. Again, if we were to apply our HR planning studies to this case, we would see that an environmental scan of the strategic business challenges facing MEC include both internal (organizational and staffing structures) and external (online and big-box store competition) impacts.

In January 2020, MEC announced the implementation of significant staffing and structural changes in response to the aforementioned financial and retail losses. As noted in this article, which summarizes their proactive strategic business initiatives, MEC appears to be implementing a ‘turnaround strategy’ in order to increase its organizational viability.

Part of this new business plan includes the need to convert a number of existing part-time or casual roles to full-time, permanent employment positions. This step provides an example of the need for HR forecasting, which must take into account the current HR supply measured against the future HR demand for human capital. With the implementation of this kind of staffing strategy, both the number of employees, and the corporate knowledge that these employees bring to their roles, should be retained, and will increase profitability and much-needed viability.

In order to survive, any business strategy that is focused on the need for change comes with the expectation of success in implementation, along with an escalated level of risk. It remains yet to be seen how these changes will all play out in this real-time application of human resources and business strategic planning for MEC.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What other types of business strategies could MEC use in order to remain viable in the current marketplace?
  2. What type of staffing strategies is MEC using to bolster employee support and confidence?
  3. What are ongoing environmental risks that MEC must consider in order to remain viable?
  4. If you were to apply a SWOT analysis to MEC’s new strategic directions, what would be the results?

Faster, Flexible, and Well-being

Mad Dog/Shutterstock

It is always a good time in January to look forward into the new year and see what the trends in HR will be. It seems as we head into 2020, we can consider these three words to sum up the upcoming trends in the HR world:1

  • Faster
  • Flexible
  • Well-being

These words sound more in line with what you’d expect from an ad for a yoga class, rather than what you’d use to describe new organizational trends for HR, so let’s expand on these.

In 2020, the new 5G networks will start to take hold and have an impact in the workplace. Greater and faster communication will lead to the increased use of Artificial Intelligence to speed up all processes in the workplace. Workers will have to be ready to respond to change unlike ever before.

Companies in 2020 may also be forced into embracing the 4-day work week. A financial services company in New Zealand, called Perpetual Guardian, moved to a 4-day work week and saw a 20% increase in productivity.2 According to Human Resources Director article, “Workplace 2020: Key trends for the future of Work”, flexible working “has emerged as a super trend, with 62% of businesses worldwide now offering a flexible working policy.”1 Incorporating flexible schedules into their workplace will be challenging for some organizations, but with the tight labour market in North America, many will have no choice but to offer creative and flexible working schedules for their employees.

Employee burnout is real as well, and “research shows that 95% of HR leaders think that stress is ‘sabotaging workforce retention’.”1 If there can only be one change organizations make in 2020, it should be dealing with workplace stress and employee burnout. As the speed of workplace processes increase, so will workplace stress levels. As things get faster, there is a greater need in our workplaces to counterbalance the speed of change with greater organizational flexibility and well-being to support our employees.

Discussion Question:

Pick one of the three HR trends for 2020 to research. Create a 5-minute presentation to convince your VP of HR that a new program should be implemented so the organization can be more successful in 2020.




The ghosting trend in the HR world


It seems that poor social etiquette is entering the work force on many levels.

There is a very recent trend in the employment world where it is the employer who is getting “ghosted” by the employees.

For those who are not familiar with the term, ghosting is where you abruptly cut off all communications with a person – either on social media or in real life.

It appears employees and potential employee candidates are doing a lot of ghosting these days. Some examples are:

  • not showing up for confirmed job interviews
  • not responding back to an offer of employment
  • or the pièce de résistance, just not showing up for work one day. Gone like a ghost the day after Halloween.

This ghosting trend is not just the teenager who does not show up for their shift to flip burgers, it is at all levels of employment from entry level jobs to professionals with six figure job offers on the table.

Click here to read the Huffington Post article about employee ghosting

It’s a trend that is happening in countries such as Canada, USA, the UK, and Japan.  Why is this happening? There is no scientific data yet as to why this trend is expanding, but HR professionals have a few theories. The leading theories are:

1) Historical low unemployment rates in some countries.

