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Gain the Trust of Your Senior Executives

We’ve seen extensive material on HR in the C-Suite lately, particularly in this volatile economic climate. We all know that the classic HR role has dramatically changed in the past two decades. If we want to survive, we must have the necessary tools and knowledge to gain and maintain the trust of our senior executives and directors.

Philip H. Gennis,
Grant Thornton
We have been asked by many readers to expand on what is required to gain the trust of our corporate executives and directors. In past newsletters, we’ve discussed background, knowledge and some tools to enable us to get to the C-Suite. Now it’s time to look at practical strategies which we can implement to obtain this special trust and prove ourselves.

We approached Philip Gennis, Vice President, Reorganization and Recovery, Grant Thornton Limited, as he addressed this issue in a recent financial management session at IPM’s Toronto Conference. Philip came across material that offered simple and practical tips which he has seen implemented in various organizations with great success.

Here are 10 things you can do to take your seat in the C-Suite and keep it, instead of sitting back and waiting to be asked.

Go Paperless. Every time your executive team sees a form from you, it thinks bureaucracy. Automate everything you can to raise your stock in the board’s eyes and banish paper-even if it means documents through e-mail.

Understand the Numbers. Your Board wants you to have a grasp on how the company makes money and the challenges the company faces in growing both revenue and profit. The key signs that you “get” that as an HR professional are your observations in conversations with your Board, as well as the little things the Board sees from your practice.

Understand the cost-benefit of rewards programs. Your directors want you to lead the charge with rewards and recognition because they don’t have the time for it. However, they want more than a cheerleader. They want you to understand the ROI of the programs you have in place, which leads to constant tweaking of the programs based on effectiveness in driving cultural items like engagement.

Know your talent. Your directors want you active in the talent pools they’ll need to tap before they have an opening. This means being an active member of the talent community in their functional areas, or being a facilitator for their involvement. The test of effectiveness in this area is whether you have names of candidates in mind when the next opening occurs on their team.

Have your own set of metrics. The Board will look favourably if you have your own deck of metrics from which you report. You will be looked upon with respect if you can tie your metrics to their operating results in a way that makes sense. You’ll know that you’ve arrived in this area if they talk to you proactively about what their departments can do to improve based upon the metrics you report.

Help the organization drive performance. Your Board values a performance management system that enables the organization to establish customized goals and objectives for each unique role. When your directors’ departments get “stuck”, they want you to be the expert in helping managers rate and deliver feedback to employees, which in turn drives the overall performance of the organization.

Teach Managers to manage. Your directors expect you to teach and coach their managers on how to engage employees in every area. A funny thing happens when you do this. Managers start coming to you for role-playing purposes, positioning you as the “in-house” consultant which you long to be, rather than the henchperson.

Help Managers make tough decisions. Your Board has experienced the HR professional who says no and points to the employee handbook, or possibly cites some legal considerations. While those factors are important, what your directors want is an HR professional who refers to the handbook or law as a factor, then partners with them to figure out tough decisions that have to be made to run the business. In simple terms, what this translates to is “don’t tell me why I can’t do something; tell me how you’re going to find me a way to accomplish what I am trying to do”, in other words, “don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution”.

Be the talent agent for managers in the organization-and not just by forwarding resumes. Your directors want an HR/talent shop that handles multiple steps of the staffing process, culminating in only the best candidates being handed to them for review. Don’t let anyone in your group simply spam their departments with unscreened resumes. You will look like a paper pusher.

Be prepared to live or die for your beliefs. Regardless of functional area, your directors like peers to have the same tenacity as they have. They’ll respect you more if you are willing to go to the wall for what you believe in. Fight when you need to, and you’ll often convince them of the merits of your ideas in the process.

It’s not just a question of crunching numbers, meeting targets or “doing more with less”. We as senior managers must have the intricate knowledge on how our own organization works, how it makes money and what it will take for the organization to become a leader in its field. Learn how you and HR can have a positive impact on the bottom line. You will not only gain respect as a trusted advisor, but also a smart business strategist.

The above information has been provided by Philip H. Gennis, LL.B, CIRP, Vice President, Recovery & Reorganization, Grant Thornton Limited. He can be reached at (416) 366-0100 or via email at

Volunteering with a Professional Association - What’s In It for Me?

