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Management Response to Employee Bankruptcy

Q: What can managers/employers do when faced with the insolvency of their employees?

It is a known fact that money is a main source of stress in our lives. Recent surveys show that concern over financial security is resulting in Canadian workers suffering from increased stress, anxiety and depression. The number of individuals declaring personal bankruptcy has also increased. What can management do with an employee experiencing personal financial restructuring or declaration of personal bankruptcy?

Personal bankruptcy or restructuring are not employment issues nor are they valid grounds for termination. The employee is not obligated to advise the employer, with the obvious exception of a case involving garnishee of wages. As long as the employee comes to work, performs his duties, meets the performance standards and job objectives, there are no grounds for termination, dismissal or forced change regardless of position held in the organization. This applies to all employees, including those involved in the organization’s financial and administrative operations as well as those who have access to confidential information such as client and employee data. If the employee fails in performance of duties or meeting objectives, the standard procedures for taking appropriate disciplinary action and documentation would apply. Our legal and financial experts reinforce the strong need for proper position profiles/job descriptions, setting measurable objectives and performance standards and maintaining an effective, ongoing performance appraisal process.

Personal bankruptcy is a personal issue for the employee. As a manager, you can, if asked by the employee, have a discussion with him/her regarding concerns about properly managing money; however, strict confidentiality must be maintained. If an employee approaches his/her manager seeking advice, management would be well served by referring the employee to an EAP provider or solvency experts for counsel. The employer must ensure that the information not be broadcasted within the organization. If managers are advised by coworkers that the employee is having financial difficulty, they might also proactively approach the employee for the purpose of providing referrals to counsel or consultants who can assist them.

Privacy legislation states that organizations must obtain an individual’s consent when they collect, use or disclose the individual’s personal information. The individual has a right to access personal information held by an organization and to challenge its accuracy, if need be. Personal information can only be used for the purposes for which it was collected. Management must ensure their employees that confidential information is securely maintained.

There is an obligation on the employer’s part to provide a safe environment for employees. This obligation has expanded beyond the traditional issues of equipment and the nature of the work to include the actions of co-workers and managers. Management should review their practices and use due diligence as any miscommunication or attempt to dismiss the employee or change their position could result in litigation.

The above information has been provided by Lorenzo Lisi, LL.B., Partner, McCarthy Tetrault LLP Toronto and Philip Gennis, LL.B., CIRP, Vice-President, Financial Advisory Services, Grant Thornton Limited, Toronto.

Evaluating Employee Engagement

Q: Why the sudden emphasis on employee engagement? Isn’t that just ‘corporate speak’ for employee satisfaction?

Employee engagement is a big topic – and the term engagement implies a lot more than mere satisfaction. So, allow me to take a “What”, “So What”, “Now What?” approach in my response.


Carol Ann Taggart
Employee engagement is a critical measure of person to organization alignment. It’s defined as an employee’s emotional and intellectual involvement and contribution to their organization and its success. Engaged employees share a common set of attitudes and beliefs which, taken together, reflect a vital aspect of organizational health – and translate to a positive impact on the bottom line.

So What? (Or, why should I care?)

Take a look at these statistics.
  • In a study of professional service firms, the Hay Group found that offices with engaged employees were up to 43% more productive.
    Source: The Brandgym, by David Taylor
  • In 2000, highly-engaged organizations outperformed low-engaged organizations by 47%. In 2002, that number jumped to 200%.
    Source: Watson Wyatt Survey, 2002
  • Business units in the top half of employee engagement, compared with business units in the bottom half, have seen the following rewards:
    - 86% higher success rate on customer metrics
    - 78% higher success in safety
    - 70% higher success in lowering turnover
    - 70% higher rate in productivity
    - 44% higher rate in profitability
    Source: Follow This Path, C. Coffman and G. Gonzalez-Molina, 2002

    Now What?

    Think about this… If you were to walk through the halls of your organization and ask a random selection of employees to name the two or three things that are critical to the success of your company, would you get the same answer at least 80% of the time? (What if you asked your leadership team?) If you can’t answer a resounding “yes” to this question, then you may want to take a serious look at the steps you are – or aren’t – taking to engage your employees in achieving your business strategy.

