The Power of Cognitive Behavioural Techniques in the Workplace

The Power of Cognitive Behavioural Techniques in the WorkplaceFor many years I have been interested in, and excited by, the strong evidence of the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to treat a host of symptoms and behaviours commonly associated with depression and anxiety disorders. These symptoms include lack of motivation, feelings of being overwhelmed, feelings of inadequacy, and loss of interest in activities and relationships that used to bring joy and fulfillment to a person.

These symptoms can have tragic results to an individual’s personal and professional life. As someone who has worked in the field of labour relations for the past 25 years, I have often observed how these symptoms impact individuals in the workplace, and the rate of that impact appears to be increasing in recent years. I believe that a basic understanding of CBT, and its practical application, is valuable to union representatives, HR professionals, and anyone who is handling mental health or mental illness issues in the workplace.

In this article, I will discuss the application of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques to both return to work and performance improvement plans, for individuals whose work life has been impacted by these issues.

Performance Management – Many Possibilities…and Implications

Performance Management – Many Possibilities...and ImplicationsPerformance Management (PM) has become a core organizational strategy and management priority for many organizations. From Boards of Directors to front-line managers, PM can effectively be used to drive accountability, quality, productivity, competence, and rewards and recognition. Going beyond simply a tool to drive “appraisals” and incentive rewards, PM can be complex and not without risk but it can also drive a sophisticated quality and performance-based culture.

Performance management has also become both a strategic imperative and a challenge for many organizations in this data analytics day and age. As a core enabler of performance optimization and accountability, many executive and HR leaders view PM as a core management practice and a key ingredient to becoming a higher performance organization. As a result of various regulatory, methodological and technological developments over the past five years, however, PM has become a misunderstood topic that is confusing for many organizations, especially for those that do not recognize the interdependencies that cut across other management and human resources practices at the enterprise-wide, team and individual levels of performance.

Best practice performance management is clearly not a “one size fits all” endeavor. Rather, it needs to fundamentally reflect the unique contextual needs of one’s strategic direction, business model, workforce profile and leadership preferences. Best practice PM also needs to be thoughtfully configured, and in many cases, phased in and allowed to mature, otherwise, the policies and programs that it supports will collapse and be rendered ineffective – a management risk that could be quite damaging, ultimately constraining front-line performance and of key importance, customer satisfaction.

Why is performance management such an important and trendy topic these days? The answers are numerous and fundamentally include:

  • A variety of inter-related governance and accountability developments over the past five to ten years that believe that PM is key to better oversight processes and outcomes;
  • The ever-increasing availability and power of technology to produce relevant operational performance data and analytics;
  • Recognition that effective PM can actually connect and translate strategic direction to front-line teams and employees;
  • The need to better support and drive executive and employee pay for performance with focused and measurable value added metrics;
  • Competitive pressures and the belief that PM can really impact and contribute to quality management, cost reduction efforts and improve the customer experience;
  • Given the dynamic state of various labour market segments and the importance of top talent attraction and retention, a view that good PM can be used to inform employee and workforce performance, their engagement, career development and deployment; and
  • An historical perspective that PM is one of the key means for validating the performance/compensation employment relationship.

The current trend and focus on PM these days is also being driven by a provocative point of view that is challenging the PM value proposition and a debate that suggests that individual performance ratings have had their day in the sun. This debate is certainly timely and is serving to raise the bar on how PM could be used and optimized, and what management and HR applications should PM actually be used to drive and enable. At a minimum, the debate is stimulating real and thorough discussions around the boardroom table and in the executive suite, with the net result that PM strategies and practices will continue to evolve and mature, albeit possibly in a different form.

This new “rating-less” form, however, is contextually unique to certain types of businesses – those with knowledge-intensive workforces, project and team-based work delivery, mature operational performance measurement systems that are woven into the fabric of work and job designs, increasingly sophisticated competency and behaviourally-based assessment practices, and an organizational commitment to ongoing performance dialogue and discussions between managers and employees, where managers have limited spans of control that are conducive to the necessary preparation and time for regular performance coaching sessions. Again, one size doesn’t fit all! Adopting and applying these characteristics [and trends] to all types of business models, organization designs and cultures would be folly and highly risky – as such, business and HR leaders truly need to understand context, choices and implications before they make strategic PM decisions that could possibly compromise enterprise value and people’s careers.

