Forget quiet quitting. Engagement is what you should be really worried about.

By Dr. Thomas Hammond, Director, Transformational HR

The not-so-new phenomenon of quiet quitting was the hot topic of the summer. Our social newsfeeds were filled with posts debating this latest take on how the world of work continues to change.

Although the chatter was highly entertaining, we see quiet quitting as a fresh take on an existing concept — employee engagement, or the lack thereof.

Understanding engagement

Employee engagement has been a topic of interest within management and HR for some time. A quick online search produces a variety of articles highlighting the importance of engagement, methods to measure it, and every expert’s top five tips to increase employee engagement.

This is not surprising given that executives and business leaders consistently rate employee engagement as key to organizational performance. Moreover, employee engagement has been linked to job satisfaction, job performance, talent retention, reduced absenteeism, increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, innovation, and profitability. Strategically, an engaged workforce creates a unique set of internal capabilities that are valuable, rare, and hard to imitate — the building blocks of competitive advantage.

Although there is no universal definition, it is generally accepted that employee engagement is multidimensional, consisting of cognitive, affective, and behavioural components operating on a spectrum from high to low engagement. In essence, engagement represents the extent to which employees identify with, belong, and commit to the organization, are enthusiastic and experience positive emotions, and are motivated to expend discretionary effort to help others and improve performance.

Employee engagement is not a one-way street — It is an outcome that is highly influenced by factors within an organization.

Engagement is not a one-way street. Leaders can’t place the responsibility to be engaged solely on employees. And vice versa. Really, engagement is an outcome highly influenced by factors within the organization.

These factors (typically referred to as drivers) target individual, operational, and strategic levels within the organization. Specific areas of measurement often include:

  • meaning and values alignment,
  • communication,
  • management practices that enable performance,
  • quality relationships,
  • a supportive and humane environment,
  • feedback and recognition, and
  • a focus on learning and development.

Together these drivers influence levels of employee engagement for good or bad. If the drivers are not aligned or are in deficit, employee engagement will likely decline, performance will deteriorate, and the twitter-verse will be chirping with more quiet quitting hashtags.

At this point, it is worth noting that despite the benefits associated with high levels of employee engagement, some research suggests most employees can be considered disengaged, meaning they are relatively happy in their role but are content to do the minimum. Although this may present a challenge, it is also an opportunity for organizations to evaluate how well they are facilitating the necessary conditions for employee engagement and performance.

Steps to building engagement.

Employee engagement is above and beyond basic loyalty and satisfaction. It is the combination of cognitive, affective, and behavioural factors that are linked to individual and organizational performance.

Step 1: Create a Deliberate and Systematic Process

Developing a deliberate and systematic process to assess levels of engagement and key drivers is the first step to building engagement. (People First HR can help with this…)

Frequently, organizations implement some form of a survey on a bi-annual or annual cycle. However, the tools used to measure engagement are often inconsistent, measuring a wide range of factors between years. Although some form of touchpoint is better than not seeking any feedback, an inconsistent measure does not facilitate an effective or coherent approach to developing employee engagement.

Consider:

  • Implementing a consistent measure of employee engagement and key drivers that enables tracking changes and trends over time.
  • Creating an employee voice program that is planned across the year and cycle of the organization. This may include a yearly engagement survey, but also brief and regular pulses to assess emerging trends or focus groups to deep dive into important topics.
  • Linking business outcomes to engagement, such as sales revenue, customer experience, and employee retention.

Step two: Leverage the data collected

Understanding trends over time, areas of strength and weakness, as well as key underlying factors enable the organization to target change efforts at the individual, operational and strategic levels. It is crucial that information is not gathered and left to collect dust. Distrust and indifference can develop if nothing ever happens with the information collected.

Consider:

  • Using analyses that go beyond the calculation of high or low scores. Identify the factors that have the greatest influence on engagement and use them to your advantage.
  • Develop a plan to distribute and communicate results and recommendations promptly.
  • Focus on enhancing the areas that have the greatest impact and greatest room for improvement. Also, build on your high-impact strengths and understand what contributes to your secret sauce.  
  • Including employees in the change process to increase meaning, alignment, and credibility.

Get back to the fundamentals of employee engagement

Whether it is quiet quitting, joyful joining, or some other creative alliteration, it all comes back to the fundamentals of employee engagement. Building and sustaining an environment that facilitates engagement is an interactive process between employers and employees that enhances the desire to belong to and perform in the workplace but can create that highly valuable internal resource that is hard to imitate.

If you are interested in learning more about employee engagement, how to measure it, and how to enhance it, contact us.


Dr. Thomas Hammond
Director, Transformational HR

Dr. Thomas Hammond leads innovative approaches to strategic consulting and organizational performance at People First HR.

He has over 15 years of international experience consulting across the healthcare, government, non-profit, professional sport, and higher education industries. Prior to joining People First HR, he was an executive at Ormond College – The University of Melbourne and has led strategy, innovation, organizational design and service implementation.

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Leveraging career coaching to support leadership development

By Jen Oleson, Operations Manager, Career Management

Can you imagine a time in your life when you would use a coach? For many people, a sports coach or a personal trainer will come to mind. Professional athletes use coaches to support their development, facilitate effective team communication and dynamics, and excel in a competitive environment. The coach’s role is to inspire and enable its athletes to grow, develop competencies, and support the team in achieving a goal. For these same reasons, organizations and their leaders can benefit from coaching.

