Queen's University IRC

Research Briefs – March 2014

Queen's University IRC - Research Briefs

   Bringing Practitioner-Focused Research to People Management Practitioners

Mar. 2014   



In This Issue…

  1. The Professionalization of Human Resources
  2. Family Status Accommodations: A Review of the Legal Obligations for Employers and Employees in the Canadian Workplace
  3. Flashback Feature:
    Worker Cooperation and Technical Change
  Queen's University Campus  

The Professionalization of Human Resources
Claude Balthazard, Vice-President Regulatory Affairs, Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)

On its annual member survey, the Human Resources Professionals Association asks the following question: "Do you agree that the professionalization of HR is, or should be, an important issue for the profession?" In 2013, 89.4% of respondents either 'agreed' or 'strongly agreed' with this statement—this represents as much agreement as one is likely to find on any question. Clearly, the professionalization of HR is an issue that is important to HR professionals—but what does it mean to professionalize HR? Where do we currently stand? And what are the next steps or challenges ahead?

Millerson (1964) defined professionalization as the process by which an occupation undergoes transformation to become a profession. More recently, Hodson and Sullivan (2012) stated that professionalization can be understood as the effort by an occupational group to raise its collective standing by taking on the characteristics of a profession. Borrowing from these definitions, we can define the professionalization of Human Resources as the process by which Human Resource professionals collectively strive to achieve the recognition and status that is accorded to the established professions by emulating or adopting the defining characteristics of the established professions.

The process of professionalization is complex—it also doesn't help that there is a lack of consensus as to the meaning of the term 'professionalization', or the term 'professionalism' for that matter (Evans, 2008; Hargreaves and Goodson, 1996). Most of the literature on professionalization stems from the field of sociology. When sociologists think of 'professionalism' they usually focus on the institutional aspects such as the existence of a regulatory body, legal recognition as a profession, formal training programs, and the existence of codes of ethics. This is different than what most non-sociologists have in mind when they think of 'professionalism' (see for instance, the document entitled 'Elements of professionalism' authored by the Chief Justice of Ontario Advisory Committee on Professionalism, 2001). Here the focus is often on individual aspects such as the behaviours, attitudes, and values characteristic of the members of a professional group. But even the sociological literature has begun to give more attention to those individual aspects of professionalism (Evans, 2008). Indeed, the term 'professionality,' introduced by Hoyle (1974), has begun to be used to refer to the individual aspects such as the behaviours, attitudes, and values characteristic of members of a professional group.

Although the distinction between 'professionalism' and 'professionality' has certainly not made its way into common usage, the distinction between the institutional aspects and the individual aspects of professionalism and professionalization is useful and particularly germane to the profession of HR at this point in time.

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Family Status Accommodations:
A Review of the Legal Obligations for Employers and Employees in the Canadian Workplace
Chris Foulon, Carita Wong, and Andrea Stoddart, of Israel Foulon LLP, 2013

The sons and daughters of "baby boomers" are sometimes called "the sandwich generation". This cohort has the unenviable task of both raising their own families while often also taking on financial and caregiving responsibilities in respect of their aging parents. As a result, it is becoming increasingly common for employers to be faced with scenarios which require its consideration of an employee's entitlement to accommodation under the ground of "family status". This enumerated ground under Ontario's Human Rights Code and under the Canadian Human Rights Act has resulted in recent decisions relating to the balance between work and family obligations and accommodation requirements. The Ontario Employment Standards Act also provides protection to families under its Personal Emergency Leave provisions.

This paper canvasses the existing legislation in respect of "family status" accommodation obligations and provides an overview of a number of recent cases that shed some light on how "family status" accommodation situations are playing out in Canadian workplaces.

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Flashback Feature:
Worker Cooperation and Technical Change
H. Lorne Carmichael, Queen's University School of Business, 1995

This paper explores the relationship between worker cooperation with technical change and international competitiveness. It outlines the reasons why worker cooperation is important, how it is (and is not) obtained, and assesses the likelihood that Canadian companies can achieve it. The conclusions are not entirely pessimistic. While it is often very hard to create a cooperative attitude where there was none before, there have been some remarkable success stories. New companies are also in a position to get it right from the very beginning, and many are doing so. However, there are also some aspects of the Canadian labour market, in particular its high turnover rates, that will ultimately make worker cooperation more difficult to achieve here than in some other countries.

The paper will cover first of all some of the history and history of thought about worker cooperation. It then covers some economic concepts which are useful for the subsequent discussion. In particular, economics has a rather precise way of talking about `trust', something that is clearly necessary for cooperation. We will then build some simple theoretical models to help understand the ways in which worker cooperation can be fostered. Finally, we will study some case histories and other data in an attempt to evaluate the models, and assess their relevance for the Canadian economy.

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