An Inquiry into the State of HR in Canada in 2020

We invite all HR professionals to participate in our survey on the State of Human Resources in Canada in 2020.

This survey is now closed.

This survey follows research of the same nature that we conducted in 2011 and 2013 under the leadership of Queen’s IRC Director, Paul Juniper. We estimate it will take about 20-30 minutes of your time.

The survey has two parts. The first section asks demographic questions aimed to better understand the varied roles and responsibilities of Canada’s HR practitioners. The second section seeks perspectives on the HR profession.

For your participation, you’ll have a chance to win a $50 coffee card (ie: Tim Hortons or Starbucks). There will be an opportunity to enter the draw at the end of the survey, and there will be one $50 gift card for every 100 respondents.

We invite you to share your insights on the HR profession in Canada before the survey closes on June 30, 2020. Please pass this invitation along to any colleagues in the HR profession who could also share their insights.

Should you have any questions regarding Queen’s IRC’s practitioner-focused research, please contact our research team at IRCresearch@QueensU.ca.

From HR Practitioner to HR Leader: Competencies Required

You have your CHRP designation. Now as you begin to climb the ladder to success, what else must you learn to advance your career? One start is to develop the competencies you will need to become a true HR leader. But here the confusion begins. There are many different competencies and competency models proposed by various academics and associations. If you cannot determine with confidence which to trust, how can you decide where to invest your time, money and development efforts?

This article aims to reduce the confusion as much as possible in order to make your decisions easier. Let’s begin by sampling the most important academic research into HR competencies.

Download PDF: From HR Practitioner to HR Leader: Competencies Required

The Making of the Super CHRO

Today CHRO’s are judged on what they deliver and how they get things done. Aligning talent, fostering engagement, enabling common shared vision and values are critical elements in their toolkit. The CHRO has a vital role in shaping the direction of the organization and ensuring business success for all its shareholders. A tall order for sure but one that I believe we are fully equipped to deliver.

In a previous article, Aligning HR Strategies to Create Business Success, I (Philip Wilson) described a Human Resources Framework encapsulating the five components which I propose are the knowledge competency base that are requisite elements for CHRO success:

  1. Strategic Business Planning and HR Alignment
  2. Talent Acquisition Allocation and Management
  3. People Management
  4. Compensation, Rewards and Recognition
  5. Employee and Leadership Professional Development

This article gives more detail on item 1 above – Strategic Business Planning and HR Alignment. The intent is to provide the reader with a deeper insight and focus on the strategic business planning process and how CHRO’s can help align HR with the overall strategic business priorities of the firm. That activity must include consideration of areas such as board governance, corporate vision, mission, values, logic modelling and how the strategy is executed. Bill Greenhalgh, currently President and Chief Executive Officer Stratx Inc., provides insights from a CEO’s perspective.

Download PDF: The Making of the Super CHRO

Aligning HR Strategies to Create Business Success

Aligning HR Strategies to Create Business SuccessI have personally witnessed HR’s evolution from the back room to the board room, from tactics to strategy, and to assuming ownership of the business and its outcomes.  The HR profession has advanced dramatically since the days when I began my career as a recruiter, and we certainly have come a long way from the days of the “Personnel Department” managing things like payroll or vacation requests, and reporting into finance and accounting. I am proud of this evolution which I refer to as the professionalization of the human resources profession.

I have been most fortunate to be part of some great Canadian companies such as CAE Electronics, Bell Northern Research, Northern Telecom and CIBC where I gained both global HR and business expertise.  Recently I became the Director of Corporate Services of DST Consulting Engineers Inc. I support the CEO, the senior leadership team and all our employees through the delivery of aligned HR strategies that support the business in achieving success.

So how does an HR Practitioner start their journey from entrant into the profession to becoming a CHRO or CEO? Well there are no steps to skip. First you need to develop your HR and business acumen. Whether you decide on an individual specialist or generalist career track you must roll up your sleeves and learn your craft and the business. To be successful as an HR practitioner you must both master core HR services and develop a structured holistic business alignment strategy that I refer to as the HR Framework.

