Help Wanted: HR Analysts

Get ready to see this job ad a lot in the near future. 2016 seems to be the year when HR Analytics hits the windshield of our corporate bus. There is an increasing demand from organizational leaders for evidence-based decision making.

Unfortunately I think it will take a while for our certification programs in HR to fully integrate these needs into the supporting training.

At present we can end up with a situation where we have lots of data but unfortunately, it isn’t the data we need, or it isn’t accessible in a meaningful way.

So, to be successful at HR analytics what do we need?

  1. We need a real business problem to work on. Sometimes people work on a problem because it is one that we have data for, but it doesn’t really solve an organizational need. To be successful, the first thing you need is a business or organizational problem where analyzing data would help provide a solution.
  2. We need to choose the right tools. Unfortunately if the only tool we have is a hammer, all problems can look like nails.  So it is necessary to have several analysis methods in our tool chest and know which one to use in which circumstance.
  3. We need the analytical skills to select the data we need and draw conclusions from it.
  4. We need to be able to decide how to present the information to people who haven’t been living with it.
  5. Lastly and very importantly, we have to be able to use the data to tell a story. Data without a story will not be acted on.  A story without data won’t be believed.

If all this sounds daunting, it shouldn’t. It is a matter of breaking it up into small enough bits to not be intimidated, and then putting the bits together in a coherent way.

The ability to do HR analytics work is soon to be an essential part of every HR professional’s toolkit.

Want to learn more? Check out the new Queen’s IRC HR Metrics and Analytics program.

About the Author

Paul Juniper, Director, Queen's IRC





Paul Juniper (MA, Geography (York); CHRL; SPHR; SHRM-SCP; Honourary Life Member, HRPA) is the Director of the Queen’s University IRC. As a leading and respected figure in Canada’s HR community, Paul has over 30 years of experience in human resources and association leadership. Paul is particularly sought for his views on the future of the human resources profession. He speaks regularly at conferences on trends in human resources, and the ways in which individuals and their organizations can continue to raise the bar on HR. Paul developed and designed the Queen’s IRC Advanced HR Certificate to meet the increasingly complex professional

An Inquiry into the State of HR in Canada in 2013: Executive Summary

Queen’s University Industrial Relations Centre (Queen’s IRC) is pleased to announce the release of An Inquiry into the State of HR in Canada in 2013. This executive summary is based on a survey of over 400 HR practitioners and explores the current and changing state of the HR profession in Canada. It also compares the findings with our 2011 survey, An Inquiry into the State of HR in Canada in 2011.

The questions in the first section of the survey were designed to better understand the demographic characteristics of HR practitioners, their roles and responsibilities, the characteristics of the organizations for which they work, and the career development strategies of HR practitioners. This section of the survey plays an extremely important role in determining who is practicing HR, where HR practitioners fit into contemporary organizations, and the strategies used by HR practitioners and their organizational sponsors to develop and advance individual careers and the profession as a whole.

The second section of the survey sought practitioners’ perspectives on the HR profession in Canada. It  included questions about the extent to which the HR function shapes organizations’ strategic directions, the importance of various activities to the HR function, practitioners’ involvement in the same activities, the knowledge and skills required by practitioners, the HR challenges facing organizations, practitioners’ outlook on the future of HR in Canada, and organizational HR priorities. This section included both qualitative and quantitative questions. This mixed methodology is important in understanding the broader trends and challenges facing HR practitioners and the profession as a whole.

Download Executive Summary (PDF)

Talking Trust in Trinidad

I recently had the opportunity to work with a group of HR professionals in Trinidad, through Queen’s IRC’s partnership with the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business within the University of the West Indies.

As part of our discussion about building trust in the workplace, we discussed behaviours that lowered trust and those that raised trust. It did not take long for the participants to generate lists of behaviours through table discussion. It was not surprising how frequently participants pointed to similar behaviours in very different workplaces.

Below are two lists of behaviours which affected levels of trust in their workplaces. Have you experienced these in your workplace?

Behaviours which they experienced in their workplaces that LOWERED trust:

  1. Dishonesty from management and leadership
  2. Leadership not walking the talk
  3. Lack of transparency (hidden agendas)
  4. Not admitting mistakes
  5. Playing favourites/showing bias
  6. Lack of open dialogue (secret side deals)
  7. Lack of rewards and recognition
  8. No credit given for ideas contributed
  9. Executives not fulfilling responsibilities
  10. Lack of communication
  11. Unwillingness to change
  12. Selective sharing of information
  13. Double delegation
  14. Personal biases and prejudice
  15. Double standards
  16. Incompetence
  17. Not listening
  18. Breach of confidence
  19. Acting without facts

Behaviours which they experienced in their workplaces that RAISED the level of trust:

  1. Keeping your word
  2. Being honest, fair and treating people equally
  3. Rewarding and recognizing employee performance
  4. Mentoring other employees
  5. Delegating responsibility
  6. Sharing information
  7. Being personally accountable
  8. Supporting structures such as policy, training, internal promotions, penalties, and sanctions
  9. Keeping confidentiality
  10. Supporting work-life balance
  11. Demonstrating competence
  12. Giving credit for work and ideas
  13. Coaching and acting as a change agent
  14. Demonstrating integrity
  15. Leading by example

To learn some ways to help build trust in an organization, please read 5 Steps to Build Trust and Change the Culture in an Organization

If you are interested in building trust training for yourself or your organization, please visit Building Trust in the Workplace.

