One of Canada’s Top Employers: putting the TCHC scandal in context

On Thursday, I noticed on Twitter that Toronto Community Housing was one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, declared as such by Mediacorp Canada. At Torontoist, Steve Kupferman dug into the story:

This year, TCHC nabbed a spot on a list of Canada’s top one hundred employers, put together annually by Mediacorp Canada Inc., a company that publishes employment guides, and runs a job-search website. TCHC was also on the list in 2009 and 2010.

Did you know that TCHC’s work atmosphere “is rated as above-average,” and that employees enjoy casual dress, and can listen to music while they work?

via TCHC Named One of Canada’s Top 100 Employers in 2011 – Torontoist.

What really strikes me is how this shifts the whole character of the story. The general spin is that TCHC employees were cackling while getting manicures, eating expensive chocolates and attending awesome Christmas parties, all paid for with tax dollars. (Though, on another note, OpenFile tells us that the Christmas Parties? Probably weren’t that awesome.)

I suppose that’s true in a sense — minus, probably, the cackling –, but the “Top 100 Employers” thing gives me pause. TCHC management obviously valued their “Top 100 Employers” ranking. The logo is still displayed prominently in the banner on their website. They got that ranking for providing strong benefits for employees, and that extends to ‘cultural benefits’ — things like social events, Christmas parties, non-monetary incentive programs, etc.

If you follow the Human Resources profession at all, you’d know that issues like employee recruitment, retention and incentive programs are big deals. There are whole companies dedicated to providing non-monetary ‘rewards’ to employees who do a good job. It’s a trend.

I’m speculating, but it seems possible that TCHC management bought into this kind of HR strategy without considering the implications and optics of doing so. It’s a question of a corporate strategy that emphasized HR policy apparently at the expense of customer service.

As far as the expenses side of this story goes, I’ve yet to hear of anything that goes beyond what you might see in private sector companies that have adopted more progressive HR strategies. The part of the auditor general’s report relating to procurement is another, more troubling and expensive, matter.

I know that kind of de-sexys the story a bit, but I believe that to find the kind of positive change necessary we need people who can look at this from an angle beyond “MY TAX DOLLARS!!!!”

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