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Posts tagged ‘contract staffing’

Giving Corporate Culture the Harlem Shake

It’s the current darling of the business world, the subject of countless fawning HR odes, the sugary buzz on everyone’s lips: corporate culture. Without it, crow its adherents, no one would want to work for a company, and no employee would have loyalty enough for a place to hang around long.

But what, beyond in-office pool tables and Friday catered lunches, is this elusive essential? And how to get it for yourself?


Some quick-hit corporate culture tips:

• Corporate culture is born in the corporate story. Cultivate your corporate story early and revisit it often. By reminding staffers of those things about the firm that make it special and upon which its success is based, management endows the scene with a sense of value and history, and ensures a universality to its message that is consistently reinforced. Trade on corporate lore in your story, and celebrate its treasures loudly. At Nike, employees use a Winnebago as a conference room (plonked right in the middle of the company kitchen) because cofounder Phil Knight is said to have first sold shoes out of such a vehicle. 

• Encourage buy-in by staging company-wide bursts of spirit. Such activities unify disparate groups that might otherwise work in isolation, and fill them with energy around a common subject, besides. A whack of companies have filmed and posted their own takes on the Harlem Shake, of late: a perfect example of such a coalescing exercise.

• Bear in mind always that corporate culture is set by an organization’s executives and management team. It is their behaviour that signals to subordinates what kind of behaviour is acceptable and expected. So those in the C-suite, remember always: you lead by example.

• Be patient. Bad behaviour, alas, spreads like wildfire; good behaviour takes a bit longer to catch hold. Establish a tone, support it with action and then dig in for the long haul. This corporate culture stuff is going to be a while.

Corporate culture matters for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that disharmony between an individual’s personality and that of the workplace at large has been linked to job dissatisfaction, absenteeism and high rates of staff turnover. Ignore its siren call at your peril.

Putting Employment Negotiation in Check

Q: What lasted 113 days, cost countless millions, delivered a giant purple bruise to the reputation of a massive industry and left a legacy of labour relations lessons in its wake?

A: The NHL lockout (finished at last, to the delirious delight of legion hockey fans).

But what could this exercise in greed, petty self-indulgence and enduring petulance ever have to teach folks knocking up against employment issues in less glamorous professional pursuits? Plenty, as it turns out.


An off-ice sampling, then, for employers and employees alike looking to avoid taking a similarly bone-crushing hit:

•  Keep feelings in check. The lockout lasted as long as it did largely because of all the emotions in play. Given that every last labour negotiation includes the in-opposition participation of at least two humans, and given that humans are inherently sentient beings, it stands to reason that emotions are going to slop all over the proceedings at some point. But you mustn’t let them call the shots. Reason must always trump passion here.

Keep talking. The hockey example might have included a whack of precious and insanely drawn-out flights to and from the bargaining table — but at least it did. When the parties in an HR arbitration flat-out refuse to keep the conversation going, all is lost. The longer you can keep both sides talking, the more likely you are to find a solution.

Seek help. It wasn’t until the 72nd day of the lockout that the league and its players association agreed to call in the services of a mediator (and it took a further 41 days for said mediator to score an in-principle agreement). Canadian labour negotiations typically invite mediation onto the ice much earlier in the game (in fact, mediation or conciliation is a mandatory qualification before a lockout or strike is considered legal), and with good reason. Mediators enjoy a successful record of expedient problem-solving and bridge-building.

Remember: whether it’s hockey, hotels or heavy equipment, it’s always human relations. And the name of the game, regardless, is to achieve the best deal with the least damage to your side.

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.


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.

Top 50 Employers List Reveals What Employees Value Most

Every year at around this time, Maclean’s issues its list of the country’s 50 Best Employers. This annual roundup, compiled by global HR consulting and outsourcing firm Aon Hewitt,offers a precious peek into the psyches of corporate Canada’s most valuable resource: its employees. It’s this population, after all, that nominates those characteristics of a workplace that are most meaningful to them.


Let’s have a look:

As for the types of organizations that make the most frequent appearances on the list, certain categories rank higher than others.

There are more companies involved in finance and insurance here than anything else: 15. Next up is construction and engineering firms, of which there are 10 on this year’s collection. Hotels (7) and professional services (4) bring up the rear.

Even more instructive is a consideration of the kinds of perk that score a company real estate on this inventory.

Long gone are the days when a few in-house treadmills and the promise of casual Fridays were enough to attract staffers’ appreciation (especially in the west, where oil-and-gas giants outstrip everyone else’s salary package offerings by a long shot). This year, the 50 Best’s crop of crowd-pleasers is as diverse as it is reflective of the audience that applauds them.

