Have you noticed terms such as “the great resignation” and “quiet quitting” being thrown around in the last year or two? As employers look to recruit and retain talent, the conversation seems to have changed, with these concepts at the forefront and employers wondering about their obligations to provide work-life balance, offer flexibility and pour time and resources into creating a positive and supportive culture. Joining us for this special episode to discuss these issues are Amy Binder, engagement strategy and culture director in our Calgary office, and Jeff Landmann, an employment and labour partner in our Calgary office. Amy is responsible for leading our national workplace engagement strategy and you may remember Jeff from our “Return” to work episode earlier this season.
CPD credits: This episode qualifies for 0.72 hours of Professionalism credit in Ontario and 0.70 hours of Practice Management credit in British Columbia.
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Amy Binder 00:00
Well, it's good - listen to the two partners banter back and forth about this. I mean, I think this is probably a good conversation for us to have, and kind of hear what everybody thinks they mean.
Andrew McCoomb 00:11
The host becomes the guest.
Ailsa Robertson 00:17
Welcome to Disputed, a Norton Rose Fulbright podcast. This episode is a bit different from what we normally do, in that we're not talking strictly about the law this time. Instead, this is a discussion about workplace culture, and employee engagement. So what does it mean to talk of a company's culture? What are symptoms of disengagement in a business? To what extent is there a conflict in a demanding competitive profession, such as the law, between employee well-being on the one hand, and on the other hand, availability to provide excellent client service? Attitudes to these questions have changed, and their importance has been especially highlighted by things like quiet quitting, and “The Great Resignation”. Employers need to figure out what makes people want to show up, and stay at the workplace. Now, there are a variety of perspectives in our discussion. First, we welcome Jeff Landmann, who is a partner in our employment and labour group, and who before joining the firm held senior positions as in-house counsel. Amy Binder is the firm's culture director, and she leads the firm's engagement strategy. Amy also trained as a lawyer, and was formerly legal counsel with the Court of Appeal. And of course, there's my co-host, Andrew, who gives some really great thoughts from his perspective as a commercial litigation partner in Toronto.
Ailsa Robertson 01:41
Jeff, Amy, welcome to the podcast. Thank you very much for joining us.
Jeff Landmann 01:45
Amy Binder 01:49
Thanks for having us.
Ailsa Robertson 01:57
Okay, so before we get into the nitty gritty of new ways of working, I want to start first with a question to you, Amy. So your role, your new role in the firm is engagement strategy and culture director. And part of that involves mental health and well-being, too. So, can you tell us a bit about the nature of your role, how its evolved, and the importance of these types of positions in today's working environment?
Amy Binder 02:15
Sure, I'll do my best. I mean, it is, obviously it's a new role to the firm, but it's also a new role to me. And I would say it is continuing to evolve. When I was in my previous role as legal talent director, over time, I became increasingly involved in stuff that probably sits in this bucket, which to me is really how people work most effectively with each other and how you-- how you get the best out of people, which means that they're in a really good space, both in terms of mental health and well-being, in terms of engagement, in terms of that sense of belonging, and I think when people hear engagement there-- there can be a bit of a gap between perception and realities. I think sometimes people think about it as sort of like party planning, or something. And--, and if they wanted a party planner, they probably wouldn't have hired me into this role. The engagement piece goes so much deeper, it is really like about intrinsic motivators, and how we create an environment where people can show up every day and do their best and be pretty happy about it.
Ailsa Robertson 03:32
What do we mean, when we talk about a workplace culture, and engagement in the workplace? I'd be interested to know what a partner's thoughts on workplace culture actually mean?
Jeff Landmann 03:44
Sure, it's, I mean, it's an interesting question. There's been a tremendous increase, I think, over the, you know, the last few years in particular, and organizations appointing an express role around engagement, people and culture, often at a very senior level. I mean, from my perspective, you know, I tend to think of workplace culture as really, the totality of all those activities, behaviours and values that define an organization and the way people act within that organization. I mean, any number of clients that we work with, a lot of people in HR, everybody in any organization at any level of maturity and sophistication is grappling with these issues, even for no other reason that they're forced to, because your ability to simply post a job and hope that people show up so that they can make a living isn't really where people's heads are at anymore. And so, you know, in a tight labour market, especially in a province like Alberta, and in a world where you can work pretty much for anybody if they now want to poach you, you just don't have the luxury of-- of sort of saying, look, this is a bunch of academic nonsense that we don't need to need to worry ourselves with, or you do so at your own risk as an organization.