The HR Framework

In its simplest form it is made up of five components:

1.  Strategic Business Planning and HR Alignment

Encompassed in this component are board strategies, corporate vision, mission and values.  HR is a pivotal player in facilitating the creation of a business roadmap. Tools such as strategic plans, employee engagement surveys and corporate SWOT analysis will validate decisions and outputs. Without such strategic business planning process skills, HR cannot be a full participant in the process. HR is called upon to make some unique contributions to this process such as organization design, leadership competencies, compensation philosophies and performance management.

2.  Talent Acquisition (Attraction, Recruitment and Onboarding)

This second component is about understanding business requirements such as workforce planning, talent attraction, social media recruiting, employer brand, technical and skill projections, assessment tools, onboarding and regulatory training and deliverables of key competencies.

3.  People Management

This third component includes employee communications, learning plans, business skills and competencies, training and employee development, internal promotion, performance management and improvement coaching, team optimization, management training and employee engagement.

4.  Compensation, Rewards and Recognition

This fourth component refers to pay-for-performance, incentive programs, market data analytics, rewards, benefits, diversity and equity programs and board governance and HR committee compensation strategies.

5.  Employee and Leadership Development

This fifth component includes leadership development program design, mentoring, on the job development and career development assignments, competency development and succession planning.

Making it Work

In order to enable all the above components work together, one must leverage HRMS data and analytics, keep abreast of regulatory employment practices, develop an acute understanding of change management and organizational development, and build strong relations with business partners and all stakeholders internal as well as external.  Dave Ulrich puts it simply… to be effective as a CHRO one must deliver “operational excellence”. One has to deliver the basics flawlessly to gain a seat in the “C” suite. However the reward is huge and your contribution to the business’s success, shaping the firms strategy and your impact on the culture is immense.

The Future of the HR Profession

So what do I see in the future for the HR profession? The more enlightened CEOs are those that fundamentally understand that people are the only sustainable differentiator. Anyone can buy equipment and tools, copy processes, and drive success in the short term. However you can’t buy people’s energy, commitment, and creativity. That’s where HR comes in, creating engagement, the buy in to something bigger, the mission and meaning rather than the money that embeds long term sustainable business success.

Businesses can only gain competitive advantage through their people strategies. Talent management and leadership are critical to address the scarcity of resources and demographics. Today the pace of change in business is seismic, globalization is a reality and societal issues affect all our communities. There are many other business drivers too numerous to detail here. I truly believe that HR leaders must find ways to develop integrated HR strategies in order to create a sustainable HR /business framework.

I believe it is truly an exciting time for all human resources professionals. HR practitioners who understand all the linkages in terms of attraction, development motivation and retention will succeed.   HR is fast becoming recognized as essential in facilitating organizational and business success. It really is our time as professionals! We need to “grab the bull by the horns” and prove once and for all that we belong in the “C” Suite.

About the Author

Philip C. Wilson

Philip C. Wilson, CHRL, CHRE, gained over thirty years of progressively responsible experience in business and the HR field. He is currently Director Corporate Services (formerly the Chief Human Resources Officer) for DST Consulting Engineers Inc. where he is responsible for the quality and depth of talent that differentiate DST in the marketplace, while supporting their ability to deliver on strategic goals. At Felix Global Corp., he provided board governance consulting advice, coached executives, delivered career transition support and facilitated business strategic planning. He provided global leadership as Vice President H.R. at Corel Corp. As Senior Vice President H.R. at CIBC Phil led a global, multi-functional team of HR professionals (125) responsible for CIBC’s executive leadership and training programs, organizational development, executive resourcing, global recruitment strategies, and business process outsourcing. Philip received the Queen’s University IRC Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Resources Industry at the 2015 HR Awards.

References

Ulrich, D. (1997). Human resource champions: The next agenda for adding value and delivering results. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Does HR Really Want to Professionalize?

