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!

Amazing Things Can Happen When You Decide to Take That First Step

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

It is truly amazing to me that has been live for six months. When I first started the site, my intentions were the same as they are now. But our successes continue to surprise me on a daily basis.

One of my major goals was to recruit writers from three different continents. I hoped to achieve this goal in three months. It took me six months, but with the addition of our newest writer Gareth Cartman, there are now ten Coffee Shop HR Contributors writing from three different continents.

The main reason why I started was because I enjoy facilitating thoughtful discussions, I appreciate the talents of others, and as someone at the beginning of my career, I wanted to show the world what I can do in my own way. Although my day job involves working with HR data and employee files, I`m not really able to engage in the conversations that excite me; payroll is not my greatest passion when it comes to challenging HR issues.

I took a big leap of faith in my own abilities when I began the site. But I was (and continue to be) inspired by HR sites including Fistful of Talent and HR Bartender. Something I realized from following Fistful of Talent in particular was the value in bringing other writers on board. One of the biggest challenges when it comes to writing is having a great idea; being open to inspiration is the key. If I was the only writer on Coffee Shop HR, it would have been a huge challenge to keep discussions fresh and relevant to what`s going on. But because I have invited contributors to share their abilities, the onus isn`t left to me alone.

On this six month anniversary of, I want to commend the two writers who have been with me from the beginning: Bonnie Milne, PhD and Michelle Yao. Thank you so much for sharing your work, and enlightening us with your perspectives. Thank you genuinely for trusting me along this adventure of ours.

I also want to thank you, our readers, wherever you are. It amazes me to see where our readers come from, and how they`re directed to Coffee Shop HR. It`s astounding and inspiring to see where traffic comes from on a map.

So I say to you dear reader, I truly have no idea what`s led you to my site. And honestly, unless I connect with you personally, I could never guess why you`ve decided to lend me your attention. But I do wish you the best of luck with your career. I hope you learn that any step you take involves simply that: one step. I thought about creating Coffee Shop HR for at least a year before I finally told my friends, “that’s it, on Nov 3rd, I’m going live.”

The concept of just taking one step was never as clear to me as when I took on a challenging hike in Vancouver called The Grouse Grind. It’s an extremely steep climb up a local ski mountain. Most people ride a gondola up the mountain, but in the summertime you can hike stairs made of rock, wood and earth. It was definitely one of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever done.

I remember having climbed for an hour, and taking one of the many breaks I took during the hike. I stepped off the trail with a friend. I looked up, completely out of breath and nearly out of water. I remember thinking, “holy crap, how am I going to make it up the mountain?” Then I looked down, and the steepness scared me more than I could have imagined because we had somehow traveled so far. Although I was breathless and scared quite frankly, I knew it would have been more cumbersome to trek my way down the mountain than to press on. So I kept saying to myself the rest of the way, “just this step, just focus on this one step.” And I did – somehow I made it up that mountain.

Coffee Shop HR has come a long way, and I intend to direct the site to grow in countless other directions.  But please know that all things – personal and professional development included – start at the beginning. I challenge you to take that first step, whatever it may be.

Related Pages:

Facets of Motivation by Bonnie Milne, PhD

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, Even if All You Wanted Was a Tiki Bar by Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

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

Advice for New Post-Secondary Grads: Network, Relax, and Showcase Your Abilities (Paid or Unpaid)

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

The biggest reason why I thought it relevant for our Coffee Shop HR writers to offer advice to post-secondary grads is because of the unforeseen challenges you face once you start searching for work in your chosen field. Not only do you leave school with the expectation that the return on your emotional and financial investment into post-secondary school will be rewarded as soon as you leave, you add personal expectations of immediate recognition and achievement.

Having said that, this is my advice to post-secondary grads:

1. Network for long-term rewards

When I first started looking for full-time work in HR, I thought I could outsmart my friends by finding work through networking. I knew everyone was intimidated by the concept, and so I could find work right away since no one else I knew was willing to take that approach. So I read as much as I could about networking strategies, I set up a number of informational interviews, I attended formal networking events, and the list goes on.

