Balance and Sustainability

World in balanceRecently I’ve given pause to consider the notion of balance and sustainability which led me to consider our future; all of us. I thought I would share with you some thoughts.

If you consider the rate at which technologies change and the world conforms to these changes, you must have hope. We as a people who have hope for a better world already have the motivation that we need to act so that we can make this a reality.

I envision like most other things on earth a lifecycle will take place if not by our choice, then perhaps through the natural consequences of the choices we make. Eventually the world will succumb to the need to behave in a more sustainable manner, it will require people to learn to see past our differences and focus on the commonalities we share. Through history people have shown that when humans act in the interest of a common goal, that remarkable feats can be achieved.

I believe our needs will be focused on renewable resources rather than the finite resources we currently use. I believe growing food in one’s own home will become more popular and perhaps vital to sustain our food supply in a sustainable fashion. Or perhaps there is potential in the market for indoor, climate controlled agri-solutions in order to amplify the food supply and reduce the amount of chemicals that are required to deter pests and unwanted weeds. I believe people will respect the limited natural resources we have left and eliminate unhealthy habits that contribute to the demise of our planet and bodies such as buying bottled water. We as a people will end such unhealthy habits and purify that which nature has already provided for us.

I believe transportation will utilize more sustainable means of construction and the fuel will be some form of electrical power. I believe we will recognize value in sustainable development of walk-able neighborhoods so we can reduce our carbon footprint and reduce the amount of individual transportation that would be required. The development of such sustainable models of living would improve our use of existing infrastructure and improve the social interactions that exist within our communities. The possibilities of such a sustainable way of living are at our doorsteps, we have but to open the door and embrace the changes that are needed to implement them.

I’m not suggesting we all become bicycle riding, tree hugging, organic vegans who live in communes. What I am suggesting is that we all in our own individual ways decide to take one action to promote a better way of living. For instance, I’ve chosen to no longer support the purchase of bottled water. Studies have shown it is less healthy than tap water, it pollutes our earth through the creation of the plastic bottle it is packaged within and it removes vital fresh water resources from our rivers, lakes and underground wells that can no longer be used as nature intended them. I live and work in an area that has clean drinking water available, so the need to purchase what is already available at no additional cost simply does not make sense to me. My hope is that I am not alone in this endeavor and through this; I can hope that 7 generations down the road clean water will be available for future generations to come.

Let’s recognize that sometimes the consequences of our actions today may not be realized until years to come, but it is our choice as individuals to decide how we wish others to remember what actions we take and why we take them. I believe people will reclaim the power to make the world a better place by recognizing it is the everyday people like you and me whose actions guide the decisions that get us there. I have hope that a better future is possible when we as a people decide to no longer support the destructive systems which will lead to our demise.

Let us recognize that words will not lead us forward, action is needed and it is only through our actions that we will be judged by those who live through the legacy we leave behind. So I ask you, what have you done to promote balance and sustainability in today’s world so you can be remembered 7 generations from now as someone who made a difference? What have you done today to give others hope and inspire them to build a sustainable and healthy future?

Posted in Human Resources, Sustainability | Leave a comment

Recruitment: Going the Distance

IMG_20160904_180957.jpgWhether you are new to recruiting or perhaps you have been recruiting for the last 15 years you will have to agree that recruitment is different today than it has been in the past. Today we have such a unique market in comparison to any in history.

Today’s work environment has four generations of workers all working together with a fifth generation on the way. We have a global economy that affects us even if we are a simple local business that doesn’t venture out of our urban centers. With globalization we have an increasing competitive environment for jobs and talent. We have the ability to communicate with the world in ways we never would have considered in the past. Today’s recruiter must extend themselves beyond what is considered traditional and breathe innovation if they are to be successful.

When you are the recruiter who has been charged with hiring for locations considered some of the more remote places on Earth there are many challenges that you are required to meet. This requires you to wear many “hats” in order to succeed in hiring the right person not just for a job, but for a community.

Increasingly it is shared with us that there is a growing shortage of talent in many industries. In fields such as medicine, nursing, pharmacy, education or even retail it can be difficult to fill these positions in a cost effective manner. Finding people who are willing to modify their lifestyle to meet the needs of a remote community can diminish the number of applicants quickly.

