HR Puts the “Relations” in “Labour Relations”

HR and Unions: The Ever Changing Relationship

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HR needs to always expand its knowledge base. Whether you are hesitant to work with unions or accepting of the union’s philosophy, it is always good to listen to what an iconic union leader has to say about how to improve workplace relationships, and in this case union-management relations.

Buzz Hargrove is one of the most prominent union leaders that Canada has ever seen. He spent over 40 years working in the trenches of Canadian Labour Relations with much of that time as President of the Canadian Autoworkers Workers Union (now Uniform).

Click here to know more about Buzz Hargrove.

Depending on how the HR department integrates itself with the union they will have drastically diametric outcomes and relationships within the organization. From the video interview clip done by the Canadian HR Reporter, Buzz gives HR advice on work with a union which includes the following:

  • Open daily communication
  • Positive union-management relationships reduces costs
  • HR working with the union members makes a difference
  • Spending time and sharing information with the union will pay off
  • Most of all, according to Buzz , HR has to have integrity

Click here is to watch the video clip.

Even if you never plan on working directly in an unionized environment it is always wise as an HR professional to understand how unions work and how unionization will affect the day to day operations of the workplace.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Research what happened with Buzz Hargrove over the closing of the Molson Plant in Barrie Ontario in 1999.
  2. If you were the leader of Molson’s HR department during the above event, what would your recommended response be?

Click here to start your research.

Inspiring Health and Safety Culture

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Would you rather do something because you had to, or do something because you wanted to?

In either case, for most of us, we will be motivated to get the something done. The difference between these two choices, however, will determine how well we get that something done and whether or not we will be motivated to do it again.

These concepts apply directly to our individual approaches to Health and Safety management. As Human Resources professionals we must take on the role of leadership in Health and Safety matters. How we take on that role will determine whether we are able to influence a positive and pro-active Health and Safety culture, or are limited to a compliance based approach that gets things done but goes no further than the minimum requirements. We can take on the health and safety mantle because we ‘have’ to, or we can shape it in order to effect constructive organizational change.

Shawn Galloway, president of  ProAct Safety, is a passionate advocate for Health and Safety organizational leadership. In a recent interview he discusses the difference that leadership style has on the creation of an inspirational health and safety culture that motivates all employees to do better than the minimum requirements.

Click hear to see the interview.

As Mr. Galloway identifies in the clip a ‘command and control’ culture does get results. This approach speaks to the achievement of the minimum as the target or the goal. In other areas of our Human Resources studies, we look at the concept of a ‘threshold’ requirement which is the same as a minimum standard. It is an acceptable standard in some cases, but it does not offer the opportunity to go beyond the minimum into the realm of excellence and inspiration.

How do we proceed when the minimum is not enough and the measure for compliance is a standard that is, simply, too low?

We must take on the challenge of inspirational leadership, especially in the creation of a pro-active safety culture. We can do so by setting high standards. We can do so by constantly looking at ways to inspire and improve personal performance, not only for others engaged in health and safety practices, but for ourselves as well.

After all, aren’t our work lives worth more than just the minimum?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why are ‘command and control’ systems easy to implement for health and safety standards?
  2. When you think of your own approach to health and safety in the workplace, how are you motivated by the organization to act in a safe manner?
  3. As a Human Resources professional, what steps will you take to ensure that you are perceived as more than a ‘compliance officer’ for Health and Safety?
  4. What skills will you rely on to influence a positive health and safety culture in your workplace?

 

Fraud Facts

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The management of Human Resources requires the HR practitioner to balance somewhat conflicting responsibilities. We must provide services that enhance effective, positive, pro-active employee engagement and, at the same time, ensure that all employees are compliant with organizational rules, standards and legislative requirements. Unfortunately the compliance requirements usually tip the scales into a negative perception of the Human Resources role and, sometimes, create an echoing negative response on the part of the HR practitioner.

Why? The Human Resources function often exposes the ugly side of human behaviour. We deal with people who are not at their best when they, as employees, engage in activities such as fraud or theft within the workplace. This behaviour seems particularly problematic when linked to workers’ compensation systems and the numerous parties accessing the benefits that these systems provide. Sometimes it is easy to fall into the trap of suspicion and cynicism if we start to perceive that all employees are not at their best.

Fraudulent behaviour does happen and is perpetrated by some individuals. Occupational Health and Safety lawyer, Norm Keith, explores some of the specifics related to fraudulent workers’ compensation systems behaviours on the part of some employees, some employers and some third party medical practitioners.

Click here to read the article.

Mr. Keith advocates for the development of a whistleblower reward program that would support and compensate individuals who come forward to report on those who are stealing from workers’ compensation systems. This is an interesting concept as it would allow for an increased responsibility for sharing ethical and legally compliant behaviours among all participants in a compensation system.

