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OTTAWA’S BEST WORKPLACES The local leaders in employee engagement




The best way to reach human resource professionals • Highlights issues and trends that impact and affect




• HR specialists, from novices to executives • Contains thought-provoking articles from prominent leaders from a wide variety of industry sectors • Feature interview with a prominent individual who shares fresh, new insights into HR challenges and achievements • Opportunity to build brand awareness in front of this important audience and generate sales leads • Associate your business with a trusted media source • Published twice per year in Spring and Fall


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CATCHING ‘FREE AGENTS’ Recruiting top talent through non-traditional employment arrangements PAGE 8 PLUS



Bring your resources to our readers Prospective advertisers email for more information

VOLUME 22 • ISSUE 03 • MAY 2019





Uncovering communication and conflict resolution talents



exchange is based on a different model where you develop different relationships with each person and give your employees individual attention.

Q: How can the hiring process be improved with a focus on “personalized approaches” to leadership? There are characteristics that seem to contribute to better relationships between leaders and subordinates, like emotional intelligence. For servant leadership, it seems having this pro-social motivation is very important for people. The idea that you’re concerned about other people, communities and your organization is very important. That’s one of the challenges in hiring practices – you need to make sure you have people who have characteristics that are amenable to servant leadership in the first place.

Q: You’re also researching workplace diversity. How does considering diversity improve workplace culture?





leadership and leader-member exchange, a concept premised on the idea that leaders need to do more than just motivate their subordinates. They need to also develop a relationship that extends beyond the workplace and take a personalized approach where people develop a mutual respect for one another. He recently spoke to Saskia Rodenburg about his research and what it means for HR leaders:

Q: What is servant leadership? Servant leadership is an approach where the leader prioritizes the needs of their followers over everything. That can help

Q: What are some common missteps of leaders? How can they improve?

One issue that sometimes occurs with leaders is overcommitment, and a sense of the organization achieve its goals by having overwhelm. A servant leader looks out for supervisors and leaders express their their employees’ needs and sometimes do interests in different ways as support. work they didn’t foresee doing because of Prioritizing the needs of your collaborative work instead of delegating. subordinates not only contributes to In terms of failures in leadership, one performance, but also overall wellness. It’s is not keeping your employees advised of a strategy I would argue works in the long what’s going on in the organization. So, term. part of building good relationships with Other approaches don’t capture your employees is being authentic and the need to develop individualized honest. relationships with employees. Keeping open lines of communication Previously, the concept was that you’re with your employees and building the leader and you’ve given employees a communities inside and outside the sense of the company’s vision, which you organization are what builds relationships. try to fulfil by motivating them with your charisma. This interview has been edited for length Servant leadership and leader-member and clarity.


hen Greg Sears was starting his career, he worked with an abusive supervisor and quickly saw how the effectiveness of that form of leadership was questionable at best. Now, as an associate professor of human resources management and organizational behaviour at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, Sears works to better understand leadership dynamics and workplace relationships. One of his specific interests is the field of “personalized” leadership – a strategy that may seem counterintuitive to even progressive employers. This approach includes servant

I did a study recently with my colleagues, and we found that HR executives’ perceptions of their CEO’s commitments to diversity played a critical role in whether diversity practices and inclusion practices are implemented. Most CEOs say “diversity is great,” but they don’t walk the talk. Your HR managers and chief diversity officers play critical roles in implementing diversity, but an uncommitted CEO will result in more difficulty to implement diversity practices.



Fresh approaches to tackling the talent crunch TECH COMPANIES RETHINK RESKILLING IN TIGHT LABOUR MARKET By Adam Langenberg



ttawa’s hottest technology firms are eagerly watching Shopify’s pioneering program to help lapsed software developers re-enter the workforce as it launches this month. Several say they are watching to see the results before joining the e-commerce giant in its approach to attract new talent and say there’s “great merit” in the three-month program for experienced developers who have been outside the workforce for more than two years. Shopify said it’s received an “overwhelmingly positive response” from jobseekers, although it declined to say

how many lapsed developers have been approved to join the course. Anna Lambert, Shopify’s director of talent acquisition, said the Welcome Back program for developers with more than three years’ experience had gained plenty of interest from candidates who wouldn’t be found otherwise. “Our goal is to create an accessible program that reinvigorates a tech foundation that already exists in candidates,” she said. “We designed this program knowing that it can be difficult for people to reenter the workforce despite having a great set of skills and experience.” The program is just one of many

innovative approaches the company was taking to lure talent in a “tricky” labour market, Lambert said. Djoume Salvetti, Shopify’s director of engineering who created the Welcome Back program, said it would help the company access qualified engineers and developers who were having a tough time re-entering the tech industry. “It’s a fast-paced industry, and that’s why we’ve tailored the program to focus on refreshing existing technical skills in candidates we know show great potential,” he said.