What is coaching?

John Whitmore, the author of Coaching for Performance, says, “coaching focuses on future possibilities, not past mistakes.”

By focusing on the positive aspects of a situation, we can create environments for growth mindsets to flourish, enabling us to identify future possibilities and progress towards the desired outcome.

Imagine this scenario: a manager comes to you for advice on how to move a project forward when the project team doesn’t agree on the next steps. As their leader, you have two options for helping them:

1. Advise them on the solution to the problem

2. Coach them through it and maximize performance

Coaching is defined as a partnership between a qualified coach and an individual client sponsored by the organization. The coach facilitates the individual’s thinking, learning, and development to help bridge the gap between where they are now and what they must do to get where they need to be.

How can organizations leverage coaching?

Over the last couple of years, the pandemic has impacted organizations and leaders. Workers have more flexibility than they experienced pre-pandemic, reshaping how people work. Remote work is also a new norm. Many employees are reluctant to return to pre-pandemic ways, leaving companies and their leaders to mitigate the impacts on their workforce and bottom line. Trends like the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, or the rise of independent workers have left organizations and leaders with talent engagement and retention challenges.

To work through these challenges McKinsey & Companyfound that leaders of resilient organizations invested in coaching and recognition programs.

Organizations count on leadership to align employee engagement, commitment, and productivity with business strategies and path-forward plans. To support leadership in achieving these objectives and to foster a culture of coaching, organizations should consider providing executive coaching and training on how to hold effective career coaching conversations.

Executive coaching

Employees are not leaving organizations; they are leaving leaders. Investing in leadership development through executive coaching can serve your leaders and organization well, with a significant return on the investment. The ICF reportsa 70% increase in individual performance, a 50% increase in team performance and a 48% increase in organizational performance on the benefits of investing in executive coaching. 

But what is executive coaching?

Executive coaching, sometimes called leadership coaching, positions leaders and senior managers for future success by equipping them with the skills and tools to lead teams through change and maximize performance. It encompasses the definition of coaching — a partnership between a qualified coach (executive or leadership coach) and an individual client (the leader) and is sponsored by the organization.

More than that, executive coaching aims to enhance leadership or management performance and inspire continued development. Coaching is often customized to the individual and provides an in-depth understanding that facilitates self-awareness, learning, and development to help leaders get unstuck and lead effectively.

When an organization experience high turnover and reduced productivity, leaders are expected to facilitate positive change. Executive coaching is a proven method for supporting leadership and management development that contributes to a psychologically safe and engaging environment for everyone.

Career coaching

Leaders can leverage career coaching through career conversations to engage employees and support organizational development. Career conversationsare a tool to help leaders identify employee career aspirations and create development plans to support individuals who wish to advance their career goals.

Holding career conversations is critical to engage employees and supporting organizational development. Gallupsuggests that leaders can increase team engagement and productivity by providing more meaningful feedback and support.

Holding effective career conversationsis a strategic way to do this. Having a successful career conversation can take some practice. As a leader, you can be the one to initiate the conversation and help keep it going, but at the end of the day, the employee must be the one willing to stay motivated to keep it focused. If leaders, managers and employees are unfamiliar with career coaching conversations, consider providing them training or support to hold them effectively.

Benefits of investing in leadership development

When organizations invest in leadership development initiatives, like executive coaching and career conversations, they create systems that support growth and development. They keep leaders focused, inspired, and empowered to achieve goals, overcome challenges, and effectively lead people through organizational and career-related change. The trickle-down effect of implementing leadership development programs within your organization can transform your culture from a dependency hierarchy to one that fosters growth and interdependent mindsets that embrace learning and accountability at the individual and team levels.

If you are interested in learning more about how People First HR can support your leaders executive coaching and career conversations, connect with us to learn more.

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Succession Planning: Why Organizations Cannot Afford to Get It Wrong

By Shannan Gradt, Senior HR Consultant, Strategic HR Consulting

Many organizations have been struggling to find the talent and skillsets needed to fill open roles. These challenges are not going away anytime soon, with workers aged 55 and older steadily exiting the Canadian workforce and a lack of younger workers to replace them (CBC News). This shortage of required experience, combined with higher turnover, highlights the importance of succession planning. 

Succession planning is vital to organizational success. It helps businesses prepare for future leadership vacancies and talent needs by developing a qualified pool of talent to fill critical positions, all while growing institutional knowledge. This practice helps business continuity and enables businesses to grow their workforce from within, building leadership skills, knowledge, and values that are important to their organization. 

