Hot List 2015

Hot List 2015 ANOTHER YEAR, another round of triumphs, challenges, change and innovation in business. Over the following pages, HR Director has identified more than 40 of the hottest HR professionals in the country. Some of these professionals are well known; they have appeared in our own pages over the past 12 months or have spoken at industry-leading events. Alternatively, they have won accolades at the Canadian HR Awards or citations from the likes of Aon Hewitt.

Some have embarked on tricky transformation projects; others have embraced diversity or pushed the envelope for employee perks and benefits. All are undertaking initiatives that advance the standing of HR in business. You might disagree with our choices, or you might endorse them – if that’s the case, feel free to let us know, or make your own suggestions for next year, at


HRD sat down with Lorenzo Lisi, partner at Aird & Berlis LLP, to discuss what makes for a great HR leader, and why recognizing the best of the best is so critical

HRD: Why is it important to highlight distinguished Canadian HR executives?

Lorenzo Lisi: HR in any business is what I call a foundational item. Being good at HR is not just taking care of problems – it’s actually ensuring that your operation is functioning properly, and that’s how you become successful. Historically, there has been this view that HR is an adjunct function or a money loser, but HR is fundamentally important to business. That’s why we need to recognize the people who do it extremely well. It will lead to other businesses following their example and moving HR forward in their organizations.

HRD: Why did Aird & Berlis choose to be involved with the Hot List?

LL: As a labour and employment group, we work closely with HR professionals every single day. That is our client base. We think it’s important to recognize the hard work they do, and celebrate their vision and foresight. It’s also important for us to be involved with them to ensure that as an industry, we are moving together in practical thought and applications of law and HR. While we understand law and will litigate if we have to, we’d rather work with HR executives to craft proactive solutions instead of always being reactive. We want to be at the forefront of this movement.

HRD: What are Canadian HR execs doing well?

LL: I think in Canada we do a number of things pretty well – we’re very attuned to changes in law, in terms of how to deal with and assess employees. For example, our understanding of accommodation is generally very good. I also think Canadian HR professionals have been very good at leading the way in creating frameworks that allow the company to manage in accordance with law, but also move HR forward.

HRD: Are there any areas where Canadian HR can improve?

LL: I think we can probably make improvements in continuing to understand our obligation to accommodate, and to understand the specific differences and needs of employees from a human rights perspective. We can also work on understanding overall obligations for workers’ compensation law and addressing safety concerns to make sure employees are treated well. Also, HR functions and systems can be better in areas such as mental health, in terms of recognizing and addressing it in workplaces.

HRD: What can HR leaders do to make themselves stand out amongst their peers?

LL: My one piece of advice, and the one thing I notice from great HR professionals, is that they understand what their legal obligations are but still create an HR organization that deals with issues practically and efficiently, while taking into account the true needs of employees. They don’t stick with one rule and say it applies to everyone, but are flexible in their approach. They also take a leadership role in the company to ensure that HR priorities are being acknowledged as business priorities. They act as visionaries to move the function somewhere other than employee complaints. They get ahead of policies and procedures and allow the company to reflect the law, environment and society in which we work. That’s what makes a great HR professional.

Located in the heart of Toronto’s business district, Aird & Berlis LLP is a full-service business law firm with more than 140 lawyers. The firm focuses on providing highquality legal services in a cost-effective manner, with the goal of establishing longterm relationships with clients.

The firm’s labour and employment group provides advice to employers on a broad spectrum of labour and employment law matters, including the drafting of employment agreements, collective bargaining, wrongful dismissal, human rights, injunctive court proceedings, judicial review, grievances and labour board litigation, as well as responding to union organizing and applications for certification.

Aird & Berlis LLP also have lawyers who are well-versed in the Occupational Health and Safety Act and work with clients in various industries to create solutions that achieve legislative compliance and manage risks. The firm strives to ensure clients avoid costly litigation.

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