Author Archives: Christine Ramage

To Award or Reward

Is there a difference between an award and a rewardMany companies have some sort of recognition program for tenure whether it be formal or informal, done in house or by a 3rd party contractor. My company is currently looking at implementing a length of service program; we have a mid size staff level of 650 employees, have quite a few tenured employees with 15+ years as well as a large cohort of 5-10 year employees equating to almost 60% of our workforce. We are a prime candidate for a length of service program as we have many employees who have put in significant time working for us, and take pride in their tenure.

When we first set out to look at length of service programs I was impressed with how many third part companies are out there, and the quality and structure of the programs. Many are simple to set up, have low administrative responsibilities and are automated from the providers side making the program easy to run.

The premise of the program is that the employee, once they reach a length of service milestone, will be congratulated and prompted to choose themselves an anniversary gift. The gift will come from a pre selected group of items that correspond to a level of value that coincides with the service milestone- the longer you work for the company the higher the monetary value of the gift becomes. The trick is in the perceived value of the gifts, if the perception of the value is high, that’s great; even better if the perceived value is as high as or higher than the actual value. The gifts tend to fall into categories such as home entertainment, kitchen and household wares, sporting goods, jewelry, and electronics and are usually common items. So let me ask you this, if for 5 years of service an employer has agreed to spend $150 on an anniversary gift for an employee are they better off going the route of the 3rd party gift supplier that offers the ‘selection’ option, or should the employer give the employee, say a preloaded visa gift card? One could argue that the gift card approach is impersonal, but so is an order by mail gift option. The argument comes down to if you are awarding or rewarding the employee for their length of service; the award route would the anniversary gift item, and the reward route would be the gift card or cash route. In your opinion, is there a difference between an award and a reward? Are they not both incentives and celebrate a length of service milestone? I think that offering a gift selection along with a few gift card options is great, it gives the employee choice and the ability to pick their item of choice; but, by default, wouldn’t then every employee pick the gift card route to go and hand pick their item from a store of their choice where there is not only a selection of gifts, but a variety of brands to choose from as well. Does choice not add value to the gift?

I’ll make sure to follow up this article with a short update on our selection. Please do leave a comment- I’d love to hear it!

Coffee Shop HR World Cafe III: Edgewater Casino HR Coordinator Interview

1. Please tell us about your job; in a nut shell who do you work for and what do you do?
I am the HR Coordinator for the Edgewater Casino. I am in control of a few things under the HR umbrella, things like Recruitment and Health & Safety. I technically work for the Director of Human Resources at the Edgewater Casino, but really, we work for the Associates of Edgewater.

2. I see that you’ve been with Edgewater Casino for a number of years, what is it about your job that keeps you coming back day after day?
It really is a great place to work. The people here are great and the relationships we have with one another extends beyond the work place which does wonders for moral and teamwork when it comes to business issues.

3. What is one area that you would like to increase your professional experience on at your job?
We are a casino; we’re all about creating great experiences for our guests. But at the back end, it’s about money, and I want to learn more about the inner workings of that area. Forecasting, budgeting, and anything else that has to do with numbers.

4. What is it about HR that excites you and keeps you so passionate?
I started HR about 5 years ago and the whole reason was because my Manager at the time told me I was right for the job. He really pushed me and convinced others that I was the right fit. Many people gave me an opportunity and this job has turned out to be my career. I hope to extend the opportunities that was given to me to others who are looking for a chance to shine.

5. What is one thing that you would make you consider a role with another organization?
Someone told me that people do not leave jobs, they leave the people. So right now, I’m working with a great manager and great teammates. So unless the people make a complete 180 on their attitudes or work ethics, I don’t think I’ll be leaving the organization soon!

How to Start the New Year Off Right

We have all seen the toll those big company lunches, piles of goodies in the break room, late nights with friends and personal life overload has on employees over the holidays. To compensate many times we see reduced work days, employees cashing out overdue vacation, and taking banked days in lieu; without a doubt productivity lowers and everything seems to wind down into slow motion- many offices are running on a skeleton crew and it seems like everyone is taking part in the Christmas cheers (asides from Finance who is preparing for the impending doom of year end wrap up)…

So how can we prepare ourselves for the rapid ramp up that the New Year brings? Try these few things:

1)      Before leaving for vacation leave yourself a ‘welcome back’ note reminding your refreshed (recently un-hibernated) self of key tasks coming down the pipe.

2)      Tidy up your workspace. It’s always nice to come back to a clean desk that is well organized than a stack of papers and chicken scratch memos you have long forgotten about and can no longer decipher.

3)      Add an extra day to you out of office. This is a sneaky one that allows you pre-manage expectations on you to reply to emails allowing you an extra day to read, flag and prioritize your emails.

4)      Schedule a meeting with your team before you break for the holidays to ensure everyone is on the same page for the New Year. Nothing is worse that having a plan in place that becomes bottlenecked due to a lack of resources.

5)      Set yourself outlook reminders. Do your 2013 version of yourself a favour and schedule your first week back now while everything is weighing on your mind. This reduces stress now, and helps bring back the flow then.

