Top HR pros honoured in Alberta

HRIA hands out hardware for those going ‘above and beyond’
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/24/2011

When Adam Czarnecki started at GreatWest Kenworth in 2006, the organization had an intranet with two pages and four broken links. So he decided to start from scratch and completely revamp the system.

Now the intranet has everything employees need, including forms, organizational charts, standards, company information, policies and copies of three monthly newsletters (health and safety, payroll and general company-wide information) Czarnecki started himself.

“I was really surprised there wasn’t really a single source of information and everything was paper-driven,” said Czarnecki, HR manager at the Calgary-based truck dealer. “It was almost a selfish need — I needed one source for everything and I knew communication was a big issue in any company so this was definitely a tool we needed.”

Czarnecki’s work on the company intranet was one reason he received the Award of Excellence at the Human Resources Institute of Alberta’s (HRIA’s) Celebrating Excellence Awards in late April in Edmonton. The awards recognize exceptional HR leaders among the association’s 4,000 members.

“He understood the audience and what needed to change and what needed to be communicated to engage them,” said Esther Kim, manager of member relations at HRIA. “He did a fantastic job addressing those communication challenges and channels.”

Prior to Czarnecki’s arrival, the organization had tried for four years to achieve a Certificate of Recognition (COR) for health and safety from the government of Alberta. Once he came on board, the company achieved it in 11 months. Along with implementing a disability management program, Czarnecki also made several health and safety training videos, including health and safety orientation, hearing protection and young worker safety.

The intranet was also instrumental in the organization achieving its COR.

“The reason why it took so long previously was the lack of communication, expectations and standards,” said Czarnecki, whose organization has 170 employees. “Having a central location where people can check out the standards and understand what their responsibilities are in health and safety and what they need to do as a department to help achieve COR was a lot easier.”

Managers also conduct health and safety meetings once per month and are encouraged to use the contents of Czarnecki’s health and safety newsletter as a starting tool.

“It keeps safety in the minds of employees,” said Czarnecki. “If we never talked about safety it would slowly disappear but just having a newsletter and having managers discuss it, it’s sort of a three-pronged approach to always keep safety in mind.”

Czarnecki’s “above and beyond” commitment to health and safety at his organization really impressed the selection committee at the HRIA awards, said Kim. In doing so much in such a short amount of time, he not only showed the depth of his skills but demonstrated the impact HR programs can have, she said.

“He really led the way and it wasn’t just from an HR perspective but this was strategic bottom line helping the organization from a business acumen perspective,” said Kim. “That really elevated him because he really took HR to that next level.”

Czarnecki wasn’t the only one going above and beyond for his organization. Alexis MacDonald also contributed to many initiatives at Uniglobe Geo Travel in Edmonton and her efforts earned her the Rising Star Award from HRIA.

When her organization was going through a merger, she worked with HR to develop an integrated policy manual. With many different policies and procedures coming together — from hours to technology systems — MacDonald, who is the HR manager at the organization, wanted to make sure all 100 employees’ needs were met.

“I did a few trips with the general manager to various offices and talked to staff to determine how they felt about the move,” she said. “Then, I worked with the management team to determine what policies made sense to roll out for everyone.”

MacDonald’s level of dedication to employees’ needs during the merger, as well as her ability to integrate and streamline the policies so they would be effective in the offices province-wide, really impressed the selection committee, said Kim.

“She did the hard work of meeting these people face-to-face, getting to know them and explaining how the new policies would impact them and address their concerns,” she said. “She has excellent communication skills and a mature confidence that allowed her to do that.”

MacDonald also helped revamp the company’s incentive program to increase motivation and morale, she said. Agents, who work on commission, began receiving incentive payments monthly as opposed to quarterly and payouts are now tied to team targets first and to individual performance second, said MacDonald.

“Over the years, the business has changed, so we really need to encourage the agents to operate in different ways to achieve our organizational goals,” she said.

Her changes to the incentive program demonstrate why MacDonald is considered a rising star — with only three years at the company, she has already made dramatic changes, said Kim.

“(MacDonald) isn’t afraid to take risks and her willingness to speak up had a huge impact,” she said. “She’s well-recognized as one of those thoughtful, strategic thinkers — one of those individuals that won’t get caught in the box.”

Fellow CHRPS

Alberta adds 2 FCHRPs to ranks

The Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA) also handed out Fellow CHRP (FCHRP) designations at the awards gala, recognizing the most exceptional recipients of the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation in Canada who have made outstanding contributions to the HR profession and their communities. This is the first time HRIA has awarded the FCHRP designation.

Mel Zimmerman, vice-president of Toombs in Calgary, received the FCHRP. He was involved in establishing the HRIA in 1984 and has continuously worked to promote its relevancy with all stakeholders in the province.

Brian Foster, vice-president of advancement and IT at Operation Eyesight Universal in Calgary, also received the designation. He has held executive leadership positions at all levels of HR and served on the board of many HR associations, including the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA) and the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM).

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