Business, Success

Does this scenario sound familiar? You switch your TV on or log on to your favourite social media platform and all you see are incessant messages about racism and discrimination. #Blacklivesmatter. Protest coverage. Photos and posts from racial couples or mixed kids who feel upset, sad, unsafe. You wonder: why our differences are still an issue in 2020? Why is diversity still not embraced by everyone? 

 

After all, we all know at least one colleague at work who does not look like us. Someone who does not have the same skin colour or belong to the same ethnicity group. We’ve probably worked closely with them for months or years. Perhaps we’ve even become best friends with them. 

 

So, how do you begin to discuss what is happening in the world today without altering or harming that relationship? Might it be possible to address these sensitive issues of race and discrimination in a way that deepens that relationship into one of greater understanding, vulnerability and a spirit of togetherness? I believe that is possible.

Strengthening culture through dialogue, empathy, and action

But what if it’s not just a diverse peer, but a diverse team? And you are the manager of that team? 

How do you demonstrate to a group of people who may not look like you that you care about diversity and inclusion?

 

Should you just avoid the conversation altogether?

The simple answer is no, you should not. You must have the dialogue in the right spirit of empathy and unity. This is not an isolated problem with geographic boundaries. It is a global concern that underscores the existence of discrimination today in our world. As a people manager, it requires a fresh approach, plenty of compassion, open communication, and willingness to change.   

 

Our planet is home to so much diversity: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious, generational, and beyond. Today, it’s not only about accepting diversity but embracing, supporting and nurturing it so your organization can surge ahead in a spirit of inclusion. 


Why? 

First and foremost: because WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS, equal in our rights and opportunities.

 

Secondly, diversity and inclusion efforts are worthwhile. Some potential benefits for inclusive organizations are top talent attraction, higher employee engagement, better decision making and higher returns.

A diverse culture means better business returns 

Recent statistics show a correlation between racial and/or ethnic diversity and strong earnings/performance for North American companies:

 

  • A 2017 report from the Centre for International Governance Innovation cited the results of a study conducted by Statistics Canada. In Canada, industries show an average 2.4% increase in revenue and 0.5 % increase in workplace productivity with a 1% increase in ethnocultural diversity.   

 

  • According to McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report, US senior executive teams realize a 0.8% increase in earning with every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity. 

Studies have also exposed some other compelling statistics:

  • According to McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report, UK senior executive teams show a 3.5 % increase in earnings before interest and taxes with every 10 % increase in gender diversity.

 

  • The Center for Talent Innovation says that inclusive publicly traded organizations are 45% more likely to grow their current market share in the last 12 months and 70% are more likely to obtain new markets.

Diversity is clearly not just the right thing to support and promote, it’s good for business.

As a manager, what can you do to help diverse teams thrive and, in the process, move your organization forward?

After all, according to Gallup: “Inclusion policies don't change anything unless the culture changes too.”

Here are few tips to become an “ambassador of inclusiveness” and effectively manage your diverse team today.
1. Lead by example and initiate dialogues about diversity and inclusion

Use recent events in the U.S. as an opportunity to reassure your staff that you value their diversity and do not tolerate discrimination. If you haven’t done so yet, I recommend initiating an open dialogue right away (e.g. as either a group or one-to-one, depending on your culture).

2. Identify trends to guide your inclusion practices through an employee survey

Conduct an anonymous and confidential survey of your employees to capture diversity and inclusion trends (Ideally through an outside firm). The data you capture should be used to inform your decision-making and form a solid foundation for your inclusion practices.

 

3. Track, monitor and update key HR data and practices

a) Inclusive hiring practices

 

With a return to work in the “next normal”, it is now the perfect time to role out more inclusive hiring practices. This may include:

 

  • A diverse recruiting team in other to reduce the risk of recruiting biases

 

  • A review of your recruiting process to ensure as much as possible an objective and inclusive approach. For instance:  Do you typically prioritize internal pipeline candidates before opening a role externally? Do you use an efficient Applicant Tracking System (ATS) for your hiring process? What typical questions are asked to candidates during the recruiting process? Are they all free of bias? 


b) Fair and objective pay   

Identify your employees by diversity group and for each role, review pay per diversity group to verify fairness and equality. Is there any diversity group that is getting paid more or less?

 

Specifically monitor:

  • Pay versus employee performance versus employee seniority in the job versus diversity group. 

  • Pay versus employee performance versus resignation versus diversity group.

Now is the time to take steps to eliminate any wage discrimination based on diversity.

c) Promotions

Identify your main diversity groups and confirm the number of promotions per diversity type for the last 1-2 years. This analysis allows you to verify if employees are getting promoted regardless of their diversity group.

Also, be sure to monitor: 

  • Promotions versus employee performance versus diversity group

  • Promotions versus employee job tenure versus diversity group

By doing so, you’ll be able to know if promotions are fair, if inclusion is present and whether top performers are getting promoted, regardless of their diversity.

This will also allow you to reverse any discrimination or discriminative promotion practices present in your organization.

(d) Uncover Discrimination through Exit Interviews

Use exit interviews to discover any work culture issues or discriminative practices within your organization.  When an employee voluntarily resigns from your organization, closely examine their reasons for departure (e.g. lack of promotion, low pay, discrimination, harassment.) and whether they are top performers from a specific diversity group.

