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HR MATTERS - Spring 2010 Issue

Complying with Bill 168 - Some important tips

- by Brenda Kinnear -

Effective June 15, 2010 Bill 168, the new Occupational Health & Safety Act created to prevent workplace violence and harassment will come into force.

In our January 30, 2010 Employment Update, we detailed extensively the new and onerous employer obligations associated with Bill 168.
Employers are well advised to focus their attention on the following to ensure compliance by June 15th:

RISK ASSESSMENTS: Employers must conduct a risk assessment in order to identify potential sources of harassment and violence within the workplace.


  1. Employees are one of the best sources for soliciting input regarding potential risks of violence or harassment in the workplace. Information may be solicited via questionnaire, e-mail or collected formally during departmental meetings.
  2. Check out what other similar organizations have done.
  3. If you are a member of an association speak with them. They may be able to assist you in identifying risks inherent with certain positions (i.e. nurses, mental health workers etc.)
  4. Review the history of complaints, incidents of harassment and violence and allegations within your organization.
  5. Identify the specific risk factors inherent in certain positions within your organization (i.e. working alone or in secluded or remote locations; working with volatile individuals; working with persons with a history of violence, substance abuse or who have had interaction with the criminal justice system; working with individuals who have a history of mental illness; and individuals who are responsible for handling money or other valuables.

The results of the risk assessment is to be shared with either the joint health and safety committee or the health and safety representative or the employee group whichever is relevant within your organization.


Employers are required to have policies in place which address violence and harassment in the workplace and to have a program in place to implement the policies. The following represents important considerations when drafting your policies:


  1. Inclusion of language which speaks to zero tolerance and sanctions for breaching policy.
  2. Inclusion of language which speaks to the areas of risk identified during the mandatory risk assessment including procedures to be complied with in order to reduce the identified risk.
  3. Designate a specific individual to be responsible for ensuring compliance with the policy.
  4. Inclusion of language which speaks to annual reassessments of risk as well as partial risk assessments following incidents or threats.
  5. Details of the process/system for reporting threats and incidents of harassment and violence. This information is to be documented and maintained and utilized when conducting the annual reassessment.
  6. Development of procedures to be followed by employees in the event of a workplace incident.
  7. Development of detailed investigative procedures.
  8. Development of procedures to advise employees in the event they are likely to encounter an individual on the job with a history of violence. Due to privacy legislation, disclosures should be limited solely to information required to alert the employee.
  9. Establish a mechanism for protecting employees from domestic violence in the workplace.
  10. Ensure that staff receive a copy of the policy and implement training to review the policy and respond to questions.



Paramount is ensuring the safety of the employee(s) I. Question - Does the incident need to be reported to the Ministry of Labour based on OHSA requirements? II. Conduct a comprehensive investigation as soon after the incident as possible to ensure that recollections are fresh. III. Take detailed notes of all interviews IV. Secure all evidence V. Prepare a full report of facts and findings including actions taken or not taken and why VI. Ensure the integrity of all documentation by maintaining the information in a safe and secure location


VII. Submit report to the individual in your organization responsible for ensuring compliance with Bill 168


Ministry of Labour website: www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/

This article was written by Brenda Kinnear, President of Kinnear & Associates Consulting Inc. If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, you may contact Brenda at 519.565.4040 or by e-mail at kaconsulting@tcc.on.ca.

Outlook for 2010 Upbeat, Economists Say

- by Gary Lamphier -

The first global recession in 60 years took a painful bite out of the North American economy.

Between the last cyclical peak in 2007 and mid-2009, when the economy finally hit rock bottom, output shrank by 3.6 per cent in Canada and 3.7 per cent in the U.S. As the global financial system teetered, access to capital tightened, consumer spending slowed and stock markets tanked, the reverberations were felt worldwide.

Oil prices, which touched $147 US a barrel in mid-2008, slumped to $33 per barrel by early 2009. Many of Alberta's large oil sands projects were cancelled or delayed. Ontario's all-important auto sector was also hammered. Unit sales plunged by 10.7 per cent last year the biggest drop since 1990. In the U.S., where many Ontario-made vehicles are sold, sales plunged 21.2 per cent to 10.4 million, making it the worst year since 1982.

But since the economic recovery gradually began to take hold in the third quarter of last year - propelled by massive government stimulus programs and record low interest rates - the economic outlook has improved considerably, especially in Canada.

Stock market indexes, which sagged to the lowest level in years in Canada and the U.S. by March 2009, have rebounded sharply since, staging the biggest rally since the 1930s. Most economists now expect the Canadian economy to grow by three to four per cent in 2010 and 2011, with all 10 provinces participating in the upswing.