To ensure knowledge is not lost when people leave your organization, leaders need to plan ahead and plan now. Without a plan, vacancies and lapses in service can be very costly. When looking at the market at large, “the amount of market value wiped out by badly managed CEO and C-suite transitions in the S&P 1500 is close to $1 trillion a year” (Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Gregory Nagel, & Carrie Green, Harvard Business Review.) Factors that contribute to the financial impact include:

  • Underperformance at companies that hired ill-suited external CEOs,
  • Loss of intellectual capital in the top levels of the organizations that executives are coming from, and
  • The lower performance of ill-prepared successors for companies that promote from within (Fernández-Aráoz, Nagel, & Green, Harvard Business Review)

“The amount of market value wiped out by badly managed CEO and C-suite transitions in the S&P 1500 is close to $1 trillion a year”

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Gregory Nagel, & Carrie Green

Poorly managed succession planning can also cause employee turnover, which brings added costs from lost productivity and recruitment. Turnover costs can range from 20% of the annual salary for mid-level employees to 213% for C-suite employees (Psychometrics).

Succession Planning 101:
How to disaster-proof your organization

With the risks of having no succession plan being so costly, creating one should be a priority for every organization. But where to start?

Why create a succession plan?

First, let’s recap the benefits of succession planning: 

  • Minimizes disruption created by change, expected or otherwise
  • Minimizes the impact of cultural misfits
  • Ensures organizational talent is identified on an ongoing basis
  • Places a spotlight on skill gap vulnerabilities to take corrective action
  • Maintains and grows institutional knowledge
  • Inspires engagement and retention through talent development
  • Builds leadership capacity within the organization
  • Provides a significant competitive advantage for organizations that are doing it

Who needs to do it?

Every business should consider its succession plans. This practice may be even more critical in smaller organizations where every team member is vital to success, and losing valued talent may be more disruptive.

How to start succession planning?

Assessing workforce needs

The first step in succession planning is to assess the workforce needs. This process includes reviewing the corporate strategic plan, current and future goals and objectives, and any planned changes to existing programs and services. The information you gather will enable leaders to identify key positions and skill sets critical to success. It helps paint the picture of all the roles to include in the succession planning process.

Often CEO and executive leadership positions are identified as part of this process. Looking beyond the top level of the organization will help you determine if any highly specialized or critical positions would pose a risk to the organization if left vacant.

Also, keep in mind that filling positions from within often creates a domino effect, leaving vacancies where staff have moved from. You will need to consider those areas and roles as well.  

Other data you should review when assessing current and future vacancy risks include workforce demographics, retirement forecasts and turnover rates. 

Identify role/position requirements

The next step is to outline what success looks like for the critical positions you have identified. 

This includes aspects such as the key competencies, leadership style, and experience required. It is important to note that requirements may differ going forward, and it is a good idea to review what changes in position expectations should be considered. For example, since the pandemic, leading virtual teams is a skill set that has emerged for many leaders.

Talent Assessment

Many organizations use tools to assess high-potential talent and identify strengths and development needs. 

Assessments often used in this process focus on identified leadership competencies, including psychometric assessments that assess aspects important to leadership effectiveness, such as emotional intelligence. 

Organizations will commonly use 360-degree formats to gain a full circle view of how a leader sees themselves while gathering feedback from their manager, peers, direct reports, or others they work with. 360s help an individual understand how people they interact with see them.  

When it comes to succession planning, these assessments can help candidates identify where they need to focus in order to prepare to be a potential successor for a particular position. 

Understanding the strengths and development needs of your organization’s talent is also helpful in focusing development efforts.

Career Conversations

Career conversations are a valuable tool to incorporate into the succession planning process. 

According to research by Gallup, 61% of workers surveyed said that upskilling opportunities are a reason to stay at their job (SHRM). 

Career conversations are a way for leaders to identify their employees’ career aspirations and then create development plans to support individuals who wish to advance their career goals. These honest conversations and the support that follows help to retain and engage employees by showing them they are valued members of the team.

Holding an effective career conversation can take some practice. If leaders are unfamiliar with career conversations, consider providing them training or support to do this effectively.

Development 

Development plans can help turn feedback into action by outlining the key actions individuals will take, as well as identifying any support or resources required to progress on their development goals. 

Providing opportunities for people to develop will help prepare candidates for succession opportunities. Leadership development programs and leadership coaching are common development methods. Cross-training and lateral movements can also be effective in developing needed skill sets and on-the-job learning. You can also use mentorship opportunities for more seasoned employees to transfer knowledge.

Succession planning and action plans

Looking at your main succession planning roles, you need to assess how many potential candidates there are for each position and how prepared everyone is to move into those roles. This process enables leaders to understand where there are talent gaps that they need to address.

It is also good to examine whether any risks have been identified as part of this process. For example, if you have a candidate rated as ‘ready now’, how do you keep them engaged and retain them until they could potentially fill a vacant position?

Your organization should review succession plans on an ongoing basis to assess whether there are any changes to consider. Questions to consider include:

  • Are there any changes to strategy? 
  • Are there any potential new roles or opportunities? 
  • Have employees changed their career preferences? 
  • Are the action plans on track?

Key factors for successful implementation

For a successful succession plan, the leadership team should own the planning process – not HR. There needs to be support from the top and clear accountabilities of participants and leaders in the process. 

Other key factors include: 

  • Succession planning should be aligned with the overall talent management strategy and other HR programs and processes, such as using performance management ratings to identify talent and tying it into career development programs and learning and development opportunities.
  • Organizations should focus on developing leadership competencies in all employees to build organizational capacity. 
  • Talent at all levels of the organization should be identified to see who can be developed and funnelled into the succession planning program.
  • Don’t just say it, do it – Execute succession plans and highlight success stories to motivate your workforce.