Networking was my focus because I understood that the most challenging and interesting jobs – certainly those available for us with limited work experience – wouldn’t be posted online. Although I still appreciate and advise that networking is the best way to find work, I have learned to accept that your networking efforts will be rewarded in the long run, and not necessarily today.

In retrospect, I did find my first full-time position through a contact of mine, but it wasn’t a contact I gained through my intense, post-graduation networking phase. I gained access to that position through a classmate I had recently graduated with.

Make a point to network, and network in the smartest way you can (be strategic and genuine!!) but accept that networking is about building a positive reputation and learning from those you aspire to work alongside. Network to build a career, not just to find your first job.

2. Relax! Recognize that work is only one part of your life

I believe in setting goals for the sake of organizing in your mind what you really want. So when I first started looking for work, I set (what I saw as) realistic goals in terms of what my first job should look like, and when I should be able to acquire it. Although my goals were met to some degree, what was completely out of skew was the time.

I started looking for work in 2009. Through networking, the majority of the HR people I met had been laid off after 5 or 6 years with one company, and were now looking for entry-level work.  This was effectively pushing myself (and my friends) out of job competitions that we were fully qualified for.

A breakthrough happened for me once I accepted the fact that I would find work eventually. It may not have come as quickly as I wanted it to, but it did come. You will find work in your field if you’re determined to find it.

So travel, get married, have kids! You will find work when it’s time to find work. Can it be more difficult to find work in specialized fields, at certain times of the year, in specific locations? Of course! But guess what: it will be equally as difficult to do the things you intend to do in your personal life while you’re working full-time.

3. Show the world what you can do, paid or unpaid

One of the most challenging things you’ll have to decide time and again is ‘what do you really want to do?’ This extends beyond choices directly related to your career.

So the leg up for you, new grad, is that if you know what you really want to do in your career, at least you have a direction. You might be holding a map with nothing but an X on it, but at least you’ve found the X, and your map isn’t completely blank.

The time you spend volunteering is invaluable! If you volunteer for an organization, you get a taste of how that company operates, and where its values lie. You also get to meet people who work there, and see how they work with people.

My greatest interest in human resources as a profession is improving the lives of working people by supporting them through training and development. In my eyes, this is supplemented best through performance management and engagement. One of my aspirations is to be a keynote speaker, and develop training workshops.

But I don’t work in employee engagement. I’m not an HR Manager. My current job doesn’t allow me to do this kind of work on a daily basis. But by connecting with people through my site, and working with volunteers, I know it’s moving me closer towards that goal.

Best of luck!

Related Pages:

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

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

3. What three pieces of advice should post-secondary grads take to heart? by Bonnie Milne, PhD

March & April with Coffee Shop HR

Last week we had a great response to our March World Café topic, “What is the Best Way to Manage a Virtual Team?”  

Here in North America, April marks the beginning of post-secondary graduation season.  To coincide with that cycle of celebrations, our HR Writers are preparing responses to the topic, “What three pieces of advice should post-secondary grads take to heart?” for our April World Café.  Our team includes seasoned HR professionals as well as recent grads, so it should be a great discussion.

This coming month, we’re changing the way we present our World Cafés on Coffee Shop HR: instead of posting all responses on the same day, they’ll be posted throughout the month.  That way each writer’s piece gets the attention it deserves, and you aren’t overwhelmed with responses on one particular day.

Another big change to our site that begins in April is the addition of Business Profiles.  Each month we’ll publish an unsolicited Business Profile.  The purpose of these two-page write-ups is to give job hunters a resource for quick and relevant information they can use when deciding whether a company represents their interests, and points to consider when deciding if this truly is the kind of place they would like to work.

There’s a urgency factor involved with job-hunting.  More often than not, people take the first option available to them for personal or financial reasons, which makes sense.  But some people don’t look at job postings because they’re looking to find new employment immediately.  Some people simply want to know what their options are.  By reading about how different businesses operate and support their staff, you empower yourself to be aware of what kinds of businesses you would prefer to work with.

So read on, and here’s to finding the employer and position that best fits your talent and interests!

Coffee Shop HR Welcomes Carolyn Courage, CHRP!

Carolyn CourageI’m happy to announce that the newest member of the Coffee Shop HR team is Carolyn Courage.  Carolyn is a CHRP based out of Vancouver, BC and we’re lucky to have her join us as an HR Writer:

HR professional from the Retail world, Carolyn is passionate about fostering an engaged, driven and productive workforce.

