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Posts tagged ‘recruitment outsourcing’

To Outsource or Not: Help With the When

Sometimes, it’s hard to know when to ask for help, to identify the most appropriate moment for admitting you can’t do it all, after all, and that requesting assistance with a task outside of your wheelhouse of expertise, is perfectly acceptable. Indeed, it’s the wisest thing.

So it is with all things IT, a subject area that gets increasingly complicated in direct relation with your organization’s need for it. Here are some scenarios during which the call for an outsider to manage its most fiddly bits makes the most sense:

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  • Cheaper-choice outsourcing. Oftentimes, it’s simply a smarter economic option to bring in contractors to oversee an organization’s IT needs, given the requirement to pay the benefits and retirement options of a full-timer. A freelance mind that’s well versed in the intricacies of every technical challenge you can dish up might simply be cheaper than training a specialist from within.
  • Special skill outsourcing. Sometimes, an organization’s corporate activities wander into decidedly complicated territory, and the IT talents required to see an initiative through are simply beyond the grasp of regular folk. It’s at this point that calling in the services of a top-notch, specialized technician is an incontestably smart bet.
  • Piecemeal outsourcing. The services of an external IT expert needn’t be applied to every project in your kit bag. If your internal expertise is reasonable to a certain extent, and if your budget is equally limited, consider hiring outside staff for only your most technically tricky initiatives.
  • Short-term outsourcing. If the project in question is of the quick-turnaround, tactical nature (versus an IT undertaking that’s intrinsic to the essential daily-bread business of the company), it’s worth considering turning it out.
  • Valve-release outsourcing. The ability of your inside team to handle the technicalities of a certain IT-heavy initiative notwithstanding, if your employees’ workload is already over the limit, outsourcing the IT portion is a no-brainer. Also, if it’s simply a smarter use of your staffers’ time to have them glued to core projects rather than the IT considerations that facilitate them, don’t hesitate to call in a technical outsider so your folks can use their time more meaningfully (even if the activity could be done more cheaply in house).
  • Infrastructure-upgrade outsourcing. If a company is in a growth stage or is introducing new technical aspects to its infrastructure, it’s likely smarter to bring in a few outside technicians to set up shop and see to it that the insiders are up to speed.
  • Low-need outsourcing. Sometimes, it isn’t the crazy-challenging technical environment of a company’s IT preoccupations that sends it scurrying for outsourced expertise; sometimes, it’s quite the opposite. If your firm has a fairly stable and unchanging set of IT needs, it would be overkill for it to host its own in-house IT team. Better, in this scene, to outsource for expertise on an as-needed basis.

Outsourcing can be an extremely strategic tool for making your business more productive and profitable — but only if you know when to take advantage of it. Be mindful then, and use the force wisely.

Seniors and Employment: Working It

Your grandparents did it. So did Lee Iacocca and Johnny Carson. Hell, even the Pope retired from his job. But whether the rest of us will ourselves one day draw a curtain on our working lives remains in some question.

According to a 2012 TD Economics Observation report overseen by Statistics Canada, since the economy started picking up its broken bits in mid-2009, that segment of the population aged 60 and older have snapped up a full third of all net new job gains. More than that, workers over age 70 gained 37 percent more employment during the same period.

When you consider that these stooped figures represent just eight percent of the workforce, this emerges as a significant piece of news.

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These folks are taking jobs in a range of sectors, with particular emphasis on the retail market. Would-be retirees have also created employment gains in the professional, health-care, scientific and technical services sectors.

Lots of these workers are also striking out on their own. A study published by CIBC last fall discovered that the fastest growing slice of the entrepreneurial pie — by a long shot — is being devoured by older workers setting up their own businesses.

That such a portion of recent labour market gains is attributable to the return of the more mature employee — or, just as common, his stubborn refusal to leave the race in the first place — is credited to lots of reasons. Certainly, these individuals have made practical choices to keep income flowing or bulk up their pensions. In other instances, they’ve stayed in the workforce simply out of preference.

Some resources for older job hunters:

• Seniors 4 Seniors (www.seniors4seniors.com) is a unique community service-oriented business concept that matches younger seniors with time on their hands with older seniors who need help.

• Top Employers for Canadians Over 40 (www.canadastop100.com/older_workers) is a website celebrating those workplaces across the country that do the most for employees in the “second half of their careers.”

• Service Canada Employment for Seniors site (www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/audiences/seniors/employment.shtml) is a collection of data pertaining to the subject of older Canadians working.

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?

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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.

Minimum Wage on a Global Scale

Thanks to Obama’s crie last week to increase his country’s minimum wage from a shabby $7.25 to a much more palatable $9 an hour in an effort to stem the widening income-inequality gap in his digs, the time is ripe for a big-picture, internationally flavoured snapshot of the stuff.

