Hot Skills in a Dynamic Canadian Labour Market

Introduction

Up until March 2020, Canada had minimal to no real unemployment. Essentially, it was a seller’s market where anybody looking for work could find it. This reality, which defined and drove compensation priorities and strategies, was especially true for highly skilled and knowledge-intensive employees, and organizations that required their critical competencies to deliver on mandate expectations. Opportunities and challenges were particularly pronounced for unique job families and roles like Cyber-Security and AI Specialists that were short on supply and in high demand.

Over the course of the past 15 months as all industry sectors and employers navigated the devastating impact of the pandemic, and rapidly transitioned to a broad range of digital service and product platforms, the labour market imbalances for highly specialized skill sets became even more pronounced.  Quite simply, the existing supply of technical and knowledge-intensive specialists, and those being produced through apprenticeship, college, university and licensed programs, have not kept up with demand. More specifically, for example, labour markets have not been able been able to source an adequate supply of nurses in healthcare, digital software engineers and technicians in high technology, and environmental scientists in clean energy, to name but a few.  The net result of these pronounced labour market imbalances has been production and service delivery constraints, and ultimately material risk to customer, client and patient quality commitments. Strategically, this contextual reality and now a re-opening economy are forcing employers of all kinds to strategically think through what they can do from an HR and compensation perspective to better attract and retain these mission-critical resources or colloquially, “hot skills”.

Understanding the impact of hot skills on one’s business model and organizational capabilities can be both a challenge and an opportunity and, if not done thoughtfully and carefully, can result in a number of HR and economic risks. Knowing what hot skills are in this day and age, how they should be managed and compensated, and the risks and implications of ineffective choices for both one’s hot skill employees and broader workforce have become a critically important HR strategy issue for many employers.

What are Hot Skills?

Hot Skills are essentially an occupational or job-specific skill or a set of skills that are highly specialized and in high demand and in short supply (SHRM, 2011), and are viewed as being of critical importance to mandate value creation and customer satisfaction. These labour market imbalances can be found across multiple industry sectors and even geographies. In some cases, the skills may only be in high demand for a short period of time (e.g. Y2K conversion in the year 2000), and in other cases, the skills can remain in demand for a prolonged period of time (e.g. an experienced construction engineer).

So how does an organization determine if a skill is hot or not? The first signs are typically recruitment and retention challenges. If an organization is continuously having trouble attracting certain skill sets through external recruitment efforts, it may be because of a poor employee brand, ineffective recruitment efforts, or quite simply because of uncompetitive base and/or variable pay practices. Similarly, if an organization is continually having trouble retaining certain skill sets and the issue is not due to the working environment or organizational culture, but rather because of materially higher rates of pay being offered by marketplace competitors, the organization is likely dealing with a “hot skill” compensation challenge.  And of course, in this high-speed digital age where social media is driving the pace of both content and perception distribution, these hot skill attraction and retention challenges are being shared and perpetuated continuously by external candidates and employees alike.

Compensation for Hot Skills

Once a hot skill has been identified, there are several different human resources strategy options that could be deployed to address the attraction and retention issues. These options can include a select number of non-compensation solutions, and range from contracting out to revising specific HR policies and programs to attract and retain hot skill talent (for example, training and development, unique career paths, and even specialized benefits). Many organizations, however, conclude that a compensation response is also needed, especially when competing human resources strategies appear to be comparable and not differentiated.

A compensation strategy to address a measured hot skill challenge, however, is a major decision and can have profound ramifications.  As a starting point, an employer should consider its overall compensation philosophy – is it willing to offer a unique element of compensation to a designated workforce segment to the exclusion of its broader talent-base, and thereby alter internal equity practices to address external equity realities? Once these priorities and guiding principles have been confirmed, management can then explore a number of different compensation strategies or options for dealing with hot skills.  These options can be varied and include:

  1. Simply examining and better promoting one’s full total rewards package. Are there plans that your organization offers beyond direct total cash compensation to attract and retain hot skill employees? For example, better emphasizing above-market pension and/or benefits programs that other competing employers may not offer at all – as is typically the case in healthcare;
  2. Identifying and defining possible base pay premiums that would be selectively offered to hot skill jobs and incumbents, but on an annual renewable and without prejudice basis;
  3. Identifying and defining very specific attraction [e.g. sign-on bonuses] and retention-based [tenure] variable pay rewards for designated “hot skill” jobs and employees;
  4. Working within one’s existing base salary range framework and administering one-off in-range adjustments for existing hot skill employees whose compa-ratio positioning is below target control points;
  5. Possibly offering above minimum range base salaries for external recruits; and,
  6. Exploring other non-monetary benefits (e.g. extra vacation, paid membership or license fees, etc.).

For a number of reasons, including the varying nature of what skillsets are considered “hot”, how long pay premiums last, and the confidentiality of strategic compensation practices especially in the same industry sector, it is difficult to find and establish concrete external trends and data sources. Current but limited research, however, suggests that organizations offering hot skill pay supplements offer time-based premiums of 5% to 10% of base pay that are deemed separate from established classification and base salary policies – to do otherwise would blur and possibly compromise both core internal equity and pay equity principles. Some organizations may also offer a “sign-on” bonus [supported by specific tenure-based “claw-back” requirements], or one-time retention bonuses supported by specific tenure criteria in order to secure certain skills.

Contextual Considerations

Even in the face of identified and measured hot skills and related compensation challenges, not all organizations are able to respond and deploy an agile compensation response to address hot skill priorities. Unionized employers and unions working within an existing collective agreement will likely be constrained in this regard. Other constraints may include fiscal year timing and budget limitations, pay equity requirements and the gender predominance of designated hot skill jobs, as well as legislative pay restraints found across various public sector jurisdictions.  Finally, some employers may philosophically be of the view that they will not make unique provisions for the few to the perceived detriment of the many, and therefore, are prepared to explore other broader HR strategies to address hot skill shortages such as outsourcing, strategic partnerships, multi-skilling, and even incremental overtime.

Conclusion: Intended and Unintended Consequences

While the identification of hot skill jobs within one’s organization can be a straightforward exercise, the related compensation and human resources decisions that are made to address them will have profound policy implications, and possibly unintended consequences. For example, a decision to not offer some sort of compensation premium or adjustment when you have specific hot skill roles may undoubtedly impact your attraction and retention of these incumbents, and therefore materially constrain marketplace growth aspirations and customer expectations. Conversely, a deliberate strategy to offer a select compensation adjustment or premium runs the risk of perceived internal inequities and broader employee disengagement. More specifically, providing a hot-skill premium to a very select number of roles and employees within a particular function [e.g. IT/IS] or job family [e.g. digital] may be viewed as being overly generous and unfair to the balance of employees in the function or business unit.  Increased absenteeism and turnover, let alone declining employee engagement and productivity may then be the unintended consequences!

