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The Hard Side of HR

Although Canada has seemingly emerged from the latest recession with its economy and financial system intact, many organizations have used the period of economic uncertainty to review all of their operations with a view towards streamlining and reducing unnecessary costs. When this dynamic is in play, one of the first places that executive heads turn is to HR operations. Some senior managers, especially those on the technical side, see HR as being soft side expenditures that could be trimmed if necessary. There's no doubt that every part of the organization should be reviewed to identify cost savings, but cutting back on HR could actually be counterproductive, especially during times of downsizing and restructuring.

Philip H. Gennis,
Grant Thornton
HR can actually help to reduce expenditures during both good and difficult times. HR can also generate additional income as well. These cost savings come in both direct and indirect ways. An obvious way to see direct savings is to handle recruitment in-house instead of using a search firm. The indirect costs are much higher and more important to the business or organizational bottom line.

There is a direct correlation between investments made in HR programs like employee retention and the subsequent reduction in employee turnover. The saved costs and time of not having to advertise, recruit, orient and train new employees is most significant. It is only one area where HR makes a positive difference to the financial viability of the organization. Human resource activities also increase financial performance through improved productivity as a result of training, coaching and mentoring programs. Surveys by various consulting firms found that companies with the best HR practices were not only better places to work but also consistently returned the most value to their shareholders.

It is during the worst times of a company's business cycle that HR proves its worth, none truer than in economic down swings or when there is a need for restructuring or downsizing of its human capital. While there are potential savings through these processes, how well they are done determines how much money is actually saved at the end of the day. Philip Gennis, Vice President, Financial Advisory Services with Grant Thornton Ltd., advises employers not to cut their entire HR departments when it comes to trimming costs. Without diligent HR guidance and support, some downsizing exercises may end up costing more money than they were supposed to save.

There are a number of ways in which HR can prove valuable through times of upheaval. First, HR can help design a fair and effective process to help determine which positions may have to be trimmed. A good process in place will not only eliminate much of the non-productive internal strife that accompanies such decisions. It also ensures that your organization cuts just the right number of jobs in the right areas. This will reduce your costs later in terms of rehiring and retraining. This will also let you continue to maintain your base business while you are reorganizing. Philip Gennis states that workforce planning is an undervalued tool and one of the key HR products that can help you make good financial decisions for today and well into the future.

Another key HR function during downsizing is ensuring that the organization follows all legal and quasi-legal regulations when it comes time to letting employees go. This includes providing the proper amount of notice periods and severance pay under provincial labour laws, following all human rights procedures to avoid claims of discrimination and ensuring that all processes are followed under any collective agreements with unionized staff. Failure to be accurate and meet any one of these requirements will not only jeopardize the employer's reputation, but leave it open to potential complaints, grievances and legal proceedings, all of which could be very costly for the organization.

There are two more ways that HR can assist the organization during periods of restructuring and downsizing. Both are crucial to the long time viability of the organization. The first is to provide a stable environment for employees who remain with the company after the restructuring has been completed. These employees will go through a period of uncertainty about their own future with grief or sadness about their colleagues who are leaving. This is called the "survivor syndrome" and unless it is managed properly, it can cripple an organization, reduce morale and deplete productivity.

HR can lead the way out of this period by providing support to managers, supervisors and individual employees so that the operation can stay on an even keel and resume full steam ahead once the downsizing is over. Although this may appear to some as less than effective 'soft side' human resource work, it is crucial that more employees do not give up on the organization or leave as things get rough.

Keeping these key employees through the difficult periods is the final way in which HR proves its financial worth to the organization. The reassurance that they can provide to all staff through internal communications, briefing and feedback sessions is very important. It will create the atmosphere that will encourage the best and brightest of an organization to remain with the business until the current period of turmoil subsides. Though it may be necessary to merge some HR functions and not keep an entire department, Philip Gennis feels that the most successful reorganizations are handled with input of senior HR professionals.

The cost of replacing the top performers is astronomical assuming that an organization can find these ever-in-demand employees. It is also the message that such departures have on everyone else that is really draining both in human and productivity costs. If they do decide to remain, an efficient HR segment can turn this into another financial advantage for the organization by using these respected employees to attract others like them and encourage them to come on board with the organization.

Members Quarterly Staff Writer

Facebook: The Latest Recruiting Tool

How can Facebook help employers attract a larger candidate pool for your postings? Review the statistics on the number of people currently on Facebook which recently broke the 500 million user mark. Note that these 500 million people cumulatively spend 700 billion minutes a month on the site. For recruiters, here is a captive audience that returns to the site more frequently than any other job posting board. To capitalize on this, look at the different ways that Facebook is currently being used by many organizations to help find the perfect external candidate to fill their positions. Let’s review the different methods that can be used in adding Facebook to your posting process.

Ryan Moore,
CKG International
The first and the quickest method to implement into your posting process is to research the site and find community-based posting pages that allow you to post your position. A good example of this is a business page called Ottawa Public Relations, Marketing & Communications Jobs (link: click here). If you are recruiting in this field in this city, posting your position here is recommended. They currently have 2300 people who like the page who are potential candidates that will get posting updates directly to their newsfeed. Pages like this also allow you to better target niche candidates. To find these types of third party sites, spend some time on Facebook using the search feature. In the search bar, look for broad position or department names like marketing, sales, communications or human resources and the city or region for the position. The results will list all the business pages on Facebook that have any correlation to the search terms used.

Now that you have found suitable local or national sites, you must create a status update for the site. This is your opportunity to catch the candidates’ attention. Be creative and focus on items that will attract people to click on the posting. Note that the status update should be short, concise and compelling. You also attach a link to the update which will allows candidates to click through to your company website to find out more details on the position.

