BC HRMA honours best in HR

Tire company, director of HR, HR advisor take home hardware
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/04/2013

When Cindy Dopson joined the BC Cancer Foundation in March 2009, the organization was facing numerous challenges. Three CEOs had come and gone in the previous two years, board members were having to step into leadership and operational roles, and there was a lot of restructuring taking place, she said.

A new CEO was hired in June 2009 and Dopson worked with him to build a new executive team and reshape the organization.

“We had to look at the strategy the organization was moving to… and re-evaluating everything from all organizational structures and processes,” said Dopson, HR director at the Vancouver-based organization, which has 65 employees.

Dopson’s hard work was recognized at the British Columbia Human Resources Management Association (BC HRMA) awards ceremony in May. She received the Award of Excellence: HR Professional of the Year.

Dopson worked extensively with the new CEO throughout this process. Previously, the CEO had not had particularly good experiences with HR and did not value HR as a partner — but all this changed when he started working with Dopson.

“It was about me coming to the table, to say, ‘These are the challenges I see in the organization, these are my thoughts, what are yours?’ and having those thoughts be bigger than what is traditionally the HR box,” said Dopson.

Prior to her joining the organization, there hadn’t been anyone in the HR function for nine months, and there hadn’t been strategic HR at the organization for some time.

Some of the HR processes were in need of a complete overall, including the compensation program.

“The previous compensation program we had had been inherited from our partner, the BC Cancer Agency, but they are a unionized hospital setting and we are a small group of fundraising professionals, so very different staffing strategies, very different organizational strategies. So what we were using didn’t make sense for moving the organization forward,” she said.

Since the restructuring, the foundation has seen increased revenues per full-time hire (a key metric for the fundraising organization), decreased absenteeism and higher employee engagement scores.

Dopson is also co-leader of the Vancouver Non-Profit HR Roundtable, a group of HR professionals in the non-profit sector who facilitate professional development, sharing of expertise and partnerships.

She is also a member of the HR working group for the Labour Market Partnership, under the stewardship of the Non-Profit Sector Employers’ Council, which works to expand the HR tools and resources available to non-profits, especially in the social services sector.

Award of Excellence: Innovation

In 2008, Kal Tire implemented a new management training program for its retail stores to make sure it had enough people in the leadership pipeline, said Marlene Higgins, director of HR at the Vernon, B.C.-based company.

“In the tire industry, there is no industry standard and no industry training, so we created our own,” she said. “And because in tires, in general, safety is the number one issue… and we need to train and develop them properly, because if you don’t, they can hurt themselves or kill themselves — it really is that stark.”

The program takes a three-tier approach. The first is theory where participants receive a variety of information through a learning management system. The second is on-the-job application where a mentor signs off on a participant’s ability to complete a variety of tasks. And the third is a panel review by business leaders where a participant’s business knowledge is tested.

At the end of the process, the trainee receives certification as a qualified management candidate.

One unique piece about the program is the 50-50 profit- share plan, said Higgins. When a store certifies an individual, it receives $15,000 from head office. Once it places the individual in a management position at another store, that location will give the training store an additional $15,000.

All employees who have been at a store for at least one year share 15 per cent of that location’s profits, which would include the $30,000, said Higgins.

“The rationale behind that is if you’ve been here for a year, you’re likely skilled to be a mentor to someone else and you’ve shared knowledge,” she said.

“So there’s real incentives… to get someone to get certified but also to say, ‘I want my guy to be skilled and successful in his job and I helped contribute to that and I’m recognized financially for that as well.’”

This program was one of the drivers for Kal Tire receiving the Award of Excellence: Innovation from BC HRMA.

Kal Tire also implemented a program last year for its mining tire group — which provides tires to 120 mine sites around the globe — to make sure all locations were operating with consistent management practices and the same Kal Tire culture. The company has 5,000 employees around the globe, with 3,400 in Canada.

The program includes management best practices courses from Harvard Business Review, including hiring, managing performance and coaching. Kal Tire also pairs program participants with coaches from within the company to help them graduate from the program and receive certification.

“People are talking the same language around management skills,” said Higgins. “In the next couple of years, with further traction, we believe we would have achieved all people talking management in the same way. It’s a real team learning, continuous learning approach.”

Rising Star Award

Sabrina Mowbray-Angus had been in her HR co-ordinator position at Sinclar Group Forest Products for exactly one week when the unthinkable happened: A massive fire destroyed the company’s Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George, B.C., killing two employees and injuring about 25 others.

When the incident occurred in April 2012, Mowbray-Angus went straight to the hospital to provide assistance to employees and their families. She spent the night there, mostly accounting for the whereabouts of employees as well as co-ordinating flights for the families of employees who had to be sent to other hospitals.

“I just assessed the situation, the severity of it and what needed to be done,” said Mowbray-Angus, HR advisor at the 500-employee company. “It was just like ‘OK, what can we do? What needs to be done?’ There’s no manual, no checklist to grab when something like this happens.”

Mowbray-Angus’s efforts earned her the Rising Star Award from BC HRMA.

When the incident happened, the company had just lost its HR director and there was no one in the role. Mowbray-Angus stepped up to fill those shoes and completed all of the WorkSafeBC claims.

“We had two fatalities and a lot of extremely critical cases and a number of physical injuries to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) to everything. (I was) just trying to navigate through the sheer number of claims that were coming in,” said Mowbray-Angus.

She also worked closely with the company’s employee and family assistance program (EFAP) to debrief all the teams, provide counselling to employees and communicate all of the types of support available.

From day one, Mowbray-Angus also worked with other employers in the region to help displaced employees find new employment opportunities, and she also posted links to job ads on the company website.

Mowbray-Angus’s other efforts at Sinclar Group included spearheading a wellness campaign, implementing more consistent recruiting procedures, initiating a review of policy development and implementation, and introducing HR metrics at the organization.

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