by Laine Jubinville, VP, Strategic HR Consulting

With 2024 upon us, we wanted to share our predictions for the six most impactful HR trends to watch for this year.

1. Artificial Intelligence

Generative AI (such as ChatGPT) continues to transform organizational and HR processes. From recruitment automation to predictive analytics for employee retention, AI is empowering organizations to streamline operations and decision-making. At the same time, organizations will need strike a balance between leveraging the efficiency of AI and valuing human qualities that are still essential in business.

2. Generational Diversity

In 2024, we will see an increase of younger professionals entering the workforce while more and more employees begin to reach retirement age. With the increasing popularity of transition to retirement plans that support mature professionals remaining in the workplace for longer, meeting the needs of a generationally diverse workforce will be more important – and more interesting – to balance. For example, the culture and working life expectations of younger professionals often includes a desire for improved work-life balance and greater emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion.

3. Market Competitive Salaries

The future of pay requires a shift from outdated compensation programs that may no longer align with employees’ unique skills. To confidently ensure salary offerings are market-competitive, annual assessment of base pay salary trends in your organization’s targeted labour market is encouraged. This may not mean reviewing every single job every single year, however, determining a list of your organizations ‘benchmark jobs’ (i.e. jobs with titles and job functions which are commonly found across sector and industry and therefore are easily measured) with a representative sample of jobs across job family/function and job worth/pay grades are good rules of thumb to follow. Ensuring your organization is offering competitive base pay rates is crucial to ensure that you are able to attract and retain top talent, especially as conversations around cost-of-living and inflation are top of mind for employees.

4. Culture of Continuous Learning

Organizations will need to have a firm grasp on the skills that will be essential in 2024, and ensure they are providing learning and development opportunities to elevate their teams. For example, training that allows leaders to adapt to changing environments, lead remote teams effectively, and foster innovation and resilience within their teams. Or, as AI continues to become more capable and its usage more widespread, ensuring employees understand not only how to use these transformative technologies, but that complementary – and exclusively human – skills such as strategic thinking, complex problem solving, creativity, emotional intelligence, etc. are well-developed. Learning experiences also enable employees to connect and share with one another in both formal and informal ways.

5. Talent Retention & Engagement

Learning and development efforts support in creating a culture of continuous learning, which in turn supports employee engagement. However, successfully reskilling and upskilling employees can make them particularly desirable to competitors. To ensure these highly valuable team members remain engaged, organizations must put improved focus on wholistic retention and talent management strategies in 2024. Additionally, hosting surveys (engagement or pulse) are key for collecting data and surfacing insights necessary to make strategic decisions on factors that impact engagement levels and workplace cultures.

6. Comprehensive DEI Initiatives

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) will remain a focus for organizations. It will be critical for organizations to clearly define the outcomes they expect from diversity and inclusion learning initiatives. Making diversity and inclusion an integral part of an organization’s roadmap is essential, however a financial commitment is not enough. Developing DEI leaders is crucial to drive positive cultural change and ensuring equal opportunities for all employees and creating a workplace that attracts, retains, and empowers top talent in 2024 and beyond.

See your organization thrive with HR projects and initiatives that elevate your employee experience, support talent retention and enhance workplace culture. Connect with us today to discuss how our people and culture solutions could be the game changers your organization is seeking in 2024.

Career Management

A leaving story can be valuable after employment termination for several reasons:

Professional Narrative: It allows you to shape the narrative of your departure. Instead of letting rumors or assumptions take hold, you can provide a clear, professional account of why you left.

Future Opportunities: When seeking new employment, potential employers may ask about your previous job. A well-constructed leaving story helps you explain the situation in a positive light, highlighting what you learned and how you’ve grown.

Personal Closure: Writing or articulating your leaving story can aid in processing the emotions associated with the termination. It allows you to reflect on the experience, find closure, and move forward positively.

Networking and References: It provides a basis for discussing your departure with former colleagues or supervisors. A well-handled leaving story can maintain professional relationships and potentially secure positive references.

Self-Reflection and Growth: By detailing your leaving story, you can identify areas for personal and professional growth. It’s an opportunity to learn from the experience and evolve in your career.

We recommend our clients keep their leaving story short, concise along with positive and true.

To put some structure around that – using the following approach:

  1. Start with a positive statement about your previous employer.
  2. Next – provide a short statement on why you are no longer there.
  3. End on a positive note connected to the future.

By Deanna Lanoway, Executive Consultant

Canadian employers have recognized that focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a critical component of their Talent Management program. Immigration is the driver of growth in the Canadian workforce, and employers are ramping up their DEI programs with a focus on race, culture, and religious diversity to ensure their work culture is inclusive and welcoming to diversity. Beyond attracting top talent, companies that prioritize DEI initiatives are more likely to drive innovation and create a positive organizational culture.

