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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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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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.

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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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Media, Workplace

The article was published in The Globe and Mail on 22 November, 2019.

Employees don’t quit their job, they quit their boss.” It is a fact and studies bear this out. In the article Employees Want a Lot More From Their Managers from the Gallup publication Workplace (April 8, 2015), Gallup tells about one of their studies involving more than 7,272 adults who had left their jobs. It showed that 50% of them left to get away from their managers. A Canadian study released on October 8, 2019 by the Robert Half organization found that 39% of people quit their job because of a bad boss.


No doubt you can attract talented employees with a nice offer, but you won’t retain and engage them if they don’t have a great employee experience. And the manager’s communication has much to do with it.


In that same article, Gallup mentioned another of its studies, this one involving 7,712 adults. The study revealed that managers who consistently communicate with their employees and display a genuine interest to know them have a positive impact in their staff engagement level.


But being consistent isn’t enough. What practical and effective communication techniques should be used by managers? And how can managers communicate with their employees in a reliable and motivating way?


In the classic book: ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People,’ self-improvement and corporate-training guru Dale Carnegie showed how to communicate effectively, and I encourage anyone who is leading a group of people to heed his approach. Here are two tips.


Tip #1. Begin your conversation with praise and honest appreciation

Let’s say you just hired a developer. John is creative and driven. He typically delivers more than you expect but has a problem with deadlines. He is always way behind the due date and sometimes his delays directly impact the business.


The dilemma for you, his manager is how to address this problem without alienating an otherwise talented person. Put another way, how can you apply Carnegie’s approach to handling an effective conversation with John that benefit both of you?


You could say: “John, I really appreciate your creativity and drive. You have done this and that for the company and it looks fabulous and fits perfectly with our brand. The only area of improvement that I notice is when it comes to delivering the final work within the agreed timeframe. Do you mind sharing with me how you determine the timeframe needed to complete a project? Perhaps together we can find a better way.”


The goal is to be yourself and have a genuine discussion while supporting John. It is important to show you trust him and that a truly collaborative discussion between the two of you will resolve things.


Tip #2. When you make your request, convey to the other person that they will personally benefit.

Jen is your administrative assistant and recently prepared a great slide deck that was well received by a client. You want to use that same slide deck for another client but it’s going to require updates. However, your meeting with that client is the next day, so you need Jen’s help.​


So once again, how can you the manager apply Carnegie’s approach to handling an effective conversation with Jen that benefit both of you?

This is how not to do it:


“Jen, I meet a client tomorrow and need this deck right away. Update the background with their logo, change the date and names, and adjust the colours with their brand. Forget everything else and focus on this today so I can have it ready for my meeting.”


A much better approach is:


“Jen, your last slide deck was so well received. Thank you so much. I want to use it again for a meeting with ABC tomorrow. But it needs some updates and I have them. It would be great if you can make those changes and complete them by 2 p.m. which still gives us time to review and then we can go home at 5 with peace of mind. And tomorrow your work will make us look first-class again and you will have done your part once more to provide a great client experience.”


A final word of advice from Carnegie: “The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want.” In other words, good communication is a pillar of any relationship. So, communicate with your team the same way you wish everyone would speak to you at work or outside of work. Ultimately, this type of communication will impact employee engagement and boost productivity. A bonus is that you feel good about it yourself. It’s a win-win.

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Media, Workplace

The article was published in The Lawyer’s Daily on 19 November, 2019.

You don’t keep an employee for long if they don’t have a positive impact on your business, and 38 years of Coach’s Corner would indicate that hockey broadcaster Don Cherry was good for Hockey Night in Canada. He clearly had a positive impact on TV ratings over the years and was an asset for his employer. But sometimes good things end and for Cherry it came in the form of a rant which many viewers took as anti-immigrant.


Cherry was criticizing those who don’t wear a poppy on Remembrance Day and the implication from the now-famous “you people” was that he was targeting newcomers to Canada.


What he said was: “You people […] love our way of life, love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”


The statement pushed his employer Sportsnet to end the relationship after 38 years of service. Bart Yabsley, President of Sportsnet, described Cherry’s statement as “divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.”


Sponsors soon followed up with their own response to Cherry’s comments. Said Todd Allen, Vice-president of Marketing for Labatt Breweries of Canada: “The comments made Saturday on Coach’s Corner were clearly inappropriate and divisive, and in no way reflect Budweiser’s views. As a sponsor of the broadcast, we immediately expressed our concerns and respect the decision which was made by Sportsnet today.”

Indeed, the initial communication was clearly the trigger for the separation and that is perhaps why, during his Nov.12 interview with Global News, Cherry said that he should have said “everybody” and not “you people.” But the damage had already been done.


In this case the employer chose to cease Cherry’s employment immediately, perhaps because, as lawyer Daniel Reid from Harper Grey LLP indicated, “almost any negative statement concerning an individual, corporation or group has the potential to be defamatory” and as per Yabsley’s statement, Sportsnet feels socially responsible not to divide Canadians. Furthermore, employment lawyer Jennifer Heath said “an employer can be held vicariously liable for the defamatory words communicated by [its employees…] in certain circumstances.”


In Ontario law, Defamation “is a statement to a third party about an identifiable individual that is false and damaging to the person’s feelings, pocket book, or reputation.” In that sense Cherry’s statement appears to be false; his allegations cannot be confirmed since there is no hard data on who wears poppies, and the statement appears to be damaging since many people were offended. Moreover, his statement appears to relate to an identifiable group of persons (“you people”). But is it enough to say that Cherry was terminated due to defamation? Group defamations are emerging areas at the Supreme Court of Canada, so as an HR consultant I would recommend conferring with a lawyer who specializes in such matters for deeper analysis.


