Manitoba honours best in HR

3 professionals recognized at HRMAM’s annual awards
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/06/2011

When Dave Leschasin joined St. Boniface General Hospital six years ago, the idea of measuring employee engagement was foreign. A homegrown employee opinion survey suggested things were fine but, as the new chief human resources officer at the Winnipeg-based hospital, Leschasin knew otherwise. So he set out to make significant changes, starting with a formal survey and help from an external service provider.

“If you try to make a better, more engaging work environment for employees, you have to ask employees what’s preventing them from working to their full potential,” he said.

Since then, employee engagement has risen from 41 per cent to 54 per cent and is now one of the hospital’s four strategic goals, he said.

“Within health care, you have to understand, nobody was talking about staff engagement — I’m talking about across the country,” said Leschasin, whose career has included jobs at Imperial Oil and IBM.

The introduction of a “very caring but rigorous” attendance support program helped raise engagement, he said.

“It just helps the manager and employee,” he said. “It’s a very, very slick tool. It took us, really, three years to perfect.”

Performance management has also been in the spotlight. When Leschasin arrived, about seven to eight per cent of the staff were receiving a review each year, he said. So a “quick and dirty” entry-level tool — an overall contribution assessment — was implemented to let solid performers know they were appreciated. So far, 63 per cent of the employees have been reviewed this way, said Leschasin. A contribution assessment review also includes a leadership assessment section to be completed for every employee, to help identify leadership candidates.

Leschasin’s efforts were recognized in March with an Innovative Practitioner Award by the Human Resource Management Association of Manitoba (HRMAM). Designed to showcase outstanding HR achievements in the province, the Excellence in Leadership Awards honour employers and individuals who are leaders in diversity, development, impact and innovation.

Visionary Leader Award

One such leader is Barbara Bowes, president and certified coach practitioner at Legacy Bowes Group in Winnipeg, who easily met the criteria for HRMAM’s Visionary Leader Award. For one, she was president of HRMAM about seven years ago and membership doubled during her two-year term.

“I’ve always been known as a kind of consummate networker,” she said.

Bowes also helped implement a job-sharing policy for elementary teachers and designed a diploma program for teaching assistants in Canada in 1986. Previously, these helpers were mothers who volunteered but after they had kids, the requirements changed and they needed to have one year of college to teach.

“So the teacher aid program did two things: It gave an avenue for women to return to the workforce in the teaching profession, because the University of Winnipeg gave them credit for that, and it cemented teacher assistant as a profession. So, now, you have to have a diploma before you can get a job,” said Bowes.

She has also been a regular columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press for more than 10 years and wrote Taming the Workplace Tigers: Powering your career to a roaring success and The Easy Resumé Book (now called Resumé Rescue).

“I pioneered the skills-based resumé style, back in 1984, before competencies became popular,” she said.

Volunteering has always been important to Bowes, as seen in the Enterprising Women Conference she introduced to celebrate successful career women. The event raised $100,000 in four years for female students in need, she said. Bowes has also been a mentor and taught human resources management at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

“I’ve always been focused on improving people relationships in the workplace,” she said. “The value we offer to a corporation is so much more and I’m really proud to be able to push that forward every chance I get.”

Rising Star Award

Human resources has always been a passion for Jodi Funk-Clements, even before she really understood how HR management worked. Early in her career, she was naturally interested in areas such as employee engagement, training and development, and recruitment. That passion was recognized with a Rising Star Award from HRMAM at the Excellence in Leadership Awards.

Funk-Clements joined AAA Alarms as an HR generalist in the fall of 2010 but has worked for a few organizations through the years, starting as an HR generalist.

“I’m a generalist so I do everything from A to Z and whatever spills over the banks from there,” she said.

The variety of a generalist role is appealing, she said.

“If there’s one area of the business that I’m most comfortable with and interests me the most, it’s the strategic management and development of a company. So, being a generalist, I get to have a part of that as well as everything else that I enjoy,” she said. “That strategic development part is something that I will grow into over years of experience, versus specializing in something more tangible that I can get into right now that maybe doesn’t interest me as much.”

Funk-Clements has also volunteered for Cancer Care Manitoba and HRMAM and has been on a volunteer association board called MAVA for more than one year.

“I’ve had the opportunity to really see what volunteerism is, how to manage the volunteers,” she said.

Receiving the award was surprising but has given her more confidence, she said.

“When you’re doing your work every day and you do what comes naturally to you or what you’re excited about, you don’t necessarily see if you have an impact on other people,” said Funk-Clements. “It kind of made me realize that what I am doing is important and it’s that much better that I enjoy it and I’m passionate about it.”

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