5 Steps to Build Trust and Change the Culture in an Organization

How do you change the culture in a workplace where workers don’t trust the leaders, where employees are not engaged, and where people just don’t care about doing their jobs? A few months ago, I was speaking to a group of senior leaders and the topic of changing culture and increasing employee engagement came up. The conversation started innocuously, with a comment like, “There’s too many potholes in the road and you can’t get people, whose job it is to fill potholes, to care.”

“Why do you think that the workers don’t care?” I asked.  “How does management behave?” We had talked earlier about the importance of mission, vision, values and behaviours – and the one we didn’t get to was behaviours. Every organization has a mission and a vision, and most of us have values like honesty and integrity. But often in the workplace, what you actually see demonstrated is dishonesty and lack of integrity.  Is it any wonder why the employees are not engaged?

As our conversation continued, there was disbelief that it was possible to change a culture, particularly from one very senior person who works in the public sector. She was fascinated. She said, “Can you really change a culture?”

“Of course you can!” I said.  Everyone else chimed in, saying, “You can’t do that in our organization because there’s such a low level of trust in management and in the leadership.”

This conversation led me to develop the new Queen’s IRC Building Trust in the Workplace program. Here are 5 ways to implement a culture change, build trust and increase employee engagement in your workplace.

1. Cultural Change Needs to Start at the Top

In organizations with low levels of trust, what often happens is middle management has given up. They don’t know what to do, or their senior leaders are not supporting them. You must have the support from senior leaders to make a culture change.

Top management– the president, director, whoever is the head honcho or honchess – has to come out and say, “We know how things have been around here. We’ve heard from you in the surveys that you don’t trust us. We acknowledge that you have said this.” Top management needs to tell the employees what they’re willing to change, and what they’re going to change, and what that looks like.

2. Identify and Change the Behaviours

Making a cultural change has to start with the behaviours. As a manager in an organization where you have a history of poor performance, you may have four people who know how to do a job, but only two of them are doing it well. If you need something done, who do you give it to? Do you give it to the one that’s doing it well or to the one who avoids the work? It’s the same as having a child – you tell them to take out the garbage and they deliberately spill it all over the ground so you don’t ask them to do it again. Often employees can be like that. Unfortunately if you let the kid get away with spilling garbage on the ground, then the person who doesn’t spill the garbage gets the extra work. Eventually what happens is you totally overload the people who are capable and willing. They become unhappy and dissatisfied because they’re seeing what they think is the other people getting away with something.

Getting people to work in a positive and constructive way to make cultural change happen takes time. You have to be consistent, and firm, and you have to keep moving in the same direction. As a senior leader in a new organization, someone challenged my authority right at the beginning of my term about an important change announced in a meeting.  “No, I won’t,” that person said to me, in a room full of people. If I had let that go, then the other employees would have heard, “It’s okay to say no.” Instead, I said, “Yes, you are going to do this, but this isn’t the place for us to have that conversation.” Despite the fact it wasn’t on the agenda for that meeting, I took the time to explain the progressive discipline that would happen when someone says no to a legitimate work request from their manager. “This is what we’re going to do from now on. I’m not going to allow work refusals.” Unless you’re asking them to do something that’s illegal, immoral or unsafe, for work that is reasonably in their current job, they cannot refuse. That was fundamental and I could not let it pass.

Can we change culture? Yes. Can you do it quickly? No.

3. Don’t be Afraid to have Difficult Conversations

Lots of managers don’t know how to have a difficult conversation with an employee. And they’re unwilling to have those conversations. I’ve talked with people in organizations who just put up with incompetence because it was so difficult to manage people to leave. They’re unwilling to sit down with somebody and say, “I’m not satisfied with what you’re doing. Here’s the standard, here’s the expectation, and here’s what you’re doing.” It’s a hard conversation.

In one of my roles, I went to my leader and said, “I have people here who need to go.” He said, “We can’t. These people have been here for 15 years, we have a moral obligation to keep them.” But we don’t.

4. Lead by example

Sometimes we have to admit publicly that we’re wrong. If you as a leader can admit publicly that you’ve made a mistake and you’re wrong, it actually gives permission to everybody else to do the same. We all make mistakes. Did you do it deliberately? Did you do it because you wanted to come in in the morning and you really wanted to screw things up? It’s unlikely that you did. Instead, let’s understand why you made that mistake, and how we can stop that from happening in the future and move on. The alternative is a culture of punishment: “You screwed up. We’re going to make sure everybody knows what you did, and you’re stupid.” How many of us have worked in places like that? You go back to your office and you slam the door, and you bang a few things around, and you think terrible things about the organization. At lunch you go and you talk to your friends and you say, “You know what he said to me?” What’s happened to your productivity for the next month?

5. Motivate and Empower Employees to Build Relationships and Trust

There are many different ways to manage. My way is, I trust you. I trust you until you give me reason not to, and then I ask you about it. Trust has to be given, so as a leader I have to give you my trust, to earn your trust. I have to risk it first.

