Published Articles


  • Making Diversity Pay Off

    How Western Union has made diversity a growth engine

    By Janice Williams


    For some companies, diversity is probably on the to-do list. Diversity is recognized as important, but it sits on the back burner while other issues are prioritized. At Western Union, diversity isn’t an issue or a topic to consider from the to-do list; diversity is enmeshed within their business practices, employee base, customers and company as a whole.

  • A New AI

    Augmented intelligence is changing the way we support employees battling cancer

    By Lewis Levy, MD, FACP


    Technology that has the ability to learn, and then respond based on that learning, is permeating much of our everyday lives. From apps that choose our music and movies based on our past preferences, to batteries that last longer based on how we use them, the benefits of machine learning continue to rise.

  • Want to Increase Employee Productivity?

    Help them retire

    By Randy Cass


    Financial worry is the leading cause of stress across the country and the impact of this extends far beyond the personal lives of employees. It also has an effect on professional behaviours in the workplace as well.

  • Pharmacogenomics

    An emerging resource for employee benefits plans

    By Joseph Ricciuti


    The community of human resource professionals is in general agreement that it makes good business sense to develop and implement programs that promote and support a healthy workplace. However, in spite of such strategies, there is a continued struggle to reduce healthcare costs and improve productivity in the workplace.

  • Beyond Metrics

    What HR teams need to know to build and scale their sales organization

    By Jamie Hoobanoff


    Building and scaling an organization’s sales team can be a daunting task for sales leaders and HR professionals. Whether you are working to keep up with new hiring trends, focusing on maintaining balance within your existing teams or looking at innovative approaches to bring on the best talent, managing and planning for growth and the addition of new sales hires can be a challenge. 

  • Care from Anywhere

    Supporting the mental health of a global workforce

    By Jason McCormick


    In the last century, the advancement of transportation and communication technology has connected us and created an international community. For companies, this means that a global workforce is necessary to stay competitive in an international marketplace.

  • Meet the HR Influencers:

    Alison DeMille, BA, MIR

    By Lisa Gord


    From her early years in a very traditional family environment to her current role as head of human resources at an iconic family-owned enterprise, Alison DeMille has come a long way.

    As the chief human resources officer (CHRO) at McCain Foods Limited, DeMille oversees a matrix organization of 500 HR and communications professionals who deliver the full breadth of internal and external human resources to the company’s 21,000 employees.

  • Lights, Camera, Recruit

    How video engages top talent

    By Cyrus Mavalwala, ABC, MC


    When it comes to talent acquisition and employees, video and analytics were big buzz words in almost every HR and communications department across Ontario in 2018. But why were they top of mind, and more importantly, what insights can be gleaned from those conversations to future proof talent acquisition strategies in 2019?

  • Gender Identity in the Workplace

    Creating a safe and supportive culture will benefit all employees

    By Charles Benayon


    Gender identity has become an important topic of conversation over the past few years. Trans-identifying individuals specifically suffer from an increased risk of suicide – nearly 45 per cent are reported to have attempted suicide at one point in their lives.

  • What is “Workplace Harassment?

    There’s more to it than you may think

    By Peter V. Matukas, BA, LLB, AWI-CH


    Workplace and sexual harassment have recently come to the forefront of international news, discussions around corporate round tables and around the water cooler. But what is “workplace harassment?”

    In Ontario, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, RSO 1990, c O.1 (OHSA) defines “workplace harassment” as: “(a) engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome; or (b) workplace sexual harassment.” 

  • Top-Down Buy-In

    Creating a successful health and safety culture for employee wellbeing and strong risk management

    By John May


    Employee wellbeing fosters a happy and productive workforce. Consequently, occupational health and safety (OHS) is a strategic imperative that demonstrates sound risk management while protecting a company’s most valued resource: its people. This is why it’s not only the right thing, but simply good business to make employee wellbeing a key organizational goal. Moreover, the best way to realize this goal is to embed it into company culture.

  • Shutting Off

    Could “Right to Disconnect” legislation be effective in preventing burnout?