Do we really want to professionalize?

That is a really good question—but there are layers to that question.  For some years, the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) asked the following question on its annual member survey: ‘Do you agree that the professionalization of HR is, or should be, an important issue for the profession?’  The results appear to show an overwhelming support for the professionalization of HR.  But then again, professionalization is not defined in the survey; we really don’t know what respondents have in mind when they think of professionalization.  In previous Queen’s IRC articles (Balthazard, 2014a, 2014b, 2015a, 2015b) we have seen that professionalization is a quid-pro-quo—that is, the profession has to give to get.  The get is easy—enhanced status, respect, and remuneration.  The give, however, is discussed much less often.  Did the survey respondents carefully consider the gives and the gets of professionalization and decide that the net benefit of professionalization was positive before answering the question?  Probably not.  But this is something that needs to be worked through.  If the support for professionalization is simply a reflection of the idea that it would be nice to have more status, respect, and remuneration as HR professionals, then the support may be shallow.  If professionalization is sold solely based on its benefits, then there is the danger of feeding into this shallow support.  Deep support for professionalization requires that the gives be considered as much as the gets.

Download PDF: Does HR Really Want to Professionalize?

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.

Download PDF: Would Roger Martin consider HRM to be a profession?

HR Secrets of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies

We surveyed the Profit 500, an annual listing of the 500 fastest growing companies in Canada, to find out about their HR practices. We asked questions (see Appendix) surrounding their strategic capabilities, organizational development activities, change management processes, training opportunities, performance management systems, leadership development programs, and the use of HR technology.

Overall Findings

Overall, the top HR challenges faced by the Profit 500 include (1) finding key talent, (2) managing and feeding talent pipelines, (3) appropriately leveraging HR metrics to inform decision making, and (4) choosing and incorporating the right HR technology.

1. Finding (and Keeping) Key Talent

It may seem paradoxical that finding and keeping key talent is an issue, given the unemployment rates of recent years. However, increased hiring is leading to increased competition, leaving many organizations on the Profit 500 to discover new methods of attracting and retaining the talent they need. According to the survey, a little over 60% of the Profit 500 are looking for innovative ways to increase their ability to fill performance gaps, including the ability to analyze and select for the skills they require. This has led the Profit 500 to consider where and when employees work and how to engage them most effectively.

Download PDF: HR Secrets of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies

There is No Cookie Cutter Approach to Labour Relations

As an HR professional or senior leader, you spend years mastering the labour relations fundamentals. Not the textbook fundamentals, but the behaviours, the actions, communication styles–the way you handle sensitive situations. You log numerous failures, like the time you told the union that the grievance was invalid because they used red ink, the time you were new and mistook a seasoned union employee for a manager and accidentally told them your grievance strategy, and the time(s) you said “sure, we can do that” at the Labour/Management table when you really should have said “let me look into that.” 

You learn. Your teachers are your HR superiors, your management teams and your unions. Yes. Let the unions teach you too. And be open to their wisdom. Because when it comes to positive labour relations there is no cookie cutter approach.

Let’s let “HR Novice” show us how his style grew with his experience…

In a grievance discussion at a manufacturing plant, the union executive speak in loud accusatory tones toward management. Management frequently does not follow through on the tabled issues and communication is very disjointed. The social norm for front line management is to avoid union discussions and rule with a heavy hand. There is very little collaboration. The largely uneducated and non-English-speaking employees do as they are told, fearful of reprisals. Modelling his behaviour from upper management, the HR Novice acts in a similar fashion and soon is regarded as aloof and “just another white hat.” The business of the day, however, is booming and upper management use this as the only success indicator. The union executive predominantly ignore HR Novice and instead form their own hierarchy and culture to deal with issues in the workplace.  When HR Novice does seek to assert himself, often in the form of shouting, he is met with dissonance and soft laughter. Unknowingly and still with the backing of the senior managers, HR Novice thinks he is a successful communicator with the union and inwardly, is proud of his accomplishments.