I believe that it is not possible for me to motivate you. All I can do is lower the barriers to you motivating yourself, or raise the opportunities for you to motivate yourself – but I cannot motivate you.  There are people who have a different belief system, who believe that if they get the whip out, that’s motivation. I do believe there have to be consequences, but I think that there also have to be opportunities.

It’s better if you extend trust and let people police themselves. “Here’s what needs to get done, you’ve got the tools that you need to do it, here’s a reasonable length of time to get it done, is that a problem?” “No.” “Okay. If you have a problem let me know. Don’t let it get to the end and it not being done without you telling me. But other than that, do it, and I’ll stay out of the way.”

To empower people, you can push decision-making as far down the organization as you can, and give people some accountability over what they do and how they do it. I am clear about what I want as an end-result, but I shouldn’t need to tell my employee in excruciating detail how to do their job. I don’t have the knowledge to do that, and it would be a mistake for me to try. The end result is important. How you get it from here to there, that’s really up to you to do it in an efficient way.

Many organizations struggle with low levels of employee engagement and trust. Changing the culture in a workplace and rebuilding trust takes time. Our new one-day Building Trust in the Workplace program will show you how to identify the reasons behind low trust levels, understand different types of behaviour in the workplace, and transform organizational culture to foster a more transparent and positive environment.

About the Author

Paul Juniper, Director, Queen's IRC

Paul Juniper MA, Geography (York); CHRP; SPHR; Honourary Life Member, HRPA) became the sixth Director of Queen’s University IRC in 2006. Paul is a leading and respected figure in Canada’s HR community, with over 30 years of experience in human resources and association leadership. Paul is particularly sought for his views on the future of the human resources profession. He speaks regularly at national and international conferences on trends in human resources, and the ways in which individuals and their organizations can continue to raise the bar on HR. Paul developed and designed the IRC’s Advanced HR programming to meet the increasingly complex professional development needs of HR practitioners. He teaches on Queen’s IRC’s Advanced HR, Strategic Workforce Planning, Linking HR Strategy to Business Strategy, and Building Trust in the Workplace programs. His research focuses on the state of the HR profession both in Canada and around the globe.

An Inquiry into the State of HR in the Caribbean

Queen’s IRC has begun to develop a strong working relationship with the HR community in the Caribbean. Partnerships with the Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados and the Arthur Lok Jack School of Business in Trinidad and Tobago have allowed the IRC to bring its unique brand of programming to practitioners from almost a dozen Caribbean nations. Building partnerships such as these are critical to understanding the innovations and challenges in the global HR community. They have also allowed Queen’s IRC to extend our research beyond Canadian borders.

This report summarizes and analyzes the results of a survey of HR practitioners from the Caribbean conducted in 2012. The survey is a key component of the IRC’s commitment to engaging with international practitioner communities. More specifically, the results of the survey provide insight into several key aspects of Caribbean HR practitioners’ working lives. These include the demographic characteristics of practitioners, their roles and responsibilities, the nature of the organizations for which they work, their education and career development, the knowledge and skills required to thrive in the Caribbean, and of course, their perspectives on important issues, innovations and challenges in the HR profession today. The information in this report provides an important foundation to track ongoing trends and innovations in the Caribbean HR community and serves as a useful comparator when combined with recent (and forthcoming) surveys of Canadian HR practitioners.

Download PDF: An Inquiry into the State of HR in the Caribbean (2012)

Linking HR Strategy with Business Strategy: Optimizing the Impact of HR practices on Business Results

We have moved into an era where traditional support services – HR, Finance, IT, Administration, Legal etc. – are under increasing daily pressure to produce a more direct impact on business results. The business rationale for this pressure is easy to understand. Organizations – both public and private – are being pushed by customers, boards of directors, analysts, and investors to do more with the resources they have or – in many cases – do more with less. Deliver more services. Deliver them faster and with more value in more locations. Customize the experience. Gather, analyze and integrate data in a multitude of ways to enhance controls and cross-selling. Provide 24/7 access. Allow flexible work hours. Provide life-long learning and work-life balance. Move everything online – and make it accessible everywhere, with full privacy and security.

You get the picture. And we well imagine that if you are reading this article you are – in many ways – living that picture.

To be taken seriously as HR professionals, we need to be relevant to our audience. To be relevant to the organizational leaders and C-Suite executives we serve, we need to understand and adopt the goals and objectives of the organization and make them our goals and objectives. To do this requires that we directly link our HR strategies to the strategies – and ultimately the success – of the business we are serving.

A strategy is an articulated plan that enables an organization to make optimum use of its people, resources and investments in order to achieve its goals and objectives. In this article we offer a small taste of what it means for HR practitioners to connect their HR strategies to those of the business leaders they serve. These ideas, mindsets, and skills are explored and expanded upon in a hands-on, interactive programs offered by Queen’s IRC called Linking HR Strategy with Business Strategy.

Where do you start if you are an HR practitioner who wants a relevant and impactful relationship with the leaders of your business or organization? We offer the following actions you can take to start to build those relationships and begin the journey.

