Author Archives: Christine Ramage

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Christine Ramage, CHRP

Christine Ramage, CHRP

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “Is there a right way to quit your job?”

I’ve heard it said that employees don’t leave jobs, they leave Managers. I will agree that a strong relationship with a manager an employee likes and respects goes a long way to staying at a job, but there will be times- and job offers- that compete with a great boss any day. That being said, I think that the employment relationship is like any relationship in life: it takes two sides to make it happen and that respectful, open and honest communication is key. Performance reviews keep employees performing and on track and allow for dialogue about career development and accompanying plans.

If the job the employee is in isn’t satisfying their needs financially, or developmentally, chances are the employees will leave- either way, it shouldn’t be a secret or a surprise.

If your mind is made up, and you have begun interviewing and if you feel it’s fair and appropriate, give your manager a heads up that your worklife isn’t working for you anymore; if you go about this in the right way, perhaps some open dialogue can positively and constructively impact your current role enough that your boss can sway you to stay. If not, at least you’ve been honourable with your boss that things need to change for you. This is a tricky path to walk so again, some circumstances this approach is appropriate and in some it’s not and may very well get you walked out the door! This is also the time that if its appropriate you can ask your current manager to be a reference for your next job- this request is easier if the new opportunity is one that your current Manager cannot offer you. Also, don’t lie about where you have been if you have been out on an interview. Either take a vacation day (or half day) or schedule interviews around your current work schedule. Having 2 doctors appointments the week before you resign screams “I was lying about where I really was…”.

But, to my main point about ‘quitting your job’, do it face to face. Like a breakup, suck it up and be honest. Request an appointment with your manager and tell them that you’ve accepted another opportunity and that you are giving your notice. Make sure you give at least 2 weeks, 3 to 4 weeks if you are supervisory and above, and offer to help create a transition plan for your work and knowledge. Give it in writing to protect your butt and your employers, if you don’t they will likely ask for it down the road. If you want to be a rock star, offer to update your job description or posting (if appropriate) for posting for a replacement, and begin tracking and documenting your work so that whoever replaces you has reference notes.

Be sensitive, tell your co-workers next, then keep a lid on your news until your manager has the opportunity to announce it to the organization. And last but not least, leave on a positive note- continue to work hard, uphold your standards and work ethic and try to take a few days off in between leaving you old job and starting your new job so you are well rested!

Planning and Communication are the Keys to Retention

Christine Ramage, CHRP

Christine Ramage, CHRP

This blog post was written in response to the May 2013 Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “What will it take to retain the best talent over the next 5 years?”

With the Baby Boomer generation beginning to retire over the past few years and continuing into the future, many senior roles and executive positions which have been filled by these soon to retire Baby Boomers will now become available; this is going to create a talent war, and the hiring market will boom.

When senior talent retires only two options exist to fill the position: internally through pre-planned succession efforts; or externally through external applicants or targeted headhunting.

A key effort to undertake early is your own corporate succession planning- have those conversations now, and by creating and communicating that plan to your planned successors today you can increase your chance of engaging them, and securing them for tomorrow.

Remember, if you are looking externally for talent, so are your competitors; those star employees you may have ear marked for future succession are vulnerable to being poached from you so it is important that they are aware of the existing and current opportunities within your company.

Inevitably you’ll have to look externally for talent, whether it be for these senior roles, or to backfill the vacancies created by internal promotions; when looking externally, you can still incorporate succession planning into these hires.

Hire external individuals into the company now, and being training and grooming them for the future opportunities- this will allow you to hire in at the ground level and ensure a cultural fit as well as a skills fit when the time come to fill senor vacancies.

To retain your current talent through the next 5 years keep your workforce engaged. Offer training and development that align with career pathing opportunities and ensure you are conducting performance reviews that have a development plan component- this will foster important conversations around your business needs as well as your current employees aspirations. Regardless of your company’s current processes, planning and communicating to your current employees with positively impact your retention over the next 5 years.