6)      Wake up early and hit the gym. A great way to work back into our early morning routines (and now tight dress pants) is to stay active over the holidays and not stay too much away from our normal sleep patterns.

These tips are ones that have been shared with me, and ones that I put in to practice anytime I step away from work for more than 3 days; it allows me to feel at ease when away from the office but also helps me ramp back up when I return and leaves me feeling prepared and not blindsided.

Happy Holidays and New Year to everyone!

It Takes Two to Tango

I think it would be an easy cop-out to say that it is an Employer’s responsibility to keep workers engaged. Drilling down, one may even say it is Management’s sole function to keep workers engaged to ensure high productivity… But, this doesn’t paint the full picture. Yes, without a doubt management needs to actively engage their workers- give them variety in their task, autonomy within their work, and foster the connection one has with the purpose of their work; however, I’d like to focus on the relationship between and employee and an employer and how each plays a role in employee engagement.

As an employee it is also your responsibility to ‘maintain’ your engagement. If you feel yourself becoming disconnected from your work, bored, or feeling unchallenged, you have two options: you can say something to your boss, or you can stay silent. Sitting your boss down and saying your work is boring is not exactly what I’m suggesting- don’t misquote me! But what I am saying is that employers are not mind readers and many take the approach of no news is good news when looking at feedback from employees. Sometimes a candid conversation is needed, especially when the relationship between employee and manager is a good one. Like any relationship, including the employment one, communication is key. If you choose not to voice your concerns or wishes related to your work-that is completely your choice- sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and sometimes the squeaky wheel quietly looks for work at another organization in their spare time.

Remember those “Employee Engagement Surveys”? That is one avenue employers take to solicit feedback from employees and gauge levels of dedication, interest and happiness within the workplace. If the survey is sent out, and management takes no action upon the results, I’d say they shouldn’t have done a survey to begin with! If management receives the results, truly invests in making the changes employees say they need to stay engaged, and actually takes action, that is a great start to ensuring employees are engaged.

I think there is a lot to be learned about corporate culture playing into employee engagement, the law of attraction that states ‘like attracts like’, and the fact that most people like people like themselves. If your organization’s values and culture are strong, you may have a very homogenous workforce which is made up of many employees who are the right ‘fit’ for your organization and therefore are highly engaged simply because they do ‘fit’. Does that mean that whoever does the hiring and recruitment, those who deal with people who don’t even yet work for the company, have a hand in ensuring the workforce is engaged? More often than not, it is the Human Resources Department that actually manages much of the recruitment (gate keeping) for an organization and is also the department that conducts and employee engagement survey… however, I see Human Resources as a partner in engagement, but not the one responsible for it.

In the end, I’d say it takes two to tango and that both the employee and the employer have a role to play and are both responsible for employee engagement. I’m not even going to open the can of worms of talking about the role unions play in engagement… lets save that for another article!

To Inherit or Not to Inherit – That is the Question

I myself am a huge proponent of finding new ways to work smarter. In today’s world, we are continuously looking for ways to improve current processes, or to create new ways for work to be done with more efficiency and higher effectiveness.

When a process feels overly complex, repetitive, or redundant, it usually is- trust your HR instincts!  Processes like these are prime candidates for reinvention. Often when I ask someone the ‘why’ behind what they are doing, their answer is along the lines of “I’m not too sure, that’s how it was done before me”. These are what I like to refer to as ‘inherited processes’. When we first inherit a task, whether it is as a result of starting a new job or you are expanding your work responsibilities, we are much more analytical and curious about our work. Once we zoom in on our day to day work we stop questioning the why and focus more on the how and what, loosing that fresh perspective. Try your best to keep this viewpoint well after the honeymoon is over!

Tools can be created that are effective but not efficient, managing to measure or assist the process they were designed to help with but at a cost of time or money greater than the original process- that’s not a good tool! Perhaps the tool is overly complex, tedious, or is simply seen as a make-work activity. It’s like the old adages ‘It’s only a good deal if you need it’ referring to purchasing items on sale for the sake of getting a deal, or, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. These little sayings can be applied to many situations in life, including making processes at work better.

I’m sure we all have been the victim of inheriting a common problem that many small HR shops have: multiple spreadsheets to track very similar metrics- needing to update one sheet, taking that information and entering it into another sheet and so on… This process is common yet leaves ample room for human error, often feels repetitive and is easily solved. For example, the change or elimination of some of these redundant spreadsheets would save a world of time and error but nobody thought to change the process…it was inherited, learned and acted upon- no questions asked.

I challenge you to not shy away from an opportunity to revamp a process you inherited, or comment below and share an experience of your own. Try to look outside the box for alternative methods and to challenge the ‘why’ behind some of the processes you encounter that strike you as improvable. Remember, the fresh perspective you have when you enter a company fades quickly, and when we don’t ask questions or make suggestions right away we often loose these opportunities to improve. Don’t be afraid to think big picture even with the smallest of tasks; value your time and take in to account the opportunity cost not being as efficient and effective as you could!