Even in the case where the hot skill premium is profoundly needed because of profound competitive pressures, the decision may be costly, and difficult to undo in the future if related labour markets strike a balanced demand/supply equilibrium.  Employers must also weigh the need for additional administrative and management efforts that will be required to monitor and assess external labour market and compensation practices, and related policy responses. For some organizations, this incremental management cost has become more pronounced because of the speed and impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on labour market and compensation practices, and how quickly they can be up-ended and render one’s compensation program, let alone hot skill strategies, irrelevant.

As many of us can attest, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned well-intended compensation strategies upside-down, including measured hot-skill premiums. With the economy and labour markets now rebounding as we hopefully move into a post-pandemic era, those employers that are able to identify their hot skill jobs and people, and determine and “stress test” relevant compensation strategies, will be strategically well-positioned to optimize attraction, retention and related performance for years to come.

About the Authors

Ian Cullwick

Ian Cullwick is a retired Partner with an international consulting firm, and served as the Vice-President of HR and Organization Research at the Conference Board of Canada. Ian is a specialist in human resources governance, organization and performance management, and compensation strategy.  He is also a noted thought leader and has authored articles on organization design, performance management and compensation strategy. In addition to serving as a Queen’s IRC Instructor, Ian also teaches in the Executive MBA program at the Telfer School of Management.

Katrina Galic

Katarina Galic is a Compensation Specialist at a large asset management organization in Toronto, responsible for the development, governance and administration of compensation programs and practices. Katarina specializes in job evaluation, broader workforce market benchmarking, salary structure design, and total rewards for a global organization. Previously, Katarina was a consultant in Ottawa with an international HR consulting firm, where she supported clients on competitive pay analyses and job levelling in the public, private, and crown corporation sector. Katarina holds a Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Human Resource Management at the University of Ottawa.

 

References

Perez, T. (2019, January 30). Which Skills Are the Most Valuable? – Compensation Research. Retrieved July 09, 2021, from https://www.payscale.com/data/which-skills-are-most-valuable.

Ledford, G., & Heneman, H. (2011, June). Skill-Based Pay. Retrieved July 09, 2021, from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/special-reports-and-expert-views/Documents/SIOP%20-%20Skill-Based%20Pay,%20FINAL.pdf.

 

 

Five Superpowers Every Manager Needs

Do you remember the day you became a manager? You were told, “Congratulations, you’re a manager, you start next week! Let us know what you need, and your assistant will have your keys and access card waiting for you.”

Did that amount of support turn you into a respected and effective manager overnight? Probably not. The sad reality is that many new managers do not receive the training, coaching and support they require to excel in their role as people leaders. Learning the ropes for measuring metrics, updating the team schedule, and filing reports on time is administratively important but only part of the managerial picture. Real success comes from mastering the five management superpowers, which are all about navigating human relationships. It does not matter what company you work for, how long you have been a manager, nor what your title is.  These management skills are required to build healthier relationships and increase productivity.

In this article, I will illuminate the five managerial superpowers, why they are important and provide tips for implementing each one.

Think of them as slices of a pie. You wouldn’t bring a housewarming pie that is missing a slice or two, would you? Nor would you want to be a manager who is a few slices short of a superpower pie.

Manager Superpower #1: Know the WAY

Who Are You? Before you can do anything well—communicate, solve problems or be a mentor—you must know who you are. Self-awareness is the first part of being an effective and respected manager. By knowing who you are and your default position for approaching situations, you can work through your limitations and double down on effective strategies.

People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.
  – John Maxwell

To know the WAY, ask yourself these questions (and answer them):

  • What’s my communication style when I’m calm?
  • What’s my communication style when I’m feeling stressed?
  • What’s my understanding of emotional intelligence?
  • How do my emotions influence others? And in what way?
  • What’s my leadership style and does it work? For example, are you an open-door policy person? Do you sit around the table with your team or stand at the front of the table? Do you yell at people in front of others or address individual concerns in private? These are difficult questions to face but answering them shows you the WAY.

Communication skills support all five managerial superpowers so use these communication best practices often:

  • Be brief but specific.
  • Communicate in a positive manner.
  • Express yourself calmly.
  • Engage in active listening.
  • Acknowledge what the other person says without disagreeing.

Manager Superpower #2: Manage Transitions Effectively

Businessman Robert C. Gallagher once said, “Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.” So true! In a workplace context, managers are expected to manage change and transitions even when (and especially when) team members are resistant to the change. Even good change is stressful, and your team will remember how you supported them through change, for better or for worse.

Tips for managing transitions effectively:

  • Understand your own reactions to change. For example, are you overwhelmed by change? Or does it hardly faze you? How flexible and adaptable are you?
  • Communicate clearly and often with employees affected by the change.
  • Listen to employee concerns about the change.
  • Help your team understand why the change is happening and what’s expected of them before, during and after the change.
  • Be strategic, anticipate issues and create a plan for handling them.
  • Manage your own change-related stress so you don’t inadvertently transfer your stress to your team.

As a manager, the first transition to manage is always your own transition into a new role and team. When you become a manager, there are so many unknowns, especially if you’re new to the organization. What happened with the other manager? How were the relationships with the team? Good? Bad? It is important to remember that you and your new team are making the transition together and you are not all starting at the same place. Some people will be thrilled you are there while others will be unhappy about their previous manager’s departure. It can also be difficult to transition from a team member to the team leader. Using the tips above can help you manage these types of transitions.

Manager Superpower #3: Take Ownership

Employees crave leadership so take ownership of your role and your responsibilities as a leader right away. Employees take cues from you, including your emotions and attitudes, which sets the stage for the team culture. How do you want to influence your team? With positivity, enthusiasm and integrity? Or some other way?

Simple ways to take ownership as a manager:

  • Be passionate about your job and enjoy it (or get a new one).
  • Learn about your company’s strategic initiatives and share that information with your team. Too many managers avoid sharing relevant information with their team. This is a wasted opportunity as sharing knowledge builds trust which creates strong relationships.
  • Set standards for team performance and behaviours and help people achieve them.
  • Be or become an effective communicator.
  • Balance the needs of your organization with the needs of your team and make this tightrope act visible to your team (within reason).
  • Be proactive about your own personal and professional development by working with a coach and/or mentor.