According to the Huffington Post and the OECD, Canada’s minimum wage, which averages out at US$8.04 countrywide, is among the highest in the world. Next up is the United Kingdom at US$8.53, then New Zealand at US$8.63, Belgium at US$9.52, Australia at US$9.54, France at US$10.02, the Netherlands at US$10.23 and Ireland at US$10.81. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg scores the number-one spot with its princely US$11.36 minimum.       

But it’s tricky to compare the whole fruit bowl of wages clocking in from across the globe, particularly given that the standard against which this financial benchmark is measured varies so wildly. It’s also meaningful to acknowledge the distance between a country’s minimum wage and its median income, an interval that has much to say about the standard of living in a place.

As such, it’s popular practice to apply an imagined international unit of currency to normalize the lot. Using that model, here’s a sampling of the world’s wages — and a sense of where Canada falls into the pack.

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Country                        Gross Annual Wage (international dollars)

Canada                               $16,710

Peru                                    $5,342

Luxembourg                        $19,426

Belize                                  $5,571

Taiwan                                $12,175

United States                      $15,080

Mexico                                $1,753

United Kingdom                  $18,428

Japan                                 $11,254

Sierra Leone                      $211

Switzerland                        $15,457

Rwanda                             $496

So it is that Canada furnishes those workers society has deemed the lowest on the payscale with a living wage that’s pretty well aligned with that in comparably developed countries. If you doubt that and feel under-compensated, imagine how the citizens of Sierra Leone feel when they haul their T4s home at the end of the year.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

IT Outsourcing Tip Sheet

Organizations that outsource their IT work have a tall order to fill. From aligning the partner’s internal culture with their own, to ensuring an exit strategy is part of the initial contract, there’s much to be considered when entering into such an arrangement.

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Here, in the interest of easing the burden, is an IT Outsourcing Tip Sheet. Keep its wisdom close at hand.

  • Do your due diligence. The decision to assign the oversight of IT functions to an external provider comes with a certain amount of risk. Companies need to take stock of that risk via extensive investigation of the subcontractor. Review their portfolio. Check their references.
  • Sign a contract. A company makes its relationship with an IT outsourcer official with a contract. Make sure yours is comprehensive, and includes mention of much. Here’s where you outline how you’ll receive project updates, clarify confidentiality expectations and agree on a timeline for the work. Make sure, too, that the document has a long view that considers your ongoing need for both access to intelligence from this provider over the lifetime of the relationship, and a sensible exit strategy that gives you unfettered closure when it runs its course.
  • Ensure a culture match. By making sure that the culture of the service provider corresponds with your own, you reduce the possibility of having key staff — with critical knowledge of your systems — heading for the hills. Attending mutual social events or organizing participation in each other’s quality programs are two ideas for bridging the gap.
  • Get involved, stay engaged. It’s not enough to simply dump a load of work in an IT subcontractor’s hands and return two months later to survey the finished work. Keep projects on track by maintaining contact. The developers should be accustomed to reporting on their progress and seeking your feedback. No one, after all, knows your business better than you.
  • Buy wisely. While IT spends vary wildly according to company size and sector, some 80 percent of a company’s total IT budget will typically be spent on maintenance, with the remaining 20 percent freed up to take advantage of new projects, improvements and paying for regulatory changes. It’s important to bear these numbers in mind throughout.
  • Be prepared for challenges. It takes time to build an outsourcing relationship. Be patient, and you will be well rewarded.

It’s critical, when outsourcing your IT work, to ensure that you and the subcontractor are always on the same, surprise-free page. Cover your bases thus and the arrangement should prove extremely fruitful.

The (Fresh) Heartbreak of Unemployment

Lose your job and you could risk losing a lot more, new research warns.

Heart attacks are more common among the unemployed, a study published in the latest issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine reports. People who have recently lost their livelihoods are as much as 35 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than their more gainfully employed contemporaries, this American research reports.

What’s more, it seems that the more blows a person takes to his employed self, the more likely he’ll take one to his pulmonary trunk. In the 13,000 older adults the scientists analyzed for this report, those who had experienced successive job losses were at higher risk for heart troubles with each new defeat.

The research has yet to be parsed out into meaningful interpretation, but the lead investigator has speculated that this reality may be a result of a combination of forces, including stress, a deteriorating lifestyle and the physical fallout an absence of health insurance delivers. These folks might up their smoking rates, say, or let their oversight of chronic conditions slip.

The relationship between health and unemployment has long been acknowledged.

More than three years ago, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health determined that workers who’d lost their jobs through no fault of their own were twice as likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease in the year-and-a-half following the event. Only six percent of people with steady employment over the study period were plagued by new health conditions, while 10 percent of those who’d lost their jobs over the same stretch developed new medical woes. And that was the case even if they found new employment in the meantime.

The takeaway from all of this for the souls who’ve recently joined the ranks of the unemployed? You need to concern yourself with not only the continued health of your bank account, but of your ticker, as well.

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.

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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