It takes a very steady hand

Winners of the 2011 Canada’s Top 100 Employers competition know one thing for certain: Employees have a long memory, and shareholders can be short-sighted

By Todd Humber (

The theme that emanated from the 2011 Canada’s Top 100 Employers competition (see the Nov. 15 issue of Canadian HR Reporter) was “stay the course.”

With a tough economy and corporations cutting corners wherever possible, companies adding perks and raising the bar on the employee experience were a tad scarce. Instead, the companies that made the list were the ones resisting the urge to slash and burn. (Full disclosure: Carswell, the company that publishes Canadian HR Reporter, made the list in 2011 for the fourth year in a row.)

A sign displaying TSX information in Toronto. Share values will go up and go down, but its employers that stay the course that can expect the biggest returns from employees. (Photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters)

The editors of Mediacorp Canada, the company behind the list, could have called the 2011 competition Canada’s Most Far-Sighted employers. In the darkest days of the recession, when nearly every company in every industry across the country — the globe, really — was feeling the pinch, the easy way out was to cut. Cut headcount. Slash benefits. Take the axe to every single expense possible.

To be fair, for some firms, it truly was a matter of survival — either cut staff or go out of business. But too many firms looked at quarter-by-quarter balance sheets, saw reductions in revenue and gave in to the knee-jerk reaction.

While such actions may have placated shareholders for a few months, the long-term picture is likely to be slightly less than positive. Employees have notoriously long memories. Talent won’t hesitate to jump ship if they don’t like what happened during the depths of the Great Recession. Shareholders, conversely, have very short memories. They will quickly forget the temporary benefit if the long-term prognosis sours as the true ramifications of the cuts come into focus.

In a video posted earlier this month on Canadian HR Reporter TV, Lance Jensen Richards, senior director and global practice leader for HR consulting at Kelly Services, had this memorable line: “The war for talent is over, and talent won.” (You can view this video here, and be sure to check out other videos on Canadian HR Reporter‘s Multimedia Centre.)

While it makes for a cute quote, it’s a point employers should take to heart. Top talent has always, and always will, hold all the cards. Treat your talent well when the going gets rough and you’ll be paid back in spades when the grass gets greener.

If I were placing bets, I’d be confident wagering on the future of pretty much every company on this year’s list. By staying the course, these employers have proven they know what their greatest asset is and have set the stage to thrive as the economy rebounds.

There’s also a great feature starting on page 17 of the Nov. 15 issue. Shannon Klie, one of our senior editors, talked with five HR professionals who have obtained the Senior Human Resources Professional (SHRP) designation. While the SHRP isn’t available in every province (Ontario and Saskatchewan have it and other provinces are contemplating it), those who have received it are at the pinnacle of their careers.

They have some great stories to share about how they rose to the top of their profession. And don’t think it’s a coincidence that there’s no talk of slashing and burning with this bunch.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. For more infomration visit Follow us on Twitter at and Facebook at


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