Prepping for a bright future

With the worst of the economic crisis (hopefully) over, where are Canada's HR associations setting their sights in 2011?
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/14/2011

We talked to the heads of associations across the country to find out what’s on the agenda.

New board structure at CCHRA

Bill Palamar
Executive Director

It’s been quite an action-packed year, says Bill Palamar, executive director of the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA).

“It’s a very, very busy association,” says Palamar, citing the dedication of the volunteers. “There’s this level of commitment to really advancing the profession.”

For one, a new board structure now has one representative from each province serving as a board member, and they are actively involved on the committees. And recognizing CCHRA operates on a federated model, it was determined some decisions require absolute consensus while others need a majority, says Palamar. If a provincial association wants to do something that’s not on the board agenda, CCHRA can offer support, possibly on a fee structure, he says. But if an association wants to move ahead independently, it has to inform the other associations.

“It’s really just to look at how to make the board better-functioning,” says Palamar.

In addition, the funding model has moved to a traditional model focused more equitably on member services, with fees collected per member instead of being based on the number of exam writers, he says.

The association also has a new strategic plan that is, first and foremost, looking at how to continually promote the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation while strengthening its rigours.

“We’re now outsourcing the administration of both the exams we do. We’re using organizations that are very aligned and rigid with credentialing standards,” says Palamar. “So they’re really helping us to raise that to the next level. That’s one of the very significant things we’re doing in that area.”

With the degree requirement that came into effect in January 2011, there was a record number of writers — 6,500 — for the National Knowledge Exam (NKE) and National Professional Practice Assessment (NPPA) exams, he says. And there were more than 2,000 new CHRPs by the end of 2010, so more than 23,000 professionals across the country now hold the designation.

The CHRP and CCHRA websites were also relaunched and are a lot more user-friendly, he says. CCHRA was also involved with the World Human Resources Congress in September in Montreal, which had more than 3,500 participants, says Palamar.

“It was really something to bring together HR professionals from around the world. The sessions were well-attended and were quite diverse,” he says.

Going forward, the association is looking at launching a board governance training program that will be available online and to member associations.

“We’re very excited about that,” he says.

CCHRA is also looking at reinvigorating its government relations committee.

“It’s important in terms of representing HR at the federal level, and that’s a key activity of the government relations committee,” says Palamar.

BC HRMA to boost CHRP

Simon Evans

Six years ago, the British Columbia Human Resources Management Association (BC HRMA) entered into a new strategic governance model, new operational model and new value model.

Since then, membership has nearly doubled from 2,600 to 5,100 in 2010. The percentage of members with the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation has also risen from about 20 per cent to 60 per cent.

“Our financial position has gone from being tenuous to being comfortable,” says Simon Evans, CEO of BC HRMA.

The next stage is building out the association’s value to CHRP members, who have become a major core group, and building out the value of the CHRP to the public domain, he says.

“I’m a firm believer that you don’t start that journey until you’ve got something to shout about. We have now got something to shout about, we’ve got a lot of stuff going on,” says Evans.

That means raising BC HRMA’s profile through tools such as LinkedIn and the association’s online community, which has been running for about one year. There are now about 1,200 people involved in the online community, says Evans.

It started as a thought leadership community but has expanded to groups such as regional advisory councils. As a result, an administrative person is now ensuring the people involved have an HR background.

“It’s vital, the credibility of information that is on there,” says Evans.

The association’s HRVoice, an online industry information centre with thought-leadership news and views, now uses a 24-7 approach, he says.

“We were finding we wanted to get something that was more current news-wise.”

Government relations and public relations will also be important, along with networking through professional services, says Evans. BC HRMA is also launching an advertising campaign in April that uses print and electronic media to focus on the value of CHRP holders.

The annual conference in April is back to a two-day event, as people don’t always have the time to do three days and it is more expensive, says Evans. But the day before, there will be a marketplace trade show for small businesses, which make up 80 per cent of B.C.’s employers, says Evans.

“A lot of small ones don’t have HR so we’re trying to promote HR to small business,” he says.