Housing markets have also rebounded, with prices touching new record highs in places like Vancouver and Toronto. Canada's unemployment rate is again falling, and prices for oil, copper and other commodities have been trending higher on robust Asian demand. Even Ontario's troubled auto sector is showing renewed signs of life. Sales have been ticking higher since the end of 2009.

As a result, GM Canada recently announced the recall of 700 laid off workers at its Oshawa, Ont. plant, Honda of Canada plans to boost production and rehire 400 workers at one of its plants in Alliston, Ont., and Ford Canada recently announced an investment at its Essex engine plant in Windsor, Ont. that protects some 700 local jobs.

Since Canada's fiscal picture is much healthier than most other major industrialized nations - it went into the recession with the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of any G-8 country - that has helped attract foreign investment, driving up the value of the Canadian dollar.

Canada's banking system also weathered the global credit crisis far better than most, and the nation's largest bank, Royal Bank of Canada, is now the 13th largest in the world, based on its current market value.

In view of Canada's strong fiscal position, its growing oil exports, its healthy domestic economy and stable housing markets, most currency analysts now expect the loonie to reach or exceed par with the greenback sometime this year. Although that presents challenges for exporters - especially to the U.S., where more than 70 per cent of Canada's exports go - the strong loonie also allows domestic manufacturers to buy capital equipment more cheaply, thus improving productivity.

In the U.S., where more than eight million workers have lost their jobs since the recession began, average house prices have tumbled by 50 per cent or more in some key markets, and federal and state budget deficits have soared to stratospheric levels, the underlying structural issues facing the economy are far more troubling.

At $12.7 trillion and rising fast, the accumulated debt of the U.S. government is likely to exceed 100 per cent of GDP within the next couple of years. At that level, it would approach the debt levels of such other notable basket cases as Greece and Spain.

Nonetheless, thanks to an infusion of trillions of dollars of public money over the past year - including bailouts of the U.S. banking system, the auto sector, and the mortgage market - the U.S. government has managed to stabilize an economy that was in freefall in late 2008 and early 2009. Most economists expect the U.S. economy to expand by about three per cent this year, although some are even more bullish. A recent forecast by Scotia bank Group, for instance, pegs U.S. growth at 3.6 per cent this year, although it's expected to moderate to 2.6 per cent by 2011.

Of course, not all economists are so upbeat. Some see good reason to worry about the sustainability of the current recovery. They note that governments will soon have to cut their huge deficits, either by slashing program spending or hiking taxes - perhaps both.

That is bound to put a damper on economic growth down the road. Meanwhile, some suggest that new housing bubbles may be building in cities like Vancouver and Toronto, where the underlying economic fundamentals may not justify the big increases of the past year.

Oil prices are another worry. Although current prices of about $83 per barrel remain well below their 2008 peak, some forecasters expect prices to spike again, as demand from China and other major developing nations continues to grow. That could also act as an effective tax on consumers and industry.

Finally, there are worries about potential sovereign debt defaults in countries like Greece or Spain. If that happens, it could trigger a domino effect around the world, and stock markets could crumble once again.x

As always, there are no guarantees about what the future holds. But it's also clear that the global economy has proven more resilient than many people thought possible one year ago. And that's something to celebrate.

This article was written by Gary Lamphier, Business Columnist, Edmonton Journal


- by Brenda Kinnear -

Perpetually on our "to do list" we all dislike writing policies. They require research time and thinking time and let's face it, not many of us have the luxury of either. Love them or hate them policy manuals are a necessary evil and an important business tool.

The H.R. Policy Manual is more than a vehicle to communicate the terms and conditions of the employment relationship it also........

  1. Provides a tool to guide decision making
  2. Sets out a clear philosophy for establishment of employment practices
  3. Promotes consistent practice and application of HR policies and procedures
  4. Strives to establish H.R best practices
  5. Minimize exposure to risk and ensure legislative compliance
  6. Provides a baseline for quality improvement
  7. Articulates progressive employment practices which contribute to the recruitment and retention of staff.

Who knew? Now that I've got your attention and you're ready to devote some of that spare thinking time to your policy manual, you may want to first think about how you might like to organize all of those policies. The following serves as a general guideline for structuring your manual.