Finally, current PM trends are also being driven by the fact that we have passed the technological and information management point of no return – web-based technology systems and information management practices, social media and transparency of disclosure, and workplace automation and data analytics are fundamentally changing the way organizations plan, measure and operate. This profound change is and will increasingly drive foundational PM in the vast majority of industry sectors and businesses. Technologically-based workplace performance measurement is now becoming embedded in and inherently core to how work is done and how customer value is created. As a result, management across all sectors and enterprise sizes now have low cost and ease of access to measurement analytics, and more PM choice than ever before – the dilemma for many then will be why, what and how do they want to use more easily accessible, timely and accurate measurement data for PM? And as we all well know in this day and age, and to the consternation of many private and public sector leaders, if organizations don’t embrace and control the instant messaging and social media wave, interested or vested stakeholders will, in some shape or form, get access to performance data and use it to suit their needs and agenda in a very transparent and immediate way! So the bottom-line now is that more sophisticated and complex PM strategies and practices aren’t just the purview of high performance organizations and their controllable management systems!

So in the context of these trends, opportunities and implications, where is the interested business or HR leader to begin on the PM journey? Start by answering key questions:

  • Why do you need performance management, how should it work, and what do you want to use it for?
  • Do you have foundational planning and measurement practices and systems to support various PM applications?
  • Given the nature of your mandate, business model and workforce, will more sophisticated PM practices contribute to better operational processes and productivity, marketplace results, employee engagement and motivation, and strengthened pay for performance linkages?
  • What are the risks and implications of pursuing a contextually misaligned PM strategy or not executing the PM program well?

Like most core annual management practices, the risks and challenges associated with poor strategy and methodological decisions can be quite challenging, constraining and difficult to address in the short term:

  • Strategy dilution and misalignment of focus, efforts, and ultimately, less than optimal quality outcomes and results;
  • Line management and employee distraction and confusion;
  • Low value added administrative time and opportunity cost; and
  • Poor pay for performance, training, and career management decisions and investments.

Fundamentally then, and as the wise adage suggests – you need to be careful for what you ask for and aspire to achieve with PM! Do your homework and be careful about your aspirations, strategic approach, the implications and risks, and the intended consequences…but if you can contextually and successfully make PM happen, the benefits are enormous, ultimately contributing to a high performance culture and more importantly, sustainable competitive advantage and customer loyalty, and simply, a great place to work!

Want to learn more about Performance Management? Check out the Queen’s IRC Performance Management training program.


About the Author

Ian CullwickIan Cullwick, CCP, CHRL, CMC, is a Partner in Mercer’s Ottawa office. He joined Mercer in 2015 after having served as the Vice-President of HR and Organization Research at the Conference Board of Canada, and as a Partner at a major international consulting firm. Ian specializes in governance effectiveness, performance management, human resources strategy, and organization design.  He consults to a broad cross-section of organizations in both the private and public sectors, including high technology companies, financial institutions, crown corporations, health care and not-for-profit organizations.  He is also a noted thought leader and has authored a number of articles on organization design, performance and compensation. Ian has an MBA from the Ivey Business School (Western University), an MIR from the University of Toronto and an undergraduate degree from Queen’s University.

Are You Concerned About Global Privacy? You Should Be!

Are You Concerned About Global Privacy? You Should Be!You likely believe that your organization’s data – operating, financial, human resources – is a key resource and you have policies and processes in place to mitigate any risk.

Whether or not your organization operates in just one province, or just within Canada, you should understand that the principles and guidelines of data management are not grounded in geographic jurisdiction.  Data management, and the security and privacy of that data, is a global issue.

Goodbye Safe Harbor

In October 2015, the “Schrems” decision by the European Court of Justice ruled that the “Safe Harbor” structure between the US and the European Union (EU) is invalid.1

The US has no federal privacy law (a source of serious concern to many organizations), and Safe Harbor was the means by which US-based firms could previously get blanket approval regarding the movement of personal data, including HR data, between the US and all EU member countries.

