2018 Canadian HR Trends


It is always interesting to look at Human Resources Trends from around the world to explore the similarities and differences of varying cultural perspectives.  As our parent company is Canadian, let’s look at a few of the trends that are top of the list for 2018.  Morneau Shepell compiles an annual list of Canadian HR Trends:

Insights on what HR leaders are expecting in the coming year:


• Improving employee engagement is a top priority

Employee Engagement is top of mind for companies in the US as well.  Not only for altruistic motives, but for the sheer fact that engagement can be tied to better productivity and bottom line numbers all around.  Trying to tap into the discretionary effort each employee has is big business. http://www.snacknation.com/guides/definitive-guide-employee-engagement/

• Streamlining administration and absence management continue to be focus areas

Streamlining administration is a worthy cause in any country.  Streamlining can take the form of creating new processes or automation.  Robotic process automation has real potential to transform the mundane tasks in HR.

HR leaders continue to be cautious about salary increases.  Salaries expected to increase by 2.3 per cent in 2018.

While salary increases are trending just slightly higher in the US, there are still concerns about how to differentiate between average and high performers with such small increase budgets.

• Employers are looking at workforce data in silos, with very few looking at data in an integrated way

Data will be THE FOCUS in 2018 whether in silos or a more integrated approach. 

• Complex mental health claims are the top disability management concerns

Large claim management in general is a concern.  A few large claims can turn the loss ratios in the wrong direction.

• Manager training is a focus in managing absence and disability

Manager training is a focus for all companies.  It should encompass the hard skills like managing absenteeism and disability LOA’s, but should also encompass softer skills like having difficult conversations, confrontation and inspiring your employees.

• Organizations are concerned that their employees are not adequately prepared for retirement

This is a growing concern amongst many US employers as well.  Financial wellness training for the workforce is a partial solution.  Other approaches may include automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans and writing plan documents to exclude the popular loan provisions.

Companies around the globe have the same goals, to inspire their workforces, yielding a team of more engaged workers and better profits at the bottom line.

Predictive Analytics in Human Resources


Data based decision making and predictive analytics are buzz words you are hearing a lot about these days.  However, they are emerging from the dark corners of the developer’s worlds and into the light of mainstream business operations. I was speaking at an Analyst update earlier this week and the question came up “which companies do you follow that are using predictive analytics in Human Resources?”   A great question, but the answer was, unfortunately, no one.  Although it may be some time before this data based approach becomes mainstream in the world of Human Resources, there are a plethora of reasons it should.  

Let’s start with a definition of predictive analytics.  It is basically just a script or a technology that learns from current data and then uses that current data to “predict” or forecast upcoming data or behavior. Think about how your credit score works.  The rating agencies use data, your past history of paying on time, as well as other data points, to “predict” your ability and willingness to pay on time for a new loan.

HR has massive set of data on its employees.  By applying predictive analysis to these data sets, HR moves toward becoming more of a strategic partner at the table.  Decisions become fact and data based instead of depending on someone gut feelings or instincts.  Predictive analytics allows HR to forecast the impact that different policies will have on their workforce and to get ahead of the curve on turnover, candidate success models and employee engagement.

From Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends Survey. While 71 percent of companies see people analytics as a high priority in their organizations (31 percent rate it very important), progress has been slow. The percentage of companies correlating HR data to business outcomes, performing predictive analytics, and deploying enterprise scorecards barely changed from last year.

Analytics is being applied to a wide range of business challenges: Recruiting remains the No. 1 area of focus, followed by performance measurement, compensation, workforce planning, and retention. We see an explosive growth in the use of organizational network analysis (ONA) and the use of “interaction analytics” (studying employee behavior) to better understand opportunities for business improvement.

Staffing and on-boarding tends to be an area that we think of first when it comes to utilizing Predictive Analytics.  We all want to be able to predict the success of the candidate in the role.  Progressive HR organizations are using interview data, careful parsing of job posting language, and candidate screening data to do just that. New tools that look at social and local hiring data can even help companies identify people who are “likely to look for new jobs” much before they are even approached by competitors.

Turnover is another area that could greatly benefit from this approach.  Capturing and reporting on it is nice, but what about getting ahead of it?  What about using data to be able to predict who is likely to submit their resignation within the next 3 months and conducting extensive stay interviews with those employees? Or being able to offer them an Individualized Development Plan to solidify their engagement?

