(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Organizational Satisfaction surveys are intended to provide information about whether the company is successfully creating a work environment in which employee expectations are adequately fulfilled.   The underlying assumption is that satisfied employees will be more productive overall and less likely to leave the organization.

In essence, satisfaction surveys are being used as a proxy for trying to understand how to engage employees in the work they do and in the mission and goals of the companies they work for.   Engagement – the state of employee involvement desired by companies – is not the same as satisfaction and identifying it requires different metrics.

The craving for engagement expressed in this verse of Satisfaction:

He’s tellin’ me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to drive my imagination.

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards

Engagement produces creativity, productivity and both emotional and mental commitment.  Engagement is “being in the zone”,  or “a state of flow1” which becomes possible when there is a balance of a high level challenge and skill, clear purpose, immediate and unequivocal  feedback and concentration on the work.   Intrinsic satisfaction is exceptionally high when an individual is engaged.

Building an Engaged Workforce is an HR Trend that has been around for a while and is likely to stay for some time because studies have indicated that when people are genuinely engaged (not just satisfied), productivity and profitability increase, shareholder value increases and attraction and retention of key talent improves.

(1 A State of Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his seminal work on work, motivation and happiness describes the condition as “a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation.)

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Why a Workforce Strategic Plan?

Earlier this month Statistics Canada told us something we had already figured out – the unemployment rate was up – not a lot – to 7% from 6.8% last month. In Alberta the unemployment rate has risen to 6% up from 5.2% at the same time last year. 7% unemployment means that 1.35 million people who want to work do not have jobs.

Along with the national 7% unemployment rate we also have a national Job Vacancy Rate (the share of jobs that are unfilled) of 2.6% or roughly 400,000 jobs.     We have a Dependency Rate (proportion of the population that is older than 64 and younger than 15) of about 47% – which means that we have 1.12 people of working age for every 1 person who is not.

Population projections indicate that at the end of 2015 or into early 2016 there will be more people in Canada over the age of 65 than there are under the age of 15. Our average age is 41.7 years old and we are getting older.  Canada’s baby boom began in 1947 – our oldest boomers are about 16 months shy of turning 70. The youngest boomers, born in 1966 are turning 50 in 2016. The peak of the boom, born in 1959, will be turning 65 in 2024. Every year from now until then an increasingly large number of people will be leaving the workforce and there will not be as many new workforce entrants.

Today, 67% of all job openings in Canada require post secondary education and even though Canada is among the global leaders in higher education only 51% of working population between 25 and 64 have post secondary education. A major business concern expressed by Canadian CEOs is the challenge in finding and keeping the talent required for business success.

These factors

  • An unhealthy unemployment rate coupled with a significant number of vacant jobs;
  • The loss of knowledge and skills as the boomers leave the workforce and a smaller number of people who are and will be joining the workforce;
  • the gap between the proportion of jobs requiring post secondary education and people who are acquiring it;

indicate a need for every organization to develop and implement a strategic approach to workforce management.

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Strategic Employee Development

Every now and then my husband shares an HR related story, joke or news tidbit he sees with me.

The other day he shared this with me:

 A CEO, talking with her leadership team,  said, “we need to increase our education and training programs to ensure our staff have the best skills in the industry.” 

One of the team responded with, “That is going to cost a lot.  What if we spend all that money and the staff leave?”  The CEO responded with “What if we don’t and they stay?”

What struck me was the thinking behind the team member’s response.   That lack of understanding about the connection between development of people and achievement of business results is not unique, which brings me to the point of this commentary.   Employee development of all types needs to be one of the key strategies associated with business goals, and that strategy needs to have the same type and level of expectations for results as any other business strategy.

A good employee development strategy:

  1. Is directly aligned with both short and long term organizational goals
  2. Provides a long term objective for development across all work units and employee levels
  3. Is focused on shared employee and organizational needs
  4. Sets specific expectations for the employee development results
  5. Sets specific expectations for the business improvement outcomes
  6. Tracks the results achieved for all expectations
  7. Holds individuals and the organization accountable by evaluating improvement in productivity and profitability
  8. Celebrates success and starts again.

