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Wage Earner Protection Plan (WEPP) Update

As we received an increased number of inquiries resulting from the closure of some large companies across Canada, here is a brief update on the federal Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP).

The Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) provides guaranteed and timely compensation of up to $3,400 in 2011 to workers for unpaid wages, vacation pay, severance and termination pay earned in the six months preceding an employer bankruptcy or receivership.

Philip H. Gennis,
To apply, workers must meet all of the following criteria: their employment has ended,
the employee is owed eligible wages for the six-month period ending on the date of the bankruptcy or receivership and the former employer must have been formally declared bankrupt or must be subject to receivership under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

The 2011 Federal Budget proposed more protection for workers by extending the WEPP to also cover employees who lose their jobs when their employer's attempt at restructuring takes longer than six months, is subsequently unsuccessful and ends in bankruptcy or receivership. According to Philip Gennis, Chartered Insolvency and Restructuring Professional, the enhanced protection will further assist workers who have been affected by the bankruptcy of their employers and receive settlement on their claims within a short period of time.

The expanded coverage took effect on January 27, 2009, and now includes payment of wages, and severance, termination and vacation pay owed to eligible workers if their employer becomes bankrupt and does not pay.

Between January 27, 2009 and December 31, 2010, over 28,000 WEPP claimants have received more than $62.3 million in overall WEPP payments, including termination and severance reimbursements. Claims are usually paid within four to six weeks of filing provided that Service Canada has received all the necessary information to process.

Members Quarterly Staff Writer

Philip Gennis presents on "Acquisitions & Mergers: How Business Cultures Change", a panel session with Malcolm MacKillop at IPM Toronto May 9 Conference. Click here for more details

Leadership Requires Humility

The popular press often elevate business leaders to celebrity status akin to professional athletes or rock stars. The modern ideal of a leader evokes descriptors such as charismatic, powerful, maverick, visionary and larger-than-life. However, one of the most crucial aspects of strong leadership rarely makes this list. Ironically, the reason may be related to the concept itself, that of humility.
Mentioning “humility” and “strong leadership” in the same sentence may be perceived as somewhat of an unlikely combination, like oil and water. However, a persuasive case can be made for humility as one of the most important traits for leaders in the new economy.

Craig Dowden,
Managing Director
André Filion &
Associates Inc.
What is humility? In a forthcoming article to be published in the Academy of Management Journal, SUNY Buffalo Professor Bradley Owens discusses the results of an ambitious study that focused on defining humility through an examination of its associated behaviours. Using intensive, in-depth interviews with employees from various organizations in diverse sectors, he was able to precisely categorize humility in leadership.

First and foremost, his research demonstrated that humble leaders acknowledge their personal limits and faults, while simultaneously taking responsibility for their mistakes. They routinely ask for support from their team to manage their weaknesses, thus building trust within their groups. It is important to acknowledge that this does not mean these individuals are not aware of their strengths, but rather they are equally accepting and forthright about their own personal and professional challenges.

Another key aspect of leadership humility is a tendency to highlight their team members’ strengths and contributions. Indeed, rather than being threatened by peak performance, humble leaders celebrate these accomplishments and reinforce the team member’s value to the team. People feel appreciated and as a result, are not afraid to “shine.” They are motivated to maximize their engagement and performance without fear of being rebuked or admonished for taking the spotlight away from their leader. Not surprisingly, humble leaders were found to be committed to studying and understanding their employees’ strengths, possessing an intimate awareness of how best to position their employees for success.

Finally and arguably most important is the fact that humble leaders are exemplars of learning. They are receptive to new ideas and devote significant time and energy to listening rather than speaking. They are also very open to feedback and encourage its expression within their teams. Since humble individuals are much less likely to feel they ‘know it all’, they tend to consider alternative points of view, which can be extremely advantageous from a decision-making perspective. The eagerness to explore alternatives also helps drive innovation, a hallmark for 21st century business.

Why focus on humility?

Based on societal norms and media portrayals of leadership, it would seem humility is unrelated to the bottom line. In fact, some people claim that humility in leaders is detrimental to profitability. The evidence paints an entirely different picture. The following discusses numerous areas in which humility, or a lack thereof, can impact our organizations:

1. Decision-making
One of the key ways in which an organization can be affected by the absence of humility is through its decision-making. Dr. Paul Nutt spent over twenty years engaging with hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals studying the factors influencing whether a business decision turned out to be a success or a failure. He concluded that personal ego is the primary culprit in over one-third of all failed business decisions. Indeed, recent groundbreaking research suggests that over half of all businesspeople estimate that personal egos cost their company between 6 and 15 percent of their annual revenues.