If you don’t take ownership of your role, who will?

Manager Superpower #4: Managing Conflict

Self-aware managers know how they deal with conflict and are open to exploring the results they get. Managing conflict is often difficult because most people don’t like it. But it’s the managerial superpower that makes the difference between a good day and developing an ulcer. How do you deal with conflict and what are your typical results? Does your approach generally help or hinder conflict situations? These questions are essential for managers to consider.

There are five styles of conflict management. While it is tempting to label them as the proverbial good or bad, they can all be right—or wrong—depending on the situation.

The five styles of conflict management:

  • Accommodating – You put the other person’s needs before your own.
  • Avoiding – You evade the conflict and hope it goes away on its own.
  • Compromising – You attempt to find a solution that partially pleases everyone involved.
  • Collaborating – You attempt to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
  • Competing – You stand firm and don’t consider anyone else’s perspective.

Though some of these styles sound harsh and unproductive, an effective manager knows when to use each of them. For example, a competing conflict management style is appropriate when deciding on workplace safety or compliance protocols. There is no room for compromise when it comes to staying on the right side of the law and avoiding a harassment or worker’s compensation lawsuit.

Employees seem to hate the avoidance style of conflict resolution the most because it assaults people’s ingrained idea of fairness. When someone observes you seeing, hearing and saying nothing about something that’s obvious to everyone else, it kills the team spirit. Of course, sometimes, you must resolve things in a way that looks unfair, such as providing accommodations for one team member. This is yet another reason to develop strong communication skills: they help you navigate tricky situations as logically and transparently as possible.

If you’re uncomfortable with conflict, your conflict resolution skills probably need improvement. That’s okay but you must get help as soon as possible because this is such an important (and common) part of management. Always know, your employees are always watching you. Having poor conflict resolution skills is possibly the fastest way to lose the respect of your team.

Remember the responsibility for developing skills ultimately rests on your shoulders. To increase your conflict management skills, find and use all the resources available to you, including books, internal courses and mentors, or outside professional development. I promise that you will have many opportunities to use the conflict management skills you learn!

Manager Superpower #5: Managing People and Personalities

The first four managerial superpowers are about managing yourself and potentially difficult situations. Now it’s time to talk about the final managerial superpower that brings everything together: managing people effectively. If you don’t have this superpower, your other superpowers won’t be as effective as they could be. (Going back to the pie analogy, you need all the slices to make a whole pie.)

Here are my five tips for managing people effectively:

  1. Know your people – Go beyond names and get to know your team member’s strengths, challenges and career aspirations. When you know your team, you can add value by making connections and helping your people go where they want to go.
  2. Be a supportive coach – Create opportunities for the team to see you as a sounding board and someone who can facilitate career growth and transitions. Coaching allows you to use your listening and observational skills to help your employees optimize their performance and reach their goals.
  3. Provide training and development – Develop a team culture that values training and development opportunities by staying positive about continuous learning. Never frame training as a punishment or your team will quickly devalue any training you provide. Work with the Human Resources team to bring relevant opportunities to your team (and if the budget is tight, consider train-the-trainer sessions).
  4. Be kind – In a world of increased uncertainty, it’s extra important to be kind. When we are stressed or in a hurry, it is easy to forget the niceties that make human interaction meaningful. Kindness also means checking in on people. Is anyone struggling? Are people getting what they need? Skilled managers are kind even when firmness is required.
  5. Look after yourself – Being a manager is rewarding but nobody ever said it was easy! Self-care is rejuvenating and we can only tend to others if we tend to ourselves. Put your hobbies in your calendar and enjoy them. Disconnect from work regularly. Go for a long walk. Create your own professional development plan and work towards it. Taking care of your mental, physical and spiritual needs enhances your life and helps you be a more effective manager.

Leaders reveal themselves through their behaviour. You do not have to be a manager to be a leader, but to be a respected and effective manager, you must be a great leader. By learning and mastering the five managerial superpowers, you will be the best manager you can be.

To learn these managerial superpowers, consider looking into courses such as Building Trust and Managing Unionized Environments.

 

About the Author

Filomena Lofranco

Filomena Lofranco is an energetic senior executive with more than 20 years of human resource, finance, and leadership experience in the public sector. Through her countless leadership roles, she has steered the planning and execution of various specialized programs and projects. She has been instrumental in staff development and in driving successful results across a wide range of cross functional teams. Filomena has a proven track record for being passionate about promoting and inspiring a workplace culture that supports physical, psychological, and emotional well-being for all staff and stakeholders.

 

Further Reading

I highly recommend these two books to increase your managerial superpowers:

Reference List

Amaresan, S. (2021, June 9). 5 Conflict Management Styles for Every Personality Type. HubSpot Blog. https://blog.hubspot.com/service/conflict-management-styles 

Bridges, W., & Bridges, S. (2017). Managing transitions: making the most of change (4th ed.). Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Furlong, G. T., & Harrison, J. (2018). BrainFishing: a practice guide to questioning skills. FriesenPress.

Goodreads. (n.d.). Robert C. Gallagher Quotes (Author of The Express). Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/180697.Robert_C_Gallagher

Diversity Hiring to Enhance Inclusive Workplace Culture

With recent social movements and the emergence of complex and highly profiled workplace conflicts, there has been increased awareness of organizations’ responsibility to foster safe, diverse and inclusive workplaces. Organizations large and small have taken action to strategically learn about and implement inclusive policies and practices in order to both enhance employee engagement and foster positive organizational culture.

Prioritizing diversity and inclusion efforts has immeasurable value. Workforces that have diversity of thought, perspectives and ideas are better able to solve problems creatively and collaboratively, and diverse and inclusive organization are more likely to achieve their goals.[1] Another benefit relates to an organization’s ability to attract and retain strong talent. Research conducted by Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion reveals that workers born after 1980 – those who are increasingly the majority of the workforce – are highly motivated to join and remain with organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion.[2] When you have a diverse and inclusive culture, you have an edge in attracting candidates to work for you.

What is Diversity and Inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion are terms that frequently appear in organizational development literature. Within this context, diversity refers to employee characteristics that are protected under human rights legislation, including race, age, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disabilities and other characteristics. Diversity also includes qualities beyond those protected by human rights such as education, values, knowledge and socio-economic status. Some of these characteristics are visible while others are not. Each of these characteristics influence individual views and perspectives of the world, and the combination of these perspectives impacts the way employees interact with each other in the workplace.

