Archive Page 2

Lining our pockets for retirement

Pooled registered pension plans (PRPPs) may not be a panacea, but they’re a step in the right direction

By Todd Humber (

Everybody wins when retirees have more money. The more purchasing power workers have as they ride into their golden years, the better off the economy will be.

Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks during a news conference in Ottawa in January. Flaherty has unveiled the latest acronym in retirement jargon — PRPPs, short for pooled registered pension plans. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The one potential loser is HR departments trying to retain valuable talent — but offer challenging work and employers will be able to keep the best on staff and coax great talent out of retirement, as article 8951 illustrates.

But let’s get back to retirement nest eggs, or the lack thereof — about 38 per cent of employees were members of a registered pension plan as of Jan. 1, 2009, the most recent data available from Statistics Canada. In the public sector, 84 per cent of workers had a pension scheme of some type, while in the private sector only about one-quarter had coverage.

Set aside, for now, the debate on whether taxpayers can afford (or are willing) to pay for public sector defined benefit (DB) plans into the future. Anyway you slice it, it’s hard to put a positive spin on the fraction of private sector workers covered by an RPP.

That’s why there has been so much hand-wringing in Ottawa — and across the country — about what to do to boost retirement income. Labour groups, and some provinces, have called on the federal government to expand the Canada Pension Plan.

It’s a simple plan: Force employers and employees to put more into it and pay out a bigger benefit. The scheme is already in place, it covers pretty much every worker and there’s not much legwork to do except for some actuarial math.

But employers aren’t chomping at the bit for more payroll taxes and, with a Conservative government at the helm, that scenario was unlikely from the start. Instead, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty unveiled the latest acronym in retirement jargon — PRPPs, short for pooled registered pension plans. Senior editor Sarah Dobson walks employers through PRPPs in article 8952. But, essentially, a PRPP is designed to give employers the ability to easily set up a defined contribution plan for workers and take advantage of the cost savings of being part of a large pool — no fuss, no muss.

Critics point out PRPPs aren’t DB plans — they don’t guarantee any income level whatsoever. And because it looks like participation won’t be mandatory, there’s concern many employers will opt out.

So it’s not a panacea. But it’s a positive step that will give employers — particularly small and medium-sized firms — more options and will undoubtedly lead to more workers saving for retirement. Let’s give Ottawa a tip of the hat for that.

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


Labour? We’ve got that covered

 CLV Reports is now Canadian Labour Reporter — and it has a new website

By Todd Humber (

A striking Via Rail locomotive engineer pickets at Central Station in Montreal in this file photo. Canadian Labour Reporter is a new product covering the world of labour relations from the editors of Canadian HR Reporter. (Photo: Shaun Best/Reuters)

Last year, Canadian HR Reporter overhauled its website,, to give it a new look and to accommodate the multimedia centre, which houses videos, blogs and webinars.

We also launched new publications and websites, to delve deeper into some of the HR specialties. To help health and safety professionals, we created Canadian Safety Reporter ( To cover the world of payroll, we built a website for Canadian Payroll Reporter (

As part of the redesign, we linked all these websites together, including Canadian Employment Law Today ( under the Canadian HR Reporter banner. The result is an unparalleled, one-stop information source for HR professionals. You can search all the websites with one search, and use the same username and password to access the content you subscribe to — and you can add subscriptions to additional products at any time.

Now, we’ve added even more depth. CLV Reports, a weekly publication that has been covering labour relations since 1956, has been renamed Canadian Labour Reporter and in January we launched its website.

Available at (also available by clicking on the Labour Relations tab on Canadian HR Reporter’s website), it features daily news posts, blogs, videos and more.

The foundation of Canadian Labour Reporter is collective agreements, and we’ve built a new tool to search the agreements online. Subscribers can search by keyword, sector, province, union and bargaining size. It’s an invaluable tool, backed by the expertise of Gordon Sova, who has been the editor for more than 15 years.

There’s also a searchable online archive of previous issues, including arbitration summaries, legislation updates and statistical tables. And subscribers will receive a weekly email update to help them stay on top of trends in labour relations.

We’ve also spiced up the weekly print issue of the product, adding more news coverage, and our journalists will be posting daily news updates to the website. Not a subscriber? We’re offering a special introductory offer of $495 for an annual subscription. Visit for more information.

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

Memo to HR: ‘You’re a bunch of corporate suck-ups who say a lot and do very little’

Anti-human resources venom in reader comments on newspaper website raises question: Why is HR such a popular punching bag?

By Todd Humber (

Why is HR such a popular punching bag?

In 2005, Fast Company magazine ran a scathing piece entitled “Why we hate HR” that stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the profession.

Fast forward six years, and HR still isn’t feeling much love from the general public. Canadian HR Reporter teamed up with the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) to conduct a Pulse Survey on problem managers.

In 2005, Fast Company magazine took a run at the HR profession with this provocative cover story. Six years later, human resources isn't feeling much love from the public, if one uses reader comments on a daily newspaper as a barometer.

The Toronto Star picked up on the story, and ran a version of it on their website. But what was telling was the comments from readers.