Andrew McCoomb 05:00
I know, I know, I know, what I'm what I'm holding off on doing is calling this our quiet quitting conversation and taking us there to talk about that now, because it's too early to talk about that, we're talking about positive things for right now. But at some point in time, we have to get into that because, you know, it's easy enough to assume that a culture is going to be healthy and functional, and people are going to feel motivated and comfortable in their skin and feeling validated and valuable as part of our organization, but we do hear all the time about people scaling their involvement back to something close to the absolute minimum, and some people having a view of that being unacceptable, other people saying, it's called going to work. And that's been what people have done for the past 100 years or more. And it seems to be a big part of this conversation, about what can you ask people in terms of how much they can really be expected to engage? And that's, I mean, that's a big part of your challenge and, I was about to say your job, Amy?
Amy Binder 06:08
Yeah, that's kind of bang on, Andrew, is that it's, like, there is that piece about what can you expect of people? But it also comes back to, like, how do we support people in that? So it's--, so it is sort of a different perspective of like, is this a burden to ask people to engage? Or, are there things that we can be doing, new ways of working? How do we operate in a way that creates an environment that supports engagement? And I come at-- at it making an assumption that people want to feel engaged. And so what do we do to facilitate that? And is what we do a burden? I think that's a really good question.
Jeff Landmann 07:01
I think the pandemic has really been a catalyst for dealing with issues that that are probably much longer percolating. And this idea of quiet quitting, is really just brought to the forefront that a lot of individuals have been trying to balance a variety of priorities and Amy touched on it, what do people really want? And there's any number of studies from the last few years that show overwhelmingly that-- that workers prioritize learning, they prioritize growth, they prioritize development. And so within that space engagement really is how do you provide people those opportunities in the workspace that align also with your organization's strategy, so that you're getting people who actually authentically want to do the work? And, you know, in terms of a metric, really engagement would be how are people getting to a place where they're willing to give that incremental more, beyond just doing kind of the bare minimum or the baseline?
Andrew McCoomb 07:58
So Jeff, we I mean, we can talk about how you get to a place where you can make that offering of authenticity to your work force so that they are as engaged as they can be, but what are you seeing in your practice as the symptoms to indicate that you’ve got a problem, that you don't have the engagement level that you think, I mean, sometimes it's going to be as obvious as people telling you that, but other times, it's a little bit more insidious and a little bit harder to figure out that you've got a chronic issue?
Jeff Landmann 08:31
In a sense, it's actually nothing new, it's a lot of the same things that we would deal with sort of in a more traditional employment and labour practice. It's all the risks that materialize across the employee lifecycle. Are you having issues attracting and retaining good people? What are the things you need to negotiate by way of employment agreements to get the people that you need? Compensation or other terms. Then it's the range of things you get through, you know, throughout the course of employment. Do you have performance management issues? Do you have issues around discipline? Do you have absenteeism? What do your sick rates look like? And then, ultimately, what is your turnover departures look like? And are you seeing a lot of litigation around that? And, you know, a more traditional risk-based approach should really be, you know, how do you how do you manage claims? Another way to look at it, you know, in the context of what we're talking about today is to say, okay, does that give you some indicators for how you adjust your people strategy on the front end? And how do you consider approaching any of these issues or any of these symptoms that you might be seeing?
Ailsa Robertson 09:36
And you mentioned that you have a recruitment issue, and I'm just wondering, Amy, you've worked previously in recruitment. If you think there is the gap emerging between how people are trained for their professions versus the new culture that certain employers are trying to encourage? And I just wonder how that translates in the recruitment process.