Some highlights here:

  • At construction company Aecon Group, employees get 100% of their training-and-development tuition fees reimbursed.
  • IT firm SAP Canada operates a peer-to-peer recognition program that encourages in-house celebration of colleagues.
  • At Flight Centre, on-site financial consultants help staffers manage their personal finances.
  • Conexus Credit Union employees get 10 days of personal time every year, so they don’t have to use vacation days to run errands and get fillings.
  • At Canadian Western Bank, the company donates $250 to a charity of every worker’s choice.
  • Staffers at construction and engineering firm CIMA+ enjoy access to an on-site dry cleaner.
  • And on their 90th day at Birchwood Automotive Group, employees are invited to have lunch with a senior executive to discuss their experience with the firm.

Maclean’s 50 Best Employers list is a gift to the entire Canadian workforce for the enlightenment it offers both sides of the employer-employee

Bridging the Immigrant Employment Gap

Everybody’s heard the story about the brain-surgeon cabbie or the chemical-engineer office cleaner. These are the Canadian immigrants who arrive on our shores qualified to the gills but unable to find employment in their new country to match the skills they brought from their old.

Immigrants move to Canada because they’ve heard it’s got lots of jobs and generous benefits. It’s why we take in about 250,000 newcomers a year — more, on a per-capita basis, than any other industrial country. By 2031, StatsCan suggests, one in three workers could be foreign-born.

But these folks’ integration into a new society comes with myriad challenges. In addition to securing employment, there are language, cultural and educational hurdles to be overcome.

According to a July 2008 report, 54% of people who’ve settled in Canada since 2002 have been university-educated. But the unemployment rate for these souls, as of 2007, was quadruple that of Canadian-born residents with university degrees.


Some resources and advice to help this population find its employment feet.

• Bridging programs, like those from the province ( or Toronto’s Ryerson University ( offer mentor-matching and arrange mock interviews with real employers.

• The Canadian Immigration Integration Program ( is a federal government initiative to help newly landed workers find jobs that recognize their experience and education.

• Municipally based programs, such as those on offer from the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (, offer workshops on such esoterica as how to behave in a business meeting, and operate mentoring programs that pair skilled immigrants with established pros.

Planning to Work in Canada ( is a government-produced workbook for individuals who’ve recently arrived.

• Work in Canada ( is an online resource managed by the Montreal-based immigration law firm, Campbell Cohen. It has a slew of resources for foreign-born workers struggling with the transition.

• The Best Employers for New Canadians competition ( recognizes the country’s best employers for recent immigrants, as assessed by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.

• Professional Networks for Immigrants ( is a list of networks run by internationally trained professionals in a range of professions, useful for anyone looking to develop relationships in their field.

• Alternative Jobs to Regulated Professions ( suggests non-regulated job alternatives for different regulated professions.

• Staffing and recruitment outsourcing firms are excellent first and final stops for new Canadians. Check out the bounty at

Recruitment by Facebook

Given that some 90% of recruiters currently use social media to help perform their jobs, it’s an increasing no-brainer that this landscape is fertile for recruiters and employers looking to fill their ranks.

Take Facebook, for one.

No longer a conduit for poking and cat videos alone, Facebook has evolved into a fully fledged recruitment tool whose vast audience — presumably dominated by the young and highly employable — now clocks in at a staggering near billion souls. Having recently outpaced Google in the push for popularity, Facebook is now the most visited real estate on the web.

The pie

•  85% of Internet users have Facebook accounts and 74% of them visit the site daily.

• 57% of Internet users have more than 100 Facebook friends.

• According to enterprise software-as-a-service provider HireRabbit, 48% of all job seekers (and 63% of those with a profile) did social-media job-hunting on Facebook in the past year.

How to get a piece

• Launch a Facebook group to establish yourself as a hub of expertise inside the industry whose employment rosters you regularly seek to fill.

• Consider the power of the potential brand ambassadors a Facebook presence makes available to you and your cause, like the 32 million or so (and counting) users who like Starbucks or the 30 million who are fans of Red Bull.

• Given that Facebook’s variably closed status can make direct sourcing a challenge, explore external Facebook network options like Spokeo, Pipl and Wink, where users can directly search for status updates and wall posts.

• The best Facebook career pages are clean and compelling, kept dynamic with news, links, and even contests and quizzes to engage an audience.

• Remember the power of current staffers in promoting your HR requirements. The more Facebookers who post links to your page, the better your chances at finding what you need.

• Investigate the range of Facebook job-search applications — a list that’s ever expanding. Work for Us allows allows users to convert Facebook pages into customized job boards; HireRabbit is an enterprise SaaSS that promotes itself as the most dead-simple option out.