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Everyone deserves a break

End of year is a time to reflect back on what we did in 2012, spend time with family and friends

By Todd Humber

The latter part of December is a time when many organizations take their foot off the gas and coast through Christmas and New Year’s before revving up the engines in January for another year.

Regardless of when your fiscal year actually ends, the turning of the calendar is a natural time to reflect on what has been accomplished and look forward to what’s on the horizon.

For many Canadian organizations, 2012 was a year that can be best summed up as “meh.” It started out promising, but the economy began to sputter at the mid-point.

Real gross domestic product (GDP) rose 0.1 per cent in the third quarter, slowing from 0.4 per cent growth in the second quarter. Exports dropped two per cent in the third quarter, the biggest plunge since 2009, according to Statistics Canada. The economy grew at a 0.6 per cent annual rate from July to September after two straight quarters of 1.7 per cent expansion.

South of the border, the economy in the United States is sputtering. One Reuters news article from earlier this month said it’s approaching “stall speed.”

And if U.S. politicians don’t find the brake pedal of compromise before plunging over the so-called “fiscal cliff” — a toxic mix of tax hikes and spending cuts that kicks in for early 2013 — the American economy could conceivably plunge back into recession.

Europe remains a mess, though the United Kingdom’s poaching of Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney could be interesting if he’s able to work his magic across the poind — but replicating Canada’s relative success in a completely different environment is a daunting task.

So the sky is falling, right? Not necessarily. Double-digit growth may be unreachable for many industries, but the overall outlook isn’t all that gloomy. After all, the third-quarter slowdown was predicted by the Bank of Canada, and it’s expecting stronger growth in the fourth quarter of 2012 — potentially upwards of 2.5 per cent. Many analysts still expect the central bank to raise interest rates down the road, a sure sign the long-term view isn’t all that unpalatable.

It may be a bumpy road, but HR professionals are equipped for it. Money for new programs will be tough to come by, but the basic tenets of solid human resources management will never change: Investment in people always pays off, if done right. And HR professionals are doing it right far more often than they used to.

And we should never forget there’s more to life than money. The end of the year is a special time for many employees, with holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza dotting the calendar. Secular or not, many employees take this opportunity to relax, spend time with friends and family and clear out those unused vacation days that can’t be carried over.

It’s important to get this common down time, and statutory holidays — like Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day — give the majority of Canadians the time to do this together.

That’s why I was heartened to see Toronto’s city council recently vote in favour of keeping stores closed in that city on statutory holidays. There are certain days of the year when everybody should be at the dinner table — with a tip of the hat to our friends in essential services like hospitals, police and fire that can’t be there — and sabotaging that just so a retail outlet can open up isn’t worth it.

In the U.S., Thanksgiving Day — arguably that nation’s biggest holiday — can’t fully be enjoyed by scores of retail workers. The “Black Friday” shopping day, the day after Thanksgiving, has crept into the holiday. Many stores, keen to the first to get shoppers in, have started opening on the holiday. That’s regrettable.

Everyone deserves down time, and it’s all the better if it can be enjoyed with family and friends. The Dec. 17 issue is the last one for 2012, which marked Canadian HR Reporter’s 25th anniversary.

The next issue is Jan. 14, 2013 — where we will feature a look back at the top stories of the year.

From all the staff at Canadian HR Reporter, we wish you and your family a happy holiday season. See you in 2013.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter. He can be reached at

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Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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