Author Archives: Geraldine Sangalang

About Geraldine Sangalang

I am a human resources professional in Vancouver, BC. I have a passion for effective performance management and improving HR strategies to meet distinct goals. Thank you for exploring my blog. I welcome your comments, and wish you the best. Warmest regards!

Mentor a Student from Southeast Asia through WeDu

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Mentoring is an amazing experience when it’s done with the right spirit.  The reasons why people enter mentor/mentee relationships vary, but the purpose should be to build a supportive relationship that benefits both parties.  The idea of finding a mentor can be intimidating, but when the right people are paired, the benefits are endless.

People say that mentoring can help you get your foot in the door.  But I believe it’s more accurate to say that a mentor can show you what the door looks like, where the doors are located, and help you decide whether or not you actually want to walk through that door in the first place.

I’ve recently been introduced to an inspiring organization called WeDu.  Originally based in the UK, the purpose of the WeDu Fund is to connect mentees from Asia (primarily South East Asia) with mentors from outside their communities.  Mentees are referred to as Rising Stars at WeDu, and using whatever medium of online communication that works best for mentors and mentees, the pairs build mentoring relationships virtually. 

I work in Vancouver, British Columbia for example, but I may be mentoring a student from Thailand, Myanmar, or any of of the Least Developed Countries in the world (as determined by the United Nations).

I connected with Noor Teja, the Mentoring Coordinator at WeDu.  Noor is a Canadian working in Thailand, and this is her perspective:

“Wedu believes that one can foster leadership through life long mentorship. We do this by pairing a student with proven leadership potential with an experienced mentor and through a leadership development curriculum. Our Rising Star meets with their mentor twice a month for 2 hours at a time. Once a month they discuss their goals and strategies to achieve those goals. Their second monthly meeting is a piece of leadership development curriculum aimed at developing critical thinking by introducing topics of discussions which makes them questions social injustices happening around them.

Once a mentoring pair reaches a peer relationship instead of a mentor relationship, we rematch both parties.”

In addition to the mentoring program, WeDu hopes to build and sustain a student loan and future income sharing system meant to redirect repayments to supporting new students.  Ultimately, the hope is that through mentoring and leadership, Rising Stars will take on leadership roles in their communities.  WeDu has already begun to see success among its Rising Stars in Myanmar, who are now working with local NGO’s.

The majority of WeDu’s volunteers and financial support comes from Western sources, as described in the New York Times.  Through mentoring, WeDu is able to support young students from these challenging environments by connecting them with mentors who are able to discuss college and university admissions, and potentially move on to finding placements and financial aid.

I advocate mentoring in every workplace.  Whether you are a new warehouse employee, bartender or a professional protégé, all working hours are opportunities to share culture and training to those who are new to the worksite; new to a city.

The economic situation in North America is improving, but job seekers continue struggling to find employment in particular fields. Imagine how daunting it must feel for young students in struggling nations to finding employment in their fields of choice.  I’m on the list of WeDu mentors waiting to be paired with a mentee, and I encourage you to apply as well!

December: the Season of Joy, Guilt, and Reflection

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

I received the sweetest Christmas gift from my brother this year – tickets to watch Fred Penner with my Dad at a local theatre.  Fred Penner is a Canadian children`s folk singer who used to perform live and on television in the 1980s and 1990s; a true gem during the days of Mr. Dressup, and Schoolhouse Rock.

The tickets were a complete surprise, and even more unbelievable was how fun it was to witness the storyteller of my youth, alongside little children leaping and shouting out at Fred Penner.  There was a two year old girl who walked along the front of the stage.  Fred stopped, smiled and very sweetly said, “there’s a baby down there,” signalling to the child’s father to help him pick her up.  After helping her wave to the audience and say hello, Fred returned the child to her father.  She immediately held out her arms at Fred, silently asking to be held again.  Fred explained that he should let the little girl leave with his father before getting too attached.  Then he chuckled, turned back to the audience and said, “Penner’s still got it!”

