Quick and Helpful Human Resources Tips

People Power your Business Success

January 4th, 2020

A new decade unfolds, and continued business success is on the minds of leaders and employees.  The primary advice I offer small business leaders is to ensure employees understand the business model, the competitive advantage, and service expectations for clients. Leaders should also gain an understanding of basic people practices such as job clarity and performance expectations, then manage and recognize staff so they can retain skilled talent.

Communication about how the business is doing and what may be changing, then encouraging input, is crucial. The biggest mistake small business owners make is to focus on elements they are most comfortable with such as financial management, customers or products and services, and overlooking solid employee practices—when it’s the people who power their business success.  Set your compass to focus on what’s most important – the collective talents of your employees.

Total Rewards: More than Just a Paycheque

May 19th, 2012

Every successful business wants to attract, motivate and retain the right employees who will contribute to their organizational results. The best employees are looking for more than just a pay cheque in return for their time, talent, and effort. A “total rewards” package can balance the needs of both the employer and the employee.

Total rewards includes compensation, benefits, time away, work-life, performance and recognition, development, and career growth opportunities. High performing companies strive to leverage all components of  “total rewards” to their advantage. A tailored total rewards strategy results in satisfied, engaged and productive employees, who in turn create desired business performance and results.

Surprisingly, employees are often not aware of the program’s full value and benefit to them. It’s important to ensure your employees understand:

  • All components of your “total rewards” offering
  • The details of each segment
  • The monetary value of the “total rewards”

Prepare your communication with these ideas in mind:

  • Highlight what your employees will value most.
  • Identify major employee audiences including managers, support staff, salaried, hourly, single, family members, cultures, languages, and age. What messaging will speak to everyone’s needs and concerns?
  • To increase employee appreciation and loyalty, be honest with information that is accurate and verifiable.
  • Highlight areas that may be underutilized–often an Employee Assistance Program that can support their personal wellbeing.


Develop and communicate a “total rewards” offering that is competitive and speaks to the needs of your staff and business. The offering may also include low or non-cost items that are ‘of benefit’ and valued by staff. Do your research or speak with an HR professional to design a solid plan, then get back to business.

Vacation Scheduling or Bust

April 17th, 2012

Do you proactively manage employee vacation schedules? Do employees book vacation at the last minute – and tell you the flight is already booked, and you feel guilty saying no? Do longer-term employees book the coveted vacation times?  What’s your organization’s current liability of banked vacation time?

Many union Collective Agreements set out the vacation scheduling process. Typically selection is based on seniority and senior employees select their first ‘block’ of vacation. Someone with 5 weeks’ vacation may want one week at year end, so that’s their first choice. Then, once all staff have made a first choice, the cycle begins again for second choices. This provides a fair framework where everyone benefits.

Non-union worksites have much more flexibility, but often lack processes for the selection process.  This causes problems including: employees not taking minimum vacation periods; longer-term employees taking all the most desired vacation times; carrying over vacation to the next year with no plans to take it that next year; higher vacation needs in the 4th quarter, at a time when business results often ramp up to year end. This is unnecessary business pressure that must be managed.

Here are some core tips to build a process where everyone benefits:

  1. Develop a policy that meets the needs of your business, and staff. See what will work best with your valued staff. This may include a black-out period for an annual business deliverable; or, a ‘must-take’ time when your business takes a week off at year end; or other clause to best manage the business.
  2. Ensure a percentage of vacation eligibility is scheduled and approved by the end of the first quarter. The end of the 2nd quarter have 90% of vacation booked. Some individuals can get so wrapped up in your business they neglect time off, and stress has its toll.
  3. Encourage employees to plan time away to refresh, travel, or some other enjoyable endeavor.
  4. If you provide a banking option to the next year, set parameters, whether it’s when the vacation must be taken in the new year (1st Q?), or the maximum amount that can be in the bank from year to year. Keep in mind when an employee exits the organization, you’ll be paying out any unused vacation at the current year’s rate


Schedule and manage using an equitable process. Life’s busy, and employees will appreciate your effort to help them manage their well earned downtime. One business pressure checked off. Priceless.

December Deadlines

November 21st, 2011

Whether or not your organization operates on a January to December performance or financial cycle, yearend can feel like “Crunch Time”.  There’s often an innate urgency as yearend approaches.  The end of the annual cycle.  Completing projects, finishing committee work, delivering results, achieving financial goals that are on performance plans, often means that extra effort must be applied – and now.

These same employees who power your business have lots more than work on their plate. With the added social festivities, religious celebrations, financial costs for gift giving, and other obligations, there can be high expectations on their shoulders.

You can help employees maneuver through the (dare I say) madness.  As an employer, you want to ensure priorities are completed, that employee health is maintained, and seasonal stress is reduced. Try these points:

  1. Checkin with employees now to review their yearend performance expectations. Better to have clarity and transparency now so you can look for solutions. For pressure points, see what can be extended to January; and, clarify what must be achieved.  Discuss ideas, support, and plans to ensure prioritized work will be achieved.  Sort out the ‘can wait’ non urgent work.
  2. Review the vacation schedule so you have a clear picture of who’s away, and what work may need to be covered by others.  Sometimes it’s the hardest working employees who don’t want to take time off, so ensure they have scheduled earned vacation time off.  Employee health and rejuvenation is important for your business.