The majority of the comments were sharing stories about bosses from hell, or just griping in general, but more than a few comments took a run at human resources.

Here’s a sampling:

•“Ha, what a joke! Not only are bosses cutthroat and abusive nowadays, but worse are the HR reps! From government to private, the HR department represents the coldest, inhuman part of an organization.”

•“I find some of the HR people are from hell. My section of the company is unionized. (HR) hates it and it shows.”

•“I’m both surprised and shocked that HR departments are reporting this. It is a very difficult to bring up a bad manager with some HR departments, at least where I work.”

•One reader suggested that everyone “disliking” the anti-HR comments on the story were HR professionals. “Disagree all you want whilst you do your 9-4 job while others that actually do something and actually work will continue to ensure you have a job… dead weight!!”

•“But what about HR from hell? These people who are way overpaid and way underworked are the true enemies. Think they are there for you the employee? Think again! Make a complaint against your employer through them and you’ll be the next to go. HR’s a bunch of corporate suck ups who say a lot and do very little.”

•“You know what takes up too much time? Human resources. When did HR managers start making more than the people who actually drive the business? Uh, thanks. We need a total makeover of our corporate identity. Useless HR complaints and forms and feelings are what drives real managers crazy. Ha!”

•“I haven’t met an HR employee/manager/executive that wasn’t a little (to a lot) odd. I would take their observations and recommendations with a grain of salt. As the motto goes — those that can do and those that can’t go into HR!”

•“And when did the HR department start to care? This whole thing has been happening right under their noses and they did squat. HR is not there for you, HR is there to do what the boss tells them to do.”

Venomous comments on media websites should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt. But do you think HR professionals get the respect they deserve? And if not, why?

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

The start of HR’s dominance

For years, 2011 has been circled on employer’s calendars — and now the pressure is on HR

By Todd Humber (

Happy New Year, HR professionals. As we shake off the holiday hangover, there’s a stark number staring at us from our wall calendars: 2011.

For years, 2011 has been circled on employers’ calendars. That’s because this is the year the first wave of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) turn 65. As boomers flood out of the workplace to enjoy their golden years, employers will be challenged to replace their skills and experience.

Currently, Canada’s labour force represents 70 per cent of the country’s total population. By 2031, that number is expected to shrink to 63 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. So while employers didn’t wake up to a doomsday scenario on Jan. 1, we’ve turned a demographic corner that will have significant mid- to long-range implications.

The Great Recession provided a steam valve, a bit of a release of the pressure building up in the labour market. With an unemployment rate of 7.6 per cent in November, most employers still had plenty of wiggle room. But as the economy (hopefully) continues its recovery, that number is going to drop. And the great exodus of boomers will only add even more pressure to the kettle.

Ben Wentzell (right), director of the HR and Compliance Strategic Market Group at Carswell, laughs it up with Al Gore at the 2007 Top Employers Summit in Toronto. Wentzell was head of the group at Carswell that publishes Canadian HR Reporter. He retired at the end of 2010 following a long and distinguished career in publishing.

HR’s task in the coming years and decades will be to ease the pressure of this demographic crunch. That means some great strategic HR initiatives are going to take centre stage. Firms that are able to create strong cultures, breed engagement and loyalty and drive corporate social responsibility are going to have a clear advantage in recruiting and retaining talent.

The best-performing firms in the future are, undoubtedly, going to have top HR professionals at the helm. It’s an exciting time for the profession.

Farewell to Ben

Speaking of retirement, keen readers of our masthead will notice a key name missing in the Jan. 17 issue. That’s because Ben Wentzell, director of the HR and Compliance Strategic Market Group at Carswell, a Thomson Reuters business, has decided to hang up his pen following a long and distinguished career in publishing.

It’s impossible to overstate the effect he had on this publication, the staff and the HR profession as a whole. Publisher John Hobel summed it up best at his retirement party — if we could just somehow capture Ben’s management style and put it in a book, we’d have the only textbook HR professionals would ever need.

We’ll miss him dearly, but wish him all the best as he tears up the ski slopes and golf courses across the country.

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

Manufacturing is all Steve McQueen

Statistics Canada’s surprising job numbers, and the swagger coming from Detroit, are good harbingers for the economy

By Todd Humber (

Manufacturing has got its shades on again.

For years, the critical sector has been an economic nerd. Taking punch after punch, it was unable to stand up for itself — it was the 98-pound weakling getting sand kicked in its face as thousands of jobs were shed across Canada and plant after plant shut down.

Ralph Gilles, Chrysler's senior vice president of design, speaks in front of a Chrysler 300 during the press day for the North American International Auto show in Detroit on Jan. 10. (Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

But suddenly, and surprisingly, manufacturing is cool again. Or make that red hot — as Statistics Canada’s surprising job numbers from December showed. A total of 66,000 jobs were created in the manufacturing sector last month — which means there were more people working in manufacturing at the end of 2010 than there was at the start.