TALENT PIPELINE But while eagerly awaiting the results of Shopify’s programs, fellow high-tech firms Kinaxis and Entrust Datacard are focusing on other ways to attract talent, although Entrust said it has long worked to help

employees return to the workplace after lengthy absences. Both firms face the same uphill battle to fill talent shortages in the short and long term, with Kinaxis chief human resources officer Megan Paterson saying hiring was getting “harder and harder every year.” Kinaxis’ employee referral program is the Kanata-based firm’s greatest sources of hires, while a branding program to make the company stand out from its competitors has already yielded more applications for each advertised position. A newly appointed vice-president in thought leadership will also work with universities across the world to insert Kinaxis’ software into courses in a bid to boost brand awareness, although Paterson said the initiative was not directly linked to recruitment. Worried about a lack of computer science students graduating from universities, Kinaxis has started speaking about technology careers to high school students to ensure a future talent pipeline. “We’re realizing you have to get them quite a bit younger so they make those choices in the courses they choose in high school so they can qualify to go into computer science if that’s what they want to do,” Paterson said. Kirsten Paquette, Entrust Datacard’s senior human resources manager, said about 20 of the more than 300 positions in its Kanata office were “hard to fill,” citing cryptography as a particular skill shortage for the firm, which designs identity and secure transaction technologies. “As technology gets more and more specific, we are finding that we’re not able to find the exact skills, whether it’s languages or experience, readily available. Given we’re in one of the tech hubs of Canada, the fact we can’t find them is definitely a problem,” she said. In response, the company is increasingly turning to student hires, focusing on being visible in the Kanata tech hub and redoing its employee referral program. But Paquette said an industry wide approach was necessary to bring new talent out of Vancouver and Toronto and into Ottawa, rather than relying on individual companies to do the heavy lifting. “It’s a very open environment in Kanata. We see it as shared talent, we all recognize talent is now going to look for the next thing every couple of years and that’s OK,” she said. “We’re hoping that if we all increase a municipal brand awareness it will benefit all of us in bringing talent in.”

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Accessible workplaces are beneficial for all employees Local businesses can take simple steps to build inclusive workplaces


common misconception exists that employing a person with a disability places stress on employers who must go out of their way to accommodate their new hire. But as many Ottawa companies are discovering, tapping into this often-overlooked talent pool can lead to improved workplace culture and higher employee retention rates. Employee accommodations can be as simple as rearranging desks, offering flexible hours or adjusting the lighting. And a growing number of businesses and organizations are realizing how seamless it can be to integrate employees with disabilities into their workforce through these lowimpact, high results practices. With the assistance and collaboration of organizations like the David C. Onley Initiative (DCOI) and United Way Ottawa’s EARN



For businesses looking to showcase their commitment to inclusive workplaces, the DCOI has launched a new symbol that raises awareness among current and prospective employees, associates and community members. The identifier, part of the DCOI’s #AbleTo campaign, is a symbol that means “accessibility for all.” If you would like to highlight your business’s commitment to inclusivity, contact the DCOI to request a free identifier decal to display in your office or storefront. Email for more information.

(Employment Accessibility Resource Network), local employers have access to the tools and advice they need to make their businesses more accessible. “Accommodations are actually beneficial for all employees, not just those with disabilities,” says Julie Caldwell, assistant director of the DCOI. “More inclusive workplaces allow all staff members to perform at their personal best.” FIRST STEPS Incorporating accessibility into your business can start as early as the recruitment process, such as creating inclusive job postings that describe the work environment. For example, mention if your office is open concept – for those that might not be able to work in busy, distracting environments – or scattered with cubicles – for those with physical disabilities and mobility aids. “Employers will say they aren’t seeing people with disabilities applying for jobs – but it is important to consider that many disabilities are non-visible,” says Caldwell. “Being inclusive is about taking everyone into consideration.” Some people live with neurological disabilities, or painful conditions such as fibromyalgia, which can require a certain level of accommodation. Offering flexible work hours, ergonomic chairs and desks, or different assistive software can shape a workplace that benefits all staff. MAKING CHANGES Once a business has hired a person with a disability, several practices can be instituted to make the office more navigable. But it starts with having an open dialogue with employees. “It’s important to remember that the needs of each person are different – there isn’t a one-sizefits-all solution,” asserts Caldwell. Sean MacGinnis, co-founder and president of the

accessibility contracting company BuildAble, agrees. “It may sound obvious, but the best person to help you become more inclusive is someone living with (a disability),” says MacGinnis. One of the biggest mistakes MacGinnis sees when it comes to outfitting a workplace for accessibility is not consulting someone with a disability. “When you actually have an accessibility plan, have someone try it out to make sure it actually works,” he says. According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability Reports by Statistics Canada, the most commonly required types of workplace accommodations are flexible work arrangements, workstation modifications, and human or technical supports. “The average cost of accommodating an employee with a visible or non-visible disability is under $500,” offers Caldwell. “That’s a very small price to pay to attract and retain top talent for your business.”