Minimize the year end crunch by being fully aware of what’s in play.  Setup your organization, and your employees, for a year-end success story.  Next year is looking brighter already.  


Communicating Change

September 28th, 2011

Communicating Change

Most change in business is economy driven – whether an opportunity, a problem, or a crisis.  If you’ve managed a change in the way works gets done, you know that change can translate to temporary losses in productivity, time, and even staff or customers.  Exactly what and how change is communicated has a big impact on how the change is adopted.  And you want success!

While change definitely gets the headline, the hard part of managing change is making an effective transition to the new reality and new expectations.  Your communication will either support the change and the transition or create more resistance and barriers to the change.

Before You Communicate Consider:

  1. What’s in it for the people you are communicating to and other stakeholders?
  2. What can you tell them about the future? The Big picture/Vision.
  3. What can’t you tell them, why you can’t and when you will be able to tell them? Not
    everything will be known at the onset. How will you keep them informed?
  4. What needs to be done and when does it need to happen? (Goals, Timeframe, Actions)

When you Communicate:

  • Ask open questions that invite a thoughtful, specific response.  What questions do you have? Any concerns about the timeframe? How do you think customers will respond? Where do you think this will create the most challenge? How would you like to handle this part of the process?
  • Listen and respond to both facts and any individual concerns/fears.
  • Each time you discuss the change balance the communication by linking it back to: its
    purpose, the big picture, the plan, and the parts everyone will play.
  • As the change proceeds, announce progress…those first few steps are the path to
    the future.


When things are changing, increase communication!  There may be resistance to losing an old way and identity, fear associated with a new beginning (will I succeed?), and the disorientation that’s a natural part of transition. People may agree with the change, but personal transition is needed.  Keep acknowledging facts, respond to questions, provide reassurance.  In today’s market, be a change leader!

The Gift of Family Time

December 14th, 2010

Looking for a meaningful way to show appreciation to staff that worked diligently all year to ensure your business success?  Let’s explore the gift of spending precious time with family.  There’s still time for 2010!

Employees are under added pressure in December from employers, and from family expectations. Businesses are asking for completion of annual objectives and projects by Dec. 31. Social and family expectations, while joyful in intent, involve use of valuable time, maybe travel, and there’s the money component.

The application of these ideas to your business will depend on your products/services. With some creativity, you’ll find something that has value for staff and works for your organization.


  • Time to attend a child’s school holiday event (do this year round).
  • Time to do some shopping – an extended lunch break or leaving two hours early.
  • A family party at work, welcoming partners and children at your workplace during working hours (3:30 to 5:30).
  • Let all or most staff leave at 1:00pm on Dec. 24.


  • For small organizations and non-profits, there is a trend to provide time off between Dec. 26 and January 2. A good time to relax, refresh and be with families.  If that’s not workable, have minimal staff either at the office; or, rotate an on-call process for emergencies only.
  • While Boxing Day is not a statutory holiday under BC Employment Standards, consider providing the day as a paid day off.  If you’re not a service/retail organization, think of the value to employees who can be at home with their families.


Engaged employees know the employer cares about their wellbeing and is appreciative of their contributions. Easy or Impressive, these valued gifts will reverberate back to the organization. Go ahead, try one.

Are your hiring practices working?

September 9th, 2010

Many managers view hiring as one of the easier decisions they have to make. Problem is, it’s also one of the hardest decisions to unmake! 

Here’s a common scenario for busy managers. A vacancy is posted on the web.  Some promising, skilled candidates apply–you interview, conduct a reference or two, make an offer and you’re done. 

The new employee starts, will integrate with the new team, orient to their new role, learn your processes, and all will be well.  You setup their objectives and expect a great fit. Fast forward a few weeks and it’s obvious that the employee isn’t the skilled, motivated and reliable individual you thought you’d hired. This situation negatively impacts you, your team, and the business.

There are many complexities involved to hire top candidates.  Here are tips to start you in the  right direction to recruit skilled employees that integrate with the team and your culture.

  1. Scrutinize every vacancy   The easiest time to change a role is when it’s vacant. Assess if the required skills and knowledge have or will soon change. Today’s job skillsets are continuously evolving to meet your business’s needs.
  2. Hire for the future; it’s almost here.

  3. What team are they joining? What are the skillset levels of employees in the team? Do you need a new hire that has advanced skills he/she can share with the team. Or, if the team is well developed, a newer graduate that can be groomed may be the best solution.
  4. Think ‘team’, not just individual.

  5. What’s on your recruitment plan?  Who’s on this hiring team? How will you screen, interview, assess, and reference to ensure you select the best fit candidate?  Consider who in the organization has views that would be beneficial. With a clear plan you have increased your ability to hire the right candidate.
  6. Plan for this valuable asset.

Costly and Impactful

 Recruiting talented employees is an important decision for managers. It’s a costly, impactful business decision. Only through talented employees can an organization meet and exceed business objectives.  Develop an organizational-wide recruiting strategy that covers processes from A to Z. You have a great organization; keep it that way.