Employers who have a very long-tenured workforce may be both very concerned about the high rates of retirements looming and struggling to keep younger employees. It is possible that their workplaces may not feel inclusive to younger employees, who feel that expected conformity to established norms in the long-tenured workforce is not letting them be their authentic selves.

Even organizations with a high degree of racial and ethnic diversity represented in their workforce and leadership can lack inclusivity if they have very rigid expectations about how people think, behave, and communicate. Many workplaces in engineering or other STEM disciplines have a very high degree of racial and ethnic diversity, but very little gender diversity, for example.

When we partner with employers to train on DEI, we present multiple levels of diversity. On the outer edge are different experiences that may be unique to individuals because they lived in different places or times. For example, generational events like the Great Depression or more recently, the pandemic which affected everyone’s experience for a period of time, leads to aspects of intergenerational diversity.

Then there are more unique differences – where someone grew up, their socioeconomic status in childhood, what subjects they took in school, religion, language, and cultural traditions – can be a large part of how we identify ourselves. Then at the core of diversity is the personality. Most researchers believe that personality is largely inborn but then interacts with our experiences in childhood to develop our own unique ways of thinking and processing the world around us. Note that this type of diversity is largely unseen, but universal. It’s the reason why sometimes we define diversity as the presence of two people in a room… because we are all so unique.

Keeping this in mind while we craft our DEI strategies is wise. Because while all DEI work can be beneficial, focusing too heavily on a single dimension of diversity, like race or ethnicity, does not address the patterns of thinking that can help you create a truly inclusive environment.

As organizations increase their focus on DEI, leaders and HR can take the following steps to ensure that all the different dimensions of diversity are recognized and valued.

  • Put it in writing:  If you don’t yet have a principle statement outlining your organization’s commitment to DEI, or if you haven’t reviewed it recently, this is an excellent time to ensure that diversity of all kinds is recognized and included within your statement. Avoid specifying certain types of diversity, as it can be hard to ensure that you include all the identities and experiences that drive our uniqueness.
  • Measure with care:  DEI surveys can help you understand the experiences of your current employee base and determine if your culture needs work to feel truly inclusive. Measuring for representation, however, takes more forethought. Ensure that you consider what you’ll be using the data for, whether you’re seeking anonymous data or not, and how it will be kept. We recommend consulting with experts for best practices on self-declaration.
  • Train on perspective:  Recognizing and valuing diversity among team members is vital in small workplaces. Different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives bring unique strengths to the team. However, these differences can also lead to misunderstandings or conflicts. At the heart of successful diversity programs is a deep commitment to perspective. Most of us need some help to truly embed perspective into our thinking. You can begin training perspective with non-threatening assessments like DiSC and a fun team session to discuss how each of us has different approaches and styles.
  • Complement your DEI training with critical leadership training:  Leaders may need support and training to adopt inclusive leadership styles that value diverse perspectives and foster a sense of belonging. This includes active listening and other communication skills, conflict management, empathy, and empowering employees.

Your DEI program needs to recognize and plan around where you want to increase representation, but also ensure that it supports the individual uniqueness that each employee already brings to your workplace; that is how we support authenticity at work.

by HR @ Your Service

The workplace environment has transformed in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we approach cold and flu season and witness a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, employers are faced with the crucial task of addressing employee and workplace concerns in a proactive and strategic manner. The health and well-being of employees, alongside the efficient mitigation of illness transmission, should remain a top priority.

Workplaces should consider reviewing and implementing various strategies for managing illnesses to minimize the impact to their workforce. Additionally, they should regularly re-evaluate safety and health practices and wellness initiatives aimed at preventing the spread of germs and prioritizing the well-being of employees.


Effective communication is essential in establishing expectations regarding symptoms in the workplace, health and safety practices and attendance management. Establishing clear and consistent channels of communication ensures that employees are well-informed about the organization’s response to the upcoming challenges. Regular updates assist in alleviating anxiety by providing accurate and up-to-date information about safety measures, vaccination resources, and any changes in workplace policies aimed at mitigating illness transmission.

Communicating and engaging with employees when determining safety measures can be highly beneficial. Seeking their input and feedback through appropriate channels (i.e., Workplace Health & Safety Committees) can provide employees with a sense of being heard and valued.

Managing Attendance

Attendance management systems can be used to monitor and report on employee attendance, making it easier to identify absenteeism trends or patterns that may be indicative of illness outbreaks. By promptly identifying these patterns, steps can be taken to proactively address them, such as increasing sanitization or targeted testing for specific departments or teams.