Regardless of size, all organizations should focus on identifying and preparing talent to address their current and future needs. Succession planning is vital to ensure that you are planning for the workforce of tomorrow, today.

Start your succession plan today

With the high costs associated with a lack of a plan and the increasing retirement numbers, now is the time to invest in a succession strategy. Contact People First for support getting started. 


About the author

Shannan Gradt
Senior HR Consultant – Strategic HR Consulting

Shannan is a senior consultant, focused in the areas of organizational development, assessment, and culture. 

Shannan has a proven track record for delivering effective solutions for an array of organizational challenges. She has a passion for developing strategies, programs, training, and tools that help enhance understanding, develop skillsets, facilitate change, and improve the effectiveness of organizations.

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The value of a progressive discipline process

By Johanna Hildebrand, HR Consultant, HR @ Your Service

Progressive discipline, a key piece of performance management, is an inevitable and crucial responsibility for all managers and leaders, but it is a process many dread.

Progressive discipline can be a daunting task, but if we reframe the conversation and explore the importance this cycle plays in employee performance and organizational health, we can see the value that progressive discipline has in a leader’s toolkit.

Why Progressive Discipline?

A common misconception is that the purpose of progressive discipline is to justify a termination.

We frequently see leaders using progressive discipline as a pathway for termination, when the ultimate goal should be to have an employee with improved performance who is actively contributing to the success of their team and organization.

A secondary purpose of the progressive discipline cycle is documentation. HR professionals often promote the importance of documentation throughout the life cycle of an employee; progressive discipline is no different. Recording the process allows you to demonstrate that you have provided the employee with all the tools and support needed for their success within the organization. This helps you manage the risk to the organization and show the employee that you are invested in their success by outlining clear expectations for moving forward.

Do we really need a policy?

Ideally, your organization will have a progressive discipline policy in place, with the primary goal of supporting employee success and demonstrating how you will support their learning and growth.

A policy provides clear expectations for managers and staff, and ensures consistent application across your organization.  Recognizing that employees are valued members of the team, a policy will outline your organization’s commitment to establishing a system and culture of coaching and feedback to encourage improvement and development.

Progressive discipline cycle

The progressive discipline cycle is about creating opportunities for improvement. At each step, a leader should identify the concern, clarify expectations, and communicate next steps or consequences.

Step 1: Coaching Conversation

Coaching conversations may be a formal part of the policy, or an informal first step. Managers should use a coaching conversation to identify the concern or learning opportunity early on. The issue may not be serious at this point but is important for the employee to learn from it.

Step 2: Warnings

Generally, a policy will outline a few levels of warnings. Common practice is a verbal warning, followed by a written warning, and possibly a final written warning. Progressive discipline will move to the warning step after multiple reminders (or coaching conversations) with the employee, or if

  • the situation has escalated,
  • there is no demonstrated improvement, or
  • the incident is more serious.

Once at the warning stage, it is important that all documentation clearly defines the concern, the expectations for improvement, and the possible consequences if left unaddressed.

Step 3: Suspension

Sometimes incidents escalate or are so serious that a suspension may be issued, and the employee temporarily removed from the workplace. A suspension would be the result of the escalation of a serious incident or when an immediate consequence is needed for a serious situation.

Step 4: Termination (if necessary)

If you’ve exhausted all efforts to support improvement and the employee is still underperforming, termination is sometimes a necessary final step. If you come to this step, consider downloading our Best Practices for Notification Meetings Guide for tips and advice.

Where to start

When applying progressive discipline, you want to ensure that you have done your due diligence to address the root cause of the issue, whether that be lack of training, attitude, not following procedure, etc. Before applying discipline, gather all the information and establish the facts of the situation or incident.

Questions to consider

  • Has the employee behaved similarly in the past?
  • Are there any mitigating factors that may be affecting their performance?
  • Has the employee shown any improvement since the last conversation?
  • Were they set up for success? Were the expectations clear?
  • Were other employees put at risk as a result of the situation?
  • Was company property damaged?

Throughout this process, leaders must keep notes, capturing data and completing documentation. This may be formal (written warnings delivered to the employee) or a summary of notes the leader has taken to track the situation. The documentation will help you identify patterns of behaviour, keep employees accountable for their improvement and growth, and reduce risk and provide supporting evidence if decisions need to be made regarding the employee’s future employment with the organization.

Having the conversation

Follow-through and accountability are often the hardest part of the progressive discipline process. When conducting a discipline conversation, use a private space where you are unlikely to be interrupted. These conversations should be calm and straightforward. The intent is not to shame or accuse the employee. You want to make them aware of the concern and provide the opportunity for improvement. Be specific about what the concern is; you want to target the root cause. Engaging the employee in finding a solution can increase the likelihood of success.

Effective progressive discipline requires intentional work and effort, but the end result is worth it! Remember, the goal of a successful progressive discipline process is an employee with improved performance, who is actively contributing to the success of the team and organization.

At People First HR, we partner with organizations to create and maintain progressive discipline processes. This could include developing templates, creating policies and resources, supporting managers through the process, or talking through a performance situation with our HR OnCall service. Contact us to learn more about how we can support your organization!