1. Understand the goals and objectives of the business – and make them your own

To be relevant we must understand what our business colleagues are working to achieve and the strategies they are employing to achieve them. Read their documented strategies, mark them up, ask clarifying and challenging questions, and discuss the objectives and strategies with your HR team. Most business leaders love to talk about their businesses. Where possible, set up a monthly meeting to go through the strategy and the needs of the business unit. If you are embedded within the unit, analyze their plans and results, attend all the meetings and invite team members to coffee or lunch to soak yourself in what they are trying to accomplish and how you can help.

One challenge you may face is that your organization may not have a written strategy. If that is the case, then use the business ideas below to piece together those areas of strategic focus that will help you to create a deliver a relevant HR strategy. Every organization operates to some strategy, whether they state it or not. Sometimes our job as HR professionals requires that we figure out what that strategy is before we are able to serve it.

2. See your HR practices through a business lens.

Lens #1: The first lens focuses on key business drivers. As you work to understand and digest the goals and strategies of the business, remember that business goals can usually be directly connected to one of three primary objectives: revenue growth, cost control, or risk management.

By starting with these primary objectives, you can then trace back the HR practice you are recommending through the value chain to show how it directly impacts that objective. Let’s use the example of recruitment and how it might impact a growing sales force. The primary objective of a talented sales force is revenue growth. Our experience shows that a structured recruiting process that combines the candidate’s previous sales results with scenario testing and experienced-based interviewing, when conducted in partnership between HR and the sales leader, dramatically improves the sales success of new recruits and helps to drive faster revenue growth. In discussing HR practices, work to tie your story or recommendation back to one – or more – of the three primary objectives – revenue, cost or risk.

Lens #2: The second lens for HR professionals to look through is how a customer’s needs and how they make decisions are impacted by the business’s value proposition. To attract and keep customers, successful businesses create a value proposition designed to satisfy their targeted customers, deliver outstanding value, build loyalty and differentiate the business from its competitors. It is your job as an HR professional to enhance that value proposition with relevant and focused HR practices. For example, in a sales or service organization, compensation plans and training and development programs need to be tailored to specifically build the motivation, skills, knowledge and confidence of the front sales and service staff. In this way, the investment in HR practices can help those staff members execute the value proposition in a way that creates a unique and positive customer experience.

The leading HR expert Dave Ulrich says this is one of the fundamental mindsets that drives the impact of HR practices in specific organizations; that HR professionals must learn to look at the business from “the outside in”; that we must start with the point-of view of our customer’s customer and how those customers make decisions if we want to have a meaningful dialogue with our customers, the leaders of the business.

3. Make the connection: Link HR strategy and practices to business results

Once you understand the goals, objectives and strategy you can work to directly link everything you do to the success of the business. You build your strategy and execute your practices to serve the overall goals of the organization. This is true in commercial, union and public sector organizations. There are sound strategic reasons why the top organizations in the world execute a suite of progressive HR practices, including performance management systems, learning plans, organizational design, change management programs, and employee feedback and engagement initiatives. When they are well designed and professionally delivered, these programs enhance the overall value proposition of the organization and provide a key piston in the engine that drives success.

4. Talk their language: Numbers are the language of business

One of the biggest complaints we hear from business leaders about their HR support teams is that HR practices are rarely discussed in the same financial or numerical manner that other business decisions are discussed. If you want to be relevant with business leaders and C-suite executives, you have to speak their language and their language is numbers: numbers are the language of business.

Numbers come in two forms when looking at business decisions. The first and most obvious one is dollars and cents, the financial impact. Value is measured and decisions are driven by the financial impact that an investment or program can have on a business. We will acknowledge that for many HR practices it is hard to calculate a specific dollar benefit, but we have to at least show estimates and potential impact. Most executives are not draconian about needing a business case for all HR initiatives. They understand that the building of a strong, knowledgeable, informed staff is a key strategic need for success. But our willingness to at least estimate or wrestle with the financial impact of a program shows them that we understand what they wrestle with in making investment decisions; it places us on their side of the table in looking at the best use of the organization’s limited financial resources.

The other numbers you must be familiar with are activity and satisfaction surveys, and operational and change measurements. If your firm runs a balanced scorecard that identifies customer satisfaction, financial results, operational processes and change or learning initiatives, then take the time to study in depth how these numbers (or scores) are derived, how they link to the value proposition, and how the executives who run the business units are shaping their strategies to achieve top scores and thus strengthen the long term sustainability of the business. HR practices can directly influence the majority of the scores that make up a balanced scorecard. But to have an “informed” discussion about how the business units can best take advantage of those practices, you have to understand these numbers and how to impact them.

5. Who do you show up as?

Finally, ask yourself: “Who do I show up as?” for conversations with my organizations leaders. Do you show up as a well-informed business professional who is deeply immersed in their strategy and value proposition? Do you show up as someone who understands how your customers make decisions, and who is willing to have in-depth discussions about the measures of their success? Do you show up as a professional who can help them implement change in a way that maximizes effectiveness and minimizes risk?

For HR professionals, the challenge is to show up with compelling arguments to business leaders that show the positive impact of HR practices and programs on the results of the business or organization. But in order to make those compelling arguments and have a positive impact as HR professionals, we need to directly link our HR strategies and practices to the strategies of the business.

