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?

Forecasting for Diversity

How can organizations address the ongoing issues of diversity gaps in leadership?

This question is one that is explored by Rocio Lorenzo in the Ted Talk posted below.


As identified through Lorenzo’s research, organizations have two decisions to make:

  1. Who to hire?
  2. Who to develop and promote?

These two simple questions are critical when considering the development of the HR forecasting plan. When diversity in leadership is actively embedded into strategic goals, the answers to these two questions help to build a better organization.

Not, as Lorenzo says, that changing the face of leadership is about checking the targeted hiring box. Token targets through diversity plans are not enough to bring innovative change. Instead, organizations that think and build creativity into their forecasting plans use leadership development programs, tools and pools as a solid investment for future success. In order to change what leadership looks like at the top, a commitment to filling the diversity gaps through the HR forecasting process must drive through all levels of the organization.

The content for this Ted Talk is based on evidence based research. According to Lorenzo, diversity in leadership is not just a theoretical ‘nice-to-have’. The research tells us that it is an organizational ‘must-have’. As Lorenzo points out, achieving diversity with women in leadership roles is doable.

It takes an organizational commitment and the organizational decision to do better in order to make the doable achievable. In order to be achievable, the HR forecasting plan must come into play through targets and goals which implement diversity as a plan of action.

Diversity goes hand in hand with innovation. Together they drive organizational success, for real.

Discussion questions:

  1. Do you agree that organizations should establish active and measurable targets in order to implement diversity, specifically for women, in leadership? Explain your rationale.
  2. Identify how an HR forecasting plan can address both short and long term diversity goals.
  3. What types of HR programs and policies need to be in place in order to support an HR forecasting plan that promotes innovation and diversity?



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?

The Giggers: Part 2

Even traditional retirement cannot escape the Gig Economy.

In a recent blog we looked at the new and expanding Gig economy, with this trend being discussed by Faith Popcorn in a Fast Company article. This HRM Canada article takes another perspective and it is called: Are we on a brink of a retirement revolution?

Click here to read more about the retirement revolution.

There are two main reasons: the Gig economy; and we are living significantly longer.

According to Morag Barret, Ph.D. author and seasoned HR professional, “Work is becoming more like tours of duty and statistics from the World Economic Forum say that within the next 10 years, 50 percent of the workforce is likely to be in the gig economy.” This means the Gig economy is strong and getting stronger. Think of the changes that could happen if you took 50% of the working population and placed them in a new employment structure; a structure that is fluid and variable in nature, where individual workers will move in and out of working time disperse with other activities such as sabbaticals, travel and volunteerism.

This is going to drastically affect our current understanding of employment careers. Combine the new Gig economy with the fact that workers in our society are living longer; sometimes 30 to 40 years past the traditional retirement date.  These factors will affect retirement and the system of full stop retirement may have to change.

In addition, the career ladder as we understand it is quickly disappearing. HR departments need to start thinking differently about how they are going to recruit, retain and train workers today and for the future. To succeed HR departments must understanding the new Gig economy and the retirement revolution that is fast approaching.

Discussion Questions

  1. What should HR departments be doing now to assist employees with the new retirement realities?
  2. What systematic changes should employers be considering now to ensure they keep, engage and retain older workers?

A Key HR Error

 Job analysis why is it so dreaded?

Most HR departments make a critical performance error, they do not take the time to conduct a proper job analysis of their organization. This is akin to asking a contractor to build a house without blueprints. You will get a house, but the rooms may not be in the right places for your needs.

Let us review some expert opinions on job analysis:

Monica Belcourt in her text book, Managing Human Resources (p. 124)m states:

Job analysis is sometimes called the cornerstone of HR Management because the information it collects serves so many HRM functions”  

Richard Melrose in his article, Stop Ignoring Job Analysis, states:

“I put the blame squarely on the C-suite, starting with the CEO and followed closely by the CFO, CHRO, and CLO. The chairman of the board and the lead director ought to take some heat, as well. All of these folks know or should know the costly and risky nature of their company’s neglect.”

Click Here to Read the Article.

It is easy blame the C-suite when HR does not get things accomplished. As the theory goes, HR is only allowed to do what the C-suite allows them to do, as the C-suite controls the resources.

HR could accept this notion and sit and wait for the C-suite to give them the authority to conduct a comprehensive job analysis program.  However, HR should not do anything else until a comprehensive job analysis program is completed. Everything HR does is derived from job analysis programs such as:

  • Recruitment
  • Training
  • Compensation
  • Promotion
  • Performance appraisals
  • Job descriptions

This is why the website, Management Study Guide, has a great article called the Advantages and Disadvantages of Job Analysis.

Click here to Review the Article

The article states the advantages as:

  • Provides First Hand Job-Related Information
  • Helps in Creating Right Job-Employee Fit
  • Helps in Establishing Effective Hiring Practices
  • Guides through Performance Evaluation and Appraisal Processes
  • Helps in Analyzing Training & Development Needs
  • Helps in Deciding Compensation Packages for a Specific Job

And states the disadvantages as:

  • Time Consuming
  • Involves Personal Biasness
  • Source of Data is Extremely Small
  • Involves Lots of Human Efforts
  • Job Analyst May Not Possess Appropriate Skills
  • Mental Abilities Cannot be Directly Observed

All HR professionals are aware and some are even afraid of the disadvantages and therefore choose not to conduct job analysis.  Let’s look at the definition of cornerstone from the Cambridge Dictionary Online:

“Something of great ​importance that everything else ​depends on”

If everything else in HR depends on job analysis don’t HR Professionals have to take the lead and develop systems that can overcome the disadvantages?

Discussion Question:

  1. You are getting resistance from your CEO that job analysis is too time consuming, provide research and a business plan to convince your CEO that job analysis is vitally important to the success of the organization.