There are a multitude of opportunities to utilize Predictive Analytics to help us make better decisions across the board in each of our organizations.

Compensation- putting the plan in place


Last week we talked about establishing your Compensation Strategy and how to determine the competition and your rationale for certain recommendations.  Once you have a thorough well thought out strategy, though, you need to execute.  Careful, well thought out execution is every bit as important as developing your strategy.  Remember, it is likely that you understand compensation better than anyone else in your organization so start at the top.


Get your Executive Team Bought in

Keep in mind that executive teams have a lot on their mind and are likely not up to speed with why a compensation strategy is important, so start simple.  https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/compensation/Pages/AlignPay.aspx The payroll in a company is by far the largest expenditure and compensation touches all areas like candidate attraction, retention, turnover and satisfaction to some degree.  Pay ranks in the number three spot as to reasons why employees leave positions and the cost to replace that employee is anywhere between 100-200% of their base salary. https://www.appleone.com/Employers/SCALE/2017/EngagementTools/cost-of-turnover-calculator.aspx  Plenty of reason to make sure that compensation is NOT the driving force behind your resignations.


Train your Managers to have Compensation Conversations

Once your executive team is bought into your strategy, it’s time to train your managers to talk about compensation. https://hbr.org/2014/04/how-to-discuss-pay-with-your-employees  We have all heard or experienced firsthand the horror stories of employees finding out what their raise is when their paycheck comes out, never having had a conversation with their manager, or the manager walking into a group of employees, handing each a piece of paper with their raise on it and walking out, thus missing a critical opportunity to further enhance the employee’s satisfaction and level of engagement. https://compensation.blr.com/Compensation-news/Compensation/Compensation-Administration/Preparing-for-Compensation-Conversations-with-Empl/  The first step is to listen.  Listen to what the employee has to say, repeat back what you think you have heard.  Share critical information, such as the merit budget pool for the year and the compensation philosophy.  


Communicate the Process

Letting the team know up front and reminding them often of who will do what we go a long ways towards preparing for success. http://www.simplehrguide.com/compensation-strategy-key-content.html  Communicate the roles that HR will play-to establish salary grades and structures, to provide compa-ratios, to set the merit pool amount and to weigh in on any recommended market adjustments.  The first line managers will be responsible for recommending salary increase, justifying recommendations for promotions or market adjustments and communicating the approved increases to the individual employees. Your executive team has the responsibility to communicate and support the compensation strategy and philosophy they have approved. Employees, too, play a role.  They have the responsibility to ask questions and ensure that they get a satisfactory answer.  Make sure that they know their manager is their first stop, but if questions remain unanswered that HR’s door is always open.

Do you best to create an environment where compensation is not practiced in a black box, but is implemented in a thoughtful, straight forward way, where everyone understands what it is meant to achieve and feels comfortable offering suggestions to enhance the process.  A compensation strategy, created and implemented well, can enhance many aspects of the organization and the employee experience.

Compensation- Getting it Right


This time of year brings all the excitement of the holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, among others.  Amid all the festivities, for many organizations, it brings Compensation planning activities including revisions of salary structures, decisions on merit increases, promotions, adjustments and bonuses.  Before you say “Bah Humbug” let’s take a closer look at how to structure a compensation plan and why it’s so important to your organization. 

For all of the articles out there espousing compensation as a short term motivator, compensation speaks to our employees.  It tells a story of how we perceive their value in the workplace.  There is little that is more important than the value one sees in oneself and that is partly determined by the value others place on us and our contributions.

Ask Questions

You have to start out by asking the right questions in order to determine what your company’s compensation strategy should be.  It’s OK not to have all the answers, they will provide topics for discussion with your internal teams.

What are your goals?   

It’s important to know what problem you are trying to solve before you launch into a strategy to solve it.  Do you have excessive turnover?  Are you having a hard time attracting candidates?  Are you losing your high potential employees at an alarming rate?  Do you need to focus certain groups on different goals

How would you define your market?

Is it defined solely based on a geography you are in?  Do you need to include competitors outside of your geographical regions?  Is it domestic or do you have international competitors as well?  Sometimes, you can get a good clue to identifying this by asking where do your employees come from, and where do they go when they leave?

How competitive do you need to be?   

