Safety and the C-Suite

There have been thousands of articles and extensive amounts of research on how to get Human Resources a seat at the corporate table, a.k.a. the C-suite. The change from transnational HR to strategic HR has helped many organizations understand the value of having HR personnel in executive positions.

There is a new trend and progressive organizations are now seeing the value of having safety professionals at the C-suite, not just HR professionals. The problem is, we are not sure the safety professionals are ready to take on that type of role.

Regina McMichael stated in a Canadian Occupational Health and Safety magazine (COS) article: “Safety professionals also don’t act like leaders. Part of the reason for this is because no one has taught them how.”

She is right, the current emphasis for most safety professionals is on compliance. They are the watch dogs of the safety system. When the watch dogs are not present the safety compliance does not happen and the safety program falters.

Many years ago, I created the Safety Accountability System (SAS) and the safety scorecard. This challenged the traditional theory of safety, which was if you comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act laws you have better success at prevention. The whole philosophy behind the SAS is compliance is an outcome, not an objective. This is a subtle difference, but it is so important, and it must be repeated: compliance is an outcome, not an objective of the safety program.

Compliance rarely motives individuals or organizations for long. The theory is, only concrete activities that are measured breed health and safety accountability and sustainability. It is this measurement of safety activities that tie into the organization’s business strategy that makes the health and safety professional a greater asset to the executive role.

If safety professionals want to start being accepted at the executive table, they have to start thinking and acting like an executive leader, not a compliance-based safety officer.

The best way to do that is to implement a sustainable and measurable safety system that frees the safety professional from being the compliance watch dog to becoming a safety leader at the executive table.

Discussion questions:

Research some of the safety companies in Canada. Identify what has made them the safety companies in Canada?

Why is it becoming more important for businesses to have a safety professional at the executive table? Here is a link to get your research started.

Don’t ‘Phub’ Your Way into Grievances

Many of you may not have heard the term “phubbing” or “being phubbed,” but you probably have done it to someone else, or experienced it first-hand.

In today’s workplace, we need new words to explain our interaction with technology. Phubbing is the combination of being snubbed by someone who is using their smartphone to ignore you. And it’s no surprise this social behaviour is affecting our workplace relationships.

Why should a HR professional who works in a unionized environment care about this concept of phubbing? Well, the main reason is it erodes trust, and whenever you erode trust in a unionized environment, you get more grievances.

More grievances make it harder to maintain positive labour relations in the workplace. Phubbing can very easily damage trust and employee engagement, and now research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business is shining a light on this issue.

How do supervisors destroy trust, by violating the psychological conditions that breed trust and lead to employee engagement? Here are the results of the research:

  • 76 per cent of those surveyed showed a lack of trust in a supervisor who phubbed them
  • 75 per cent showed decreases in psychological meaningfulness, psychological availability, and psychological safety with phubbing

All of this will reduce employee engagement. HR needs to be aware of phubbing and how it affects its organizational cultural. HR must take the lead role in organizations by understanding the vital importance of face-to-face relationships in the workplace and put measures and practices in place to decrease opportunities to phub and to increase opportunities to have meaningful conversations.

Read more at about phubbing here.

Discussion questions:

  • What are five things HR can do to decrease the incidents of phubbing?
  • What are five things HR can do to formally increase the incidents of meaningful conversations between supervisors and employees?

The Art of Listening

How do we, as Human Resources professionals, learn to listen?

Concept of Communication. Listening closely and mindful with empathy is an important rule

In the practice of the Human Resources profession, interviewing is part of the job. We spend an enormous amount of time talking about the process of interviewing candidates. Our studies focus on the systems of interviewing tactics that are used to screen in and screen out candidates for a particular position.

We are trained to focus on ‘how’ to interview the right way. We learn the importance of asking the right questions. We learn to rate and evaluate responses. But do we know how to listen to what a candidate is saying when the interview is taking place?

As part of the preparation for interviewing candidates, we also need to focus on how we are prepared to listen.

In a social media world that is filled with sound bites and Twitter blasts, the ability to listen seems to be decreasing in both practice and preparation. It is something that we think we do every day, but many of us could stand to refresh these skills in a world where we may have less of the patience needed for really listening to each other.

In a recent Ted Talk, Celeste Headlee provides us with a reflection on how to listen in a way that provides learning and value.