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Why leveraging climate assessments can help set your organization apart in today’s labour market

By Brookley Susser, HR Consultant – Strategic HR Consulting

You would be hard-pressed to find an employer today unaffected by the current labour market trends. In a 2021 report, the Business Development Bank of Canada indicated that more than half (55%) of small and medium-sized enterprises are struggling to hire workers, and more than a quarter (26%) of those employers are also having difficulties retaining employees. Skilled workers are in short supply compared to the growing labour demand in many sectors, leading to a candidate-driven market. In this environment, employers must take steps to set their organization apart from the countless other companies in the market to meet the high expectations of candidates. Conducting a workplace climate assessment can provide the knowledge leaders need to do just that.

Understanding employee expectations in today’s market

Finding the right organizational ‘fit’, feeling satisfied, meeting intrinsic needs, and receiving fair financial rewards are all expectations in today’s market – particularly within the millennial generation (Workstars). As the workforce continues to trend towards younger workers, these ideals continue to be embraced and taken a step or two further with the rise of online business practices. This has changed the way we fundamentally define professions, work-life balance, and the employee-employer relationship.

Employees, regardless of generation or profession, were struck by the realities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting many to re-evaluate their priorities; both personal and professional. The bar on flexible work arrangements has been raised for employers, and a rising number of employees now expect this within their role. This has caused organizational loyalty to decrease, with many workers looking for greener pastures that represent professional opportunity, flexibility, and additional compensation. In other words, people are looking for the right ‘fit’ and value alignment between themselves (and their families) with prospective employers. In 2021, 60% of Canadians said they would leave their current job for the same position at another organization for a 10% raise (Angus Reid Institute, 2021).

Graphic shows that the cost of employee turnover is influenced by recruiting, onboarding, training, lost productivity, and stress put on other employees.

Each organization’s status quo must be challenged to meet the expectations of what it means to be a top employer in this market. More than ever, employers must take a creative and intentional approach to how they choose to do business, to not only attract top talent but to keep it. In the article “17 Surprising Statistics about Employee Retention” TinyPulse reported that the average cost of replacing an employee who has exited the organization is equal to 33% of their annual salary. (This figure varies based on the skill level or specialization related to the position, as well as the existing succession strategies in place within the organization.) When we think of the cost of recruitment, onboarding, training, and the learning curve, not to mention the lost productivity and undue stress on remaining employees during vacancies, the total cost of turnover is staggering for most employers.

With all this in mind, retention strategy has never been a more relevant topic. Retention relies in large part on building and maintaining a healthy workplace culture to ensure employee satisfaction and engagement. Top leaders are championing a phase of corporate self-reflection, wherein they take the time to look inward, assess areas of opportunity, and formulate strategies to increase organizational health overall.

“Organizational health is the single greatest competitive advantage in any business.”

Patrick Lencioni

When we talk about organizational health, the common phrases or buzzwords tend to be centred on obscure concepts. How does one practically and systematically assess an organization’s current state, while also taking steps to positively influence corporate culture, or organizational performance, behaviour, and resilience? HR professionals will tell you that the key to achieving true organizational health is to take a holistic approach, embedding best practice approaches within all organizational strategies, operations, and functions. A logical place to start is to first understand the current state of your organization’s work environment, which can be achieved by engaging in an organizational climate assessment.

What is a Climate Assessment?

Unlike the weather-related definition of climate, organizational climate assessments (sometimes referred to as workplace assessments) are a strategic tool used to better understand workplace dynamics. Climate assessments lean into employee perspectives in a way other measures simply cannot. Ideally, the findings will highlight what employees feel the organization is doing well, but often the findings focus on the root causes of any perceived challenges within the workplace and recommend strategies to overcome these challenges; in turn, contributing positively to organizational health.

Objectivity within assessments of a sensitive nature is essential for success, which is why many employers opt to engage a third-party partner to lead the process. Employees are more likely to provide honest and transparent feedback about their workplace to someone who doesn’t work within the same walls. Best practice in climate assessment methodology includes a variety of tools to gather data. Some of the most commonly used tools include targeted surveys, focus groups, formal interviews and informal conversations with employees about the work environment. Approaches should be customized to best serve the assessment group and ideal project outcomes, and are influenced by group size and demographic, industry, and operational factors.

Facing the Realities

As climate assessments are a strategic tool, they can be leveraged for many different purposes. The reality is that most leaders don’t explore this option until there are identifiable concerns in the workplace that must be addressed. Key indicators that a climate assessment may be needed to address organizational challenges can include shifting trends in employee engagement scores, an increase in absenteeism, complaints, conflict, or employee turnover.

Key indicators that a climate assessment may be needed include shifting trends in employee engagement scores, an increase in absenteeism, complaints, conflict, or employee turnover.

In May 2021, upwards of 1000 employed (full-time) Canadians were surveyed by the Angus Reid Institute to better understand the current benchmarks in Canadian workplace culture. Results indicated that more than 36% of Canadians agree that senior managers don’t make an effort to listen to and connect with employees. Of significant concern, over 30% of Canadians believe that people get away with bullying at their organizations. Perceptions of this nature have a direct impact on employee engagement, and therefore organizational loyalty and retention.

