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Study Up: Drug and Alcohol Testing in Canada

In the aftermath of wheels-up Lance Armstrong’s not-so-surprising confessions to Mme. O last week, now’s as good a time as any to put together a snapshot of the Canadian employment landscape insofar as drug-and-alcohol testing practices go here. Here’s a half-dozen data points thereon:

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  1. Wildly inconsistent rulings by various courts, labour boards and human rights tribunals across the country have created a climate of confusion on the subject of random workplace tests for drugs for workers engaged in jobs that are not considered “safety sensitive.” The uncertainty stems from efforts to strike a balance between ensuring a safe working environment and protecting individuals’ basic human rights.
  2. As of April 2012, only eight jurisdictions in this country had a policy on drug and alcohol testing: Saskatchewan, PEI, Northwest Territories, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
  3. The Canadian Human Rights Commission Policy on Alcohol and Drug Testing prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and perceived disability. Disability includes individuals with a previous or existing dependence on alcohol or a drug, and perceived disability refers to an employer’s perception that someone’s use of alcohol or drugs makes him “unfit to work.”
  4. Because they can’t be characterized as “bona-fide occupational requirements,” says the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the following tests are not acceptable: pre-employment drug or alcohol testing, random drug testing and random alcohol testing of employees in non-safety-sensitive positions.
  5. In Canada, the (massive) onus is on the employer to establish that drug and alcohol tests are necessary for ensuring the safe and comprehensive fulfillment of a professional position.
  6. There are currently two prominent cases before the courts —Suncor and Irving (see: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/12/07/f-random-drug-testing.html) — that challenge the muddiness of the “safety-sensitive work” exception and which observers hope might shed clarity on the scene.

Given the swirling uncertainty that characterizes this subject, it’s no surprise that taking a boozy workplace abuser to task in this country is a tall order.

How Not to Get Hired in 2013

The delicately recovering economy notwithstanding, it’s still a helluva time for a person to try and get his ass hired in this country. Better, probably, to simply dig in and not bother.

In that pragmatic spirit of kitchen-sink realism then, here are eight tips on how not to get hired in 2013.

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Get disorganized. Don’t keep track of any job openings that have intrigued you or your progress in applying for them.

Be creative with your credentials. A few more upper-case letters after your name look pretty impressive on a CV. Whether they were legitimately earned or not is immaterial; no one’s going to actually investigate your claims!

Stay in the dark. Avoid any efforts to become informed about a company whose employment potential piques your interest. Don’t bother with researching its background, reputation or the industry in which it participates.

Keep to yourself. This “networking” business is overblown hype. Avoid social gatherings, professional events and, for heaven’s sake, stay off the “social media.” It’s not about who you know, after all. It’s about who you are!

Ignore your soft skills. Employers are interested in your education and experience only. Focus on pushing them, and don’t waste energy on curating crap like communication, teamwork skills or attitude.

• Keep things virtual. These are the days of LinkedIn, on-line job applications and e-mailed CVs, after all. How ridiculous and backward-thinking it would be to seek to separate yourself from the pack with some old-fashioned personal touches, like snail-mail notes or in-person contact. So last century!

• Don’t ask questions. An interview is for an employer to suss you out — not the other way around. Queries like “What are the biggest issues currently facing your industry?” or “What would you consider ‘a good fit’ for this role?” will do nothing to impress anyone and certainly won’t increase your understanding of what the company’s looking for. Speak only when you’re spoken to.

Don’t be a pest. If you’ve had an interview or a conversation with a potential employer, leave it at that. These folks are busy! Don’t jam up their inboxes with post-interview e-mails that punch home salient points. Oh, and there’s no call for handwritten thank-you notes after a meeting, either. Save your stamps and trust that your one encounter was enough to do the trick.

With these tips in hand, you should have no problem avoiding the messy tangle of new employment this year. Good luck!

Private Job Creation in Canada Must Achieve Warp Speed

Friday’s release of the employment numbers for the last month of the year by Statistics Canada ties up the dangling strings of the year that was.

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At first blush, the scene appears to be on the ascent. Overall, Statistics Canada reports, some 40 thousand new jobs were created in this country in December. The great bulk of the latest burst of employment augmentation took place in Ontario, where 33 thousand jobs were added to the rosters in December — most of them full-time positions.

Employment levels in this country peaked in 2008 at 17.1 million, before tumbling by more than 200,000 in 2009. The next year, the stuff recovered somewhat and, by 2011, job numbers had screamed past pre-recession heights to 17.3 million. Another 200,000 were added in 2012, and Stats Can set December’s national unemployment rate at a sort of shockingly optimistic four-year low of 7.1 per cent.

But while it’s certainly true that the Canadian economy has more than recovered the job losses it suffered during the recession, an article in the Globe and Mail points out that this factor proves a rather weak marker of prosperity and recovery when regarded in isolation. A broader picture that considers the massive role that demographics have to play in such a consideration reveals that, thanks to the advancing years of working-age Canadians, the real number of unemployed souls in this country is still actually below pre-recession highs.

And so job creation must remain a priority for the 2013-bound country. And, given that employment growth in the public sector is slowing to a crawl, and that most of the ship’s power is currently being diverted to deficit reduction, any further expansion on the jobs front will have to be picked up by the private sector. Set phasers to stun.

Marrying Employers’ and Employees’ Wish Lists

Ask a business decision-maker in almost any high-flying Canadian industry to nominate his most consuming corporate concerns, and settle in for some expressed grievances about how managing human capital is more of a trick than ever. The currently soaring pressure to attract and retain talent — and the coincidentally shrinking means to do so — explains why it’s a not-so-envious time to be an HR flack.

An employer’s best bet with this gambit has to begin with understanding what’s important to his prospective hires. Only by identifying priorities can one seek to fulfill them, after all.

Alas, according to a recent study by global professional services firm Towers Watson, employers demonstrating a grasp of this one are few and far between.

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Too many managers, the survey revealed, are seriously out of touch with what today’s roster of available talent really wants. When asked what the top three most meaningful attractions for eligible talent are, business leaders picked opportunities for career advancement, a challenging work environment and an organization’s reputation as the winners.

Prospective employees, meanwhile, ticked the salary, job security and career advancement opportunities boxes. Only one common placeholder appeared on both lists and it wasn’t in either of the top two spots. Surely the secret to both-sides-now satisfaction lies in the ability to reconcile the two inventories.

And so the call for managers to hear the truth is loud.

Workers are concerned, first and foremost, with whether they can put food on their tables and clothes on their backs. Only after these necessities are met can they contemplate the particular nuances of their careers’ progress within a particular organization. Bar nothing else, base pay/salary is number one on the list of professional attractions for prospective employees. On top of that, it’s also the biggest retention driver for existing staff.

The sooner employers acknowledge this stripped-down wishlist of their potential workforce, the more productively they can staff their ranks.