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From Union to Management

Q: How can you make the transition from the union ranks to the management team a smooth one? How do you avoid the major pitfalls?

A: It's not easy to make the transition from union member to management representative, and having had both experiences I can tell you that being a management representative was often much tougher.

Daryl Bean,
M.D. Solutions
The two main pitfalls I had to avoid are common ones that face anyone making the change from being a union representative to becoming a manager. First of all, as a national union leader, I wanted the in-house union members and leaders to like and respect me. I know now that this is a natural tendency for newly promoted managers. But I soon realized that the union had their job to do - protecting their members - and I had my job, which was to protect the organization and that sometimes these issues would be in conflict. I tried to be as diplomatic and fair as I could but at the end of the day, I had to live up to my responsibilities as a manager. That meant that the union sometimes didn't like me very much, but over time they learned to respect me.

The second pitfall that new managers often encounter is when they try and cozy up too close to their new colleagues on the management team. For me, I inherited a highly qualified team of senior managers to help me run my organization and they offered their best advice and guidance to help me deal with the many human resource and staff relations issues that arise in a large organization. But I soon realized that sometimes they didn't have all of the information required to make the best decision, and that I often had to ask them to seek out input from the in-house union to get a solution that would serve everyone's interest. This was not easy, but over time, they learned to utilize my strengths to help them become better managers and supervisors.

Overall the two best things I learned about making the transition from a union representative to a manager were to improve my communications style and skills and to be consistent. An open-door policy with not just union representatives but union members allowed me to gain an insight into their thinking on a wide range of issues and helped head off dozens of problems at a very early stage. Being consistent in my approach and decision making also helped bring me some credibility with both the members of my management team and the union members and leaders. By not playing favourites and trying not to make exceptions to the rules, everybody usually knew where I stood. While they may not have liked all of the decisions I made, I do believe that I at least earned their respect. And in a unionized workplace respect is a very important commodity that can go a long way toward helping your role as a manager.

Daryl Bean is the former National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Daryl is currently a private consultant with his own consulting firm called M.D. Solutions. He can be reached at

NOTE: Daryl Bean will be a featured presenter on "Successful Labour Relations in Uncertain Times: Stay In Control" at IPM's Ottawa Workshop on June 3, 2010. Click here for more details

Making the Case for Pre-Employment Screening

Q: What are the benefits of conducting background checks for job candidates? Is it worth it to hire a third party organization?

Do you know who you’re hiring?

Dave Dinesen,
President & CEO,
In June 2009, Bryan Tickell, a BC public trustee case worker was sentenced to six years in prison for defrauding elderly clients by convincing them to sign over their assets to him. Tickell pled guilty to a number of charges, including defrauding a mentally incompetent client by acquiring her property for $1 and then selling it for $1 million, and defrauding another elderly client by naming himself a beneficiary of his $1.3 million estate. Fortunately, a fellow case worker was assigned to review one of Tickell’s cases and uncovered his criminal behavior. As a result, Tickell did not benefit financially from his fraudulent behavior, but the Public Guardian’s office had to spend over $1 million in accounting and legal fees in an effort to “clean up the mess”.

This situation could have easily been prevented if the BC Public Guardian & Trustee’s Office had conducted a thorough pre-employment background check prior to employing Tickell. According to the Vancouver Sun, Tickell falsely claimed completion of two university degrees on his resume as well as providing fake job references in order to gain employment. A background check that included education verifications and professional reference interviews would have uncovered Tickell’s deceit, and an honest and qualified candidate could have been employed in his place.

While this case demonstrates the importance of conducting background checks for positions that involve handling funds or interacting with the vulnerable sector, it is imperative that employers realize the importance of screening for all positions. Today’s job market is extremely competitive: it is estimated that 100,000 Canadian jobs were lost when the recession began, resulting in candidates from all sectors going to great lengths to increase their employability. It is becoming increasingly common to find candidates who make fraudulent claims on their resumes, forge university degrees, and hide their criminal records. According to a recent study conducted by BackCheck, an organization that conducts pre-employment screening, hiring managers across the country have seen a stark rise in the number of red flags revealed in their applicants’ background checks. A prominent company in the healthcare industry saw a staggering 314% increase in the number of red flags raised in association with reference interviews and employment verifications, while the telecommunications industry saw the rate of applicants possessing a criminal record increase by 42%.

These numbers cannot be ignored, as they exemplify the need for thorough screening of candidates. As demonstrated in the Tickell case, the repercussions of hiring a dishonest candidate stretch far beyond the cost of turnover and internal theft. An uninformed hiring decision can cause severe damage to an organization’s reputation, as well as result in potential legal consequences. During the economic downturn, many Canadian companies are protecting themselves by outsourcing their HR-related services to companies such as BackCheck that specialize in pre-employment screening. Due to economies of scale, these third parties are able to offer a complete background check (including a criminal record check, employment and education verifications, credit bureau inquiry, and reference interviews) for much less than it would cost a company to conduct these checks on their own – and this is just one of the many advantages of outsourcing.

The benefits of third party pre-employment checks are substantial, and include a decrease in the costs associated with turnover and employee theft, a safer work environment, protection from negligent hiring litigation, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your applicants are who they claim to be. As shown in the Tickell case, deceitful candidates are often difficult to spot, however even the most charming candidate can’t beat a background check.

Do you know who you’re hiring?

The above information has been provided by Dave Dinesen, President & CEO, BackCheck. He can be contacted at

NOTE: Dave Dinesen will be the featured presenter on "Screening and Background Checks: Today's Best Practices" at IPM's Vancouver Conference on April 20, 2010. Click here for more details

Marketing and Recruiting

Q: Recruiting and marketing functions seem to have a lot in common. How can I leverage the assets of both?