    By Zoltan Vadkerti


    A British company was recently ordered by a French court to pay $90,000 for failing to respect the rights of one of its employees to disconnect from work. The story made national headlines as the ruling was the first of its kind since the much debated “Right to Disconnect” law became effective in France, on January 1, 2017.

  • Just Because It’s Legal Doesn’t Mean It’s Acceptable

    Implementing a cannabis strategy in the workplace

    By Paula Allen


    On October 17, 2018, Canada legalized recreational cannabis. Canadians in Ontario are now able to purchase recreational cannabis online through government-run websites. 

  • What is 2019 bringing for HR?

    From AI to recruiting to atypical work, the new year promises a mixed bag of challenges and opportunities

    By Melissa Campeau


    If there’s one word that sums what 2019 will bring for HR, it might be “more.” As in: HR is taking on more than ever, there’s more pressure to find great candidates in what feels like a shrinking pool, there’s more data and technology than ever at HR’s fingertips – but that also leads to more choices and decisions than ever before. 

    It can seem overwhelming. To help filter the noise and zero in on what really matters, industry experts and insiders share their thoughts on the biggest trends for HR in 2019, plus the the opportunities and challenges those changes might bring.


    Analytics and AI

    While pairing HR with analytics and AI isn’t a new idea, there’s not an industry-wide adoption of the technologies, just yet. However, 2019 may be the year things change. 

    “I think there’s a lot of curiosity right now,” said Paula Allen, vice-president, Research and Integrative Solutions at Morneau Shepell. “But have we fully embraced it? I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg.” She said, “When it comes to the future of work, though, technology, big data and AI are without a doubt the factors that will have the biggest impact.” 


    It’s a matter of time

    “HR is very strapped for time,” said Allen. “Virtually every industry is tending to the threat of disruption or trying to disrupt, to do things better, meet customer needs more directly, be more efficient and really think of different business models.” She said, “Organizations are looking to change and HR needs to support the business in this new reality, but nothing is taken off
    their plates.”

    That’s where AI and other technologies can help. “The need for data – and the insights from data – has never been greater, with this focus on very heavy-duty strategic planning,” said Allen. There’s also a need to streamline tasks and services so HR can have the capacity to meet those strategic demands, and analytics and AI can help on both those counts. 

    “Some people feel alarmed and overwhelmed at the prospect of AI,” said Allen. “People aren’t going away. People have creativity, they can strategize and build relationships, but they do need this type of support to do their jobs efficiently.”


    Performance enhancer

    “Data can offer much deeper insight into the performance of organizations, teams or individuals, and can even predict success or failure in certain scenarios,” said Kurt Roemer, chief security strategist at Citrix.

    Kedarnath Poduri, VP product management, Delivery Networks at Citrix Systems, shared an example of how one client used analytics and AI to improve performance.

    “This organization analyzed what success looks like for their sales team’s top performers,” said Poduri. In addition to determining which tools they used the most, and encouraging others to do the same, they discovered their star employees shared some soft skills, as well. “For example, the successful sales people had more than four strong connections within the organization, whether it was engineering or support or what have you, and people with lower performance levels had fewer connections within the organization,” said Poduri. 

    “Now HR can make specific recommendations, not about the number of connections, but more generally about encouraging more collaboration between sales and other departments since this is correlated with higher success in sales performance.”


    Spotting problems before they happen

    Up until now, organizations have mainly used analytics to diagnose existing problems, but Poduri anticipates the industry is on the cusp of greater maturity. “What comes next is more predictive,” said Poduri. When you can use data to understand what’s in store, it helps plot more effective next steps. Consider the challenge of attrition, for example, a system could monitor employee activity and compare it to previously gathered data and then forecast with some accuracy which employees might be at risk of leaving. “Not only can you use AI to predict which employees are most likely to churn, you can also use the technology to understand what activities you can take on that might mitigate that risk,” said Poduri. 

    The technology can also help sniff out potential problems before they become major threats. “Data can help an organization look at indicators of discontent and fraud and predict if somebody is at risk of going rogue and becoming an insider threat,” said Roemer. “Analytics is going to be used to isolate and identify both positive and negative behaviour.”