#ABLETO TAKE THE PLEDGE Join the DCOI’s movement and make a social media pledge about how you’re #AbleTo help employees and colleagues with visible and non-visible disabilities in the workplace. Learn more at


Elevating your key HR skills has never been easier. The workshops I have done with the Stitt Feld Handy Group are one of the best investments my employers have made in me during my HR career.” Carol Henry, Director, HR, Longo Brothers Fruit Markets Inc.


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SAVE THE DATE Upcoming events, hosted by the Human Resources Professionals Association Ottawa Chapter. For more information on these and other upcoming events, visit HRPAChapters/Ottawa/programs FATIGUE: ONE BIG RISK FACTOR AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT Nov. 19, 2019 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sala San Marco (215 Preston St.) Clinton Marquardt, one of Canada’s top specialists in sleep-related fatigue, will discuss some of the most common sleep disorders and present tools that organizations and individuals can use to deal with them.


HR: A STRATEGIC PARTNER TO BUILD AN ANALYTICS INFRASTRUCTURE Feb. 20, 2020 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Location TBD Speaker: Manny Campione, market leader and principal, Normandin Beaudry TRANSFORMING FROM HR PROFESSIONAL TO HR LEADER March 25, 2020 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Location TBD This practical and hands-on session will focus on how you can begin your journey of upping your game as an HR professional and evolving into an HR leader who is sought after for your strategic mind. Speaker: Jodi ZigelsteinYip, chief HR innovator and founder, Enliven HR Consulting HRPA ANNUAL BUSINESS MEETING May 6, 2020 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Collab Space (70 Bongard Ave.)




ttawa employers need to prepare for a future of “disruptive changes” by partnering with post-secondary institutions on co-op placements, encouraging students to attain relevant skills and hiring with diversity and inclusion in mind. That was the overall message of the inaugural Ottawa Talent Summit, an event hosted by the Ottawa Board of Trade and the Ottawa Business Journal at Kanata’s Brookstreet Hotel this fall. With Ottawa home to three major post-secondary institutions, there’s no shortage of local graduates armed with the necessary skills. The problem, said Cathy McCallion – the recruitment strategy and community relations manager at Ross Video and one of the panellists at the Talent Summit – is that most lack the experience employers desire. To overcome this hurdle, Ross Video takes in between 15 to 20 co-op students per term. While some employers may think that co-op placements are only for large

companies, McCallion had a message for startups and small companies: “You can’t afford not to do co-op. “Get out there and get to know your college and university partners,” she advised. “We all have a part to play in this, and it’s not the responsibility of one entity.” Adding to the talent crunch challenges facing employers is the rapid pace of technological change. More than 25 per cent of jobs across the country are predicted to be disrupted by technology in the coming decade, and half will require a significant overhaul of the required skills, said Andrew Arnott, regional vicepresident at RBC, citing a recent report commissioned by the bank. The study, titled Humans Wanted, also forecasted additional demand for “foundational skills” such as critical thinking, social perceptiveness, active listening and complex problem-solving abilities. Several panelists discussed the evolving ways candidates can communicate their informal skills as well as “microcredentials.” For example, Algonquin

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College has introduced “digital badges” that allow individuals to convey their achievements in the form of an online image with verifiable metadata on the badge issuer, criteria and any supporting evidence. “It allows (students) to show off the skills they attained,” said Patrick Devey, dean of Algonquin College’s Centre for Continuing and Online Learning. Other sessions at the Talent Summit focused on untapped labour pools, including individuals with disabilities and recent immigrants. Kelly McGahey, the senior manager of stakeholder relations at Hire Immigrants Ottawa, said the skills and talents that newcomers bring to Ottawa continue to be frequently underestimated. She said her organization finds that myths around the skills and qualifications of immigrants are quickly shattered once an employer starts seriously considering them as candidates. “What we found with a number of workplaces is that as they become more comfortable with hiring from diverse sources, those fears begin to slip away,” she said.


Ottawa’s engaged workplaces


he Employees’ Choice Awards (ECA) program honours organizations within the National Capital Region that recognize employees as their greatest asset. The selection, recognition and awarding of the Employees’ Choice Awards allows organizations to demonstrate why they are an ideal place for employees to work. This year’s 10 recipients – selected after a survey and analysis of the companies’ workforces – run the gamut of sectors, from tech to hospitality to marketing to, perhaps fittingly, recruitment. What makes the Employees’ Choice Awards unique is that recipients are determined by the company’s own staff through internal, confidential surveys. “There’s a lot of awards out there where it’s driven by the partners of the company or the owners of the company. This one was a lot different because it’s driven by the employees and they have the final say on if we win or we don’t win,” said Kody Wilson a tax partner at GGFL, one of this year’s recipients. Here are the stories behind this year’s recipients: Profiles by Maureen McEwan. Photos by Mark Holleron




