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Features
To Use Social Media or Not?
MAKE IT A COST EFFECTIVE INTERNAL RECOGNITION AND CULTURE-BUILDING TOOL

With all the forms of social networking available now, it would take a person days to research all of them and even longer to set them up. They span every type of industry and interest you can imagine. You can collect everything from friends to followers to connections. Every network has its own specialty and its own target market. For the most part, there are really three leaders in the social media world: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If your goal is building internal recognition and communication within your company, the clear front-runner is Facebook.

Ryan Moore,
CKG International
Why is Facebook the front runner? If you look at the activity statistics from Facebook, you will quickly understand why this can be a very powerful tool in your company to help create and maintain the desired culture. One of the most impressive among these statistics is that on March 17, 2010, Facebook beat out Google as the most visited site in the US. For your organization, this means that there are now more eyes searching Facebook for information than Google. The power of social media can no longer be ignored. Here are the posted user stats provided by Facebook: currently there are more than 400 million active users (if it were a country it would be the 3rd largest in the world), 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day, the average user has 130 friends and people spend over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook. What are people doing on Facebook? Activity statistics show that there are over 160 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups and events), the average user is connected to 60 pages, groups and events, the average user creates 70 pieces of content each month, more than 25 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared monthly.

To give you an idea of the Canadian Facebook landscape, there are currently just over 13 million users and of them, 55% are female and 45% male. The statistics also point out that Facebook is not just a generation Y (born years 1977-1995) thing as is often believed. It is much larger. Facebook has recently released that 1 out 5 owners of new account setups are 65 plus years old. Facebook crosses every generation and is one of the least used tools in business today.

How can your organization take advantage of Facebook? Many companies go to great expense to develop elaborate internal intranet systems that will connect employees to the company. The intent of these systems is to instill corporate culture, company messages and internal recognition. This sounds great in theory. However, the problem with most of these systems is that they are difficult to maintain and there is little adoption from employees. In short, organizations are experiencing very little return for a large expense- never what we aim for in business.

This is where Facebook comes into play. You can create groups or business pages for your company. These pages can be private (known as groups for employees only) or public known as a business page (accessible by all Facebook users). If you are creating an intranet-style company page, make it a private page. The really important part is that it’s FREE! Yes, you can do some custom work to have specific pages designed to look like your corporate site. However, it is not necessary unless you are using this for external recruiting. Business pages can be branded with company imagery and match all other material.

Aside from it being free to setup, it’s highly likely that a good portion of the employee base already has a profile on Facebook. This means that there will be little to no adoption of a new program on the part of the employees, and the employees can get your messages delivered directly to the newsfeed on their personal page. As a majority of employees are familiar with Facebook, the main focus of the implementation then moves from training staff to use the system to simply inviting them to become members- a much easier task.
So now you have set up your new Facebook business page for your company and developed the strategy to use it for internal recognition and communication, what’s next? What are you going to post to the site? One of the most important keys to making any social media platform work is being consistent and posting information that will entice members to come back. This is where you get to be creative and have fun. If your organization has set up a private page, this can also be a great place to send out full company messages. For example, Organization XYZ has created a private business page for their employees. Currently, XYZ does a great job of organizing in-person culture-building and recognition events. They host a summer fun day BBQ, cook-offs, bake sales, themed lunches and a rewards ceremony. How can this be transferred to their Facebook page? Leading up to the events, you could send invites through the page and even create a countdown on the page for employees to follow. This can also generate an attendance list, letting you know who is planning to attend, who is still unsure and who will not be there. During the event, you could take photos of the employees participating and post them to a photo album on the page. The rewards ceremony is a great opportunity to take photos of recipients and create individual posts to acknowledge their success.

If your organization does not do culture-building activities, you need to be a little more creative in what you are going to post. Try taking photos of new employees on their first day holding their new business card. Make sure you tag the employee in the photo. This is especially important if they are generation Y as this could be their first real job. They will share this photo with all of their family and friends. This is a big deal for them and you are helping make it even more special.

In compliance with Privacy legislation, you must ensure that the employee agrees to your posting their photo and updating them on the Facebook page. Remind them that this is a private company page not accessible to the public and that the intention is to introduce/ recognize them.

From a company message perspective, you can post messages from the president, general employee notices and any other company updates to this page. Try not to make these the focus of the page as the name of the game is social, not business.

How do you spread the word about the Facebook page? Once you have reached 25 members you can attain a username. All this means is that you have an easier URL to give people. Here is what company XYZ‘s username would look like: www. Facebook.com/companyxyz. This link can then be added to internal email messages and given out at company meetings encouraging staff to participate. You can also start to promote certain functions solely through the business page to encourage participation.

