HR Atlantic Case Studies

A Lesson in Sharing

A large employer’s pension plan was no longer sustainable.

The Issue

A large public sector employer had significant issues with their existing pension plan. Their union-sponsored, defined benefit pension plan had a significant unfunded liability in the millions of dollars after the market crash of 2008. There were significant shortfalls in the plan asset bringing into question the plan’s solvency.

The Methodology

The employer was searching for a long-term solution to the problem. HR Atlantic orchestrated the development of innovative solutions to restore the plan and bring the union on side. Discussions with senior management and their pension advisors led to a negotiation with the union to develop a solution to restructure the plan to a shared risk model. They agreed upon sharing the unfunded liability and amended the pension using a cost-share model. They also factored in a solution in the event that the plan was in trouble in the future. What worked in this situation was HR Atlantic engaging the union in a problem solving exercise so everyone could emerge with the best possible outcome.

The Solution

The result of bargaining was that they were able to package the increased pension costs by moderating wage increases over a three year period, allowing the pension plan to replenish itself organically. This put the pension plan on stable footing.


A Modern Twist

A unionized manufacturing company needed to buy a new piece of equipment and to move to a 24/7 operation to help fund this capital investment in equipment.

The Issue

A manufacturing business needed to move the hours of work in their collective agreement from a Monday to Friday, to a 24/7 operation. The company needed to purchase a new piece of equipment, and in order to best use their capital, they could not cease operation on evenings and weekends as they had been doing. They needed to increase their productivity in order to fund the capital investment. This change required a major rewrite of the collective agreement.

The Methodology

HR Atlantic needed the union to understand that the plant’s viability was completely dependent on this modernization. The negotiation was extensive and the rewrite touched on every monetary article in the collective agreement. In exchange for a change of shift hours, the employees were to be given a pay increase as well as the opportunity for hiring additional employees. A representative from HR Atlantic attended the ratification meeting and spoke to union membership. They provided the union membership with a thorough breakdown of the company’s financial state in order to better understand the necessity of the technological upgrade.

The Solution

The union got on side and ratified the new collective agreement. The plant modernized and became a 24/7 workplace with a collective agreement to support that. They have remained a client of HR Atlantic’s since.


Clarity is Key

A consortium was experiencing problems from lack of communication.

The Issue

A body with members from various levels of government was looking for clarity and understanding on roles within a consortium. The group was also experiencing other problems, as they met infrequently with constantly changing representatives and had a clear power imbalance between members. Some representatives were familiar with each other, while others were complete strangers. They were searching for an agreement on strategy and looking for a process by which they could measure their success as influencers within their community.

The Methodology

Surveys were conducted amongst the group prior to facilitation so everyone had a clear understanding of the problems at hand. Ground rules were introduced for conversation so members could safely express their thoughts and contribute to productive discussion. Through a series of large group discussions, small group discussions and one-one-one conversations, members were encouraged to learn from the other representatives in their consortium. Visual and auditory cues were also used to engage members throughout the sessions and create a clear visualization of ideas.

The Solution

Team dynamic improved as the day went on. The group established a debriefing protocol so that new or changing representatives could be brought up to date at the beginning of every meeting. They were successful in creating a plan to move forward and members left feeling they had gained clarity on their respective roles. The group was happy with the outcome and has become a regular client of HR Atlantic.


Retreat from Reality

A board’s tense situation was causing members to speak publicly about their issues.

The Issue

A large not-for-profit had board members threatening to resign. Members were feeling frustrated and unheard and interpersonal conflict had members speaking publicly about board issues. Some were sharing their thoughts on tense situations with senior staff members, which in turn, made both members of the board and the staff uncomfortable. They could not get through their agenda at meetings and even the board chair was contemplating whether they would stay within the organization.

The Methodology

The facilitator held private meetings with the board chair and CEO to better comprehend the issues at hand. The entire board and senior staff were taken on an out-of-province retreat that created both formal and informal opportunities for them to engage on a personal level. A personality-typing tool was used so everyone could better understand themselves and each other. The facilitator created a community where conversation transcended cultural, generational and power differences. The group was also introduced to the Policy Governance Model and participated in sessions on how to operate as a united board.

The Solution

Tensions broke when deep-rooted issues rose to the surface and were discussed for the first time, enabling the group to become higher functioning. They all agreed to review their internal policies and the board agreed on key behaviours the group needed in order to function. The members unanimously agreed that the sessions were useful and in a follow up discussion six months later, the chair of the board reported that things were going much better for the organization.



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