‘Stop, breathe and enjoy the journey’ Preserving a distinct corporate culture can be a challenge for rapidly expanding companies as additional staff are hired and the business expands into new markets. But don’t tell that to Solink, a Kanatabased video analytics company, which has been recognized as one of Ottawa’s Fastest-Growing Companies as well as an Employees’ Choice Award recipient for the past two years. “We’re on the right track and moving the company in the right direction,” said Erin Bailey, Solink’s manager of people operations. “We’re happy to hear that the employees feel the same way.” In their survey responses, staff reported enjoying events such as ice cream days, trivia nights, Friday lunches and year-end parties. They also appreciated the bright

office space, flexible work hours and the opportunity to have an impact on the company. “We all work really hard for the same common goal. We’re all really excited about the products that we have here, and we want to make sure that we stop and have a little bit of fun along the way,” Bailey said. “That really comes from top down.” Solink created a social committee in late 2018 to help organize staff programs and events. The employee-led committee ensures that engagement doesn’t “fall through the cracks” as the business grows, Bailey said. “We want to be sure that we stop, breathe and enjoy the journey,” she added. When recruiting, Solink looks for candidates who will complement the existing team and the company’s culture, said marketing vice-president Karen McNaughton. She added that it’s the “excellence factor” that sets Solink apart and helps maintain the positive workplace atmosphere. “Some organizations (can)

appreciating the adjusted summer hours, regular staff lunches and the company’s dedication to work-life balance. “We have a very different philosophy here than a lot of other tech startups,” Potter said. “We subscribe to a philosophy that says get stuck in the mud or get stuck in the when you are in the office, you come in and negative,” said McNaughton. “At Solink, you work hard and you work for eight hours we just focus on delivering excellence – performing at a high level across all parts of a day. And then you don’t work. “We believe that that focus on work-life the organization. That reflects on different balance is one of the reasons why we’ve been teams within the company.” able to achieve the levels of growth that Looking ahead, the company will work we’ve achieved,” he added. to preserve its commitment to transparency The business has experienced the type and strong internal communications. Solink of rapid growth that can be detrimental to encourages ongoing staff feedback through surveys and other methods, and Bailey said the employee engagement at some companies. Potter said fast-growing startups – often company will “double down” on those efforts. short-staffed and occasionally lacking in polished internal processes – can be frustrating places to work. REWIND Potter said the co-founders’ work experience helped, as they were able to bring the best elements from their previous companies into Rewind. He added that they’ve maintained their core values and culture, and that the company has a similar feel, regardless of staff What started as a side hustle for two size or business growth. entrepreneurs has turned into one of the One of Rewind’s goals is to maintain city’s hottest startups, powered in large part with an emphasis on employee engagement. a low turnover rate. In tech, the term “When James (Ciesielski) and I first started “knowledge worker” takes on an added meaning as the value of the company is the company, it was one of our corporate goals to make Rewind a great place to work,” stored with its staff. Employees know the said CEO Mike Potter. “It’s always been really, clients, processes and systems, and have the really important to us. And it’s nice that we’ve power to improve and grow the business, he added. got some way of recognizing that we’re “In tech, there is so much turnover that if achieving the goal that we set out to hit.” you can build a company where people really Rewind offers data backup services want to stay, it can really be a competitive for web apps and platforms. There are advantage for you,” he added. “That’s always currently 31 employees working out of been our focus.” Rewind’s Hintonburg office. Staff reported

Growth through work-life balance


will be working to ensure the “lines of communication” are kept open with staff. “The ideas don’t have to come from the creative person, it doesn’t have to come from the boss,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I want it to come from the grassroots (and) everybody to be invested in the creativity of the company.”




Investing in creativity

Roughly four years ago, Alphabet Creative faced a challenge: How to add a formal level of management that’s needed by a growing company of its size without losing the collaborative culture that had brought the marketing agency to that point? “There was no hierarchy, it was flat. So that’s fine when you are 12 to 13 people, but when you double that ... you can’t have a flat hierarchy,” recalled Tony Lyons, the company’s founder and chief creative officer. Based on the feedback of an external human resources consultant, a “director layer” was added. There are also different departmental “pods” now – tech, creative, client services, strategy – which has helped manage the company as it grows, Lyons said. “You can have an open-door policy, that people can come in and chat, but you have to have a management level. Otherwise the machine just doesn’t work,” Lyons said. To keep employees engaged, the company holds monthly employee events, offers external educational opportunities and hosts internal leadership training. Lyons said

one of the events he’s most proud of was a mental health education session hosted by two employees. Finally, the famous team member and office dog, Sadie, helps to provide a positive atmosphere. Looking ahead, Alphabet Creative will be putting even more emphasis on giving employees information on the company’s strategic direction and client relationships. “We try hard to deliver a really good experience to our clients⁠ – and to overdeliver a lot of the time – and I think people who work here are invested in that and they really care about it,” he said. During busy periods, Lyons said they