Shaping Tomorrow’s Workplace

February 8th, 2010

Shaping a new path for Tomorrow’s Workplace is essential to sustain and grow your business. With the many changes affecting businesses due to economic, social, globalization, and environmental challenges, plus the impending tight labour market and a diverse labour force, only a new journey forward will lead to continued success. 

The Surrey Board of Trade and SUCCESS have partnered to support small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in Surrey prepare for the future through the Tomorrow’s Workplace project.  Business, human resources, and diversity specialists are currently leading this initiative by working with selected businesses with a primary purpose to ‘help good businesses be great’ in the midst of the new realities. The vast majority of economic growth in our province is attributed to SMEs and the issues they face, with limited resources, require a clear focus for the future.

SMEs are most often started by one or two individuals with passion, knowledge, and an entrepreneurial spirit. As the business grows, complexities grow as well. Organizations must now take a holistic business perspective and prioritize the areas of knowledge, support, and tools to integrate that will support current and future success. In the Tomorrow’s Workplace project, one core focus is connecting businesses with community and employment resources in Surrey for maximum benefit by both parties. Shaping a workplace culture of resiliency, adaptability and change practices are also essential components to flourish in the future. Yesterday’s workplace, with set ideas, long standing routines and processes is truly a thing of the past.


Shape your business for continued success. Visit http://www.tomorrowsworkplace.net and benefit from our learnings. We’re producing a video story documentary of our work with businesses and will also be producing a toolkit with tools, resources, and learnings. The Surrey Board of Trade will host a launch event on May 20, 2010. Stay connected and sent us your views, ideas, and questions.

Gayle Hadfield
Tomorrow’s Workplace Project Manager

Be Bold – Go green

May 15th, 2009

Green.  Did you just think of money. No, likely you thought planet sustainability. In a short few years, our awareness of climate change has grown and our values have shifted. Wikipedia confirms that yes, green is still a color, and has added new references to the “Green Movement” and “environmentally-friendly” products.

As a business, your bottom line is important and that’s the right focus. You’ve also needed to meet changing market demands to ensure your sustainability. That’s your business. With pressure from customers and competitors, multitudes of businesses are green-shifting products, services and delivery methods. Shades of green (not green washing!) will increase your ability to attract and retain employees.

Socially-conscious employees need to find meaning in their work, knowing their company is positively contributing to the world, and green practices is one way of putting values to action. In a previous tip “Green is the new value” I touched on the reasons for introducing green practices in your workplace. These are fundamental principles that are here to stay. Once we’re through this economic downturn, the war on talent will resume in full force, so these principle are critical to positioning your organization.

Start by reviewing your current workplace practices, vision what’s possible, and work with employees to prioritize changes. Some changes I’m seeing include: reusing office products; reducing energy use by turning off lights, printers, computers; transit passes or discounts; recycling; no plastic waterbottles, cutlery, plates, cups, or other kitchen/cafeteria items; having office cleaners use enviro-friendly cleaning products. A friend who works at ICBC said that the head office escalators are now turned off on Fridays as an energy saving measure–now that’s creative – and impactful. 

Tip: Be Bold

Explore going further, and shift people practices to include: telecommuting, flextime, carpooling, video conferencing to reduce air travel, provide transit passes rather than car allowances, or provide hybrids. Leaders that champion these initiatives and shift personal behaviors for green alignment will see returns from customers, and employees who truly are the greatest asset of any business.

Keeping the People who Keep you in Business

May 7th, 2009

Retention Strategies

Turnover is costly, both financially, and the time involved to source and integrate replacement staff.  Exiting employees may leave with: intellectual knowledge that is important to your business; client relationships that will need to quickly shift to other staff; and, depending on why they left and where they’re going, they may encourage others to leave. Risky business.

In this economic downturn phase when employee turnover is down, take time to explore retention, gain input from your staff, and implement strategies for future stability.

Before rushing to address turnover by integrating a new compensation plan or talent management strategy as potential solutions, following are some retention principles, drivers and ideas. Elements of rewards and talent management segments may still be required, but do your research to ensure the time, effort and cost in solutions will ‘hit the mark’. 

The strongest relationships between the intention of people to stay and other attributes include such items as pride in the employer overall, the employees’ affinity for the type of work, the leadership skills of management, trust, and teamwork. Creating a supportive environment, one with transparent communication from leadership, where everyone is pulling in the same direction and employee contributions are valued, are elements more important than compensation rewards when thinking retention.

Stay or Leave?

Start by finding out why your employees stay, and what would cause them to leave. Gather through informal conversations, formal interviews, or employee satisfaction surveys. This input will provide you with guidance for your organization-wide retention strategy. Share your findings and actions with staff so they understand you’re listening and committed to this partnership. This openness, dialogue and partnership is fundamental to being a valued organization to work for.

Be a place people want to work

Enhance your people practices to shape an environment where people are proud of the organization they work for, doing work that aligns with their strengths. You’ll be rewarded with motivated employees who share your passion for the business and strive to meet objectives. They’re likely to stay.