Where diversity is about the makeup of your workforce, inclusion is about culture and belonging. Inclusion, as it applies to the workplace is, in essence, the way an organization’s culture “shows up.” It includes the tangible and intangible workplace culture, environmental factors and rituals that impact how comfortable employees are in being their genuine and authentic selves at work. For example, are multiple voices and perspectives invited to the table to take part in discussions and decision-making processes? Can many differing viewpoints and opinions safely arrive in conversations and be appreciated by others?

Where Do We Start?

Knowing the importance of enhancing diversity and inclusion in our organizations, we must be serious about considering how we can be most impactful. An obvious place to start is to consider how we hire. This critical step in an employment relationship – the entryway to the future generation of workers – is an important part of the solution. By carefully examining our selection practices and using targeted diversity hiring strategies, we can reduce employment barriers facing underrepresented groups and in turn, provide increased opportunities for inclusive workplaces to blossom. Let’s take a closer look at how to actively engage in this process.

Acknowledge and Recognize Bias

The first and most critical step in diversity hiring is to acknowledge that bias – both conscious and unconscious – plays a very real role in the selection process. Research has identified that bias is an inescapable part of being human.[3] These mental shortcuts help the brain conserve energy in decision-making. However, when this instinctual tactic is left unchecked in a selection process, the unintended outcome is that we are more likely to hire because of “gut instincts” and “first impressions,” neither of which are predictive of job performance. Rather, these decisions often result in bringing on new employees who are similar to those already employed in the organization, thereby increasing homogenous workplaces that lack in divergent perspective and creative problem-solving potential.

Knowing and recognizing when bias appears will greatly assist diversity hiring. If you become aware of bias, you are more able to understand its impact on decision-making. For example, similarity bias emerges regularly in the hiring process. This natural human condition results in being attracted to people that are more similar to us rather than those who appear different. This can manifest in noticing that an applicant’s background is similar to ours – such as having attended the same school or coming from the same community – and then attributing unwarranted weight to this similarity, even when it has no relation to the job they are being hired for. If we notice this bias as it enters our decision-making processes, we are more able to interrupt it and actively counteract its impact. The same is true of other hiring biases. Being aware of how you may have been triggered by a particular element of a person’s demeanor allows you to consider how it has influenced your perceptions and actions. Only then can you consciously activate strategies to counteract and make better decisions.

8 Strategies for Hiring Diverse Candidates

As important as it is to consciously counteract the impact of individual bias in the hiring process, it is equally important to examine organizational and structural barriers that impede efforts to hire for diversity. The following lists some targeted strategies to reduce barriers and enhance your chance of hiring more diverse candidates.

  1. Make your diversity goals explicitly clear by identifying where you need to strengthen your organization’s diversity. Know your organization’s demographics and ensure diversity hiring goals are incorporated into strategic plans.
  2. Ensure everyone involved in selection is trained on the impact that internal bias plays in the hiring process. An exceptional starting place is the free implicit association test developed collaboratively by Harvard, Virginia and Washington Universities.[4]
  3. Ensure your job postings don’t include bias-laden language. Instead, use gender-neutral and culture-neutral language. Online tools to support this task are abundant.
  4. Carefully consider where and how you will recruit and engage with applicants. Several issues such as leveraging appropriate recruitment channels, enhancing your employment value proposition, and profiling your organization’s commitment to diversity should be articulated.
  5. When shortlisting, consider anonymizing candidates’ personal information such as names and gender to reduce the possibility that this information triggers bias in decision- making.
  6. Build a structured interview process focussing on evaluating only job-related criteria and ensure candidates feel comfortable through the process.
  7. Avoid interviewing one-on-one. Instead, establish interview committees of at least three; and wherever possible, have diverse representation on the committee itself.
  8. When making decisions as to who to move forward to the final interview stage, consider the Harvard Business Review study that determined that having more than one minority candidate in a final interview has a profound impact on the chances that a minority candidate will be selected.[5]

Our hiring processes are the entry-way to diversity and are a foundational step to enable inclusive workplace cultures to take hold. Complemented by a larger organizational commitment to inclusion, these targeted hiring strategies can help foster the growth of a diverse and inclusive workplace where employees can develop a strong sense of belonging. This work is not easy and takes time. Sustained effort, honest conversations and organizational commitment are required. The outcomes are worth it.

About the Author

Janet Stewart

Janet Stewart is a human resource and organizational development consultant whose primary focus is on maximizing workforce engagement.  Her work is informed by her 20-plus years working in public sector leadership roles. In addition to her Master’s in Adult Education, Janet has a Certificate in Conflict Resolution from the Justice Institute of BC, a graduate Certificate in Organizational Coaching from UBC, and an Organizational Development Fundamentals Certificate from Queen’s IRC. She is member of the International Coaching Federation and is PROSCI® change-management certified. Her book Hiring Well: Building Strong Selection Practices in K-12 was published in April 2021.

 

Footnotes

[1] Delivering through Diversity. (2018, January). McKinsey&Company. Retrieved May 12, 2021 from: https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/business%20functions/organization/our%20insights/delivering%20through%20diversity/delivering-through-diversity_full-report.ashx

[2] Smith, C., Turner, S. (2015). The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion; The Millennial Influence. Deloitte University; the Leadership Center for inclusion. Retrieved May 12, 2021 from:  https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/about-deloitte/us-inclus-millennial-influence-120215.pdf

[3] Henneman, T. (2014, February 09). You, Biased? No, It’s Your Brain. Retrieved May 12, 2021 from: https://www.workforce.com/news/you-biased-no-its-your-brain

[4] This test can be found at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

[5] Johnson, S. K., Hekman, D. R., Chan, E. T. (2016, April 26). If There’s Only One Woman in Your Candidate Pool, There’s Statistically No Chance She’ll Be Hired. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved May 12, 2021, from: https://hbr.org/2016/04/if-theres-only-one-woman-in-your-candidate-pool-theres-statistically-no-chance-shell-be-hired

How to Strengthen Our WFH Reality: Flex Your Trust Muscle

The pandemic forced change in the way leaders interact with their employees, forcing many to adapt their approach in how they built trust and relationships with employees throughout the transition into working from home (WFH) practices. For many, this challenging year has actually provided them with a rare opportunity to lead stronger, with a new vision for their teams.

On the one-year anniversary of WFH, this is an ideal time for strong leaders to assess how they are at building trust, and to identify what needs to be strengthened next, as the “new normal” and time of unknowns is still being shaped.

