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Toronto’s One Day Conference

On May 16, 2007, over 70 delegates attended IPM’s National One Day Conference in Toronto.

Philip H. Gennis,
Vice President,
Recovery &
Grant Thornton
The conference began with an update in Employment and Labour Law presented by Richard Nixon and Lorenzo Lisi from McCarthy Tetrault LLP. The key topic was Bill 107, an Act to amend the Human Rights Code in Ontario. The amendments to the Code under Bill 107 fall into three main areas: allowing complaints to be made directly to the Human Rights Tribunal, revising the administration and function of the Human Rights Commission and revising the Tribunal’s procedures. These changes have significant impact on termination risk for employers. Employers should anticipate that the proposed changes may result in a substantial increase in the number of complaints filed by employees. Employers will face at least some litigation before even a frivolous complaint can be dismissed. In addition, with the removal of the cap on damages for mental anguish and the introduction of punitive fines of up to $25,000, the cost of settlements and awards may both increase. Other legal updates included issues of wrongful dismissal- Keays vs. Honda and Wallace Damages. Questions brought forward included termination without cause which may potentially result in larger packages for terminated employees, importance of doing an audit of internal Human Rights policies to reduce potential risk, developing training programs to address the complaints and investigation process, the change in nature of HR’s role, the process by which complainants file, which is yet to be determined, and the importance of updating the text on termination letters.

Richard Nixon,
McCarthy Tetrault
The second plenary on Employee Financial Ill-Health, presented by Philip Gennis from Grant Thornton Ltd., began with an overview of how personal financial issues can kill employee productivity. A study conducted by Desjardins Financial Security in June 2006 showed that money is the main source of stress for 44% of employees. It is the primary obstacle preventing people from taking necessary recovery time off from work. People returning to work because of perceived lost income is a growing issue for employers. An Office Team survey of approximately 600 workers stated that in general, workers in Canada spent roughly 36 minutes per day or about 3 hours per week attending to personal tasks at the office. Employees who find themselves in financial difficulty spend workplace time fending off calls from creditors and divert their attention from their jobs to trying to solve their financial problems. This leads to high stress levels which impacts all aspects of their lives. Employers must focus on financial health as well as physical health. IBM implemented a $50 million initiative to provide financially based resources and counseling to their employees which has had great success. The services IBM offered to its employees to address financial issues included discussion of resources, updates on the personal bankruptcy process, and credit reporting agencies. Questions followed on the impact that personal bankruptcy has on getting employees bonded. Bankruptcy may have an impact on bonding, especially when bonding is required in a position where the employee has responsibility over money matters.

Lorenzo Lisi,
McCarthy Tetrault
The Talent Management Strategies session presented by Mary Marcus from Right Management focused on attracting, recruiting and retaining employees and the challenges faced by most organizations. It is most important to “sell what we deliver”. HR needs to define, demonstrate and deliver, creating an atmosphere that includes all three disciplines. Participants learned how competencies can drive or hinder productivity, ways to identify assessment strategies that connect people to competencies, and how to explore an approach to role definition that increases the individual connection to organizational results. Employee referral programs should not solely focus on cash rewards but should also ensure that all employees have the appropriate tools to “sell” the program. There needs to be a larger focus on defining the soft skills, not only technical skills. Organizations should use an appropriate soft skill survey to measure the values of a person. Discussions included how to develop surveys to measure values, have staff provide input on candidates and give candidates a better look at the facility and work environment. We need to be realistic in presentation of roles and expectations. Employers must ensure that assessment tools validate the needs of the position.

Mary Marcus,
Vice President,
Right Management
The last session on the New Leadership Edge presented by Daneal Charney of Leadership Reframed focused on the positive benefits of promoting a "speak up" culture. A large majority of employees are afraid to offer suggestions, therefore the challenge is for employers to create an environment which is more open and receptive to a “speak up” culture. It is better to say “yes, and..” rather than saying “yes, but…”. Response to suggestions from employees should not be “your idea will not work," but instead say “it won’t work here but may work there.” Discussion on ways to create a “speak up” culture included idea boards, tiered reward systems, polling for ideas, ensuring suggestions are responded to and acted upon, and allowing enough time at meetings for brainstorming.

The Toronto Spring Conference proved to be most informative and well-received by all participants. Delegates’ suggestions for future topics have resulted in an upcoming panel discussion featuring top experts on Workforce Management in Turbulent Times-Leading Successful Change, Building the Next Generation of HR, Internal Investigations and Managing Conflict in the Workplace as the featured plenary sessions for IPM’s Fall Conference in Toronto on October 17, 2007. For complete details and registration, visit (Click on Events).


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