And now that the association has seen such growth — from six full-time employees to 22 — it is also consolidating and “retooling” how it is positioned, says Evans.

“The thought leadership side, the research function we opened three years ago and the metrics program, we’ve built that out now, supplying that service to Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba — there’s a lot more work to be done there.”

BC HRMA will also be joining with research projects, universities and thought leaders “because thought leadership is what HR is to be,” he says. “It’s the engagement and people side of our world, yes, but we’re not a transactional part of business anymore.”

HRIA unites members

Charlotte Bouchard

Last year was rewarding for the Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA) as it succeeded in building a collaboration model with all regional associations, including the Human Resources Association of Calgary.

“They’ve seen the value of it and we’ve done some work over the past few years on the collaboration model and they felt it fit with their association,” says Charlotte Bouchard, president of HRIA.

A vote by the Calgary group saw 94 per cent of members voting in favour, so they’re very excited to be onboard and now have representation on the HRIA board, she says.

“There’s a really renewed energy in the association and we’ll continue to build on the strengths together,” says Bouchard, who relinquishes her role in May 2011. “It means we’re all working together, more or less, as one association.”

Members across the province are now affiliated with all the regional associations, so if an event is held in one region, it’s open to all members of all regions, she says.

“That’s how the mutual associations are able to provide professional development opportunities and networking opportunities in those regions, for those members,” she says.

With the collaboration comes higher membership, which now stands at 5,100 (compared to 4,000 at the end of 2009 and 3,400 in 2008). Certified membership has grown to at least 57 per cent and 33 per cent are pursuing certification, she says.

HRIA has also built a successful governance model and board, with new bylaws passed by members in January 2011 that better include the regional associations and chapters, says Bouchard,

“These will definitely position us for the future, so we’re very happy about that and we are moving forward based on those criteria.”

The bylaws have also changed the election process, so the new vice-chair is elected from among existing directors (instead of general membership) to ensure board experience. The role of CEO has also been renamed executive director and the executive committee has been eliminated, so the board governs as a whole, with no single member having greater authority — in keeping with good governance.

“That’s a much more robust set of bylaws, which we feel will position us better for the future,” says Bouchard.

For 2011, the association is continuing with its strategic plan and enhancing member services and support. That includes a new mentorship program and a metrics program offered through the British Columbia Human Resources Association.

HRIA will also be launching a new website in the spring, with a new look and feel, greater inclusion of the regional associations and promotion of the professional designation, says Bouchard.

Double digit growth in Saskatchewan

Bob Bayles

For the Saskatchewan Association of Human Resource Professionals (SAHRP), 2010 was a year of growth and exciting initiatives, says president Bob Bayles.

In the last three years, the average growth rate has been 15 per cent, he says, so there has been a lot of input from members seeking different types of and more services. Membership is now at about 1,500, compared to 1,300 in 2010 and 1,000 the year before.

As part of that growth, SAHRP moved into a physical office, instead of having a virtual one. There is also a new training room where certification exams can be held.

The association is also working with neighbouring provinces. It partnered with the Human Resource Management Association of Manitoba in finding a suitable provider to implement database software. In the past, the system has been cumbersome and the back-end of the website was done manually, so this will free up staff to pursue other initiatives, says Bayles.

“It’ll be easier for (members) to register,” he says. “There’s lots of potential there for self-service in specialty topics, so members will get less email and more targeted email from us.”

SAHRP is also working more with the British Columbia Human Resources Association and its HR metrics service.

“Our members have expressed interest in that so there’s been synergy in us working with them, tagging along with what they are doing, and we’ve gotten good feedback from our members,” he says.

Another big initiative was the launch of a mentorship program that was very successful with “extremely strong” participation, says Bayles — more than 100 mentors and mentees were involved.

“We’re looking at continuing that and that’s a real value-add, especially to our newer members.”

Another first for the association was the release of an official annual prospectus, he says.

“That’s a document available to our members online, so we’re much more transparent and it highlights all the key initiatives throughout the year.”