Some disciplines like Big Data are highly competitive and there may only be a handful of candidates that everyone is competing for.  On the other hand, if your positions are relatively common and there are many candidates available, you may be able to set you target closer to the 50th percentile and be just fine

What and how should you reward?  

What behavior do you want to reinforce and what types of rewards will you give?  The most effective plans focus on a Purpose Statement and/or Guiding Principles.  Your rewards should ultimately drive the culture you are trying to create.  Even monetary rewards come in many different forms.  They could be merit increases, promotions, short term or long term cash incentives.

All of the above questions will help to guide you toward the most effective compensation strategy for your organization and drive employee productivity forward. 


Holocracy- Implementation Challenges


Last week we talked about Holocracy, what it is and what its advocates say the potential benefits are.  But in reality, does Holocracy work ?  Can a type of self-management that gives decision making power to fluid teams, or “circles,” and roles rather than individuals yield results and better decisions than a traditional structure?  How well do people deal with the uncertainty that a holocratic approach creates

Sourcing and Hiring

Holocracy models complicate sourcing and hiring decisions.  How do you advertise for a job that is comprised of ever changing micro roles and how do you assess whether the person sitting in front of you actually is competent at those micro roles and any other talents they might have?  People are used to looking for traditional job titles, but in holocracy, there are no traditional job titles.  Do management level employees worry that deviating from their career path might stall out their careers.  What if they are at a Director level now and you are trying to recruit for a team member with a skill set normally held by an Accounting Dir.  How many would take a “team or circle member” title?

Micro Roles

Another issue that holocracy creates is the formation of micro roles.  No longer is one individual responsible for a specific set of set roles, but a swirling set of micro roles that are ever changing.  It can complicate the work actually getting done as employees may be responsible for up to 25 different responsibilities and struggle with prioritizing them and deciding where to focus first.  They may be members of a number of different circles and have weighty responsibilities to each, but not be able to satisfy all of them or be forced to prioritize in conflict with others. 


Compensation becomes difficult as well.  Not only are there struggles with determining internal equity as this now requires each of 100’s of micro roles to be assessed and the value of these roles change as new circles are created and as the organization matures and different skills become more or less valuable, but external equity is an issue.  How do you go to the market to assess the worth of a position when there is no longer a match for the position?  There is nothing to compare the person’s position to.

Unlearning old behavior

For holocrcay to be successful it necessitates that both bosses and subordinates unlearn old behavior.  If everyone is truly to be tapped for their full potential then there cannot be those who are hesitant to express opposing views in front of what used to be superiors.  This is a hard habit to break for both bosses and subordinates.  It is hard for leaders to learn to step back and not lead all the time.

Holocary has yet to be proven as a model that offers significant benefits over a traditional structure. The best of both worlds may be to incorporate some of the circle mentality into the traditional structure allowing everyone a voice to be heard and encouraging growth horizontally as well as vertically.

Putting Words into Action


There is never a time more appropriate for putting our words into action than in the midst of unforeseen crises and disasters. We all speak of our employees being our biggest asset, of creating a workforce that is engaged and more productive.  We know that when we treat our employees well it builds loyalty, a great culture and better metrics at the bottom line.  But how many of us really show our employees, in a meaningful way, that we care about them as more than just employees? That we care about their lives and families outside of work?

I am proud to work for a Company that does just that in a bigger way than I have previously witnessed.  The unfortunate, recent, back to back hurricanes have devastated parts of Houston, Texas and many parts of Florida.  While many companies put out words of encouragement to stay safe, how many really went the extra mile, went above and beyond?

Here are just a few of the more meaningful ways you can show your employees that you care and, hopefully set an example for other companies to follow:


Full Pay

Ensure your workforce that they will continue to be paid full pay for all the hours/days they are unable to get into the office to work due to the storm or subsequent damage or flooding.  Many employees live very close to their paychecks and losing even 1-2 days of pay creates an undue hardship and stress on the family.



Many employees do carry renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, as well as car insurance, but may not be able to easily afford the deductibles.  Some have purposely chosen policies with lower premiums and higher deductibles in the hopes that they would not run into a situation where they needed them.  Most of these deductibles are in the $100-$500 range.  Think about what it would mean to your employees if you were to offer to reimburse them for their deductibles?



We are fortunate enough to be a property management company with homes all over the US.  We offered all of our employees under evacuation orders, vacant homes to move into, on a short term basis, in other geographical areas out of harm’s way.  Even if you are not so fortunate as to have vacant homes to offer, you can offer to pick up the cost of hotels for the time that the employees are forced to evacuate.