After 26 years with InGenius Software, CEO Dale Gantous said she’s learned to look for a specific trait in prospective employees to ensure they’re adding to the tech firm’s corporate culture. “We often call it the ‘light behind the eyes,’” she said. “We’re looking for people who are smart, get things done, can work really well on a team, enjoy what they are doing and be proud of what they are doing. It’s important to carry that along through the organization as it gets bigger.” This is the second Employees’ Choice Award in two years for InGenius, which provides computer telephony integration services and products. “It’s such a nice testament to how the employees feel about working here,” she said. “We always wanted to create the kind of place where we wanted to work, and

we know everybody else wants the same thing.” InGenius currently has 65 employees. To keep staff informed on company news, Gantous hosts “what’s happening” lunches every four to six weeks. To promote fun at the office, there are Halloween contests, ugly sweater days, regular staff outings and family movie nights. Employees also reported that they appreciate the inclusive atmosphere and a strong sense of teamwork. In early October, InGenius was acquired by Texas-based Upland Software. Gantous said that she believes the two cultures of the two companies will fit well together. “All indications so far (are) that, culturally, we are very compatible,” she said. “Working with them, I think they believe in the having fun part of working,” she added. “But they are very, very serious about success, as are we.”


Opening doors to internal advancement As a locally owned and operated company with a 73-year history in Ottawa, GGFL already stands out in the accounting industry. But toss in axe-throwing teambuilding activities and in-house massages during tax season and it’s easy to see why this Employees’ Choice Award recipient has so many long-tenured employees in a sector known for its high turnover. “We really work as a collaborative team here,” said partner Kody Wilson. “What we really care about is the firm’s success and individual success. We have this ‘firm first’ mentality – When the firm does well, all of us do well.” Continues on next page




of surveyed employees say the leaders of their organization care about employees’ well-being


say they like the people they work with at their organization


say they understand the importance of their role to the success of the organization


say their workspace has adequate privacy for staff to do their job


say their supervisor helps them develop to their fullest potential


say they are encouraged to explore growth or advancement opportunities within the organization


Continues from previous page As a local company, GGFL can be creative with staff engagement and try some “out-ofthe-box” initiatives such as creating its own “Westboro Amazing Race.” Employees reported that they also appreciated catered dinners, summer hours, on-site bike storage as well as the health and wellness allowance. Many of GGFL’s 87 employees have been there for a long time, which Wilson said speaks to the firm’s positive workplace culture. GGFL recently conducted a compensation review, developed a new system for internal feedback and revamped its long-standing coaching program. GGFL has also made a continuous effort to inform employees about advancement opportunities that exist within the company, he added. “Creating a culture where people want to stay and finish their careers with GGFL ... has helped with engagement,” Wilson said.

86% 12 HR UPDATE FALL 2019

say they’re satisfied with their organization’s benefits package

Building an engaging environment

Dan Julien said he regularly experiences the same challenges that he solves daily for clients at his own company. The managing director of NewFound Recruiting, a staffing and employee search firm, concedes that it’s difficult to attract and retain talent in Ottawa’s tight labour market – and his business is no exception. But since launching in 2011, the professional services firm has been able to grow to 22 employees – something Julien said is at least partially attributable to creating an upbeat work environment amid the pressure of meeting performance targets. “We have a very positive atmosphere,” he

said. “It’s keeping them engaged while still being able to coach them … (and) while still being able to keep them (targeted) towards their metrics. It’s a very tough balance.” Julien said that making managers available to staff is vital for employee engagement. The company’s founders, Steve Stanley and Todd LeSage, are accessible every day and Julien himself is on the floor with fellow employees. Internal communication is also heavily emphasized. Quarterly town halls are used to gather feedback from the team and develop action items. Employees reported that they appreciate the monthly incentives and quarterly reward programs, the annual anniversary event and staff lunches and creative team outings. The company makes an effort to recognize professional and personal milestones. There’s also been a more concentrated effort to evolve NewFound’s coaching practices over the last year, Julien said. Depending on need, there can be daily or weekly check-ins with staff. “It’s (about) building a positive environment … (and making) people want to stay part of this,” Julien said. “We see the success every day.”



say they would recommend working at their organization to a friend


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At the Brookstreet Hotel and Marshes Golf Club, one of the keys to employee

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engagement is a focus on growth – both for employees and HR practices alike. “We need to be creative in making sure that our (staff ) understand that there (are) growth opportunities within the hotel,” said Annie Corriveau, the company’s director of human resources. She added that this is especially important as an independent company, which doesn’t have the same volume of job postings as a multinational hospitality chain. “We continue to explore how we can help our (staff ) grow … (and understand) what is next for them,” she added. Employees reported that they enjoy free covered parking, a staff cafeteria and events such as an annual gala, a Christmas party for children, and “B Thankful” appreciation week. Corriveau said there are many opportunities for staff to be involved, whether on the company’s different committees, at meetings or through training. While the Brookstreet and the Marshes have racked up multiple Employees’ Choice Awards over the years and were nominated for a 2019 Canadian HR Team of the Year award, the team continues to explore ways of improvement. Over the last year, the business introduced a series of in-house initiatives and programs. Those efforts, or company “commitments,” are based off of an annual internal survey. A “Blue Binder” initiative was developed to bolster communication within and among departments. A platform called “LifeWorks” was brought in as an employee assistance and employee recognition program. The company also introduced an internal mentoring program where the executive team meets with rising leaders one-on-one. Continues on next page

Harrison said the results were positive and also led to the creation of an employeedriven “tiger team” tasked with making recommendations on how to better engage and recognize staff. “Everybody works hard at their particular roles,” he said. “You want to make sure that those people know that they are valued.”