This decision is a direct result of the considerable suspicion of the global community regarding the extent of US government surveillance of personal information (via The Patriot Act, and others).  The US‘s National Security Agency (NSA) has taken the position that non-US citizens have no rights regarding an expectation of privacy.

Further, US law requires US-based organizations to comply with surveillance orders, so the concept of data privacy becomes almost moot.2

US Swarm Regulation

The lack of countrywide legislation in the US has spawned an industry-based approach to the regulation of data privacy.

Companies face multiple state and federal regulators on an industry-to-industry basis, producing an ever growing swarm of regulation that is simultaneously inconsistent, conflicting, and full of gaps.  Major US-based technology companies (Apple, Microsoft, and Google, to name three) have been outspoken about this problem since diverse legislation is both frustrating and costly.3

Hello EU/US Privacy Shield

Schrems fired a shot across the bows of the US intelligence and business communities by opening the door for each European country to apply its own regulations for organizations moving personal data to the US, and possibly forcing organizations to host personal data exclusively within Europe. It also created the foundation for a pan-European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that takes full effect in 2018.

On February 4, 2016, the European Commission and the United States announced a new framework agreement for transatlantic data flows: the EU-US Privacy Shield.  It is intended to protect the fundamental right of privacy of European citizens while at the same time providing legal certainty for the thousands of US-based businesses that serve them.

As always, the devil will be in the details and the evolution of the full draft complete with regulations will be of considerable interest through the remainder of 2016.

Oh Canada

The good news is that (so far) Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) has been considered adequate to protect personal privacy, and an agreement similar to Safe Harbor has been unnecessary.

But the Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the lesser known of Canada’s two spy agencies which focuses on electronic surveillance, may give rise to concern as well.

The Canadian Anti-terrorism Act gave the CSE expanded use of electronic surveillance, authorizing it to intercept foreign communications that begin or end domestically, as long as one party is outside Canada. CSE shares information with intelligence agencies in the so-called “Five Eyes” group of countries — namely the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.  The European Union’s success in challenging the NSA could easily mean that attention shifts to the CSE.

Canadian Model Leads the Way

The EU/US Privacy Shield announcement includes an Ombudsman-style redress mechanism similar to Canadian Federal and Provincial Privacy Commissioners.

This may be one of the more interesting aspects of the agreement as it seems to mean that the US could FINALLY, actually create some form of “Privacy Czar” (a.k.a. office of data protection or privacy.)

Global Data Management Rules

History has shown us that concepts and laws in one jurisdiction rapidly spread. Recall the 2002 advent of the US’s Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act regarding securities and financial controls.  That law almost immediately spawned corresponding Canadian legislation.

Data management legislation will likely closely follow SOX in significantly increasing the legal responsibilities of executive management with regard to the privacy and security of personal data. Organization policies and procedures will follow directly. This strikes a major blow against organizations that try to consolidate data into an effective and efficient single database (look out Big Data!!) and creates enormous uncertainty surrounding global data management.

If your organization’s operations transcend national borders the challenge will be to construct a data privacy and security strategy, as well as processes that maximize data utility and minimize risk of loss or misuse.

The growth of technology and the impact on data management has spread like an epidemic across the world and the concept of national boundaries has become largely meaningless.  Expecting that a national border will change the nature or flow of data is as realistic and probable as expecting it to stop the spread of the flu. In that regard, the EU-US Privacy Shield is a positive step in the global data management challenge since it helps provide some structure to the swarm reality of the US’s current approach.

Data sharing can’t be taken for granted any more. Companies and their cloud providers are more responsible than ever for data sovereignty, and this responsibility is only going to increase when the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is adopted, leaving organizations with a two-year time limit to comply. The penalties for wrongdoing are well publicized and severe for companies that fail to adapt to the new data privacy landscape.4

Canada-US Data Management Challenges

Data management challenges are not just true with respect to privacy and security.  Canadian users of services such as Netflix or Apple’s iTunes will have experienced the frustration of Canadian licensing laws limiting access to content.  These laws are as much based on nationality as on geography. For example, a Canadian in the US cannot buy US content if the devices being used for access are linked to Canadian IP addresses or cell-phone carriers.  Meanwhile the data flows illegally across the border through a variety of innovative technical end-arounds.

Looking Forward

Individual consent seems to be increasing in importance although that process is the most administratively burdensome, in part because it can be revocable, and because adequate tools to manage that process are in very short supply.

