Archive for December, 2010

Employers belong in the kitchen

Employers understand employees are what they eat, but are hesitant to get involved: Exclusive Canadian HR Reporter survey

By Todd Humber (todd.humber@thomsonreuters.com)

There’s a glaring disconnect in the results from the Nutrition in the Workplace Survey conducted by Canadian HR Reporter and Nutrition Naturally. (See articles 8673, 8652 and 8651  for complete survey coverage.)

The first question we asked employers was, “Do you think food choices relate to performance at work?” The answer was a resounding yes — only 3.7 per cent said no, with 85.6 per cent responding in the affirmative and 10.7 per cent unsure.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver carries out food for a G20 leaders dinner at Downing Street in London. Oliver spearheaded a campaign in the United Kingdom in 2008, which was turned into a four-part series, Jamie’s Ministry of Food. The show was based on the notion of “pass it on” — if Oliver taught eight people in the city of Rotheram, South Yorkshire, how to cook some simple recipes, and they passed that knowledge on to two people, who in turn passed it on, the entire city would be cooking in just 15 steps. (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Reuters)

The second question we asked was, “Do you think employers have a role to play in employees’ eating habits.” In this case, only one-half of respondents — 48.2 per cent — said yes.

So if there’s no doubt what employees eat affects job performance, and employers understand this, then why the hesitation to get involved? The obvious answer is many employers don’t think it’s any of their business.

That thinking is as understandable as it is wrong. Employers are in a unique position to help employees and their families, to educate workers about nutrition and to teach them how to cook healthy meals. After all, workers spend at least one-half of their waking time on the job.

British chef Jamie Oliver spearheaded a great campaign in the United Kingdom in 2008, which was turned into a four-part series, Jamie’s Ministry of Food, that can still be caught in reruns on the Food Network. The show was based on the notion of “pass it on” — if Oliver taught eight people in the city of Rotheram, South Yorkshire, how to cook some simple recipes, and they passed that knowledge on to two people, who in turn passed it on, the entire city would be cooking in just 15 steps.

He had some of his best successes by convincing employers to teach workers how to cook during their lunch hours. It made for great television. But it’s also an idea employers across Canada should embrace. Lots of companies, after all, do “lunch and learns.” Why not, then, do a “learn and lunch” — give employees the opportunity to learn how to cook a healthy meal and then actually sit down and eat it?

This doesn’t have to be expensive. Every office has a budding amateur chef and odds are she’d be happy to take the opportunity to teach co-workers. Participants could chip in to cover the cost of groceries.

The one catch may be facilities — clearly, most employers don’t have full kitchens. Results from our survey showed only 16.2 per cent had conventional ovens and 12.4 per cent had a cooktop. But arrangements could be made with a local restaurant, or even a grocery store (many now offer cooking classes) to use their facilities.

Too many people don’t know the basics of cooking or overestimate the time it takes to cook meals from scratch. But giving employees the bare essentials of cooking can go a long way in reducing the amount of processed food they eat.

I’ll get the campaign started with one of my favourite recipes — a curried butternut squash soup. It’s as easy to make as it is delicious. The night before you want the soup, take a butternut squash, cut it in half and scoop out the pulp and seeds and discard. Then roast the two halves of squash in a 400-degree oven for about 60 to 90 minutes until it has softened. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. Scoop the squash out, discarding the skin.

When you’re ready to make the soup, boil about two cups of low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth and throw the squash pieces in. Add a teaspoon each of curry powder, cumin and onion powder. Boil for 10 minutes. Then blitz it with a blender and serve. You can top it with sour cream mixed with a couple drops of lime juice.

Have an easy, healthy recipe to pass along? I’ll be posting this editorial as a blog on http://www.hrreporter.com on Dec. 13. Add your recipe to the mix by posting it as a comment. Bon appétit.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resources management. For more information, visit www.hrreporter.com.

The cure for corporate black eyes

PR disasters show need for local managers to have authority to quickly reverse bad decisions

By Todd Humber (todd.humber@thomsonreuters.com)

Enough, already.

There’s a formula out there that too many organizations are following on the PR front that’s just not working. The script usually plays out like this:

Step 1: The company makes a bad decision.

Step 2: Said decision draws the ire of customers and the public.

Step 3: A company manager is dismissive of the complaints.

Step 4: The bad decision makes headlines on the evening news.

Step 5: A company “spokesperson” defends said bad decision.

Step 6: After a huge uproar, the company backs down and reverses its bad decision.