For 2011, the board is looking to finalize its next three-year strategic plan with a focus on membership value and governance.

“We’re looking to become more of a strategic board and less operational, given the huge shift we’ve seen in the last three years,” says Bayles.

SAHRP will also have someone come in to work with the board to identify its fiduciary responsibilities, what it’s trying to accomplish for members and committee work.

“The outcomes of that will be a stronger association, one that’s looking to move forward and it will, hopefully, avert any challenges or at least minimize challenges and maximize the big potentials that are there for our association.”

The 2011 annual conference will be held in October, most likely as a two-day conference. It continues to grow every year, from a trade-show and speaker standpoint, says Bayles.

“Between our conference and our twice-yearly magazine, as far as external products that we produce, open to the greater community, both have been two driving forces for us over the last three to four years.”

Manitoba sports new look, tools

Neil Fassina

Manitoba’s provincial HR association is starting off the new year with a new look. The Human Resource Management Association of Manitoba (HRMAM) recently unveiled a new corporate brand and logo, one that reflects the idea of a “community well” with interlocking tiles in the shape of a circle.

The rebranding reflects the goals and values of the organization, says president Neil Fassina.

“It signifies the community wealth we come to share through knowledge and experience.”

HRMAM has also launched a new website that more effectively uses social networking. There are now more opportunities for members across the province to find information, answers or networks online.

“We all have incredibly busy lives,” says Fassina. “Having the opportunity to interact whenever you’re able to is very important. It allows members to connect instantly.”

This “community tool” will be especially helpful to HR practitioners spread across the province, he says.

“We have a chapter in Brandon and we used to have to make them make a two-hour drive for meetings,” he says. “Having a discussion forum on the website is a step towards more efficient communication.”

Behind the website, HRMAM has implemented a new database to collect and store specific information about members. This will improve the organization’s ability to match learning and development to member needs, says Fassina.

Education and research will continue to be a focus of HRMAM in 2011. It’s involved in a global competency study around human resources, facilitated by the University of Michigan.

“We’re really excited to be the Canadian representative of that,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to participate and, in turn, learn from the information the researchers bring forward. It will help our members understand where the Canadian environment fits in.”

HRMAM is also continuing to promote the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation. Its goal, as part of a three-year strategic plan, was to have at least one-half of the membership acquire the designation. At the two-year mark, 43 per cent of members are CHRP-holders, while nine per cent are candidates, says Fassina.

Boosting the profile of the designation by holding events such as a formal graduation gala has made a difference, he says.

“It recognizes the personal time it takes to achieve this,” he says. “And, hopefully, sparks an interest in those who have yet to get it.”

Ontario shifts attention to 2020

Bill Greenhalgh

What will the world of work look like in 2020? It’s a question the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) first broached last year and one the organization plans to fully explore in 2011.

“There’s so much change happening right now and it’s having a major impact on how people work,” says president Bill Greenhalgh.

“We want to look at what kind of skill sets will be needed in the future and how that will affect the organizational structure.”

HRPA has narrowed down a list of key trends that could have a significant influence on the future workplace: technology, demographics, globalization, sustainability and social attitude. Over the next year, researchers will take an intimate look at each trend and report back with their predictions. Those predictions will then be analyzed by a consortium of academics, upper-level executives and senior HR professionals.

“We want to look at what’s going to happen within the next 10 years,” he says. “How will things like computerization, greater bandwidth and intelligent communication between computers affect the workplace? Will people retire or not retire? If they don’t retire, will they work part time and, if so, what will that mean? Will young people be less concerned or more concerned about the environment? How will the transfer of wealth to China and India affect how people work?”

Based on the research, the group will create a description of the implications for each trend in the workplace, something Greenhalgh says he hopes will guide organizational leaders.

“We don’t want to one day say, ‘Look how things have changed,’” he says. “We want to be proactive now.”

As HRPA looks forward, it hopes to do so with an enhanced status and image as a profession. Until now, the organization has been covered by a private legislative act that “effectively gave us a degree of credibility as an organization,” says Greenhalgh.