Why would you try to reinvent the wheel when you can capitalize on a system that already has the all the tools built in and its FREE? Stop bucking the social media wave and embrace what it can do for your organization.

Ryan Moore is Director of Operations and Social Media Coach with CKG International and can be reached at (613) 882-1521 or email ryanmoore@sympatico.ca

Leading the Way: HR’s Role in Downsizing and Restructuring
KEYS TO DEVELOPING THE SUCCESSFUL PLAN

More and more organizations are dealing with the current economic climate by reviewing their business plans and embarking on an exercise to downsize or restructure their enterprise. Those that complete these plans successfully will emerge as the new leaders in their sector. Those that fail will find themselves falling further behind.

Philip H. Gennis,
LL.B, CIRP,
Grant Thornton
Limited
After many different rounds of similar exercises throughout the last twenty years, organizational experts have determined that there are two major reasons for lack of success. They are the failure to develop a comprehensive strategy at the beginning of the exercise and the inability to execute the plan properly on the people side of the equation.

In both cases, the Human Resources team could have provided valuable and even essential advice that could have turned a failure into success. In organizations where HR already has a seat in the Executive boardroom, downsizing and restructuring go more smoothly from the beginning to the very end.

That's because downsizing and restructuring are always about people. Even in operations where there are a lot of material resources such as buildings, machinery or equipment, the people who operate, manage or maintain these resources make the difference between a profitable or successful enterprise and a failing or floundering one. Philip Gennis, Vice President of Grant Thornton Limited, notes that "people issues are business issues, especially when it comes time to consider cutting or reorganizing staff."

In his view, there needs to be a true collaboration between HR and the rest of senior management when it comes time to develop and implement an organizational change like downsizing or restructuring. Gennis goes on to say that "both need to be working side-by-side to tackle the people issues that are increasingly critical to business competitiveness and achieving desired results.  In the end, it’s not just about giving HR a seat at the strategy table. It’s about being sure that people issues are on the table to begin with."

So what should be in this comprehensive strategy and what role can and should HR play?

Initial Review

This is the phase where the strengths and weaknesses of the current operating model are put under a microscope. HR can help by providing general information and observations about the staff complement but more importantly, it can use this time to listen and gain a better understanding of the finances, business strategy and key metrics that drive the organization. They can then better contribute to the financial projections that will be the foundation of this exercise.


Financial and Operational Assessment

In this phase, all sections and departments will be asked to review their operations to see where they can bring them into line with the new financial outlook. Every position in the organization will be reviewed as to its efficiency and usefulness to the future. HR's role in developing a common system to evaluate positions is crucial to making good decisions. Gennis rightly points out however that "this is not just a numbers game and who moves forward and who gets left behind are very important decisions that must be made fairly and with due process."

Decision Making Process

This is where the rubber hits the road. After all the internal discussions and negotiations, there will be a number of recommendations made at the Executive level. HR should take a lead role in providing recommendations on the people side. If they have done their job well to date, they will be asked to provide their input on the overall strategy and preparing a road map for the journey ahead.

Communication

Before any decisions are announced, HR along with the Communications team should develop a communication strategy to outline the reasons for the downsizing or restructuring and a process to deliver this message to the employee group. "If people really are your most important asset," says Gennis, "then they should get all the news, good and bad, first, before anybody else." This communication plan will allow the senior management team to present the information in the best light possible, before, during and after the exercise.

Implementation

There will be a thousand things for HR to do during this phase and the critical ones are to provide support to the entire organization. This includes people who will be leaving and those who will remain as well as managers at all levels that will have their own questions and reactions to the exercise. Gennis states "Ideally, HR will be the conduit, the link that allows information to flow between employees and management."

Follow Up

After the downsizing or restructuring process has been completed, there will still be plenty of work for HR, primarily in helping management and the organization return to normal as quickly as possible. In some cases, this will be fairly easy and in others, there may be elements of the "survivor factor". That is where employees who have "survived" the exercise that was just completed may feel depression or even guilt that they remain while their friends or counterparts have been let go. One suggestion is for HR to develop team building exercises for managers and supervisors that can allow them to work with their new teams to acknowledge the contribution of former staff and set new goals for the future.

Members Quarterly Staff Writer


Blowing the Whistle: No Longer Limited to Reporting Fraud
HR HAS HEARD THE CALL

Fraud, corruption, embezzlement. Enron, Siemens, Bernard Madoff. We’ve all heard these terms and names and are familiar with how the dishonesty of few can affect so many on a global scale. Are we as well informed about how these major problems and others are identified? Enter the whistleblower, the moral individual who cannot stand aside and allow the wrongdoing to continue, an integral component in exposing fraud—and so much more.

