CEOs Talk: Numbers, numbers everywhere

CEOs reveal what they’re looking for when it comes to HR metrics
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/20/2014

Mark Kristmanson
CEO of the National Capital Commission in Ottawa
The Crown corporation has 412 employees

While he’s only been CEO of the National Capital Commission (NCC) in Ottawa for about three months, Mark Kristmanson has already been busy — and he has big plans — when it comes to HR metrics.

“I find the metrics indispensable so I’ve been using them to understand the workforce profile and to understand what latent issues there may be within our structure,” he says.

The NCC is the planner and steward for Canada’s capital region, with 412 employees along with about 75 students in the summer and a number of part-time and contract employees. The profile of workers includes landscape architects, industrial designers, biologists and archaeologists.

In the fall, 83 employees were transferred to the Department of Canadian Heritage, so metrics are helpful in understanding the impact of that change, says Kristmanson. For example, an employee satisfaction survey provides a baseline for the next year.

“We have a dashboard that has been developed over the past few years that takes information out of our PeopleSoft system and gives a fairly nuanced understanding of everything from absenteeism to performance accolades and everything in between, so that dashboard is quite useful.”

Kristmanson also makes a point to do site visits and meet with groups in-person as employees can be fairly far-flung. A combination of metrics, visits and front-line exposure gives him the whole picture, he says.

“I can see a couple of areas where we can look at maybe controlling overtime a little bit more. I can see some disparities between the different branches and so forth, so we’re going to be looking at that.”

The goal of the metrics is to help guide the corporation to exceptional quality and a high level of talent and innovation in a culture where that can flourish, he says, while also strengthening client-relations management.

“This is an area where I’m hoping we can use some of (HR’s) techniques to actually improve our client-relations profile with the outside community,” says Kristmanson. “One of the things that really interests me — and our PeopleSoft is not delivering in as much detail as I would like — is the education profile of the workforce. I know how many have graduated from high school and had some connection to a college or university, but I would like to know how many graduated, have graduate degrees, and I’d like to start using the talent in those areas of specialization to have stronger community relations with particular stakeholders in those areas.”

Another area where Kristmanson hopes to make progress is with employment equity, as the NCC hasn’t been as strong as it needs to be, he says.

“That’s a basic statistic but there may be something to learn from the finer grain of other metrics. And… I’ve been thinking I can maybe read this material or have staff read this material a little more imaginatively to see where we might move to affect that indicator.”

Succession planning is also a high priority as 58 per cent of NCC’s workforce is over age 45.

“I’ve seen a list of impending retirements and so forth so that’s a very useful set of metrics to understand where we’re going to need to do recruitment or to develop internal talent to take over, and there’s some critical roles in there that we really need to plan for.”

There are also three fine-grain metrics of interest, he says, which have to do with turnover — the total top-quartile performer resignations rate; how many people resigned within the first two years of service; and capacity-building, which is learning and development investment per full-time continuing employee.

And while HR has improved its methods when it comes to compiling and understanding metrics, Kristmanson says he’d like to see some changes.

“The interpretation of the data into the senior management group is something that we’re going to work on. It’s been, up till now, something that the head of HR and the CEO have pretty much shared between them, as far as I can see, so I’d like to have my senior executives brought into this so that we can benefit a little more widely from this and strategize a little bit more about how to use them.”


Twyla Meredith
President and CEO of SaskGaming
The Regina-based Crown corporation has 895 employees

A Treasury Board Crown corporation, SaskGaming has seen its share of ups and downs — from double-digit growth and hectic hiring to declining revenues and layoffs. As a result, HR metrics have become even more important for the 895-employee corporation, which operates Casino Regina and Casino Moose Jaw.

As a Crown corporation, it is accountable to a board as well as a shareholder entity that oversees all Crown corporations in the province. And they’ve put in place a balanced scorecard system, with one quadrant related to employees, says Twyla Meredith, president and CEO.

SaskGaming now has five key metrics it watches and reports on, which are monitored and reported on on a quarterly basis, she says.

“Of course, at the executive level, our compensation is tied to the achievement of these goals so we want to make sure that we have initiatives in place to move those in the right direction. It’s all tied back to our strategy.”

One metric is a bi-annual employee satisfaction survey. SaskGaming sits at about 48 per cent employee satisfaction which is not great but, apparently, that’s the industry average, says Meredith.

And the results of the employee survey lead to new plans and goals to help address any issues at the corporation.

“Given all the change we’ve had, to be honest we’re a little leery of what we’re going to get back this year,” she says.

SaskGaming also looks at the service component of guest satisfaction surveys, which are done quarterly.

“We interpret that result to be a good marker for the training we provide. So it’s kind of a different way of getting at it but, over the last few years, we’ve found this is a pretty good indicator of the… effectiveness of the training,” says Meredith.

There’s also a metric that looks at the percentage of staff who have completed core training that’s typical to the gaming industry, such as customer service, money laundering regulations and responsible gaming.

“Since we have a fairly high turnover — because it is gaming, food and beverage/hospitality, we experience about a 20 per cent turnover rate — there’s constant retraining of staff,” she says.

And a new metric added this year monitors employee absenteeism.

“It is a problem we need to deal with so we do have plans to try to bring that down and deal with staff, try to help them with reducing their absenteeism, and I guess managing people with chronic absenteeism out of the workforce,” says Meredith.

Aboriginal representation is another key measurement. The casinos were created not just for revenue generation but for social responsibility reasons — including the target of having one-half of the workforce be Aboriginal, she says.

“It’s always been an important mandate of ours to try to achieve that; therefore, we monitor and report on that. In fact, our board is comprised of government appointees and three appointees from the First Nations here in Saskatchewan, so it’s always a very important metric for our board.”