Amy Binder 09:58
That's not a new thing. I mean, it can be as simple as we learn that they get these sessions around what they should wear to an interview, when really like, you can tell there's sort of a disconnect between what things look like in practice and-- and the information they're getting as students, but that-- but there's a disconnect between law schools and academic enterprise and private practice and I think that and there always sort of has been. So I don't think that's new. I think-- , I suspect the gap may widen as firms and other employers are navigating this world going forward, hybrid, working, probably front and center, trying to sort of figure out what-- what are our priorities? Who are we, who should we be, like how-- how employers are presenting themselves to new recruits, trying to be reactive and responsive. I read recently a Deloitte’s publication about human capital, and they have different ways of framing work and one was work as fashion. How some employers are just reacting and responding, like, oh, oh, well, people-- people want this, so we're going to do this, and people want this. And it's like, it's a mess, right. We've all been in those conversations, in fact, about, oh, well, there's like, you know, “The Great Resignation”. And so how are we going to do this? Or people want flexibility so how are we going to do this? Trying to shift and pivot constantly. And--, and ultimately, where's that going to land any organization? There's some wisdom in stepping away from that reactive, responsive approach and coming back to, what's this foundational thing we're resting on? Who are we, as an organization being authentic, so that it's clear what people are coming into and what they're leaving to see if there's alignment.
Ailsa Robertson 12:08
The organization also has to be its true self at work, as well, right?
Jeff Landmann 12:14
Yeah, it's just, you know, it's interesting listening to the question, do you see any change or any gaps in the way universities are training lawyers, or I suppose other professional services or professions, and the way the profession is now actually being practiced? I've been thinking about it for the last little while, because there's really sort of two areas that I see where there may be a shift that it is going to happen. One is in career pathing, for lawyers, or potentially other professionals who are coming out of school. And the other then is, and how do you and you're practicing deliver those services. You know, in the career pathing column, it's a very traditional profession that we're in, in law, where you go to school for a number of years, usually you do a degree before, then you do your law degree, then do training, and then you work your way up through-- through the firm that you're at, from, you know, a junior level to a more senior level. And you can do that in-house too. And it's a very long career track. And what's happened across the world in a variety of industries and sectors is, the approach to work has really changed. And there's any number of studies that support, particularly if you're talking about Gen Z, or Millennials, people within that age bracket, that they're far more apt to change, to get what they believe they need to develop skills, experience, purpose, meaning. And that doesn't fit very well with a more traditional professional model, where you're really talking the course of a career where lots of people stay at one law firm for the entire course of their career over several decades. And so there's a there's a bit of a tension between those two things. I think, then the other category is when you're actually practicing, say we're talking about practicing law, how do you now provide the type of service that your clients require and that you want to deliver in a world where technology has made it very easy to be flexible, but also available all the time. And so how do you balance, this should be Amy's focus in particular, how do you focus on delivering quality service in this current world where you're also mindful of your people's needs, so that they're able to do all the things that fulfill them and that involves being able to live a life outside of work, and that also enriches the service that they provide.
Ailsa Robertson 14:29
It is a challenge for a law firm. For example, we hear, listen to what our employees are saying that they need and also maintain exceptional service to clients. It gets--, there just seems to be an inherent conflict in that.
Jeff Landmann 14:46
What’s also come into focus over the last couple of years coming out of the pandemic, which truly is, whether for a law firm or another organization, your people are your competitive advantage, maybe more so now than previously before and in finding that alignment between what your people need and what the organization needs. And say in the case of a law firm, what your clients also need is really where the balance-- balance lies, I think.
Ailsa Robertson 15:10
And also prioritizing creativity has been perhaps too underestimated in its importance, the way that legal services are provided is changing now, we've got the influence of technology, whereas previously working in law was pretty didactic in that you were told what to do and you executed it with attention to detail. Now there is slightly more of a focus on innovation and creativity, because we have the influence of technology, and also clients seeking services in a different way, as opposed to the traditional command, leads to billable hours is to build mode,l it's more of a well actually, is there something that you can create for me that can address this situation that I can utilize in my business? And-- Andrew, what are your thoughts on the innovation standpoint as somebody that's on the innovation steering committee of the firm?
