Quick and Helpful Human Resources Tips

Supportive Exits

April 9th, 2009

Being an HR practitioner, I’m attentive to hearing what seems like daily stories of individuals losing their jobs due to this economic phase. Investigating this further, I’m finding that many employers are doing the right thing by keeping employees informed as to the state of their business and reducing operational and other costs to avoid layoffs. This makes sense, as individuals are the valued workers that power business success. However, not all employees are receiving support to help them transition to new employment.

Whether you’re the CEO, an Administrative Coordinator, or the Technology Engineer, in the span of our working lives, jobs provide us with core aspects for our wellbeing–as defined in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, including: self esteem, confidence, the respect of others, community/social belonging, challenge and personal growth, finances to provide for our homes, food and medicine. You get the picture – loss of employment, especially in a down market when other jobs aren’t readily available, can affect personal security, self-esteem, and wellbeing.

Individuals need a supportive transition to bridge new employment. With fewer jobs on the market, there are different techniques to secure a new position. Holding out for a full-time permanent position like they once had may have them unemployed for an extensive period. Small contracts lead to longer contracts; temporary employment can lead to permanent. This is the new reality of the workworld.

If a formal program is too costly, source one-on-one HR career consulting services to help them to: understand the new realities, plan, and implement their job search. For example, they’ll need a talent-based resume to stand out. The old style focusing on previous experiences and past skills don’t matter as much as current talents and fundamental strengths. Workplace routine is also out of style; people need to be change-ready with current talents, innovation, and clear thinking in order to meet business goals.

Because it’s the right thing to do

Be a responsible employer – show that you care about your valued employees, as individuals needing transition support to seek new employment. Remaining staff will see their employer “doing the right thing”, and you’ll benefit. People need to know they’re working for an organization that demonstrates they care when it matters most.

Small Business HR

February 18th, 2009

People often tell me “we’re too small to need HR”.  Let’s explore this further, keeping in mind organizations with under 20 employees. Human Resources practices and tools are not reserved for medium-large organizations. Whether HR practices are formal or informal, they’re critical to your business success. As a business owner of a small business, here are HR practices that will help you hire, motivate, and retain staff that are productive and engaged on your business’s success.

  • Communicate the values, mission and value proposition of your organization’s service and/or products. People need to feel informed and included before they can commit. As a leader, you set the direction and need everyone on the same ship, staying the course. Hold regular meetings and provide business updates, and welcome employee ideas and input. Be a great person to work for.
  • Put job duties in writing, with non-negotiable service and behavioural standards. Then, develop specific objectives so they can focus efforts to achieve and exceed those expectations. You’ve shared your value proposition; these standards and expectations put ideas to action. Only then can you manage their efforts and provide constructive feedback, and praise. 
  • Hire the right people with strengths and skills aligned to each specific role. I often see smaller organizations hiring through friends and acquaintances and they forego a critical recruitment process. Employee referrals are great, as they’ve told others your organization is a good place to work. Just do your due diligence in aligning skillsets to your needs.
  • Develop employees. They’re in the right role; they understand your business value proposition; they work on a team with shared values. Help them develop skills that will build their confidence, expand their abilities, all aligned to your business needs.  These could be customer service related; furthering technical skills; expanding professional abilities.  People want to grow and succeed.
  • Recognize and praise a job well done. Whether an employee is developing your business, maintaining excellent administration support, or working directly with customers, they all have goals, objectives, and strengths. Praise and appreciation is motivating. And, motivation plus a focused effort equals productivity, satisfaction and retention.

Succeed through sound people practices

Human Resources practices are simply put the people practices that will sustain your business. People are the intellectual power that fuels your success. All your product, services, and internal processes only succeed through aligned people power. Show you value the power in your business.

2009 Employment Storm

January 9th, 2009

The current issue of MacLeans headlines “the employment storm of 2009 is on its way”. The main losses will be in construction, mining, oil, gas, and auto manufacturing. Projected job losses will impact industries such as retail, marketing, and advertising. For more information read any newspaper.

Economists, if correct, project that the pain will be brief and we’ll return to prosperity later this year or early in 2010. Optimism and hope for a timely recovery will help all of us head to the light at the end of this tunnel. 

