So, how was your year? (Editorial)

This time last year I made an HR wish list. Just a few things that could make human resources practitioners’ work a little easier in 2003. So what kind of year was it? Let’s see.

First up was a wish for pension plan relief.

Nationally, plan sponsors have to deal with a frustrating patchwork of provincial and federal regulations, complicating matters for firms that operate in more than one jurisdiction. Industry insiders have long called for standardization. And of late, the ownership of pension surplus has been an issue before courts and legislatures. This February the Supreme Court of Canada is slated to hear arguments in the infamous Monsanto case.

Lower courts have supported employees’ challenge to plan sponsor Monsanto’s application for a partial plan windup that does not include surplus distribution provisions. Employers contend distributing surplus at the time of a partial windup aids members included in the windup at the expense of the plan sponsor and continuing members.

Ontario attempted to bring in legislation to help employers, but beat a hasty retreat after public outcry and a lower court decision against Monsanto’s partial windup.

Alas, pension plan relief was too much to hope for in 2003. In fact, after another year of government inaction and large plan shortfalls, the Dec. 15 issue of Canadian HR Reporter included a report on a warning by a leading pension expert that defined benefit plans are too dangerous for employers to be involved in.

Next up was a wish that the federal government match its rhetoric about supporting a national skills agenda with action to develop the workforce. Ottawa gets mixed marks on this one. Some initiatives have gone through, such as increased apprenticeship funding and the creation of an institute, called the Council on Learning, to help guide government education and training policies. But more is needed. We’ll see how the new Prime Minister takes up the skills challenge in 2004.

Then there was the wish for less job applications from candidates whose resumes have little relation to the position in question. In a recent Guide to Recruitment & Staffing article, online job board firms told Canadian HR Reporter they have the technology to combat the deluge of unsuitable “spam” postings. We remain skeptical.

Another wish was for the accounting department to ease up on demands for return-on-investment statistics for common sense initiatives that support healthy, productive workplaces. HR professionals are welcome to write in and share how this is going.

And finally there was the hope senior management would be more appreciative of both the value of human capital and the need for educated HR professionals who can make the most of a labour force. It’s a difficult path to the executive suite, but HR is making steady progress.

So, what should one hope for in 2004? Senior management providing the resources needed to improve productivity and innovation, while addressing workforce overwork and stress would be welcome.

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