Andrew McCoomb 15:54
I recently quit that committee. Look, I-- I think everything that you said about, Ailsa, about the thing that makes everything difficult in this conversation to manage is that it's all backstopped by what our clients ask of us. And when our clients are in a position to ask for things that we can accommodate, while also trying to address all the cultural imperatives that we think are important to us, like giving people the time to have a life outside of work, and to be healthy and to do whatever it is they want to do, then that all works great. But that's not a reality for clients at the business end of some of the most in-demand areas of service where we provide an offering. And if you want to be competitive, at the most competitive end of this particular practice, and I imagine it's the same in accounting and audit and consulting and just about anything else that looks similar to what we do, then that starts to encroach on how well you can meet your home commitments and that's just the reality of it, that because it is an efficient market, and there's always going to be someone out there who's willing to take the step that you weren't willing to make or willing to make themselves available to the extent that you weren’t willing to make yourself available. And-- and so that, to me seems to be so much the tension for at least for our industry of this conversation, of what you can expect of people. And you'll get, in my limited experience, you'll-- you'll see through recruitment cycles and I think this goes back to my own personal experience as well, how I started out, people who are kind of aware of all of that, who see it relatively clearly and say, I'm going to try to make a go, recognizing that competitive challenge and also, you know, I've got a five year old and an almost one year old home and-- and they're the most important things in my life and I'm just going to move my life forward, mashing all these things together, trying to keep everybody happy, and dealing with everything that comes along with that, and finding an unsteady balance, because that's just, that's--, that's life in a challenging, fast-paced environment. But some people be more willing to try to make that compromise. And some people will say no, and it's from the intersection of those kinds of decisions and people's understanding of the fact that everybody's trying to make those decisions cobbled together, whatever they've got in their own personal lives and their professional lives, that a culture emerges. And some cultures are going to be very understanding of those practical challenges, I think, Ailsa, you and I are fortunate to work in this environment where by and large, I'm surrounded by people who've made those things work. And I'm grateful for that. But-- but that's a challenge from which a culture blooms in a sense of people just trying to make ends meet. But that's just my that's my perception. What do you think, Jeff?
Jeff Landmann 18:54
I think those are some great, great observations. And ultimately, your people are your competitive advantage, and if you lose them to competitors, you're ultimately going to be in a worse position in terms of being able to service your clients and, and we obviously don't want to do that. No professional services firm does. The other point to I just want to circle back on-- on the use of technology and what it's made available. I think about when I first started practicing as a junior lawyer, and we would do affidavits of records for large commercial litigation files, and we would often number them by hand. And the point I wanted to make was really this, which is, there's any number of things now that you can, that is routine in nature, that you can automate, or at least use AI to assist with making more efficient, and that now frees up people to spend their time on higher value work. And those are the things that involve the intersection of creativity, judgment, emotional awareness, those sorts of things.
Andrew McCoomb 19:55
Yeah, we've-- we've seen service providers now that can provide an AI-assisted service to put together very simple, high-level legal memos, give them a question and they'll spit out a memo. And that used to be the domain of the junior associate or research lawyer. And it still is. And I'm not talking about product that's necessarily particularly refined. But to your point, Jeff, so much of the-- the push on the technology front is to make it so that what we're doing is the truly analytical, the last mile of the journey service, and a lot of technology can assist in-- in getting the other stuff done.
Ailsa Robertson 20:35
Amy had her hand up, to put it mildly.
Amy Binder 20:40
I guess like, I-- I think it's probably important in the conversation that we don't let ourselves get too caught up in the symptom of this, right? So-- so partly, what I hear is people who are coming in want this, that and the other thing, and there's this tension between what they want and what we can give, considering the nature of the business and technology and how it can simplify our lives. Well, we all kind of know, with every simplification, there comes like a big bucket of extra. I'm inclined to sort of step away from that a little bit and we come back to kind of those fundamental drivers. And I, you know, depends what you read and where you read it. But you know, Dan Pink says, autonomy, mastery and purpose, self-determination theory, he talks about kind of similar things, autonomy, connection, and competence, I think are those three. But, in my observation and experience, people come to our organization, and we would have all come to this organization or another, really like wanting to learn and work and show up in a really big way. So we didn't come to just kind of kick back. And if that is true of most of the people who are coming to us and to other places, there's probably a way to leverage that. And, yes, people need to have the ability to manage their life at work and outside of work. And when you love your work, and you work with people who get that, and Andrew, you've said, you do work with people who get that you have a life outside of work, it's almost like you have more capacity to show up for work and for life. I sort of worry about getting caught up in all of the noise, of, and the tension, because I actually think it can be integrated more readily than the way we talk about it. Someone once described it to me as like being the eye of the storm, right, and you meet those people that they're just so steady, they sort of are unflappable in a way. And they're probably the same people who they do a lot in work and in life, like they really their capacities are kind of remarkable. And I wonder if we focused our energy on supporting that in our people, what would happen.