There are a few other technical items you want to make sure you verify before you click “share” on your Facebook update to the site. When you add the link, it will pull an image from the webpage to attach to the link. Make sure it is the one you want to use. Below the image you will see arrows. Click through them to view the various images that you can select. Using your company logo is best as this allows you to get some company branding into the update. It will also pull a description from the site. You can edit by clicking on the description. When it turns yellow, you can edit the text. This should be focused on the position details to give viewers a quick snapshot of what the position entails.

A second option is to develop a company business page that is open to the general public. This entails more internal work to develop and maintain, but it can be used both internally and externally. To make the corporate business page work, you need to be able to convey the organization’s culture as a driving force for why someone would want to work for you. When people find your page and review it, if the organization is able to show a strong culture which appeals to the viewer, they will be more likely to click through the career postings.

Your corporate business page is also a great place to include a few photo albums of corporate events such as the BBQ or employee recognition ceremonies. You will also want to profile new employees on the public business page. This will help people gain a better understanding of your organization and culture based on the type of people you hire. If your company has a younger staff or is targeting a younger staff, primarily in generation Y or early generation X, this method works exceptionally well. Both these generations are very comfortable in this platform and will share information between their friends more readily. If they see your job posting and know a friend who may fit the role, they will likely share the information with them.

To update your business page on Facebook to include a new position, follow the same methodology for posting to your company business page as you would posting to a third party page as outlined above.

Here are some helpful hints that will help with the success of your social recruiting efforts. First and foremost, be consistent with your postings in both frequency and tone to both your business page and third party pages. Keep it professional but not overly formal. You are using social media, so you need to play by the rules and make it personal and social. Remember to link everything back to the original posting of the position on your website. The goal with any social media strategy is to capitalize on traffic (eyes) that the site provides you and move it to your site. You must realize that attracting candidates can take some time. You may have to post multiple positions before you start to get some traction on the postings.

At present, social media and primarily Facebook provide huge opportunities to promote your organization and recruit more candidates for current vacancies. This also assists in developing interest in your company on the part of future candidates. Using the methods outlined above will place you in an excellent position to take advantage of all of the benefits that social recruiting can bring to your organization.

Ryan Moore is Director of Operations and Social Media Coach with CKG International and can be reached at (613) 882-1521 or email

Invest in Your HR Department

Could there be a direct correlation between work-induced stress related problems and the amount of investment not made by an organization into their HR department?

Sylvio (Syd)
Over twenty-four years ago, I was part of a group of police officers in Ottawa who developed a peer support group for members who were suffering post-traumatic stress. Today, I continue my work in peer support with police officers within aboriginal communities who are under more stress than I have ever seen demonstrated in non-aboriginal police services due to the isolation and close familiarity of their communities.

Prior to my retirement, I was the NCO in charge of recruitment and professional development for twelve years. With those two experiences, it was clear for me to see that there is a critical link between how recruiting, orientation and mentoring of new employees is done and how leaders are eventually developed, to the ability of employees and leaders to work their way through stressful situations. All of these components fall under the responsibility of Human Resources.

Under today’s competitive corporate pressures, it is not good enough to simply recruit people using a standard checklist of technical skills, abilities, experience and education. We need to be able to measure for competencies such as flexibility, adaptability, problem solving, networking and relationship building. That means that recruiting is a lot more complex and requires more resources to dig out the presence of those talents.

There is also a need to have a strong corporate supported and endorsed orientation program managed by HR to ensure that employees are properly introduced to the positions being filled and come to understand the corporate infra-structure that will surround them. After these new employees are settled in, they should be assigned a corporate supported and endorsed mentor who works within a program managed by HR. These people will ensure that the new employee is aware of the corporate culture that exists within the corporate infra-structure. This will help them “fit” in.

Failing to invest in and implement any one of those first three components may very well create an environment within a few years where consultants are required. Organizations engage consultants like me as a peer support worker to now try to fix the damage done at an additional cost to the organization. There are non-productive employees on the payroll. They became stressed-out “lost souls” because their employer did not see the need for investing in the support programs that HR professionals could have developed at the start.

Even in the later stage of developing leaders, there are failings that cause stress. Again, corporate development falls under the realm of HR. According to the Conference Board of Canada (Learning and Development Outlook 2007), spending on training and development for organizations in Canada has remained stagnant over the past decade. In fact, when inflation is considered, expenditures are 17% lower than a decade ago. It would appear that training still seems to be viewed as an expense and not as an investment.

Development is about giving staff the workshops and courses they need that tie departmental learning to the organization’s overall objectives. Employees are developed to support organizational changes, strategic plans or business cases. It is generative and is very much about being creative. This is an investment not only in leaders but the employees who will be working for them.

Failing to have development strategies in place is a serious concern. Employees are enticed into leadership positions that they are not prepared to work in and they become stressed out as a result. That stress related behaviour trickles down to everyone who gets in their path. At some point along the line, either their subordinate employees start booking off on stress or the leader does. In either case, it is directly related to the failure of the organization to invest in the programs that could have been developed properly by their HR team.

There is no doubt that the present generation of executives is the most highly educated and technically skilled group in our history. Hopefully, you invest in your HR professionals so that they can recruit, orient, mentor and develop employees into your organization to avoid burnout rather than taking a chance.
Don’t gamble, invest in your Human Resources people now and you will reap rewards later on.

Staff Sergeant (retired) Sylvio (Syd) A. Gravel, M.O.M., with over 30 years of policing experience, spent the last 12 years of his career with the Ottawa Police Service in training and recruitment. He can be reached at:


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