To be invited to the table, our programs need to have impact. To be invited back, we need to establish ourselves as trusted partners who understand the issues, can speak the language and can deliver practices and programs that have a direct and sustained impact on everyone’s success. It is an exciting challenge for all HR professionals, to be a key player in the work to grow and sustain a business, union or public sector organization. And the time has arrived when we all have to rise up to meet that challenge.


About the Authors

Paul Juniper, Director, Queen's IRC
Paul Juniper
Paul Juniper

Paul Juniper became the sixth Director of the Queen’s Industrial Relations Centre (IRC) in 2006. Paul is a leading and respected figure in Canada’s HR community, with over 30 years of experience in human resources and association leadership.

Paul is particularly sought for his views on the future of the human resources profession. He speaks regularly at national and international conferences on trends in human resources, and the ways in which individuals and their organizations can continue to raise the bar on HR. Paul developed and designed the IRC’s Advanced HR programming to meet the increasingly complex professional development needs of HR practitioners. His research focuses on the state of the HR profession both in Canada and around the globe.

Paul is currently a member of the Advisory Board for the Banff Centre for Leadership. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Global Organization Design Society. Throughout his distinguished career, Paul has served as Vice-President of Human Resources for national and international companies, and also managed a Toronto-based consultancy, focusing on strategic planning and recruitment. Paul was an interim CEO of the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario (now known as HRPA), President of its Board, and was instrumental in the adoption of a degree requirement for certification in human resources. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Council of HR Associations, and sat on its Independent Board of Examiners for many years. In addition, he has taught in both college and university environments, including the Strategic HR Planning course for York University in Toronto.

Jim Harrison, Queen's IRC Facilitator
Jim Harrison
Jim Harrison

Jim Harrison is an international consultant focused on relationship management, senior level strategy, and business development skills for large organizations. He has a background in financial services and professional writing, and has more than 18 years experience in consulting, training, and development. He teaches in North America, Europe, the U.K., Australia, and Asia, and has facilitated training programs for Manulife, Clarica, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, and Bank of Nova Scotia. He designed and delivered a sales and negotiating program for Group Insurance Representatives that supported significant increases in business for a major group life insurance supplier.

In recent years, Jim has focused predominantly on helping senior sales executives understand, plan for, and build trusted advisor relationships with senior business executives. There are specific requirements of building relationships in the “C-Suite” and Jim has chosen to refine his knowledge in helping others to succeed in this realm.

Through his continuing work with Accenture, Agfa, Deutsche Bank, and IBM, Jim has developed the expertise and focused tools to help account teams land large dollar contracts and to build meaningful long-term relationships. Jim has also helped structure and deliver strategic partnering workshops with long-term clients.

Jim received his B.Sc. in Finance from Florida State University and Masters Degree in English from University of California, Irvine. In addition, Jim has won the Canadian Junior Golf Championship and the Ontario Amateur Golf Championship.

The State of HR in Canada: 2011 Survey Results

In response to increasing demands from organizations, the skills and knowledge that HR professionals require in the workplace continue to shift. As many of our program participants are likely aware, HR professionals are now more involved in strategic roles that help to shape organizational culture, effectiveness, and design.

To target the professional development needs of HR practitioners, the IRC thought it was necessary to reach out to our HR community and gain insights on the complexities of the work HR professionals perform and the challenges they face in their work. We wanted to describe and analyze the state of the HR profession in Canada, based directly on the perspectives of practitioners.

In February 2011, the IRC surveyed HR professionals across Canada to glean their perspectives on HR, the challenges and priorities for HR departments, and the kinds of skills and knowledge that are perceived as critical for the practice. Our 53-question survey was divided into two sections: demographic information and perspectives on the profession. HR professionals were keen to share their insights; we collected over 450 complete survey responses.

This article provides a synthesis of some of our data. Please note that a complimentary copy of An Inquiry into the State of HR in Canada: Executive Summary is available for download from the Queen’s IRC website.


 Executive Summary
An Inquiry into the State of HR: Executive Summary

The majority of our respondents, 73%, are female. Respondents are concentrated in the 46 to 55 age bracket, with 33.7% of respondents in this category. Years of HR experience vary amongst respondents, ranging from less than five years to more than 25 years. Job titles range from professional/technical through to CEO/President. Approximately 31% of respondents are HR generalists, while approximately 28% are senior leaders. In general, a respondent is likely to hold an undergraduate university degree (43.5%), a CHRP designation (52.1%), and belong to a provincial HR association (76.1%).

Our sample includes diverse organization sizes, with respondents employed in organizations with fewer than 100 employees to more than 5000 employees. There is a relatively even split in public and private sector representation: 43.7% of respondents work in the public sector, while 42.8% are part of the private sector. An additional 8.0% are from non-profit organizations.

We received many responses from the Prairie region; 66.3% of respondents are from Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba. The high percentage of respondents from the Prairie region is due in part to the Human Resource Institute of Alberta (HRIA) offering to forward our survey to their membership. In addition, 19.3% of our survey respondents are from Ontario, 8.0% from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, or Prince Edward Island, and 4.2% from British Columbia. The IRC recognizes that there is a distinct lack of responses from Quebec. We suspect that this finding is due to the fact that our survey was only available in English. Moving forward, the IRC may conduct a bilingual survey.