Some places exist in harsh climates such as the arctic. When traveling above the tree line you are faced with an environment sometimes described as a frozen desert. It can be – 50 °C in the winter with snow storms that can bring your visibility to zero. The other extreme could be when you are tasked with finding candidates to work out in a tropical jungle village tucked in an area only accessible via a hiking path. In secluded areas such as this it is often difficult to obtain supplies and at times there may be limited communication via phone or internet. Such lifestyles choices are not for everybody. Such examples are often in communities that are small and a lack local resources with the appropriate skills to hire from. A challenge that is difficult for any recruiter to overcome.

A lack of infrastructure and housing can also be a challenge when hiring in remote locations. Some communities in the world are only accessible via plane, boat or by foot. In such cases, you may have to consider if the applicant has a genuine fear of flying. If the only way to enter the job location is by plane, it is unlikely the applicant would be comfortable accepting the role.

What if the applicant has a serious medical condition and there is no hospital in the community? What if the applicant has teen aged children but there is no high school in the community? These are all circumstances the recruiter needs to make the applicant aware of before a decision can be made. Failing to inform an applicant about such things could result in the applicant choosing to accept a role only to find later that they aren’t able to live in the community or inadvertently have put their safety at risk.

If an applicant does accept a role, sometimes the challenge is finding a place for the employee to live. Housing in remote communities can be scarce at times. Or perhaps the housing that is available isn’t up to the same standards the applicant is accustomed to so they refuse until more suitable housing can be found or created. In some organizations its the recruiter’s role to manage these types of challenges. Will the company have to rent, lease, buy or build a place for its staff to live?

Not being able to find local talent can be incredibly challenging. Finding someone who was raised in an environment where things such as roads are taken for granted then asking this candidate to physically seclude themselves from the world outside is a hard thing to ask of someone. From the candidate’s perspective accepting such an endeavor is not a simple either. The person’s adaptability to a variety of circumstances whether emotional, physical or social has to be strong.

Living in these remote environments requires new recruits to make incredible lifestyle choices. Customs in the local communities may prohibit them from socially behaving in a manner they are accustomed to. In my experience I have learned some communities restrict drinking alcohol which we would consider normal social behaviour in Winnipeg.

At times communities restrict outside professionals who come to service the community from developing romantic relationships with anyone in the entire community. You can imagine for young professionals wanting to help and make a difference in a community how challenging that can be. They are restricted to live without the possibility of companionship sometimes for years.

One way organizations have tried to manage the potential pitfalls is to seek couples or groups who would like to work in these communities together. Unfortunately it is expensive to relocate one person to a community for a role, but the cost of relocating a whole family or group of people can be much more.

This is why people who recruit for positions in remote communities often end up in a long and tedious recruitment process. This becomes a process where “fit” and “emotional intelligence” is considered to rank above having the right education and experience. Of course there are some cases where this isn’t an option. You can’t hire a person who wants to take a crack at being a doctor who was not educated or licensed to do so.

Whether an applicant is choosing a role in a remote location for the money, for the experience or for the adventure it is vital to be as transparent as possible. Without this transparency the organization could spend a lot of money in recruitment, training and relocation costs without a return on the investment.

It’s vital for recruiters to be transparent regarding the role, the benefits, the community and any challenges associated to them. The applicant in turn should be questioned and should be honest about their expectations, their concerns and any challenges they may require assistance with in order to make sure their personal safety and well being are considered appropriately.

Do you have other suggestions that can assist people in recruitment or would like to share your thoughts regarding what I’ve written, then please leave a comment.

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Goodbye 2016, onward to a “A New Hope”

Colin Finlay, CPHR, 2016“Clinging to a situation that brings nothing but despair and it doesn’t matter how hard they try to navigate troubled waters eventually all they can see around them is jagged rocks. The rocks are waiting for the moment where a mistake would be made and sharks are swimming in the waters waiting to feast on what might come. Eventually it’s realized however; that it is forces beyond their control creating these troublesome waters and pushing them towards those rocks. The only way to be put at ease is to abandon a crew and a vessel that they care for in order to ensure they can return home to those they love in peace. They are reminded that sometimes you can’t always solve the problems created by outside forces and letting go of it all is required to spare what’s most important, friendship, family and health.

