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Toronto’s One-Day Conference

IPM’s Toronto Conference in October 2007 turned out to be best overall program to date based on feedback from over 80 delegates in attendance. Participants commented on the comprehensive information, topics offered and engaging style of the seasoned presenters as well as the lively atmosphere in the conference room for the full day event.

The keynote speaker was Steve Ashton, Director of Organizational Effectiveness for Bell Aliant, who spoke on Building the NEXT-GEN of Human Resources. Progressive, organization-enabling HR strategies have never been more in demand. The problem is that few leaders in HR have emerged to stake a claim to this new land of opportunity - and in their place are CEOs, consultants and academics.

Mr. Ashton outlined major influences on human capital, and also specific areas where organizations need to focus, the new HR competencies and next steps. A discussion ensued on why HR is not contributing at this level. HR is too transactional with not enough time to be strategic. HR departments are commonly short-staffed with no budget for expansion. Often new HR employees, including recent university graduates, see HR as an “easy job” and have no idea of the real impact the role should have. Many are unaware of the specialized skills needed, such as knowledge of employment law and labour negotiations. The CHRP program is making it more difficult for individuals to move into HR roles due to the challenges with increased knowledge standards, recertification requirements and expectations.

The HR profession needs to think carefully about its response to these challenges. We are not alone in this responsibility. Leaders at every level and discipline in organizations have a key role in ensuring that we are paying more than lip service to talent management, and that we are investing together in the next generation of HR practices and the people leading them.

Another conference highlight was the panel discussion on Workforce Management in Turbulent Times- Leading Successful Change, featuring three well-known experts: Monika Morrow, Vice President & National Practice Leader, Right Management, Philip Gennis, Vice President, Financial Advisory Services, Grant Thornton Ltd. and Howard Levitt, Counsel, Lang Michener LLP.

Monika Morrow looked at aspects of workforce integration that are most in need of improvement among companies that are merging and acquiring, including a review of best practices around key talent utilization and retention, productivity, selection and placement, the integration plan, leader/manager effectiveness and focus and renewal of employees. The audience obtained great insight from 26 lessons learned from past experience and why mergers fail.

Philip Gennis discussed risk management, corporate restructuring, receivership and bankruptcy. Participants gained a better understanding of the vast range of early warning signs of commercial financial distress, as well as the need for HR to become aware and engaged. Best practices in handling layoffs in times of merger, acquisition, bankruptcy and closure were reviewed. An update on Bill C-62 and the Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) were also included. This was most timely, as on December 14, 2007, the Bill was passed by the Senate and received Royal Assent. The Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) is projected to come into force by this fall.

Howard Levitt provided the legal perspective on mergers, employment contracts, traps with mergers, union considerations, bankruptcy and employer solutions. The audience learned how to manage employment contracts in each scenario, the issue of constructive dismissal, mass terminations, benefits, tracking the job market, severance as well as working with collective agreements and union considerations.

A number of questions were asked of the expert panel including how to best handle mass layoffs, how to determine who goes and who stays, HR’s involvement with trustees in bankruptcy and how to manage expectations during the transition. Ways to rebuild morale, help employees stay focused and manage clash concerns were also addressed. Participants commented on how much they enjoyed the question and answer segment with three of Canada’s leading authorities in their fields.

The third session was Conducting Internal Investigations presented by Brian Sartorelli, President & CEO, Investigative Research Group. Employers are obligated to investigate charges of crime, inappropriate behaviour or harassment in the workplace. Credibility is as serious a question for the employer as it is for the investigation itself. Further, an employees' right to privacy must be balanced with the employers' right to manage their operations.

Participants learned how to assess the complaint, determine the objective, conduct the investigation, legal implications, good vs. bad investigations, the test and how to handle the results. The session included an actual case study with feedback directly from the management team of the organization involved. Discussion also took place on PIPEDA, WSIB, harassment, internal theft and workplace fraud.

The final session featured Peggy Grall, Certified Executive Coach & Consultant, Peggy Grall & Associates, talking about Creative Communication- Managing Conflict in the Workplace. This dynamic and interactive presentation taught the audience how to debunk the myths and misconceptions about conflict in the workplace, learn to settle the question of, 'Who's problem is it anyway?', distinguish assertive responses over aggressive or passive ones and select the right response. Key factors that contribute to employee disputes, new approaches available and use of individual leadership skills to help resolve issues were other items covered. The presenter’s engaging style, use of humour and valuable insights resulted in a well-received closing keynote.


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