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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Beware of Damages for Loss of LTD Benefit Coverage

A recent Ontario Superior Court decision, Brito v. Canac Kitchens, highlights the significant risk faced by an employer when a former employee becomes disabled during the notice period, but after long-term disability (“LTD”) benefits have been discontinued. Mr. Brito was 55 years old with 24 years of service. Canac Kitchens (“Canac”) paid him statutory minimum amounts on termination and maintained his LTD benefits for the 8-week notice period required under the Employment Standards Act, 2000. While Mr. Brito successfully secured alternate employment shortly after his termination, his new position did not include benefits or LTD coverage.

Unfortunately, Mr. Brito was diagnosed with cancer 16 months after the termination of his employment and he became totally disabled. Justice Echlin awarded Mr. Brito 22 months notice of termination. Since he had become disabled during the reasonable notice period, compensation for lost LTD benefits was a central issue in the case. Justice Echlin held that Mr. Brito was entitled to be placed in the same position he would have been had the employer offered him 22 months of working notice. His Honour noted that the employer elected to only pay the minimum statutory amount and gambled that the employee would secure alternate employment and remain healthy. The employer lost this “gamble” when the employee became disabled 16 months after termination and was therefore responsible for compensating Mr. Brito for his lost LTD benefit.

As a result, Justice Echlin ultimately awarded the employee the following:

  • $94,666 being the equivalent to 16 months salary to the date of his disability (minus the statutory payments made by Canac and what he had earned from his new job);
  • $9,078 for damages resulting from the loss of his short-term disability benefits;
  • $146,723 for damages resulting from the loss of LTD benefits from the date of total disability to trial;
  • $47,941 representing the present value of the remainder of the employee’s LTD benefit entitlement to his 65th birthday; and
  • $15,000 for punitive damages.

Employers should be mindful that since most group LTD policies will not permit an employer to continue coverage for active employees beyond the end of the statutory notice period, there is exposure to significant damages in the event a departing employee becomes disabled during what is later determined to be the proper notice period. 

Employers ought to consider using employment contracts to limit the duration of entitlement to LTD benefits during the statutory notice period on termination or, alternatively, to purchase private LTD insurance for an employee for the duration of the notice period.

Case Citation: Brito v. Canac Kitchens, 2011 ONSC 1011 (CanLII).

M. Christine O’Donohue, Toronto
This article is from Miller Thomson’s Labour and Employment Newsletter.

Posted in News

World Business Forum – Executive Summaries

The World Business Forum provides Executive Summaries from the presentations provided by speakers each year.   The Executive Summaries for both the 2010  and 2011 Forums are available on my website, the link for which follows:   http://annehoward.com/articles2.htm.

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Global Business Conference 2

Global Business Forum

Inspiring Leaders – October 5 – 6, 2011  –Day 2

Day Two began with a Session on Managing People.

  • This lineup included: Patrick Lencioni (The Five Dysfunctions of A Team, Silos, Politics & Turf Wars, Getting Naked) who is best known for his expertise in what it takes to have highly effective teams;
  • Seth Godin (new age marketing guru, prolific  author (11 books) and entrepreneur)  who has embraced the digital era and who believes that individual (and leader)  success requires the ability to stand out through creativity, connection and engagement with others.
  • Tamara Erickson (consultant, author and researcher) talked about the generations at work and the need to navigate a multigenerational workplace; and what that workplace is going to be like.

Claudio Fernandez-Araoz,  known as one of the most influential search consultants in the world  (he is based in the Buenos  office of  Aires Egon Zehnder International – global search) talked about making great people decisions and what it entails.   He was warm, funny, intelligent and was able to make the 4000+ crowd feel like he was talking to a small group – an astonishing feat.  His years of research have identified  the best indicator of leadership  success  is Emotional Intelligence.    His take away comment which brought down the house:  The single greatest factor in career success “Luck”.

Jack Welch (Retiree,  Fortune Magazine’s Manager of the Century,  author and Most admired CEO in the World) talked about why creating winning organizations matters.   His latest book  (“Winning” which is co-authored with his wife Suzy who is a psychologist)  and the theme that ran through his discussion  talks about what it means to win and why building winning organizations matters.

The morning sessions finished with Gary Hamel (Wall Street Journal calls him the world’s most influential business thinker ; author of 4 books about management change) talking about management innovation which means stepping away from the power of the institution to the power of the individual.  An interesting conversation, particularly given that a couple of miles south of the conference center a group were (and are) protesting the misuse of power on Wall Street  and in government.