A: Aligning the marketing and recruiting functions can improve the brand, increase quality of hire, and boost conversion of clients – it’s just a matter of managing the culture clash and encouraging interaction.

Paul Dodd,
At a very basic level, marketing and recruiting are doing the same thing: Selling the brand and the organization. It’s just that marketing is selling to customers/clients, and recruiting is selling to candidates. To do this, they use many of the same tools and tactics: collecting competitive intelligence and market data; brand management; and building long-term relationships with stakeholders.

Don’t forget: While the current job market may be a little soft – though many organizations report that top talent is as much in demand as ever – North America is still facing a chronic talent shortage. Statistics Canada predicts that by 2011 there will be more jobs in Canada than people to fill them. For organizations, this means that they need to be marketing to potential employees just as enthusiastically as they market to potential customers, and building the employment brand just as assiduously as they build the consumer brand.

However, in many organizations, there just isn’t a whole lot of interdepartmental interaction between recruiting and marketing functions: marketing professionals tend to be outgoing, creative, entrepreneurial kinds of thinkers, while HR tends to be much more conservative and change-resistant. (Recruiters have a lot in common with marketing types, but many organizations either don’t have full-time recruiters or the recruiters live within HR and are ‘camouflaged’ by it.) The result is a gap between the consumer brand and the recruiting brand – which ultimately means a weaker brand identity, lost opportunities, and a reduced ROI on both recruiting and marketing spending.

So how can organizations better leverage marketing and recruiting to maximize results for both?

Four things your organization can do to build the brand, attract top talent – and make your marketing and recruiting dollars work harder:

Encourage knowledge sharing – and make it official
Both the recruiting and marketing departments have huge amounts of information on individuals and how they feel about the company (recruiting knows about the employment brand; marketing knows about the consumer brand). Sharing this information can result in a more cohesive understanding of the company’s market position – or even just a killer direct mail campaign. Either way the company benefits. Establishing a monthly status meeting for recruiting and marketing business leaders is a quick and easy way to start the process of regular knowledge sharing.

Foster cooperation
It’s not unusual for the marketing department to look down on HR or for the HR department to think that marketing doesn’t ‘get it’. The truth is, both functions have vested interests in really understanding the business – they’re ‘selling’ it every day, after all – and when management makes it clear that both functions have a role to play in building the brand, it’s amazing how cooperation improves. A great way to kickstart cooperation is to have HR and marketing work together to establish an employee referral program and jointly present it to the rest of the organization. Referral programs generally deliver some quick-hit results which help demonstrate that when marketing and recruiting get together, 1+1 often equals 5.

Align the message
If your marketing department is busy creating advertising focused on your great customer service, but the recruiting department takes 3 weeks to respond to job applications, you’re sending a mixed message that undermine both functions. Companies like Google and Apple attract top talent because their recruiting process – from interesting job ads to prompt responses from HR – reflect their consumer brands.

Ensure recruiting has the right tools
From job postings to employment contracts, there are a whole lot of ways in which HR/recruiting has opportunities to put the brand in front of candidates and other stakeholders. Your marketing department probably has a ‘style guide’ including guidelines on how to use the logo, document templates, and official fonts and colours. Ensure that your HR and recruiting team have access to this style guide – and access to tools like logos, digital letterhead, etc. – and that they know how to use it. Consistency across documentation not only helps build brand loyalty, but it sends a strong message about the organization’s attention to detail.

Paul Dodd is the President of Head2Head (, a company that specializes in delivering innovative recruiting solutions by bringing bottom-line thinking to clients' HR and recruiting functions. Paul can be reached at 416-440-2030.

NOTE: Paul Dodd will be featured presenter on "Recruiting Smarter - and More Creatively" at IPM's Toronto Conference on May 12, 2010. Click here for more details

Shut Out of Strategic Decision Making

Q. I keep feeling that my immediate supervisor is shutting me out on major decisions. He always apologizes afterwards and claims there were scheduling conflicts, but I'm starting to feel like more of a grunt worker and less of a part of the strategic decision-making process. How do I make sure I'm not just being paranoid, and if I'm not, how do I try to make sure I'm consulted earlier on when decisions are getting made?

Monika Jensen,
Aviary Group
A. Before you decide that you are totally paranoid I think it would be wise to clear the air with your immediate supervisor about what is taking place in your area. We have a tendency to create doubt in our minds about our capabilities if we do not fully understand what is happening. For instance, there may have been a time when you attended a meeting and your supervisor did not feel you were contributing to the decision making or that you were critical of the suggestions. You need to determine what is the root cause of your not being invited to these meetings. Once you understand the reason then it will be easier for you to set forth your strategy.

It may be advantageous for you to check with your peers to see if you are the only one being shut out or does it happen to the whole team. If it’s the whole team you may want to approach the supervisor as a group and let him now how you feel as a group. This will allow him the opportunity to explain the reason for the shut-out so you can work out a new procedure together.

On the other hand, it may the style of your supervisor and that he feels he is the one who can make major decisions, while your job is to implement these decisions. It may be important for him to know that you have the knowledge and the resources regarding these projects and you would be a valuable asset to the decision making process if given the chance. Your supervisor may just not know what you have to offer.

If an opportunity should present itself where you have advance knowledge of a project and are able to provide sound, concrete information that can be used in the decision making process, this might enable you to demonstrate to your supervisor that it would be an asset to invite you these meetings in the future.

You just don’t know what you don’t know, so it important to be clear on what the problem is before you begin to solve it, so that you have the right solution.

Monika Jensen, RPT is Principal of the Aviary Group. For further information she can be reached at


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