A classic storyteller, I was surprised to hear from Fred Penner that he has four children, the eldest being 32 years old.  That meant that when I was a child, watching Fred’s television show and singing along to classics like “Puff the Magic Dragon” and “The Cat Came Back,” he had small children at home my age, doing the same thing.

There is a fascinating documentary called Being Elmo where Kevin Clash speaks about his journey to discover and breathe life into the popular Sesame Street puppet.  In the 1990s when the Tickle Me Elmo doll was the overwhelmingly sought-after Santa gift of the season, Kevin speaks of enjoying the rise of his career while managing the guilt of missing his young daughter at home.  While he travelled the world bringing joy and hope to young children as Elmo, his daughter often wished that he would give her the same joy as her dad.

It`s December – the season of joy, guilt and reflection.  This is that special time of the year when people make time to see those they neglect and especially try to spend time with those they love.  But the notion of whether to spend time with family and children while pursuing career aspirations is complicated.  By virtue of how they spend their lives, I’m sure that Fred Penner and Kevin Clash would agree that when you truly find your calling, you’re no longer pursuing career aspirations, you’re simply living your life.  Allowing yourself to spend your time doing the work that you are meant to do, you are bringing fulfillment into your life that can’t be matched.  By preventing yourself from focusing on your career, you may be sacrificing more of yourself than by embracing the joy that your calling could bring.

If this truly is the season of joy, guilt and reflection, give yourself the time to reflect on your career as a calling.  What are you meant to be spending your time doing?  How do you choose to spend your time, and does your work environment allow you to be the best that you can be?  Will you allow yourself to spend time doing work that brings you joy?

Evaluate Leaders Around You; Set Goals for your Future Self

“Patience is not the ability to wait but how you act while you’re waiting.” Joyce Meyer

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

I was speaking with a professional in a leadership position recently when this person said, “I don’t believe that email is a tool for communication, so I don’t answer emails.  It’s easier to delete 200 emails than to respond to 50 of them.”  This was shocking to hear because it showed me that this person proudly admits to ignoring client inquiries; it was a demonstration of just how ignorant a leader can be when they are out of touch with those they lead.

I am connected with a number of leaders in the public and private sector.  As someone at the beginning of my career, it’s fascinating to watch those in high positions manage unique situations from the sidelines.  Some actions are inspiring, while others make me question how I could have made the situation more positive if I was in their place.  Would I have had the gumption to ask a few more questions before making a decision?  If the onus of the decision was mine, would I have acted differently?

We posed a Coffee Shop HR World Café topic a few months back asking what entry-level folks can do to gain interviews. Essentially, what can you do at the beginning of your career to get your foot in the door?  Looking at this question in another way, I’ve begun to ask myself what I have learned from the leaders around me, and how can I best hold onto those lessons for the future.

Seeing the struggles and successes of various leaders, these are the attributes I hope to embrace:

1.       Listen and evaluate more than you speak.

Everyone has an anecdote about being in a meeting (often a lengthy meeting) and having zero engagement for the duration.  The speaker is there to deliver a message rather than engage in a conversation, and that’s infuriating because it feels like a waste of time.  When you engage in conversations with employees, hear what they have to tell you, evaluate their position and offer alternatives if they are seeking advice.  Sometimes employees just need you to recognize their point of view.

2.       Respecting staff means being able to communicate with them; know as many names and positions as you can so that you can respond thoughtfully.

I’ve always believed that the key to being a successful leader is being able to communicate.  That statement has become ubiquitous in our world of text messaging, and other forms of photo messaging, but the same is true.  Knowing the names and positions of your employees allows you to connect with them in a more thoughtful way because you can better anticipate how to deliver messages to them.

We all learn in different ways – some people need pictures, some prefer formal documents, while others require a conversation to gather their thoughts.  Recognize that some people respond to information immediately; others need to contemplate what they’ve heard, process the information and then respond.  Just because an employee who takes a lot of meeting notes doesn’t pipe up immediately after you’ve announced news to the group doesn’t mean that person is not engaged.  The opposite may be true.  Because that employee is engaged and has an opinion, he/she would prefer to choose the appropriate language to share with you later on.