Moreover, attendance management can also encompass flexible leave policies that allow employees to stay home when they are feeling unwell, without the fear of repercussions. Encouraging employees to stay home when sick not only reduces the risk of spreading illnesses in the workplace but also promotes a culture of responsibility and care for one another.

Health & Safety

Implementing and reviewing the effectiveness of health and safety strategies within the workplace can have significant impact. Consider these strategies:


Health Canada advises that vaccination against the flu and COVID-19 continues to be one of the most effective tools for preventing the spread of these viruses. Employers can offer vaccination information, resources, and even on-site vaccination clinics.

Social Distancing & Flexible Work Arrangements

Where possible, establish physical distancing measures in common areas, workspaces, and meeting rooms. Rearrange office layouts where possible to ensure adequate space between employees.

Where feasible, consider offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or staggered shifts. These might be valuable options, particularly if an employee is experiencing symptoms of a cold, flu or COVID-19 to reduce the exposure for other staff.

Assess which positions can transition to remote work and ensure that employees have the necessary tools and support to work effectively from home.

Encourage virtual meetings and workshops to minimize in-person interactions, particularly when someone is ill. Utilize video conferencing and collaboration tools to facilitate remote communication.

Hygiene Protocols

Implement and enforce hygiene protocols, such as regular handwashing and sanitization stations. Take this as an opportunity to re-educate employees on proper handwashing techniques and respiratory etiquette (i.e., coughing/sneezing into their sleeves or a tissue).

Enhanced Cleaning Regimens

Increase the frequency and thoroughness of workplace cleaning, paying special attention to high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, elevator buttons, and shared equipment. Ensure an adequate supply of sanitation products are readily available in appropriate locations throughout the building.

Employee Training

Provide training on health and safety measures, guidelines and expectations. Ensure that all employees are aware of the organization’s protocols for preventing the spread of germs.

Government Health Guidelines

Ensure your organization is up-to-date with the most recent provincial and federal health guidelines and sharing the information through communication channels or prominently displaying it in communal areas for easy accessibility and review.

Psychological Support

Considering the stressors, anxiety and fear that employees may experience during respiratory illness season, consider offering resources for mental health support, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), counseling services and stress management programs. Creating a culture that prioritizes mental health can alleviate fears and promote overall well-being.

To ensure continued effectiveness, we recommend regularly assessing and adjusting strategies and health and safety measures as needed, keeping employees informed about any changes and the reasons behind them.

Proactively managing the potential workplace impacts of colds, the flu and COVID-19 requires open and transparent communication, the promotion of health and safety measures, and active employee engagement.

Employers have a pivotal role in fostering a safe and supportive workplace environment. By implementing these measures, organizations can navigate challenging times successfully and emerge stronger and more resilient.

By Tracy Dandeneau, Director, Recruitment Operations

Rural recruitment is a journey, one filled with its own set of challenges and rewards.  When a recruitment project leads to the heart of rural landscapes, the search process requires a unique lens and sourcing skill set. In this article, we dive into the specific challenges that hiring managers face when seeking top talent for businesses nestled in rural settings. We also explore tips to attract and engage candidates best suited for rural opportunities.

Some of the common challenges with rural recruitment are:

  • A limited talent pool
  • Local gaps in required skill sets for your organization’s needs
  • Challenges of relocation or daily commute
  • Housing shortages and lack of economical options
  • Lack of career advancement resulting in retention challenges

Below are our tips to address these challenges and support you in your rural recruitment journey.

Top 5 Tips for Rural Recruitment:

1. Ensure your job posting highlights the benefits of working for your organization and of living and working in a rural community. Focus on the ‘what’s in it for the candidate’ when writing your posting. Emphasize the benefits of rural living; limited commute, strong educational systems, sense of community and close-knit social environment.

2. Leverage your local networks. Engage with local organizations, schools, and businesses to tap into their networks. Hold a job fair at your organization with tours and sessions that offer a glimpse into your culture.

3. Clearly communicate your compensation, relocation and benefits offering.  Ensure your offer aligns with the local cost of living and provides incentives aligned to your industry and rural community living.  Consider providing relocation support. This could be assistance with securing short term as well as long term housing. Take into consideration transportation and moving expenses.

If there is initial or long-term commuting required, consider reimbursement for travel or perhaps a gas card to cover for those initial costs. Another way to support is with a package of local contact information regarding real estate, schools, banking, sporting activities and other community programs.

4. Provide learning and development opportunities and invest in long-term career growth supporting retention for the future.