And right now, the representation is at 40 per cent, which is still very good, says Meredith.

“The economy’s booming here so it gets tougher to hire anybody, let alone trying to ensure specific targets.”

While those are the high-level, corporate metrics of interest, there are also operational ones that interest the C-suite, such as employee turnover or employee safety. The latter is a good example of a success story around metrics, says Meredith.

“We paid attention to that and put a number of initiatives in place and we brought it down so much now and operationalized the way we deal with OH&S issues that we feel we could take it off the corporate balance scorecard because it’s moved in the right direction and it’s become operationalized. That’s sort of the goal of all of these.”


Brendan Carr
President and CEO of Island Health
The Victoria-based health authority has about 18,000 employees

As an organization that’s about people supporting people, Island Health puts a lot of faith in HR metrics to understand what’s going on with its staff.

“Our organization is largely a caring organization, so the work that we do is hands-on work and… what we achieve as an organization is directly related to our staff and how they’re feeling when they come to work and the conditions that we’ve created for them to do their jobs,” says Brendan Carr, president and CEO.

“Our staff are our greatest assets so metrics about our staff and how they’re doing, the conditions that they’re working in and what they’re able to accomplish are really critical to our mandate.”

HR metrics are as important as financial and care metrics at the regional health authority, which has about 18,000 employees and 2,000 physicians, he says.

“There’s certainly an operational level to HR metrics to help us understand how our system is operating but there’s also very much a strategic aspect of those metrics too that helps us understand whether or not our staff are actually coming to work and feeling that they’re supported and that they’re valued and that there’s clarity of focus and they know what their job is and they know how to do it.”

Victoria-based Island Health has a fairly sophisticated measurement system and series of dashboards that have quality metrics, operational metrics and financial metrics — along with human resources metrics, says Carr. These are looked at on a continual basis or when there’s a particular challenge or focus, with key operational indicators such as sick time, overtime, benefits, patterns of utilizations and the economics of HR metrics.

The metrics of most interest to Carr are clusters found at the strategic level, such as measurements around employee satisfaction: recognition, whether they are happy working there, if they feel it’s a safe workplace and if there is a respectful environment.

“We see those as measures around the culture,” he says.

There are also measures around safety and quality, looking at areas such as increases in staff reporting near-misses — which is a good thing because it means employees are comfortable communicating these issues, says Carr.

“Reporting on safety and quality, that is an important indicator of what it’s like to work here.”

Carr also likes to look at information around the changing workforce, so demographics, but not just age or gender — also the distribution of staff. There’s been more of a shift towards part-time and casual staff, he says.

“That’s pretty relevant to us because casual… employees have a different relationship with the organization, they’re oftentimes working in other places, they’re only here part of the time so, from a leadership point of view, that creates different challenges for us in terms how do we engage those people and what matters to them.”

In addition to traditional measures, the rate of filling relief lines and churn is also of interest, says Carr.

“We think it’s linked to the casual and part-time issue, where we’ve got more and more people who are moving within the organization and we think that that probably has an impact on quality and continuity of service… the learning resources that we need to have in place to support people as they move from role to role, things like that. So those are things that haven’t traditionally been measured that much.”

And, over time, HR has improved its methods when it comes to compiling and understanding metrics, he says.

“In the past, we’ve been largely focused on transactional measures and I do think that we’re actually seeing the connection between our staff and really achieving organizational strategy. I really do think that we’re getting more sophisticated in terms of understanding not just our staff and the conditions we’re creating, (but) understanding what matters to staff.”


Ben Dutton
CEO of the Casman Group of Companies
The construction and project management company is based in Fort McMurray, Alta., and has about 450 employees

As CEO of the Casman Group of Companies, Ben Dutton has a good understanding of the business implications of metrics.

“Our capacity to grow is dictated by our people so we need to make sure that we have a strong, stable core of employees and they have the right capabilities to perform the work we need.”

In the last couple of years, the company has changed a lot and it’s about looking more holistically at things, he says.

“(It’s about) statistics that give us a better idea really of what’s going on. We were tracking attrition before but we weren’t breaking out, for example, the trades and salaried-based employees, which skews things,” says Dutton.

“There’s a certain transitional element to the workforce that we would expect. We break that out, we track the workforce in terms of salary base and the total workforce… we’re trying to get at the same thing, we’re trying to look at how much turnover do we have, what’s planned, what’s unplanned. We try to make that meaningful so we’re not clouding the numbers with transitional workforce staffing up and staffing down.”

Metrics of particular interest include relatively standard ones such as turnover or positions to be filled, he says.

“We need to recruit from out of the country so I’m looking for information on labour market opinions, I’m looking for stats on the current employees we have who are under labour market opinions as well. I want to make sure that we’re renewing those in a timely manner.”

And to gain a pulse on the organization, employee surveys are appreciated.

“I’m trying to get a sense of morale and make sure everyone feels that the group of companies is heading in the right direction,” says Dutton.

Absenteeism is also of interest, along with retention, though the latter can be tough to gauge when it comes to average tenure, says Dutton.

“Honestly, that’s a little challenging for us right now because we’re growing so fast. We’ve grown about 75 per cent in the last couple of years… If we were to look at the average tenure of the employees, we’re going to find that deteriorating.”

On a monthly basis, Dutton also looks at the total departing workforce and attrition. So how many people were moved along and how many were associated with a shortage of work. Hours of work and open positions are also of interest, he says, but not necessarily time-to-fill, especially being located in Fort McMurray.

“Our focus is more on getting the right person rather than how quickly we can get someone.”

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