2. Employee Engagement
Recently, our office undertook a research project designed to examine the degree to which supervisor humility affected employee well-being. Almost 300 people participated in this study and the results were truly fascinating. Supervisors with higher levels of humility had team members who felt significantly happier, more committed and more successful at the workplace. These employees also reported significantly higher levels of productivity and job satisfaction. Additionally, more humble supervisors received significantly higher satisfaction scores with their leadership style from their employees than their less humble counterparts. Finally, supervisors who exhibited more humility generally had employees who reported being significantly more satisfied with their organizations.

3. Improves the Bottom Line
Despite the above, some people may question whether reported changes in the feelings and attitudes of employees actually contribute to financial gains for the organization. Jim Collins makes an extremely compelling argument for this case in his book ‘Good to Great.’ In this groundbreaking work, Collins searched for the factors that differentiated the top companies from mediocre ones in terms of corporate stock performance. To do so, he looked at ten years of financial data from the New York Stock Exchange and isolated only eleven companies who consistently and significantly outperformed the overall stock market. When searching for distinguishing features, the only real difference Collins and his team found was in the style and approach of the CEO. He noted that the leaders of these eleven companies exemplified an intense personal will combined with a high degree of humility.

Although “humility” and “strong leadership” may at first seem like an unlikely combination, further examination reveals a striking partnership. Indeed, the characteristics of a humble leader are valued and respected by both colleagues and clients alike. In the wake of the recent financial crisis which has forced a widespread re-thinking of how we do business, it is more important than ever to ensure that humility is incorporated into our leadership style. Based on the above research, it is certainly possible as well as financially beneficial to view humility and strong leadership less like oil and water and more like peanut butter and jelly, with one enhancing the other and leading to an end result that everyone can enjoy.

Craig Dowden, Ph.D., is Managing Director of André Filion & Associates Inc., Industrial Psychology & Career Management and can be reached at 613-230-7023 or via email at dowdenc@filion.ca.

Craig Dowden presents on Moral Leadership at IPM Ottawa April 12 Conference and on Diversity at IPM Toronto May 9 Conference. Click here for more details

A Resolution is Not the Solution!

Most of us have probably earned post graduate degrees in excuses, New Year’s resolutions and an Oscar award for dramatic performance in vowing to commit to those drastic career success, diet and fitness resolutions. Yet still somehow, the rewards have yet to manifest our ideal state of harmony, health and wellness. It’s time to take another approach.

Teri R. Gentes
Wellness and
The solution to sustained inner harmony and well-being doesn’t lie in the well intended and overly ambitious resolution. Most fail miserably with this approach and yet continue to repeat the same pattern every year resolving that this time will be different. Does this sound familiar?

Typically people look in the wrong place or continually attempt to achieve different results repeatedly doing the same things.

Sustained success is not simply achieved with changed habits and strict determination. It’s not only about what you eat, how much you exercise or how hard you work at the office. It begins in your mind and is nurtured or fed within the very way you see yourself. There is no one miracle product or diet or strategic plan that will make you succeed until you decide that you will. Once this decision becomes ‘your truth’, then mostly any plan or behaviour modification can work. Once you see a different view of yourself as advancing in your career, becoming the stronger, healthier and more fit person, the process is underway and results are sure to arrive.

To shift your perspective of yourself and begin the process of increased success, some introspection is required. Ask yourself these questions. Why do I want to make the change? What do I feel this will do for me? Do I really believe that I can succeed? What do I have to do? Am I really willing to do what it takes? How do I overcome the obstacles and challenges? Can I get support? What does success look and feel like to me?

To achieve success, you must source out the root of your desired objective (the “why, what and how”). You also need to picture the results you want to realize. Create a mental image of exactly what it looks and feels like to you – own this image and make it yours. Begin to act as if it is already happening, that this is who and how you are.

Think of it like an architect with the ‘resolution’ to build a house. For this to happen, there must be a clear and specific vision of what this house will look like. Specifics such as for whom it is being built and how it will be constructed must be established. Plans must be drawn, supplies ordered and a crew scheduled. There must be a succinct plan and that plan must clearly establish the step-by-step process in order to see the realization of this house.

For you to accomplish your goals and adhere to your resolutions, it is necessary to identify the obstacles you have experienced in the past. For example, in the case of weight loss, you must identify your specific weakness, what prevents you from losing weight. In addition, you must trust that overcoming these issues can be accomplished. Weight loss can and will happen. The architect mentioned earlier does not ‘try’ to build a house. They ‘know’ they will build it. With your specific objective of weight loss, success is realized when you reach your desired weight. You also have realized the added benefits of a healthier lifestyle, better eating habits and improved fitness.

