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How do you solve proximity bias?

Left unchecked, proximity bias spells disaster for hybrid teams. So, what can leaders do?

AS EMPLOYEES HAVE spread out and taken advantage of remote work, the phenomenon of proximity bias ― the favouring of closer team members over distant ones, in-office workers over remote workers ― has been something that business and their workers have had to contend with.


“In the workplace, proximity bias can rear its ugly head in a number of ways but is most commonly associated with when business or team leaders believe that on-site employees work harder and are more productive than remote employees, simply because they can physically see [them],” writes Katherine Boyarsky of Owl Labs.

It can be a pernicious form of bias, and one that can stunt the productivity potential of an organization. But the good news is that businesses are learning how to combat it.


The Vancouver-based social-media-management firm Later, for instance, told Canadian Business that the first step in their attempt to fight proximity bias was leadership training ― educating managers and team leaders on what proximity bias can look like.


Another way the firm tackles it is with technology that aims to make the hybrid experience a bit more welcoming. “When possible, the leadership team uses portable Meeting Owls ― cameras that render a 360-degree view of a room ― to create an immersive experience for virtual staff,” writes Liza Agrba. “When it’s not possible, the company uses a ‘one person, one screen approach.’”


Another tech approach is touted by Scott Hitchins of Interact Software, who advocates investment in audio-visual setups. “High-tech audio and video screens can offset subpar webcams and sound,” he told Reworked. This might even extend to supplying hardware to your at-home employees.


Whatever it is, experts agree that the key to fighting proximity bias really comes down to identifying it and adjusting for your organization’s specific circumstances and workflows. “If you don’t understand the different kinds of biases that can arise during decision-making,” says Later’s Robin de Pelham, “you’re not going to mitigate it.” Kieran Delamont


On this episode of Hoarders...

Finding it tough to hire new talent? Perhaps its because theyre being squirreled away for a brighter day

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AS THE LABOUR market tightened coming out of Covid, many businesses began experiencing a level of competition for labour and talent they hadn’t encountered before. And, just like any competitive commodity, the economy is now seeing a great deal of labour hoarding going on, as businesses try to keep as much talent as they can.


What is labour hoarding? It refers to a situation where employers are retaining more workers than they actually needed, often during economic downturns. Companies know that, even if they are a little overstaffed right now, that they will need to hire again in the future; labour hoarding now serves as a hedge against the competition they’re likely to face in the labour market when the outlook improves.


There are other reasons to hoard labour now too, beyond retention. “It's not just retention,” said ZipRecruiter’s chief economist Julia Pollack. “It's retention plus morale, plus productivity … Labor market dynamics have fundamentally changed: time-to-hire, recruiting costs and hiring costs have all grown substantially.”


What we’ve seen in the Canadian labour market is an unexpected level of strength at the employment level ― 150,000 jobs added in January’s jobs numbers came as a particularly big surprise ― suggesting at least some labour hoarding is going on. That tracks globally as well: a study from Skynova recently found that 91 per cent of all small businesses are doing everything they can to avoid layoffs, with 89 per cent saying they plan to keep labour hoarding into 2023. That will likely be welcome news for workers worried about a downturn.


“It has been such a tough road to staffing up, and turnover is still high, so firms are reluctant to freeze hiring and plan to use any slowdown to acquire or hold onto top talent, economist Julia Coronado recently wrote. “[It’s] the opposite of the scar tissue from the Great Recession.” Kieran Delamont

Terry Talks: DIY gone wrong! Why you should not attempt DIY recruitment

Just about everyone has a story about a home DIY project gone wrong. Don’t let this be the case in your business. While decision-makers can be tempted to use DIY recruitment services instead of using a reliable partner ― often based on the perception that it will save money ― your business is at risk of losing more than time, money and effort by recruiting, hiring and training and training people who shouldn’t have been brought on in the first place. 



Taking leave

Even after the pandemic and a return to work, out-migration to other provinces is soaring as Ontario loses its appeal

ONTARIO’S WORKERS, IT appears, are looking to greener pastures. According to a report by Indeed, “In the second half of 2022, 6.1 per cent of clicks on Canadian job postings by Ontario-based job seekers were for positions in other provinces.”


And many of them are actually going through with it ― in the first three quarters, Ontarians leaving for other provinces was up 83 per cent compared to pre-Covid levels.


Where are they going? Alberta recorded the largest net inflow since the end of the (last) oil boom ― at least partly the result of an aggressive recruitment campaign aimed at urban Torontonians. Nova Scotia was a net winner as well, with sharp population increases noted at the end of 2022.


Who is leaving has changed, too. No longer is it people seeking a payday in the oil fields. Rather, it’s remote and white-collar workers looking for new employment centres, and finding them in places like Calgary, Halifax and British Columbia.


Ivey Business School’s Mike Moffatt suggested this might not bode well for Ontario, which is losing young workers and young families because of affordability challenges. “Four or five years ago, you could move to a Kitchener-Waterloo or a Woodstock and it was still relatively affordable,” he told the Globe and Mail. “But now those places have gone up considerably, as well.”


Ontario’s losses are everyone else’s gains (does a more quintessentially Canadian attitude exist?). “With fully remote work likely to represent a significant share of certain jobs in the years ahead, more workers will live in places far from the locations where jobs are posted than in years past,” said Indeed’s Brendon Bernard. “This will expand both the number of job openings available to white-collar jobseekers across Canada, while also increasing the candidate pool for employers looking to fill these positions.” Kieran Delamont

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More than a plug

From a bump in brand awareness to encouraging customers to stay and spend, welcome to the new age of EV-nomics

AS THE PUSH to expand the EV charging network continues alongside the spread of the vehicles themselves, a new partnership has emerged between public charging stations and retail businesses ― who see all those folks charging their cars with dollar signs in their eyes.


An increasing number of businesses are recognizing that installing public EV charging facilities is a good way to attract customers. It’s simple, really: charging your car takes time. Why not shop a little while you wait?


“The more money that can be siphoned from the pockets of EV owners, the more likely businesses are to expand their charging facilities, so it becomes easy-peasy to drive anywhere without worrying about your next charge,” writes the Globe and Mail’s David Berman.


Pasquale Romano, CEO of the American-based Chargepoint Holdings, said he sees EV charging stations as a key part of a new 30-minute retail economy. He compares it to how gas stations make a pretty penny on sweets and snacks, but more lucrative.


“The suite of things they can sell you is broader because of the increased duration of how long you’re there. So you’re actually worth more to a site than a gas driver,” he said.


And retail stores are figuring out how to best make this partnership work. Some are experimenting with fee structures, experimenting with no-fee charging for paying customers or setting only low, nominal fees to cover costs.

A study by Atlas Public Policy backed this strategy. “To optimize sales revenue, retail site hosts should design free structures to achieve longer dwell times,” they write. “Indirect revenue sources were significantly more important than user fees for ensuring high charging station [value].”


It’s likely that you’ll start seeing more of these pop up. And more frequently, they’ll be in the prime parking spots ― as opposed to exiled to the back of the parking lot.


It’s worked, at least, for IKEA and Canadian Tire, who have both invested in charging stations. “Outside of store opening hours, EV drivers are often sipping coffee while checking their phones,” an IKEA spokesperson said. “During store opening hours, EV drivers are likely shopping or enjoying a meal in the IKEA restaurant.” Kieran Delamont


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