3.       Provide alternative solutions each time you want to oppose an idea; own up to your choice of words.

I will always be an agent for change as long as the change supports what’s best for the business, with minimal impact to staff.  But it irritates me to no end when people respond with a resounding “no” without offering alternative solutions.  By offering options, you demonstrate that you understand what management was attempting to improve, have a solid understanding of the business, and can be counted on to support the change in the most positive way.

If you can foresee pitfalls that others can’t, why wouldn’t you communicate that?  While people are outraged and scared, be the source of information that they are seeking.

4.       Embrace technology.

This may sound odd, but remember that leader I mentioned who does not believe that email is a useful communication tool?  I understand this individual’s concerns with misunderstandings caused by tone, but in leadership roles, I believe you must possess a strong service orientation.  If those around you feel comfortable communicating with you via email, be grateful that they are willing to connect in the first place, and respond using the medium they chose.

By receiving an email and saying “I do not believe the use of email is conducive to communication” you are showing those around you that you can only support them on your terms.  Responding using the source that they provided is similar to shifting down to the height of a child when providing direction. 

In the future, who knows what the equivalent of email will be.  I’ve spoken with Gen Y leaders who outwardly say “email is useless, I use Google Docs to communicate with staff en masse, and it’s free.”  So when I’m trying to connect with staff at different levels who communicate using a technology that you can’t see or touch, I hope that I have the gumption to embrace it, and learn to use it well.

5.       Do not take criticism personally; be prepared to defend your work.

This will always be a challenge, and it should be.  The day that you have zero emotional attachment to criticism is the day you completely disengage or suppress your emotion.  But I think it is positive to control the emotions that you show to people.  The most positive thing you can do is respectfully and intelligently defend your work when criticized.  Take ownership and be accountable at all times.

Welcome Lauren Kress & Sandy Arseneault to Coffee Shop HR

I’m happy to welcome Lauren Kress and Sandy Arseneault to Coffee Shop HR.  Lauren will be posting book reviews and Sandy joins our team of HR Writers.

Lauren KressLauren Kress is a project manager and medical writer in the health services industry by day and a blogger and creative writer by night. She enjoys the challenges that come with combining science, health, marketing, creativity and management together and imagines herself running her own business in the future. In the meantime she has been traveling the world, learning new things and undertaking a Masters in cross-disciplinary Art and Design. After arriving back in her hometown (read: home city) of Sydney, Australia she is very excited to begin taking on more challenges that enable her to explore and develop her skills in business development, management and interpersonal relations. As the creator of she seeks to uncover more about people and the world around them through sharing interviews, thoughts and creative endeavours that stem from life, travel, music and books.

Sandy Arseneault, CHRPSandy Arseneault is a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) with a genuine concern for the ’employee experience’.

Before obtaining a Bachelors Degree in Human Resources Management from Kwantlen University, Sandy graduated from BCIT with a Diploma in Financial Management. She also pursued a Diploma in Business Administration from Douglas College before falling in love with Human Resources.

Early in her career, Sandy worked as a(n) Receptionist, A/R Clerk, Office Manager and Accountant. Now, with 6 years of experience in the construction and manufacturing industry, Sandy is excited to pursue new challenges and industries while working towards future goals including her aspirations of being a highly regarded mentor for other HR Professionals and an inspiration to friends, colleagues and strangers.

Do Something That’s Just For You

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

I’ve recently discovered a love of yoga.  Roll your eyes all you like – I was skeptical of the practice too!  I live in Vancouver where yoga pants have become synonymous with the image of a local woman, somehow.  I’m one of those people who becomes skeptical when large groups of people fall absolutely in love with one thing.  But after giving it a try, I’ve been converted – I love yoga.

I wasn’t interested in yoga for many years because it didn’t seem that strenuous.  I enjoy pilates, but I envisioned yoga as a less challenging version of pilates.  Boy was I wrong!  Yoga is dynamic, and the best teachers are supportive and reflective.  It’s a wonderful practice, and I will certainly continue.