Perspectives on the HR Profession

We now provide a summary of the HR activities in which respondents are involved, the perceived challenges, along with the immediate and long-range priorities for HR departments in Canada. Then, we present the skills and knowledge that HR professionals perceive as critical for their work.

Using a Likert scale, participants reported the extent to which they are currently involved in a select set of 16 HR activities, and also the extent to which they were involved in those same activities two years ago. With the exception of recruitment, on average HR professionals rated their current involvement higher than their involvement two years ago in all of the HR activities we listed. The five activities that were rated highest in current involvement were employee relations, employee engagement, organizational culture, employee training and learning, and change management.

To determine the top challenges faced by HR departments in organizations across Canada, participants were asked to rank order a list of 18 items. Almost three quarters of the respondents (73.8%) ranked talent management in their personal top-five list. Rounding out the rest of the top five were employee engagement (58.5%), succession planning (54.3%), change management (46.6%), and organizational culture creation/maintenance (42.1%). Further analysis showed that these rankings were consistent with no significant difference found based on region or between private and public sectors.

Despite the challenges HR departments encounter, 80.7% of respondents have an optimistic outlook on the future of the profession. This optimism is consistent across sectors and regions. We are encouraged by this optimism.

We then sought to determine the top three immediate priorities (i.e., within the next 12 months) for HR departments. We invited participants to cite the top three priorities for their HR departments. Based on the responses to this open-ended question, the immediate priorities facing HR departments include succession planning, employee engagement, talent management, and training, learning and development.

Similarly, we asked participants to list the top three long-range priorities (i.e., next three to five years) for their HR departments. The results suggest that the long-range priorities are comparable to the immediate priorities. The top three long-range priorities include succession planning, talent management, and recruitment.

Given an understanding of the challenges and priorities facing HR departments, what are the skills and knowledge that HR professionals deem critical for their work? To unpack the skills and knowledge required by HR professionals, we created two open-ended questions that allowed participants to cite their own answers. An interesting finding was that even though the questions were open-ended, themes did prevail in the data. It was clear that HR professionals share similar perspectives on the essential skills and knowledge for their work. Required skills for HR professionals include communication, the ability to think analytically, critically, and strategically, interpersonal skills, technical skills, and conflict resolution. Knowledge required by HR professionals includes business acumen, employment law/legislation, talent management, employee/labour relations, and a broad understanding of HR. Reflecting on this data, it is interesting to note that the skills and knowledge perceived as critical by HR professionals seem to exceed what is typically deemed as “traditional” HR functionalities.


Intuitively, HR is, at its core, about people. The role of HR includes, but is not limited to, engaging employees and supporting their professional development, helping employees to manage change, along with organizational culture creation and maintenance. These trends were evident in the top five HR challenges elicited by our respondents.

According to our survey, talent management is perceived as both a challenge and a priority for HR departments, including developing and implementing succession plans, as well as building the capacity of the organization, through effective learning strategies. As such, the IRC has elected to launch a Talent Management program in Fall 2011. The program is still in the development phase; however, the focus of Talent Management is devising effective strategies for recruiting, training, and developing an organization’s talent pool. The program will be designed to allow participants to acquire the skills and knowledge to build an effective talent management strategy for their own organization, discover gaps in existing recruitment and retention practices, and become an important internal resource and advocate on talent management.

In closing, the data collected in our recent HR survey have allowed the IRC to better understand and describe the state of the HR profession in Canada. As intended, the survey findings are helping the IRC to better match our program offerings with the professional development needs of our HR community. Now that we have collected baseline data, the IRC plans to conduct a similar HR survey every two years moving forward. This survey will allow the Centre to compare trends in the profession and continue to provide quality programming for our participants. Our Executive Summary has highlighted only a few of the findings. We intend to rely on the full dataset for future IRC work.

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Advancing the IRC Experience

I often think of September as a transitional month, full of promise and new beginnings. Not only does it mark a seasonal change, as summer turns to fall; it is also the time when students across the country head back to school. The Queen’s campus is once again bustling with activity, with the start of the new academic year. Likewise, the pace in the IRC office is gaining momentum, as we prepare for one of the most exciting program seasons to date. I am pleased to announce that this fall, the IRC is introducing several structural changes to our programming, in an effort to better meet the learning needs of human resources, labour relations, and organizational development professionals. In particular, we have redesigned the programming options available in our certificate series and are launching a new Advanced Human Resources Certificate. On behalf of the IRC, I hope that the changes described below lead to many new learning opportunities for our client community. For a full description of our programming, please download our new Program Planner.

Restructuring the IRC’s Certificate Series

A fundamental, strategic change to the structure of our programming portfolio is the reorganization of our certificate series. In addition to the new Advanced Human Resources Certificate, we offer certificates in Organization Development Fundamentals, Labour Relations, and Advanced Labour Relations. All program options are now categorized as 400, 300, 200, or 100- level series and are worth two, three, four, or five credits, depending upon the training time that is required. As part of this restructuring, we have sought to increase the programming options available in our certificates.

Please note, however, that the certificate in Developing Organizational Capacity will no longer be offered to new clients. Some of the programs in this series will remain, and are worth credit towards other IRC certificates. We will continue to award our Developing Organizational Capacity Certificates for a period of three years, to those who have already started on this path. Otherwise, these programs will be accredited toward another certificate series.