 

  • Start by reviewing the last 6-12 months exit interviews to find out if some trends related to diversity and inclusion have been shared by recent departing employees.

  • After this initial analysis, begin to regularly use the information in exits interviews for better decision-making.

 

4. Foster inclusion through team building activities 

In these unprecedented times, some team-building icebreaker activities will serve to bring your team together and create a good team-spirit. This website provides you various options for in-person and remote activities.  I personally recommend “the one question” team building activity which is quite powerful in the current context and can be run virtually. A strong question you may consider asking your staff is this: “If you could ask just one question to discover a person’s suitability for being an inclusive peer at work, what would it be?

Racism and any type of discrimination remain challenges that every organization around the world is grappling with today. It cannot be ignored.  Now is the time to take action and build a united, inclusive culture. Not only will this win you the hearts of your employees, it will also help you attract diverse top talents hungry for equality and fair opportunity. What’s more, your organization will profit from higher financial returns. Embracing diversity in your work culture is a win-win-win scenario, whichever way you look at it.

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Business, Success

I recently wrote a post on LinkedIn about micromanagement during COVID-19 and received an overwhelming response. In just a couple of days, I had over 65,000 views.

 

My post addressed the question from an employee concerning the shift of management style of his boss since the lockdown, from micromanaging to ‘ultra-micromanaging’. It immediately touched a chord with many. In the words of one post reader: “omg yes! so many extra meetings scheduled, extra targets being added, so many more Excel spread sheets…completely takes time away from being able to do our jobs. I feel like working from home went to never leaving work.”

 

But what concerned me even more was her additional comment that revealed the negative mental health impact of this ‘intense management-style’ trend:

 

“I was furloughed a few weeks ago and while I felt an initial blow to the chest, I was a little relieved. Lol it was getting pretty intense and my anxiety levels were at an all-time high. I LOVE my company and boss. I cannot wait to get back to our normal though!”

 

Although this employee says she ‘loves her manager and the organization, the current pressure she is facing is stressing her out and causing chest pains and anxiety. This is serious. Should it continue, the impact on her mental and emotional health could be disastrous. What’s more, she is apparently not an isolated case. This social media share regarding a sudden shift happening in management style since the lockdown and rising anxiety levels was so relatable that as of today over 295 people liked it and over 25 people replied directly to her share. It’s natural to assume that some (or most) of them are also experiencing similar struggles. In sympathizing with her situation, they either feel similar pressures from managers, or feel she is being managed in an unacceptable way– or likely both.

 

Ask yourself if you are putting too much pressure on your employees

 

If you are a people manager, this should give you pause for thought. Ask yourself: “is it possible that my employees are feeling similar pressures from me? Could they be experiencing undue stress and other mental health issues due to my new lockdown management style?”

 

Despite your best efforts to get things done and drive productivity you may have altered things for the worse. Are you noticing a drop in your employees’ engagement, lagging motivation and poor participation during your virtual meetings? Are you seeing a significant drop in performance and productivity from even your star players since the lockdown began?

 

If you answer “yes” to at least two of these questions, it’s likely that the ‘journey of your staff in the organization’ — the ‘employee experience’– is currently jeopardized. Some might be in a state of stress or burnout. Others might be experiencing mental illness (e.g. anxiety disorders, depression).

 

Mental health issues: a common risk in the workplace

 

Mental health must not be ignored by either employee or employer. It requires fast and direct action. Left unchecked, mental health issues could have detrimental lasting effects on the individual and impede their ability to work productively. Factually, mental health issues are not a rare thing amongst employees. A recent study from Gallup , says 76% of workers suffer burnout at least sometimes. As of October, 4 2019 WHO indicates that approximately 450 million people are affected by mental health disorders, “placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide”.

 

Certainly, mental health issues can have devastating effects on the personal lives of employees. But it can also cause wreak havoc for the future of your organization.

Mental health issues in the workplace can cause:


  • A significant rise in employee absenteeism levels

  • A drop in staff creativity levels

  • A decrease in staff performance levels

  • Higher payroll costs

  • Increased turnover

  • Lost productivity

Unchecked, not only could mental health issues in the workplace impact your bottom line, it can also have a significant impact on the country economy as a whole.

Calculating the high cost of mental health issues

In 2018, Mercer advised that Canadian companies lose approximately $16.6 billion in productivity per year due to employee sick days linked to mental health issues. A 2015 US research revealed that workplace-stress costs an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the US – eating up as much as 8% of national spending on health care. In a 2019 WHO information sheet, depression and anxiety disorders were calculated to cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

 

So, how can you safeguard your employees’ mental health right now?


How can you ensure that management pressures don’t contribute to a rise in stress, anxiety, burnout or breakdown, today and after lockdown ends?


Smart tactics to help lower and prevent mental health issues during lockdown

Here are some smart tactics to help lower and prevent mental health issues during lockdown:

 

1. Recognize how your management style can affect your employees’ mental health

 

The first step is understanding how your ‘management style’ can contribute to a negative work environment because staff mental health issues are tied to how employees are managed, and how they experience work daily.