Last night I attended a really wonderful class.  I’ve been stressed at work, and people are starting to get sick all around me, and so I’ve been avoiding physical activity in exchange for sleep and rest.  But a friend convinced me to attend our yoga class last night, and I’m so glad that I did.

The instructor emphasized that we give away our power in different forms all day.  When people are stressed around us, we mobilize, and we move faster.  When a situation arises, we assess, make plans, and execute.  We’re very giving of our time and energy – particularly in the workplace.  But it’s important to realize that you need to do things that bring you power also.  It’s not about reclaiming your strength – because you should give of yourself freely – but you should put yourself into situations that bring power to you, and you alone.

When you commit to going for a run, taking a yoga class or skiing for a few hours, those moments are meant to bring you joy and freedom.  They’re moments that you create for you alone, and that’s powerful. image

You earn money all day that you ultimately distribute to different parties.  You may deal with situations that affect others more than you.  Certainly each conversation you have at work is an exercise of giving your time away to someone else.  But you need to commit time that can only be spent on yourself – you deserve it.

Before saying goodbye, my class instructor asked us to sit up one more time with our shoulders back.  She joked that she wasn’t asking us to sit with our shoulders back because that’s yoga gospel, but because it’s a reminder of your body’s intrinsic power.  You have chosen to sit with your shoulders back, which lengthens your spine.  You control your body, and every action is a choice.

Make sure that you take some time that’s just for you.  Whether that means physical activity, reading for pleasure, or sitting perfectly still on a park bench and admiring the view, commit to doing something that brings power and strength to you.

Seeking Brave HR Writers & Creative Artists for Coffee Shop HR

Join the Coffee Shop HR TeamIn today’s marketplace, the internet can serve as your dynamic calling card. Working in virtual teams and often paperless offices, you probably get more significant emails throughout the day than telephone calls.

It’s no wonder that employers scrutinize what their employees and prospective employees post online.

Coffee Shop HR is a site built on the submissions created by volunteers who care about initiating and discussing HR issues. It’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your gumption and creativity in a professional way.

If you’re an artist who’s dedicated to using media that’s not digital, this is an opportunity to build a portolio online.  We welcome art designed through any means – hand drawn, painted, digital, video, photographs.  Let your creativity be exposed to a wide business community.

We’re currently seeking volunteer HR Writers and Artists to contribute to Coffee Shop HR.  The Deadline to submit your resume is October 1, 2013.

Feel free to contact us at for more information or view the active postings:

Posting for HR Writers

Posting for Artists

Time to Get Back into the Game!

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Here in Vancouver, we pretend that the weather doesn’t rule our lives, but it does. We just work around it because we know that when the weather is beautiful, nature will remind us of how vivid colours actually are.  When the weather is not so lovely, the world is grey.

A local news station used to play a weather commercial where news anchor, Tamara Taggart explained that sure there’s a lot of rain in Vancouver. But once the sun comes out, that’s when you realize just how lucky you are to live here.

We’ve been blessed with a fortunately warm and dry summer in Greater Vancouver this year, and that’s been my excuse to avoid – completely forget about – my professional development.

We all have our excuses for neglecting professional development:
• It’s gorgeous out
• The annual raises are coming soon
• I finally get along with my boss, so I won’t rock the boat right now

But guess what, it’s a work in progress. Professional development is your responsibility, and it takes time.

My undergraduate degree is from the University of British Columbia. I only attend alumni events once or twice a year (confession time: I’ve only attended wine tastings, but they really were valuable networking opportunities). So when I saw the invitation to the Annual UBC Alumni AGM, my initial reaction was, “why would anyone attend? Why would I vote for people I don’t even know?”

That cynical, “why should I care” mentality is what snapped my brain into fight mode. When I form a strong opinion about something I know very little about, and a wash of complete cynicism (without humor) takes over my thoughts, I know it’s time to form an educated opinion.

I registered that day.

But I understand if you would have hesitated if you saw the same invitation. You’re probably thinking:
• It could be a good networking opportunity, but networking is scary!
• What would I wear?
• Where is it?
• Should I dress formal or wear something comfortable?
• Should I bring a friend?
• Where are my business cards?