  1. Introduction & Policy Administration:- Articulates the organization's HR Philosophy which speaks to the spirit behind the policies and the kind of workplace that the organization is committed to creating and sustaining; speaks to designated authorities for drafting and approving policies; sets out purpose of the H.R. Policy & Procedures Manual; defines process for drafting, revising, updating and archiving of policies; sets out management & employee responsibilities relative to understanding and complying with policies and procedures.
  2. Standards of Conduct: -sets out mutual expectations relative to appropriate workplace conduct and behaviour - how we work together (i.e. code of conduct, conflict of interest, diversity & nondiscrimination, harassment, confidentiality, complaint procedures, attendance management and workplace anti-violence policies etc.); establishes procedures for resolution of disputes and; ensures compliance with legislative requirements
  3. Employment Practices: - sets out the terms and conditions of the employment relationship such as hours of work, overtime, probation, technology, use of personal vehicles, employment references, criminal references checks, medicals etc. etc.
  4. Staffing: -sets out all of the policies relative to the staffing process from induction to termination
  5. Employee/Labour Relations: - Recognition and reward programs; corrective action and termination policies and procedures
  6. Compensation & Salary Administration- establishing starting salaries; progression through the grid; cost of living increases, acting assignments, promotions, demotions, job evaluation
  7. Employee Benefits:- speaks to both legislative and group health and welfare benefits
  8. Performance Management: - sets out the performance review process as well as career development and succession planning processes within the organization
  9. Training & Development:- speaks to orientation and on-boarding and professional development
  10. Health & Safety: - some key policies required which may be more extensive given the specific workplace.

An HR Policy Manual is not intended to replace the good judgment and discretion that managers must out of necessity be able to exercise in the course of doing their job. It needs to be flexible enough to allow for exceptional circumstances however not so flexible that the policies fail to have integrity.

While there are some basic off-the-shelf policy manuals available for employers looking to quickly have some documented policies and procedures in place, while a big undertaking, I believe it is important to create a document which is truly reflective of the unique culture and spirit of your organization.

This article was written by Brenda Kinnear, President, Kinnear & Associates Consulting Inc. kaconsulting@tcc.on.ca

Leadership Coaching

- David Barnes –

Coaching is one of the most powerful tools for creating positive, sustainable change within organizations. Leadership coaching can help organizations identify where they are at risk of falling behind and where they have unrealized potential for high performance. The benefits of coaching are both in "bottom line " returns (increased productivity) as well as in less tangible though essential areas ( improved communication, greater insight into personal impact on others and enhanced employee engagement).

So what is leadership coaching? Very simply, it is a process through which individuals and teams are challenged and supported to identify goals for themselves and their team Coaching is effective because it meets clients in their real worlds and effectively addresses their challenges. It is not top down nor removed from the work environment. It is timely, practical and assists clients "in the moment" when they are being called upon to develop new approaches to old behaviours that have ceased to be functional for them.

Through an assessement process, like a 360 process, individuals receive feedback on those things they do really well as well as areas where improvement may help their overall effectiveness in their leadership role. Through gaining a better appreciation of their strengths and leadership style, a coach can help shine a light on some blind spots that may be getting in the way.

Recently I have been working with a supervisor who had been dealing with several team members that were presenting many challenges. The supervisor's authority was frequently being challenged. In response, the supervisor would become defensive and respond in ways that would not only not resolve the issue but would further alienate individuals and the rest of the team. The environment was becoming toxic and unpleasant for everyone.

The process to begin this work was pretty straight forward. Individual interviews were arranged with all team members and the supervisor. The objective of these meetings was to gain an understanding of the dynamics that were being played out as well as to gain some insight into what openings might be possible to intervene through. All team members were assured that the information obtained would be held in strict confidence and would only be used to gain an appreciation of the dynamics operating in the team. Once all the interviews had been conducted, an assessment was developed and shared with the supervisor. In addition, several strategies were suggested that we might try in order to address the situation. We agreed to plan a team retreat where individuals would gain a better understanding of each others leadership style and that of their supervisor. This session would be followed up by bi- weekly coaching sessions by phone, to build on the work that had already started. Goals were set and strategies established. The bi-weekly calls reviewed the work that was being done and identified potential barriers to progess. It also provided an opportunity to raise new team issues that occur over time. These "new " challenges gave a fresh opportunity to coach the supervisor around new strategies to deal with real, in time issues.

Within two months of beginning this work, both the supervisor and the team commented on positive changes. Both reflected on a far less toxic work environment. The supervisor found himself commenting on positive experiences he had had with those team members where there was the greatest problems. It takes time to change how we fulfill our leadership roles, and even longer to effectively change old patterns that are no longer working. But through consistent , disicipled work within a safe and focused relationship, change is not only possible but very rewarding for all involved.

It is worth the effort and cost involved to invest in our leaders. Not only will their job satisfaction increase, but their teams will be more engaged and productive in their work.