Like a fitness plan full of workouts (like weightlifting repetitions, cardio activities, and daily walking), strengthening your trust muscle requires use Every. Single. Day. Some muscles aren’t used enough unless you intentionally aim to use them. It’s not always easy, and you often feel a bit sore after a good workout; however, because you care about your health, you follow your fitness plan again tomorrow. This is the same for building, rebuilding and strengthening trust with your team of employees. Let’s explore how each of these current WFH realities can be addressed by flexing your trust muscle.

WFH Reality #1 – How Do I Know?

It’s shocking how much information is available on this question for leaders: “how do I know my employees are actually working?” I believe the first question to ask yourself is “how did I know before the pandemic?”

You may still be using some of your past practices, however it is likely that you have had to create new practices for your employee interactions. WFH is felt heavily within organizations that didn’t have a robust culture of providing regular employee feedback on their work. Leaders now find themselves implementing totally new practices for employees to follow. In some cases, monitoring technology has been introduced, which is eroding trust and exhausting everyone involved.

Flex your Trust Muscle:

  • Pull on your empathy emotional intelligence: Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Think about how you want to be asked to share what you accomplished today, and how you want your manager to interact with you about challenges and successes. This can put you in an effective mindset to seek input from each employee about what is working well for them and what is not as they perform their job duties.
  • Monitor with conversation not technology: If you find that you are not seeing the results from an employee that you did pre-pandemic, then use the same process you did before like goalsetting, feedback and consulting your HR advisor. Employees still want to know what the expectations are of them during WFH. They want to know what is different and what is the same, and how you will handle an achievement or lack of performance on their part – one way is to seek to understand what might have contributed to the situation. WFH for some employees is “working from home with my kids beside me doing online learning, the FedEx delivery truck ringing the doorbell, the dog not staying in the kennel, and aging parents needing help.” You do need to get at the heart of the issue – is it WFH challenges or performance challenges? These might not be the same.

WFH Reality #2 – Team Vision Has Changed

Regardless of how much time you spent recreating the team vision or not, know that is has organically changed, whether you intended it to or not. It changed. What a great opportunity to make it official!

Flex your Trust Muscle:

  • Lead an update of the team vision (One-year anniversary edition): Yes, mark it and be intentional with your employees about carving out dedicated time to revisit your team vision or team charter. Ask questions of your employees about what to keep doing, stop doing, or start doing for key components of:
    • communication
    • goalsetting
    • relationship building
    • conflict handling
    • supporting each other

For example, for relationship building some leaders have made the first team meeting agenda item “Coffee Chat” before any agenda item comes up for business – in an effort to fill the gap of not seeing each other down the hall or in the lunchroom; while in-person experiences truly can’t be replaced, new actions can help fill parts of that gap. For now. To begin, start with this exercise:

Team Vision Chart

WFH Reality #3 – You as a Changing Leader

You are a different leader now. Yes, you are. First, congratulations on transitioning your team to WFH during this once-in-a-lifetime career event. Secondly, plan for your next piece of growth and improvement

Flex Your Trust Muscle:

  • Always ask “What is the learning here, Linda?” My mentor used to ask me this all the time. Take honest stock of what you did well this year and what you did not. What did you learn about yourself?
  • Train your trust muscle for the next transition: WFH is likely not going away completely. Many people believe we will evolve to another “new normal”, and things will not go back to the way it was for all organizations. So, get ready to build more trust with your employees because you will be leading them and collaborating with them into the next transition. In their book “Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You”[1] authors Frances Frei and Anne Morriss explain trust is the input that makes the leadership equation work: “If leadership is about empowering others, in your presence and your absence, then trust is the emotional framework that allows that service to be freely exchanged. I’m willing to be led by you because I trust you”. Reflect on how well you may be trusted by others, by using their trust triangle of authenticity, logic, and empathy. People tend to trust you when they think they are:
    • interacting with the real you (authenticity)
    • when they have faith in your judgement and competence (logic)
    • when they believe that you care about them and where they are coming from (empathy)

When trust is lost, you can almost always trace it back to a breakdown to one of these drivers. Ask yourself: You want others to trust you, right? Which one, if you had to pick, do you think you should strengthen? Pay more attention to it.

In summary, as leaders you can improve how you can trust that your employees are working at home by intentionally taking action on your own leadership fitness as outlined in these “Flex Your Trust Muscle” tips.

  • Pull on your empathy emotional intelligence
  • Monitor with conversation not technology
  • Lead an update of the team vision (One-year anniversary edition)
  • Always ask “What is the learning here?”
  • Train your trust muscle for the next transition

WFH is still challenging everyone to keep learning new ways on how to work – and trust – virtually and effectively.

About the Author

Linda Allen-Hardisty

Linda Allen-Hardisty is an ICF-certified executive coach, a senior OD professional, a chair at The Executive Committee (TEC) Canada, and a contributing member of Forbes Coaches Council. She’s built a reputation as a vibrant, contemporary voice in the business world by blending her grounding in organizational development with a practical approach to addressing business challenges. Over her 20-year OD career, she has helped many leaders – from corporate executives to entrepreneurs – improve their personal and professional success. She is a sought-after facilitator for executive development, organizational change and culture, team effectiveness, and emotional intelligence. With a Masters of Education from the University of Regina and a certificate in Organizational Development from Queen’s IRC, Linda’s uniqueness is that, prior to private practice, she fulfilled corporate leadership roles including the Director of Organizational Development in a company listed on the Hewitt Top 50 Employers in Canada, and became the first Manager of Strategy and Performance for a municipal government undertaking cultural transformation.

Linda is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Building Trust program.

 

[1] Frei, F. & Morriss, M. (2020). Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from  https://www.amazon.ca/Unleashed-Unapologetic-Leaders-Empowering-Everyone/dp/1633697045.

What’s Your Superpower? A Reflection on Personal and Team Branding

Like many people, my life changed significantly overnight in mid-March. Suddenly I was working from home – exclusively. Among the many changes from this, my commute went from 60 minutes a day to approximately 60 seconds a day to the “office” (including grabbing a coffee on the way). With this excess capacity and time, after a few sleep-ins (comparatively 08:00 a.m.), I decided to use this time productively for mental health (reflection, planning, introspection and improvement).  After a few days of listening to iTunes and Amazon music, I decided that I should re-discover audio books and podcasts to exercise the mind as well as body. The first three business podcasts that I listened to at some point spoke about branding – our “personal brand”, “professional brand”, and “corporate or departmental brand”.