5. Emphasize the positive aspects of living and working in rural areas. Rural towns have evolved, offering an array of services within the community that contribute to a better quality of life and a harmonious work-life balance. Sharing what you and your community have to offer can go a long way in securing a ‘yes’ from a top candidate. 

These tips address just a few of the challenges associated with rural recruitment, as each unique rural organization will have their own hurdles to overcome when searching for top talent to join their team.  

Taking a Strategic Approach to Rural Recruitment

Partnering with a dedicated team of recruiters with hands-on experience in rural recruitment is another option for your recruitment process. As part of our team’s rural recruitment process, we focus on building strong networks within rural communities, nurturing relationships, and cultivating a database of skilled candidates that have a previous connection to the community or are looking for a change in lifestyle. Taking the time to understand our candidates’ career aspirations and their family’s needs is at the core of our approach and is, in our experience, essential to ensuring lasting placement and fit.   

When done strategically, it is possible to uncover exceptional talent that will contribute to the continued growth of rural businesses and communities. If you are a business seeking exceptional talent, consider partnering with our team of specialized rural recruiters and together, we will embark on the journey to discover extraordinary talent for your organization.

By Brookley Susser, Senior Consultant, Strategic HR Consulting

We’ve heard the buzz about engagement; the ever-elusive concept of measuring employee satisfaction in the workplace… and here’s our hot take.

Commonly, engagement surveys or other forms of gathering employee feedback are based on a series of buzzword concepts that are believed to be the final word in creating and measuring employee engagement in an organization: compensation and total rewards, communication, corporate culture, professional development, and collaboration. Our research and extensive work with clients on engagement initiatives indicates that these factors can impact the employee experience and engagement levels, but it’s not the whole story. 

What if we also seek to understand: do my employees feel embraced, valued, successful and committed while at work?

The concept of connectedness to brand is often practiced with consumers – how does our product, service or system make you feel when you use it, and why do you keep going back for more? The same process of seeking to understand can and should apply to creating or reinforcing the connectedness between our business and the employees that keep it running. 

This engagement philosophy is centered on the ideal that engagement is the holistic connection people feel towards their workplace, and if this connection is strong, employees are more likely to contribute to the business in an impactful and enduring way.

Do we truly know how our employees feel when they come to work each day?

The talented leaders we partner with have vast experience in their fields, and many feel informed about the employee experience, whether that be through conducting surveys, maintaining an open-door policy, or providing various other opportunities to share feedback.  However, no matter how collaborative senior leadership or HR is with the rest of the organization, there will always remain a proverbial gap between the individuals on those teams and other employees in the organization. What we find is that when those leaders conduct an engagement initiative through the lens of holistic connection, most are surprised with (at least some of) the results.

As businesses continue to evolve the way they work and explore modernized staffing models, understanding the employee experience remains a top focus. The unique intricacies of each organization and the individuals that work within them make it difficult to propose a one-size-fits -all formula to creating a positive employee experience. Employers that invest time and resources into gathering employee feedback about how they feel about their environment are a step ahead in creating meaningful impact in the engagement of their teams.

Our clients span sectors, industries, geographic locations, and size – although our recommendations may vary based on these factors, surveying employees to gain an understanding of current state is a foundational best practice essential to impacting engagement.   

If you are new to exploring employee engagement, a survey may be a great place to start. 

The most successful surveys balance the need to create a safe and accessible outlet for employees and ensuring value-add for the organization. Here are some things to think about when planning the next engagement initiative within your organization:

Consider Your Options

Organizations that have experienced a significant amount of change or have not completed a comprehensive measure of engagement in recent years may opt to begin with a pulse survey approach. A pulse survey is intended as a short ‘pulse’ check on the current environment to then inform next steps in a more detailed measure of engagement, or adjustments within the organization. Questions are typically general in nature and intend to capture key elements from the workplace environment. 

An additional benefit to leveraging a pulse survey initially, is to manage employee expectations of receiving survey results. Best practice indicates that a summary of results and action plan to move forward should be provided to employees following a comprehensive engagement measure, however, this is less likely to be an expectation with a short and general survey of the environment. 

More comprehensive measures of engagement can be particularly successful within workplaces that are in a place to provide constructive and meaningful feedback. Holistic surveys can provide the leadership team with all the information necessary to impact change within the environment and set a standard of excellence related to gathering employee perspectives. 

Plan Ahead

Communicating along the way and encouraging buy-in at all levels is an important and sometimes overlooked step to ensuring a successful initiative. 