Carolyn worked at Bootlegger for nine years before moving to Ireland where she worked in the training field. Upon returning from Ireland Carolyn began a dream job at Purdy’s Chocolates specializing in Training and Development. Other areas of expertise are leadership, development, health and safety, labour relations, engagement and community involvement.

A member of the inaugural BC MHRC (Manufacturers Human Resource Council) with Canadian Manufactures & Exporters, Carolyn is focused not only on Retail but Manufacturing as well. Obtaining her CHRP in 2010, Carolyn is involved with BCHRMA specifically the Training and Development round table.

Passionate about contributing to various causes, Carolyn has volunteered for numerous events with the BC Cancer agency and Canuck place to name a couple. The biggest leap was being a part of the TV Canada Sings Season 2; where her Purdy’s team won $20,000 for the MS Society of Canada.

Quality Technology is Required for Working Virtually; Thoughtful Communication is Required for Leading Virtually

I’ve been working in a virtual team for more than a year in my job.  The reason why I thought to pose the question of how a virtual team can be best managed to the Coffee Shop HR team is mainly because I don’t feel like I have an answer.

I know I’m a thoughtful employee: performance management, employee engagement and morale are concerns that I hold close to my heart.  And while I’ve given it a year’s thought in my current role, I continue to struggle with the question of how things can be made better despite personal experience and research.

Although virtual teams can be cost effective, and certainly require that employees travel less for their work, there are challenges that virtual teams face on a regular basis:

  • Measuring the performance of employees is difficult because you are rarely in the same physical space; you can’t see how people work, you can often only see the outcome
  • Missing out on casual discussions and informal training/mentoring that takes place when you’re physically in the same space is a disadvantage for employees and management
  • Attempting to build a rapport with coworkers using technology (over the phone or via video conference) feels impersonal.

Because the Coffee Shop HR team is located in different areas – and I prefer it to be that way for the sake of bringing you a diverse outlook – we also operate in a virtual team. This is certainly my foray into managing a virtual team myself, which was another reason to pose this question to such a reflective group.

While I don’t believe I have the answer to the question ‘how can you best manage a virtual team,’ I do offer three strong suggestions:

1. Find ways to connect with all staff on an individual level

This seems like an easy and obvious task, but because you’ll be relying on technology for communication, it’s not simple at all.  You must find ways to make a genuine connection with staff.  That doesn’t mean you’re necessarily friends who go on vacation together, but know who that individual is as a person.

From a business standpoint, if you don’t know who that person is, how will you ever know how long they’re planning to stay?  Turnover, no question is a significant expense.  And truly, that’s only one reason why you must accept the importance of knowing your staff.

2. Ensure that your expectations for staff is always clear

When video conference meetings end, you won’t run into staff in the hallways as they return to their desks.  You won’t run into them period because you’ll be communicating via technology on a daily basis.  So you must ensure that your expectations as a manager are clear.  This goes hand in hand with the need for stellar and inventive communication.  Clear expectations set the stage for performance and success, so it deserves your attention.

3. Success as a virtual manager depends on your ability to communicate

If each employee requires unique attention at the worksite, recognize that if you are working virtually, you will still need to connect with staff even if they`re not simply down the hall.  You need to manage your communication style so that you are leading your team from a distance.

Something to be aware of is how your communication style changes after starting to work in a virtual team.  Consider working with staff virtually, and meeting clients in person.  Do you email more, and meet in person less?

Whether or not changes to your communication are good or bad depend on the situation.  But what is clear is that your style will change because you’ll be working in a unique environment.  So be aware of how you adapt, and how it affects your business and management style.

Joanne Kondo, CHRP joins Coffee Shop HR in time for March World Café on Virtual Teams

The newest HR Writer to join Coffee Shop HR’s team of dedicated volunteers is Joanne Kondo, CHRP:

Joanne is a well-rounded HR professional with experience in retail, government, and education. She also has international experience, having previously worked in London, England. She holds a B.A. from SFU in Communication and Community Economic Development as well as a diploma in Human Resource Management from BCIT. She currently works as a Rewards Analyst in corporate HR at Best Buy Canada Ltd.