These staggering statistics indicate that there may be perceptions amongst employees that leaders do not fully understand. It is important to understand that perception doesn’t always reflect reality within the workplace. Regardless of reality, perceptions of the work environment must be seriously considered, as that is what can make or break an organization’s image in the marketplace and impact future opportunities. Often, negative perceptions about a workplace are centred on interactions and experiences with particular individuals within that workplace.

Rob Sutton’s impactful book, “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t” introduced the idea that there is a total cost associated with keeping employees within your organization that negatively impacts the engagement of others. There is a growing trend in companies to consider the Total Cost of Jerks (TCJ) impact on the workforce and workplace culture; what is interesting to note is that there is also a cost of not knowing or being aware of the ‘jerks’ within your workplace. Proactive approaches to understanding your organization’s workplace culture may be needed to assess and consider the TCJ within your organization.

Fostering a Strategic Mindset

More and more leaders are taking an intentional approach to creating a corporate culture and identity. Generating strong connections between an organization’s values, vision, and strategic plan, and how a business operates on the ground, are key to this process. Climate assessments are a robust tool for leadership to understand how employees feel about current operations and generate ideas for alignment at that functional day-to-day level of the business.

All climate assessments must be customized to the needs of the organization; each one should have unique objectives focused on the organization’s guiding principles, and main drivers of engagement.

objectives of climate assessments

As we all know, the best-laid plans for implementing change of any kind—culture related or otherwise—within the workplace aren’t always embraced unless there is buy-in from the outset. Organizations preparing for change may also proactively seek a climate assessment or a similar approach as part of the change management strategy. The ability to get a pulse on the current environment, employee perspectives and how they may feel about change before it happens is akin to the saying ‘always be prepared’ — it just makes good sense.

The Good (and the Challenging)

The people-side of business continues to challenge the most successful organizations. What we know is that when responding to the continuing demands of the market, a focus on organizational health can leave organizations better prepared to respond to these challenges. Remaining informed about the realities within your organization is an important part of responsible and strategic leadership.

Although climate assessments can be considered a significant investment for organizations that may not be actively experiencing challenges within the work environment, knowledge is powerful, especially when it comes to understanding how to  reduce the high cost of turnover. Climate assessments can contribute to impactful corporate self-reflection, the ability to build intentional corporate culture, and emerging as an employer who promotes both organizational and individual health and well-being.


About Brookley Susser

Brookley is an HR Consultant with the Strategic HR Consulting team. Working primarily within the realm of organizational health, she partners with clients on projects that focus on engagement, culture, organizational design, and performance.

Brookley is passionate about empowering leaders to develop and lead strong teams. Her HR practice is rooted in a solution-focused approach, utilizing effective communication, creative problem solving and high attention to detail to achieve results.

Today’s Talent Landscape – Getting Creative to Fill Open Roles

With the talent landscape remaining highly competitive — and no immediate end in sight — finding the right fit and skills for open roles within organizations continues to be a challenge for business owners across industries. To fill open roles, business owners will need to get creative and rethink how they hire.

Baby boomers retiring, high turnover and a lack of a talent pool to close the gap are contributing to positions staying open far longer than normal. Nojoud Al Mallees reported for CBC News that, “almost half of vacancies [remain] unfilled for 60 days. In 2020, only 36 per cent of job openings were open that long.”

This gap is causing a considerable backlog of work and burnout for those responsible to pick up the slack.

Creativity will be vital as we continue to see unprecedented numbers of employees leaving their current place of employment for ‘greener grass’. Business owners and hiring managers need to change how they think about the ‘perfect’ candidate for open positions.

Looking at candidates with a different lens

If your pool of candidates doesn’t meet the skills and experience required, try looking at prospective candidates through a different lens.

  1. Consider if they have shown an ability to learn and develop in past roles. A candidate who has been promoted at a company could be showing they are a capable learner and ready to take on new challenges. They might surprise you in an interview.
  2. Dig deeper into the work a candidate completed. If they are missing specific education or Canadian experience that you require, compare projects they have worked on in past roles with those required in your organization. The experience may be there, and a second look (and a chance provided to a newcomer to Canada) could pay dividends.
  3. Explore the possibility of ‘training up’. If a candidate would be a good fit for your organization but is missing some experience, consider training them to fill those gaps.

Exploring the internal pool

Looking inward instead of outward is another way to get creative and potentially retain your current workforce. Do you have rockstars in one area of your organization but are hesitant to move them into another? Perhaps now is the time to revisit your internal candidate pool and build your bench.

  1. Career conversations are intentional discussions with employees to learn about their personal career goals, align their aspirations with organizational goals, and enhance employee engagement. An effective career conversation can help you and your employee identify potential career opportunities in your organization.
  2. In addition to career conversations, providing employees with training and development opportunities is a great way to build up internal talent. Many organizations offer standard trainee programs or management trainee programs (check out these examples from Monster) to develop employees. Internal development through a customized program or job shadowing can help fill unique roles too.

These internal practices may help you find consistent performers you haven’t considered before to take on a larger capacity within your organization.

Support when you need it from People First HR

There is no denying it can be tough to hire these days. Reviewing your candidate pool with a different lens and considering your internal talent pool are two ways almost any organization can use to fill open roles.