This article was written by David Barnes, Principal of the Barnes Management Group in Toronto, Ontario. dbarnes@barnesmanagementgroup.ca

Managing to Have Fun


-Michael Kerr -

Business author Paul Hawken said it best, "We lead by being human. We do not lead by being corporate, by being professional or by being institutional." Perhaps that's why many leaders are embracing one of the most undervalued human resources they have at their disposal – their sense of humor.

Some managers, however, weaned on a "never mix business with pleasure" attitude, have a difficult time buying into the value of humor. "You can't be serious?" is the incredulous response to the suggestion to lighten up. And they're absolutely right. You can't be serious, at least not if you're interested in improving staff morale or motivating employees to new heights. And if you want to spark creativity, strengthen teamwork, facilitate open communication, minimize stress levels, reduce employee turnover and absenteeism rates, improve trust between management and employees, offer dynamic customer service and improve productivity, then you can't be serious. You can't be serious, because humor can help any organization achieve all those goals.

Putting humor to work isn't about employees standing around the water cooler exchanging one liners. Having a sense of humor is about having a sense of perspective and using the ability to find the humor in situations to manage stress and creatively problem solve. Adding humor is about celebrating work, not trivializing it. And it's about mixing humor in an appropriate manner to improve workplace productivity.

Here are few "guiding lights" to help you manage to have more fun in your organization.

  1. Take Yourself Lightly. Too many of us fall victim to the dreadful disease "acute professionalism". The symptoms include a furrowed forehead, high levels of stress and blocked creativity. The cure is simple – learn to take yourself lightly, while still taking your job seriously. When you laugh at yourself, you demonstrate your humanity and openness and encourage others to do likewise. As an added bonus, you take away anyone's ability to laugh at you. As author Bob Ross reminds us, "Leaders without a sense of humor are like a lawn mower at the cemetery – they have lots of people underneath them, but nobody is paying them any attention."
  2. Be Sincere. Dogs know when we're not sincere, so there's a good chance our employees will too. If you show up Monday morning with a transplanted Robin Williams persona, staff may be cynical about your newfound attempts to lighten the office mood. So be yourself. Practice sharing your own unique brand of humor and only do what feels comfortable for you.
  3. Think Small and Simple. The biggest factors that contribute to employee morale don't cost a lot of money or take a lot of energy; it's the small things done on a consistent basis that matter. So look for easy opportunities to introduce a little humor – put up a humor bulletin board, create a humor room (Kodak Eastman and Hewlett Packard have them) include humorous quotes in correspondence and practice spontaneous humor (which as stand-up comedians will tell you, is the most effective form of humor).
  4. Practice Relevant Humor. The more you celebrate humor specific to your office, team or organization, the more meaningful the humor is. Relevant, work-related humor becomes part of the corporate history and helps teams to bond around shared experiences. Start collecting a humor file of quotes, cartoons, funny customer questions and anecdotes that relate to your organization.
  5. Practice Safe Humor. Humor can break down barriers as easily as it can builds walls, so make sure the style of humor you practice is "safe". Non-sexist, non-racist, non-religious humor is the order of the day. Also be aware of times when humor may not be appropriate. The safest form of humor? Laughing at yourself.
  6. Hire for Humor. If you want to lighten up the office then recruit people with a positive sense of humor. Southwest Airlines, recipient of a "Humor in the Workplace" award, hires for humor, regardless of whether it's a front line customer service agent or mechanic, so that every employee will fit their unique corporate culture. Even NASA has suggested that one of the most important attributes of future astronauts will be a great sense of humor.
  7. Make Fun a Priority. It's easy to agree with the idea that we need to have more fun in our organizations; after all it's one of those feel-good, motherhood statements. There's only one problem – this little thing called life keeps getting in the way. If you're going to take humor seriously then treat it like any other priority – tie into your mission statement (the corporate motto for Grimes Aerospace based in Columbus, Ohio, is "Growth, profit and fun"), list fun as one of your core values, offer training in workplace humor, include it in goals and work plans, and yes, evaluate it every now and then by asking the simple, yet all important question – "are we having fun yet?"
  8. Give Yourself and Your Employees Permission to Play . . . and then get out of the way. Remember, as a leader, people look to you to set the tone for the office. You have the power to decide whether you're going to be a roadblock on the inspiration highway or a catalyst for creativity and positive energy.

Copyright Michael Kerr, 2006

Michael Kerr, "The Workplace Energizer," is an international speaker, workshop facilitator and the author of "You Can't Be Serious!
Putting Humor to Work." You can reach Michael at 1-866-609-2640, or drop by electronically at mike@mikekerr.com or surf on over
to www.mikekerr.com

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