A member of the Korean Salvation Army uses a bell to draw attention on a street in central Seoul on Dec. 1. The Salvation Army's bells fell silent at the Eaton Centre in Toronto because the mall's owners were concerned about noise. (Photo: Truth Leem/Reuters)

Let’s plug in some real life examples. Playing the role of the organization making a bad decision this time is the Eaton Centre, the iconic shopping centre in downtown Toronto.

The bad decision: Not letting Salvation Army volunteers raising money ring their bells because of concerns over noise.

The ban, which had quietly been in effect for years, got noticed this holiday season. And the company that owns the mall — Cadillac Fairview — was bombarded.

“We’re getting hate mail and people saying they won’t shop here.  Holy cow,” spokesman Brian O’Hoski told the Toronto Star. “This was an arrangement that was made several years ago and I didn’t even know it was an issue. I’ve been blindsided by this.”

Yet, despite saying that, Cadillac Fairview didn’t offer to immediately reverse the policy. Instead, it defended it. It pointed out that the Salvation Army raised quite a bit of money at the Eaton Centre. Fair enough, but the Salvation Army said ringing the bell would help them raise more money.

So the Eaton Centre stood firm on a silly policy and got a black eye.

And a couple of days later, after more public outcry and negative press, it inevitably reversed the policy. The bells are now ringing again at the Eaton Centre.

The same problem plays out every November, as some store somewhere won’t allow veterans to sell poppies on company property.

There’s a role for HR professionals here — they need to ensure local managers are empowered to make decisions to reverse poor policies on the spot. The kerfuffle at the Eaton Centre would have been nothing if its spokesperson had just said, “Wow. I didn’t know we were banning them. We’ll get that fixed ASAP.”

Because the outcome here — and in every story that follows this script — is inevitable. The policy will have to be changed. So why not avoid getting a black eye in the process?

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resources management. For more information, visit www.hrreporter.com.

A bill worth reading

Every HR professional in Ontario should read Bill 138 — and those outside the province may want to take a peek too

By Todd Humber (todd.humber@thomsonreuters.com)

Legislation is dull. There’s no steering around that. Reading the sections and subsections of a bill is like travelling back in time to Grade 9 when the words of William Shakespeare were first thrust upon you.

Sure, it all seems — and sounds — important. But what does it actually mean?

But persistence has a payoff. Stick with Shakespeare long enough, and the prose unravels fantastically, revealing the brilliance of works like Hamlet, Othello and Romeo & Juliet.

Bill 138, the Act Respecting the Human Resources Professionals Association, passed first reading in the Ontario legislature on Nov. 23. (Photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Ontario’s Bill 138, the Act Respecting the Human Resources Professionals Association, may not be as enjoyable to read as a time-tested play, but stick it out — and all members of the HRPA should — and you’ll undoubtedly find it to be an interesting read.

The 38-page bill, which passed first reading in the Ontario legislature on Nov. 23, will help shape the future of the profession and define the powers of the association. It’s worth taking 15 minutes to at least give it a skim — below are a few highlights (more details, and the full text of the bill, are available here):

New designations? The bill outlines professional designations/initials that HRPA has the right to control in Ontario. In addition to the familiar Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) and Senior Human Resources Professional (SHRP) a couple of new acronyms are added to the mix — Registered Human Resources Professional (RHRP); Associated Certified Human Resources Professional (ACHRP) and Certified Industrial Relations Counsellor (CIRC).

Investigation and inspection powers: The bill states that investigators may, “at any reasonable time, enter and inspect the business premises of the individual or firm under investigation, other than any part of the premises used as a dwelling, without the consent of the owner or occupier and without a warrant.”

Investigators can also:

•Question the individual, or anyone who works with the individual or anyone who works in the firm, to provide information the investigator thinks is relevant.

•Require the production of and examine any document or thing the investigator believes is relevant, including client files.

•Remove any document or thing the investigator believes is relevant for the purposes of making a copy of it.

•Use any data storage, processing or retrieval device or system used in carrying on business on the premises in order to produce a document in readable form.

There’s plenty more in the legislation. No judgment from these quarters about whether the text is good or bad for the profession. But what is clear is that all members of the HRPA — and anyone doing business in human resources — should take the time to read the proposed legislation.

A healthy and informed discussion is never a bad thing.

At Canadian HR Reporter, we’ll be following the bill closely as it works its way through the legislature to find out what it means for you and the profession. Stay tuned.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. For more information, visit www.hrreporter.com.


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