Author Archives: Joanne Kondo

It’s Your Choice

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?”

Joanne Kondo, CHRP

We all know that healthy employees are happier, more productive, and are engaged but how many organizations encourage healthy lifestyles? I am fortunate that my company has built a large gym with great equipment and a variety of fitness classes. Our cafeteria (also known as the “Hub”) has healthy menu items which change daily. And our communications team regularly posts suggestions on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Aside from the organization, most of my teammates are fit and enjoy healthy, active lifestyles. Most of us regularly go to the gym and enjoy our own physical activities outside of work (ranging from running, hiking, tennis, rock climbing to mountain biking). We encourage each other to maintain healthy lifestyles and have even gone so far as to abstain from all forms of junk food and eat only healthy protein and vegetables while we are at work.

Of course not all organizations or teams are so extreme. Despite my employer’s best efforts, many employees do not exercise and regularly eat the small selection of fried foods from the cafeteria on a daily basis.

It comes down to choice. At the end of the day it is your choice to be healthy and active, or not. I have chosen to (try to) maintain a healthy lifestyle and it isn’t always easy. It takes a great amount of organization and planning. I plan my meals days in advance and make the effort to pack my lunch and snacks the night before.

Do I cheat? Of course, on occasion. Again it comes down to choice. You made certain choices to obtain the career you have today, why not do the same for your health?

What will it take to retain the best talent over the next five years?

Joanne Kondo, CHRP

Joanne Kondo, 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?”

Sure you can offer your employees free coffee, designer desks and chairs, maybe cafeteria that serves food you can barely pronounce, or even a gym, but will that keep your most talented employees around? Of course not. It might help get them in the door but it definitely won’t keep them there.

If you want to keep your most talented employees take a look at what their manager is doing right. Employees often leave because of a poor manager, not necessarily because of how the company is run. Take the time to understand the manager’s style and how they communicate with their employees.

Of equal importance is acknowledging the contribution of the employee as well. Take the time to communicate and continue to engage them. Money talks and paying a retention bonus will make it harder for them to leave.

Lastly, ensure you have a succession plan. The person who manages your talented employee may one day leave. Develop your talent so that one day they can take over where their previous manager left off. Look for and develop up-and-coming talent and offer cross-training opportunities so that any future gaps can easily be filled internally.

Transitional Tips for Employees Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

Joanne Kondo, CHRP

Joanne Kondo, CHRP

I recently returned to work after spending the past 12 months on maternity leave. Transitioning back into the workforce after such a long period of time off was both incredibly stressful and easy at the same time. While I was understandably feeling stressed and worried about leaving my child, I was also put at ease knowing that my employer was going to make my transition back to work as smooth as possible.

I am incredibly fortunate to have an employer that has not only offered me maternity leave top-up, but has also offered a great return to work plan. Although I chose to dive right back into work full-time, my employer let me know well in advance of my return date that I had the choice of easing back to work on a temporary part-time basis which would allow my child and myself to get used to a new schedule. Also of great help was my Employee Assistance Plan (EAP). With one easy phone call they compiled a list of daycare centres close to my home.

As HR practitioners we need to think of practical ways to transition parents back in to work. While not all companies can afford EAP’s, there are a few simple, cost effective ways help parents returning from maternity/parental leave:
1) Communication – Once every few months make an effort to call the employee on leave to see how they are doing and address any concerns they may have
2) Return to Work Plan – Offer a parent returning from leave the opportunity to work part-time temporarily until they feel ready to take on a full work week
3) Modify job tasks – If an employee has been gone for several months, don’t expect them to remember all of their job duties upon return. Arrange for some re-training or a refresher on job duties and tasks.

As an employee, you should also know your rights as well. Did you know that if wages and benefits for employees in your organization increase during your leave, you’re entitled to the same increase upon your return? Of course on the other hand you could receive a decrease if wages and benefits decreased during your leave.

It is never easy for an employee to return to work after an extended period away. But with proper planning and communication, it is possible to ease their transition and ultimately reduce costs and turnover.


What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart?

Joanne Kondo, CHRP

Joanne Kondo, CHRP

When I graduated from university I was young, naive, and thought that I could easily find a great career with great pay.  Part of being young and naive is that you think the world is your oyster.  I was obviously dead wrong.  I could write a 15 page essay in one night but didn’t have any real work experience.  If I could do it all over again I would have taken a much different approach!

1. Make realistic expectations
It is unlikely that you will land your dream job upon graduation.  A wealth of knowledge and lots of letters behind your name isn’t as valuable as years of professional experience.  You will be competing with other new graduates for a small number of entry level positions.  You may want to consider applying for unpaid internships which will provide valuable experience and great connections.  You never know, it may even turn into a paid position!

2. Make connections
Networking can be daunting but it will help you gain access to the hidden job market.  Although networking events are awkward, it will help build your confidence and provide a great opportunity to connect with others.  Build relationships with industry professionals who can provide great career advice and may lead to future job opportunities as well.  Take advantage of your university careers services or alumni services.

3. Job hunting is a full-time job in itself
If you are serious about looking for a job, put in the time.  Treat it like a full-time job by setting your alarm clock and putting in an 8 hour day.  While it may seem extreme, consider the time it takes to craft your cover letter and resume for each job posting.  Recruiters will only spend a few seconds looking at your resume – make sure it stands out.  Consider taking the time to update your social media accounts to attract recruiters and possible networking contacts.

While none of the tips listed above are groundbreaking, they are a good reminder of what you need to do to succeed in such a tight job market.  How will you outshine the competition?

Related Pages:

1. Advice for Recent Post-Secondary Grads, by Jessica Lau

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 Carolyn Courage

Communication – The Key to Effectively Manage a Virtual Team

How do you recreate water cooler talk online?  How do you build camaraderie between a team that has never met? How do you effectively show your colleague what you’re doing when they can’t see you?  With talent scattered across various time zones and continents, virtual teams are becoming increasingly more common.  The questions I posed above are just a few factors to consider when managing a virtual team.

Before you can consider the scope of a project, competencies of each team member, or type of technology to use, you need to understand how to effectively communicate with your team. Miscommunication is commonplace in the majority of offices where team members interact in person — imagine how much this problem is compounded in a virtual team setting.  The following are a few ways to successfully manage and communicate with a virtual team:

#1 Understand idiosyncrasies

Everyone has quirks that can cause friction within the team.  As a manager, take the time to get to know each team member, understand the language they use when getting their point across.  Some people are long-winded and have a hard time getting their point across, while others are short and curt.  Customize the way you communicate with each team member in a way they can easily understand you.

#2 Communication devices

Make it clear to your team which communication device is appropriate for their message. Sending out mass emails with long email responses is not always necessary or appropriate. Sometimes simple instant messaging is easier to get your point across.  Sometimes a simple phone call is most appropriate.  In cases where it is difficult to explain how you are doing something, video chat may be an appropriate communication tool.  Provide clear examples of which communication device to use in different scenarios.

#3 Time

Be sensitive to team members working in different time zones.  From the outset, make clear guidelines about expectations to response times for each other.  Tell them what time is best to reach you and how long it will take for you to respond to them.

#4 Encourage non-work related communication

Because your team members can’t interact face-to-face, encourage them to share their personal interests in order to recreate the water cooler effect.  A team that is able to be comfortable around one another may become more innovate and collaborate more effectively.

There are, of course, many other factors to consider but effective communication is a building block of every team.  A team that communicates effectively is likely to achieve its goals and provide quality deliverables.