In the meantime this reporting responsibility continues to fall on the role of the Human Resources practitioner. We are the ones, especially if the health and safety function falls within our scope of duties, who must report and deal with the consequence of unethical and potentially fraudulent workplace behaviour. These are moral, ethical and legal obligations that deserve to be upheld in all workplaces.

At the same time we must remember that this type of behaviour is not the norm for the average employee, employer or medical practitioner. As such, we must continue to find the delicate balance within ourselves and in support of our professional roles.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Identify three ways an employee, an employer and a medical practitioner could engage in fraudulent activities through a workers’ compensation system.
  2. Defrauding a workers’ compensation system is not a ‘victimless crime.’ Who is impacted by workers’ compensation fraud?
  3. As a Human Resources professional, what steps will you take when an employee comes forward with an allegation of workers’ compensation fraud by a co-worker?

Diversity Matters

 

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In Canada, Human Rights legislation, both provincial and federal, promotes and ensures that the social fabric of a particular workplace is reflective of its external cultural environment. The law is clear in stating that discrimination against individuals is prohibited for purposes of employment. The consequences of non-compliance with the law are also quite clear. They come in the form of monetary fines, negative media coverage and social shaming, and frequently lead to costly business losses and diversions such as public apologies and reconstructive public relations campaigns.

Human Rights law tells us what not to do. It does not tell us what we can do to ensure that our recruitment practices encourage and support workplace diversity. In some jurisdictions, employment equity targets may continue to be in place with varying degrees of success. How can we progress beyond compliance with the law and equity targets that come from a restrictive perspective and move into a positive, pro-active commitment that builds much-needed workplace diversity?

According to a recent Fast Company article, ensuring a commitment to diversity in the workplace can be achieved with three fairly simple, but significant, steps.

Click here to read the article.

As we note in this article, the promotion and implementation of workplace diversity must move along a continuum, beginning with the recruitment process, working through an inclusive culture and ensuring that change is driven from the top.

Changing the recruitment process does not mean that we need to eliminate job-related requirements. Instead, we can create opportunities for candidates to participate in specific recruitment practices, such as skills based testing, using neutral, non-identifiable elements for the purpose of skills evaluation. We can also create opportunities for ourselves, as the human resources professionals managing the recruitment process, by participating in bias training to reduce the risks related to potential discrimination.

When we are able to lead by implementing specific changes to  recruitment practices, Human Resources will be able to lead the need to ensure that diversity matters in all corporate practices.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the benefits of having ‘blind’ skills-based testing done prior to face-to-face or in-person interviews?
  2. How can an organization increase its diversity profile through pro-active recruitment strategies?
  3. In your opinion, what part of the recruitment process has the highest risk of personal bias and what part has the least risk of personal bias?

Recruiting for a Change

 

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When newly elected, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was asked why he selected a cabinet that was equally divided between male and female representatives his (now famous) reply was, “Because it’s 2015.”  If nothing else, this message sent a clear message across national and international borders that constructive change is afoot at the Federal government level in Canada.

 

Moving beyond the year 2015 into 2016, we see that this need for change seems to be expanding into the recruitment and selection of highly valued public service executive positions. In the spring of 2016, the federal government issued a call to independent headhunting agencies, asking them to submit proposals for the recruitment of diverse candidates from outside of the public sector into senior political positions, including those at the Deputy Minister level.

Click here to read the article.

This shows a strategic push for the federal government to reinforce the movement of ongoing change. There is an apparent commitment to look outside of the traditionally closed government system for individuals capable of bringing fresh ideas to leadership positions. As we have learned through our human resources studies, organizational change is successful if it is led from the top of the organization; is supported by the top of the organization; and is visibly present by the actions at the top of the organization.

Having a new style of leadership commitment from the top position in the country (i.e. the office of the Prime Minister) seems to be driving the federal government along the path of continuing change which has started with the leadership recruitment and selection process.

As with any change initiative, there is push-back from within the existing system. The article identifies the ever-present recruitment and selection concern of ‘fit.’ How can external leaders come into a government system and be successful? There are numerous examples of failed attempts by outsiders that seem to outweigh individual success stories. This ‘fit’ problem has nothing to do with professional competencies or individual capabilities. It has everything to do with organizational culture.

The irony here is that the system of federal government these leaders are expecting to change is a system shaped by the culture of resistance to change, the very culture within which the new leaders must try to ‘fit.’ Only time will tell how this leadership initiative plays out.

After all, it is 2016.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How will the recruitment and selection of non-government executives benefit the federal government?
  2. From which sector would you recruit for effective change leaders on behalf of the federal government?
  3. Why do you think successful business executives have ‘bombed’ in federal government roles?