  • Be transparent about how responses will be collected, results will be compiled and how those will be shared within the organization.
  • Encourage everyone to provide honest and constructive feedback to positively support organizational growth.
  • Make sure leaders understand the benefits a survey will bring to the organization and their teams and encourage them to speak with their staff about participating. 

Reflect on Intent and Impact

Many employers fall into the trap of asking questions about every facet of the work environment, resulting in a long and sometimes cumbersome survey experience for employees.  A lot of questions also means a higher volume of results to review which can become overwhelming as leaders debrief and determine next steps in the organization. 

When crafting survey questions, ask yourself:

  • Does this question elicit a certain response? Or does it give an opportunity to provide honest and constructive feedback?
  • Is this question specific enough to guide actions in the workplace based on the results?
  • Is this question relevant to every employee’s experience, or is it best asked to a smaller subsection of the workplace? Alternatively, is there a way to ask that can readily apply to all?

Defining your intent and desired impact from an engagement initiative from the outset is crucial to ensuring value-add within the organization and return on investment.  

Maximize your Reach

The feedback gathered can only hold true value if it is honest, and if it represents the diverse experiences of individuals within your workplace. We commonly hear of fear of reprisal related to surveys – which directly impacts the volume and truthfulness of responses. 

Employees feel most safe sharing perspectives within an anonymous setting, which can easily be accomplished within an online survey format. Clearly communicating about the measures taken to ensure confidentiality and anonymity within responses can garner higher levels of confidence in the process. Many employers have maximized their reach by partnering with a third-party survey provider. This can further reinforce the principles of anonymity and confidentiality, and boost employee confidence in the process.  

Managing Expectations

Expectations of organizations and the leaders that guide the way within them will continue to remain high. Employers can’t be everything for everyone – top employers tend to focus on how to maximize impact within the environment. 

When we move intentionally through an engagement initiative, we also leave space for reflection following the survey to collaborate on the best ways to move forward, and positively impact the work environment in future. You can’t change everything all at once – focus on a few key areas that are realistic, no matter how small it may seem. Communicate your action plan, allocate resources to making meaningful changes, and remain engaged in the process to ensure employees feel that their input was and continues to be valued. 

We are here to support.

No matter how you choose to explore engagement within your organization, we encourage you to lean into the process and embrace any change that may come from it. 

At People First HR, exploring innovative solutions to influence the employee experience is our passion. If you’re seeking a trusted partner to support your next people and culture initiative, connect with us.

Career Management

According to economists, workers aged 55 and older are steadily exiting the Canadian workforce and showing no signs of slowing. Often, employees who are contemplating retirement are senior leaders and/or highly knowledgeable employees with decades of experience. When employees of this calibre leave the organization—especially if the decision leaves little opportunity for succession planning—its impact on an organization can be profound and lasting.

Having a conversation with employees about retirement plans should be a  part of career conversations, no matter the age or stage in an individual’s career. Some people plan for retirement as early as 45, while others may want to work much longer and beyond what one might typically expect.

Retirement today

The average ages for retirement in Canada (according to Statistics Canada – May 2022) are between 63 (public sector) and 67 (self-employed). Combine this statistic with what we know is the average lifespan (for women this is now 91 years of age and for men, 89) it means planning a retirement today can mean planning for the next 25-30 years.

Research shows:

  • 90% of people say retirement is not what they thought it would be
  • 70% of people are not prepared for the emotional side of retirement or some of the challenges people face with respect to making a mental transition to retirement
  • There is 30% satisfaction in retirement for those people without a lifestyle plan and this is increased to 67% satisfaction if people have a plan

While these statistics suggest that it is essential for individuals to have a well-planned path to retirement, it also demonstrates how employers can support employees as they prepare to make the decision to retire.

Transition to retirement support benefits employees and employers

Setting the stage to talk about retirement and offering support, differentiates organizations as progressive employers committed to their employees now and into the future from those who do not. These conversations also give business leaders the opportunity to plan strategically and consider the changes—and opportunities—that can come with an individual’s decision to retire.

The impact of a short notice exit from the organization can come at a cost: the loss of historical company knowledge, the gaps left behind from the depth of experience and skill a well-seasoned employee possesses, disruption to service, productivity and morale, to name just a few.

More and more, we are seeing retirement-aged employees continuing to work in a part-time or consultant capacity, with mutual benefits for both employee and employer, when the opportunity for a semi-retired approach is identified.

With so much of personal identity and self-concept being linked to work, a semi-retired or gradual approach to leaving work can be good for emotional health and life satisfaction as individuals prepare to leave the career that has helped define their identity. Likewise, a gradual departure from the organization ensures essential knowledge transfer and can also be a great opportunity to mentor existing employees and poise them as successors of an organization’s soon-to-be retirees.