In 2006, I attended my first IPM professional development event while assisting a colleague who was the featured presenter. At the conclusion of the event, there was a call for volunteers. At the time, I thought that volunteering with IPM Associations might be a great networking opportunity, so I expressed my interest, became a member of the Canadian Professional Trainers Association and joined the Ottawa Regional Chapter of IPM Associations on their Speakers Committee.

Jaime Moore
What I didn’t realize at the time was that there would be so many other benefits to this volunteer position. Networking was only the beginning.

My original purpose for joining was fulfilled. I have had plenty of opportunity to network. I am a Human Resources practitioner, and I have had the opportunity to meet a variety of people in HR and Management, including speakers, chapter members and other national board members. These individuals provide a fantastic resource to bounce off ideas and situations when something unique has arisen in my workplace or daily role.

Since that day in 2006, I have become the Regional Director of the Ottawa Chapter. This opportunity has provided further benefits and has made my volunteer experience that much more rewarding.

As both the Regional Director and a Speaker’s Committee volunteer, I get the rewarding sense of accomplishment that comes along with the completion of chapter events. After all the work of brainstorming interesting topics, seeking presenters, coordinating with the speaker to ensure that the presentation and materials meet our needs, working with IPM National Office to ensure that the venue is properly set, it is a great feeling to have the event completed and sit back to read the positive feedback from the participants’ evaluation forms.

Having volunteered with other associations in the past, I find that working with IPM’s National Office is truly a positive experience. We get complete support, our voices are heard and our input is valued. With the actual conferences and workshops, all logistics and registrations are handled by the National Office. We oversee our events and can focus on networking with the audience and presenters which I truly enjoy.

Volunteering with an organization such as IPM is also beneficial from a career perspective. Employers look favorably upon individuals who take interest in their line of work outside of the place of employment. By volunteering with an organization such as IPM, you are demonstrating that you are enthusiastic about your career and are serious about continuously keeping up-to-date with the latest trends and information out there. In addition, the time commitment to IPM Associations averages 2 hours per month, which I can easily fit into my schedule as a busy professional and parent of young children.

Through IPM Associations, I have also had the chance to make a number of contacts with individuals in a vast range of fields and expertise. These contacts have come in handy when seeking presenters for my organization or service providers to conduct work in specific areas. It is very comforting to have an idea of what the speaker or firm is all about prior to engaging them to come into your workplace.

The benefits of this volunteer opportunity have not stopped at a business level. I have also enjoyed benefits from a personal standpoint as well.

As both the Regional Director of the Chapter and a Speaker’s Committee member, I have the opportunity to speak in front of an audience at regional events. This provided me practice in public speaking which has assisted me in my daily work when I have had to make group presentations.

I have also been afforded the opportunity, over the last several years, to work with a number of fantastic individuals and have developed some great friendships. Current and past members of the committee get together a few times each year outside of committee meetings to catch up with each other and to enjoy the company of the friends we have made.

As can be noted from the numerous benefits outlined above, my volunteer experience with the Ottawa Chapter of IPM has been both very positive and very rewarding. There has been more in it for me than I originally imagined. I would suggest to anyone out there who has thought about taking on a volunteer position with this organization to take the leap. The benefits are plentiful and the experience will be both satisfying and memorable.

If you have not yet considered the possibility of volunteering, perhaps now is the time. There is opportunity out there, so go after it. You will not be disappointed by what it gives you in return.

Jaime Moore, RPT is an HR Advisor with Canadian Commercial Corporation

Ready, Set, Implement Your HRIS

Implementation of an HRIS can be an emotional journey, but the rewards are worth the effort, and a solid methodology provides an element of control which tempers the emotional aspect. It is a natural reaction to feel overwhelmed by the upcoming challenge of the Implementation. But take a deep breath, you may be more ready than you think! An implementation doesn’t need to be the roller-coaster ride that you are anticipating.

A Methodology

There is comfort in a methodology. It is a thorough approach that provides the assurance that no critical steps will be missed - a tried-and-true recipe, if you will, for the implementation. Every HRIS implementation is different because organizations’ needs are unique, but a methodology is a generic set of steps that you will advance through during the course of the implementation.

