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.

Why Measurement Matters

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Dr. David Weiss is a leader in the field of Canadian Human Resources research. In 1999, his book, High-Impact HR Transforming Human Resources for Competitive Advantage, was published. In it, he describes the employee life cycle as one of ‘Hatch-Match-Dispatch’ which must be supported by the Human Resources function in order to be aligned with organizational strategy. His writing, at the time, was revolutionary.

Twenty years later, the concept of the employee life cycle is more important than ever. It provides the framework to measure the effectiveness of the Human Resources function, through the lens of employee engagement.

A recent article published in Fast Company, provides us with a synopsis of how metrics and measures can, and should, be used to track employee engagement from the beginning to the end of the employee life cycle.

Click here to read the article.

As noted in the article, employee engagement is not just about ensuring that the workforce is ‘happy’ by providing a ‘fun’ environment. Happiness is an elusive thing to measure. It does not assess whether or not the workforce actually is productive or involved with the achievement of organizational goals and objectives. What the Human Resources function can assess is the level to which employees feel connected and involved with the organization at any point during their personal journey within the organization. From the entry point into the organization, Human Resources can measure recruitment and on-boarding strategies. At mid-point, through communication, feedback, and usage tracking, Human Resources can assess the effectiveness of rewards strategies, training, and career development. At the exit point, Human Resources can evaluate the gaps between the expected level of loyalty and commitment to the organization and the reality that causes employees to leave, voluntarily or involuntarily.

Throughout all of this, what Human Resources is measuring is the level of commitment to organizational culture which is the metric for evaluating employee engagement.

The field of Human Resources research continues to develop through the analysis of applicable measurement and metrics. Twenty years from now, perhaps this will lead us to capturing the elusive goal of evaluating employee happiness.

Discussion Questions:

  1. The article refers to eNPS. What is it and how does it link to the measurement of employee engagement?
  2. Identify three specific Human Resources initiatives you think can be measured to evaluate employee engagement at the mid-point of the employee life cycle.
  3. Besides exit interviews, identify two additional Human Resources initiatives that can be measured at the end of the employee life cycle.
  4. Identify the types of tools or systems that are needed to track employee engagement from the beginning to the end of the employee life cycle.


CEO Perspectives


How does an organization implement corporate strategy successfully? Chris Catliff, the CEO for BlueShore Financial, offers three key leadership techniques that focus on high employee engagement as a driver of corporate strategy. According to Catliff, successful strategy implementation begins with employees understanding what the strategy is and why it is important for organizational success.

Click here to read the article.

Catliff’s article focuses on the primary need for leaders to ensure that all employees are able to drive the mission and vision, because they (the employees) are empowered to do so. Of the three key tools that the author advises leaders to use, the need for tapping into legitimate authority stands out as a critical piece of this particular leadership puzzle. Legitimate authority, according to Catliff, is the application of consistent and dependable practices that allow employees to know where a leader stands from a values point-of-view, without needing to be told.

The article goes on to describe the need to support creative talent, flexibility, and the implementation of new ideas when the need for change is evident. What is notably absent, however, is the role that Human Resources could and should be playing in the delivery, support, and implementation of a leadership vision through effective employee engagement.

This is where the use of Human Resources research and analysis becomes critical. Catliff notes that only 29% of employees can accurately identify their organization’s strategy. In order to increase this percentage, the Human Resources function should be actively engaged. The Human Resources focus should begin with an evaluation of the effectiveness of the leader’s key drivers and messages.

As leadership’s ambassador to employees, Human Resources is the purveyor of legitimate organizational authority. In this capacity, Human Resources must uncover and address information gaps by delivering consistent and dependable findings that evaluate real levels of employee engagement in order to drive organizational success.

Discussion Questions:


  1. If you were the Chief Human Resources Officer for BlueShore Financial, what types of metrics would you put into place that would measure employee engagement that aligns with its corporate strategy?
  2. How can the Human Resources function assess the impact of legitimate power within an organization?
  3. How can the Human Resources role identify the gaps between what an organization’s leader wants and what the workforce is actually doing?

Cultivating Culture


Is an organization alive? From a strategic human resources planning perspective, the answer to this question is a resounding – yes!

Organizations depend on multiple levels of movement, development and growth in order to thrive and survive. How these levels are shaped depends on the culture that runs through all aspects of the organization as a whole. When we think of the word ‘culture’ in organic terms, it describes a living thing. Bacterial culture can be healthy or it can be deadly. Living things need positive culture in order to sustain continued growth. If culture is poisonous or toxic, a living thing will get sick and, without intervention, will die.

If we apply these concepts to the strategic approach to Human Resources planning, it is enlightening to see and hear how much emphasis is placed on the need to nurture, guide and influence organizational culture in order to ensure that the organization stays alive and well.

Three Human Resources leaders provide their opinions and insights on the impact organizational culture has throughout all levels of business practice.

Click here for the video link.

It is interesting to note how often each of these Human Resources experts uses language referring to growth, sustainability, nurturing, and thriving. All of these phrases or words are focused on the importance of ensuring that people want to continue developing within a living, changing and healthy organizational culture.

It seems that added to the multi-faceted business roles the Human Resources practitioner takes on, the most important element will remain that of a guardian of care. Care for individuals, which leads to care for the organization. Care for the organization, which leads to continued growth and sustainable success.

Discussion Questions:

  1. From the video clip, identify one important message from each of the experts that will guide you in your practice as a Human Resources professional.
  2. Why is it important to ensure that the Human Resources practitioner understands the business?
  3. How can you, as a Human Resources professional, influence organizational culture in a positive way?

Is the Salary Question Awkward or Inappropriate?

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Should candidates be asked about their salary history as part of the screening and hiring process?

A recent article posted in Human Resources Director Canada cites an American push, in certain states, to ban asking candidates questions about their recent salaries as part of the recruitment process.

Click here to read the article.

It seems a curious thing to be asking about, in the first place.

From a best practice perspective, asking candidates about their salary history comes loaded with difficulties, especially in a Canadian HR context. As we have learned from our Recruitment and Selection studies, our focus as Human Resources practitioners is to ensure that the end-to-end hiring process is as neutral and objective as possible.

While the article speaks to the benefits of assessing a candidate’s monetary expectations, asking the question about how much money the candidate makes now is, in the opinion of this HR blogger, completely irrelevant.

Candidates are better served by having a clear and transparent understanding of the position requirements, the duties, the responsibilities, the expectations and the compensation range that will apply to the successful applicant in the position. It is the value of the position that pays the wage, not the value that is placed on the person applying for the job. This is why we have compensation related legislation in place including the Pay Equity Act of Ontario, the Employment Standards Act and, of course, the fundamental principles of equality and fairness outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

If a candidate chooses to apply for a position that is at a lower compensation level than their current situation, that is their choice. The employer is not obligated to over-compensate the applicant, if they are hired, for making that choice. Similarly, if a candidate applies for a position at a higher rate than their current wages, the ethical employer will not (should not) pay lower than the pre-determined compensation level if that person is hired into that position as a result.

When there is a salary range linked to a position, that range should be the only determinant that sets the wage in order to ensure a fair and equitable assessment of mutual values.

Bottom line, some questions are just not worth the asking.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As a candidate, how would you respond to a question that probes your salary history during the interview process?
  2. What are the benefits to the HR practitioner in asking about candidate salary history?
  3. What are the perils to the HR practitioner in asking about candidate salary history?