It’s not uncommon for those approaching the decision to retire to feel unsure of where to start, and unsure about what a fulfilling retirement will look like for them. With transition to retirement support, employees will create a well-planned path to retirement which leaves the leader well-informed and prepared for the departure.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

By opening the door to retirement planning, your business leaders may have months or even years to ensure as little disruption to the business as possible by considering these key steps:

  • Assess the skills required for the position. This involves evaluating the current and future needs of the organization. With the pool of senior-level candidates continuing to shrink and many organizations struggling to find the talent and skillsets needed to fill open roles, job parameters and qualifications can be closely examined.
  • Create a robust job description. Once the skills and qualifications are assessed and outlined, a job description can be created that has the impact to attract the talent needed to fill the gaps left by those who are retiring.
  • Cultivate a strong pool of potential successors. The steps above also pave the way to identifying internal individuals who may possess the right qualifications to succeed in the role. Additionally, leaders can provide opportunities for high-potential employees to gain diverse experiences and skills through talent development programs, learning and development, and mentorship initiatives. It is also important to consider if the internal candidates with the right skills sets may or may not be interested in the role. This is where performance management is important for both the organization as well as the employees’ goals of future growth with the organization.
  • Ensure the transfer of critical knowledge. Whether it’s with direct training, formal documentation, shadowing opportunities, or gradual handover of responsibilities, this knowledge transfer plays a huge role in ensuring uninterrupted service and productivity.
  • Seek external candidates to ensure the best talent is being recruited. Employees on a gradual transition to retirement can give external candidates joining the organization the opportunity to receive hands on mentoring and direct transfer of historical knowledge. This mentorship can be invaluable, given how crucial an employee’s onboarding and training experience is to their workplace longevity and engagement.

The above steps can only take place if an employer receives sufficient notice of an employee’s impending retirement through conversations and proactive strategies. When employees have the opportunity to consider every possible path toward retirement, both the employee and employer are able to develop a well-considered plan for a fulfilled and successful future.  

By Michele Hengen, Client Services Executive

Generally speaking, governance refers to the relationship between a Board of Directors and management and provides the system through which objectives are set and attained and organizational performance is monitored. In plain language, governance refers to how a board and management work together to run an organization effectively. Each party plays a critical role and without a solid framework, the lines between those roles can become blurred, resulting in organizational challenges that could have been avoided.

Doing the right things vs. doing things right

A board’s role is to oversee key functions in an organization, and it does so by remaining independent from management. This means that the board is not involved in the day-to-day business but instead ensures the organization is doing the right things. The board delegates internal management functions through one employee – the CEO. The CEO’s role is to ensure that management implements decisions, strategies and policies so that the organization is doing things right.

The boat and the balloon

Picture a scenario in which a boat prepares to navigate through a maze of rock formations while a hot air balloon observes from directly above. Who is in the balloon? Answer – the board.

Source: Future Quest Consulting

The board must remain in the balloon so that it can help the boat stay out of danger and move towards its ultimate goal. That leaves management to drive the boat, with the CEO at the wheel. If the board climbs into the boat, the organization is vulnerable as nobody is left to oversee it from a higher level.

Establishing a solid governance framework

Boards have a critical fiduciary duty. Even with the best of intentions, issues can arise that cause conflicts of interest, confidentiality breaches and other potential problems. How can organizations ensure that their governance practices are effective and suitable for their organization? 

Developing the right framework that clearly articulates not only board and management roles and responsibilities, but also expectations around code of conduct, ensures the organization does not find itself depending on specific individuals in a way that could invite scenarios of elevated risk..

Navigating a ‘won the lottery’ scenario

Consider this – a CEO and the entire management team win the big lottery and suddenly retire. The board is then left with a new management team that they do not personally know and trust to steer the boat. If good governance practices are in place, the board can remain confident that the internal control environment is intact and objectives will be met.

In this or any other scenario, having a solid governance framework will help to enhance an organization’s performance and results immediately and in the long term. The following steps can help to improve any governance foundation:

  1. Determine desired state of governance – research various sources including, but not limited to, governance best practices, your industry’s regulatory framework, and models followed by successful organizations.
  2. Define your current state of governance – review all policies and procedures in place; interview current board and management.
  3. Identify and evaluate the gap between the desired and current state of governance – search for areas of improvement to move you towards the goal.
  4. Create plan to move towards desired state of governance – include tangible recommendations and work plan.

If you need support or recommendations establishing a governance framework in your organization, contact us to start a conversation.