 

But where do you begin in evaluating your own management style? Is it really that bad?

 

WHO and Gallup have identified factors that correlate with mental health issues in the workplace. Some of them are:

 

  • Unclear communication from managers

  • Poor management practices

  • Inflexible working hours

  • Lack of management support

  • Unmanageable workload

  • Unfair treatment at work

  • Unclear tasks or organizational objectives

  • Unreasonable time pressure

  • Limited participation in decision-making

 

 

2. Revise your management style to ensure a better employee experience


In order to safeguard and optimize your employees’ mental health, you’ll need to adopt a management style that focuses on creating and maintaining a good ‘employee experience’.

 

Here are few tips:

 

Tip 1. Listen intently to your staff and encourage them to talk about themselves.

Find out how your employees are coping during the lockdown and how they wish to be supported. Ask them, what preoccupies or worries them regarding work. What do they need from you to make their job easier – and how can you support them to optimize work-life balance?

 

Sincerity and openness are key. It may help to share some of your own worries and apologize if your stress has negatively affected their work experience. Be genuinely interested in them –and an attentive listener. These important conversations can happen in different ways:

 

  • Virtual one-on-one conversations

  • Group meeting to gather employee feedback conversations

 

The group meeting is especially valuable in generating ideas, guiding connectiveness and fostering mutual support among team members. Studies show that people with strong social support ( strong relationships) have a reduced risk of mental health issues.


  • Employee survey

Many employees may be afraid to have a straight face-to-face talk with you. An anonymous, confidential survey will help you gather candid feedback, capture trends and gather information you can use for better decision-making.


Tip 2. Champion a return to regular work routines and a manageable workload


 

Recognize that heavy workloads and work routines that include too many meetings can become counterproductive for your staff. A Microsoft study shows that it takes an average of 15 minutes to return to an important project after a phone or email interruption. Professor David E. Meyer confirmed that switching to a new task while still in the middle of another increases the time needed to complete the task by 25 to 50 percent or more, compared to what would be involved if the person was only focusing on that task alone.

 

 

Therefore, an excellent first step is to identify unnecessary activities and meetings and remove them from the calendar. Work with your staff to streamline procedures, simplify work processes and, when possible, eliminate time-intensive tasks. Most importantly, think twice before adding new KPIs at a time when your employees are struggling to work from home with kids doing schoolwork, making noise, needing hugs. Even though it is not business as usual, you need to manage them in a similar manner as you did in the office. Even better, with more latitude, flexibility and humanity.


Tip 3. Recognize and reward your staff


Ask yourself, when was the last time that you took the time to recognize your employees. If it was prior to the outbreak, it’s long overdue. After all, they have been working from home in challenging conditions and have still managed to deliver.


Track the impact individual employees have made in their respective roles and evaluate their behaviours, actions and results. Who has met or exceeded expectations? Who has demonstrated leadership in helping others with work or morale issues since the lockdown?


Smart leaders will integrate recognition programs tailored to the needs of employees right now. Go beyond the traditional “thank you from you the manager”, to offer employee rewards suitable for these challenging times, such as flexible hours or a full or partial day off with pay.


Flexible hours and time off: the best rewards for employees now


Under the current circumstances, working from home is not a reward, it is the ‘new normal’. Flexible hours, however, have become something to be coveted, more than ever. After all, many of us are now balancing work with caring for dependents who are now home 24/7. Flexible hours reduce the risk of stress or burnout associated with juggling work and family demands. Similarly offering a full or partial day off with pay can help your employees recalibrate and recharge. Both can serve as a powerful way to recognize and reward employees for a job well done.


Finally, every day ask yourself this: Is my management style today motivated by my fear of losing my own job or company – or my desire to save the company, save as many jobs as possible and safeguard the well-being of everyone on my team? If you answered the latter, it’s a sure sign you are an effective people leader who cares about mental health. None of us can function properly without it. So, what are you going to do to support your team today?

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Media, Workplace

The article was published in The Globe and Mail on 27 April, 2020.

 

THE QUESTION:

 

My boss is a micromanager and working remotely for COVID-19 has augmented his micromanaging tenfold. He is constantly emailing me for updates and scheduling Zoom meetings to touch base, taking time away from my actual work. How do I get him to let go and trust that I can do what's required of me?

 

 

THE ANSWER FROM CARINE LACROIX:

 

These times are unusual for bosses and employees, and many struggle to find a ‘winning’ approach to work productively from home. The best thing you can do is share your experience as a way to cooperate. Also, let him know what might help you work effectively and convey that everyone will benefit.

Here are some tips:

 

 

1. Initiate the discussion based on what matters. Share your feelings about the impact these frequent meetings and emails are having on your morale, motivation, productivity. Ask him candidly what it is about your work that makes him feel the need to micromanage. You may be able to dispel his worries, while learning his perspective.

 

 

2. Quantify the impact of his micromanagement. How many hours of actual work time are you losing by logging onto his meetings and check-ins? How far behind are you as a result? How much overtime has been caused?

 

 

3. Ask for clear expectations and suggest a structure. Maybe this means setting clear deadlines and touchpoint meetings at specific times. This way, he can check on your progress and get updates, while you work independently with less interruptions to meet his expectations.

