Ian is a 20+ year veteran of the human resources industry and now currently operates a consulting business out of Toronto, Canada. He is a frequent contributor to the ToolBox for HR and The Search for Mutual Success. Ian’s posts are his thoughts and expertise on how human resources operate within organizations and society’s impact on business operation and HR’s role. Ian tweets from the handle @ianclive.
Joey Baird, Sage: You’ve been involved in the HR industry for a while now. How did you get started writing for the HR Toolbox?
Ian Welsh: Well I think I came across the HR Toolbox on LinkedIn originally. The Toolbox is a great open forum where lots of people talk about HR and post their blog posts as well. I contribute about ten articles a month, and over the past several years I think I’ve published over 400 articles.
Do you follow any specific bloggers or other sources to remain up to date on what is going on in the world of HR?
I do read a number of websites but nothing on a set consistent basis. I really enjoy getting the international perspective and often visit UK, Australian, and South African sites. Usually I find these blogs and sites through LinkedIn discussion groups. LinkedIn is great because there is a broad international base of people involved in each group.
Another source of information that I enjoy following is the Carnival of HR. That is a great sort of “cooperative” that brings together a number of different viewpoints that focus on different themes every few weeks.
What’s the biggest change or shift you’ve seen in your HR career?
I haven’t really seen major changes to HR principles over the last 30 years, the same programs that were in place then are still in place today. One area that has changed is ethics. Legislation really has led to large changes in this area, especially around government compliance. As soon as some of the major ideas were passed like nondiscrimination, affirmative action, occupational health and safety, and environmental, companies really took notice and focused on building their HR departments.
Generally employees embraced these changes, and employers wanted to be good citizens. In the past few years or so, though, I’ve seen businesses become more Machiavellian, almost ruthless in a way. Businesses are now prepared to buck the system and confront government legislation; they’re almost more willing to take the fines and punishments if they believe it will be better for their business. In some businesses this has really created a gulf between HR and management.
The trend then was to treat any program like compliance programs as a burden, and management was prepared to go against legislation if they balanced the risks and thought they would be better off. I think this also has a lot to do with the tenure of top executives now. The average tenure has gotten much shorter, so they are making decisions more for the short term rather than long.
As a neighbor to the Great White North, are there any work policies in Canada that differ from the United States when it comes to work-life balance or work culture?
Canada has stricter rules around employment standards and various things such as social programs. In Canada, though, people aren’t as close to one another geographically, and many companies operate in multiple provinces. This really opens up the need to have employees who are able to work remotely and balance their priorities on their own.
We’re having a Facebook contest and giving a year’s worth of free HR training by asking followers to share their most essential HR management tip. We have to know, what’s yours?
I’d say that human resource professionals need to really put themselves in the other person’s shoes that they’re dealing with. They need to be practical and observant; they need to provide the value that is needed within businesses. They need to understand the issues and attack the problem, not pull some off-the-shelf program and try to fix issues that way.
I’m sure we have some HR readers who toy with the idea of starting a blog. Do you have any tips for newbie HR bloggers?
The most important thing is trying to write in a natural style that the blogger can maintain. Don’t write in flowery language with large words to just try to sound educated. Be yourself and use your own voice. Also, bloggers have to engage readers and introduce questions and ask for comments.
I actually wrote a couple of posts about this in the early stages of writing my blog. One was written about three months after I started so it really does have newcomer perspectives. The other was after my first year; it reinforces some of my earlier thoughts and also talks about some of my accomplishments.
Do you have any other projects coming up in the near future, perhaps new blog posts?
One project that I’m really excited about is an e-book. I’m working to bring some of the themes and thoughts I’ve had over my 400+ blogs into a more concise format. So be on the lookout for that!