The winds of change help them escape, they gazed over the rails of this doomed ship that was without the required competence at its helm, eventually to find a path that leads to calmer waters and a new vessel brought to them by chance that could carry them forward.”

2016 has been a year of tremendous tribulations and triumphs all of which have lead to this moment; the moment where I contemplate what has been learned in order to usher in a new year filled with hope.

Similar to the exert above I found myself in a situation that required me to let go in order to move forward and find the balance in life that I let slip away. I was reminded in 2016 of a lesson I learned so long ago; you may not be in control of the environment around you, but you are always in control of your choice to stay.

There have been many occasions where I have spoken to others about work-life balance. Many times, I have read fantastic articles about steps to achieve such a thing in the workplace. One thing that is often overlooked however is that on occasion you need to recognize it can only be achieved by walking away.

To those who offered me their ear, their patience and their wisdom this year, and you already know who you are, I say thank you.

2016, was a beast in so many ways. Creative icons of a generation “became one with the force” throughout the year. People whose craft of song and storytelling always left people inspired or at least in silent contemplation about how they could relate.

We also have seen a dramatic shift in the political spectrum that will most certainly have an impact on the economy from both a macro and micro perspective. All the ways in which these changes impact us at home have yet to be realized. Or as it was once stated by Edward Lorenz in his study related to the theory of chaos, “When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

To me, 2016 was like a ball of chaos that rolled through my life, but it wasn’t the first time, and I’m sure it likely will not be the last. After all, the definition provided by the Oxford Dictionary on Chaos Theory, “… complex systems whose behaviour is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.” I can only imagine this would only enhance the probability that additional times of chaos will follow those which have been overcome.

But it wasn’t the Oxford Dictionary that brought me to contemplate this recently. Disney’s new Star Wars movie, “Rogue One” was what inspired me to consider what “alterations” where left behind by 2016 and envision the possibilities of what those “strikingly great consequences” might be. I then realized this film was what lead us directly into the story of George Lucus’ 1977 movie, “Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope”.

So, what alterations did I come up with? Here’s a few:

The birth of my son. Watching him come into the world, the sleepless nights and even sleeping on the floor of the hospital was a welcome reprieve from the overwhelming chaos that awaited me beyond that hospital room door.

Two of my daughters started school this year, and one started high school. I can’t explain the joy and the fatherly pride I feel when I come home and listen to what they have learned. The excitement they demonstrate when they come and tell us about their day, or the good grades they are getting.

A new focus in my learning plan with acceptance to a program at the University of Winnipeg, through which I will continue to develop both professionally and personally.

A national change in the human resource designation once known as CHRP, is now known as CPHR. This change represents the ever-evolving nature of my profession.

A new job with which comes new leadership and new friends as well as the opportunity to learn about an industry that is also new to me.

Most importantly the supportive and loving relationship with my wife, it is altered by growing stronger with every obstacle we overcome.

My final thought about 2016 is this:

2016, with all the tribulations you brought I will endeavour to learn from them what I can to make better the years ahead. I will celebrate the triumphs that were achieved and grow stronger the relationships that bring a positive influence in my life.

I am happy to see the end of 2016 because from it comes 2017 which in my mind is an era of renewed hope.

Happy New Year everyone, and as it is often said in the Star Wars stories, “May the force be with you.”

Posted in Human Resources, Wellness | 2 Comments

Medical Documentation – Let’s get it right!


Colin Finlay

“There is no better feeling than knowing what you do matters.” – Colin Finlay

An employee comes forward and tells their manager that they have a note from a medical professional…

In my experience this is how what should be a simple conversation often turns into an emotionally heightened state of confusion. Let me illustrate how this happens.

  • Medical professionals typically write a medical certificate that illustrates what solution they believe is in the best interest of their patient’s physical or mental health. For example: “Unable to work from [date] to [date].”
  • Employees often come forward with the impression that whatever the doctor has written must be adhered to, while at the same time and understandably so, prefer not to disclose details related to what was written on the paper supplied by the medical professional.
  • Managers at times are left in a state of ambiguity, uncertain of what to do with the information the medical professional has provided on the documentation, and at times with good reason question the validity of what was written.