Diana Matwichuk
Avanti Software
There are many different methodologies. What is most important is that you are following one, and certainly one that is best practice for your selected vendor, and suitable for the size and complexity of your organization.

The following steps are touch-points in an implementation, which may or may not be included in your chosen methodology.

Mapping Out the Current State: Before the Beginning

Before you even get started, it is helpful to have mapped out your current processes and data stores. Perhaps this step was part of your original business case, as stakeholders struggled in their own way to limp along with a prior HRIS solution – whether it was software that you outgrew or a solution pieced together with Excel spreadsheets. If this was not done, it is never too late to do!

Mapping out your current state will provide a starting point to understanding where you are headed and what needs to be done to get there.

Clear Definition of Requirements: The Beginning

Often, the hardest part is just getting started. Keep in mind that you have already taken a first step if you have defined your requirements at a high level or prepared a Request for Proposal. These requirements just need to be drilled down a level deeper in order to provide scope for the implementation. Ensure that you can clearly describe your organization’s specific HR functional and reporting needs.

Being able to provide clarity around your requirements at the point in the methodology where it is required will add an element of efficiency to the project, as it will mitigate the risk of having to backtrack during the implementation.

Mapping out the Future State: the Vision

This may be one of the most critical steps in an implementation, in terms of ultimately transitioning to the new HRIS. Throughout the implementation, your vision of the future state may be your lifeline, propelling you through any hurdles that are encountered along the way.

A vision of the future state provides an emotional level of comfort. In a time of great change, it is an element of familiarity against which you will compare any deviations throughout the implementation. Often the biggest fear of change is rooted in “the unknown”, but a mapped-out future state addresses that.

The future state is derived based on both your communication of the requirements and an understanding of the HRIS product and how it can meet those requirements.

The Build: One Step at a Time

When expectations are realistically set as to the level of involvement that will be required from you during the build stage, then it is easier to manage your time to be able to make yourself available.
Whether your methodology requires your involvement for detailed requirements definition solely upfront or throughout the build, it is good to establish your level of involvement.

HRIS Training: Getting There

This is often the turning point in an implementation, where it all comes together. The configuration has been built, it looks familiar, and you are eager to get on it, play around, explore. But there is also so much to learn, so many intricacies to the HRIS, so much to absorb. Training is an exciting time, and it is good to harness that positive energy, for release in the final stage of the implementation.

Testing: The End is in Sight

Once you get to the testing stage, a feeling of empowerment will likely have occurred. It is as if a transition has taken place with delivery of the database. You have something tangible to work with, even if it happens to be a small part of the ultimate build. You will take solace in pounding away at it to ensure that it will meet your requirements.

Be sure to budget for the time commitment that will be required so that it does not seem daunting. The positive side is that rigorous testing provides you with a sense of assurance that you will be “safe” once you go live.

By this point, the transition is almost complete, and it is evident that the vision of the future state is ringing true.

In Summary

Do you know the real reason why that Payroll person down the hall never has a hair out of place? It’s because her registers are balancing to the penny. But she wouldn’t have arrived at that “place” without having gone through the implementation. And in the not too distant future, your manner too will be perfectly composed as you effortlessly produce stats from your HRIS to support business decisions and the development of HR programs that are strategic and align with corporate objectives.

So take a deep breath. Ready, set … implement!

Diana Matwichuk is an HR Consultant and Implementation Specialist at Avanti Software Inc. She can be contacted at 403-225-2366 x230, or email

Bullying in the Workplace

There may not be definitive research linking workplace bullying and fraud, but consider the possibility. No matter how well organizations articulate their ethics and values, if workplace bullying exists, employees may feel threatened, changing their behavior. Some employees may be motivated to commit fraud.

Joyce McGeehan
Grant Thornton
Similarly, employees are responsible for performing internal controls and reporting suspicions of fraud, but the reality of coping with bullying in the workplace may alter employees’ behavior. Generally, organizations expect that employees will not commit fraud, will perform internal control activities competently, reducing the likelihood of fraud, and will report suspicious of fraud.

The purpose of this article is to raise awareness that bullying in the workplace may have an impact on these expectations.