Andrew McCoomb 23:26
I'm just wondering to myself, how you build someone's stamina, as dark as this is to say, if not through a series of progressively more difficult challenges to test that stamina, like you would do with anything else you would try to do, whatever I'm in year 11, or 12 of practice. That-- that is--, that is the test, the feats of strength that a junior lawyer faces, their-- their first dilemmas, their first big challenges, their first court dates, their first client meetings or their deals or whatever it is, and then they're getting bigger, and your dilemmas are getting bigger, or your stakes are getting bigger or your speaking engagements are getting bigger. And then the professional expectations are getting bigger. And so you can look at that. And this is to your point about looking at symptoms, versus looking at what you can do or what you can act on to build something. Looking at it from a symptoms perspective is saying, the stress is getting higher and higher, the situation is getting more and more complicated. From a constructive standpoint, you're saying the exercise opportunities to build your pool of resilience are getting more and more strenuous, like they would if you were training for some event in your future which in a sense, you know, we are, that comes with just progression and your-- your interest level. I mean, so much of this is how do you engage people to be willing to keep participating in that training, you know.
Amy Binder 25:01
So what do you think that answer is? Like, I'm very curious about like, how would you answer your own question?
Andrew McCoomb 25:07
Well, I like where we started and some of the things you were sharing about the fundamental inputs around authenticity, around empathy, around giving people a sense that who you purport to be is an organization that will build itself out of necessity, on the continued improvement of all of its parts. And so that's where a genuine investment comes from in, an Andrew or an Ailsa or a Jeff or an Amy, and everybody else we work with, and then the empathy piece of having an interest in how that exercise is going. And supporting people. I mean, it's something we've done recently, I think in this organization is really invested in trying to promote younger lawyers. I'm looking at Ailsa and myself on the screen, right now. I mean, what are we doing here? It's part of the exercise that we're doing is trying to promote our practices, and trying to showcase what we can do as a firm. And that goes a long way for giving people a sense of energy. And so maybe--, maybe that's building resilience. Or maybe that's giving people a bit more of a foundation to get through those challenging times, because it's the challenging times, that are the ones that fray your connection to organization, put you closer to the fringes so that you might leave if someone's got more money for you, or someone's got better hours for you, or a different offering, or a better platform on which you can promote yourself. I mean, not every not every org is going to have a reason to care about how well it's promoting its whole team from sort of junior most to senior most people, we’re in a distinct industry that way. But everybody's going to have some motivating incentive about their progression, whether it's just learning more, or building better mentorship, or whatever it is. But I think the foundational inputs that you're talking about start to make a lot of sense in the context of getting people prepared to weather those challenging moments so that they can carry on doing whatever it is that was interesting about this in the first place that brought them here.
Amy Binder 27:06
Well, and I, as you were talking about those increasing challenges I kept--, I kept thinking, well, and what gets you through those challenges. So, when you have like a team around you, that allows you to drop the ball and come back from that. You come out of that challenge, so much stronger. As opposed to going into those challenges with none of that, and then to me, that's where the fray that you describe is acute.
Andrew McCoomb 27:37
I know-- I know, Jeff wants to jump in. I'll just say I, to push back on that, I bet you come out of those challenges more easily when you’ve got the support of your team, feeling like they have your back and they're in there with you. Do you come out of it stronger? I don't know. Sometimes you come out of things stronger having weathered the storm yourself. I-- I just don't-- I don't know the answer to that having weathered a few storms myself, but-- but I also can't separate from my own experience, the fact of having been connected into a team that has always felt like it had my back.
Ailsa Robertson 28:15
There are definitely teams out there that are not as supportive and are, there's a little bit of toxicity in terms of being competitive with one another in those teams. And I think you also have to remember for especially for juniors starting out, you don't necessarily know what area of the law that you are passionate about yet, because to a large extent when you are junior that is tainted or coloured by the people that you work with the senior people that you work with, and your experience with them. So I think, I totally get your point that about building stamina and how do you build stamina. But it is also possible to have a spirit broken when you don't have the well-intentioned attitudes of people in your team. And I think it does come back to intention and also the extent to which the people you're working with have your long-term development interests at heart. And that might not always translate into your short-term happiness. But if it's long-term development, that still could be a positive.