That places pressure on a variety of management activities – such as business analytics – which will clearly be effected by the trend to recognize individuals’ notice rights, including third-party protection (naming names), retention periods, the right to be forgotten, purpose and transfers.

Trying to analyze and act on collective data will be very complex.  For example, profiling based on sensitive data can only be done with explicit consent.

International agreements to deal with these realities are expected.


About the Author

Ian TurnbullIan Turnbull is a Director of The Canadian Privacy Institute, formerly a subsidiary of Laird & Greer Management Group Corp. A former Chair of the Canadian Council of Human Resource Associations (CCHRA) and of the International Association of Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM) his latest book (Carswell 2014) is HR Manager’s Guide to Managing Information Systems.  Ian has a BA and MBA from Western University (The University of Western Ontario) and obtained his professional human resource designation, the CHRP, in 1992.



1 The author gratefully acknowledges the early reporting and ideas of Jon Neiditz of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton of Atlanta GA, US, and Kevin Duggan, President & CEO of Camouflage Software.

2 Roberts, D. & Ackerman, S. (2013, June 7). Anger swells after NSA phone records court order revelations. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from

3 Neiditz, J. (2015, November 14). No Harm, Big Foul: Why Yesterday’s LabMD Decision is Stunning and Important. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from

4 Help Net Security. (2014, March 17). EU sets huge fines for firms who violate users’ privacy Retrieved, February 22, 2016, from

Queen’s University IRC 2015 Workplace in Motion Summit Proceedings

The world of work is changing, and the most successful organizations and practitioners are those that understand how these changes impact the way they do business. To help them do so, and to foster further dialogue, Queen’s IRC hosted the Workplace in Motion Summit in Toronto on April 16th, 2015. Over 100 human resource, labour relations, and organizational development professionals from across Canada attended the Summit. Chaired by IRC facilitator Brenda Barker Scott, the Summit provided a forum to stimulate new ideas and new perspectives on the dynamic new world of work.

The Summit focused on a variety of questions of interest to today’s human resource, labour relations, and organizational development professionals. More specifically, it helped participants:

  • Identify issues and best practices related to current trends and practices in human resource manage­ment, labour relations, and organizational development.
  • Explore how rapidly emerging technologies are shaping and re-shaping modern workplaces and the way we work.
  • Investigate the impact of changing demographics on contemporary organizations.

This was all done with the intent of identifying how they can better lead change and promote excellence within and beyond their organizations and professional networks.

Over the course of the Summit, several themes emerged that were particularly critical to today’s human resource, labour relations, and organizational development professionals. These included the need to:

  • Manage change and transformation in order to advance organizational and professional interests with as little disruption as possible.
  • Create the physical space, infrastructure, technologies, and systems necessary to support a collaborative, open, and innovative workplace and work culture.
  • Engage, retain, and motivate the new generation of employees and to bridge inter-generational gaps in the workplace.
  • Think outside the box in order to appropriately encourage risk-taking and innovation.

This report elaborates on the most important questions, issues, and themes identified by Summit participants going forward.

Download Summit Proceedings

Would Roger Martin consider HRM to be a profession?

Would Roger Martin consider HRM to be a profession?To be frank, the academic literature on what makes a profession is not very accessible. Here is something of a different take on the topic. For some time, there has been an ongoing debate in the Harvard Business Review as to whether business management is, or should be, a profession. The debate started with an article written by Khurana, Nohria, and Penrice in 2005 entitled Is business management a profession?(1) A cogent rebuttal was published a few years later by Richard Barker in a 2010 article entitled The Big Idea: No, Management Is Not a Profession.(2) The debate drew commentary from many sources, one such commentary was by Roger Martin in an HBR Blog dated July 2010 entitled Management is not a profession — but it can be taught.(3) In this blog, Martin laid out his profession calculus:

So my basic calculus is as follows: If quality can’t be determined in advance and cost of failure is high, the market in question will attract regulation. And if the product/service is delivered by a single identifiable individual, it will become a regulated profession. If it doesn’t attract regulation, it doesn’t matter a whit whether an activity is deemed by its participants to be a ‘profession.’