Related Pages:

What Will it Take to Retain the Best Talent Over the Next Five Years? by Gareth Cartman

The Magic Bullet by Nicole Davidson

It Takes More than Money to Retain Your Best Talent by Jessica Lau

Phone Screens – They can Help or Hinder Your Job Search – How to Rock a Phone Screen in 7 Steps

Christine Ramage, CHRP

Christine Ramage, CHRP

As the old saying goes, if you fail to plan you plan to fail; here are some ideas on planning and preparing before a telephone interview:

1) Before the call, as part of your homework, review your resume, ensure you are familiar with the job description and ensure you have a ‘success story’ in your back pocket for all the notable requirements of the job. You will be asked for examples so have them ready.

2) During the interview listen to the questions being asked, and answer them. Sounds simple, but an interviewer is looking for you to be able to demonstrate specific skills and abilities in an applicable way. Before you answer the question identify what base skill or competency the interviewer is trying to see if you have, then craft your answer to respond to the question showcasing you in a specific example. Questions are most often behaviourally based meaning the recruiter will ask you to ‘tell me about a time…. Respond by showcasing yourself through a specific instance; don’t be vague.

3)  If you’re asked a question you can’t answer, or don’t have experience relating to don’t be afraid to address it head on by stating you may not have had direct experience in the past – but make sure to state transferrable skills or experiences you do have in its place and how you can stretch or grow into that competency.

4) Keep it light and brief. Usually, unless you are speaking with the actually hiring manager recruiters tend not to have a lot of long term, strategic information on the role so save the heavy hitting questions for actual hiring manager during a face to face interview. Good questions to ask the recruiter are:  why the position is vacant?  How long it has been vacant for? What the next steps would be, and the timeline for the hiring decision. You can also ask about the reporting relationships, and the focus of the role or what key projects and initiatives will be key during the ramp up- don’t ask anything that is already stated in the job posting- it can make it look like you didn’t do your homework. Do your home work- research the role, the department, the history of the role, the major accomplishments by the company and anything of note in the recent news… be prepared to explain why you want to work for that specific employer and why you are a good fit for the role as well as the culture.

5) You may be asked for salary expectation and it’s a good idea to have a ballpark figure you feel comfortable sharing- if you are unsure of how to price yourself there are salary surveys and ranges available online to research, but remember these sometime reflect total compensation and may roll in benefits and variable salaries in them options. You can also say what your current salary is and that your comfortable staying in that range (if its true) and it’s a similar role.

6) Remember that the person on the other end needs to like you and also needs to take good notes so be conversational, friendly but don’t speed talk their ear off because they may miss some important info and be hung up by all the filler conversation.

7) Last but not least, embody the role; you need to sell that YOU can DO the role… Own it, be confident, and be prepared. Being prepared also includes being physically ready to take the call; ensure you have cell service and a charged battery, have water available and have your resume, and job description open in front of you in addition to any notes you may want to reference. Remember, you only have once chance to make a first impression- good luck with your career search!

Related Pages:

Cold Calls: Why Are They So Scary? by Michelle Yao

Agony and Elation: Searching for Work in a Turbulent Market by Nicole Davidson

Convince me That I Want to see you Again; Let your Personality Shine in Every Interview by Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

It’s a Big World Out There, New Grad!

Christine Ramage, CHRP

Christine Ramage, CHRP

As a new grad, I had difficulty finding work right out of school. As much as I had the education, I didn’t have the work experience and this is what I found to be a tricky loop: not having any experience is what kept me from obtain any experience. And we all know that as a new grad, your first focus is always finding work (unless you go travel, and that is also very cool).

My first piece of advice to new grads is to be creative with how to put experience on their resume- no, I don’t mean take creative license with embellishment, I mean creative with obtaining it. Find a volunteer role, or an unpaid (or better yet, low-paying) internship. This is a great way to apply your learned skills and even help make industry connections in the mean time. Another way to put experience on your resume is to change from a chronologically organized resume to a skills based resume. This will allow you to highlight what you can do, and can give examples from extra-curricular activities, volunteer activities or transferable skills from your life before graduating from school.