Two years later, HR Novice moves on in his career to another unionized manufacturing plant with the majority of employees holding high school education. This assembly plant is cleaner, has solid practices in place and is piloting the lead hand model. Having found such success with his labour relations style, HR Novice presents himself as a strong force with little flexibility.  Management is initially pleased with the support but start to feel the ripples of union discontent. Employees quickly realize their opinion is neither solicited nor valued. The lead hands who essentially bridge management and front line staff begin to step down from their roles. After about a year, HR Novice receives some great coaching from a mentoring manager.  In time HR Novice co-facilitates, with his mentor, a new strategy of transparency and informed messaging. The intent behind the strategy is to seek to inform the union of the reasons behind management’s decisions. The practice of shouting at employees thankfully diminishes. Unfortunately, very little consultation or collaboration is sought of employees, but advance notice and statistics act as commercials for future changes. The management misinterpret the union’s woe as lack of information. Missing its mark, union relations improve only modestly by the time HR Novice moves on in 3 years’ time.

HR Novice (well, let’s call him “HR Intermediate” now) chooses a unionized chain of hotels as his next career jump. The staff are educated, multilingual and service driven. There are very few issues with respect to labour-management. The autonomous staff give leaders the luxury to spend the bulk of their time on special projects instead of day-to-day supervision.

HR Intermediate is new to the industry and seeks to learn from the management team. He brings with him his toolkit of HR knowledge which now has his collaborative style as well as his authoritarian style.  He sways between the two styles and second-guesses a lot of his decisions, at times feeling overwhelmed. One day, while waiting in the hallway for a meeting to start he overhears some union stewards discussing a recent decision he made. They ponder aloud HR Intermediate’s reasoning and chalk up the poor decision to his inexperience with the hospitality industry.  A remark is made, “I wonder why he never shadowed us or asked us about our job functions before restructuring the scheduling program. It doesn’t work for us.” The unintended feedback resonates with HR Intermediate and he seeks to add yet another tool to his kit. The tool of “all of your training doesn’t have to come from management.”

You are not weak if you ask employees to show you their duties, and learn their trade. Not unlike any professional, union personnel take great pride in their work and often bring years of savvy seniority to the business – something that HR Intermediate had previously overlooked. He continues to seek first to understand, before making decisions or informing senior management tables.  HR Intermediate continues his learning path for the next 5 years, coaching the leaders on his newfound style.

HR Intermediate now joins the world of retail. A chain of houseware stores claims his attention for the next 6 years. His array of HR skills is growing. He now understands that you don’t need to pick a style and stick with it. He knows that the style is specific to the situation or the strategy at play, and that even more than one strategy can be used at once. He finds Zen by being collaborative to an extent and then on other occasions, just informs and implements, sometimes without consultation, if the situation warrants.

More importantly, HR Intermediate understands that there aren’t two sides in opposition to each other in the workplace. And there is no winner when it comes to employee relations. Employees all expect respect, a diplomatic approach and informed decision-making. No singular style fits every workplace or is fulsome enough to span a whole career. Workplaces are not cookies cut from the same gingerbread mold.  The industry, the organization’s mission and the people that work there are the key to making HR successful.

Remember who our teachers are.  We don’t get “this HR thing” right for years, just ask HR Novice.

 

About the Author

Leanne Gray

Leanne Gray, CHRL, is currently the Director of People Services for the Toronto Central Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) where she leads the Human Resources department in performing their front-line functions to support community health care.  Prior to that, Leanne worked in intensely unionized local government in both small and large municipal sectors for 11+ years. Leanne has been trained and certified in Advanced Dispute Resolution and is a qualified mediator. Leanne’s career has allowed her to participate regularly in grievance hearings, mediations, arbitrations and act as the Management Chair for collective bargaining. Her experience has included union certification drives, decertification of a union, strikes, lockouts and interest arbitrations.

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

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

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

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

Download Executive Summary (PDF)

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.”

Download PDF: Grow Your HR Career by Helping to Grow Your Organization

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