When Joanne is not working she can be found enjoying the beautiful BC backcountry or volunteering in her local community.

Joanne Kondo, CHRP

Joanne Kondo, CHRP

Joanne joins us just in time for our March 2013 Coffee Shop HR World Café, which will be published on Monday March 18th.  Our topic this month is ‘What is the best way to manage a virtual team?’

SFU Human Resources Students’ Association Spring Soirée: March 25th

On March 25, 2013 the Simon Fraser University Human Resources Students’ Association (SFU HRSA) is hosting their annual networking event  – the Spring Soirée – at the Westin Grand Hotel on Robson Street.

SFU Human Resources Students’ Association Executive

SFU Human Resources Students’ Association Executive

The intention is to create a comfortable atmosphere for students to connect with industry professionals. It’s an excellent opportunity for students to meet people they hope to be working alongside in the future, while learning to market their skills in a setting outside of the classroom.  This unique event benefits the Multiple Sclerosis Society through ticket sales, a 50/50 draw, and a silent auction.

For people working in HR, or looking to recruit fresh HR professionals, the event is an ideal opportunity to meet the next batch of SFU grads before being inundated with their resumes at the end of the school year.

Mike Wong and Jocelyn Tang

Mike Wong and Jocelyn Tang

I connected with Jocelyn Tang, the Sponsorship Acquisitions’ Coordinator at the SFU HRSA at a BC HRMA event, and she was happy to respond to the following questions:

1. What is your role at the SFU Human Resources Students’ Association?

I am the Sponsorship Acquisitions’ Coordinator and I work closely with the Project Manager and the Logistics Coordinator for the Spring Soirée.

A part of my role is to seek monetary and in-kind supporters for our event, but I also take part in promotions and liaise with keynote speakers.

2. Can you give me a bit of background about the Spring Soirée? How long has the SFU HRSA been hosting this event?

The Spring Soirée is the SFU Human Resources Students’ Association’s annual networking event. This is the second year that we are hosting the event. This year we would like to focus on Health & Wellness, with keynote speakers from Lululemon and Coast Capital discussing how they integrate Health & Wellness into their corporate offices. We are inviting Human Resources Management students, as well as industry professionals to network at the Spring Soirée. In addition, we are proud to be benefiting the Multiple Sclerosis Society, with proceeds from our silent auction and 50/50 raffle draw to help fund research and support for those affected by this debilitating disease.

3. Does the Spring Soirée draw a large, diverse crowd?

While the event targets HR focused students and professionals, the crowd will come from various areas in HR. We see that HR is crucial in not just recruitment, but benefits, corporate culture, and employee engagement as well. The purpose of the event is for students and professionals to come together and exchange information in this increasingly diverse department of the company.

4. What are students hoping to gain from the evening?

Through this event, we would like to provide the opportunity for students with a passion in Human Resources Management to meet with HR professionals and gain insight into a career in HR. We encourage students to spark conversations and build warm networking connections with these professionals, to learn about the nuts and bolts of working in the industry that the students are still very unfamiliar with.

5. Why would it be beneficial for someone who works full-time to attend?

This is a great opportunity for organizations to promote their company or organization to a receptive environment of students and industry professionals, interact with the brightest up-and-coming Human Resources students, and exchange information on the latest trends and news in the Human Resource industry.

For more information, you can contact Jocelyn Tang at

It’s easy to forget what it was like to balance full-time school (classes and homework) with part-time work.  Even more so, consider attempting to maintain a healthy social life, family time and periods of rest. It doesn’t take much time in the full-time workforce to be grateful that your school days are behind you.

So kudos must be given when students make a point to expand their experience outside the classroom to become better prepared for full-time working life. Consider at the very least how much you enjoy networking – as a working person – and imagine how that fear is multiplied for students who most likely have limited direct working experience in their field.

Take the time to meet and support these ambitious SFU students on Monday March 25th at their annual Spring Soirée.  Building your career all starts with having the right conversation with the right person.  Who knows what kind of impact you may have on one of these optimistic students.

