Stories that mattered in 2014
Before looking ahead to the New Year, it is worthwhile to review the stories that mattered to you in 2014. I look back with a perspective of the subject areas that support improvements not only in resilience in our organizations and communities but also our employees and colleagues. Following are my picks for 2014 Stories than mattered in Human Resources, Security, Emergency Management and Business Continuity.
The Human Resources Story for 2014
My selection for story of the year in the Human Resources space is a recent report that provided data on employee engagement in Canada. There is an impression in the business media and government business commentary that Canadian employees are laggards when it comes to employee engagement. HR professionals know that recruiting and retaining a top-notch workforce is becoming more complex, more expensive, and more critical to success. Without dwelling further on the importance of employee engagement when it comes to having a productive workforce or employee retention, this is a great HR news story for 2014. As the Human Resources community knows employee engagement is one of those magic elixirs that make organizations successful, great places to work and thus profitable.
Therefore, when Aon Hewitt, the global talent, retirement and health solutions business released, November 6, 2014, its annual list of Best Employers in Canada, a comprehensive study of employee engagement and the work environment, the employee engagement results were reassuring. Based on data from nearly 350,000 employee and leader surveys from 259 participating private- and public-sector organizations, the study identifies 50 Canadian companies that have made the mark as Best Employers for 2015. This year’s study also reveals that average Canadian employee engagement, at 65%, is higher than the global and U.S. averages (both at 61%).
This year, average employee engagement at Aon Hewitt Best Employers was 77%, roughly on par with 2013’s 78%. (The average for other organizations was 58 %.)
You can find the complete study results at the Aon Hewitt Best Employers website.
Security Story for 2014
As Canadians, we live in one of the most peaceful countries in the world. Our crime rates have been falling for the last ten years due in part to the excellent police services we tend to take for granted as normal. Therefore, it was a dramatic shock to Canadians when in a short space of two days, two members of the Canadian military were murdered in cold blood.
On October 20, 2014, a person rammed his car into two unsuspecting Canadian Soldiers, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent age 53 and a second soldier who received minor injuries. Warrant Officer Vincent later died of his injuries. The murderer was shot and killed by police shortly after the attack.
Two days later on October 22, 2014 an attack on a soldier standing on ceremonial guard duty at the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill left 24-year-old Hamilton native Cpl. Nathan Cirillo dead. The attacker then attempted to kill Members of Parliament and/or visitors in the Center Block on Parliament Hill. Even though this was a planned attack, the RCMP and the House of Commons Security Service were able to kill the attacker before he could ambush other unarmed innocent victims.
Canadians have always lived in an “it won’t happen here” world as far as national security is concerned. Even more shocking to some is that both of the attackers were born in Canada and had not spent any time in another country becoming indoctrinated or trained to carry out these murders. Perhaps now government senior managers and those responsible for security at other iconic sites across Canada will be less likely to dismiss the recommendations of security professionals for improved security as unaffordable or unnecessary.
For more commentary on this story read “Reacting to Terror” in the 2014 November/December digital edition of Canadian Security magazine.
Emergency Management Story for 2014
The emergency management story for 2014 has to be Ebola. A terrible virus, which has reached plague proportions in West Africa. More than fifteen thousand West Africans have been infected and almost half have died. This is not the first Ebola event in West Africa but it appears to be the worst so far. The reasons Ebola has such a death grip on West Africa are abundant. Principal reasons include the lack of health care infrastructure, both physical and human, a poverty stricken population with low education and thus suspicious of government intrusions, and weak government institutions. Also discussed more openly is the lack of action in the early stages of the outbreak by the Europeans, Americans and Canadians.
Media reports have raised race and poverty as possible reasons for the lack of action by the West early in the outbreak. Media commentators ask if the population affected were “rich white people” instead of “poor black people” more would have been done. I am not convinced that is the case. I think people in the West would have reacted much the same even if it were “rich white people” affected. However, the “rich white people” must be far away, on another continent preferably. This would ensure that it was not happening to them, their relatives or their friends. Their experience of the crisis must only be viewable on TV or in social media chat forums. As long as they could continue to go to work on public transit, eat lunch at their favourite restaurant and visit with their family and friends after work, their awareness of Ebola would remain superficial. They could even watch the news about the terrible virus that was affecting “rich white people” in a faraway place without becoming concerned. Their government leaders would reassure them from time to time, “not to worry, it won’t happen here.” Alternatively, “The risk is extremely low, it may happen to someone here, but not many, and not you.” This is an expected reaction.
To date Ebola has not reached Canada.
Business Continuity story for 2014
The roof of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake Ontario collapsed more than two years ago, killing two people and closing the damaged mall. All of the businesses in the Mall closed. A few reopened in alternate locations but most are still awaiting the construction of a new Mall. Frustration continues to grow among Elliot Lake residents over delays in the construction of the proposed new shopping complex.
The municipality of Elliot Lake was responsible for preparing the site that will be home to new shopping plaza for construction. The work is complete and construction is now in the hands of the developer, but the developer ran into engineering issues that caused delays and cost overruns.
The size of the proposed shopping plaza has been reduced, and improved plans had to be drawn up for placement of the building. The provincial and federal governments are also providing $2 million in funding to help the city prepare the site for the developer.
Most business people argue that their first responsibility is to the owner of the business whether the business is held privately or publicly through shares. However, what about the responsibility of the business owner to their customers, employees and their community.
It was obvious from the media reports and the Inquiry Report that none of the business in the Mall had a business continuity plan. Much can be said about how the Mall collapse was handled by the authorities, but that has been the subject of the Elliot Lake Inquiry and requires no further analysis here. However, what about the recovery process. It has been more than two years since the collapse and still no replacement for the collapsed Mall. Whatever the status of business continuity planning may have been for the business tenants of the Mall, the recovery process has not begun. These businesses and the municipality have failed the citizens of Elliot Lake by not having any reasonable plan to recover their businesses.
Retailers and other services who are tenants in a shopping mall, especially in small towns, should have more respect for the customers and the communities that support them. Developing contingency plans to restart their business in another location after an emergency event such as a fire or flood is something every small town business should be doing.
Congratulations to Maclean’s Magazine for their continued coverage of this story.