I really do get it. A lesson I’ve learned along the way is that you need to accept that networking is a conversation – that’s it. If you make it scary, it’s a scary conversation. Again, that’s it.

You also need to accept that every opportunity is a chance to improve your life. You’ll never know which chance takes you down the road you’ve been hoping to find all these years.

So I’ve registered for the Alumni UBC AGM. Do I know anyone going? Who knows – probably not. What  I gonna wear? Who knows – something nice.

All I know is that invitation, combined with my ridiculous reaction was the kick I needed to get into gear, and focus on my professional development again. And truly, that’s all I need to know right now.

A friend shared a great quote with me that I like to reflect upon when I know I’ve been neglecting something:

“Courage doesn’t always ROAR. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,
‘I will try tomorrow’ Mary Anne Radmacher

Good luck trying to get back into gear before the end of the summer!

Build a healthier lifestyle at work by scheduling lunchtime walks, ditching your phone, and packing your lunch

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

This blog post was written in response to the June 2013 Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “How can we maintain healthier lifestyles at work?”

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When employees move around in my company, our internal communications folks ask them to fill out a survey so that we can learn more about them. This response was recently posted:

When 3 o’clock hits, you’ll see me reach for:
a) Chocolate
b) Coffee
c) Fresh fruit
d) Something salty
e) Other: __________________

The choice selected was e) Other: A walk in the sun.

Amazing. What would I answer? Chocolate, most definitely.

In today’s reality, the idea of multitasking seems redundant. Doing more than one task at a time is built into the way we function: people operate electrical devices for social interaction while they walk; employees do their work while listening to music; work is done virtually as well as in person. Immediacy is an unspoken expectation that is met again and again.

If we spend more time at work than at home – and certainly if we spend more time at work than in our beds – we need to make our work lifestyles healthier. We’ve all heard of accounts that healthier lifestyles boost mood, overall health and productivity, so why not focus on making your lifestyle at work a healthier one?

Schedule lunchtime walks

I started scheduling lunchtime walks with a good friend of mine every Tuesday and Thursday. It’s wonderful because it forces me to stop working and the leave the office! I know that must sound ridiculous to those of you who are good to yourselves, and take your regular breaks and lunches, but I’m terrible at making myself stop. If I have a friend waiting on me, not only do I have something to look forward to in the middle of the day, but by walking and talking out whatever’s going on in my life, I know that I’ll be in a better headspace in the afternoon.

You can do your grocery shopping, pick up coffee somewhere special, or you can do as we do and take advantage of the sea wall in Vancouver. Pedometers make great inexpensive employee gifts. It was certainly the most useful company gift I’ve ever received.

Leave your phone behind

How bad are cell phones for your health?  Are they made better now than they were before, reducing radiation exposure to users? With all the research propogated by cell phone and marketing companies, who really knows … I just know that I’m addicted to the thing.  I use my cell phone for everything. One of my New Years’ Resolutions for 2013 was to start writing notes – not texting them, not emailing them or saving them in a cell app, but actually writing personal notes on paper.

We’ve all heard those ridiculous accounts of people falling into manholes or walking into street signs while using their phones. So I challenge you: leave your phone behind when you go for breaks and walks during your lunch breaks!

I know, now I’ve lost you. That’s your time to check facebook, do your banking, or play whatever fad game you can’t take your eyes off so that no one talks to you during your lunch. But think about it this way, fellow office workers: how much time do you spend staring at a computer screen, and how much time do you spend on the phone? I can’t honestly say that I leave my phone at the office during every lunch and break, but I do make a point to physically leave it behind once each week. It’s amazing just how easily things become appendages; the need for change begins with awareness.

Pack your lunch!

I know, it sounds so easy. I know that it’s not. But truly, packing your lunch means that you save money, calories, and sodium!

I don’t make everything from scratch – I wish I hate that kind of time and creativity, but I really don’t. Buy a rotisserie chicken, make a veggie stir fry, and boom – you’ve already got a lunch that’s more appealing, appetizing and nutritious than whatever you’ll find at the food court/cafeteria.

