HRIA, HRPA launch new strategic plans

Both focus on self-regulation, greater influence on policy-makers
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/23/2011

Alberta and Ontario’s HR associations are introducing strategic plans that focus on boosting the expertise and influence of HR professionals, along with pursuing self-regulation of the profession.

HRIA hits reset button

As businesses continue to evolve, HR expertise will be in greater demand and the challenge is not just to prepare for the future but to influence it, according to the Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA). So, the 5,200-member association is partnering with members to shape and lead business.

Strategic planning by the board in 2011 made it clear it was time to hit the reset button, said Todd den Engelsen, chair of the HRIA board of directors.

“We really noticed that imbalance of, ‘Hey, wait a minute, we’re looking after members well but there’s other stakeholders that we need to ensure are part of the game,’” he said. “We are in a position now where we have reasonable resources, both from a staffing perspective and also from a budgetary perspective; we can now begin to align ourselves with our other stakeholders’ needs.”

For years, member services have made up the biggest part of the HRIA, with the public and business community on the side. With the new model, the three groups overlap and the long-term plan focuses on:

• qualified professionals, by providing tools and resources to elevate the HR professional
• leading the profession, by advocating for HR advancement with legislators and educators
• partners in business, by promoting a professional resource critical to business success.

Leading the profession means ensuring there’s good advocacy at all levels of government, said den Engelsen, and the association is already speaking with government about upcoming legislative changes.

“We’re in a position where we can provide consultation, professional advice and insight into legislation, whether it be WCB (Workers’ Compensation Board), occupational health and safety, employment standards, human rights, right-to-strike legislation — which is a pretty hot topic in the market right now — immigration laws,” he said. “And we’ve got a think tank, professionals we can access who can help shape and influence the legislation.”

One of the key thrusts of the strategic plan in the next three to five years will be preparing for self-regulation of the HR profession in the province.

“That is something we will need to go to our membership with and make a decision whether we pursue self-regulation or not,” said den Engelsen. “We need to know what the pros and cons are and need to be sensitive to the political climate.”

The Alberta government told HRIA it wasn’t a good time to apply because of the election so the association will continue to do its research and build its brand, structure and good governance model so it’s ready for the next move, said den Engelsen, who is also director of organizational development at Canyon Technical Services in Calgary.

The government also said it is anticipating changes to the Professional and Occupational Associations Registration Act, said Nora Molina, executive director of HRIA, so it made sense to hold off on plans to pursue self-regulation.

Other areas of focus will include increased opportunities for members to develop business acumen, such as executive compensation certificate programs or full-day workshops.

“We’ve been adding more senior-level and business topics to the conference and extending the session time so people can get more than just a glimpse of information,” said Molina. “It’s important for HR professionals to go beyond the basics of accounting and finance — they need to understand the specifics of their own business.”

And with a collaborative agreement among all of Alberta’s HR associations, HRIA will be pursuing alignment.

“There is still the local identity… and that needs to remain somewhat but what needs to come to the forefront is we are one association and one profession,” said den Engelsen.

HRPA looks to the future of work

In September, the board of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) approved an updated strategic plan that addresses three areas: enriching the member experience, improving protection of the public and expanding HRPA influence in setting public policy.

Past plans were more foundational and this one is more aspirational, focused on the future and how to support members’ careers and capabilities, said Bill Greenhalgh, CEO.

“There’s no question what sustained Ontario and drove the engine in the past will not be around in the future,” he said. “It’s pretty apparent that whatever the jobs are, whatever organizations will look like, it will have a major impact on the kind of skills required 10 to 15 years out and, therefore, it’ll have significant impact on HR.”

It’s about being proactive, not reactive, he said.

“(HR needs) to look at what skill sets they need for hiring, what skill sets they need to look for, what training and development programs will they have to put in to maintain the talent that will meet the needs in future.”

Critical to that is HRPA’s Future of Work project, which will inform the association as to what skill sets will be needed, to be discussed with policy-makers, academia and members, said Greenhalgh.

“We’re using this as a foundation to basically try and influence the way the association will work, how our relationships with chapters, members, policy-makers will work, and also influence policy itself down the road.”

HRPA will also work to establish itself as a fully credible regulatory association, with the ultimate goal to become a tier-one regulator of the HR profession. This means continuing its plans to update the provincial bill from 1990 that legislates how the association functions by working to pass a new public act.

While there are some things in the previous act HRPA was able to implement — mainly regulatory and adjudicated process such as how it manages complaints, investigations or discipline appeals — some items are still needed in a new act, said Greenhalgh.

The new act will be bilingual, he said, while elevating the HR profession and credibility of members. And the push for a new act has support from HRPA members, he said, citing the fact there was written support from chapters representing 83 per cent of membership.  

HRPA is also working with government to find compliance areas, such as workplace violence, that would benefit from HR as a required signatory.

“We thought maybe, if the government was interested, we could train our HR people in those specific areas. For example, in the same way accountants today sign off on the finances of an organization, maybe an HR person and a CEO could sign off on HR aspects of the company,” he said. “Basically, it’s a compliance thing: ‘I’ve looked at the various requirements, I followed the guidelines and rules, and I’m saying we are in total compliance with the legislation.’

“HR people are already there, they know what goes on, it wouldn’t take much for them to be accredited as a compliance officer in a particular area.”

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