Employees Will Not Commit Fraud

Organizations are routinely cautioned against structuring compensation packages that promote fraudulent behavior. Consideration should also be given to other, less overt influences that may promote fraud, such as bullying. For example, John, a salesperson, is experiencing a dry spell. John is used to exceeding sales targets and having a certain status in his organization. Due to the closure of one of his largest customers, John is well below target. His boss has made a couple of negative and very public remarks to him about not carrying his load. John no longer gets invited to lunches with the boss. Recently, at a sales meeting, there was a general discussion about layoffs at a major customer. John is almost certain that his boss looked directly at him.

Sometimes, bullied employees have a difficult time articulating what is happening to them, particularly if bullying is subtle. Could John’s desire to recapture his former status drive him to falsify invoices to reach sales targets? It’s happened.

As another example, an employee makes a significant clerical error affecting the company’s financial statements. Is it conceivable that the employee would commit fraud to hide the original, honest mistake? It doesn’t seem likely, but what if the employee worked in an environment where mistakes were not tolerated and employees who made mistakes felt their livelihoods threatened?

Most organizations set the appropriate ethical “tone at the top” and undertake specific activities to prevent and detect fraud in the workplace. However, these efforts may be thwarted if the organization condones or does nothing to stop bullying.

Competent Performance of Internal Controls

During fraud investigations, it is not uncommon to see gaps between management’s perception of how internal controls are performed and actual practice. The reasons for the gaps are varied and might include a misunderstanding about the underlying reason for performing the control. However, bullying in the workplace could be another factor.

For example, performing an annual reconciliation, David, a clerk in another division, identifies unusual discrepancies in annual billing figures to a large client. Leslie is the departmental manager, responsible for the client. The first time that David brought the discrepancy to her attention, she was critical of the source of David’s figures and accused him of wasting her time. She would not work through the difference with David. Due to Leslie’s reaction, David started e-mailing the annual discrepancy to Leslie. She ignored his e-mail. David, who was a bit shy, was hurt by Leslie’s reaction and didn’t want to subject himself to another of her outbursts. As a result, there was no attempt to explain or resolve the differences in their figures.

It was to Leslie’s benefit to believe that her numbers, which were higher, were accurate. Although Leslie had no knowledge of the fraud, due to her initial bullying behavior, the fraud continued over a period of three years. Only when the annual difference became too large to ignore, was it examined carefully. It was found to be a roadmap to a fraud engineered by a billing clerk in Leslie’s department. The annual control performed by David identified a problem, but Leslie neutralized the effectiveness of the control through bullying.

Employees Will Report Suspicions of Fraud

Bullying in the workplace can also affect employees’ willingness to report suspicions of fraud. Usually, where there is bullying, there is also a lack of trust. Once frauds surface, we often find that other employees knew about the fraud or at least had suspicions. Reasons for not coming forward may be complex, but don’t discount bullying as one of those reasons.

From the outset, federal investigators in the Bernard Madoff fraud didn’t believe that one man could have engineered a fraud of such magnitude and complexity. Robert Cialdini, a professor emeritus of psychology at Arizona State University and author of several books on the subject of influence, has speculated that inexperienced Madoff employees were bullied into submission by Madoff when they summoned the courage to ask questions about business practices. We might never know definitively what occurred in this case, but we shouldn’t discount the possibility of bullying. And not just bullying of lower level employees, but bullying of federal investigators as well. Bullying can be subtle and in some instances, simply the display of knowledge, power and position may influence behavior.

Think about the employee who is responsible for submitting her boss’ expense reports. Although she knows that inappropriate, personal expenses have been included, her questions about specific items have been met with her boss’ comments that she “doesn’t understand business”. Her self confidence is eroded and she stops asking questions. In a sense, the employee has become an accomplice to the fraud even though she felt bullied into hiding it.

In summary, seemingly inexplicable frauds might not be quite so perplexing when considering the impact of workplace bullies. Though research is still developing, organizations should work to deter bullying behavior in the workplace and consider it as a factor among many when faced with fraud.

Joyce McGeehan is Senior Manager, Forensic Accounting and Investigative Services with
Grant Thornton LLP in Halifax and can be reached at


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