 

 4. Talk about specific achievements. For example, share situations when he was on vacation, and you stayed at work and performed with a tangible, undeniable benefit to the team/organization.


 Finally, during these times, we are all learning as we go. Building a candid two-way dialogue with your boss and your walking the talk is the way to go.

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Business, Success

Does this scenario sound familiar? You are reaching out to your employees via Zoom or Hangouts or GoToMeeting or any other online meeting platform in their home offices, translation: their spare rooms, kid’s room, or living- room at home. You are trying to follow up on an important project, but the onlinemeeting is not going too well. One employee has a child that keeps interrupting to get hugs and ask for help playing Lego Star Wars on his tablet. Another must be muted because her poodle is barking incessantly. One is absent because he urgently needs to care for his sick mother living at a facility a few miles away. And three employees are having trouble getting access and can’t log into the meeting at all. On top of that, maybe there are issues in your own home office? Your children are needing you, asking for a hug, needing help with a school project.

 

How can you possibly lead a regular meeting during times like these? How can you maintain normalcy at all in your business operations right now?

 

The simple answer is you can’t. Don’t even try. This is not business as usual, and requires a fresh approach and plenty of compassion, flexibility and open communication with your people.

 

 

Daily life – at home and at work (one and the same now)— has radically changed for everyone. An onslaught of challenges is upon us: social distancing, quarantine, homeschooling and online learning for kids, activity suspension and sudden job loss for many, along with long grueling hours in scary conditions for essential service employees.

 

 

Governments and employers have a common statement: “Be safe”; many coaches, influencers and leaders suggest love, hope, calm and other positive emotions; and spiritual gurus recommend practicing meditation, prayer and kindness. So, what is the mantra for your leadership teams in terms of managing employees?

 

 

In addition, working conditions have changed. Running or attending online and videos meetings is now the new norm. Protective shields masks, gloves and sanitary wipes and other personal protective equipment are the new mandatory business supplies needed for your front-line workers.

 

In other words, very quickly, we have seen the almost total ‘collapse’ of our ‘normal’ ways of living and working. Human experience is impacted and for the labour force, we can say employee experience is of course impacted. But what is employee experience?

 

 

Gallup defines the employee experience (EX) as the journey an employee takes with the organization.

 

According to Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage, three environments influence employee experience: (1) The physical environment– which comprises 30% of EX and entails everything that characterizes the work space, meaning “anything that can be seen, heard, touched, and tasted like desks, chairs, art, and meals.”; (2)The technological environment – which comprises 30% of EX and pertains to the technology tools an employee needs to perform in their job and; (3) The cultural environment–which is the  ‘vibe of the organization’ and comprises 40% of EX and encompasses how employees feel about the actions that are taken and approaches that are adopted inside the organization (e.g. leadership style, total rewards programs.).

 

So how can you facilitate a great employee experience right now? Help your employees overcome fear and stress and help them maintain a personal sense of wellbeing, while at the same time keep the wheels of productivity in motion for your organization?  

 

It starts with collaboration, dialogue and creating a safe space. This starts with listening and encouraging your people to share their thoughts and feelings about what they are experiencing. Find out what they really need and value from you, their employer. More flexible schedules? Support with Internet connectivity? Emotional health resources? Then you can respond meaningfully by implementing or adopting programs/approaches that resonate for everyone.

 

Here are few tips.

Tip #1. Put yourselves in your staff shoes by being an inclusive leader recognizing and accepting any type of diversity. We are all in this together.


Let’s not forget that working together in an office allows us to see some types of diversity (e.g. race, religion, culture, age, sex/gender, sexual orientation, disability). Working from home reveals different types of diversity, notably: the place of residence and the family status. How can you ensure a ‘climate of inclusiveness’ in that context?

Compassion and flexibility for caregivers

Some of your employees who work from home might be challenged with caring for children or older parents, for instance. Ask them to continue to handle work professionally but be willing to understand and forgive if unexpectedly at some point during your phone or video meeting you can hear or see a kid popping up in the background for instance. Also, empower your entire team to behave the same.

 

 

Respect for their places of residence

Keep in mind that some members of your staff might live in a home where it is challenging for them to create a professional office space. I suggest two options:

 

Option 1: Offer option of phone meetings

 

Make everyone at ease and avoid discomfort by simply giving employees the option to join meetings by phone if they don’t want to join by video.

 

Option 2: Offer home office set-up assistance

 

If you absolutely want all your staff to be on video, reach out to everyone individually and ask them if they feel comfortable to be on a video call, or not. If not, and the home office space is the issue, offer assistance to the employee to set up, create a workable office space. Do they need a subsidy for Internet? Help with transforming their home environment? Maybe your company has a budget for these types of scenarios or maybe a staging specialist could provide assistance based on their budget, or a subsidy from you? Or maybe you can help them creating a virtual background with your video conferencing software.

 

 

Tip #2. Communicate frequently and connect with your people

The manager’s communication has much to do with the employee experience. So, communicate with your staff with the intention of knowing their reality and offering support. For instance, find out about their day to day life working from home, or working in the field as a front-line worker or health care professional. What bothers them about the current situation? Is there any aspect of their working condition that they think you can improve and how? What motivates them to wake up every day and work and what could stop them?