It probably goes without saying that others want to help in times of need.  Set up a Red Cross donation through payroll deduction.   Make it easy for the rest of your workforce to assist those in need.  When we set this up last week, we have over 20% participation with 45 minutes.

Take this opportunity to put your words into action and show your employees that you do truly care about what they and their families are going through and you are here to help.  It’s time we learn to take care of one another out of and in the workplace!

Let leaders lead


Most who enter the Human Resources disciplines due so out of a desire to help others and to help the organization to align their employee workforce with the goals of the company to further productivity.  Often times, however, we forget to let our leaders lead.  Especially as an organization grows, HR functions need to adopt a “train the trainer” approach more than a train everyone approach.  Although enlightened organizations put their full support and resources into HR functions, the team still has a responsibility to be able to scale the organization without adding significant numbers of HR team members.  Efficiency is key.

Train- the- trainer

A train-the-trainer model allows experienced trainers to show a less-experienced individuals how to deliver courses, workshops and seminars. http://work.chron.com/train-trainer-model-5463.html Usually, a new instructor first observes a training event led by the course designer. A train-the-trainer approach can build a pool of competent instructors who can then teach the material to other people. Instead of having just one instructor who teaches a course for a long time, you have multiple instructors teaching the same course at the same time. This ensures that employees get timely training to complete tasks according to company policies and procedures.

Identify SME’s

SME’s or subject matter experts exist in all corners of the organizations and at all levels.  It is a fairly good bet that your excel gurus are not sitting in the corner office.  Tap those resources!  Find out how has a skill set that the rest of the organization could benefit from and engage the SME to deliver the training. This serves two purposes.  One, it enhances your pool of trainers and two, it gives well deserved recognition to a group of people who might be overlooked otherwise, further engaging them in the business.  

Step out of the way

The inclination is to teach every class to every audience, but the real goal is to get the training out to a broad audience in a timely manner.  Like a proud parent, you need to teach your junior trainers your techniques, ensure that they know their material, do a few dry runs with them and then let them launch.  Will it be perfect, no. Will it improve with time, yes and will you gain far more by engaging your workforce then trying to do it all yourself, a big YES!

Training is not a one and done.  It is a process over an unending period of time that, done correctly, not only teaches a new skill, but also engages and inspires a workforce to do greater things both in their work and personal lives.

Health Insurance 2018


PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) annually projects the growth of health insurance and more specifically, medical costs, in the employer insurance market for the coming year.  They also identify the major factors expected to impact the trend.  Moving into 2018, the healthcare industry seems to be settling into a “new trend” which is marked by more moderate fluctuations and single-digit medical cost trends

HRI projects 2018’s medical cost trend to be 6.5%—the first uptick in growth in three years.

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What does this mean for employers still seeking to get the most for their insurance dollars and provide the best benefits for their employee population?  In a labor market that is heating up and becoming more competitive, employers are looking for new cost containment strategies beyond shifting more costs to their employees.

Target Health and Wellness

Many employers are creating wellness programs and enlisting the employees in a partnership arrangement regrading practicing better health habits.  Although hard numbers are difficult to come by, many employers believe they are creating a focus on wellness that will pay off at the bottom line.  Employers are offering smoking cessation programs, health fairs populated by as many as 100 different vendors, offering everything from multi vitamins to massage, and healthy snacks, like fruit and nuts instead of candy, cupcakes and empty snacks.

Investigate provider arrangements

More employers are taking a harder look the health services they are providing and how those health services are being offered.  Some are considering more restrictive arrangements like EPO’s (Exclusive Provider Organizations)  where they can get better discounts by decreasing the size of the provider network.  Other options include offering 2 tier plans where the employer pays a sizable percentage of the lower plan, but gives the employees an opportunity to “buy up” if they want to choose the more expensive plan.

Evaluate the value of drug spending

Employers are banding together to put pressure on drug companies to moderate price increases. Similar pressures were enacted in the early 1990s and significant decreases in the drug price growth rate.

We are already seeing some pharmaceutical companies take action, limiting price increases, offering cheaper generic alternatives and proactively addressing questions of value in the marketplace.

Even though health insurance price increases have slowed over the past three years, they still outpace inflation and employers need to continue to pursue alternatives that will lead to a healthier workforce and, ultimately, to lower health insurance costs for everyone.