As I reflected on this, I had to think about my own brand. What is my personal brand? What is my team’s brand? I really liked the way that one of the consultants referred to your brand as synonymous with your “superpower”. I gave this some thought for a day or two… what do I think that my “superpower” is? Would others agree? What would others say about my brand or our team’s brand?

Shortly after the COVID-19 work from home initiatives started, we had decided to have a bi-weekly team call not related to any work updates or initiatives, but just to check in, chat, j and see how everyone was doing. On the next call I decided to bring up this topic, ask everyone on the team: what is your brand? What is your superpower? This ended up to be a great discussion – perhaps a bit uncomfortable for some – but thought provoking and very affirming. These declared superpowers elicited positive feedback from others with respect to how they have certainly seen these attributes, or have always thought this about their colleague. One very quiet thoughtful colleague asked me if she could get back to me on this. I felt a bit bad for putting her on the spot and said of course no pressure or response required either way. She called me a few days later and proudly stated that her superpower was empathy. We then had a great discussion on the critical importance of that quality as an HR professional. Three or four of the eight colleagues on this “mental health” call, later called or emailed me to say how they really liked the exercise, and that it was a great affirming exercise for them and the team.

Does Your Video Match Your Audio?

One thing that has become clear to me is that we all have a brand. If you have not thought of what your personal or team’s brand is, chances are the people that you interact with regularly (your internal and external customers) have a clear perception of your brand. Is the brand that you are attempting to live in alignment with the one that others are experiencing?  Does your “video match your audio” in this regard?

In my discussion with my team there were at least two people’s superpowers that did not at all align with how I, and perhaps other members of the team saw them. (i.e. “I am extremely organized” – he is not well organized and has missed deadlines consistently.)

This is an important idea for personal and team development, particularly as HR/LR professionals. Reflect on how you or your team present themselves, your service model or support for your organization. Does your performance align with your intended “brand”?  This is a valuable question to ask on a regular basis. Does the way that we present ourselves, or our team, align with how we actually come across to others? What does your organization think that your brand is? Is your personal superpower clear to all those you interact with personally and professionally? Does your video match your audio?

Building Your Brand

How do you ensure that you are delivering on your brand?  Are you hitting the target that you are aiming at?  We also have to be realistic in our thinking when it comes to branding. Can we actually deliver the brand that we envision? For example, my brand is “I am extremely talented singer” – reality – my local karaoke club has asked me not to return on “Amateur Talent Night.”

How do we build a personal or team brand?

  1. Define your brand – what are your core values? What do you want to resonate, or how do you want to be perceived by others?
  2. Ensure that your behaviours, initiatives and outputs are consistently in alignment with your core values.
  3. Develop feedback mechanisms so that you can determine if your brand is having its intended impact on all those that you influence.

How do we maintain our brand or superpower?

  1. Always do what we say we are going to do – integrity around this is critical.
  2. Be clear in all our expectations – never settle for anything less than what will build or enhance our reputation.
  3. Always be consistent – “be consistent at being consistent”.

Can we improve/strengthen our brand?

  1. Where does our feedback tell us that we could improve? Having a feedback mechanism and requesting this regularly is extremely important to this analysis.
  2. How can we measure improvement?  If we achieve the following (X or Y) we will reach our goal.
  3. What is the next goal once we have achieved that measurement? We need to be continuously striving to improve upon the improvement.

Unfortunately, as soon as we lose focus, or fail to recognize emerging issues, we can hurt the brand that we have built and have worked so hard to maintain. We can we diminish our brand or superpower by:

  1. Not delivering on commitments or initiatives, essentially not “doing what we said that we would do”.
  2. Providing outputs that are not consistent or in alignment with our stated values and goals.
  3. “Over promising and under producing” – taking on too much or embarking on initiatives outside of our core competencies.

You are the Author of Your Own Story

Our brand, whether personal superpower, professional brand, or team brand, is something that should be extremely important to us. It takes time to build, effort to maintain, and can be diminished far too quickly. I would encourage any practitioner or professional to ask themselves: what is my brand?  Would others agree that this brand is in alignment with what I am putting out there for those that I interact and collaborate with on a daily basis?

Your brand can (and should) change and evolve as you change roles or rise within your organization. My brand was much different as a young Naval Officer than it was as an operations manager many years later. My brand evolved again as I took on leadership roles within continuous improvement teams, and again as a leadership coach. As I later transitioned and grew within the human resources field and as an employee relations professional, I evolved and refined my brand yet again. This is an ongoing process or evolution; ideally, you take the best of the previous brands and attributes, and form a new brand, improved for your situation or role.

After much reflection on my personal brand, the conclusion that I came to was that, as with most things in life, “I am the author of my own story”. I can invent, build, maintain and enhance my own brand (superpowers). One way that I have personally found to enhance my brand is through training and development, constantly trying to learn and improve my professional skill sets. Queen’s IRC has been instrumental in this journey. I have taken several courses to date, participated in the Community of Practice webinars, and I intend to continue in this, building my HR/LR breadth and depth of knowledge. Queen’s IRC is an excellent example of a brand that has been carefully built, maintained, continuously enhanced and improved to be a clear leader in developing human resources and labour relations professionals.

 

About the Author

Michael Goulet

Michael Goulet has had a wealth of experience in operations management and leadership roles prior to his current human resource/employee relations role. Michael regularly facilitates training in respect in the workplace, diversity and inclusion and workplace investigations in his current capacity within his organization. Michael Goulet is an Employee Relations Advisor with Canadian Pacific Railway. He has recently completed an Advanced Human Resources Certificate with Queen’s IRC, and continues to take courses in labour relations pursuant to a Labour Relations Certificate.

Levels of Trust in Workplace Relationships

How do you define trust? How do you describe what trust means to you? Ask ten people and you will likely hear ten different responses.  Because trust is personal. Our past experiences with building, keeping or losing trust really shape how we define trust.

For me, I define trust as having the belief that someone, or a company, will do what they say they will do and in with my best interest in mind. A tall order?  Maybe, but never have the stakes been higher than in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous times – just think how fast social media posts move and how quickly information in spread. It’s no wonder that trust levels can come into question more than ever.

With this I mind, it is critical to consider what organizations can do to strengthen trust with their employees.  What if trust could be viewed as objective instead of just feeling so personal?  What if we could mark where trust is now, identify where we want to take it and map out a plan to do that?  We tackle this question in our newly expanded Building Trust in the Workplace Program.