However, because defamation is common in the workplace, it is important to highlight the need for employers to protect their organization and employees against it.


In the case of employee defamation, is firing the only recourse for an employer? No, but an employer should not tolerate it when an employee makes defamatory statements against another employee or the employer. Various recourses involving defamation depend on how you address applicable sanctions in your defamation policy. Sanctions can include a suspension, fine or termination. A best practice for an employer is to contact an employment and/or defamation lawyer, in addition to following your HR policies.

1. Design a defamation policy It should include cases of defamation at work and on social media, and the topic of defamation vs. freedom of expression. But consult a lawyer who knows employment and defamation law when developing the policy. The policy can be part of your employee handbook, code of conduct, or a single policy on its own.


2. A policy is not implemented if employees are not aware of it.
Ensure employees are informed about it and understand it.


3. Educate employees on responsible ways to communicate 
and the need to respect their obligation to act faithfully both at work and outside it.


It would have been better for Cherry to say: “We all love Canada and our way of life. We have this due to veterans and soldiers who paid the price. Let’s all wear poppies and show our appreciation as proud Canadians.”

How you say things can be as important as what you say. Communication will always be important in relationships with others and we should learn how to communicate effectively no matter the circumstances and the audience.

References

Statement from Sportsnet (Nov 11, 2019). Sportsnet on Twitter

Reputation Matters: How Canadian courts are balancing protection of reputation and freedom of expression (2016). Daniel Reid, Harper Grey LLP

Don Cherry not apologizing for Coach’s Corner poppy rant (Nov 11, 2019). Gregory Strong,CBC

Don Cherry talks ‘Coach’s Corner’ firing, defends comments but would have ‘used different words’ (Nov 12, 2019). Global News on YouTube

The Truth About Defamation in Workplace Terminations (June 20, 2016). Jennifer Heath, Rubin Thomlinson LLP

What is Defamation in Ontario Law (2010). Gil Zvulony, Zvulony & CO PC

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Media, Workplace

The article was published in The Globe and Mail on 22 October, 2019.

Human resources is traditionally regarded as a “touchy-feely” function – in essence, a soft side of the business that isn’t as highly valued as sales or finance. Why? With no hard facts and figures at one’s fingertips, the HR function is challenged to prove its true value and return on investment (ROI) in the organization.


One study shows that CFOs transition well to CEO roles because of an ability to understand numbers and link them to the bottom line. Indeed, good CFOs know how to develop detailed strategies, understand the drivers of business value and can communicate this to investors. They also know about budgeting and forecasting, in addition to objective analysis. Unfortunately, this isn’t the reputation enjoyed by the chief HR officer.


It’s no surprise that CEOs don’t usually come from an HR background. But the chances of winning in today’s world are much better if you look at HR as a predictive science.


The reality today is that many small- and medium-sized organizations don’t even hire an HR professional to manage and oversee the work force. Instead, they delegate such responsibilities to a non-HR person, which can be a recipe for disaster.

In fact, HR is both an art and a science, but the science part gets overlooked. This is where the proper use and analysis of data is critical so HR leaders can attract, retain, develop, motivate and engage their people

There are things HR leaders can do, and a good place to start is by making the case of their value to the executive team and board of directors.


HR should strengthen and systematize everything they’re doing with data analytics in order to operate productively. When used properly, HR metrics can link work-force productivity to concrete results, with the outcome that the HR function dramatically transforms from a cost centre to a profit centre. This way, HR wins the respect it deserves. It’s a matter of approaching HR differently through a data-driven lens.


In the McKinsey & Company article The CEO’s guide to competing through HR a leading U.S. health-care company’s HR department was highlighted for its use of data analysis in engaging its employees. The company was seeing high employee turnover, problems attracting quality nurses, bad customer experiences and declining revenues before HR began an extensive analysis of its nursing population.


What HR leaders found was that the company’s ineffective total-rewards programs were the root cause of the problems – so they improved them. Soon, the company was attracting and retaining higher-quality nurses. When HR rolled out the new plan across the company, employee engagement increased, and revenue jumped by US$100-million.​


So, if proper use and analysis of data is critical for HR leaders, how can HR leverage data and contribute to the success and profitability of the organization? Here are a few tips for how an organization – big or small – can improve its HR function.

1. Data involve numbers and facts : Hear what employees have to say through confidential, anonymous surveys. This is usually conducted by an outside firm, and it shows what works and what doesn’t.


2. Use an external firm for exit interviews : 
By conducting exit interviews through an outside firm, a company can ensure a departing employee’s responses are anonymous and confidential. It also offers a way to capture trends and use the information for better decision-making.


3. Job tenure versus performance: 
By monitoring job tenure versus performance, you can tell if top performers have the tendency to stay or leave, which will help you identify what issues are triggering departures.


4. Three things to monitor :  
Specifically monitor three things: promotions versus diversity, promotions versus job tenure and promotions versus performance – all of these will allow you to know if promotions are fair, inclusion is present and whether top performers are actually getting promoted.


5. Use “people data” : 
The best way to impact the bottom line through HR is to match “people data” to that bottom line. Track the impact employees have in their respective departments. For example, monitor the impact of new hires for the sales and marketing teams. Have sales increased since these people arrived? Have customer complaints decreased? Have new hires received accolades from clients or teammates? Get all this data at your fingertips.


Use these tips and shift HR from a “touchy-feely” function to a strategic one. It will help you and other executives on the leadership team – not to mention the board of directors – make more evidence-based decisions and facilitate forecasting. It will also increase the credibility of HR as a vital and valued function within the organization’s overall strategy.

References

How functional leaders become CEOs (April 2017). McKinsey Quarterly

The CEO’s guide to competing through HR (July 2017). McKinsey Quarterly

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