My second piece of advice falls under networking, but it also related to building a support network of peers and experienced resources. These are going to be you ‘go-to’ people once you are out in the workforce. These people will be those who will share industry knowledge with you, be able to share historical patterns with you and may even help you land your first job through being a reference or a referral for you. Build your network and keep it- leverage things like LinkedIn, professional associations, your school’s Alumni associations and friends and family.

My third piece of advice for new grads would be to keep up your education. I know once you graduate the last thing on your mind is more school, but make the effort to keep current with your profession’s industry standards. A part of career growth is knowledge based, but part of it is personal and a way to combine both is through professional development, leadership development and mentorship. I think everyone should play a part in a mentoring relationship- whether it be being a mentor to a new student, or even a new grad just a year behind you in addition having a person senior to you mentor you. Mentorship combines both personal and professional development in such a satisfying way.

I welcome your comments and suggestions on other development activities you may suggest. Best of luck class of 2013!

Related Pages:

1. Coffee Shop HR World Café

2. Coffee Shop HR World Café: What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post- Secondary Grads Take to Heart?

3. To Award or Reward?

Workarounds for ‘Workin’ Around’ the Virtual Workspace

Being part of a virtual team can be a very enriching experience- it can make it possible for you to work with fantastic people on the other side of the world with whom you wouldn’t have the ability to work with in a face to face traditional setting due to geographical barriers.  The trick to making the most of this experience is creating meaningful working relationships, effective communication structures and collaborative virtual workspaces to help bridge the gap. Working collaboratively in a virtual team is one thing, but managing is more challenging because you are accountable to the people and the work outcomes differently which can be challenging- hopefully the below 3 workarounds can help you find success.

Managing a team you see everyday can be challenging enough, but when you don’t have the face to face communication it can make it even harder. They say that very little of our communication is done on paper through words, slightly more verbally but the meat of our communication rests within subtleties of non verbal communication though body language or physical gestures that can be lost while working in a virtual setting.

Workaround #1: make use of communication tools that allow you to see each other when you’re speaking. Use Skype or a similar tool to be able to have eye contact, observe facial expressions and other non-verbal communication. We all know how far a smile can go. As a manager, when giving directions or feedback, ensuring that your virtual team member understands just as clearly as your ‘same space’ workers is important, and speaking face to face will improve that.

Maintaining balance within a team is always a focus of management, and ensuring people are treated equally and favourites aren’t being played. When a member or part of your team works virtually, it’s easy for them to not be top of mind, or for you to even forget about them! It happens; think about team lunches, birthday celebrations, morning coffee and inside jokes. Those simple side bar conversations and informal chatter that happens when working in close quarters- especially pod-like workstations. That is all missed when working in a virtual team.

Workaround#2: Set up a vacant workstation equipped with a chair and a large monitor with speakers connected to your virtual team members. Allow them to have a presence in your workspace, and you theirs, the same way you would have if they were in the cubicle next to you. You can tell jokes, ask off the cuff questions and share a workspace. If you guys are ordering in a pizza lunch, coordinate pizza to be delivered to their work location as well- create a seemingly physical link between workspaces.

In traditional offices, employees usually stagger their start times, some starting as early as 730am and some as late as 930am so catching your employees at the beginning of their day to give them direction or connecting at the end of shift to provide feedback and answer questions can be tricky to schedule when you’re working with varied shifts. Imagine working with someone in another time zone! This is very common when working in virtual teams. If you like having your meetings right off the bat in the morning, this may be the middle of the night for your team members.

Workaround #3: Being cognisant of others time zones and sleep patterns is key. Outlook has a handy option where you can display another time zone on your daily calendar. This can be helpful when scheduling conference calls or Skype meetings. A 2pm after lunch meeting for you could be the middle of the night for your team member!  Remember to be flexible. To activate this feature go to: tools menu>options>calendar options>customize>time zones

Using these workarounds can help overcome some easily solved issues that can arise when working in and managing virtual teams. In the case of virtual teams, the effort to make them work is always worth the reward of a diverse and knowledgeable team!

Have you ever worked in a virtual team? What workarounds did your team create to help get the work done?