Of course, the risk that an organization’s well trained and skilled staff will attract attention from industry competitors is high and provides some good potential for upcoming blogs.

Interested in discussing this and other related HR topics?  Join me for the @CatalystHR Tweet Chat on Monday September 28 at 10 am (MST).

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The Mysteries of Technology

Today, for the second time in two days, I am wondering about what is most likely a completely basic matter with respect to technology use.  A  challenge for small practitioners who use external tech support services  for network and hardware support is the other tech support we need – where can we get the software and general knowledge support. So, here I am wondering about how to manage the new anti-spam compliance requirements and,  if this comment will show up in my own blog or in a blog I follow (yes I  really am a neophyte blogger!).  Tomorrow researching the bigger question.  Today – a simple answer – looked at the preview and sure enough, it appears on my own website.



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Compassionate Care Leave


Earlier this year (February 1/14) with the implementation Bill 203 the Province of Alberta’s, Employment Standards Code now contains provisions for Compassionate Care Leave for Employees.

What is Compassionate Care Leave?

Compassionate Care leave is a leave that can be taken from work to care for a gravely ill family member who has a significant risk of death within 26 weeks.

How Much Time Does the Employer Have To Provide for Compassionate Care Leave?

Up to eight (8) weeks leave.  The eight weeks of leave may be split into two sections and must be taken within a 26 week period.

Does the Employer Have to Pay the Employee for Compassionate Care Leave?

No. The leave is unpaid leave.  Six (6) weeks of EI benefits may be available for some employees.  The employee will need to check  with Service Canada Employment Insurance in regard to eligibility.

What Other Requirements Exist For Employers?

  • Employers are required to provide the leave on a job-protected basis which means that the employee must be able to return to their same or a comparable job with all of the same earnings and other benefits the employee had prior to the leave starting.
  • Employees cannot be dismissed or laid or off when on compassionate care leave.

What Are the Requirements for Eligibility for Compassionate Care Leave?

  • Employees must have worked for at least 52 weeks for their existing employer to be eligible
  • Employees must provide their employer with a certificate signed by the attending physician regarding the grave condition of the family member and his/her need for care by one or more family members
  • The employee must be the primary care giver of the ill family member
  • The employee must give the employer two weeks’ notice unless there are circumstances that necessitate a shorter notice period. 

What does  Family Member mean?

Under Compassionate Care Leave, a family member is:

  • the spouse or common law partner of the employee,
  •  a child of the employee or employee or the common law partner,
  • a parent of the employee or spouse or common law partner
  • any other person who is a member of the class of persons designed by the regulations including   grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and other relations including person who the employee considers to be like a close family member whether or not related by blood for whom the employee has the  primary responsibility for providing care or support
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What Does The Future Look Like?

From 2010 through 2012 I worked on a couple of major workforce projects.  These projects were developing strategies to resolve issues related to building the pool of talent and improving productivity of all workers.   As a result of this work I have become even more certain of the importance for every organization to be a workplace where the culture is one of continuous individual and organizational growth and development.

Some Important Data

The following are a few of the salient facts that bring the reality of this issue home.

Labour Productivity:

Labour Productivity, defined by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development as the output (the gross domestic product or gross value added) that results from the input[1] of workers.

  • In its 2013 Factbook, the OECD places Canada at seventeenth of thirty-five countries on per person productivity.
  • Canada’s labour productivity growth has been poorer than the top countries for decades – we are getting less productive as compared to other countries each year.
  • Productivity doesn’t mean working more hours, it means working more efficiently, being innovative and producing value added goods and services.


