Could a strategic HR plan help Canada’s Aboriginal peoples?


Canadians are reminded more and more of the struggles facing Aboriginal peoples.  Most of us read in horror yet have no idea how we can help.  When we view the problem as a national crisis a solution seems overwhelming.  What if  instead we looked at possible solutions through the lens of a workplace challenge?

The principles embedded in corporate HR plans could hold the key to support the needed actions to help Canada’s aboriginal peoples, on or off reserve, to access employment, and a quality of life on par with other Canadians.

  1. Maintain Health and Safety

Every employer has to provide a safe work environment to employees.  A safe environment is one inclusive of access to clean drinking water, buildings  maintained to meet required code expectations, ability to refuse dangerous work, and a forum to complain, be heard and have corrective actions taken to address valid concerns when these expectations are not met.  This standard for a safe environment, at home and at work, should be a basic right for everyone in Canada.

2. Conduct a Gap Analysis

Corporations assess the gap between the needs of the organization and existing resources and work to close it.  Canada could assess the overall needs of First Nation Communities and work to close the resource gap by engaging and enabling Aboriginal peoples who choose to live on reserve to find meaningful work that is of interest and that supports their Community.

This has been done locally but a national focus on a long term, multigenerational plan would be more beneficial and require less resources than multiple seperate initatives.  The infrastructure could be put in place to assess the common needs of Native Communities and record the gaps between the need and the existing resources.  Specific local needs could be looked at as a subset.

3. Devise Strategies to Support the Organization

In an HR plan there are many components of strategy to support the organization’s needs.  All of these would help bolster the quality of life of Aboriginal Communities.

Examples include:

  • Training and development strategies to prepare Aboriginal people to engage in the workforce in a way that interests them and supports their culture
  • Collaboration strategies to create partnerships with existing organizations that provide these services to new immigrants and other Canadians to learn from past work
  • Outsourcing strategies to engage service providers and thought leaders to bring forward real solutions


Many successful businesses strive to solicit employee ideas and feedback in order to drive a culture of continuous improvement and increase productivity.  For any initiative aimed at enhancing the lives of Aboriginal people to be successful the grassroots engagement and of Aboriginal leaders and influencers in the development of solutions is essential.

Any change initiative within an organization needs leaders who can live the values and exemplify the success of the project are needed to motivate others and create support from within affected groups.  This type of initative would be no different.

5. Foster a Respectful and Inclusive Environment

When creating a healthy workplace culture the emotional needs of people need to be addressed.   Canada does not have a history it can be proud of when it comes to Aboriginal relations.  Although the work that resulted from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a good start, it did not go deep enough.

Modern people-focussed employers offer soft skill building opportunities and support to employees that include through conflict coaching, facilitated discussions/mediation, and other Alternative Dispute Resolution techniques.  These types of initiatives could be funded on mass to reach individuals to help them work through the conflict with Canadian culture and find a path forward that meets their individual needs.

6. Communication

Any corporate initiative would be supported by a communication plan.  Communicating the vision in advance and during the work is an important change management technique.  Once determined, Canada would need to communicate the vision for building a future to Aboriginal peoples and to all Canadians to build hope and momentum and to create accountability for those communicating the plan.

7. Evaluate and Adjust

When corporations execute a plan they assess the effectiveness and make adjustments.  Canada has been working to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal people, however it seems like the efforts may not be as successful as the intent behind them would like.  The results produced need to align with the efforts invested.

Like any journey it could start with just one step…


Upcoming Virtual Conference Presentation on Building Multigenerational Teams

We are excited to announce that Susan Haywood will be hosting a virtual presentation on July 19th at 3:30pm to discuss how organizations can build effective mutligenerational teams.

There are currently 4 generations in the workplace.  This can be an incredible asset to your organization or a complete disaster.  How can your organization forge a strong and cohesive team across the generations? What policies and practices will attract the younger generations and also benefit and recognize your more seasoned employees?

Learn about the underlying social aspects that form the lens by which each generation looks at the workplace.  Gain an understanding about the challenges of a multigenerational workplace and learn effective management techniques to use with each generation to engage, motivate and ensure performance and growth.

Sign up for this free Virtual Conference presentation at

Are Flexible Work Arrangments the Right Choice for Your Organization?

Many organizations today recognize that it takes more than a paycheque to retain their top talent. As talent in specific industries becomes more scarce, this challenge of attraction and retention will only increase. They also consider that any changes they do implement need to be aligned with the operational objectives of the business. So are there options that employers can consider that align with these concepts? Certainly. It’s just a matter of customization.

Employers need to ensure that the solutions they adopt make sound fiscal and operational sense for their business. So what about Flexible Work Arrangements? Statistics show that there is an increasing demand for today’s working population to balance work and life commitments. We only need to look at demographics to see why this is the case.  Since 1975 the labor force participation of women with children under the age of 18 has increased from 47% to 78%.  We have also seen a dramatic increase in the demand for elder care, with over 68% of the baby boomer workforce admitting to missing work or leaving early due to caregiver obligations. These are some examples of how the demand on an employees time makes Flexible Work Arrangements a very attractive incentive to attract and retain these employees.

The benefits extend past ensuring employees are more satisfied in their work environment. For employers, implementing Flexible Work Arrangement solutions can also serve as a means to increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, and lead to a more engaged and present workforce.

Join us on June 13th for a breakfast presentation on how these Flexible Work Arrangements can benefit both employers and employees and suggestions on how to get the process started.

Register Here

We hope to see you there!