How to Bring Free Health and Wellness into Your Workplace

Christine Ramage, CHRPHR Writer

Christine Ramage, CHRP
HR Writer

There are numerous studies and facts available about the linkage between health and productivity in the workplace. Moreover, employees who partake in a workplace wellness program will usually feel more connected to their jobs, companies and coworkers. Health and Wellness programs are relatively easy to start up, and there are an abundance of resources available to help give you ideas, framework and themes as many 3rd party organizations have a vested interest in healthy workers, and people in general.

Most Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAP) have components of wellness and go beyond just their company, but will gladly connect you with provincial programs, such as smoking cessation, to help connect you to additional, and often free, resources.

A great way to kick off a wellness program in your office is to ask around to see if anyone else has an interest in championing it with you – assistance is great, and another perspective can be helpful in tuning into your company’s needs. Once you have a partner to help out, or if not, have bounced some ideas off a coworker, its time to spread the word!

You can either start by communicating current benefits and offerings of you company, that are perhaps underused or not well advertised. Or, your can start by hosting your own initiative. If you can tie your initiative to the season, or another anchor, that is helpful to keep it relevant.

Here are some examples:

December: On-site flu shots from a local nurses unit

January: Smoking Cessation. A common New Years resolutions

February: Heart and Stroke Month, a healthy hearts seem to pair with Valentines

March: Have a local Financial Planner in to talk about Tax Season

April: A lunch and learn around proper workstation ergonomics

May: Start a walking group for lunch time

All the information relevant to the monthly theme of your choice can be obtained through EFAP, the Ministry of Health under Organizational Wellness, of even from businesses in your community. Many businesses will come in and present a free information session on whatever service they specialize in. For example, many sports clubs offer a discounted membership if you can get a group to sign up, or financial group will come in and present about RRSP, Tax, Retirement and Savings planning. Remember, health and wellness is affected by a spectrum of influences!

Another free place to look for expertise on your workplace health and wellness can be internally; perhaps you have an employee who can lead a yoga or meditation class, or teach healthy meal planning or even help coordinate a carpool/ cycle to work program. If you’re ever in doubt, or without inspiration, a quick Google search will always turn up some great ideas.

The proof is in the Pudding: How equitable are diversity strategies

Off the bat, I am going to say that they are as fair as you make them.

That being said, I believe that having a diversity strategy and an accompanying outline policy and procedure is the first step in the right direction. However, with any policy or program, an equitable execution requires both interpretation and context to accurately apply- and this is where the root of unbiased diversity creation rests.

Using a diversity strategy in any blanket sense of application can do more harm than good, and actually create a form of reverse discrimination. If you have a minority group in which your diversity strategy addresses including this group in your work force and has procedures in place to ensure that the ‘playing field’ is leveled for them, you inherently are placing all other candidates at a drawback in order to do so. Its sort of confusing to think that removing an advantage from one group makes it fair for all, but that is only one strategy, and perhaps isn’t part of your corporate strategy at all, and that’s totally ok…

I think that having a true alignment with your business’s culture and mandate is key to being able to be transparent about your diversity strategy, and the statement of it. A key element of what is ‘fair’ is always in the eye of the beholder, and is all based on perception. In order to ensure that your program is being perceived as intended, honest and forthright communication of it is integral.

The other piece is that the diversity strategy needs to be just that- truly strategic. This means it is applied with thought and careful to precision to only tip the scales when appropriate and needed.

Regardless of what side of the program one was on, the side of the minority or majority, I’d find it fairer to know that if there is a diversity strategy in place, and that closes a door for a candidate at this time, that another door will be opened for that candidate in another situation. In a grander sense, that as much as there is a tipping of the scale at one moment, that an equal and opposite tipping back the opposite favour is inevitable and will happen. In really deconstructed example: if sex was the factor at hand, if this time around the scales were tipped in the favour of a woman, perhaps then to be equitable they would be tipped in the favour of a man the next time, either through action or passivity.

Maybe that last example was a bit too much and a bit of a loose end. But, I think the factor remains is that these programs are inherently good, and have been needed and that it boils down to application, not existence of the programs that dictates the equitableness.