2) Social payback from how HR recruiters have traditionally treated employment candidates by ignoring them once they have applied.

3) Some think it is the new standard form of communication.

One UK recruitment website believes that 2.8 million workers have ghosted their employers.

Can it be stopped? Can it be curtailed?

Click here to read how the HR professional can prevent being ghosted by your employees.

Some of the practices to prevent employee ghosting are very much HR driven. Good management practices such as flexible work schedules, not overworking your star employees, and being a respectful, observant manager will go a long way to prevent employee ghosting.

In today’s very tight job market where employees have their choice of openings, it is up to HR to be leaders in communication. To not only help discourage ghosting, but to not allow your recruiting process to do the same to any potential employment candidates.

Discussion Questions

Identify three reasons why you think employees or potential employees would ghost their employer.

Develop an executable action plan to help prevent employees from ghosting your company.






HR Must Haves: Diversity and Inclusion

HR Must Haves: Diversity and Inclusion

We live in challenging times. Perhaps this is a statement that could have been made at any point through history. From an organizational scanning perspective, however, current political, technological, social, and global economic factors seem to be having an immense impact on the strategic Human Resources environment.

The Human Resources practitioner can access an overwhelming number of factors, resources, and pieces of information that need to be processed from a strategic management perspective. Sometimes it is difficult to discern which factors need the most attention and how they might contribute to successful Human Resources strategies. High on the list of current topics are the issues of corporate diversity and inclusion, which have had an impact on business practices around the world.

From a Human Resources perspective, diversity and inclusion are usually part of a series of Human Resources programs that are meant to align with an organization’s strategic plan. While there is nothing wrong with this type of allocation or approach, there is a growing need to move these issues out of the traditional Human Resources space and to incorporate them into the foundation of the organization as a whole.

Josh Bersin provides us with an interesting insight as to why diversity and inclusion need to move out of Human Resources and into the broader corporate strategic plan.

Click here to read the article.

As noted in the article, companies that integrate diversity and inclusion programs as commitments from the corporate level, rather than positioning them as an ‘add-on’ through the Human Resources function, have better business success.

These challenging times call for organizations to take challenging measures.

Discussion Questions:

How are Diversity and Inclusion programs identified in your current workforce?

Does your current workplace have a written statement that commits to inclusion and diversity in the workforce?

If it exists, how would you change it?

If it does not exist, write one that aligns with the organization’s business model.

How will you change HR programs so that issues of diversity and inclusion are not seen as ‘add-ons’ from a strategic planning approach?


HR is More Important Than Ever


The HR profession has evolved drastically over the years. HR professionals have seen a general shift from a transactional focus to a focus on strategic activities. HR also has an increased presence at the executive table and can truly influence an organization. In fact, HR may be more critical now than ever—indeed, not having an effective HR system in place may be the demise of an organization.

The quest to hire and to keep employees is at a critical juncture in North America: organizations that are able to retain employees will prosper, while those that are not will perish.

The statistics coming out of the USA are alarming. The Seattle Times states that American workers’ willingness to quit their jobs is at a 17-year high, and that “there are now just 0.91 unemployed workers for each available job, the lowest on record”.

Click here to read more about the hiring crunch.

These statistics are alarming for any employer that is trying to hire or keep employees. The potential supply of employees is small, meaning companies will have to do things differently to be successful — and HR has to be at the heart of this activity.

The activities HR must do differently include the following:

  1. Speed up the hiring process. Would-be employees do not wait for HR to get back to them, employment candidates move on very quickly.
  2. Focus on turnover rates. Find out why employees are leaving and address the issues.
  3. Be flexible. Millennials and older members of the working population represent two of the largest available hiring pools, but both of these groups want flexibility in the employment relationship.

HR has always been the gate keeper for hiring, and HR professionals now have to find ways to draw potential employees in as fast as they can by offering competitive wages and flexible policies.


Discussion Questions:

Research whether or not using applicant tracking software speeds up or slows down an employer’s ability to hire?

What can HR do to hire suitably qualified employees in a timely manner?