Under Bill 138, which has passed first reading in Ontario’s provincial legislature, the association would be governed by a public act similar to the act governing accountants. The legislative change moves the HR profession in Ontario from a Tier 2 profession to Tier 1, says Greenhalgh.

“In practice, it converts us from being an occupation to a profession,” he says. “That makes our members that much more credible.”

HRPA has also relaunched the Human Resources Research Institute, a separate research foundation focused on information for practical applications.

Finally, HRPA is continuing to build on its Career Ladder professional development program by offering an increased variety of certificate programs.

Quebec raising HR’s profile

Florent Francoeur
President & CEO

The provincial HR association of Quebec is “optimistic” about 2011, says Florent Francoeur, president and CEO of the Ordre des conseillers en resources humains agréés (CRHA).

In the wake of the recession, there are many positions available to HR professionals and there are more challenges for them on the job.

“Overall, business is good,” he says. “So the association is working on the value of the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation for these professionals.”

CRHA is the only HR association in Canada that requires all members to have the CHRP designation. The goal of the organization is to ensure it is meaningful to both professionals and the public, says Francoeur.

“The goal of the CHRP is to ensure the protection of the public, ultimately,” he says.

This year, the association launched a massive media campaign to draw attention to the designation. Everywhere across the province, from major airports to billboards, radio and television, there have been ads targeting CEOs and business owners.

“We’re saying to them they should hire a CHRP if they want to become bigger and better,” says Francoeur.

“We’re telling them what the designation means and what it can do to help their organization.”

CRHA wants to raise the profile of HR professionals in Quebec to match their counterparts in accounting — CMAs and CGAs, says Francoeur.

At the same time, CRHA has launched a quarterly survey intended to increase its public presence, particularly among politicians and employers. The survey asks HR professionals across the province about their plans each quarter for “hiring and firing.”

“We want to be focused on the future,” says Francoeur. “We want to be very visible in the community so government and business can see we’re active and they see they can work with us.”

Finally, the association is launching a recertification program for CHRP holders. They will be required to complete 60 hours of learning every three years to keep their certification. This will also involve more investigations by the association to ensure members are following the industry’s best practices, says Francoeur.

“We want to make sure HR is working like any other respected profession.”

That also means incorporating more rules to “raise the bar,” he says. Last year, CRHA introduced new rules around negotiations in labour relations. This year, the focus in on headhunters.

“This is a young profession,” says Francoeur. “We have an opportunity here to build it well.”

Experience counts in New Brunswick

Fran White

To receive the Certified Human Resources Professionals (CHRP) designation, a candidate must write two exams and hold a university degree. But the degree doesn’t have to be in HR and many candidates can pass the exams without any HR background, says Fran White, president of the Human Resources Association of New Brunswick (HRANB).

“We’re seeing some very bright people out there who are capable of studying and writing and passing those exams without one bit of HR experience,” she says. “We really need to implement a minimum of three years in human resources before we will grant the CHRP.”

So last year, the association did just that. The new three-year experience requirement will come into effect in 2012.

Candidates will still be able to write both the National Knowledge Exam and the National Professional Practice Assessment without work experience, but the designation won’t be granted until they have logged three years in the profession, says White.

While the recession made it hard for anyone to find a job, much less one with the right experience, the economy is improving.

“The notion of being able to get experience in HR was an issue because jobs were scarce,” says White. “Things are starting to loosen up a bit. There’s a bit of a more relaxed approach when you talk to people about the current environment.”

Regardless of the economy, the association had a busy year in 2010. In October, New Brunswick hosted the Atlantic HR conference, which alternates between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. More than 300 people attended and the association received excellent feedback, says White.

“We don’t go into these things to make a whole lot of money. We really see them as a way to provide opportunities and development initiatives for our members,” she says.

Along with the conference, the association’s five chapters hosted monthly breakfast sessions on everything from current case law and labour relations disputes to how to effectively deal with harassment issues.

The association also began offering webinars to the association’s 1,063 members across the province, so members unable to attend the in-person sessions could still benefit from professional development.