Countless times I have seen this scenario unfold not because the employee is trying to manipulate a system that is designed to help people get back to work and not because a manager isn’t sure what to do with the information that was provided on the medical certificate. The reason for all the confusion is most often because the wrong information is being provided by medical professionals.

In today’s world very little privacy is left for people, but when it comes to medical information we can count our lucky stars that under most normal circumstances this information has legally been protected. In most circumstances a person is not required to disclose a medical diagnosis to anyone unless they decide they want to. The reality in the context of “accommodations in the workplace” is that people shouldn’t have to. Employers simply don’t need this information to assist someone in the workplace or through a return to work plan.

It’s also my experience that most medical professionals don’t seem to understand what information they can provide. So in light of not understanding what information they can share, they simply more often than not write down operational directions for employers explaining what the employer should do for the employee/patient. Unfortunately the reality is also that medical professionals don’t dictate the operational functionality of every business in existence, nor do they have the contextual understanding of every position to make such uninformed decisions.

Perhaps medical professionals focus so heavily on what not to write, they don’t get enough practice writing the information they can share?

I’m not sure what the root cause of this is, but I do know that this consistent lack of understanding between employees, employers and medical professionals is troublesome and causes increased levels of stress to everyone without need. It also robs time away from the medical professionals who could be helping someone else rather than re-writing a note that needs clarification because a patient is upset in their office. It’s frustrating for everyone.

In the interest of helping everyone understand how we can all help each other allow me to clarify some differences between a diagnosis, a restriction and a solution for the general purposes of medical documentation for employment purposes:

  • Diagnosis – This is the actual medical condition that the employee/patient has been found to be facing. Examples may include the following:
    • Broken leg
    • Depression
    • The flu
  • Restriction – This is a limitation related to the diagnosis that may prevent an employee/patient from functioning at full capacity both in and out of work. Examples may include:
    • Must keep leg elevated when seated. Unable to stand for periods greater than 20 minutes without sitting for 1 hour.
    • Must not work in isolation for more than 2 hours at any given time. Should be allowed 3 periods of at least 15 minutes of natural light within an 8 hour period.
    • Must have bed rest for extended periods through the day for the next 5 days.
  • Solution – This is an idea that should be discussed between the employer and employee to overcome the restrictions that have been put in place by a medical professional. It should take into account both the medical restrictions of the employee/patient and the operational requirements of the position(s) in the employer’s organization. Some solutions may include:
    • Unable to come to work or the employer could provide a leg rest for the employee when they are seated and ensure they do not stand for periods more than 20 minutes in length without being able to sit for 1 hour in between these periods.
    • Unable to come to work or the employer may situate an employee in an office space to ensure the employee/patient is not left in isolation. During the employee’s coffee and lunch breaks they should also make an effort to go outside in order to get periods of natural light that are needed.
    • Unable to come to work or … well sometimes it might just be best to not come to work.

So what should a medical professional include on the medical certificate? The answer is restrictions and only the restrictions.

A medical professional should not be sharing the diagnosis of their patient. This information is protected through legislation in most areas, but also, it just isn’t relevant information needed to work towards a plan to help a person stay or return to work.

Nor should a medical professional write what their opinion of what a potential solution might be. While they may have a good idea, they do not have the contextual understanding of the work environment, nor do they understand what possible accommodations may be available. It’s irresponsible to make such an uninformed decision and set the stage to contribute to higher levels of stress for everyone involved.

When employers and employees/patients understand what the restrictions are, this can lead to productive discussion to meet the needs of everyone. An employer may be able to assist someone continue with work and lessen the burden of time away without pay. An employee/patient may be able to remain in a social environment which has been shown in studies to enhance the healing process for most people. Meanwhile, medical professionals would have more time to assist people with more urgent needs than re-writing medical documentation until it is “deemed satisfactory to the employer.”

So next time you find yourself seeking the advice of a medical professional and asking for a medical certificate for your employer, remember to ask them to write down the specific restrictions related to the circumstances being faced.

Posted in Employee Relations, Human Resources, Wellness | Leave a comment