Jeff Landmann 29:23
I agree with the comments that everybody's shared. Safety and trust to pick up on an earlier theme, is just central to creating and facilitating resilience, the ability especially as a more junior individual in an organization, your willingness to take on a challenge and to be able to weather that and come back is a function of feeling that it's okay to make mistakes, and it's okay to stretch. And then I think in terms of having a team that supports you, absolutely. And just earlier today, actually I was reading a survey that had the results that have been published by Microsoft, they conducted a survey of some 20,000 people in 11 countries, and tying into the hybrid work issue, what they found was, the number one thing that people were most interested in, that would bring them back into the office was social connection with their peers, with their friends, with their leaders, with their managers. And so that just stresses, how important that is. And I think if you put all of that together, you know, you've got a good foundation for creating, you know, creating a competitive advantage in terms of attracting and retaining the right people, but also helping them grow and helping them have work that they find meaningful, and ultimately feel engaged. And so I think all of that really makes a pretty strong basis for resilience.
Andrew McCoomb 30:41
And safety doesn't mean being insulated from failure. I tell this story all the time in-- in our recruitment, when people ask me about sort of things that drew me to the firm, and I was always drawn to the firm because people made me pretty lofty promises about the experience that I would get at a junior stage. And I had my first contested motion on my 10th day as an associate, and it was a Mareva Injunction motion for a client and a lawyer, senior lawyer, had a scheduling conflict come up at the last minute, and I got sucked in to go and do it. And first time arguing on my feet, serious counsel on the other side, and I got my hat handed to me. And I'm a naturally very competitive person. I did not like that feeling at all. I remember being in my office, door closed sulking, and then this series of knocks on the door from senior people that we work, with coming in and asking how it went, and I have to tell them. And it was sort of like one by one, they hear the news and it wasn't the news they were hoping for me. And then they were coming in and telling me stories of things that they had lost, opportunities they had blown, you know, whatever it was. And you know, commiserating with me that way, and giving me a tremendous sense of security that, you know, what we were doing was centered around, doing our best, working very hard, putting the client's interests first, making sure that clients have an understanding of the risks of going to court and everything that comes along with that, but-- but I really came away from that experience with the impression that, that was the sort of security that was on offer that-- that you could go and try. And as part of trying, you have opportunity opportunities to succeed. But when two lawyers go to court, it's, you can't have everybody win. And that was part of the part of the calculus. So there's-- there's a lot of different ways to look at that safety, I guess that's what I'm saying.
Amy Binder 32:44
Andrew, I just like, you touched on something so so so key there. So yes, you're right. Like when we talked about psychological safety, it's--, it's really like the absence of interpersonal fear. So it's like you, a) you're in a space where you don't think you're going to be punished or humiliated if you ask questions, make mistakes, what like, that's what we're talking about when we talk about safety. But what you just described about these partners coming in one by one, and sharing with you, things they had screwed up, that is like immensely powerful, so that sort of willingness to be vulnerable, is one of the secret magic spices to creating trust, and psychological safety. So that when our leadership can show up and say, I screwed that up, or here-- or share some vulnerability, that's-- that is massive.
Andrew McCoomb 33:48
And it unlocks creativity when we're able to take calculated risks, I mean, in the profession that I have, I would not be as valuable to clients if I was unwilling to set out the calculus for risks, and then at appropriate times, encourage them to take those risks and be the person who's accountable for guiding them through taking those risks. And if you're not willing to do that in what we do, again, at the-- at an elite level, there are a lot of people who can do something similar to what we-- we do that's not prepared to engage in that risk. But to do it at the really competitive business end, involves having a high degree of comfort, but I like what you-- you point out, I hadn't thought about it till now that what I was getting over was that fear that there was a reprisal back home for what I had done, and not succeeding when the opposite was true, but that there were people who were prepared to embrace me on that basis and find the value add.