For employers, staff shortages may take a reprieve and turnover levels may go down.  Employees are more likely to stay in their current position and ride out the wave. If they are looking around, they know that even the larger organizations are being impacted by the market. The ego-building period of multiple job offers is also on hold as employers take cautious steps. And, individuals nearing retirement are now extending their exit date to continue earning while they wait for their retirement nest egg to return to health. 

Costs of staff replacement go down, and your intellectual capital is retained.  Teams benefit by having the business knowledge, relationships and expertise intact. Use this time as an opportunity to build internal capacity; develop skillsets for succession planning; and recognize achievements. Increase communication with staff to keep them well informed.  Ask what types of support they need to support them personally.

I heard Suze Orman speaking yesterday – she’s the money guru who just launched a new book on basic financial planning for 2009. She has sound ideas on paying off personal debt, saving, and stabilizing for uncertainty.  Employees could start a discussion group based on the book and share ideas.

Review my previous Two-Minute-Tip on “Market Turmoil” for ideas on maintaining and building healthy employee relations, and keeping productivity levels up.

Who knows, when the market turns around, employees who were thinking of leaving may decide they’re right where they want to be.

Workplace Resolutions

January 3rd, 2009

January 5 will see many employees returning to work after enjoying some well deserved time off with family and friends. They will have shed a lot of the stresses of the previous year and be well rested and ready to begin anew.  Some may quickly realize that the stresses of last year are still there, and like stepping into an old pair of shoes, things aren’t off to a good start. What wasn’t working last year? What caused those stresses? They may have forgotten over the winter vacation, but they’ll remember upon returning to work. There’s a window of opportunity in January, when many performance plans are set, to chart a course for improvement and changing work day habits.  

Personal resolutions don’t last without continued focus and support, but the workplace can be an excellent environment for change, through structure, feedback and check-ins. Scan the horizon to see what’s coming to mind as you read this. Yes, you’ll be setting new performance plans this month, but get your employees thinking along lines of what they’d like to improve and change.

Have them form one or two behavioural goals they’d like to focus on, then discuss what they envision as success. A solid performing employee who enjoys their work and is exceeding their objectives may be consistently working additional hours and they realize it’s affecting their home life. You have as much to gain by supporting them to make some adjustments to ensure their work/life balance is in check. This is only one example. Meet with employees in January and ask them what they’d like to improve to be more effective. You’ll get a variety of answers and that’s the beauty of understanding the individual needs of your staff. You need to ask and listen.  

Offer your support, guidance, and keep the communication channels open so they can raise this with you at anytime. 


Leaders that take an interest in the development and personal success of employees are on the right path; well, the only path when you think in terms of retention, employee satisfaction, increased productivity, and providing a healthy work environment where people can flourish. Who wins? Each individual, you, and your business.

Holiday Wellness

December 2nd, 2008

December rings in the holiday season with socializing, upcoming vacations, purchasing gifts, entertaining, and a multitude of other activities.  In the workplace, year end triggers can include finishing off annual projects often within tight timelines; rushing to finalize actions on annual performance plans; and meeting customer expectations.

Given the multitude of activities bundled into one month, stresses add up as employees try to balance work, family, social gatherings, and importantly, finances.  There’s too much to do in 31 days. Your star employees may also be feeling the pressure, with high standards and an overflowing calendar. High stress can lead to illness, absences, edginess, and low productivity. 

Your support can take many forms; assess what will meet the needs of your employees and workplace. Find out what would benefit them and work in partnership for ideas and to prioritize solutions. Here are some ideas that speak to emotional, mental and physical wellbeing:

  • Review year end employee expectations – are they realistic – does it all have to be done by year end? If the answer is yes, take the pressure off where you can. Prioritize and reschedule the ‘not important’ items. Reduce meetings unless they’re absolutely critical.  Have managers be attentive to signs of employee stress and put the topic on your management meeting agendas.
  • Have a yoga instructor do a lunchtime session on ‘chair yoga’, stretches staff can do at their desk during the day.  Deep breathing, especially diaphragmatic breathing, is known to reduce anxiety. 
  • Healthy eating – while a shortbread or two are yummy, have a dietitian or nutritionist speak about healthy eating choices during the season. Consider healthy food choices for employee gatherings and social events.
  • Have a personal trainer speak and provide some motivation and ideas. Busy calendars can alter regular routines and some support may keep it as a priority.
  • Bring in a psychologist for a lunchtime session on self-care, stress management, sleep, and managing emotions and relationships that may be challenging during the season.