HR @ Your Service

In past practice, it was typical that ill, injured or employees with a disability were often expected to be away from their workplace until such time that they were fully recovered and able to return to work at their full capacity. However, studies show that the longer an employee is away from the workplace, the less likely they are to return, with only 20% of workers returning to their job after one year of absence.[1]

In 2012, it was found that absenteeism cost Canadian companies $16.6 billion in productivity, an average of 2.4% of each employers’ gross payroll.[2] Also worth considering are the costs of overtime, increased benefit premiums, the loss of employees’ organizational knowledge, the need to hire and train replacement employees, and the potential added workload to other employees, which can result in increased stress, lower morale, and as a result, further absences.

From an employee’s perspective, being away from work can be detrimental, contributing to a reduced or loss of income, a higher risk of mental illness, such as depression, and the increased chance of a chronic disability.

A worker earning $50,000 a year who becomes disabled at age 35 will lose almost $400,000 in the 30 years before retirement, based on 60% long-term disability coverage. If forced onto social assistance, the cost will rise to almost $800,000.

[1] Source [2] Source

Disability Management Programs

Disability management programs are designed to promote the health, safety and wellness of employees in the workplace, and to support employees who are or are at risk of missing work due to an illness, injury or disability to remain at or return to the workplace.

A comprehensive and successful disability management program is typically comprised of four components – prevention, early intervention, support for recovery and evaluation.

A cycle showing prevention, early intervention, support for recovery and evaluation


Prevention provides an opportunity to support employee health and prevent absenteeism.  We suggest organizations track the frequency and reasons for employee absenteeism in the workplace. Tracking absences related to personal reasons (specifically illness, disability, personal/family responsibilities, excluding maternity/parental leaves) allows employers to analyze patterns and health risks to identify and address root causes of absenteeism.

Employers can also look at utilizing data provided by their benefit providers (i.e., short-term and long-term disability, Employee Assistance Programs, drug costs, etc.) to gain further insight into the potential health issues employees may be experiencing.

Some employers have programs in place to prevent employees from missing work or support employees in the workplace. This may include group benefit programs that contribute to employee wellness (i.e., paramedical benefits or Employee Assistance Programs) and health and safety standards and programs to identify, prevent or eliminate hazards within the workplace.

Employers may also consider being proactive and implementing wellness programs and initiatives that, can, as an added benefit, increase employee engagement and promote employee health and well-being.  This can include developing awareness of mental, physical, and financial wellness, and offering fitness programs.

Early Intervention

Studies have demonstrated that, in cases where it is safe to do so, employees that remain at work or return to work as soon as possible have better health outcomes.

Collaboration is key to ensuring a successful disability management program. Employers need to consider all stakeholders that need to be involved and establish responsibilities; this may include but is not limited to the employee, their healthcare provider, the employee’s supervisor, and, where applicable, insurance providers and the union.

Employers should work with the employee and identified stakeholders to develop plans that help the employee remain at or return to work.

Remain-at-work and return-to-work plans have the same function – they are tools developed to proactively assist employees to remain at or return to the workplace in a safe and timely manner. There is no one size fits all approach for these plans; each workplace and employee’s set of circumstances will require different approaches and solutions. It is important that in determining these plans that the employer works closely with the healthcare provider to understand how the employee’s medical condition or injury impacts their ability to do their job, confirming if the restrictions/limitations are temporary or permanent and the prognosis for recovery. 

While a remain-at-work or return-to-work plan is typically transitional and temporary in nature, some employees may require permanent accommodations. 

Support for Recovery

The goal for organizations is to identify a plan to support the employee at work, preferably in the position they held prior to the absence occurring to ensure they can resume their work routines and be amongst their colleagues. However, there are instances where this isn’t safe or feasible, depending on an employee’s capabilities. In these cases, other alternatives should be considered such as:

  • A modified job in the same department
  • A different job in the same department
  • A similar job in a different department
  • A different job in a different department

All employers have the legal duty to accommodate their employees, up to the point of undue hardship. This requires organizations to identify and remove barriers to allow all workers to participate fully within the workplace.

37% of employees with disabilities aged 25-64 years in Canada required at least one accommodation in the workplace to be able to work. The most common workplace accommodations are flexible work arrangements (27%), workstation modifications (15%), and human or technical supports (6%).[1]

[1] Source

After a thorough review of the employee’s functional capabilities and limitations, the employer, the employee, and the stakeholders can identify options for accommodation. Once implemented, the employer should maintain ongoing communication with the employee and accommodation plans should be regularly monitored and reviewed to allow for adjustments and modifications, as needed, including upon reassessment by the employee’s healthcare provider.


Disability management programs should be regularly reviewed and evaluated to ensure they are meeting the goals and needs of the organization, with adjustments being made as necessary.