Click here to watch and listen to Celeste Headlee’s Ted Talk.

Even though Ms. Headlee’s reflections are based on an American perspective, as a professional interviewer she provides some key messages that are applicable to the on-going practice of the Human Resources professional. We can use the skills of listening for understanding to learn more deeply about the person being interviewed and the experiences they bring with them.

When we are able to improve our own listening skills, we can move beyond the skills needed during the event of the interview  Listening is a process, not an event. If we are able to embed active listening into our daily interactions with others, we become better Human Resources professionals both in preparation and in practice.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What steps do you take to ensure that you are listening actively to another person?
  2. Why is active listening so difficult?
  3. Describe a recent conversation you had with someone where active listening did not take place? What was the result?

Millennial Considerations

Two creative millenial small business owners working on social media strategy using a digital tablet while sitting at desk

The times they are a-changing, for sure.

Much has been written about the challenges facing the millennial generation as its members begin to take greater hold of the economy and the workforce. The millennial worker is someone who has grown up with access to a world of information through digital resources that a person from previous generations simply did not have. As this millennial generation increasingly populates the world of workers and business leaders, they are bringing about a changing view of what constitutes effective rewards and incentives for employment performance.

A recent article, published by Benefits Canada, outlines some positive statistical analysis of the millennial approach to indirect reward plans.

Click here to read the article. 

Previous generations of managers commonly held back group health and dental benefits until employees asked for them. It is apparent that upcoming business leaders recognize the reward potential of offering wellness initiatives from the very beginning of the employment relationship. In order to have a healthy, engaged and constructive workforce, millennials prefer to have a pro-active influence in an employee’s social and physical well-being.

Further, supporting employees on a pro-active wellness path is more affordable at the beginning of a business venture, rather than incurring escalating premiums for an unhealthy workforce later on. It is evident that access to digital resources, such as the statistical evidence provided in this article, has had a great impact on the way benefits are provided. It is also evident that the Human Resources professional has helped to shape this changing workforce view in a positive way. And, as noted in the article, millennial business owners appreciate the value of the Human Resources professional in helping to advise, shape and shift the modern workplace in a constructive way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the top five HR compensation ‘must-haves’ you would advise a small business owner to put into place from the start?
  2. Why do you think flexible benefit plans, as outlined in this article, are attractive to the millennial workforce?
  3. After a year of working in your chosen profession, if you had a choice between a moderate pay increase or full access to an employer paid benefits plan – which would you select? Why?

HR’s Role in Natural Disasters

fire grass spring

Is HR’s disaster planning a disaster?

Whenever we see a natural disaster in the news, such as ice storms on the east coast of Canada, the forest fires of Fort McMurry or the earthquakes in Italy, we immediately think of the disaster victims. This is a natural human response. Then we think about the rescue workers; but we never think about an HR department.

HR has to turn its head around and start to think proactively about disaster planning and crisis management. There is always a potential natural disaster that may affect your company or your employees. How would your HR department respond? What do you have in place to address a natural disaster in your workplace?

Most companies have emergency plans for fire and evacuation, but not about how to run a business during a natural disaster. A disaster plan answers questions like the following

  • What are your expectations of your employees?
  • What resources do you have in place to support your organization to continue to operate?

All organizations should have a complete risk assessment to identify which are the potential natural disaster which may occur in their geographical area, but what is also needed is a business impact analysis.

Click here to read more on what it means to do a business impact analysis.

A business impact analysis helps the organization plan to manage business interruptions due to a natural disaster. HR departments have to:

  • Ensure staff are accounted for
  • Ensure available staff are deployed where necessary
  • Updating employees on emergency status
  • Handling disruptions in employee wages
  • Creating and sending communication to existing employees
  • Documentation of wages of non-routine work
  • Assisting in developing temporary locations of the workplace
  • Temporary or new schedules

Obliviously, the above is nowhere near a complete or exhaustive list but it does the job to get you to think about the complexities of a natural disaster on HR operations. Maybe it is time for HR departments to take Gary Anderson’s words to heart and realize, “HR is critical to an effective emergency response plan.”

HR departments must ensure they take a proactive leadership role in disaster planning and risk mitigation.

Discussion Question

  1. Pick a recent natural disaster. Imagine that your organization is a business in that geographical area. Develop a business impact analysis for your HR department that you would be presenting to your VP of HR as part of the emergency management plan debrief.