Wear Your Pink Shirt Tomorrow: Prevent Bullying Through Awareness & Responsibility

Tomorrow, Wednesday February 27th, is Pink Shirt Day. It’s a day meant to bring awareness regarding the realities of bullying, and encourage meaningful conversations around the issue of how bullying can be prevented.

I recently attended an informative presentation about workplace bullying and inclusion given by Marli Rusen, an expert legal advisor in Labour Relations, Human Rights and Workplace Conflict. A concept that she really drove home was the fact that once managers are aware, or reasonably ought to be aware of bullying at the worksite, they are responsible to act.

Consider fictional employee Alison. Alison comes to work every day at 8am, and leaves right at 430pm. She does her work well, and she isn’t a demanding employee. Imagine that a new fictional employee Casey is hired. Casey and Alison don’t really get along, and all of a sudden Alison, the once regularly punctual employee starts arriving late on a regular basis, and leaving work early. She begins calling in sick every two weeks, and has asked to move to a new department. You don’t know why, and you don’t really confront her about the changes to her behaviour until it’s time to begin disciplining her tardiness.

There’s no need to jump to conclusions with all employees, but perhaps Alison’s been avoiding Casey because she feels intimidated. Maybe she’s been changing her lunch patterns or parking her car in a location far from where she knows Casey parks.

This isn’t a ridiculous example, believe me.

Whenever you’re managing people, the question always comes back to responsibility. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that bullying is dealt with? Legally, it’s management’s responsibility at the worksite.  And for anyone who witnesses bullying, it becomes their responsibility as well.

When you hire people, you gain a commitment from them that they will meet contractual expectations as an employee: they will attend work at specific times, they’ll complete their work to the best of their abilities, and they’ll contribute to a positive work environment. Likewise, when people commit to working for you, it becomes your responsibility to ensure that they are able to do their work; you must provide a safe place where employees can meet their commitment to you as an employer. Safety goes beyond WHMIS and ergonomics, and includes an emotionally safe environment free from bullying and all forms of harassment.

Once you are aware of bullying, or reasonably should have been aware, you become culpable.  In other words, you become blameworthy for whatever transpires.

What do you do? You pay attention to your staff. Know what people are up to. Know who they are, and what kind of work they do. If this sounds ridiculous, then perhaps you shouldn’t be in the business of managing people. If you are responsible for staff and feel like you don’t have the time, or it’s not important to know what’s actually going on in your workplace, then perhaps that’s a cue to you that you’re only ready to deal with yourself. Because when it comes to bullying and managing people, bullying is the tip iceberg – and there’s a landslide and freezing water to follow!

There’s no need to go into details of what can happen if bullying persists because the imagination can take us there all on our own.

Pink Shirt Day was an initiative that began to bring awareness to schoolyard bullying. But the reality is that bullying exists everywhere: at universities, on job sites, and in parks. What differentiates workplace bullying is that if you manage staff, you must be aware that it is your legal responsibility to act when bullying takes place, period.

Coffee Shop HR Welcomes Jessica Lau

Jessica Lau is a recent graduate and emerging HR professional with over 8 years of local and International experience in customer service, people management and human resources. Currently, she is participating in the BCHRMA professional mentorship program, exploring career opportunities and pursuing her CHRP designation. Jessica has a passion for diversity, engagement, empowerment and to bring out the best from individuals.

Jessica Lau

Jessica Lau

Jessica is proud to have been the valedictorian student speaker in 2012, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and Human Resources Advanced Diploma, graduating with Distinction.

During her studies, Jessica was involved with many extracurricular activities taking on different leadership roles and giving back to the school and community. She was the President and executive member of Capilano HRMA and the Vice-President and executive member of the Capilano Undergraduate Business Enterprise of Students in 2008 to 2011, associations in enhancing the value of the business program and providing professional development for the students. She was also the Capilano University’s student representative with BC HRMA and participated in the Vancouver Board of Trade’s Leaders of Tomorrow mentorship program.

As the 2011 provincial Premier’s One World International Scholarship recipient, Jessica went to study abroad in France where she traveled to more than 20 cities to learn and embrace different cultures. She also participated in a three weeks China Study Tour in 2009, in which she appreciated the Chinese proverb of “walking 1000 miles beats reading 10,000 scrolls.”