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Written by: Geordie MacPherson, CPHR

On March 9, 2016, I was sitting in a room with fellow HR professionals from other oil and gas service companies attending the Willis Tower Watson’s 2017 Compensation Trends Seminar hosted by Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC).  Early in the presentation, a slide showed headlines of articles that would summarize what most Albertans have been living through – unpredictable times.

We started this decade with the tail end of the Great Recession, then the oil crisis in reaction to OPEC decision not to cut output, then the end of the PC Alberta government dynasty and now the US election which was won by Donald J. Trump.

Most HR professionals within Alberta have had to deal with or will deal with challenges attributed these events which no educational systems or mentors could of prepared us for.  Many of us have been involve in layoffs, compensation rollbacks, cost cutting initiatives, closing offices, relocating offices, losing top talents, not able to find required talent, mergers or acquisitions, drastic culture shift, etc.

In addition, based on a survey that CPHR Alberta released on current HR Trends, many of us have concerns or are being challenged with the following:

  • Changes in government legislations such as human rights, labour relation and employment standard codes; including minimum wage increases and LGTGQ requirements
  • The newly released Carbon Tax and its impact on businesses
  • The US travel bans, its impact on our current workforce and influence on hiring practices

It is safe to say that we are going through some unchartered times.  Many of us are doing this on a limit budget and with little resources.  The days have past when we had the ability to hire specific skillset based on current needs.

To succeed, we must be agile.  Agile is about being adaptable, flexible, and having the ability to make change, regularly. (Culture Amp Blog, What it Takes to be an AGILE HR Org, Barbra Gago)

Tom Haak from the HR Trend Institute summarized really well what it takes to be an agile HR team in his article “7 aspects of Agile HR” (February 14th, 2015):

1.      Keep your HR team small

With a small team, you can make more speed, and you will be able to react more agile.

2.      Stop with all your regular meetings

Stop with the meetings, and spend the time on getting some things done!

3.      Make sure there is fresh input in your team regularly

You will need fresh input in your team. A young professional can add a lot of value, and a fresh perspective.

4.      Find innovative and flexible partners

As your team is small, you will need partners. Partners who can be innovative and flexible.

5.      Do not strive to be perfect

Keep moving, and do not strive for perfect solutions. While you are working on your perfect solution, the world has moved on, and your solution is no longer perfect.

6.      Practice SCRUM

An important element of the SCRUM approach is to work in a team in short sprints of two to four weeks. On, you can find an extensive introduction.

7.      Learn how to practice “Guerrilla HR”

Read (Tom’s LinkedIn article “It's time for some guerrilla HR!”, December 4, 2014).

I can attest to this since we had to put this into practice at Tundra Process Solutions.  (Full disclosure, we started doing this prior to reading this article.  I stumbled across Tom’s article when writing this article and felt he did a great job summarizing what we are attempting to do.  Just nice to see that we are not alone in our thinking.)  Being in the oil and gas service industry, we had to rethink our approach on how HR is being practiced.  Our HR team at Tundra currently consist of myself, a training specialist and a committee of employees that are passionate about HR including our CEO.  Versus hiring specific needs within HR, we are developing HR business partners within each departments and divisions.  Ideally, I would like everyone in Tundra to be deputized with HR responsibilities.

A few initiatives that we have developed together:

  • Tundra’s Culture Club – an employee based committee that interviews any potential candidate for cultural alignment that wishes to join the Tundra family.
  • Tundra Recruiters – we are currently training our A players to become future recruiters as we continue to evolve.  This will help with cross divisional recruiting, getting A players to hire A players and the necessity of me meeting with every candidate for an hour.
  • Tundra Three6T – a 360 evaluation that an employee committee has supported putting together and starting to roll out.
  • Tundra Benefit Committee – employees supporting the evaluation of our benefits and soliciting feedback from other employees.

Where we cannot get access to specific skillsets internally, I look to my network and phone a friend.  Hint: This only works if you repay the favor.

If there is one take away from this is that you and your team do not need to do this on your own – ask your employees and your network for help.  You will be surprised in how much they are willing to give and how passionate they are about HR within your organization.

For further inspiration and ideas to take your HR team to the next level, becoming agile, here are a few resources that I felt useful:

·       The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace by Ron Friedman PhD

·       Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

·       Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky


Geordie MacPherson, CPHR is a long-standing member of CPHR Alberta and brings over a decade of experience to the HR profession. He is currently the Manager of Human Resources at Tundra Process Solutions Ltd. and serves on several Boards and committees.