Jeff Landmann 34:48
I couldn't agree more. I think if you feel that you must always be perfect, you will not take the risk that ultimately attacks once. That's a major issue if you feel that you cannot make mistakes. And you know, Andrew, your story about doing the Mireva Injunction application within 10 days, that sort of being an associate is-- is about as tough as it gets for trial by fire. But unfortunately, failure is the best teacher, you know, you don't learn much from always getting it right and always playing it safe. You learn from when you've taken a risk and--, and you've made a mistake. I think the overarching theme really is you can manage these risks and ultimately drive a competitive people strategy, by thinking through risk management as part of your overall approach to people and culture. So, knowing what you want as an organization, and what your organization's mission is, and what its priorities are, then lead you to translate that into a range of policies. And even you know, the pure technical legal layer. What are your approaches to, for example, contracts? What are your approaches to people policies, to all of these issues around, you know, whether it's benefits offerings or claims management? And how are you dealing with that? And I think, you know, that's ideally where you want to be, which is you're being proactive in addressing these risks, but you're doing it as your overall business strategy. And I think when you engage us to talk through these issues with you, and you're looking for a legal answer, we're aware of this backdrop. And so the ability to work with our clients and say, Where are you most focused on, what are the risks you're most worried about? Let's talk about at least a legal component that fits in with the wider people and culture strategy to help you facilitate that. A lot of what we've been talking about truly isn't something that's just emerged out of the ether in the last few years. But as sort of a continuation and a highlighting of things that have been percolating in the background. Really great example, about 10 years ago, in the area of Canadian Human Rights Law, the concept of family status accommodation, became front and centre, following a number of decisions that really cemented it as something that organizations needed to take into account. And, so law essentially is; an employer has to reasonably accommodate up to the point of undue hardship, an employee's legal obligations to take care of, oftentimes, it's a child, but it could be somebody else in their family. And at the time, it was quite controversial, because the thinking up until that point, had really been, in a sense, everybody has something going on in their personal lives, everybody has family obligations to balance, and that has nothing to do with work. And that's really just an obligation that you have as an individual. And those series of decisions really cemented the idea that there is at least a little bit of sharing with employers, and you know, and the world of work in finding that balance. And so, you know, working with clients through-- through all of those issues at the time, and whether it was dealing with, what are their parameters or their policy for dealing with family status, accommodation requests, or working with them overall, in terms of just-- just addressing accommodation in general, when people request it, you know, it's just developed into something that's now just a part of employment and labour law. And, and so to the extent that that was a very topical issue, and something that was very controversial at the time, a decade or so later, now is really just part of the foundation. I see that, you know, as one example of--, of this idea that not everything that is currently getting spotlight, is new in the sense that it didn't exist before, but it's really just been built on.
Ailsa Robertson 38:23
One of the issues or developments that’s coming up in the workplace now is we're seeing a lot of employers that are monitoring their employees, which is, of course, to an extent, necessary for working in a hybrid environment, there needs to be some oversight over what your employees are doing if they are working from home. But I just wonder with that monitoring, there is an element of feeling a bit like your employer is big brother watching you all the time. And that comes with its own box of impacts on employees sense of safety in their workplace, mental safety in the workplace. I wonder if you could talk a bit about those issues, what you're seeing in terms of how employers can deal with that effectively and still have a handle on what their employees are doing when they're not physically in the office?
Jeff Landmann 39:11
Yeah, it's a great question. And very topical, there's certainly been a significant rise in questions that we've seen from-- from organizations around the parameters, the do's and don'ts, and also what is best practice. I mean, I think the question really raises technical legal requirements, and legal compliance issues, and then also people strategy issues. And so I think, you know, first dealing with the legal issues, there's nothing new, obviously, from a privacy perspective in terms of what are the parameters around when and where you can monitor your employees, reasonable expectation of privacy, certainly in terms of rolling out that type of policy, you know, how much notice are you giving to your employees? Can you make the argument that it forms part of their employment contract? And really, that-- that range of issues that you want to you want to document and that you want to do appropriately as an organization. I think it also implicates some of the wider level people and culture strategy issues we've been talking about, which is, who are the people you're engaging? Who are the people that you're monitoring? And maybe more importantly, what are you monitoring? Are you monitoring for productivity? And how are you measuring it? How does that tie back to key metrics in your organization, but then also to some of the themes that we talked about and that Amy commented on. What is the level of engagement that you have from the people who work for you, if you feel that you have to monitor them. And I think depending on the data that you gather from-- from whatever monitoring program you have in place, that gives you some really good insight into what may you want to do more of or less of, or some mix of, in terms of your people strategy? And ultimately, you know, what are the policies that you're aiming to achieve and what is it you're trying to facilitate in your people?
Andrew McCoomb 40:54
Okay. Well, Amy, I don't think this is the last time we talk to either or both of you about this topic and developments in this space. But this is, for me been one of the most enlightening and engaging discussions that we've ever had. I'm very grateful for it. So thank you, guys for being on the podcast.
Jeff Landmann 41:16
Thank you, Andrew. Thank you, Ailsa. Thanks.
Amy Binder 41:18
Thanks. Thanks, guys.
Ailsa Robertson 41:21
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