Organizational Value


There are multiple ways a Human Resources organization can add value.  Too often though, there is a mismatch between the value that HR is bringing and the growth and maturity curve of a company.  Imagine, for instance, heading HR for a large, established, multinational corporation and believing that the value HR brings lies in the mechanics of setting up employee files, creating salary structures and running benefit programs.  Conversely, imagine a situation where there is a relatively small start =up company.  The company has grown to the size, maybe 100 employees, where they finally need an HR presence.  The person selected start out by talking about aligning the employees to the organizational objectives, but the organizational objectives have yet to be defined.  It is important to always keep in mind the match between the HR function and the organization.  There are three primary ways that HR can bring true value to an organization.


HR has the responsibility to provide the basic mechanics of the HR function.  This can include such basics as:

  • Running ads and hiring for candidates
  • Creating salary structures to ensure the workforce is paid correctly
  • Selecting and running health insurance plans
  • Keeping I-9’s
  • Running basic training programs
  • Legal Compliance


Moving along the continuum, HR should provide the processes that ensure that an organization can scale efficiently

  • Hiring becomes……. an on-boarding process with predictive capability
  • Providing benefits becomes ……..a well thought out approach to which benefits, how to create a benefit matrix and judgment applied to the types and cost sharing of benefits
  • Legal compliance becomes……an understanding of what we are trying to accomplish and how best to accomplish it
  • Basic Training programs become….. Training program that meet key corporate objectives where impact is measurable
  • Basic compensation administration becomes…..internal and external equity comparisons, creative approaches to a three pronged approach and the most bang for our buck, social performance management systems


Where HR can truly contribute the most value is when the Mechanics and Processes are in place and we can step back and view the big picture strategy.  Where are we going and how are we going to get there?

  • Thoroughly understand the goals of the organization and get ahead of the curve- what processes, practices and strategies will be needed in 1 year?  3 years?
  • Communicate corporate goals that align the workforce to the vision and mission of the Company
  • Align processes and programs across the organization to create high performing teams
  • Continually monitor the pulse of the organization and make recommendations to solve small problems before they become big ones
  • Assist executive teams to make sense of the internal and external environments and the impact they have on the organization

What do we hope to Achieve?

Crafted effectively, we orchestrate the above to achieve:

  • Increased alignment between organizational objectives and employee population goals
  • Most value extracted from each hire
  • Greater employee engagement yielding greater employee satisfaction
  • Reduced turnover
  • Better hiring decisions
  • Better use of resources reflected at the bottom line

International HR – Germany



There are significant differences when it comes to the Human Resources organizations in the US versus companies in Germany, and many other countries in the EU.


Managerial Discretion

Anyone who has worked in the US understands that managers and HR have a lot of discretion over who to hire and who and when to terminate.  Sometimes these kinds of decisions can be made in a few days or weeks.  In Germany, specifically, these types of decisions are months if not years long, with serious infractions needing to have taken place.  Germany has a co-determination practice.  Co-determination is a practice whereby the employees have a role in the management of a company. The word is a literal translation from the German word Mitbestimmung.. In some countries, like the USA, the workers have virtually no role in corporate management; and in others, like Germany, their role is more important.


Wage differences

In the US, many studies show that white collar workers can make as much as 20 times that of blue collar workers in the same company.  This is drastically different than in Germany. Germany  is known for its balanced remuneration system.  The average white-collar worker’s wage is only 20% over the average blue collar worker`s wage. In addition, companies are not allowed to hire skilled workers from other companies by offering higher salaries.


Company Loyalty

Here too, the perception differs.  In the US, workers are generally always in search of something new or better, and there is very little company loyalty.  In Germany, employees feel a much greater sense of loyalty to their companies and, general, will not leave.  They will look for opportunities within their current company or subsidiaries and the company will work hard to provide those. 


Management decisions

While the US is typically a very individualistic society, making quick decisions and reversing them if necessary, Germany, in stark contrast, tends to work like a democracy in their companies. It is important the whole team has a say and the whole team is bought into the decision.  While this can seem appealing, the trade off is time.  Decision making will take much longer with a group of employees when everyone needs to be in agreement. 

Both cultures have their pros and cons and neither is necessarily best.  The US, acting as an impulsive, decisive,  all knowing teenager and Germany as the wise parent, moving slowly with certain purpose.