For those who bring breakfast to work with you, consider packing a breakfast sandwich that you can pop in the toaster oven at work. Or save yourself the sodium (and save the packaging) by bringing some oats, brown sugar and walnuts in a glass Tupperware. Add boiling water, toss on the lid and you’ve got oatmeal in 2 minutes.

Do I purchase lunch and dinner often? Of course – especially now that Vancouver’s food trucks are multiplying, and the sun’s coming out (this weekend, I’m told …) but imagine the good you can do for yourself by packing your lunch the majority of the time. Go out for lunch, but be aware of how often you do so.

It’s amazing how your life can change by simply choosing a different route. Your eyes are opened to a different reality – a different way of doing things. I challenge you to take on at least one of these lifestyle changes, and see how a change can lead to a new positive habit at work.

Does a proper vacation require distancing yourself from the internet altogether?

I went to a music festival at The Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington last month called Sasquatch. It was four days of camping and concerts with friends. The Gorge is spectacular!  The acoustics are brilliant, and photos don`t do justice to the space`s natural beauty. Imagine how fun and uplifting it is to witness a concert with 30,000 other cheering fans of live music.

The Gorge Amphitheatre

Prior to attending Sasquatch, I had never been to The Gorge before. Being the social media addict that I am, I tried to find information online about accessing the internet during the festival.  In other words, I wanted to know if there would be free wi-fi.

Previous concert-goers at The Gorge explained that not only was the concept of free wi-fi laughable, but there was poor cell reception in the area. Before I left home, I made a point to announce to friends, family and work colleagues that I be inaccessible via social media, email, and cell phone in general.

What's the Wi-fi Password??My response to the realization that cell phone use wouldn’t be an option at The Gorge was eye-opening to say the least. Not only was I concerned (for whatever reason) that I wouldn’t be able to access the internet or use my cell, but I made a point to communicate that fact to friends and family.

I was shocked to realize this kind of behaviour within myself because when I go on vacation, I like to distance myself from my daily life altogether. Much as Vancouver, BC is naturally beautiful, I enjoy leaving town. I’m not a fan of the stay-cation because I prefer to be completely inaccessible when I’m on vacation.

I believe in turning your mind away from work during your personal time, whether you’re on a lunch break or out of town. Try to pay attention to how much you talk about work when you’re with your friends and family! When you speak about work outside of the workplace, you’re inviting work into your private life. Think about how much jargon and how many work-specific abbreviations you’ve introduce to your friends and family over the years. I bet you talk about work more than you think …

But no one’s perfect. I have a nasty habit of checking work emails, even when I’m out of country. I might not check them every day, and I might not respond to them unless they’re truly urgent, but the same is true – I check work emails (and occasionally respond) while I’m on vacation.

Self-awareness is important because it allows you to recognize where you are, and where you actually want yourself to be. Having said that, it’s particularly frightening to admit that I check work-related emails while on vacation because I am an entry-level employee. I’m not an HR Generalist, and I’m not an HR Manager. No staff report directly to me in my HR job. So what’s going to happen to my terrible little habit as my career grows?

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

I know that I won’t be working in an entry-level position forever, so how can I change my behaviour over time? I’m inclined to say that I can’t: I will probably continue checking work-related emails while I’m on vacation because of my personality. I can imagine that as I take on more complex projects and positions during my professional career, I’ll likely feel even more inclined to be available online and by phone while I’m away from the jobsite.

So I ask you: does a proper vacation require distancing yourself from the internet altogether?  Should you distance yourself from work-related communication 100% and how do you convince yourself to stay away from the internet while you’re on vacation?

To Retain the Best Talent: Find the Right People, Gauge Engagement, and Consider Velvet Handcuffs

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, 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?”

This month the Coffee Shop HR writing team is taking on a question that’s relevant for all levels of management: how to retain the best talent. As a diverse group, I’m looking forward to seeing just how distinct our responses are, and how we differ in our approach.