It is this calculus and its application to Human Resources Management (HRM) which is the subject of this article.

Managing Under the Microscope: The Next Tsunami of Environmental Disasters in the Workplace

 The Next Tsunami of Environmental Disasters in the WorkplaceThere is a new wave of environmental disasters that are just beginning to splash onto our daily news feeds. Workplace cultures are the next targets that will be publicly examined and debated in excruciating detail – just ask the CBC, Amazon, or the Lance Armstrong “company machine.” All the dirty laundry of inappropriate behaviours and unacceptable people practices are flooding out in the wash, and every detail is being hung out on the public line to view. However, that’s just the trickle before the tsunami wave that will expose these environmental toxins that currently live in some form or another in vast numbers of organizations.

The human toll is difficult to tabulate, as the toxic waste manifests itself in polluted work environments and it lives and breeds where inefficient business practices, ineffective managers and bad employee attitudes are allowed to roam and run free. Where these toxins live and breed is a force to be reckoned with and containing or eliminating the poison is tricky business. However, not addressing this in a proactive manner has now become very risky business. Like the killer-force of the tsunami, it can destroy carefully crafted and nurtured company brands and can stop business dead in its wake.

Under the Microscope – Macro Management

Perhaps it’s the anti-bullying campaign that is bringing these issues to light, or we are finally connecting the dots to the skyrocketing claims of workplace stress. Unfortunately these toxins don’t just end in the workplace, they continue to multiply and seep into our homes, families, and communities. The result is a reactionary health care cost of monumental proportions that none of us can afford to pay.

Creating a Mentoring Culture for Organizational Success

Creating a Mentoring Culture for Organizational SuccessMentoring is a management practice that can assist organizations in building a desired corporate culture, while enabling the careers of those who are already motivated to pursue one. It is an efficient and effective method of shortening the learning curve of new executives and providing more knowledgeable employees with broader perspectives. New executives with a mentor have a sounding board, as well as the benefit of their mentor’s experience as they navigate through situations that may be unfamiliar to them. Based upon a foundation of trust, the relationship of mentees with experienced executives can offer a safe place to try out ideas, skills, and roles with minimal risk, while focusing on their individual development needs.

In this article, I will discuss the impact a mentoring culture can make in an organization, how mentoring differs from coaching, the value of a structured approach to mentoring and the steps to set up a mentoring program.

Successful Mentorships

Mentoring is defined as a professional and confidential relationship between two individuals that assists one of them in developing “business strategies” and acquiring new “technical” knowledge and skills. One mentee concluded, after a year-long mentoring relationship in a structured program I designed for a large public sector organization,1 that: “It is an evolutionary process, where mentors become a resource for someone enabling an exchange of ideas and experiences. Avoid matching of those who have known each other a long time… the forging of the relationship is a valuable part of the process.”

Professional Commitment Guilt and the 24 Hour a Day Workplace

Twenty years ago we used to call him or her a “workaholic.”  This is someone who compulsively works long and hard hours, not being able to leave the work at work, but instead fixates over uncompleted tasks throughout the evening.  Today it would be difficult to find a professional that does not fit into this category.  Some might blame technology for this world pandemic of workaholism.  Our work is simply a click away – waiting for us – tempting us to answer that one last email, or complete that one last task.

However, increased access to the workplace from home is only part of underlying cause.  Just as important is the culture of professionalism that has developed in the last 50 years.  This culture places expectations upon people who act in a professional capacity to put their best foot forward at work.1  This has led to many positive work dynamics such as proactive decision-making, and team-based approaches that focus on taking responsibility for outcomes and upholding corporate values.

Despite all of its positive attributes, professional commitment, also contains a dark side – something we call “professional commitment guilt.”  We define professional commitment guilt as “negative self-identification resulting from increasingly unrealistic work demands associated with modern workplaces that impact upon work-life balance.”

This phenomenon is most clearly visible in workplaces where professionals are unionized.  These professionals often have formally defined hours of work – in some cases even lighter formal workloads than the average workplaces in Canada.  Many of these professionals are entitled to a 35 – 37.5 hour work week.