If you need additional support with hiring and retention, People First HR is here. We offer several services in this area depending on your organization’s need, such as our professional and management recruitment services, Purple Squirrel Training Academy, career development training and career conversation workshops.


Linda Chammartin
VP, Professional & Management Recruitment

Drawing on a background of key operational people and sales leadership roles and with her strong experience in client services, Linda focuses her expertise in providing services to clients covering a wide range of HR challenges, initiatives, and people needs. Linda builds partnerships with a customer-centric approach and strives to provide insights and offer the best solutions that support the client’s goals and objectives.

Mental Health and the Impacts of Job Loss

By Liz Bilton, VP Career Management

Throughout May, we’ve spent time thinking about how job loss impacts our clients and their mental health. The decision to terminate an individual is most often made when the individual is no longer a fit for the organization or the role they were hired for.

With career transition support, many individuals come to this realization and move forward quickly. Others require further support and guidance. In addition to the one-to-one coaching, they rely on various tools, including access to SelfHelpWorks™, an innovative suite of eight online cognitive learning programs designed to assist and empower individuals to make positive behaviour changes while remaining completely confidential.  

When it comes to a client’s mental health, we are considerate of meeting them where they are, recognizing that we are career consultants, not counsellors. Our role is to support the individual as they regain their confidence and seize this as an opportunity to pursue a new role. A role that excites them and is a fit with their values, strengths, and interests. 

In their article titled Work, Mental Health and Our Role as Career Practitioners, Michael Huston and Dave Redekopp drew some important conclusions related to an individual’s work and mental health, including the fact that person-work fit is related to an individual’s mental health and wellbeing. The outcomes of the study showed that work is not only important for financial reasons but also for the expression of an individual’s interests, values, and identity. It is a source of social support and is critical in supporting other life roles. When work supports meaningful outcomes in an individual’s personal life it supports their overall wellbeing and mental health.

The opposite holds true if the work does not fit with their interests, values, strengths, and needs, and may hinder their success in those other life roles. The conclusion is that career development can directly increase one’s ability to find and develop a career path that matches their values, strengths, and interests, ultimately contributing to an individual’s overall mental wellness.

The importance of an employee’s mental health and impacts job loss can have on an individual reinforces the importance of having meaningful, well-planned and executed career development conversations on an ongoing basis. Creating the space for career conversations in your organization, will ensure the work your employees are doing is a fit for the organization, is aligned with their needs and career goals and is a proactive approach to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of the organization’s people.

Additional resources:

The role of career development in supporting mental health: 7 resources to check out

The importance of a well-planned and respectful notification meeting.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “Unemployment can be, and often is, a shock to your whole system. You can experience some of the same feelings and stresses that you would if you were seriously injured, going through a divorce, or mourning the loss of a loved one. You can go through some or all the stages of grieving just as you would with any other major loss.”

We understand that it is not just about the job loss itself, but about how the individual was treated by their employer when they are told that their employment with the organization has ended. How the exiting employee receives this news and is treated during the process is critical.

Take for example, Marvel’s superhero actor Simu Liu. He publicly celebrated his 10 year anniversary of being terminated from an accounting role. In an Instagram post, he recounts the event and his feelings surrounding how it was conducted:

“A lady from HR and a security guard escorted me back onto the floor in front of the entire open concept office. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Nobody moved, offered a whisper of encouragement or even looked in my direction. I fought back tears of humiliation, grabbed my things, and never looked back.”

While he goes on to say losing his job with the firm ended up being the best thing that ever happened to him and it forced him to pursue his passion of acting, it doesn’t change the fact that this event deeply impacted him.

A well-planned notification

A well-planned notification includes:

  • A private space,
  • An appropriate date and time
  • Considering what you will say and how you will deliver the news, and
  • A plan for how departure from the building will happen

When leaders do not consider these items, on top of being a shock to the system, job loss can be a lifechanging event for an individual. Notifications are delicate situations, and how you plan for them is extremely important.

Our team works closely with you to review best practices for terminations. We help ensure that the exiting employee is treated with dignity and respect throughout the process. You have a lot on your plate. We are here to help you with the small details that make a big difference.


For more on how to hold a notification meeting, download our best practice guide.

Download our best practices for notification meetings guide

Cover image of best practices for notification meetings guide

Letting someone go is never an easy decision or conversation.

Whether you’ve gone through the experience before or it’s your first time notifying an employee of job loss, there’s a lot to think about to make sure it goes smoothly. Proper planning can help ensure the exiting employee leaves the organization with their dignity intact. 

Download our best practices for notification meetings guide for tips and checklists to help you plan for an upcoming meeting. For additional support, talk to one of our consultants about the value of a career transition program.

Download guide


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How to support your employees through seasons of change.

It’s natural for organizations to experience seasons of change, and 2022 is no exception. Thanks to the pandemic, on top of expected workplace growth and adjustments, there are additional challenges to work through.

Leadership teams are working on reopening plans, and many have retention challenges to address. Supporting employees through these changes is a must for leaders who wish to show they value their team members and understand their needs.