To clarify, I’m focusing my discussion on retaining the best talent. By this I mean your top performers: the drivers of your business and truly, those individuals who personify the company culture.

It all starts with finding the right people

This may sound like an obvious answer, but that doesn’t make it an easy one to follow. Finding the right people means recruiting individuals who are competent for the position, share the values of the organization and whose lives coincide with the demands of the role.

There’s an amusing article on Fistful of Talent that compares retention to dating: it’s all about impressing that person at the beginning. They argue that the way you represent yourself can go downhill after the honeymoon phase. But the key is to impress your best candidate just enough to stay. The rest depends on the needs and personal expectations of the individual.

I’m an HR person by day, but I’m a bartender / bar supervisor by night. I work full-time for the BC Public Service Agency, and part-time for a company called the Vancouver Civic Theatres. This was a job that I found while I was going to university, and have chosen to maintain over the years because I enjoy the work and the environment.

At the Vancouver Civic Theatres, there are a number of us who work full-time jobs while working part-time with Civic Theatres, including accountants, teachers, IT professionals, and the list goes on. If you speak with an employee at the Civic Theatres, you are more likely to encounter an employee with more than ten years of experience than an employee with less than one. We all have our reasons for choosing to stay at the theatres despite the demands of our careers and personal lives, but this is a workplace which personifies the idea that at the beginning, you need to prove to your employee that there`s a reason to stay. At some point the individual takes over and justifies staying for their personal reasons. But it all starts with recruiting the right people for the company and its unique roles.

Gauge engagement: be aware of employee expectations

Make a point to have regular conversations with staff to gage their professional goals and expectations for themselves and the company. Let’s say that you’ve hired a junior person at the firm, and you’ve heard that after six months, this person is looking for work elsewhere. Figure out why this is!  Do you have the sense that this person is unaware of your expectations, is this person not being challenged enough, or does this person feel disconnected from the team?

Take this a step further and look at the people who are functioning well in their roles: discover their long-term professional goals, ask where they aspire to move within the organization, and gain an understanding of what would help them function best. You may be surprised at what you hear.

A lesson I’ve learned recently is that not all staff appreciate progressive positions. Depending on countless personal and professional factors, at some point you may find a job that you’re comfortable with, and refuse to leave. Not everyone enjoys change, after all. Taking the time to speak with staff about long-term hopes and expectations will show you who is still engaged in their current roles, and who is seeking engagement elsewhere.

It’s no secret that recruiting is an expensive business, whether it’s done internally or through recruiting firms. If you can grow staff from within, you’ve already saved yourself from hiring and onboarding new employees. So save yourself some of that trouble, and be aware of the level of engagement that exists within your organization. Then take that knowledge, and support your staff so that they can excel, and strengthen your business.

Velvet handcuffs can’t hurt

I currently work in the public sector, and I’m at the beginning of my career. I shared a fear with one of my mentors that I don’t mind sharing because she had a brilliant response. I said to her, “as a public sector employee, do you think that private sector recruiters would overlook me because of the stigma associated with public sector workers?” She said, “no, it’s the velvet handcuffs you have to worry about.”

She argued that the skills and experiences I`ve gained in the public sector wouldn’t be overlooked. However, I needed to be aware that the tradeoffs associated with private sector work may cloud my decision to leave. On the one hand, I may have access to unique career opportunities in the private sector, but on the other hand, I’ve been given velvet handcuffs in the public sector – referring to superior benefits that I wouldn’t likely be able to access in a private sector position. She’s certainly right. Whenever I consider taking a position outside of my current company, I consider whether it’s worth losing the benefits I have today. And I represent an optimistic and driven Gen-Y employee. I seek out change and challenges, but not at the expense of my personal satisfaction.

There are amazing employee benefits out there, including earned days off, personal assistants, staff retreats, private vacation homes, the list goes on. If you really care about retaining the best talent, it may be worth handing out some velvet handcuffs to those who are worth the investment.

Related Pages

Coffee Shop HR World Café

To Award or Reward by Christine Ramage, CHRP

Motivational Team Building by Bonnie Milne, PhD