• Quiet / meditation rooms • Office dog • Regular staff parties • Team BBQ challenges • Video gaming nights • Sporting game outings • Ping pong table • Ugly sweater contest • Office pancakes cooked and served by the CEO • Family skates at the Canadian Tire Centre



Cultivating international collaboration


Continues from previous page Corriveau said she believes the company’s recent HR accolades reflect the effort their staff has put into “tweaking” their processes and programs to better support their employees. “When (employees) join, they start here in the HR office. That’s the first point of contact,” she said. “That’s where we make sure (they) are set up for success.”


Unleashing a ‘tiger team’ to strengthen employee engagement

Stittsville-based BriteSky Technologies has a simple mantra, according to president Joey Harrison: “Do the right thing.” “If somebody comes in, we’re responsible for them,” Harrison said, noting that the company enrolls its staff in its health-care plan on their first day and also offers tuition reimbursement and other professional development opportunities. “We’ve got a really good vibe going. There’s always been an energy to this place,” Harrison said. Employees reported that they appreciate events such as team barbecues, video game nights, office lunches, themed days and sport outings. It’s the first Employees’ Choice Award win for BriteSky, which specializes in enterprise cloud services, but its sister company – Decisive Technologies – is a previous recipient. There are 53 employees working across the two firms. As the ventures grew, staff became spread out across two different buildings. Harrison conceded that it has been challenging at times to maintain the “closeknit” dynamic as employees are invested in their own teams and groups. However, managers have overcome this by taking a proactive approach to maintaining a strong corporate culture. The human resources department recently led its own survey on employee engagement.

It can be difficult to build a cohesive corporate culture when one’s head office is an ocean away. But the Kanata-based team at Swedish tech firm Syntronic has found a way to blend the cultures of the two countries while ensuring the company’s founders can still share their vision with their Canadian staff. “It’s tough to do because you want to stick to your core values,” said Syntronic Canada president Hans Molin. “What we do in Canada is not exactly what we do in Sweden … I’d say we do a bit of a mix between the Swedish way and the Canadian way ⁠— it’s somewhere in between.” Molin moved from his native Sweden to Canada to establish bonds between the two branches. Canadian staff were sent to Sweden on three-month rotations to create “connections” to the head office. “That’s the way they do it and it works,” said senior vice-president Darrell Wellington, adding the Kanata team has started to make a name for themselves within the company, which operates in eight countries around the world. “We’re now five years in, and a lot of people know about us in Ottawa,” he said. Syntronic employs 274 people at its Kanata office, which specializes in the design and development of embedded software, electromechanics and electronics. Staff reported they enjoyed the company’s family barbecues, sporting events, staff training opportunities and “fika,” a Swedish coffee break held on Fridays. The typical Syntronic project will include six employees working for six months. Wellington said that the smaller teams work well, but it can be a challenge to get the wider team together. To overcome this, the company engages and communicates with the entire office through events, town halls and regular newsletters. “We’re kind of like a well-funded startup company,” Wellington said. “That’s our


Breaking the mould of negativity around rules By Lewis S. Eisen

MINDWIRE SYSTEMS atmosphere and it’s the Swedish way too. Everybody pitches in.”


Fostering mentorship through internal training

WHAT DO EMPLOYEES LOVE ABOUT WORKING AT THEIR ORGANIZATION? • Coworkers who listen to each other and have an open-door policy • Employee recognition awards • Perks, such as discounts on food, hotel stays, gift cards, and golf • Employee gala • Flexible work environment • Birthdays off • Reduced summer hours and Christmas shutdown period • Biweekly team lunches • Compensation • The people!

These statements seek the same overall result: HR wants no less than seven days to process vacation requests. So why is Statement A so much longer? If you listen to it carefully, you can hear a subtle – but clearly perceptible – undertone of frustration. Evidently, too

Lewis S. Eisen is the author of How to Write Rules that People Want to Follow: A Guide to Writing Respectful Policies and Directives.


While many companies emphasize employee training and professional development, Westboro-based IT firm Mindwire Systems takes a holistic approach to advancing the abilities of its staff. It’s a strategy that’s paying off, said chief operating officer Marc Bolduc. “Focusing on those soft skills, focusing on those touch points, having that employee engagement will lead to the business development and the target results that you want to achieve,” he said. “Happy employees are efficient employees.” Many of the company’s 44 employees reported that they enjoyed quarterly appreciation awards, gift cards, Friday Fun Days and Kick-Off Weekend events. The company also holds professional development days and offers tuition coverage for education. Through internal employee surveys, Bolduc said he heard that there is a desire for more training and development. Rather than engage outside consultants, Mindwire tapped its veteran employees with strong skill sets who can act as trainers and bring it “back in house” with more mentoring and coaching. “(What) we are looking at for the future is how we can train the trainer internally and share that knowledge,” he said, noting that

Mindwire has employees who have worked with the company for more than 20 years. He said it’s important to disseminate their knowledge through internal training sessions. “Your greatest asset is your people. And if you’ve got great people, you’ve got a great team. And (with) a great team, you’ve got a great company,” Bolduc said.