Four Certificates to Meet Your Learning Needs

NEW Advanced Human Resources Certificate

This certificate can be customized to address individual learning needs. A minimum of 12 credits is required to earn this certificate. Participants must complete our popular Advanced HR (3 credits) program and our soon-to-be launched program, HR Strategy (4 credits). We are also introducing two additional HR programs: Succession Planning and HR Decision Making. The Advanced Human Resources Certificate is an excellent complement to our portfolio and exemplifies our commitment to providing premium professional development.

The IRC’s Advanced Human Resources Certificate is the first of its kind in Canada, and is unique in the field of human resources (HR) education. As the HR function continues to shift from an administrative and/or transactional role, to one that has become an integral part of an organization’s business strategy, the skills and knowledge required by HR professionals to be successful in their roles have also changed. The Advanced HR Certificate will broaden and deepen the knowledge of the HR practitioner. It has been designed for the human resources or labour relations professional who has at least three to five years of experience managing an HR department, a CHRP designation (or equivalent profile), and is currently in a middle-management role.

Certificate in Organization Development Fundamentals

To earn this certificate, a minimum of 12 credits is required. The 200 Series OD Foundations program is a requirement (4 credits), and the eight remaining credits may be obtained by taking any combination of the 400 or 300 Series Advanced Human Resources programs, or the 200 Series Human Resources/Organizational Development programs.

Certificate in Labour Relations

This certificate is earned by completing the IRC’s 200 Series Labour Relations Foundations program (5 credits) combined with any of the 300, 200, or 100 Series Advanced Labour Relations or Labour Relations programs.

Certificate in Advanced Labour Relations

After successful completion of the Certificate in Labour Relations, learners may work towards earning the Certificate in Advanced Labour Relations. As such, 12 new credits are required. These credits must include eight credits from two Advanced Labour Relations programs in the 300 Series. A further four credits may be earned by completing any of the 300, 200, or 100 Series Advanced Labour Relations or Labour Relations programs.

A Tradition of Excellence

As the IRC celebrates 75 years of industrial relations at Queen’s University, we are proud of the structural changes that are being introduced to our programming. Our learning strategies remain focused on the needs of practitioners. Through a variety of instructional methods, participants will build their competencies in learning environments that promote dialogue and the exchange of ideas and best practices.

The IRC offers an unparalleled learning experience. Through in-depth, practitioner-oriented research, focus groups, and case studies, we will continue to develop and deliver programs to meet the evolving needs of our customers. We look forward to working with you in the future! Please do not hesitate to contact the IRC with any questions regarding our programming or the ways in which we can meet your custom learning needs (; 1-888-858-7838).

Beyond the CHRP – Raising the Bar on HR: Insights and Reflections

Throughout my career, which spans over thirty years as an HR professional, I have been a keen observer of our profession. I now find myself in a position where a large volume of information about the development and changing nature of HR crosses my desk, and I have the luxury and time to consider, reflect on, and speak about my experiences and insights on the future of the HR profession. My perspectives are shaped by the various roles that I have held. I’ve been manager, director, and VP of HR for a number of companies, run my own HR related business for ten years, and for the last six years, been Director of the Industrial Relations Centre (IRC) at Queen’s University. In this article I argue that the CHRP designation is not sufficient for HR professionals, and point to some of the work being conducted internationally, to illustrate the kinds of training, learning, and professional development opportunities Canadian organizations should be considering for their HR professionals. Enhancing learning beyond the CHRP will, in my view, facilitate raising the bar on HR in Canada.

I always enjoy meeting with and talking to active HR practitioners. I especially like to learn about the problems and opportunities that my professional colleagues face every day. These conversations are a rewarding component of my role with the IRC, and, in part, help to shape the focus of my own HR research. As IRC Director, I am uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between the practitioner and academic communities – two communities that, historically, have had difficulty communicating with each other. In 2007, for example, the Academy of Management Journal addressed the issue of “rigour versus relevance” in a series of articles (see, for example, Volume 50, Issues 4-6). In the IRC’s own practitioner-focused research, Alison Hill and I have sought to discover those things that keep you awake at night and disseminate relevant and up-to-date information and insights to facilitate HR professionals’ success in their multifaceted roles.

Perhaps like me, in your career you have worked with a number of MBAs who know a lot about academic theory, but perhaps not so much about how to work with people and apply their knowledge. I tend to agree with Henry Mintzberg, from McGill. In his book, Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development (2004), Mintzberg argues that the MBA curriculum teaches the wrong people, the wrong content at the wrong time. Undoubtedly, the HR profession has made great strides forward in the past twenty years, advancing the skills, knowledge, and credentials required by practitioners, increasingly enabling our field to be perceived as a true profession within organizations and amongst the general public. As HR professionals, we now have an opportunity to explore, reflect on, and shape the future of our profession.