“Really, the mysterious man of the hour is manufacturing,” Eric Lascelles, chief macro strategist at TD Securities, told Reuters. “In fact, it’s such a big monthly gain that you end up closing out 2010 with more manufacturing jobs than the start of the year which is not something I think anyone really seriously predicted over the last year.”

And the headlines continue to get better. The Detroit automakers are bullish as the curtains are raised on the 2011 edition of the North American International Auto Show — which by all accounts is more glitzy this year, reflecting the sector’s optimism following some toned down shows in recent years.

Ford announced plans to add 7,000 new hourly and salaried jobs in the United States by the end of 2012. GM also said it plans to bring back workers. And Chrysler unveiled its sleek new 300 sedan, built in Brampton, Ont., and reaffirmed its commitment to its Windsor, Ont.-built minivan.

Nobody is confident enough to say that we’re out of the woods yet — and it looks like painful cuts and austerity measures are coming to the public sector. California’s new governor, for example, unveiled a budget plan this week that called for non-unionized state employees to take a 10 per cent pay cut. Governments in Canada, having racked up billions in stimulus debt, will be reigning in spending as well.

But the surprising job news coming from the manufacturing sector in Canada, and the optimism from the automakers at the Detroit auto show, is welcome news following years of plant closings, job cuts and concessions from workers.

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

The top HR stories of 2010

A look at the 10 most-viewed stories on Canadian HR Reporter’s website

By Todd Humber (

Every January, as the calendar turns, the editorial staff of Canadian HR Reporter take time to peruse the pages of the past year to pick out the top stories for the annual “year in review” feature.

South Korean fortuneteller Kim Yong-son poses with his crystal ball in his Seoul office. An article forecasting the top hiring trends for the year was the most popular article on Canadian HR Reporter's website in 2010. (Photo: Lee Jae-won/Reuters)

It’s a fascinating exercise — flipping through a year’s worth of news coverage. You’ll have to wait until the Jan. 17 issue lands on your desk for that feature. But, in the meantime, here’s a list of the top 10 most-viewed articles on Canadian HR Reporter’s website,, for 2010.

Number 1 – 7 hiring trends for 2010

HR professionals liked to dust off the crystal ball last year, as the article outlining the seven major hiring trends for the year was the most popular article for 2010. See

Number 2 – ‘Status update’: You’re fired

In November, readers flocked to a story about the firing of two employees of a Mazda dealership in B.C. In that case, two workers were fired — and the dismissal was upheld by a labour relations board — for extreme anti-management postings on Facebook. Comments included: “If somebody mentally attacks you, and you stab him in the face 14 or 16 times… that constitutes self-defence doesn’t it ????” Other status updates included a posting of the “top five kills” from TV’s vigilante killer on Dexter and open-name calling (“HE’S A COMPLETE JACK-ASS…not just Half-a-Tard”). See

 Number 3 – CHRP exam writers increase 50 per cent

Articles on the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation often draw a crowd. This article — which looked at the spike in people writing the exam in advance of the degree requirement — was no exception. See

 Number 4 – Employers and gen Y have different skills expectations: Survey

Employers and young people have different expectations around what is the most important skills for new graduates to possess, which means generation Y could have a hard time meeting employers’ needs, according to a survey. See

Number 5 – Ontario passes workplace violence legislation

This story was actually posted in December 2009, but it still generated enough traffic in 2010 to crack the top five. Bill 168, Ontario’s workplace violence and harassment law, was on the of the most significant workplace stories for 2010. See

Number 6 – It pays to have HR designation

A survey conducted by Payscale, sponsored by the Human Resources Professionals Association, found people with the CHRP designation are more likely to progress faster in their careers and land higher-paying gigs. See

Number 7 – Mississauga hazing ‘unacceptable’: HR director

HR professionals across the country felt for their counterparts at the City of Mississauga, Ont. A media frenzy erupted when a cellphone video of city employees duct-taped together on a table while other employees threw water balloons at them was leaked to the CBC — about two weeks before Ontario’s new workplace violence and harassment legislation came into effect on June 15. We talked to their director of HR about how they handled the incident. See

Number 8 – Criminal charges laid in worker’s death

Criminal charges for health and safety violations made headlines throughout the year. In this case, police laid criminal charges following a 10-month long investigation into the death of a city worker who was fatally injured on the job in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. See

Number 9 – Unlimited paid vacation? Some firms trying it

When this story first came up in the newsroom, we knew we had to jump on it. The idea of unlimited paid vacation sounds like a panacea for workers and a nightmare for employers. How does it work? Is it really practical? Would workers ever show up? We talked to one Canadian firm giving it a go to find out how it worked. See

Number 10 – Moving from managing to coaching

Rounding out the top 10 was one of our Executive Series features, a partnership with the Strategic Capability Network where we take a look at pressing issues for senior HR executives. This timely feature came out just before the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and featured Peter Jensen, CEO of Performance Coaching. Jensen worked extensively with Canadian athletes in getting them mentally prepared for the Olympics, and the results paid off in spades. Canada won more golds (14) than any other host country in the history of the Winter Olympics. See

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

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 (

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 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