    Made to measure 

    As companies embrace AI, HR will need to quell any Big Brother fears and encourage employees to see the potential for personalized growth. “We want to be able to get to a place where the employees will voluntarily adopt these programs and they can see the benefits,” said Poduri. “For example, if HR can use AI to track a person’s behaviour, but in return this benefits the user because he’ll receive the materials and training he might want and need, then he will voluntarily subscribe to the program.” 

    Chatbots, in particular, offer an easy way to deliver individualized assistance to employees. “There are chatbots that are not just one dimensional, but that learn over time and get to understand people and can direct them to services around their health, around finances, even coaching,” said Allen. “All of these things are in their infancy, not only in the power that each one brings, but also in the adoption rate. I expect that that’s going to accelerate pretty quickly in the next short while.”


    Recruiting and retention

    Another top of mind concern for 2019 will come as no surprise to most HR professionals. “The biggest trend is one people really don’t want to hear: the skills shortage is still alive and well,” said Rowan O’Grady, president, Hays Canada. “It’s more pronounced now than it was a year ago and I predict it’ll be even more pronounced a year from now.” 

    That pressure has given rise to some other trends, including a focus on passive job candidates. “Gone are the days when you put an ad online and expect to get a shortlist of candidates applying for your role,” said Lee-Martin Seymour, co-founder and CEO of Xref. Seymour suggests that the focus will continue to be on those candidates, “who aren’t looking for roles, who maybe haven’t got a resume ready, who may be awful in an interview, but who are absolutely fantastic in their current role,” said Seymour. “This is the uphill struggle of talent acquisition right now. Very seldom are we finding the right candidate through job ads and traditional means.” 

    That means spotting diamonds in the rough. “I don’t meet a lot of people who can scratch under the surface when they interview,” said Seymour. However, learning to do it – and do it well – could mean all the difference when it comes to finding those passive candidates who don’t present like obvious hires. 

    “You can have the candidate that comes in with the beautiful resume, they’ve got all the big names on their resume, all the buzzwords and they really perform well in the interview,” says Seymour. “They may know how to sell themselves, but they’ve jumped around on their resume and they can’t ultimately do the job.” (He calls them “job getters.”) 

    “These people have been around, they know what they’re doing and we’ve got to be able to spot them,” said Seymour. 

    While it’s tough for even seasoned HR professionals to do, it might be nearly impossible for an AI system. “While 2018 was a year with a lot of attention for the role of artificial intelligence in HR, I think that in 2019 we will see a greater focus on the role of HR in artificial intelligence,” said Evert Akkerman, owner and principal consultant at XNL HR. “I expect to see the industry back off a bit from automation in recruitment,” said Akkerman. “While we have various electronic tools at our disposal to filter applications, which is especially helpful in high-volume situations, we should never remove the human element from the recruitment and talent management process and let software dictate decisions.”

    Akkerman points out that there will always be a need for sound judgment – and accountability for judgment calls. “Also, the specific search terms that are entered into a system can generate false positives and false negatives,” said Akkerman. A false positive, for example, would be a weak applicant who has studied recruiters’ jargon and knows how to optimize the number of hits a resume generates. A false negative would be a strong candidate who happens to pick the wrong key words or someone new to the country whose foreign designations, credentials and expertise aren’t recognized by the system.

    “I think the companies that are succeeding out there are using technology to take away all the grunt work and allow themselves to be human,” said Seymour. “I think when we’re trying to change the direction of someone’s future and invite them into our journey and our businesses, we need to tell stories, have balanced conversations, we really need to encourage the human to work with our humans rather than skills to work with our requirements. There’s a very big difference between the two.” 

    According to a 2017 Randstad survey, 82 per cent of job seekers say the ideal interaction with a company is one where innovative technologies are behind the scenes and second to personal, human interaction. “Top candidates will want to engage with decision-makers in an organization, so they may assess their own fit,” said Akkerman. Unresponsive, faceless bureaucracies won’t cut it. “HR can play a key role in guarding against losing the human touch,” said Akkerman. “Setting up electronic roadblocks and calling it due diligence doesn’t benefit anyone. HR needs to ensure that selection criteria are valid and that systems are dependable and enable these to yield optimal results.”