Despite the entitlement to a balanced work week, many unionized professionals have reported excessive work demands and expectations that have led them to forgo their entitlements in order to fulfill their obligations.2  This increased expectation is the result of the changing nature of work and access to the tools of work on a 24 hour a day basis.  Twenty years ago, to fulfill the requirements of work it was necessary to attend the workplace.  If there were computer programs, they could only be housed in large computers at the workplace.  And there was no such thing as remote access.  Now the workplace is accessible to professionals virtually 24 hours a day via email, texting, VPN and other remote access technology.  Expectations related to response time have changed drastically over the last few years.

This has created a culture of immediacy and urgency in the workplace.  Professionals are responding to questions at all hours of the day and night, because that is their growing expectation of themselves.  Failure to respond immediately becomes interpreted as failing to respond in a timely manner – something that most regard as unprofessional.

The dangerous intermingling of professional commitment guilt with external pressures to be accessible on an ongoing basis through the 24 hour day has led to significant challenges for modern workplaces and professions.

Consequences of Poor Work-Life Balance

In our observations concerning various workplaces across the country, the concept of “professional commitment guilt” results in making personal sacrifices that often lead to diminished life satisfaction.  According to a recent study3 a large majority of the respondents (77%) agree that they are under pressure to fulfill other’s expectations.  This has led to the following results:

High levels of stress and anxiety

The majority (78%) of the respondents agree that they experience high levels of stress and anxiety due to poor work-life balance.  Many experience frustration and guilt in compromising on the time to be spent with family.

Disharmony at home

Sixty-eight percent of the respondents agree that the consequence of poor work-life balance is disharmony at home.

Job burnout

The majority of the respondents fall in the age bracket of 35 to 55 years of age, with more than 10 years of work experience. Therefore, they are likely to be in the middle management cadre, having to lead teams and fulfill higher level responsibilities. At this stage of their lives, they are also likely to be engaged in the upbringing of teenage children and caring for elderly dependents. All this exerts tremendous strain.  A large majority of the respondents agree that one of the consequences of poor work-life balance is job burnout. The analysis clearly indicates that excess work and the resultant imbalance leads to job burnout.

So What Can We Do to Moderate the Impact of Technology and Professional Commitment Guilt on our Lives?

Here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” for employers who are concerned about the work-life balance of their professional employees.

Don’t Limit Access to Technology

As employers this intermingling creates many complications in our desire to have happy, healthy, productive employees.  Access to technology may have a positive impact upon work-life balance if used responsibly.  It allows for more flexible working arrangements that may account for child and elder care responsibilities.  So limiting access to the technology itself is not the answer.  This can have a positive impact on work-life balance if expectations are properly managed.

Set Reasonable Work Expectations and Rewards for Performance

While we all want increased productivity from our staff, there is a point of diminishing returns, and in fact negative consequences, from having increasingly unrealistic expectations.  Make sure that the work productivity expectations are clearly communicated.

Create Meaningful Rewards that Encourage Work-Life Balance

Up to this point, many employers have directly or indirectly been promoting professional commitment guilt by rewarding those who sacrifice work-life balance for productivity.  Different metrics for success will have to be developed and encouraged if employers wish to help employees moderate the exigencies of professional commitment guilt.  It is not enough to set expectations – these must be fortified with appropriate rewards.

Involve Professionals in the Setting of Work Expectations and Rewards

Make sure that the employees themselves have significant input into the setting of those expectations.  Often employers do not fully appreciate the demands associated with the particular specialties that professionals have.  So open and clear communications about the nature of the work and specific resource requirements is essential.

Understand and Look for Professional Commitment Guilt

An employer that takes work-life balance seriously will seek to understand that professional commitment guilt may lead workers to take on more than is healthy for them.  Individuals often do not understand what is happening to them, as they go to extremes to please their employer.  Education is key.  Make sure that professionals are made aware of the symptoms of professional commitment guilt, so that they can recognize the trap they are falling into.


Professional commitment forms the foundation of most workplaces.  Our greatest challenge is in distinguishing between commitment and guilt. Those employers who understand and account for the difference will have healthier, happier, more engaged and more productive professionals.