The association’s growth has been consistent over the past few years, says White. And this year, members in the Miramichi area have approached the board about starting up their own chapter to add to those in St. John, Fredericton, Moncton, Bathurst and Edmundston.

In the coming year, the association is focusing on governance education for members of the executive, says White.

“We are in a position now to look at the whole notion of governance, the whole notion of roles and responsibilities of the executive members and how at the chapter level it differs from the provincial level,” she says.

Nova Scotia focuses education on HR

Bruce Snow

Over the past year, the Human Resources Association of Nova Scotia (HRANS) has been raising awareness of the profession among post-secondary students.

Members of the association have been speaking to students in HR and business programs at colleges and universities in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to educate them about the diversity that can be found in HR careers, says Bruce Snow, president of HRANS.

“We try to shine a light on the various components of human resources,” says Snow. “A person who really likes numbers and is very analytical might say, ‘I want to be an accountant,’ but they might make an excellent compensation and benefits professional. And someone who is a lot more interactive might really enjoy employee relations.”

There’s a common misperception HR only handles the “warm and fuzzy” in an organization and is only suitable for people with a certain kind of personality, he says.

The association wants to ensure students know there are many different paths within the profession that will appeal to people with different talents and interests, says Snow.

Along with external efforts, the association has been stepping up efforts to engage its 1,200 members in both Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

“We’ve been stepping up our interactions and solicitation of member feedback,” says Snow.

That includes basing upcoming programming on the results of a comprehensive member survey to find out more about members’ interests.

One of those interests is to revitalize the association’s mentoring program, says Snow. The program was started a few years ago but hadn’t been maintained, he says.

“One of the ways in which members become engaged and see value in our organization is not necessarily by being taught but by having the opportunity to teach and share,” says Snow. “They have quite a bit of enthusiasm for a mentorship program to actively promote the sharing of the knowledge they’ve gained.”

And while Nova Scotia is hosting the Atlantic HR conference this year, a duty it alternates with New Brunswick, members have said they want more opportunities for interactive discussions and learning outside of the conference, says Snow.

“They’ve told us they want the chance to interact with other members and learn instead of being spoken to,” says Snow.

To that end, the association is arranging more professional development opportunities throughout the year, such as roundtable discussions with smaller groups of participants as well as the traditional larger events with a guest speaker.

The association, which now has three full-time staff, has also focused on clarifying its governance model and streamlining the bylaws to ensure everyone is clear on the roles and responsibilities of the board members, staff and volunteers, says Snow.

“It’s an ongoing process,” he says.

N.L. targets growth

Lisa Hollett

While membership is still relatively small at the Human Resources Professionals of Newfoundland and Labrador (HRPNL), at 170 members, the association has plans this year to boost those numbers along with its services.

“Our major focus for 2011 is on providing additional services and communications for our current members to enhance the value of their membership, including members outside commuting distance from the St. John’s area, in more activities, and growing our membership base,” says Lisa Hollett, president of HRPNL.

To help with this growth, the association has hired its first staff person, a part-time business administrator, to manage administrative tasks and financial records, and to establish local exam preparation resources for members.

“We’ve, up until now, been a volunteer organization, so a lot of our volunteer time was taken up with our administration and keeping financial records,” says Hollett. “We finally have the budget to do it. It’s taken us a while to get to that point.”

HRPNL is also set to launch a new website, which will have an interactive, members-only section and give members the ability to register themselves for professional development events and to pay online with credit cards.

“That’s going to take away a lot of what we had to do on the back-end,” she says.

And because members are spread out around the province, the association is looking at how it can better connect through telecommunications and local gatherings. That could mean appearances by a member of the board or executive who is on business in a certain area or partnering with HR people in those communities to help sponsor events.

“We are aware that’s an area we need to do better in,” says Hollett.

While there is no annual conference, the annual general meeting is attended by about one-third of HRPNL’s members, she says. Most of them continue to have concerns around the labour market and finding people with the right skills. For a number of years, Newfoundland and Labrador has had to compete with higher-paying jobs in the West, she says, but more people are returning because those jobs are less lucrative than before and the province is seeing growth.