Make the decision and then make the intention for yourself. In the case of weight loss, you ‘know’ that you will be a healthier, happier and more successful person. Begin to consciously live your life one breath/belief, one mouthful or activity at a time. Create a mindful knowing and a clear visual of where you are going, how you want to be, what you will do to get there and how this will feel. Live like you are already in this mode and make it your reality. Quoting Napoleon Hill, “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

Major lifestyle or career changes go well beyond New Year’s resolutions. Rather than taking the ‘strive to arrive’ approach, begin to live like you have already achieved your goals.

Teri R Gentes is a Wellness and Nutrition Consultant and can be reached at teri@terigentes.com. Website: www.terigentes.com

HRIS & Payroll

This question is both philosophical and practical. Strategically, when planning your technology systems this becomes an important question. Your response will likely depend on how integrated you consider your data and processes to be. More importantly, how integrated do you need them to be?

Corporate Systems Planning

In an ideal world, your IT department will have a strategic vision of what your organization's data, processes and software solutions will look like and how they will interface. This provides your organization with a goal to work toward and should factor into every software purchase.

Diana Matwichuk,
Avanti Software
When participating in strategic systems planning, it is important to remove the “comfortable glasses” with which you view your existing situation and be open to the potential for change. Software is always being improved and enhanced providing users with more flexibility to meet their business needs. Business directions also change as a response to corporate objectives that change, to align with fluctuating economies, changing business best practices, fickle consumers and generational differences within the employee base.

All of this means that we are working with a moving target. Strategic systems planning is therefore an ongoing exercise for your IT department, and what was satisfactory in the past is never arbitrarily the way it will be in the future.

What does this mean for HR and Payroll?

It is important to be aware of IT's strategic systems plan for the corporation just as they will likely have consulted you in its preparation. Detailed HR and Payroll business requirements feed upward to the plan, but corporate needs also factor downward into software selection decisions.

For example, there may be corporate consolidated reporting needs that feed top-down in the strategic planning. This would produce a resultant need for interfacing with financial software or integrating HR and Payroll software. There may also be technical computing platform decisions that factor downward to affect HRIS/Payroll decisions.

Similarly, there may be valid reasons to not integrate HRIS and Payroll. This would feed upward to the strategic systems plan.

Back to the Question

How inseparable do you need your HR and Payroll data and processes to be? One thing is certain –there will always be data that is common to HR and Payroll. On principle, organizations should be striving to eliminate or reduce duplicate data stores. There is cost and risk associated with redundancy and it should be avoided. The risk of error is related to duplicate data not being maintained in tandem – potential for discrepancies due to one source not being updated, or risk of typos in the duplicate keying of that data. Then there is also the financial liability that discrepancies could pose.

When Payroll and HR are integrated, they are then part of the same software application which means storing the data in a single software solution. Alternatively, sometimes the decision is made to not eliminate duplicate data stores, and so the solution is to synchronize it - preferably electronically. This involves an interface. For example, it may be possible to set up an automated nightly synchronization of employee data in your HRIS and a performance/talent management system.

Reviewing the Options

If the interface is manual, then you will need to put controls in place to preserve the overall integrity of data that is being passed between the applications. You also need to ensure that your business processes accommodate the increased need for communication between the HR and Payroll departments. If this is an automated interface, then you will need to be vigilant for any changes required to that interface. For example, a change in the data structure in your payroll software may require that you update the interface program so that the HRIS can still interpret the data.

On the opposite track, even when your HRIS and Payroll are integrated into a single solution, you will need to be watchful that your business needs continue to be met functionally and that you maintain your configuration accordingly. Keep your software vendor abreast of these changing needs so that they can strive to accommodate them.

Suggestions for HR and Payroll

HR and Payroll can be proactive about contributing to the overall “health” of your organization's strategic systems plan. As a stakeholder in the development of your strategic systems plan, request of IT a level of participation in its creation/maintenance. Communicate your software requirements to IT and include IT in your software selection process, so that your decisions can comply with the strategic systems plan. Establish ongoing communication with departments with whom you share data and/or reporting – in particular between HR and Payroll. Involve these stakeholders in major decisions regarding your HRIS or Payroll software solutions. Coordinate business processes between HR and Payroll and re-engineer as necessary in order to make this as efficient as possible.

Note that most of these points relate to communication. The answer to the question of whether your HRIS and Payroll should be joined at the hip is often reflective of the level of communication that exists between these departments in your organization.

In Summary

In the big picture that a strategic systems plan represents, there are many ways to achieve the overall solution. You should be aiming for one that will meet changing business needs, minimize overall costs, maximize value and present minimal risk to the organization.

Diana Matwichuk is an HR consultant and Implementation Specialist at Avanti Software. She can be reached at 403-225-2366 ext 230 or dmatwichuk@avanti.ca


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