2003 human resources wish list (Editorial)

With 2003 under way what can HR professionals hope for in the year ahead?
By John Hobel
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/13/2003

From government it would be nice to see some order in pension legislation. In Ontario, first, the province announced changes to the Pension Benefits Act that include new rules in surplus distribution. Within days a court brings down a long-awaited ruling in the infamous Monsanto case directly contradicting the government’s pro-plan-sponsor legislation. (Monsanto began in 1998 when the firm applied for a partial pension plan windup eventually rejected by regulators because there were no provisions to distribute surplus; appeals took the case to the end of 2002.) Ontario responded to the ruling by freezing pension changes and then withdrawing them altogether. Wasn’t anyone expecting Monsanto to ever end?

And nationally, there’s always the issue of the patchwork pension landscape, where companies operating in more than one province must adjust pension dealings. Support for more standardization across jurisdictions would be welcome.

From Ottawa it would be good to have money and action backing up all the promises of the national skills agenda — now dubbed the Innovation Strategy. Employers should wish for the best with this one. It may be the best hope for negating the looming period of labour shortages most organizations fear.

From job candidates, how about less people applying for positions with cover letters and resumes asking to be hired for some other occupation? Could they at least stop including the line about how their unrelated profession/education ideally prepares them for the advertised opening?

From the accounting department, HR could do with less emphasis on statistics for common sense initiatives that support healthy, productive workplaces. Finance needs to appreciate there are intangibles at play in people management that can be difficult to measure, but still important to the bottom line. Take wellness. HR can and should capture the value of such programs, but should it have to demonstrate return-on-investment down to the last penny? Is the same standard applied to multi-million dollar investments in new technology that isn’t that different from existing technology, or to the multitude of failed mergers and acquisitions?

And from senior management it would be nice to have more executives who appreciate both the value of people and the need for professionals educated to make the most of the labour force. Steady progress towards strategic HR across the profession can occur in 2003. It’s a realistic goal for the year ahead, but, unlike wishing for more supportive government, HR professionals will have to work to achieve senior team status.

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