    We all know the buzzwords – employee loyalty, employee commitment, employee engagement – it’s the connection your people have with your organization and the work that they do. No matter what you call it, the point is that you must have every single person in your organization understanding your business strategy and what they can do on their jobs every day to deliver the promise you make to your customers and improve bottom-line results.

    The Engagement Pyramid below depicts the stages through which people need to advance in order to align their behaviour with a changing organization. At most, a well-crafted, effectively implemented communications strategy will create awareness and understanding – but that means you’re only half way there. You still need to move people into commitment and to the point where they know how to change their behaviour to help the organization be more successful.

    So… how do organizations engage employees in delivering the business strategy? The steps are simple…

    1. Articulate your business strategy, brand, vision, or mission clearly and concisely so everyone understands what’s important.

    2. Conduct a baseline analysis to determine the gap between your current state and desired state and determine the specific drivers that will most powerfully impact employee engagement in your organization.

    3. Translate your business strategy into very specific employee behaviours that can be modeled by your leadership team and customized to each department and job in your organization.

    4. Ensure leaders have the knowledge and skills to ‘walk the talk’.

    5. Develop the plan to provide employees with razor-sharp focus on what’s important and what they can do to help.

    6. Measure the results using advanced analysis techniques to tie them to existing performance indicators and prove bottom line results.
    Easy to say… harder to do. So what makes it work?

    There are a few key approaches that can truly affect your degree of success in engaging employees – and, ultimately, improving your bottom line.

  • Thorough, credible assessment at the beginning can help you select and drive focused solutions.
  • Involvement of the right partners (communication, human resources, marketing, line operations, etc.) across your entire organization is key to an integrated approach.
  • Leadership must be engaged and establish their credibility by leading the charge.
  • You must fully engage employees. You can’t stop at merely communication with them.
  • Your internal and external messages must be consistent and communication up, down, and across the organization must be continuous.
  • The ties to business results can and should be measured.
    One final comment: It’s important to realize that often it’s the “squeaky wheels” in your organization who are potentially the biggest contributors to your bottom line. They may not be satisfied, particularly with the status quo, but they’re committed to your organization’s success and want to make a difference

    Carol Ann Taggart is an Organizational Consultant in the Toronto office of Right Management.

    Overcome Resistance to International Assignments

    Q: What are the most effective steps that employers can take to overcoming employee and family resistance to an international assignment?

    Terri Oliver
    Resources Inc.
    Increasingly, we are finding more and more companies viewing global relocation as a holistic process, requiring comprehensive counseling and assistance before, during and after the assignment. In particular, these companies look to their providers to offer proactive support to their assignees during the critical pre-decision and settling-in phases, which can often make or break an assignment.

    For the most part, an employee’s willingness to accept an assignment can often be balanced with a company’s willingness to

    Global relocation isn’t just about moving employees between distant locations. Today, it’s a means of instilling a broad international business acumen across your workforce, and, more significantly, developing the next generation of leaders. In short, it’s a key to career advancement, and it’s important to let your employees know just how highly your company regards such experience. Those companies that most effectively communicate the long-term value of a global assignment often have the longest lists of willing applicants.

    Convincing the employee’s family is another story, often the toughest hurdle in getting a global assignment off the ground. The best strategy is to attack the roots of resistance: fear of change, upheaval, and a foreign environment. A detailed needs assessment will help you to gauge each family’s unique concerns and develop a customized solution that makes relocation more attractive.

    Remember, most families are simply looking for some assurance that their lifestyle will remain intact in the destination location. While this can sometimes be difficult to promise, offering a wide range of family transition services—from spouse job counseling to school finding—can make a big difference, increasing the odds of an accepted, and successful, assignment.

    Terri Oliver, BAS, CRS, Client Service Director, Weichert Relocation Resources Inc, Toronto... Phone: 905-285-2323 website same as before www.wrri.com

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