 

 

The goal is to have a genuine discussion while supporting them. You might not see yourself as a coach, but you could transform yourself into a great listener, into someone who connects with others. First listen carefully to what they share. If what they share relates to you or an experience you had, then, be generous and vulnerable and share your personal story. Researchers like Sherry Hamby, Ph.D. have confirmed that ‘sharing your story can help others’ and it does not matter if you are a TED show speaker or not.

 

 

Tip #3. Optimize the physical and technological environments

Find out if employees have adjusted to their new working conditions and see if the organization can do something about it. For workers in the field, do they feel, the organization has maximized their safety while serving clients? Do they need additional protection?

 

If employees work from home, are they acceptably or fully equipped to do their job? What have they said is missing or wish they had at home?

 

Have you introduced a new technology platform recently? Is all your staff comfortable using it? Is there anyone who need some training?

 

 

Tip #4. Keep structure: uphold some regular practices and employee rights to breaks and overtime

 

Regardless of whether they are working from home or not, their employment contract still applies. Continue to keep the relationship between your staff and the organization strong, stable and in compliance with the law.

 

 

Investing your energy in the employee experience (EX) will not only help you support your workforce during the current crisis, it will also help you strengthen your business and have a direct impact on Customer Experience or CX. Particularly, it will demonstrate your level of connectedness with your people and your commitment to be ONE with your staff by cooperating, connecting and empowering them during these interesting times. Achieving this will not only make you proud and a hero for your workers, you’ll also distinguish yourself as a leader in your industry. After all, organizations that focus on EX are:

  • 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work
  • 28 times more often listed among Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies
  • Earning more than 4 times the average profit and more than 2 times the average revenue as other businesses. (Morgan, J. (2017). The Employee Experience Advantage).

So, have you checked in personally with your employees today?

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Media, Workplace

The article was published in The Globe and Mail on 2 March, 2020.

THE QUESTION:

I ascended the ranks of my workplace quickly and became a director in just a few years. I’m in my early 30s but my peers are older and have been in the industry for decades. They don’t take me seriously and are quick to dismiss my ideas even though I have a proven track record. How can I get them to consider me as an equal?


ANSWER FROM CARINE LACROIX:

Working effectively with a multigenerational group that includes Millennials, Generation X’ers, Baby Boomers, and others can be a challenge. What you are experiencing (“older peers [not taking you seriously and not considering you] as equal”) is related to a low level of inclusion in your organization. Here are my suggestions:


1. Don’t keep the lack of inclusion that you experience hidden from your peers; instead, communicate with them and convey that including you will benefit them. A diverse team is a collective power because exchanging ideas lets teammates see their biases and allows them to discover new ideas and perspectives. Thus, the quality of decision-making improves.


2. In meetings with your peers, listen to their perspectives, show appreciation, and be a team player. The more they notice that you care about what they say, the more they will be motivated to reciprocate and give back by listening to your ideas. This is called the ‘social exchange theory.’ Also, provide your own input during meetings, but always listen to what others have to say.


3. Build relationships with your peers. Your intent should be to know them and learn from them. What do they like about the organization? What are the biggest challenges that they overcame? Show them that you’re interested in who they are.


 As Dale Carnegie said: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

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Media, Workplace

The article was published in The Lawyer’s Daily on 18 February, 2020.

Harassment is unacceptable in the workplace and can be severely detrimental for the victim. It can, and does lead to absenteeism, lower productivity, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. That is why the topic is a mandatory policy by law in Canada.

 

What often happens in Canada and the United States is that employees accused of harassment are simply fired, and many times their actions will continue to haunt them in the long term. But there are different types of harassment.

 

 

In December 2018, an organization called Insights on Canadian Society, in partnership with Statistics Canada, released a study based on data collected among approximately 9,000 Canadians workers aged 15-64 from the year 2016. The study identified various types of harassment at work: verbal abuse (13% of women vs. 10% of men), humiliating behaviour (6% of women vs. 5% of men), physical violence (3% of women vs. 1.5% of men), and sexual harassment (4% of women vs. 1% of men).

 

 

In 2012 the Red Cross asked an official to resign due to allegations he had sexually harassed two subordinates. The next year he was hired at Save the Children, but five years later his past came back to haunt him, forcing his new employer to place him on administrative leave and then terminate him.

 

In 2016 Reuters terminated a senior editor after his subordinate filed a sexual harassment complaint. He was then hired at Newsweek and worked there until his new employer discovered his past, placed him on leave, and in 2018 terminated him.

 

 

Employees often get fired or are forced to resign when accused of harassment, but what happens to an employer knowing that “an employee has a right to freedom from harassment in the workplace by the employer or agent of the employer or by another employee.” (Timothy J. Latch, Associate, Taylor McCaffrey Lawyers)? And what happens if the employer is doing the harassing? Could the employer end up paying huge fees and more? YES, but it depends on the context and for that I defer to an employment lawyer for advice.

