Letters to the Editor

Stealing from the hand that feeds

I am writing in response to the article “Stealing from the hand that feeds” (Nov. 6, 2000). It contained a great deal of interesting information, but I felt that the advice it offered was inadequate. Trying to find out which employees are stealing from you and setting traps to catch them is like locking the barn door after the horse is stolen. This approaches the problem from the wrong end. A much better and less costly solution is not to hire them in the first place. There are proven and effective ways to do this.

The question to be asked is “why do people steal.” Employees who steal have a different mindset from the rest of us. To be sure, there are some who steal because they are desperate, but studies have shown that the vast majority steal because they see nothing wrong with it and it is perfectly justifiable in their minds.

Creating policies, codes of conduct and putting people through ethics programs do nothing to alter this mindset. Hiring investigators, installing covert cameras and other surveillance techniques is costly for the company and more than a little irritating for its employees. This kind of Orwell’s big-brother-is-watching-you approach is demeaning and frightening.

The article stated that the reason people steal is related to opportunity, motivation and rationalization. That’s right, but only the first, opportunity, is within the control of a company. Motivation and rationalization are personality and psychological factors that operate independently of policies, cameras, police or the threat of prison.

There are excellent inexpensive assessment instruments that have been validated and proven effective in determining who is likely to steal, who is prone to violence, who is ethical, who is difficult to control etc. With tools like this readily available, there is no excuse for hiring people who are likely to cause trouble. HR professionals who don’t use these instruments are creating problems and are putting their firms at risk.

John Towler
Professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo, and senior partner of the management consulting firm Creative Organizational Design
Waterloo, Ont.

Wellness needs focus on employer policies

I was quite eager to read the feature “Investing in wellness” (Oct. 23, 2000) and found it very interesting. I was dismayed, however, that we continue to view the goal of wellness as something to be achieved by focusing on the employees and what they do or don’t do.

For example, efforts to maximize health and performance for shift and night workers should emphasize that this goal can only be achieved with a dual-pronged effort. Yes, the employees must make efforts aimed at self-care and protecting their sleep, but employers must also work to ensure better schedules, operational and human resource policies.

In a front page story in the same issue “Short-term absences double in three years,” Neal Sommer makes this point, “The question has to be asked, ‘why are we making it unpleasant for people to come into work?’”

The feature does point out where changes have been made in workstations, etc. Let’s ensure that we work at the problem from both avenues and not make the employees the only target for improvement.

Carolyn Schur
Schur Goode Associates
Alert@Work Human Resource Services
Saskatoon, Sask.

Organizations missing out on skilled immigrants already here

I read with interest the story “Recruiting immigrants within Canada” (Nov. 6, 2000). I am familiar with the issues presented in this story, but from a different perspective — as co-ordinator of the Newcomer Opportunities for Work experience (NOW) program, an HRDC-funded project in co-operation with the Toronto District School Board, which helps newcomers to find short term unpaid “Canadian experience.”

Canadian HR Reporter did a story last November on the NOW program, and since that time the need for our services has continued to grow while the gap between employer need and qualified individuals remains.

Recent immigrants are welcomed into Canada because of the need for their expertise, yet the jobs often stay out of reach for them. We have a new group of 20 experienced workers every five weeks. The group always includes a large number of engineers and IT professionals as well as people with many other skills and qualifications from around the globe. The NOW program teaches how to access the hidden job market, and how to contact potential employers. We welcome employers to contact us at (416) 393-0350.

Donna Abs
Now Program

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