When 81% Is Considered a Failure

81%—Why Current Workplace Leadership Gets a Failing Grade

Usually a rating of over 80% is praised as a positive HR Key Performance Indicator (KPI); however, in this case, 81% is a failing grade.


According to a recent global report by the O.C. Tanner Institute, 81% of Canadian employees are experiencing some type of workplace burnout, which is 2% higher than the global average. The 2020 Global Culture Report of the workplace done by the O.C. Tanner Institute has provided some startling insights about current workplace cultures:

  • 59% of employees would leave their job for a comparable one
  • Only 42% of employees rated their employment experience as positive or extremely positive

These are very discouraging results revealing that many employees have negative workplace experiences, and some of these experiences can be related back to the dominant workplace culture, which is not supportive of employees.

Creating a supportive workplace is a function of organizational leadership and having a supportive workplace can reap very positive employee engagement benefits. In the very same survey, the O.C. Tanner Institute reported that organizations that have a positive workplace culture are:

  • 13 times more likely to have highly engaged employees
  • 3 times less likely to have layoffs
  • 2 times more likely to have increases in revenue
  • 7 times more likely to have employees innovating

The above list is not just great for the HR departments of these organizations, but are great business results overall. If one extrapolates their research though, this shows that only 19% of Canadian employers are reaping the benefits of positive employee engagement.

The O.C. Tanner Institute commented that current workplace leadership is dead. To counteract this, organizations have to fundamentally change their leadership style to one that promotes hope, employee engagement, and inspiration. No longer will mindful mediations, onsite yoga, and weak work–life balance policies work to reduce employee burnout. There needs to be a fundamental change in how leaders in organizations treat their employees.

Organizations must cultivate an environment that is one of mentoring and coaching rather than managing. Understanding current research, such as the O.C. Tanner Global Report, is a great starting point for organizational leadership to turn their dismal employee engagement numbers around.

Discussion Question:

Briefly review the O.C. Tanner Institute Global Report on Culture. Use this link to assist your research. Once done, prepare a 5-minute presentation outlining the highlights of the report that could be presented to a VP of HR.

What Is All the Hype about Jazz?


A defining characteristic of many Jazz musicians is their ability to innovate, and to deliver sounds in unique and diverse ways. Jazz Aviation in Halifax is apparently very aptly named.

Jazz is delivering an HR environment for its employees that is both unique and innovative. Thus far, its HR practices have garnered a number of accolades and awards, including:

  • Atlantic Canada’s Top Employers 2017
  • Nova Scotia’s Top Employers 2017
  • Canada’s top employers for young people 2017
  • Canada’s best diversity employers 2017

Click here to read a full list of Jazz Aviation’s awards

In addition to the above awards, Jazz also has some interesting employee programs, such as:

  • Jazz Aviation’s volunteer program, “Jazz Lends a Hand”
  • “Jazz After Hours Club”, a social club for employees

Recently Jazz Aviation has added the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award to its list of accolades.

So what is the value of all this focus on comprehensive leading-edge employee programs? Well, they seem to be paying off for Jazz Aviation. Chorus Aviation, Jazz’s parent company, saw their 2017 second-quarter profits rise 72.5% over 2016 earnings, up from $23.7 million in 2016 to $40.8 million in 2017.

Click here to read greater detail of Jazz Aviation’s financial earnings.

Jazz music may not be loved by everyone, but you have to love what Jazz Aviation is doing in the HR world.

It is no longer good enough to just have an employee of the month program to promote employee engagement. As the world of business becomes more complex an organization’s HR program must evolve and touch on all aspects of employee engagement.


Discussion Questions:

Research two companies that have introduced employee-focused programs such as wellness, diversity, and flexible work hours. What have their successes been with those programs?

Your VP of HR has asked you to rate the potential value of several employee engagement programs.  Create a presentation on the programs you would recommend be implemented, and the benefits of each program.


Written vs. the Unwritten

What truly motivates employee behaviour?

Business people joining hands
ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Steve Simpson, an executive coach from Down Under, wants you to know what truly drives employee’s behaviour. It’s not the mission statement, and it is definitely not the HR policy or procedure manual. It is what Steve Simpson calls “UGRs,” or Unwritten Ground Rules.

Click here to read an article on UGRs.

A key feature about UGRs, according to Steve Simpson, is the way they drive the employee’s behaviour but despite being never written down, nor are they ever talked about.

UGRs develop out of people being together in groups in the workplace; they really are just the norms the groups observe and follow. Many organizations attempt to create a culture with words which is known as a mission statement, but it is actions that create workplace norms and culture. Organizations continually fail to understand their own culture, therefore, fail to manageme their workplace culture, according to Steve Simpson.

Click here to see Steve Simpson’s interview on UGR’s.

So how can organizations begin to pull back the veil on UGRs, and shine a 200 watt bulb on the behaviours? Well, one effective way is to ask questions. Many UGRs can be uncovered when you hear the words “around here” which is usually followed by something the organization does or doesn’t do.

Most organizations may spend too much time trying to audit their organizations with sophisticated and overly complex culture surveys. However, if you follow Steve Simpson UGRs concept, the best way to figure out your true corporate culture is to ask employees leading questions and ask them to finish the sentence that explains their day-to-day behaviour.


  1. From your past experience, identify three UGRs from a workplace, a class you took or a team you were on.
  2. How did the UGRs affect your performance? How did the UGRs affect the culture?
  3. How would you use your knowledge of HR to address the above UGRs?
  4. After watching the short video clip, think about questions you could ask in the workplace that would uncover the true norms of the organizations.