The CHRP is firmly established in Canada as the entry-level designation to the HR profession. It is a sought-after credential that promises a certain level of recognized knowledge and ability. HR professionals require skills and knowledge that go beyond those offered in the CHRP. In its current form, I don’t think that the CHRP is sufficient; it does not, and can not, solely provide professionals with the level of competencies required in the field. Accordingly, I firmly believe that the HR profession needs to re-examine what qualifications HR professionals need to succeed and the ways in which they can achieve success. I am increasingly concerned that organizations spend a great deal of time and effort developing and promoting Mission, Vision, and Values, but stall when it comes time to articulate the Behaviours that are needed to support them. Time after time, in the IRC’s HR programs, we hear that Mission and Vision are well-documented and supported, but Values and articulated behaviours fall short, or may even be non-existent. This is a serious problem, the consequences of which we deal with on a daily basis in HR.

I am surprised with the number of organizations that continue to pour money into developing competency frameworks, but do not support the continued use and integration of those competencies into their corporate DNA. The result? Wasted effort. Please don’t misunderstand my argument. I am not against competency frameworks. In fact, I am a proponent of this vital tool. I am, however, opposed to the installation of competency frameworks with no plan to keep them current and inadequate resources to support them. Many, many installations fail for this reason.

I am a strong supporter of the work of David Ulrich from the University of Michigan and his work on HR competencies. I think this is solid research, and appreciate Ulrich’s pragmatic approach. Ulrich’s competency framework can be implemented to support HR leaders, in any HR unit, as they endeavour to support the development of their organization. Ulrich’s work is longitudinal, multi-national research that resonates across the HR profession and provides a link to the business side of what we do – a link that CEOs and Chief Executives so often say is missing from their HR staff.

There is some very interesting work being done on HR Governance, both in terms of the design of the HR function itself and the changing role at the most senior levels between the CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer), the CEO, and Board of Directors. The IRC has been working with Deloitte to publicize and promote the intensified exploration of HR Governance. Concerns about global issues influence us as HR professionals, regardless of what kind of organization we work for, as issues such as globalization, global warming, and sustainability move higher on the corporate agenda. In particular, younger employees are asking challenging questions of management, demanding higher expectations of their employers. HR frequently finds itself in a key communications and leadership role.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has been doing some excellent work. Representing approximately 130,000 HR professionals in the United Kingdom and Ireland, CIPD has, in recent years, completely redesigned their “HR Profession Map” (see: It is a fascinating look at another way in which the educational needs of HR professionals can be met. It has the unique advantage of articulating bands, or levels, of competence. Having drawn the conclusion that one size does not fit all, the CIPD has designed a challenging, but flexible, model that gives HR professionals (and specialists within HR) a plethora of opportunity to design their careers.

CIPD continues to conduct research on the impact of HR on organizations. Recently, CIPD published papers on the impact of downsizing on the UK public sector, and on corporate sustainability. It is the CIPD’s contention that HR is uniquely placed within organizations to provide insights that might otherwise be overlooked or forgotten, but are critical to organizational success.

Having been formed by the merger of the national training organization and the national personnel organization (an insight that has not been able to make its way across the Atlantic, except in Saskatchewan, a story that I don’t have time to discuss in detail here, unfortunately) the CIPD offers an extensive syllabus of programs at all levels to its membership. Viewing the additions each year to their catalogue provides a snapshot of hot button issues, as the CIPD moves to meet its members expressed needs.

CIPD has, for several years, been working very hard at the senior level of the UK government to gain support for their strategic initiatives. Recently this bore fruit, as the CIPD now is allowed to issue the designation of “Chartered HR professional.” As you are likely aware, this designation parallels historical developments in the accounting profession.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) investigated the idea of licensing HR professionals in the 1990s, but abandoned it as simply being too complicated to implement across fifty-plus jurisdictions in the United States. Instead they have chosen to extend their PHR (Professional in HR) designation to an SPHR (Senior Professional in HR) and GPHR (Global Professional in HR). The SPHR includes 25% strategic content. It is not easy to earn a SPHR designation. The year that I wrote the examination, only 51% of those writing passed, and that included those writing for the second and third time. SHRM exemplifies the globalization of our profession, having offices and operations now in China and India (see: Thus, as we can learn about the HR profession in England by seeing the courses CIPD offers to its members, we can see the changes in the US HR landscape by looking at the SHRM website listing for HR disciplines.

As we all know, the pace of change is not slowing and the HR profession is being buffeted by global forces which influence us all no matter what our HR role, size or context of our organizations. Yet, it is a time of opportunity for all of us, and an exciting time. I am proud to be involved in the HR profession and optimistic about its future.

An Inquiry Into the State of Labour Relations in Canada: Executive Summary

In November 2011, Queen’s IRC launched a 37-question survey, “An Inquiry into the State of LR in Canada.” The purpose of this survey was to describe the state of the labour relations (LR) profession in Canada, based on the perspectives of practitioners. When the survey closed on December 16, 2011, a total of 184 responses were collected.

This practitioner-focused research complements our 2011 exploration of the state of the human resources profession in Canada, and builds on the our 2009 labour relations survey.

This survey was comprised of two sections. In the first section, we explored the varied roles, responsibilities, and credentials of LR professionals. We also probed some of the characteristics of the organizations in which LR professionals are employed. In the second section, we inquired about the level of knowledge, skills, and abilities required for a successful LR professional. We also sought perspectives on the future of the LR profession, including the challenges and opportunities facing the profession and changes that have, and are anticipated to occur, to jobs held by LR professionals. The survey included both closed- and open-ended questions.

This Executive Summary presents an overview of the aggregated survey data.

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