Archives for August 2014

The Head-Down Theory: How Unfairness Affects Employee Engagement

Modern HR practice suggests that the difference between successful and struggling companies can be found in employee engagement. Those companies who engage employees to actively participate in the success of an organization report greater productivity, morale, innovation and health. Most companies offer rewards as a way of promoting employee engagement. Yet very few have analyzed the reasons why employees are not engaged. Our research at the Workplace Fairness Institute has led to a conclusion about the real reasons for lack of employee engagement – it’s all about fairness.

What is Workplace Fairness?

Drawing from the works of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin, we define workplace fairness as “equity of concern and respect for each workplace participant regardless of his/her position in the organization.”

We define “equity of concern and respect” in the following manner:

  • “Equity” does not mean “exactly the same”; rather that on balance individuals and groups will be accorded the same level of respect regardless of their position.
  • “Concern” means that one person’s views on a particular conflict should be given as much consideration as another’s.
  • “Respect” means that all individuals should be accorded the same level of dignity in the way decisions are made regardless of their position in the organization.

The Head-Down Theory: How Unfairness Affects Employee Engagement

Inside HR at the Ontario Public Service

In April 2014, as Lori Aselstine began her retirement from the Government of Ontario, she sat down with Queen’s IRC to talk about her career, the HR profession and practising HR in an environment that is 85% unionized.

Lori talks candidly about her experience rising through the ranks in the Government of Ontario, as well as the challenges and opportunities that come from working in labour relations for the government, which often plays the role of the employer and legislator. Lori shares which skills and knowledge she wishes she had acquired earlier in her career, and her thoughts on how HR can play an integral role in the development of corporate strategy and performance. Lori notes that in the next decade, we are going to see a push towards alternate work strategies, and this will present a host of challenges and questions, particularly with a unionized workforce.

Lori has over 33 years of experience with the Government of Ontario, most of which was in the human resources field. She has held positions such as director of Ontario Public Service labour relations, director of Broader Public Sector labour relations and director of strategic human resources business.

Download PDF: Inside HR at the Ontario Public Service

What does ‘professionalism’ mean for HR professionals?

The desire for HR professionals to be accorded the respect and status of being true professionals is a theme that goes back many decades; and there is no evidence to suggest that this desire has waned over the years. In 2013, the Human Resources Professionals Association asked the following question on its annual member survey: “Do you agree that the professionalization of HR is, or should be, an important issue for the profession?”—89.4% of respondents agreed with the statement. This represents as much agreement as one is ever likely to find on any question. (Human Resources Professionals Association, 2013).

But there is an interesting contradiction here. The contradiction lies in that for something that is seemingly so important to HR professionals; the topic of “professionalism” rarely appears in HR publications or HR conferences. When the topic of professionalism comes up in HR circles, there are two responses which are often heard. The first is a response that goes something like “I always behave in a professional manner, and my clients and colleagues think of me as such.” The other response goes something like “I am always professional in what I do, but there are others in our profession that give the rest of us a bad reputation.” And yet, in a 2011 survey conducted by the Queen’s University Industrial Relations Center on the State of HR in Canada (Juniper & Hill, 2011), the authors noted that those HR professionals who reported that they are “pessimistic” or “not sure” about the future of HR were, in general, concerned about the lack of professionalism in the profession and the credentials that are required in order to obtain the CHRP designation.

By way of contrast, some of the established professions do not seem to take “professionalism” for granted and certainly do not think that the topic is an “undiscussable.” A bit more than a decade ago, in response to concerns that had been expressed about a decline in professionalism among lawyers, the Chief Justice of Ontario struck an Advisory Committee on Professionalism. The document Elements of Professionalism was authored by the Committee’s Working Group on the Definition of Professionalism. (2001)

Download PDF: What does ‘professionalism’ mean for HR professionals?

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Learn more about the collection, use and disclosure of personal information at Queen’s University.