Consider This

Employee health and wellbeing builds productivity, collaborative teamwork, employee satisfaction, health, and retention.  Ensure your people practices have a core philosophy of attending to employee wellbeing.

Marketplace Turmoil

November 21st, 2008

We’re in the midst of far-reaching economic uncertainty and that brings forth concern and raises fear for many employees. If it’s not the daily discussions are about which jobs are considered “safe” and which jobs and industries will be impacted, your valued employees are looking at their RRSP statement or the TSX numbers, and that’s not comforting.

To be productive and focus on the work at hand, employees need a feeling of stability and direction. Meet regularly and keep employees involved as to your organization’s objectives and where you foresee changes to current objectives. To be impactful, employees must know where to focus their work efforts.  Shifting some duties and tasks may be necessary to ensure close alignment with any changing objectives. Once employees have this core information, they will understand the need for the changes, and they will have ideas that can support the organization; keep them involved and engaged.

To mitigate fear, communicate openly with staff. From an employee perspective “no news is bad news”. Withholding information may also hamper your ability to retain high performers who make their own conclusions and considering moving to an organization that looks more stable.

Should job losses be a consequence of the downturn, provide supportive outplacement services to bridge employees to new employment. This can take the form of individual and/or group sessions to support exiting employees with tools to plan and implement their job search.  It’s a win-win to provide exiting employees with support. Remaining staff will see their employer “doing the right thing”; and, you may look to rehiring exiting employees in the future once we’re through this downturn. 

Try This

Focus energy and efforts on these core elements:

  1. Employee Retention: Recognize solid performance; be transparent about your organization’s objectives and concerns; show flexibility in responding to employee requests; continue career development; listen to staff input.
  2. Productivity: take stock of employee performance and develop clear timelined goals; manage poor performance – this is not the time for less than ideal performance; tighten up what is not working. Employees, as partners, have a vested interest in maintaining a high level of productivity.
  3. Customer Satisfaction: Do all staff understand the heightened need to differentiate your services from your competitors? Revisit customer needs and refresh service delivery processes and competencies.

Recruitment Ads that Impress

October 28th, 2008

Source key talent by differentiating your organization

To attract your future skilled and productive employees, make your first impression count. No matter who you hire, you’ll be investing resources, training, time, and money, so sourcing skilled candidates is the first step to getting a solid employee ROI.

Solid candidates looking for a progressive organization, and meaningful work experiences, will overlook opportunities if you’ve failed to provide them with important information-qualitative information about who you are as an organization, your culture, values, offerings, and how you treat employees.  People are looking for more than ‘just a job’.

Generic ads do suffer. A basic old style ad that just describes the position, responsibilities and education requirements may give a potential applicant the impression that ‘things haven’t changed in your organization’.  There’s  no evidence you’re a reputable employer and there’s room for assumptions that your organization is not yet on board with the best people practices that value contributions, support employee development, and ensure a progressive healthy working environment.  Time to refresh how you are selling your organization to potential employees

Welcome to the new “basics” of a vacancy ad:

  • Employer branding is the new norm.  You may not have the resources for a full branding initiative, but you already have enough information to share.  That includes: your vision; your goals; what you value; your attitudes toward employees; and what you have to offer.  People need to have a sense of the employee experience and what’s great about working in your organization.  And, culture fit is often more important than skill fit. 
  • The position and reporting structure, primary focus and key responsibilities.  Articulate the highlights so people will know if their strengths align with the position.
  • The experience, credentials and education requirements for your ‘ideal candidate’.  Many skills are transferable across positions, so be clear, but keep an open view to where candidates have gained experiences.
  • Make it easy for candidates to submit resumes.  People may be deterred by a cumbersome process.  If your process is complex, your competitors may benefit.

Try this:

Checkout the national and provincial lists of ‘top employers’, then look to their career sites.  Or, review through any career listing and you’ll see how the new ad basics do impress.  Then proudly share what you offer.

“Things are changing here”

October 2nd, 2008

Growth, restructuring, reengineering all mean that ‘things are going to change around here’. You’ve invested resources, time and money to design the new business strategy.  The next step is developing a change plan for your workforce. Even positive change can leave people a bit shaken, uncertain. This includes your high performers, who will want to know how they fit in the future, what the changes are, and how they can get there. 