Most people associate HR policies with notions like strictness and discipline. Those connotations are unfortunate, because that’s not what policies are supposed to be about. Even in those organizations that claim to hold “respect for others” as a core value, the reality is often different when you look at their rules documents. Whether they call them “HR policies,” “employee terms and conditions” or simply “general company guidelines,” many of these rules sound like they were written by angry parents scolding naughty children. HR professionals have a major role in creating and maintaining a healthy corporate culture. Sometimes, though, their written policies are inconsistent with that goal. Compare the following statements: A) “Employees MUST submit vacation requests NO LATER THAN seven business days in advance. Any request not submitted on time may be refused.” B) “Employee vacation requests are eligible for approval when submitted at least one week in advance.”

many people at that office have paid no attention to the seven-day lead period and the HR people have had enough. This wording delivers the rule like a smack in the face. Statement A is an indication that management believes that employees’ habits will not improve unless they are faced with an ultimatum. But the exact opposite is true. Compliance is more likely in an organization whose rules sound positive and helpful. Statement B is gentler. The precondition is still strict, yet it’s expressed in a helpful rather than reproachful manner. HR policies are a direct reflection of the corporate culture. By backing harshly worded policies, HR risks being seen as supportive of the toxic negativity generated by management’s approach. A policy full of “must,” “should” and “no exceptions” statements is a clear indication that the organization lives under a command-and-control management style rather than taking a collaborative and teamwork-based approach. Creating and maintaining a respectful workplace is everyone’s responsibility. Whether it’s in a formal HR policy, semi-formal employee handbooks, or informal day-to-day e-mail messages, HR professionals need to be aware of the tone of voice in their communications.




Ensuring professionalism and objectivity will ultimately serve both you and your candidates. The difficulty comes when you learn something personal about them in the process of a social media background check. Below is a summary of the key takeaways for best practices regarding the use of social media in the hiring process:


Succession Planning

Q: Why plan for succession? A: Simply put, not having a succession plan (SP) can prove very costly. If you have to scramble to replace someone and/or (worst case scenario) your newly hired leader turns out to be a bad decision, the costs add up quickly. Having a SP in place before it’s needed will help stabilize your existing team, give other stakeholders confidence and, when the time comes to replace a leader, enable you to react strategically. Planning a transfer of leadership is crucial yet smaller organizations often don’t have adequate resources to put a plan in place. Fortunately, the SP process can be divided into manageable pieces that make starting easier.

Q: Where does it fit? A: The purpose of a SP is to increase your access to talent that’s ready to assume leadership roles. A SP should be a part of a business’ overall Talent Management strategy; talent can be developed internally and/or be continuously attracted externally. Ideally, the knowledge transfer happens while the current leader is still in place but plan for contingencies in case this isn’t possible.


Q: Ready to get started? A: A SP should aim to: 1) Take inventory of capabilities, skill sets and career aspirations of your current staff. 2) Show current and potential talent gaps. 3) Suggest ways to approach training and mentorship of internal team. 4) Connect with the right talent outside the organization to close any gaps. Start with one of these tasks and build up from there. Use your internal team (if you can spare them) and don’t be afraid to leverage external consultants to expedite the process.



Should you look at a job applicant’s Facebook profile?

perceives it as the reason they weren’t hired. Legal experts say hiring managers shouldn’t be afraid of doing a little bit of social media research on job applicants, but add that they should have appropriate survey, 70 per cent of hiring professionals policies in place to protect against use social media in some way during the unfounded accusations of discrimination. hiring process. But what happens if you Aaron Rubinoff, co-chairman and stumble upon something you shouldn’t partner at Ottawa law firm Perleyknow? Learning a candidate’s immigration Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l., says status, age or other personal information hiring managers and HR professionals such as a pregnancy could open the door to have many tools at their disposal, including a human rights complaint if the candidate social media searches.



ocial media has become a hardto-resist tool for hiring managers in the age of Google, allowing a prospective employer to learn more about a candidate with a few quick keystrokes. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder

As a hiring professional, you have the right to check publicly available information about a candidate and use it in your hiring decision as long as it does violate the candidate’s human rights. Consider the importance of knowing a candidate’s social media history. If their personal life can’t negatively impact their performance or the company, consider proceeding with the customary professional background and reference checks. Keep detailed notes of the candidate screening to show that you followed the proper protocols and made decisions objectively. Remember that while you must observe the human rights protections of candidates, you are also hiring on behalf of your organization and that thorough screening ensures you’re hiring the top applicant.

