Case Studies


A client with a small software start-up operation had a new and important role to fill. Rather than engaging his trusted HR partner the CEO brought a former colleague into the job on a consulting basis. The two negotiated a verbal agreement around scope of work and compensation and the consultant began working for the organization.

It soon became apparent to HR that, not only was there no written contract in place, but the individual had not been interviewed and there had been no background checks or references conducted. The consultant had convinced the client that he could do the work and the client took him at his word.

Over the course of the next few weeks, HR became concerned about the consultant’s lack of deliverables. In order to introduce some structure around expectations and responsibilities, and to better protect the client, HR introduced the idea of a contract. While initially amenable to both parties, the consultant delayed signing the contract for over five weeks for a multitude of reasons.

Ultimately, HR’s concerns over lack of deliverables became the CEO’s concerns as well and the decision was made to terminate the consultant. The financial cost to the client was steep. In addition to the exorbitant rates already paid to the consultant, the lack of a signed contract meant that the client had to provide significant severance payments to avoid legal action.

The financial impact of this hire was significant but it was not the only consequence. The work commission was not done and precious time was lost on the project. The entire situation could have been avoided had the client engaged his HR partner before entering into a verbal contract with the consultant.

While it may seem like an exercise in time consumption, business leaders must engage their Human Resources practitioners in their recruitment process. Give it to them. Their expertise is in human behaviour. A solid recruitment process will weed out those who talk, from those who do. A solid recruitment process will screen for those critical skills, proven successes and cultural fit, and ultimately mitigate risk for the organization.


While there are various proven and conventional ways of designing an organizational structure, there are situations where time is of the essence and HR needs to get creative!

One large and rapidly growing tech organization discovered that a pocket of critical talent had recently found its way back into the market after being downsized. All conveniently located in one geographical area. The organization deployed a cross-functional team of HR and business unit leaders to the area to conduct a one day hiring event.

The day was a success and in the end 153 people were selected for hire. Sealing the deal meant getting offer letters and as much information about their new jobs out to the candidates as quickly as possible.

Working backwards from a finished offer package, the team needed to identify each new hire’s position, title and reporting relationship.
HR took the lead and corralled the business unit leaders into a hotel boardroom; everyone was prepared to work well into the evening to secure their new hires.

Armed with only the resumes of the selected candidates and a stack of Post It notes, HR led the management team in a discussion around their ideal organizational structure. Together the team built the management layer of the new org structure with the Post It notes. HR then wrote each new hire’s name on a Post It note and the team reviewed their skills and experiences together. Over the next several hours the team discussed where each new hire would best be suited, using the Post It notes on the wall as a living org chart.The team was able to map out the whole structure of the organization in a few hours. While the process was fast and atypical, the structure they built was solid and served the organization well.

A good HR partner knows their stuff. A great HR partner knows their stuff but can adapt and respond to the needs of the team and the situation. Having an HR partner who is flexible and creative is an asset to any business!


Larger organizations have the gift of time and the benefit of specialized resources that Start Ups and small companies do not. The HR Business Partner is often just that: someone who supports all of an organization’s HR needs, wearing many hats from one day to the next.

One rapidly growing tech company met their expanding people leadership needs largely by promoting great employees into leadership roles. At the same time, experienced leaders were being brought in from outside of the company and weren’t familiar with internal processes and expectations.  The HR Business Partner met with each new leader, taking them through the internal processes and expectations of a leader within the organization. These meetings would last for hours and generally addressed the same issues. In hearing the discomfort of the newly promoted people leaders, the people being managed, and solid, experienced people leaders, it became apparent that some basic management skills were also required. The Business Partner went away with this challenge, thinking about the skills and competencies required for success in this growing environment and how best to impart this knowledge on new people leaders in an effective and timely way.  Understanding the value in learning from each other, the Business Partner created a full day “Leading” program that brought groups of new leaders together for an interactive overview of internal processes, employment legislation, key competencies and basic leadership skills. Not only was it an efficient and effective way to impart the information, it allowed new leaders to make important connections with other leaders across the organization.

As the organization continued to grow, this program was formalized and expanded across the company. It became not only an integral part of the organization’s culture, but also a key milestone that employees who wished to move into a people leadership role aspired to take.