“It’s an exciting time to be in HR. We continue to see the HR leaders and organizations becoming more strategic in their thinking and HR facilities doing more outsourcing of more of the transactional activities,” says Hollett.

HRMSP’s annual ‘demonstration days’ popular among professionals

Richard Rousseau

In the five years since its inception, more than 1,600 people have attended events held by the HRMS Professionals Association (HRMSP) in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City, says Richard Rousseau, the association’s president.

HRMSP brings together HR, IT and payroll professionals, as well as consultants and vendors, to exchange ideas and education about HR information systems management and technology.

“After five years, we’re being recognized as a reference centre. People are calling us for advice,” says Rousseau.

The association has even been approached to provide in-house systems training, he says.

Unlike provincial HR associations or professional associations such as the Canadian Payroll Association, HRMSP doesn’t have a designation for members, says Rousseau.

“We complement these other associations because we’re covering technology for practitioners, which is an aspect that other associations aren’t covering,” he says.

The association’s events bring together practitioners, consultants and vendors to have open discussions about the good and bad of technology, he says. One of the most popular events is its annual demonstration day, where payroll and HR people can attend up to four demonstrations from 12 different vendors.

Last year, 85 people attended the day in Quebec City and this year HRMSP will hold demonstration days in Montreal and Toronto, says Rousseau.

HRMSP events also give practitioners the chance to share their practical experiences of different systems with participants so they can make an informed decision about which platform will best suit their needs, he says.

For example, at the global compensation event in Quebec City, a consultant explained the concept of global compensation while a practitioner showed participants exactly how he used his system to implement it.

“He shared with everyone that a small investment of $38,000 gave back a return of more than $800,000,” says Rousseau.

Over the past year, the association focused on strengthening its governance and relocated from Aurora, Ont., to Toronto. It also worked on the website to make it more user-friendly and provide more information, says Rousseau.

This year, the association will begin holding events in Ottawa and hopes to be able to offer events west of Ontario in the next couple of years, he says.

Payroll association shifts focus from seminars to certification

Patrick Culhane
President & CEO

As a former football coach, Patrick Culhane, president and CEO of the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA), has learned if a play is working, stick with it.

And that’s exactly what the CPA plans to do in 2011 as it builds on the success of the past year. Raising the profile of CPA and payroll as a profession continues to be a goal, aided by the release of the annual National Payroll Employee Survey.

Last year’s survey, which showed 60 per cent of Canadians would be in financial difficulty if their paycheque was delayed by two weeks, generated a lot of media buzz, according to Culhane.

“There’s more public awareness now,” he says.

Membership also increased by more than 10 per cent in 2010, moving CPA from a “seminar-based to certification-based” organization, says Culhane. CPA offers both the Certified Payroll Manager (CPM) and Payroll Compliance Practitioner (PCP) designations. More than one-half of all members (8,500) now hold certificates.

The next step in 2011 is to enhance and improve the curriculum for both certifications, he says. CPA has just finished a skills and competencies analysis of the PCP program and will work on improving the communication aspect of this certification. The association will also be using the results of a CPM pilot program to make improvements, such as adding more soft skills and group work to the learning modules.

“We were pleased we had the content right,” says Culhane. “Now we need to focus on which topics need more emphasis and which need less.”

CPA members in Quebec are also celebrating a coup this year. Starting in January 2011, a new legislative change in that province will reduce the paper burden for employers and payroll practitioners. It’s a change the CPA has been advocating for awhile.

Nationally, CPA is entering a “new phase” of its organizational life cycle, says Culhane. Not only is membership increasing but members are demanding more in terms of professional development and payroll information.

With this in mind, CPA will be publishing more payroll guidelines in the coming year, as well as forming national standards of practice, he says.

The association is also revamping its website to keep pace with members’ needs. In the last year alone, there were more than 33,000 calls to the association’s payroll information line, which underscores the need for more self-service options online, says Culhane.

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