 

 

In the case Merrifield v. Canada (Attorney General), 2019 ONCA 205, RCMP management could have ended up paying the plaintiff, a sergeant on the force, $966,000 for harassment suffered at work, and to cover the legal costs of his 12-year lawsuit against them. But in March, 2019 the Ontario Court of Appeal reversed that decision, concluding that there was no free- standing tort of harassment in Canada and the circumstances of the case were not compelling enough for the birth of that tort at the time.

 

 

However, the Ontario Court of Appeal did not reject the possibility of a free-standing tort of harassment in the future. What would that mean? Employees could potentially sue their employers for significant money damages under the ‘right’ circumstances.

 

 

Consider the case O.P.T. v. Presteve Foods. In 2015, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered the employer to pay damages of $150,000 for an ongoing pattern of sexual harassment in the workplace. The message sent was that harassed employees can indeed sue their employer for money damages. Keep in mind that the reputation of the one doing the harassing, be it employer or employee, could be negatively impacted and even destroyed. So, what can employers do to increase the likelihood of workplaces free of harassment?

 

Here are three tips:

 

 

1. Follow the law. For instance, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) applies to almost every staff/organizations in Ontario; so, design a Workplace Harassment policy under the OHSA. The policy should include cases and sources of workplace harassment and how to report it. Also, when developing the policy consult an employment lawyer. The policy can be part of your employee handbook or code of conduct.

 

 

2. A policy is not implemented if employees are not aware of it. Ensure employees are informed/educated/updated about it and that everyone (including you) understand it. For instance, harassment complaints often involve verbal abuse, so educate yourself and everyone else on how to communicate with others. Remember that there is a fine line between reasonable staff management and harassment.

 

 

3. Monitor the presence of harassment in your workplace and take immediate action. Periodically conduct a confidential survey to assess harassment (maybe through an external provider in order to ensure that employees feel safe to share information). If you have employee-relations specialists on your team, encourage employees to speak to them for initial guidance. Also, walk around the workplace and look for any inappropriate behaviour or offensive notes.

 

 

The bottom line is that everyone has the right to feel safe at work which is a place where we spend most of our time every week.

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French Media

The article was published in L’EXPRESS on 23rd January, 2020.

A study conducted by LinkedIn found that Canada, with a rate of 16% annual turnover in the workplace, placed fourth highest in the world for employee turnover. The rate in the U.S. was 13%.

 

 According to Gallup, the cost of replacing an employee can range from one-half to two times the person’s annual salary. In the U.S. that would translate to a minimum cost of $1-trillion a year to employers for voluntary employee turnover.

 

 The Trump White House is a good example of how turnover can impact performance. According to the Brookings Institution – a non-profit, public policy organization based in Washington, D. C. – the total turnover of the President’s group of Advisers or Executive Office staff throughout the tenure of the current administration, soon to head into its fourth year, is up to 80%, as of November 14, 2019. What’s more, 33% of the positions have turned over twice or more during this time span and a large number of changes have been due to not only resignations, but ‘resignation under pressure.’

 

 There are many reasons for high employee turnover – problems with the manager, lack of work- life balance, a poor fit for the job, co-workers not committed to quality, pay, benefits, career advancement, recognition, and lack of connection to the organization or to senior management. But a big trigger for many of these problems is ‘hasty hiring.’

 

If President Donald Trump needed someone who was “tougher” for a certain job, how come that requirement wasn’t filled when the person got hired in the first place? Hiring should never be taken lightly.

 

Hasty or unplanned hiring can be motivated by ‘good to have’ or ‘just need to fill a position.’ Neither is a good reason to hire someone.

 

So, instead of ‘hasty hiring,’ HR should apply strategic recruiting; you don’t just hire, you hire to resolve a problem or to strengthen the organization with new talent because it is a must. Strategic hiring uses the organization’s data to help you understand the impact of the new role for that organization, but first, understand why the role is key for the organization’s success.

 

In addition to applying retention strategies in your organization, here are three steps to take:

 

#1. First, think about the problem you want to solve.

The best employment decisions require at least medium-term planning in advance, which can mean three to six months. This decreases the chances of hiring the wrong candidate who isn’t properly vetted and who may lack requisite skills, attitude or abilities. Such planning involves monitoring the organization’s rate of growth and HR data tied to the bottom line (i.e., employee ‘burnout’ and/or loss of productivity, increase in sick days taken and/or the number of customer complaints). Doing so allows you to determine if you need to hire to sustain your growth, or you need to hire to decrease pressure in the organization.

 

#2. Identify the assets that are needed for the new position

Ask some important questions. Is this a unique position? What positions will need to work closely with the incumbent in the new position? Who will the new hire support and, by the same token, who will be supporting them? Also, what resources are currently available for the execution of this role and what else may be needed?


 #3. Tie the organization’s vision and goals to the position in your company.

In terms of vision, think about what impact your organization wants to have. What does the organization aspire to become? Another good question to ask is how do you want your clients to describe your organization? And what do you want your client to say about their experiences with your employees, including for the particular role you want to fill?

When filling a new position, it’s wise to think about the organization’s goals for the next two, three, four and five years. That may involve revenue objectives, new markets to open, and how this new position is going to impact on those goals. These are all important considerations for the hiring process.