Here are four strategies that leaders can use to support employees through seasons of change:

  • Developing change communication plans,
  • Re-onboarding employees,
  • Holding career conversations, and
  • Measuring employee engagement.

Change communication plans

A thought-out communications strategy is crucial when supporting employees through change. Based on years of benchmarking research, Prosci suggests a coordinated approach to developing communication in times of change. 

Here are a few questions to consider when developing a change management communication strategy:

Who is delivering the message?

Too often, change communication comes from the project team. Research from Prosci found that employees prefer to hear about change from their immediate supervisor or the person leading change (change sponsor).  

More specifically, employees want to hear about the reasons for the change from the change sponsor and the personal impacts of the change from their own immediate supervisor.

Why is this change happening?

When planning change communication, you need to proactively answer the inevitable “why” questions. Clearly stating why change is happening throughout all change communications will help employees process and understand the importance of the change.

What’s in it for me?

No matter how valuable or critical a coming change is, if employees don’t buy in or support it, the change will not be as effective. Having employees who don’t support a change may cause turnover, sour the workplace culture, or impact productivity.

After addressing why change is happening, you need to share how it will benefit your employees. Keep in mind that there could be different benefits for different employee groups, and you may need to adjust the message for each one. 

How is the message being shared?

Prosci’s research identified face-to-face communications as the most effective way to share change management messages. Face-to-face meetings are great as they allow for two-way communication.

While face-to-face communication should be part of the mix, it is also important to communicate frequently, repeat the key messages and use a variety of channels to reach the audience.

Channels may include email, video calls (individual or team meetings), in person, intranet systems, and other online platforms for updates (such as Slack or Microsoft Teams chats).

Re-onboarding employees

While employees were hopefully onboarded during their initial few weeks or months on the job, a change in their work environment is an opportunity to reinforce aspects of the company culture and help orientate employees to the space.

“[Reboarding] will help create a continued positive employee experience and help further socialize them into the organization’s culture,” says Rebecca Zucker.

Who to re-onboard?

  • Employees who have worked remotely for an extended time
  • Employees returning from a leave of absence (such as maternity or paternity leave, disability leave, or sick leave)
  • Employees changing work locations 

What to cover in re-onboarding?

In her Harvard Business Review article, Zucker shared the following tips for re-onboarding employees.

  • Orientate them to the space: Update returning employees on things that have changed while they were away, such as changes in offices or new procedures.
  • Be thoughtful and welcoming: Providing a small gift, being open to answering questions, and being genuine through the process are easy ways to make a person feel welcomed. Avoid making it seem like you’re acting out of obligation.   
  • Connect them with a buddy: Zucker suggests pairing employees returning to the workplace with someone familiar with the office and culture. 
  • Integrate them into the workplace: To help make employees feel valued and a part of the team, announce their return to the office so others know they have returned / where they are working. You should also provide them with any changed policies, roles, or updates to their job description.

Hold career conversations to realign goals

Through times of change, our priorities and career goals can shift.

Career conversations are intentional discussions leaders can have with employees to learn about their personal career goals, align their aspirations with organizational goals, and enhance employee engagement. During seasons of change, holding an effective career conversation can help leaders retain top talent and understand where these individuals will fit in the organization’s succession plan.

These conversations are a proactive approach that helps leaders align employee development with business strategy and business needs. Instead of looking for opportunities outside of the organization, this approach encourages employees to stay, develop, and become a part of a strong succession plan.

Measure employee engagement

When workplaces are in a transition period, the stress of change can impact employee mindsets and cause employee engagement to dip.

When we contemplate how to accurately measure engagement, climate assessments and employee engagement surveys are two commonly used strategies to consider.

Employee engagement survey

Generally, employee engagement surveys aim to measure how employees are feeling about the factors that impact engagement in their role and with the organization. Engagement surveys can address:

  • Employee satisfaction: The level of contentment or happiness a person assigns to the attributes of their job/position, their organization and the general or overall way they feel about their employment
  • Employee commitment: The pride people feel for their organization as well as their intent to remain with the organization; their desire to serve or perform at high levels; whether they would positively recommend their organization to others; and their desire to improve the organization’s results.

Some avenues to consider exploring in a survey of this nature include how employees feel about their supervisor and leadership as a whole, their role, communications, teamwork, compensation, training, recognition, benefits, and working conditions. A well-designed engagement survey will provide accurate, meaningful, and insightful information which can be used to foster the development of high performing individuals and teams.

Focus groups are commonly used to take a deeper dive into the results of an employee engagement survey. This approach can allow organizations to understand the context of survey responses, which leads to more effective action plans to address areas of concern for continued employee engagement.

Climate assessments

Workplace climate assessments can provide a clear picture of the organizational climate and current challenges. Ideally, an assessment of this nature is delivered by an objective third party, to encourage employees to share their perspectives of the work environment freely and confidentially. Based on the size and setting of the organization, a combination of approaches could be used to gather employee perspectives, including online surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews. 

Employee perceptions of the work environment can then be analysed against relevant HR and motivation theories, and recommendations to improve employee engagement, work environment and conditions can be suggested for implementation. 

Whether from growth or outside forces, change is inevitable. Using the strategies shared above can help leaders support employees through seasons of change and support the health of the organization.  


Looking for more support? Let’s get in touch.

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