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!

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

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.