Trust relationships can be established between people, between people and organizations, organization to organization, and within society in general such as networks, systems and government institutions.  Regardless of the parties, in my experience there are three levels of trust in any given relationship, and, due to various actions, the levels of trust can shift.  A starting point is to know where the trust relationship level currently stands and then, to identify what level one would like the trust relationship to move towards.

Let’s consider these three levels of trust in relationships. As you read the descriptions, think of a specific relationship you have with a person in your workplace.

Level 1: Governance and Rules-Based Trust

This is the most basic level of trust in relationships. It includes things like the law, policies, procedures, and contracts. If a relationship is at this level, then a quote that captures it is

“I know you will follow the rules and it governs our behavior with each other.” 

An example where this level can show up: Renewing your vehicle license with your insurance provider because you trust the provider that the fees are correct and that the provincial system will accurately be updated that you are driving a legal vehicle!  In this example, one may not need to go beyond this level of trust to be satisfied with the relationship. Both parties are getting what they need at the most basic level.

Level 2: Experience and Confidence-Based Trust

This level of trust in relationships represents most day-to-day work related and professional type relationships developed over time. A quote that demonstrates a relationship is at this trust level is:

“I know you have my best interest in mind. I have proven experience with you to know that you will do what you say you will do.”

An example where this level can show up in the workplace:  An employee shares a workplace challenge with his manager. He asks his manager for ideas for how to deal with the continuously late turnaround time from another department because it is impacting his ability to meet his deadlines.  She responds with acknowledgement that he brought it to her attention and she initiates a coaching conversation with him to explore the situation and possible solutions for a mutually agreed upon path forward.  It’s more than the basic level 1 because he trusts her to collaborate and help without knowing the outcome right away, rather than solve it for him or to think it is a poor reflection on his competence. This workplace relationship is one based on experience and confidence.

Level 3: Established and vulnerability-based trust

This level of trust in relationships is reserved for the most important connections in life, often created over time from relationships that began at Level 2. A quote that demonstrates a relationship is at this trust level is:

“I personally know you understand my dream, goals, and fears, and this would never be misused. Trust flows easily between both parties.”

An example is where relationships evolve organically and where trust flows throughout an organization. Google’s massive two-year study on team performance revealed that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.  This is an example of a level 3 trust relationship in an organization, when your creativity and the ability to speak up for the good of the team project is respected and valued. Extreme examples of level 3 trust relationships are your best friend, your spouse, and other close intimate relationships that truly are reserved for a select few outside of the workplace.

In my experience, great focus comes with being clear on what trust relationships need to change (move from Level 1 to Level 2, for example) and what trust relationships are ok where they are because both parties in the relationship are satisfied with the results.

It is useful to first reflect on what trust is and how it is evolving in these complex, changing times. Take a look at trust within your own organization and identify what level of trust relationships exist and how it serves the organization, or how it doesn’t and needs to shift. You may decide that a Level 1 trust between two parties is working well and needs to be maintained.

Also, take a look at your own impact on the trust-based relationships in your own experience.  Think about what your role has been in establishing a level of trust in your various relationships. How self-aware are you of how you are seen by others?

Bottom line – Organizational culture can take a monumental shift when leaders intentionally assess the current and desired level of trust relationships in their organization. Resetting the culture isn’t a quick fix. Behaviour can change so think of how to influence the behavior change. To create more trustworthy relationships that you want – know where you are starting from.

Linda is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Building Trust in the Workplace program. 

 

About the Author

Linda Allen-Hardisty

Linda Allen-Hardisty is an ICF-certified executive coach, a senior OD professional, a chair at The Executive Committee (TEC) Canada, and a contributing member of Forbes Coaches Council. She’s built a reputation as a vibrant, contemporary voice in the business world by blending her grounding in organizational development with a practical approach to addressing business challenges. Over her 20-year OD career, she has helped many leaders – from corporate executives to entrepreneurs – improve their personal and professional success. She is a sought-after facilitator for executive development, organizational change and culture, team effectiveness, and emotional intelligence. With a Masters of Education from the University of Regina and a certificate in Organizational Development from Queen’s IRC, Linda’s uniqueness is that, prior to private practice, she fulfilled corporate leadership roles including the Director of Organizational Development in a company listed on the Hewitt Top 50 Employers in Canada, and became the first Manager of Strategy and Performance for a municipal government undertaking cultural transformation.

A Humble Mindset: A Coaching Differentiator

As a leadership coach, I regularly reflect on the approaches which support the essential relationship between the client and coach. Something that allows these approaches to work more effectively is an overarching mindset of humility, a mindset that applies to both the client as well as the coach.

I do want to be clear that ‘humility’ for me does not imply weakness, nor is it the opposite of a tough-minded approach to supporting a client in his or her developmental goals. Rather, it implies a respectful environment that recognizes that the most appropriate coaching relationship is one in which client and coach work on strategies, plans and actions that will result in positive impact. Further, a mindset that comes from a humble stance can strengthen the essential base of trust which the most successful coaching partnerships require.

My understanding of humility within coaching and organization work is anchored in the thinking of Edgar Schein (who has more recently been joined by his son, Peter), who have explored a humble approach in support of learning and behavioral change through a series of books.

In this article, I will share some examples of the application of a humble mindset in coaching work from two different perspectives:

  1. The decision by a client to work with a coach and the coach’s decision to work with a client combined with honouring of the client’s expertise, experience and accomplishment throughout the coaching relationship; and
  2. The commitment to working with the reality of where the organization is today, rather than where client and/or coach would like it to be.

Download PDF: A Humble Mindset: A Coaching Differentiator

Building a Custom Queen’s IRC Certificate: Lessons from the BCNU Governance Board Certificate Program

Union president Christine Sorensen and the British Columbia Nurses’ Union (BCNU) Board have big aspirations for a professional union with a strong, high-functioning Board. Achieving this vision has meant restructuring, long-term strategic planning, and significant training for the Board – and all within a three-year elected term.

In 2017, Christine was appointed as president (from the vp/acting-president role) and a new Board had also been elected. With a significant turnover in Board members and a strong drive for change, they began working towards their goals, immediately taking on some significant organizational and structural issues.

The BCNU Board (or Council) is comprised 25 people – 20 chairs for 16 regions in the province, and five provincial officers.

“We needed them to come together and unite very quickly as a Board as we were dealing with some very complex issues,” said Christine. “We were looking for something that would give them the skills and abilities to feel confident about making difficult decisions.”

BCNU had been working with Queen’s University IRC to provide a customized Labour Relations Certificate to their local leaders, and when they started talking about who could provide training to the Board, Queen’s IRC came to mind.