Al Bleau, CFI,
Senior Manager,
Specialist Advisory
Services,
Grant Thornton
LLP
Although made popular by recent events, whistle blowing is not a new phenomenon. In fact, one of the earliest whistle blowing laws was the False Claims Act, enacted by the US government in 1863 in response to entrenched fraud during the American Civil War. Implemented to combat the sale of faulty ammunition, weapons, and unhealthy mules to the government, the Act allowed citizens not affiliated with the government to file legal actions against federal contractors accused of committing fraud against the government. In return, “whistleblowers” received a portion of recovered damages.

Law enforcement has been using anonymous tips for decades. Anonymous informants are rewarded for information leading to successful prosecutions. In a business environment, however, rewards are generally considered inappropriate, potentially compromising the integrity of the information received by fostering questionable motivation for bringing issues to light.

Whistle blowing as we know it today was championed by US consumer activist Ralph Nader who in 1971, called on professionals working in companies and government to “blow the whistle” on “runaway or unjust bureaucracies.” Since then, light has been shed on many widely publicized corporate wrongdoings, including questionable business practices by Brown & Williamson, US cigarette manufacturers who deceived consumers by not disclosing dangers of smoking (1996), accounting irregularities at Enron (2001) and deceptive bookkeeping at WorldCom (2002).

Between 2002 and 2004, legislation was formalized in Canada and the United States mandating reporting issuers (i.e. corporations offering stock certificates for sale to investors) to implement reporting mechanisms allowing employees to anonymously report all fraud and accounting irregularities and any circumvention of audit controls.

Private corporations with no mandated requirement have recognized the many advantages of implementing similar reporting processes within their companies. Anonymous reporting programs are widely regarded as a best practice and a critical component of effective corporate governance.

Whistle blowing is not limited to the disclosure of financial wrongdoings. Its application has broadened to include many human resource issues and HR professionals play an increasingly integral role in an effective whistleblower program. One of the most important tasks is to ensure that reporting employees receive appropriate support and protection against exposure, retaliation or retribution. Anonymity is perhaps the most critical component of an effective reporting program along with maintaining security and a level of openness within the work environment. HR must ensure that certain protocols are in place to address privacy, retribution or discipline. They also play a role in the receipt and processing of HR-related issues including harassment, intimidation, discrimination or substance abuse. In addition, they participate in follow-up actions such as performance management, training or discipline. A senior HR position is appropriately suited to be an integral part of the information receipt process for HR matters and may be best positioned to administer the program.

Although there are no formal statistics available to highlight the use of anonymous reporting programs for HR departments, our experience as an anonymous reporting service provider has demonstrated that one out of every four concerns raised by employees is likely to be an HR-related issue—with harassment and discrimination topping the list (14.9%), followed by workplace violence (2.5%), substance abuse (2.3%) and other (5.3%).

Some companies have implemented anonymous reporting programs through HR exclusively to support employees and foster a positive workplace environment. Others have expanded existing fraud reporting programs to include HR and other issues. What is consistent, however, is the recognition that simple corporate policies denouncing inappropriate workplace behaviour are no longer enough to combat negative behaviour in the workplace. Employees require a sense of value and assurance that their voice will be heard and that their concerns will be addressed by senior management. This is particularly important in larger corporations where bureaucratic levels and multiple workplaces can limit interaction with senior levels of a company. As a result, the only management many workers are exposed to is their immediate supervisor who not only may be the source of concern, but to whom workers are often directed through policy to bring their concerns. In addition, an established and communicated anonymous reporting program benefits everyone by facilitating the escalation of employee and workplace issues beyond mid-management to senior corporate administrators, eliminating the apprehension of going “above someone’s head” and the anxiety of speaking face-to-face with a senior executive.

Anonymity provides comfort, and with comfort comes the confidence to provide complete, accurate and truthful disclosure. Anonymity can also be provided through the use of an independent whistleblower program because in-house programs cannot always assure anonymity (i.e. voices or writing styles can be recognized). It’s important to remember that effective whistleblower programs are designed and intended to focus on the information disclosed and not its source.

Implementation of a successful anonymous reporting program within your organization will not only demonstrate due diligence on the part of the employer, it can encourage reporting of inappropriate behaviour at an early stage before staff turnover and morale issues escalate.

Al Bleau, CFI, is Senior Manager, Specialist Advisory Services with Grant Thornton LLP and manages CARE, an anonymous reporting service provided to clients across Canada. He can be contacted at al.bleau@ca.gt.com.


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