    Doing good is good for recruiting

    If candidates want to see the human face of a company during recruitment, they’re also interested in learning about its humanity. Organizations that do good in their communities – and who promote it well – are gaining an upper hand. 

    ACL, a Vancouver-based software company is one such organization; their technology has empowered other businesses to do such remarkable things as stop drug cartels and expose health care fraud. “We’re attracting a lot of Millennials, despite the fact that we don’t have a brand name like Facebook or Amazon,” said Kathy Enros, vice president, Talent at ACL. She said, “We’re finding a lot of people are looking for a way to have positive impact in the local community or in the world.”

    Enros explains that the company has put a great deal of thought into determining ACL’s story and making it clear what separates it from other organizations. “Showing people that they can come work for us and make a positive change in the world has been a key differentiator for us,” said Enros. “We’re seeing a lot of traction and a lot of our candidates reference that.”


    Professional growth (promotions not required)

    Once employees are on board at ACL, Enros says there’s a strong focus on career path, development and growth. “That’s something we see everyone looking for and that’s what we think is going to keep people here,” said Enros.

    “The idea that learning is the new loyalty is something a lot of companies are starting to understand,” said O’Grady. In the coming year, businesses that realize this will have an advantage. “The most common contributing factor to poor staff retention is a lack of professional development or a lack of career progression,” said O’Grady. He adds that when companies drill down, it’s not always a promotion or a salary bump employees are after. “More often they question what they’ve learned in the last 12 months, whether they’ve had a new challenge, worked on interesting projects or learned anything from their boss,” said O’Grady. 


    Atypical work

    If today’s employees are changing the definition of what it means to grow on the job, they’re also completely upending the notion of a “typical” work experience. 

    Pina Nicoli, Metro Market manager, The Creative Group, says there are a number of atypical work arrangements that are on the rise and promise to be significant factors for the coming year, including flexible hours, telecommuting, a compressed workweek and job sharing.

    “These programs can also be a strong recruitment and retention tool,” said Nicoli. “In today’s competitive job market, good candidates have options and can often afford to be picky about things like location and commute time. Job seekers are taking an increasingly holistic view when assessing whether to look for a new position – it’s much more than just salary. Flexible work options are key factors professionals consider when making career moves.”

    From an organization’s perspective one significant upside to atypical work, and in particular telecommuting, is a significant widening of the talent pool, as geographical restrictions disappear. 

    However, to prep for atypical work requires a little infrastructure adjustment and possibly even investment. “We use tools like Zoom Video Conferencing or Skype,” said Enros. “If someone is working remotely, or maybe they’ve moved away to an area that’s more affordable, we can still have their face in that meeting room.” 

    Using collaborative software tools and online platforms can help staff stay in touch; and ensuring regular calls and in-person meetings when possible can help overcome some of the obstacles of distance. “Once an organization has decided their business is ready for remote work options, they need to be prepared with processes, tools, expectations and guidelines to keep productivity and team morale on track,” said Nicoli. “Keeping a schedule of workers’ on-site availability, and where and how they can be reached when off-site, can keep work flowing smoothly.”


    A fine balance

    If the word “more” comes up often in a list of 2019’s biggest HR trends, “balance” is also a consistent theme. There’s a need for HR to embrace technology, but to do it strategically and judiciously. There’s a need to develop flexible work plans to meet employee needs, but to do it in a way that promotes productivity
    and connectivity. 

    “HR is a mix of art [and] science,” said Seymour. “The science is the data, the system, the technology. The art is the ability to be human.” In 2019, the biggest challenge – and the biggest rewards – will be in striking the right balance between the two.




  • Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

    Taken the necessary time during the hiring process

    By Andrea M. Marsland


    Hiring a new employee can be a fun and exciting time, especially when you hit the jackpot with a potential new hire. Unfortunately, excitement often gives way to circumventing important steps in the process, which can end up being a costly proposition if things do not work out. Taking your time at the outset of the hiring process is time well spent. Your employer will thank you for it later.