Here are some core elements for you to consider as you move forward. They will support maintaining a productive, motivated workforce during times of change and growth:

1. Share the new business plans with employees so they have a clear idea of where you’re going and what you’re hoping to achieve. Break it down to short and longer term objectives. Show alignment to your mission and vision.

2. Cascading from your business growth plan, map out what will look different as you move into the future in areas of people skills and behaviors; the workplace overall, and internal processes, etc. Employees get excited about moving forward when they see how they fit in the future and how they will be supported to get there. Also ensure employees have access to be considered for any newly created opportunities – developing and promoting internal staff reaps rewards.

3. Involve employees at all levels. They can identify opportunities, provide feedback, flag areas of concern, and participate in determining solutions that keep you moving to achieve your future. Being fully engaged in the process helps maintain stability of the workforce and keeps turnover in check. Current employees are also the ones you’ll need to source more staff in future. There is a labour shortage.

4. Maintain open communication; use your intranet site if you have one, plus email/voicemail blasts and face-to-face messaging from managers so all staff are getting regular updated communication from the top. Communicate often. Celebrate mini milestones. Be prepared to recognize staff as they achieve new goals.

5. Change is a departure from the status quo; it is not business as usual. Managers are undergoing their own change, but their primary role is to lead others–they are change agents. Ensure a cohesive, on-board management team that can discuss and work through differences within that team.

Only through an effective people change plan will the journey to really begin.

“Recognition Matters”

August 13th, 2008

You’ve probably used the phrase “no news is good news”. Well, that doesn’t apply when it comes to acknowledging employees for a job well done. Most employees report that what keeps them motivated and committed is the opportunity to be challenged, achieve results, and be recognized. Recognition itself is consistently ranked by employees as a primary reason for staying or leaving an organization. Gallup Research reports that an employee needs acknowledgement for contributions at least every seven days.

As the recipient of recognition, employees experience greater satisfaction, higher self esteem and increased personal success. Appreciating and valuing employees for the work they do builds team spirit and a positive working environment, both very impactful for organizational success. This is true for individuals from junior to senior levels.

Praise, as recognition, has no monetary cost. Encourage a culture of spontaneous, sincere and personal appreciation of employee efforts. Use this format: 1) give specific examples of the performance; 2) give examples of the personal qualities that allowed them to achieve it; 3) give specific benefits to you, the team and or organization; and 4) give your appreciation.  

Try this
Delivery is everything.  Use a sincere, genuine compliment or words of acknowledgement for outstanding effort and positive results. Rather than saying “you’re well organized”, say “our team was able to focus on their deliverables and meet our deadline because you were well organized and kept the support work up to date”.  Specific, timely feedback will reinforce and encourage employees to continue the behaviour.

Repeat often.

“Hiring for Fit”

August 13th, 2008

Recruitment is one of the most important processes an organization undertakes. Without optimum ‘people power’ an organization will struggle to meet its objectives. Recruiting errors are costly financially, and can take their toll on your existing productive employees.

Employing individuals with the right technical skills, education, knowledge, experience plus the motivation and positive attitude is a good foundation to begin your search.  (Typically, this is information on your role description.) However, to “hit the bulls eye” with your hiring, we need to delve deeper to bring in the people that will integrate smoothly with your existing team and organization.

When planning your vacancy profile first make sure you include your culture and competencies to ensure there’s a match between what you need from employees and what you have to offer them in terms of workplace practices, culture, and consistency. Consider your organization from a view of: “who you are”, “what you do” and “how you do it”. A highly motivated sales candidate may not fit into a culture where customer service is a key to the organization’s success. He/she may be rightly interested in your organization as a choice employer, but without the “fit” they’ll be short term. 

As a second step to look for “fit” assess the team of individuals the new hire will work with. At this level, the fit will include the level of expertise, knowledge and skills required. A seasoned team may want to welcome a recent hire or an internal candidate who has shown potential. A team preparing for future changes may benefit from bringing in a highly skilled individual with expertise to share. The team members and manager will make this determination. The team also knows the attributes that will ensure the new hire is a solid fit to their daily operations.

Before you rush in to fill a vacancy, do the “fit” due diligence–your efforts will pay off. 

As a solid HR practice, before your candidate starts working, have a well-planned orientation process including tools and support to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed.