By: Barbara Bowes

While the last few years have found baby-boomer retirement issues holding top priority, the latest human resource surveys are showing that employee engagement is now taking over the primary lead.

In fact, one survey reports that 94 per cent of survey participants indicated that employee engagement was the most important workforce challenge they were currently facing.

Yet, what is employee engagement and why are HR managers so concerned? Employee engagement refers to whether or not employees have a positive or negative approach to their work and to whether or not employees are willing and/or not willing to perform at their best in ways that further benefit their employer.

The reason HR managers are concerned about employee engagement is that engaged employees are known to make a strong impact on business success from a profitability point of view and also contribute to a positive work culture.
At the same time, human resource professionals know that a focus on employee engagement has a spillover effect in that other human resource functions such as performance management, employee recognition and employee retention seem to improve. As well, those organizations that track employee engagement scores are also discovering that their managers are much more effective in developing, providing feedback, recognizing and rewarding their employees.
This is good news from two points of view. First, it confirms that leadership styles have transitioned from an autocratic authoritarian style to one of collaboration, coaching and mentoring of employees. Secondly, it is finally giving credence to the fact that employee reward and recognition programs are not simply that annual warm and fuzzy “must have” event but do indeed have real return on investment for a business.

If you really think about it, a fully engaged workforce that outperforms other work groups will essentially become your competitive advantage. And, if employee reward and recognition programs have proven to be a big part of successful employee engagement, then it makes sense to strategically implement a reward and recognition program. This program will become a set of guiding principles that will ensure all forms of your rewards and recognition are in alignment with your business strategy. The following steps to implementation will ensure an effective contribution to your employee engagement.

1.    Secure leadership commitment – a reward and recognition program must be supported not only by a CEO/president, but also by all the executives and managers in a company. Appoint a program champion to oversee the design, development and implementation.

2.    Link rewards to business strategy – your program must be connected to both the needs and expectations of your workforce as well as to the organizational goals and objectives. Incorporate your company values and goals into the program so that your messages are consistent and employees understand what behaviours are important.

3.    Make the program fair and inclusive – a reward and recognition program must be able to impact and motivate all of your employees, not just a set of top performers. This now includes consideration for the interests and needs of the various generations of workers in your organization. Establish your selection criteria so that “justice for all” is perceived by your employees, which in turn will help to develop trust in your program.

4.    Design for meaning – consider conducting an employee survey to identify personal interests and suggestions for what would be appreciated in a reward or recognition program. Employees value meaningful rewards that they can get excited about and that motivates them to excel. Work with your employees to help create a personal mission that links with the corporate mission. Form an employee committee to assist management in designing the program. Value all suggestions.

5.    Design for choice – with so many different interests and needs in today’s workforce, the best strategy is to allow for choice in the selection of a reward gift. Rewards typically range from an item with the company logo to making a charitable donation in the name of your employees. This will enable you to meet the needs of an intergenerational workforce and one with significant cultural diversity.

6.    Simplify the nomination process – ensure the nomination process is not too complicated or time intensive so that people will be encouraged rather than discouraged from participating. Keep your forms simple, and be sure to be consistent and make the overall selection process transparent.

7.    Link reward with action – it’s well known that when recognition quickly follows action, you’ll get a lot more “bang for the buck” in terms of employee motivation. Timeliness helps the employee to know why he or she is being acknowledged and why their contribution or behaviour was valuable. As well, your timely recognition will be better remembered and the employee behaviour reinforced.

8.    Train your managers – managers are typically the people handling the reward and recognition program as well as leading employees toward greater engagement. Train your managers to understand the goals and objectives of your program as well as how to effectively implement the program on an ongoing basis.

9.    Promote your program – help employees understand the “what, where, why and how” of your rewards and recognition program. Use multiple communication strategies and media. Be sure that employees understand the “what’s in it for me”. Plan to promote employee success and recognition through your company newsletter or email/twitter messages. Make them a star.

10.    Make it a celebration – in addition to making daily acknowledgements, annual performance reviews or sporadic special events, celebrate employee achievements by holding an annual event. Incorporate all kinds of rewards and recognition ranging from retirement to special achievements. Make it a celebration.

11.    Measure your results – measuring success through tracking employee satisfaction and employee engagement against your program objectives will give you an indication of success. When management is aware of this annual measurement, you’ll see an increase in accountability and leadership behaviours as well as increase in the application of other human resource functions.

Meaningful employee reward and recognition programs are a powerful tool for engaging your employees and increasing retention. However, a program must be well thought out, fair, transparent and based on corporate goals and objectives that are linked to the recognition and rewards that an employee values.

Source: Employee Recognition Survey, Winter 2012 Report, SHRM/Globoforce; Creating an Effective Reward and Recognition Program, Leadership council, March 2006

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She is also host of the weekly Bowes Knows radio show and is the author of Resume Rescue and Taming the Workplace Tigers. She can be reached at Learn more at


While many urban businesses and organizations are experiencing difficulty attracting qualified candidates, organizations in rural and northern more isolated communities have an even greater challenge. Location! 

Whereas marketing guru’s shout out “location, location, and location” as the key message to attract business, location isn’t the winning formula when undertaking an executive search for a more isolated community. In fact, location can be very much of a detriment that could slow down a candidate search and frustrate the best of selection committee.

Yet, these rural and isolated communities do indeed have a lot to offer but part of the challenge is that members of a selection committee often take themselves for granted. They forget to recognize the many features and benefits their location does have to offer. And they don’t know how to market these benefits. This is where an executive search professional can help.

An executive search professional will assist a selection committee to look at other features of their location such as identifying and promoting the environmental and community features they have to offer. In many cases, I find that a rural or isolated location offers closer interpersonal relationships with a wide variety of professionals. Location often offers the intrinsic reward of an accelerated career path as tenure will broaden one’s scope of experience and learning which in turn creates longer-term advancement opportunities for a candidate. This is especially true for specialists and for those candidates interested in management.

The search committee also needs to examine other benefits their location has to offer. Most frequently the location would be attractive to candidates who are already engaged in similar sports and activities or who enjoy adventure. We work with the committee to identify activities for adults, children and families. We review the overall lifestyle and note the areas that would be attractive to candidates.

As well, we examine areas where people can volunteer at various charities and we review the schools, churches and health facilities. All of these elements help us to build a picture of life in the community and to specifically focus on items that would attract high-qualified candidates.

The role of an executive search consultant in this case is to assist the selection committee to package and market their job opportunity to those individuals who have an affinity for similar surroundings. Therefore, the first step I take is to truly understand all of the benefits and challenges of the community and within the job itself.

I begin by interviewing current members of the selection committee and also reach out to other selected employees to learn what attracted them to their location and job opportunity and what makes them stay. I ask these interviewees to describe their lifestyle, what they do in their leisure time, what professional accomplishments they have made in their role and what benefits they feel they enjoy because of the location.

Next, I apply a candidate search strategy. This investment in time by dedicated researchers helps us to target various locales where a potential candidate already appreciates the lifestyle described and is involved in activities offered in the client community. Then from this candidate pool, I deliberately seek individual’s who would benefit from a career progression opportunity beyond where they are working currently. As well, the dedicated researchers dip into candidate pools such construction, the military or other industry sectors that hold highly qualified candidates that are customarily more mobile than others.

Once a number of candidates have been identified, we approach the individuals with the opportunity, inquire about their interests and attempt to “sell” the features and benefits of the job. Once there appears to be an interest, we ask for and screen the resumes and conduct a telephone screening interview. If interest continues, we will frequently send the candidate additional print information and tourism data as well as more in-depth information on the job opportunity.

As the candidate pool is screened and qualifications confirmed, we typically bring the individuals into the client community for a face-to-face interview and a tour. It is important to be as realistic as possible about the features and benefits but also be open and transparent about some of the challenges that will be experienced when in the community. This approach helps to confirm only those clients that have a significant interest and a willingness to commit to the job opportunity. When possible, we might schedule a second visit for the candidate accompanied by a spouse and/or family because candidates will not stay unless the family is happily involved in the community as well.

While of course, I’m biased, I believe that the best bet for rural and isolated communities is to use an external executive search professional. We have the time, resources and network contacts that enable us to reach out to thousands of potential candidates and to screen them effectively. The result will be a qualified candidate with a good reputation and someone who respects, appreciates and values what the community and job opportunity has to offer.

Ted Rogers with Robert Brehl
Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., 2008
Purchase here (

A folksy, easy to read book that brings the reader right into the life and times of Ted Rogers. It is a positive and upbeat personal reflection inclusive of an attempt to explain his reputation for temper tantrums. There is much to learn from Roger’s experience, particularly the need to focus on what can be done and not why something can’t be done, the importance of good time management and the need to make decisions quickly. The many trials and tribulations Rogers faced on the path to business success are very interesting and provide for a great Canadian story.

What the single-stream CPA designation means for students 

For students considering a career in accounting, 2013 might seem like the most confusing time

in the history of the profession. For more than a century, Canada has had three different accounting designations, each with its own unique path from school to work and each competing for its share of influence among students and industry. But this year, a little more than 100 years after the split, it has reunited, changing both the nature of accounting and the path students follow to get there.


In the past, three designations—chartered accountant, certified management accountant and certified general accountant—occupied their own comfortable niches within the profession. CAs were dedicated number crunchers who typically worked in public practice, performing corporate and government audits, and CAs generally aspired to jobs at major accounting firms like Deloitte and KPMG. CMAs were the corporate leaders: Their studies were akin to an M.B.A., focusing more on business management. More recently, the country has seen the explosive growth of CGAs, whose part-time, distance-education-style certification program was aimed at working professionals who wanted to advance their career by adding an accounting designation to their resumé. As the only accounting designation that didn’t require a university degree, it also became the preferred route for new immigrants, college graduates and those who hadn’t gone to business school.


Over the years the designations began to blur. An increasing number of CAs have made their way into corporate offices, traditionally the domain of CMAs. Last year CGAs in all provinces finally won the right to do audits, traditionally reserved for CAs. Where once employers may have demanded specific designations for senior accounting jobs, now more will accept any kind of professional accounting designation.


Last year, a review by the Quebec government sought to merge all three professions under common regulations, prompting accounting bodies in other provinces to think about setting aside their historic differences.

Earlier this year the three were merged into a single entity to be known as a chartered professional accountant. With that will come a new certification program, which officials say will take the best of all three programs to create a more well-rounded professional.


The new program, which starts this year in Western Canada (it’s being offered directly through the new Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada and will eventually include partnerships with some universities) and next year in most of Eastern Canada, will require all students to get a grounding in both accounting and finance principles and business leadership. The courses will vary slightly based on whether students are destined for auditing or management. It will still require roughly two years of work experience before students can earn the designation, but that will be opened up to a wider variety of on-the-job training than formerly allowed.


The idea is each CPA will be “more than a bean counter,” says Tashia Batstone, vice-president of education services for the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. “We want to make sure that people coming out of this program have broad management skills in order to be able to apply the technical knowledge they’ve learned.”


The changes have caused a flurry of calls to accounting professor Steven Salterio’s office at Queen’s University from students and their parents worried about what it will mean for their education and their career. Not much, says Salterio, who heads the CPA Queen’s Centre For Governance. “There might be an extra course here or there, but for a student in university right now, there’s not going to be much of a difference,” he says. “It doesn’t change their job prospects. Accountants are one of the most in-demand groups in the Canadian economy.”


The biggest change will come for mid-career professionals and immigrants who don’t have degrees in business or finance from a Canadian university and will lose the option of a CGA. But the new CPA will offer a separate qualifying program for those students with university degrees in unrelated subjects. Both programs will be available online as distance-learning courses, which opens the door to working professionals outside of major centres.


The changes are more complicated in Ontario and Manitoba, where CGAs have refused to join the new organization. Doug Brooks, head of CGA Ontario, says talks broke down because the new CPA organization couldn’t provide written guarantees that all members would be treated equally.


Another issue, he says, is that CGAs couldn’t be sure they would have equal access to any new agreements over credential recognition in other countries. “We’ve said all along we always believed that unifying the profession could make sense under the right circumstances,” says Brooks. “Those circumstances are enforceable commitments around members’ rights and privileges.”


Whether students in Ontario and Manitoba should choose a CPA or a CGA will likely come down to personal preference. The CPA is designed as a two-year, part-time course taken at the same time that students gain required work experience. CGA students typically take five or six years to complete their studies, which reflects the fact that the designation has been aimed at two-year community college graduates who are going back to university and people looking to switch careers.


Despite the short-term turmoil, Salterio says the changes will strengthen Canada’s accounting programs in the long run by making them more uniform. He suspects CGAs in Ontario and Manitoba may eventually iron out their differences and join the CPA—perhaps prompted by provincial governments who want to even the playing field. “I just hope all this gets straightened out and we have a complete unification across the country, because this has been a long time coming. A hundred years is kind of ridiculous.”


McMahon, Tamsin. “What the single-stream CPA designation means for students” Accounting designations get together. macleans, September 24th, 2013. Web. November 2nd, 2013.