  • There is 1 worker to replace every 3 baby boomers leaving the Canadian workplace.
    • Canada’s baby boom started in 1947 (those folks turned 65 in 2012) peaked in 1959 (those folks will turn 65 in 2024) and ended in 1966 (those folks will turn 65 in 2031)
    • There is a knowledge and skills gap in the workforce
      • About 9 million Canadians (more than 25% of our entire population) aged 16 – 65 have literacy levels below what is necessary for today’s workforce
      • 60% of Canada’s working age population (25 – 64)  has some form of post secondary qualification

About 76% of jobs in Canada require post secondary education

  • Job vacancy rates are predicted to rise dramatically
    • By 2016 there will be about  1.3 million vacant jobs in Canada due to shortages of workers with the knowledge and skills required to fill those jobs
    • By 2031 there will be about 2 million unemployed workers who do not have the skills needed to obtain a job AND there will be about 3.4 million jobs in Canada  that cannot be filled due to skill shortages
  • Reliance on Regional & Global workforce mobility
    • Temporary relocation of workers from one region to another  is a short term solution that has significant negative social and economic consequences for both the home and temporary environments including family stress and the absence of long term economic development in either the sending or receiving community
    • Immigration, even in optimal circumstances, can only provide limited benefit because of the associated complexities such credential recognition, lack of Canadian work experience and minimal social support for immigrants in many areas where jobs exist and resistance of existing population to new immigrants.

 What it Means

If we do not change substantially, the organizational consequences of the workforce situation in Canada include:

  • The inability to find the people needed for growth
  • The inability to find people to continue to produce existing products and services, and
  • The inability to remain competitive in the global economy.

Over time that will result in even lower levels of productivity per person as organizations do not have the resources to support individual development;  to ensure machinery, technology and processes remain current;  and, to fund the research and development that leads to innovation .   That  absence of resources will lead to a reduction in Canada’s Gross Domestic Product and then in turn  in our standard of living.  In order to maintain the lifestyle we have,  and access to what we need,  including health care, education, a safe functional infrastructure, parks,  and so on, workers and organizations need to produce more and better goods and services.

The Good News

There are real practical solutions to these problems.  They require work on many fronts by civic, provincial and federal levels of government and other public institutions.  The fundamental solution however is to be found in the creation and maintenance of highly productive businesses and people.

The major projects I worked on provided me with the opportunity to explore ideas, possible practical solutions and to develop strategies and plans that will resolve many workforce issues.    Key among those strategies is the development of people; increasing the capability of workers who are not as productive as they could be and bringing those who are unemployed into productive jobs.

We all know that everything about organizations depends on the people; what they do, share, risk, learn, want and produce.  There is no question that increasing the productivity of people and therefore the organizations in which they work takes hard work.    At the core of that hard work is creating and implementing an individual centric process for increasing the efficacy of each employee.  Doing so demands a clear and measurable expectation for the results each person needs to deliver and how those results contributes to all desired outcomes.    It also demands evaluation of the existing organizational system to ensure that all aspects of the system are actively contributing to the achievement of the desired outcomes.

The following Model depicts the organizational system and the interdependence of all aspects of the system in establishing a maximally productive environment.


I am convinced that organizational success is dependent on ensuring every individual is provided with the opportunity to develop to their greatest potential and that there are realistic ways to make it possible.    The development and implementation of organizationally relevant solutions is a necessity for every business, no matter the size.  

Interested in discussing this?  Get in touch:   anne@annehoward.com

 To learn more about Canada’s workforce and productivity:


  • Canadian Immigration




[1] Input is usually identified as hours worked, workforce jobs and number of people employed

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Social Media & Invasion of Privacy

If you are, or are thinking about checking Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or any other social media sites to learn about job applicants or employees you need to read the Guidelines for the Use of Social Media for Background Checks released in December by The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta .

It is important to know that the use of social media to do background checks involves some significant legal implications and doing so requires great care.

Read  the Guidelines:   http://www.annehoward.com/Articles/Guidelines%20for%20Social%20Media%20Background%20Checks.pdf

Or on the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta’s website. http://www.oipc.ab.ca/downloads/documentloader.ashx?id=2933

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