The union wanted a Certificate program from a reputable institution with experience in training for unions. They needed training on a variety of topics to help build leadership skills within the Board, so they reached out to Queen’s IRC Director, Stephanie Noel.

Stephanie was pleased to work with the group to build a customized Certificate program to meet their unique needs.

“They needed training that focused on effective governance and leadership skills,” said Stephanie. “But like many organizations, they also needed some foundational pieces around managing organizational change, labour relations, strategies for workplace conflicts, creating high performance teams and building trust and emotional intelligence.”

The themes that ran throughout all of the training programs in the Certificate included:

  • Understanding their role and responsibilities on the BCNU Board
  • The crucial role of teams and teamwork
  • Building trust and emotional intelligence
  • Effective communication practices
  • Conflict resolution best practices

While the first BCNU Labour Relations Certificate was comprised of three, four-day labour relations programs, Board members did not have the time for four-day training sessions. Stephanie customized the schedule to the Board’s needs, and set up seven, two-day programs, to run monthly, at the same time as the members came from their regions for the Board meetings. And with that, the Queen’s IRC Governance and Leadership Excellence Certificate for BCNU was born.

Throughout 2018, a variety of Queen’s IRC facilitators and coaches rotated into the BCNU offices for each two-day program, giving participants the ability to learn from experts in each area.

“As the individual programs progressed,” Stephanie said. “It became clear that the vision for the final program on team-building would have to change. So we adjusted it into a more advanced version of the first program on governance effectiveness, because that’s what BCNU needed.”

Christine thinks there were many valuable components to the IRC training, but overall helping the Board move towards an understanding that their role is around risk-management was key. The term they often use is “nose in – fingers out”. A couple of the programs focussed on role-clarity. What is a Board member’s role? What is true Board governance? What is risk management? What is fiduciary responsibility?

While the newly elected Board members were experts on the nursing floor, most of them had never sat on a Board before. “In their first year, they’re trying to figure out what they’re supposed to do,” said Christine. “Now all of a sudden, we’ve made them responsible for a multi-million dollar budget, a collective agreement and staff.” For someone who was a nurse at the bedside yesterday, this is a big mental shift.

The training helped members move from being a “do-er” to being a leader and strategist. “It helped us with that mental shift of having the Council move to more Board governance and Board oversight,” said Christine.

Personally, Christine saw a lot of value in the sections on understanding emotional intelligence, not only for Board members as individuals but also as a group – learning how they function and make decisions, and what decision paralysis they sometimes get into and why. “The facilitators really challenged us to move to that higher-functioning level as a Board,” she said.

For other members who wear two hats – one as a Board member and the other as the ‘operational CEOs’ of their own region – the practical labour relations programs on things like conflict resolution and  grievance handling were very useful for their regional work.

Christine points out that regional chairs have to operationalize the decisions made by the Board, so depending on where they are, they have to remind themselves, ‘I’m here wearing my regional chair hat’ or ‘I’m here wearing my Board hat.’

Tracey Greenberg has been a Licensed Practical Nurse for 34 years, and is currently the regional chair for the Frazer Valley region. He was impressed with the Queen’s IRC Certificate program. “As a Licensed Practical Nurse, university has not been something in my realm of education, so for me to get university training was just incredible,” he said.

“My thinking process has changed in regards to really listening to people. I just felt like my mind opened up to a lot of the governance pieces. It gave me a look at all the skills I have and what I can improve on.”

Tracey feels that the training helped him improve his leadership skills. He said people actually noticed a difference in his style.

“My way of thinking about things has changed. I am looking at more of the bigger picture and how all the little pictures create that picture, and how to work with them all,” he said. “I think the course really helped me do that.”

Tracey really appreciates that Queen’s IRC was able to create this custom certificate for them. “I just really found it so helpful.”

The Human Resources Business Partner

Introduction

The Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP) is a popular designation for many human resources professionals in today’s Canadian organizations. However, there seems to be no consistent definition of this role and its responsibilities. This article will attempt to describe the most common organizational structures or models used by HR departments to incorporate HRBPs and will review the strengths and challenges of these models. It will also illustrate the duties and the necessary skills of the fully competent HRBP and make recommendations for organizations considering creating HRBP roles.

Assumptions underlying the HRBP Model

At the heart of the Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP) model is the assumption that an HR professional should become a strategic partner with line managers to help fulfill business goals.[1] Its intent is to “help HR professionals integrate more thoroughly into business processes and align their day-to-day work with business outcomes. This means focusing more on deliverables and business results than HR activities.”[2]

A second assumption is that the human side of the business is a key source of competitive advantage. The HRBP model enables the organization to optimize its human capital by bringing human resources considerations into strategic plans.

The success of the HRBP model also depends on several other key assumptions, namely that the HR partner is sufficiently skilled and prepared for this challenging role, that the line managers being “helped” are willing to accept the new model, and that HR work is restructured so that other more traditional HR functions are also being performed adequately.

Download PDF: The Human Resources Business Partner

 


[1] Ulrich, D. (1998). ‘A new mandate for human resources’. Harvard Business Review, 76: 1, 124–134.

[2] Ulrich, D. & Brockbank, W. (2009). ‘The HR Business-Partner Model: Past Learnings and Future Challenges’.  People and Strategy, 32/2, 5-7.

HR and Manager Partnerships: Building Accountability in the Workplace

Rayna had just received an interesting request. J.B., a recent addition to the front-line management team, had come to her following the division wide quarterly town hall update. The division president, Anne, had given a talk on accountability. She’d been firm in her resolve to increase division wide understanding of what it meant to be accountable at work. J.B. wasn’t questioning the directive. He was struggling with the meaning. What did accountability mean for him as a manager?

“Rayna,” he said. “In my last job we talked a lot about a culture of responsiveness. We gave a lot of lip service to building good teams, but in the end, it was really all about getting things done – fast. There was a lot of blaming; nobody wanted to be the one to holding the bag. It was about covering your backside – always.”

“Ugh,” said Rayna. “That must have been tough. We are trying hard to be different here. Anne is all about building a healthy workplace. She wants people to feel good about coming to work.”

J.B. replied, “I hear what she’s saying. It just doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about accountability at work. I know, it sounds crazy.”

“Anne’s talk got me thinking,” said Rayna. “I’ve been doing some reading and listening to podcasts on what accountability means. How about we set up some lunch dates to talk about what I’m finding?”

“Perfect!” said J.B. “Thanks, Rayna, I really appreciate you taking this on with me.”

Download PDF: HR and Manager Partnerships: Building Accountability in the Workplace

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