About the Authors

Blaine Donais (B.A., LL.B., LL.M., RPDR, C. Med.) is President and Founder of the Workplace Fairness Institute. Blaine is a labour lawyer and an expert in labour/management facilitations, mediation, and investigation. He teaches human resources professionals, labour leaders and others in areas such as human rights, labour and employment law, human resources, collective bargaining and conflict resolution.  Blaine is author of Workplaces That Work: A Guide to Conflict Management in Union and Non-Union Work Environments (Carswell, 2006), and of Engaging Unionized Employees (Carswell, 2010) and The Art and Science of Workplace Mediation (Carswell, 2014). Blaine is an Adjunct Professor of Workplace Conflict Management, and Advanced Mediation Academic Director at York University. He also teaches at the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto and at Royal Roads University.


Dr. Joel Moody (MD, PhD, MPH) is the Director of Safety, Risk, Policy and Innovation with the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA).  He leads a diverse group of scientists, engineers and analysts that provide leadership in regulatory best practice, compliance, public risk, and harm reduction related to electrical safety.  Prior to joining ESA in 2011, Joel used his experience and expertise in applying clinical and epidemiological principles to investigate and design prevention activities for environmental and occupational health, and chronic disease at local, national, and international levels.  Joel holds a Ph. D. from the University of Toronto, a Doctor of Medicine from George Washington University, a Master of Public Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Duke University.


1 van Rensburg, F. J. (2010). What is Professional Commitments? Retrieved October 7, 2015, from [website no longer available]

2 Based on various surveys conducted by the Society of Energy Professionals between 1995-2015. Unpublished.

3 Subramanian, R. (2014). Work-life Balance. HRM Review (Sept 2014). The ICFAI University Press.

Business Intelligence, Big Data, and HR

Business Intelligence, Big Data and HROur people are our most important asset, or so we hear, so data about those people – workers, or employees, if you prefer – should be central to our organization’s total data set! To understand where HR data fits, you first have to understand your organization’s overall data management strategy. How is data collected, organized, and managed?  And how do you analyze that data to obtain information?

“Business Intelligence”, the idea of transforming raw data into useful and actionable information, has become an oft-discussed concept. It allows management to gain historical insight and to produce predictive analytics for competitive advantage. And Business Intelligence arises directly from “Big Data”, the process of bringing together raw data from multiple data sources into a single analytical tool. That tool can be used by management to produce Business Intelligence.

The next time that you use Google, or some other search engine, do a search for some unusual item; something that you haven’t searched for before. Then spend some time on sites that you visit often.

You will notice that ads related to the unusual item will pop up beside your search results for the more common items. That is Big Data at work in a marketing context. Google has picked up your first search and is now displaying pages that its algorithm predicts will be of interest to you based on that search.  And Google (and other providers) charge advertisers for this. It is the core of their economic model.

Grow Your HR Career by Helping to Grow Your Organization

Grow Your HR Career by Helping to Grow Your Organization“Argh…it’s frustrating,” said Jennifer, taking another bite of her kale and apple salad. “He drops these articles in my inbox as part of our new mentoring agreement. I’m not sure how to think about it.”

“What is it this time?” Nicole, Jennifer’s friend in marketing communications, replied. “I think it’s cool you have a mentor. Not only do you get to assist your VP in running the talent management program for the company, you’ve been chosen for the ‘Rising Stars’ program.”

“I know,” said Jennifer. “It’s just frustrating to get articles about the future of HR and how senior leaders don’t always value what we do in an organization. I love HR. I love having a degree in HR. I worked hard for my credentials. I just don’t get it.”

“Why don’t you ask him?” Nicole retorted, as she dashed off to her appointment with the company webmaster. “He’s got his reasons. Ask him.”

In my teaching and consulting practice, HR professionals often recount stories like this.  Someone, somewhere, makes a disparaging remark about human resources as a “dead end”, “non-value add” or “being the department that just gets in the way.”

Here’s the news. This is no longer truth. This is wonderful time to be an HR professional. It’s time to grow into a true business partner. It’s time to be seen as someone who “gets it.” In the same way that the finance and technology functions have moved from the “number crunchers” and the “geek squad” to strategic business partners, it is time for HR professionals to step into strategic human capital management roles with a full understanding of what that means to their organization.  In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Ram Charon and others (Ram Charon, 2015, p. 63) write that “it’s time for HR to make the same leap that the finance function has made in recent decades and become a true partner to the CEO.”

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