Orienting New Employees – republished from The Voice June 2012 edition

Orienting New Employees – The Voice June 2012

Accommodating the “Sandwich Generation”

Many employees today face a tremendous amount of pressure for their time and energy both at home and at their place of work. One term used to describe this pressure is the “sandwich generation”. These employees are balancing the need to provide care to their aging parents and their children while still performing at work. What does this mean for an employers need to accommodate? Like many other situations where changes and understanding are needed, the key is communication. Providing alternative schedule solutions for employees struggling with home and work demands goes a long way. Often employees simply want the opportunity to  make choices so that they can still perform well at their job and meet the demands of their home life. Understandably, not all employers have the ability to provide a flexible schedule to employees. Some operations require a fixed schedule of service. So what can be done in these cases? There are always options. Consider that some experts estimate the cost of recruiting, replacing and training a new hire employee is anywhere between 93-200% of an employees annual salary. This makes it prudent for employers to work on retaining their employees as they transition through the stages of commitments in their lives. Showing an understanding and compassion for employees will often lead to increased loyalty and engagement in their work. Accommodating employees is not only a compassionate choice or even a strategic organizational decision to ensure employee retention, to a certain extend, it is also the law. By not providing solutions to your employees, employers run the risk of discrimination claims based on family status. While the duty to accommodate falls on the employer, it is also the employees responsibility to seek out solutions and be flexible themselves on what the employer can provide. The solution need not be perfect, simply reasonable based on the situation and unique operational landscape of the business. While the solutions suggested may be appropriate for many, it is also valuable to consider seeking legal advice. An expert on human rights accommodation can provide further insight for employers.

Here are some suggestions for providing solutions to accommodate employees:

1) Consider allowing the employee to work remotely for a portion of their work week

2) Where possible, provide an alternate schedule. Perhaps an early or late start to their day.

3) Allow the employee to temporarily shift to a part time schedule

4) Provide job sharing. This can be particularly beneficial when multiple employees are requesting flexibility.

5) Provide a resource. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can provide information for employees such as finding child and elderly care support.

6) Above all communicate, communicate, communicate! Avoid making assumptions on what changes are needed for the employee. By speaking with the employee about their concerns, often a solution can be developed that meets the employees needs while still respecting the operational goals of the business.


12 Steps to Bias-Free Selection

“You remind me of a myself 20 years ago, you’re hired!’

“I’ve got a good feeling about this guy. Let’s bring him on board”

“I don’t like his ‘limp fish’ handshake; let’s go with another candidate”

Sound familiar? If it does, then your company is likely utilizing selection processes that leverage gut feelings and other biases. You may be in for a shock in the months and years ahead. The employment landscape is changing and with that comes a shift to the employees having the power to select among multiple employers for the position they are driving towards. This means now is the time to revisit your selection practices to ensure they allow you to effectively identify top talent, versus letting it walk out your door.

12 Steps to Bias-Free Selection

1. Determine desirable qualifications for role.
2. Solidify required qualifications for role and equivalencies. Once set these should not be changed during the process.
3. Develop a plan to assess skills, knowledge and abilities, and any additional requirements (security?)
4. Determine what behavioural traits (competencies) are required for the role/organization.
5. Develop behavioural based interview questions and scoring grid to assess these traits (competencies).
6. Solidify an overall scoring grid. Once set this should not be changed during the process.
7. Train and educate on selection process to be used and need for consistency.
8. Devise and execute a strategy to post job to a wide source of applicants (internal, employee referrals, employment agencies, job boards, LinkedIn, Twitter)
9. Review resumes against required qualifications for role. Set aside all resumes who do not meet the minimum criteria.
10. Screen remaining candidates for skills, knowledge, abilities and requirements as outlined in plan.
11. Conduct behavioural based interviews. (Situation, Task, Action, Result).
12. Select best candidate using overall scoring grid (requirements, knowledge, skills, abilities, competencies/soft skills).
13. Optional: Have an uninvolved person review scores and evaluation notes and select best candidate. Is it the same individual?

Labour and Union Relations

It takes two; two to make and two to break. We’ve heard this applied time and time again to our personal lives although it could not be truer for the Management and Union relationship.

The ability for labour relations to be successful heavily depends on both parties having a strong relationship to rely on when things get dicey.

With a strong foundation, both parties can express their interest in an environment that allows for disagreement while still maintaining a mutual respect. Now if we could only apply that to our personal lives…..hmm.

New Employee Orientation

Employment Exhibition
Employment Exhibition (Photo credit: Modern_Language_Center)

Why is Orientation Important?

Research shows that orientation programs can have a positive effect on both organizations and employees.  Effective onboarding has been found to improve employee engagement, performance and retention levels of new hires, increase employee commitment and satisfaction, as well as reduce turnover.  Research has found that attending an orientation program positively impacted organizational socialization in terms of understanding and accepting the organization’s goals, values, and history, as well as contributed to increased relationship building and organizational commitment.

When employees are welcomed by their employer, they feel respected, both personally and professionally, and this treatment translates into greater commitment to the organization, increased trust in management and inspired work performance is the next step to ensure the effort that went into hiring the right candidate is not wasted.

Your Role:

As the hiring manager, you have a dramatic influence on how a new employee feels about his/her new workplace during the initial week.  As research has demonstrated that employees decided if they are happy with their new workplace during the first 3 days of employment, the environment presented to the new hire is paramount to the success of your organization’s recruitment and retention efforts.  Be supportive.  Be welcoming.  Ensure your new employee knows that you are happy to have him/her on your team.

Day One:

On an employee’s first day, make a lasting connection with a new hire by doing the following:

  •  Meet employee at reception
  •  Ensure there is a meaningful work project for new employee
  •  Assign the new employee a peer mentor/coach in the organization to ask question he/she may not be comfortable asking a manager
  •  Introduce the new employee to his/her coworkers and ensure they spend time together
  •  Ensure new employee has a schedule of events for first day
  •  Ensure new employee is informed of upcoming events to add to his/her calendar
  •  Discuss objectives for next two weeks