How you respond to these questions will help you understand why the role is necessary and the importance of selecting candidates who possess not only the skills, but the attitude and abilities that, hopefully, are aligned with the visions and goals of the organization itself.

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French Media

The article was published in L’EXPRESS on 23rd January, 2020.

A study conducted by LinkedIn found that Canada, with a rate of 16% annual turnover in the workplace, placed fourth highest in the world for employee turnover. The rate in the U.S. was 13%.

 

 According to Gallup, the cost of replacing an employee can range from one-half to two times the person’s annual salary. In the U.S. that would translate to a minimum cost of $1-trillion a year to employers for voluntary employee turnover.

 

 The Trump White House is a good example of how turnover can impact performance. According to the Brookings Institution – a non-profit, public policy organization based in Washington, D. C. – the total turnover of the President’s group of Advisers or Executive Office staff throughout the tenure of the current administration, soon to head into its fourth year, is up to 80%, as of November 14, 2019. What’s more, 33% of the positions have turned over twice or more during this time span and a large number of changes have been due to not only resignations, but ‘resignation under pressure.’

 

 There are many reasons for high employee turnover – problems with the manager, lack of work- life balance, a poor fit for the job, co-workers not committed to quality, pay, benefits, career advancement, recognition, and lack of connection to the organization or to senior management. But a big trigger for many of these problems is ‘hasty hiring.’

 

If President Donald Trump needed someone who was “tougher” for a certain job, how come that requirement wasn’t filled when the person got hired in the first place? Hiring should never be taken lightly.

 

Hasty or unplanned hiring can be motivated by ‘good to have’ or ‘just need to fill a position.’ Neither is a good reason to hire someone.

 

So, instead of ‘hasty hiring,’ HR should apply strategic recruiting; you don’t just hire, you hire to resolve a problem or to strengthen the organization with new talent because it is a must. Strategic hiring uses the organization’s data to help you understand the impact of the new role for that organization, but first, understand why the role is key for the organization’s success.

 

In addition to applying retention strategies in your organization, here are three steps to take:

 

#1. First, think about the problem you want to solve.

The best employment decisions require at least medium-term planning in advance, which can mean three to six months. This decreases the chances of hiring the wrong candidate who isn’t properly vetted and who may lack requisite skills, attitude or abilities. Such planning involves monitoring the organization’s rate of growth and HR data tied to the bottom line (i.e., employee ‘burnout’ and/or loss of productivity, increase in sick days taken and/or the number of customer complaints). Doing so allows you to determine if you need to hire to sustain your growth, or you need to hire to decrease pressure in the organization.

 

#2. Identify the assets that are needed for the new position

Ask some important questions. Is this a unique position? What positions will need to work closely with the incumbent in the new position? Who will the new hire support and, by the same token, who will be supporting them? Also, what resources are currently available for the execution of this role and what else may be needed?


 #3. Tie the organization’s vision and goals to the position in your company.

In terms of vision, think about what impact your organization wants to have. What does the organization aspire to become? Another good question to ask is how do you want your clients to describe your organization? And what do you want your client to say about their experiences with your employees, including for the particular role you want to fill?

When filling a new position, it’s wise to think about the organization’s goals for the next two, three, four and five years. That may involve revenue objectives, new markets to open, and how this new position is going to impact on those goals. These are all important considerations for the hiring process.

How you respond to these questions will help you understand why the role is necessary and the importance of selecting candidates who possess not only the skills, but the attitude and abilities that, hopefully, are aligned with the visions and goals of the organization itself.

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Media, Workplace

The article was published in The Globe and Mail on 10 January, 2020.

A study conducted by LinkedIn found that Canada, with a rate of 16% annual turnover in the workplace, placed fourth highest in the world for employee turnover. The rate in the U.S. was 13%.

 

 According to Gallup, the cost of replacing an employee can range from one-half to two times the person’s annual salary. In the U.S. that would translate to a minimum cost of $1-trillion a year to employers for voluntary employee turnover.

 

 The Trump White House is a good example of how turnover can impact performance. According to the Brookings Institution – a non-profit, public policy organization based in Washington, D. C. – the total turnover of the President’s group of Advisers or Executive Office staff throughout the tenure of the current administration, soon to head into its fourth year, is up to 80%, as of November 14, 2019. What’s more, 33% of the positions have turned over twice or more during this time span and a large number of changes have been due to not only resignations, but ‘resignation under pressure.’

 

 There are many reasons for high employee turnover – problems with the manager, lack of work- life balance, a poor fit for the job, co-workers not committed to quality, pay, benefits, career advancement, recognition, and lack of connection to the organization or to senior management. But a big trigger for many of these problems is ‘hasty hiring.’

 

If President Donald Trump needed someone who was “tougher” for a certain job, how come that requirement wasn’t filled when the person got hired in the first place? Hiring should never be taken lightly.

 

Hasty or unplanned hiring can be motivated by ‘good to have’ or ‘just need to fill a position.’ Neither is a good reason to hire someone.

 

So, instead of ‘hasty hiring,’ HR should apply strategic recruiting; you don’t just hire, you hire to resolve a problem or to strengthen the organization with new talent because it is a must. Strategic hiring uses the organization’s data to help you understand the impact of the new role for that organization, but first, understand why the role is key for the organization’s success.