The afternoon began with  Alan Murray from the Wall Street Journal interviewing Robert Rubin (among other things he was the US Treasury Secretary under President Clinton)   and Martin Feldstein ( he was the Chief Economic Advisor to Reagan and head of the National Bureau of Economic Research (USA) about the current economic situation, what they see coming and what they think needs to happen to improve the global financial situation.   They both think nothing meaningful will change in the USuntil after the next Presidential election.    They both agree there is a new economic landscape.   I expect we all pretty much had that figured- the hard reality of globalization has hit home and now we really do have to figure out how to work collaboratively.  Howard Schultz commented during his discussion that John F. Kennedy had said “ No one will get ahead by leaving others behind”.  While this conversation was much more about changing tax structures , dysfunctional politics in the US, and how to stimulate the American economy, the underlying message in the conversation was just that:  People must work together in order to be successful.

Danial Lamarre (CEO Cirque de Soleil) talked about the importance of creativity and capturing people’s imaginations in creating passion in all aspects of life, including business.  A troupe of Cirque performers provided an exhilarating example of what can happen when that happens.

I skipped the last session of the day (it started at 5:30 p.m. because we had tickets for the theatre that night.  The play turned out to be pretty crummy despite having Bernadette Peters as the lead.  Both Steve and I wished that he had paid the hefty price to attend the Yankees game instead.  Especially Steve – he is a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan and they won that night which moved to the playoff series withTexas.

OH  –  the last session of the day was Bruno Ferrari (Mexico’s Secretary of the Economy ) His talk was titled Global and Regional Trends:Mexico’s Role in the North American Economy.  I’m pretty sure he had some interesting things to say. I’m pretty sure it would have been lost on me by that point – My mind was reeling (it still is) and I was much more suited to a ballgame (or poor play) by that point.

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Global Business Conference 1

As many of you know, because I shared my excitement about it with you,  last week I attended the Global Business Conference in New York City.

The conference is international; this year more than 4,000 business leaders from 55 countries were there.   The line-up of speakers was impressive – to say the least.   The conference provided an opportunity to meet and talk with people one would otherwise not meet,   listen to respected thought leaders and spend time thinking about the ideas they shared.

I thought it might be interesting for me to share some of it with you.    The first day of the conference began with a 2 hour session on leadership, what it is and what it means.   Bill George, Harvard Business School Professor and  Author of True North,  Finding Your True North,  & Authentic Leadership shared his beliefs about the essential elements of leadership and what it takes to be a good leader.   He was followed by Malcolm Gladwell, Journalist(The New Yorker) and author of Tipping Point, Outliers,  What the Dog Saw.  Gladwell also shared his views about what it takes to be a good leader, talking about the need for intelligent risk taking and strength of character required to do so.  Then came Tal Ben-Shahar; whose belief is that positive psychology and resilience are fundamental to good leadership.   Ben-Shahar is currently a professor at  the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel.  His books Happier and Being Happy are both international best sellers.

The second session focused on organizational potential for impact on people.  The academics of the first session were followed by Howard Schultz (CEO -Starbucks) who talked about Corporate Social Responsibility and its role in the success of organizations and society  and Angela Ahrendts (CEO – Burberry) who talked about the significance of creativity and innovation in all aspects of business and how it contributes to human growth.

Session three was about the future.  Marina Gorbis – Executive Director of the Institute of the Future and Anthony Townsend (Research Director for the Institute of the Future) talked about the impact of technology, its use and the significance of creating human centered organizations and building Smart Cities respectively.    They were followed by Michael Liebreich (whose opening comments about the dirty oil produced in Canada caused a defensive reaction in me) Once I let go of that I appreciated his discussion about clean energy and its impact as a megatrend we will experience over the next decade.

The speakers of the final session of the day –  Leadership and Contribution to Others were Benjamin Zander and Bill Clinton.  Bill Clinton ( past- Pres. US) talked about the interdependence of all people and all other aspects of life on earth.  Ben Zander (Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, teacher, humanist and co-author of The Art of Possibility), was the high light of the conference for me.  He talked about what happens when people step beyond themselves and focus on contributing.  His joyfulness is inspiring.

Every speaker was at least really good and several (Zander, Gladwell, George and Ben-Shahar) were exceptional.

And that was Day 1.

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