“They have every right to do that to the extent that somebody leaves themselves exposed,” he says, noting that candidates can use privacy settings and other features to shield their accounts if they choose. If online content shows a candidate’s poor judgement or a behaviour that the organization is not comfortable with, it’s typically OK to factor it into a hiring decision. Rubinoff says the distinction is that the hiring manager is exercising their discretion that the candidate is someone they do not want in their workplace, rather than basing their decision on some prohibited grounds. Andrew Montague-Reinholdt, an associate at Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP, says it’s often beneficial for hiring managers to ask themselves if a social media check is necessary for the particular position they’re looking to fill. If the job is a public-facing role, it may be prudent to check if the candidate has previously published offensive content or made public comments that could tarnish the organization’s reputation. When an individual’s past transgressions go public, their company may have to deal with the embarrassing fallout. “The question is whether it matters

It’s often beneficial for hiring managers to ask themselves if a social media check is necessary for the particular position they’re looking to fill. if the candidate posted something (questionable) years ago,” he says. “If it does, then take a look.” Montague-Reinholdt adds that it’s important that managers do not make any discriminatory assumptions about candidates as a result of any social media posts they come across. “It’s about reminding themselves about the obligations they have to people if they learn that there may be a human rights issue at play that they weren’t aware of,” he says. There are several best practices that can help hiring managers sidestep potential issues, such as only accessing publicly available databases. Avoid

looking into accounts in a way that might be unlawful or not publicly accessed. “It’s also important to keep records so you can show your professional process, what you looked at and how you arrived at a decision objectively,” says Rubinoff. It’s also valuable to keep an open mind and avoid solely looking for incriminating material. After all, there’s only so much information that can fit on a CV. Learning more about a prospective employee’s professional achievements and personal pursuits may help you discover that a candidate is the perfect fit for your organization.


70% of hiring managers use social media in the hiring process.

47% say they are less likely to hire someone without a digital presence.

While the highest percentage lies in managers searching primarily for professional information (58%) it was also reported that 22% did not hire after finding something negative.

The top three reasons for not hiring a candidate were for provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information (40%), information about them drinking or using drugs (36%) and discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc. (31%).

Source: 2018 CareerBuilder survey

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gile was born as a software development process but is increasingly being applied to other fields, including performance management. While “agile” can mean different things to different companies, it most commonly includes: • • • • •

Taking an iterative approach with short, repetitive cycles; Continuous feedback, enabling teams to inspect and adapt; Experimentation without fear of failure; Responding to and expecting change; and Self-organized and trusting teams creating a collaborative culture without micromanaging.

There is a clear place for agile in performance management, which has four key goals: • •

All of these goals are easily achieved by following an agile approach to certain processes.

FREQUENT FEEDBACK The typical one-on-one is a very simple, unstructured conversation – often approximately 30 minutes in length – that can be a recurring monthly, biweekly or weekly meeting that managers and their direct reports never skip. This meeting is a time for a manager to listen to an employee’s concerns, help manage priorities and offer advice. It’s not a time for a manager to delegate work or steer the entire conversation. It should be up to the team member to decide how to use the time. The objective for managers is to show they are available, open-minded and supportive. Some great starter questions include: • • •

How’s life outside of work? Do I give you enough feedback? As your manager, what should I consider changing or start doing?

Gone are the days of the annual performance review. The more modern approach is preparing quarterly performance reviews to ensure a more frequent feedback loop. After all, who can

remember what they did a year ago in relation to their career goals? Agile is all about quick and short cycles, leaving room for experimentation and change. If you are only reviewing once a year, you are not allowing for continuous feedback or response to change. A great approach to the quarterly review is to set aside an hour between the manager and direct report to review each other’s answers to a short survey consisting of four to six questions. Some examples of questions to ask of the employee include: • •

What are some things I do well? How could I improve? And, for the manager:

• •

How could [employee name] take their career to the next level? What is the most significant contribution [employee name] made in the last quarter?

Once completed, the employee leaves with clear goals for the next quarter.

RETROSPECTIVE Lastly, there is an agile “ceremony” that can be easily inserted into any team’s routine with some planning and a commitment to improvement. A retrospective is a meeting that intentionally sets aside time to reflect on a past period in time. Some teams work in “sprints” – a set period of time – and typically have a retrospective at the end of each sprint. If your team doesn’t work in a sprint, you can just pick a period in time to reflect back, such as each month or each quarter. Retrospectives should include a series of exercises that encourage teams to talk about what went well and what could be improved upon. Each of these performance management activities follow an agile approach by being structured around experimentation, integration and review, as well as a trusting and collaborative culture. Start simple and see where it takes your team! Laura Mindorff is the chief operating officer at both Industrial, a digital agency, and SaaS firm Wicket.


Providing and receiving feedback; Creating a space for two-way collaborative communication; Career growth based on individual motivators; and Demonstrating supportive leadership through coaching.

Agile is all about quick and short cycles, leaving room for experimentation

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HR Update Fall 2019  

HR Update a publication by OBJ providing valuable news and information for human resources professionals across Ottawa.

HR Update Fall 2019  

HR Update a publication by OBJ providing valuable news and information for human resources professionals across Ottawa.