 

In addition to applying retention strategies in your organization, here are three steps to take:

 

#1. First, think about the problem you want to solve.

The best employment decisions require at least medium-term planning in advance, which can mean three to six months. This decreases the chances of hiring the wrong candidate who isn’t properly vetted and who may lack requisite skills, attitude or abilities. Such planning involves monitoring the organization’s rate of growth and HR data tied to the bottom line (i.e., employee ‘burnout’ and/or loss of productivity, increase in sick days taken and/or the number of customer complaints). Doing so allows you to determine if you need to hire to sustain your growth, or you need to hire to decrease pressure in the organization.

 

#2. Identify the assets that are needed for the new position

Ask some important questions. Is this a unique position? What positions will need to work closely with the incumbent in the new position? Who will the new hire support and, by the same token, who will be supporting them? Also, what resources are currently available for the execution of this role and what else may be needed?


 #3. Tie the organization’s vision and goals to the position in your company.

In terms of vision, think about what impact your organization wants to have. What does the organization aspire to become? Another good question to ask is how do you want your clients to describe your organization? And what do you want your client to say about their experiences with your employees, including for the particular role you want to fill?

When filling a new position, it’s wise to think about the organization’s goals for the next two, three, four and five years. That may involve revenue objectives, new markets to open, and how this new position is going to impact on those goals. These are all important considerations for the hiring process.

How you respond to these questions will help you understand why the role is necessary and the importance of selecting candidates who possess not only the skills, but the attitude and abilities that, hopefully, are aligned with the visions and goals of the organization itself.

0

Media, Workplace

The article was published in The Lawyer’s Daily on 11 December, 2019.

Young lawyers (i. e., Junior Associates) have a lot to win when they choose to join a law firm after graduation, but retaining young lawyers can be challenging.

 

Some of them are driven to run their own practice but for others the firm that employs them may not always offer valuable employment elements such as meaningful compensation, an effective mentoring program, fast-track career opportunities, sufficient paid time off, adequate recognition, work-life balance, and a workplace culture that encourages them to stay.

 

But are young graduates and Millennial associates the only lawyers that are a challenge to retain? No.

 

A good illustration of this is Heenan Blaikie LLP which in 2014 became the biggest law firm in Canada’s history to close up shop. With more than 500 lawyers, the firm had been losing senior people to competitors. An article in the Globe and Mail mentioned “the departure of a few partners in search of bigger paycheques elsewhere.”

 

My own in-depth data analysis of the Canadian labour force from 1976 to 2018 showed that Millennials do not have a lower job tenure than other generations. So, we should stop pointing fingers at the young. Anyone can leave your firm if what they value is not on the table, and age is not the only factor. There is extensive research on this.

 

A 2005 survey of more than 1,400 Canadian lawyers, including 846 associates from over 100 firms, showed that 62% of women associates and 47% of men associates intended to stay with their firms for five years or less due to the need for a better work-life balance.

 

Mercer’s 2015 Inside Employees’ Minds Research mentioned ‘career advancement’ being among the most valued employment elements for Canadian workers. Another study from 2016 showed that we had 43,595 practicing women lawyers and 53,257 practicing men lawyers, but only 9.3% of the women were partners, compared to 22.3% of the men. If these figures reflect the situation at your firm, consider that some female lawyers may feel there are no opportunities and may leave.

 

In 2007 Goodman and Carr LLP closed its doors after several partners left. According to an article in Canadian Lawyer Magazine “there was a general theme that the firm lost many of its lawyers because it didn’t have a culture that fostered their retention.”

 

So, how can we retain lawyers today, regardless of their age?

 

First, don’t just assume that “staff-appreciation” gifts, staff accolades on LinkedIn, monthly cocktail events, or even fancy perks like cars will keep them around. Your HR department, or an outside HR provider, should consider adding ‘people analytics’ to the firm’s approach to workforce management. This way you can make decisions based on data so it isn’t guesswork.

 

Here are some examples of what you can do as a small or big firm.

 

1. Don’t guess what lawyers want, ask them.  Hear what they have to say about your firm and what they value through anonymous surveys and exit interviews (preferably conducted by an outside firm). This will allow you to discover your blind spots as an organization and implement what is valued by your people.

 

2. Monitor pay. Evaluate your compensation structure against the market. Also, for each lawyer category in the firm, review pay vs. resignations and pay vs. years of practice. This will help determine if compensation at the firm is fair and if under-compensated lawyers have the tendency to leave.


3. 
Don’t just track the number of hours spent on a file to determine how profitable a lawyer is or client is. The relevant question for a lawyer’s productivity is if they do good work in all their files. So, for each lawyer, find out how many files were assigned, closed but not resolved (due to an unsatisfied client’s cancellation), and paid. If possible, for each lawyer, track the number of client accolades and client referrals received. This will help you understand the value of your crew and give you reasons for rewarding them.

 

4. Promotions encourage them to stay. For each category of lawyers, review reports such as promotions vs. revenue generated and promotions vs. diversity. This will help you determine if promotions are based on performance and for all lawyers across the firm.

 

Adopt these tips to better estimate risks, attract and retain the best lawyers, and drive your team engagement to new heights.

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