By implementing a holistic approach to disability management, employers can reduce the cost and impact of employee absenteeism while supporting the wellbeing of their employees and fostering a healthy organizational culture.

By Ainsley LaCroix – HR Consultant, HR @ Your Service

Recently, we talked about the power of feedback, its role in making teams stronger and strategies for how to make it a regular – and welcomed – part of interactions between leaders and employees. As essential as a less-structured approach to feedback can be to an organization’s success, having a solid and well-planned approach to managing performance is just as essential. A thorough performance management process aligns the goals and objectives of employees with those of the company, promotes continuous learning and development, and drives the ongoing improvement of individuals and teams.

What is performance management?

Performance management is a systematic approach to improving the effectiveness of individuals and organizations by evaluating the performance of employees and providing feedback, guidance, and support to help them reach their full potential.

Advantages of a performance management process

It’s not a secret that as a leader or business owner we want employees to perform well and, ideally, get a sense of satisfaction from succeeding in their role.

So, how does a structured performance management strategy help with this?

  1. Improving employee performance. When employees are provided with regular insight into their performance, they are able to identify both their strengths and areas for improvement. This helps employees to further develop the skills and knowledge they need to reach their full potential in your organization.
  1. Aligning employee performance with company goals. By setting clear expectations and goals that are aligned with the objectives of the company, and regularly monitoring and reviewing performance, leaders ensure that employees are contributing to the overall success of the organization.
  1. Supporting employee development. Providing employees with regular feedback and coaching supports their professional development. This coaching guides learning and development opportunities and helps employees grow and progress in their career with the organization, contributing to talent management efforts.
  1. Increasing organizational efficiency. Performance management serves as a tool to measure results and employee productivity. When employees work towards the most important company goals and objectives, resources are used effectively, organizational efficiency increases and overall business results improve.
  1. Enhancing employee motivation. Regular recognition for achievements and celebrating successes helps with employee motivation and achieving a sense of satisfaction in their role.  When employees feel good about their work, it reinforces their commitment to their team, their leader, and to contributing to the success of the organization.
  1. Facilitating open communication. Open communication helps to build trust and improve the overall relationship between leaders and employees. A performance management process provides opportunities for leaders and employees to have honest and ongoing conversations about performance, and to discuss any challenges or obstacles they may be facing.

Knowing the process stages

Knowing the stages of performance management allows leaders to effectively implement a process with their teams. An effective performance management strategy defines performance expectations, creates opportunities for regular coaching, sets the stage for performance evaluation, and serves as a tool for issuing recognition and rewards.

Stage 1 – Planning

In this stage, leaders and employees work together to identify S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely) goals that align with the expectations and overall team or business goals for the year ahead. Planning also includes discussing resources, support, and training that will be provided to help the employee achieve their individual goals.

From this stage, a development plan is created for the employee, to be reviewed at regular touchpoints throughout the year.

Stage 2 – Monitoring

This stage is focused on regularly checking in with employees to provide feedback on their performance and to help them stay on track toward achieving their goals.

Monitoring is an opportunity for leaders to provide guidance and support to employees, and to help them overcome obstacles they may be facing. Leaders can use this stage to address any performance issues and to provide coaching and mentoring to help employees improve and develop further.

Regular weekly or monthly check-ins provide opportunities for ongoing feedback and should serve as a foundation for a more formal performance evaluation.

Stage 3 – Reviewing

During this stage, leaders meet individually with employees and provide an overall evaluation of their performance, including feedback on both their strengths and areas for improvement. Employees are also given the opportunity to reflect on the progress made toward achieving their goals and to bring forth any of their observations about their performance over the past year.

The outcome of the reviewing stage is a formal performance evaluation, which should be documented and used to inform future performance management processes. This evaluation provides a clear understanding of an employee’s performance and should be used to guide future discussions and development plans.

Stage 4 – Rewarding

The final stage of performance management is an important part of the process, as it is key to motivating employees by recognizing their achievements. Recognition and rewards can be in the form of verbal praise, bonuses, promotions, or other incentives, and should be tied to specific performance goals.

Retain employees with a performance management strategy

Defining and implementing a performance management process in your organization helps to create a culture of continuous improvement and drives performance outcomes, as employees are motivated to achieve their goals and are then recognized for their efforts.

Employees who are given goals and a plan for achieving them – especially if it is a plan they helped create – are well poised to thrive in their roles, contribute to company success, and are far more likely to stay with an organization. And retaining employees, in our ever-evolving economy and job market, should be a goal every organization wishes to achieve.

Explore these other posts by People First HR