Where in the world is S.E.T.H? Logging in from…

Today S.E.T.H. is going to focus on one of my favorite topics:  technology.  Trends that you can’t ignore…

Ubiquity – the horse is out of the proverbial barn – technology is everywhere and the semantic web is what the thought leaders have labelled the future of technology.  The semantic web is suggesting our stuff will be connected to the internet. 

Our fridges, clothes, etc. will do the work for us.  What does this have to do with work?  Maybe customer service jobs no longer have to wait for the customer to notice they need service, their product will do it for them, contacting your organization’s CRM, searching for information and setting up an appointment automatically.  This article explains how the infrastructure is working towards this and 50 billion devices will be connected to the web by 2020.

Back to today’s technology – every company has the ability to connect, communicate and collaborate for a very low cost, even using consumer tools if they choose.  Telecommuting is not solely for the knowledge workers.  Your organization could likely identify many tasks that could be done remotely if it chose.  We see hints of this already in the HEROES – Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives- concept (basically these service reps monitor social networks for comments about their products and intercede at the point of need, not based on their set shift).  We’ve all participated on some kind of online collaboration: Google Docs, Skype, Twitter, etc.  HR needs to stop trying to ban the use of these tools and figure out how to harness the power of them.  Realize your workplace may transcend borders and time zones, even if you are not an international organization.

Mobile – the devices available now enable people to connect from their phone.  The laptop is now a desktop and the tower computer is a dinosaur.  Mobile phones are more powerful than early desktop computers.  You can video call, record, learn, publish, share all with a smartphone. We may not all get a company-owned smartphone but I know of many people who carry their own.  Sometimes in addition to their company owned phone.  Do you?

Expertise location – this applies both within an organization and beyond.  The ability to locate experts in a particular thing is very valuable.  Technology can help this both internally(like Sharepoint 2010 or Cisco Pulse) and externally (like LinkedIn).  Enabling employees to access the web of expertise within your organization, field or industry is the foundation of collaboration.

Crowdsourcing – with services like InnoCentive (problems are publicly posted with payouts for solvers) – the potential for any organization to go global is huge.  There are hundreds of free collaborative tools out there – it really doesn’t matter which one you use.  It does matter that you consider them as you design work. 

People can work from anywhere/anytime and many organizations are still stuck in the face-time mode, where your worth to the organization is measured by how much you show up.  HR is put in the position where we have to create telecommuting policies and play attendance police.  I don’t know about you, but for me, this just doesn’t value my contribution to an organization.  I think it’s fair to say that technology is pushing us to options that might be outside of our comfort zones, but whether you like tech or not, it is going to change the way we design work.


Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.

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Weighing in on this generational thing

Cover of "The Global Achievement Gap: Why...

Cover via Amazon

As a member of Generation Y , I have to admit that the conversation about generational differences never really intrigued me that much growing up.  Up until a few years ago, other than my family, teachers, and professors, I had been almost exclusively surrounded by my peers of the generation, so I had yet to really witness the tension between my generation and others.  I learned about it school but like many things, until you really see it, it doesn’t mean much.

In the past year I have been asked to weigh in on how generational differences play out in the workplace and in training and development settings.  You might remember my very first blog post for Fireside HR called “Are labels relevant?” where I shared an example of where this came up.  So, while I appreciated people’s sentiment that I would be an expert in my own generation, I thought I should seek to better understand my own generation from both an insider and an outsider’s perspective.

I thought I would summarize some of the interesting ideas and information I discovered.  You can take it all with a grain of salt, and of course, I’ve sourced it.  At the very least, it makes for interesting discussion.

  • This generation’s brain has literally developed differently as a result of growing up with the internet and other technological advances.  The internet has led to an abundance of information and Gen Yer’s brains have learned to sift through mass amounts of information quickly.  They have also learned to be sceptical and question what they read.
  • Gen Yer’s multitask; this seems to be widely agreed upon.  However, whether or not they are more productive as a result seems to be disputed.
  • This generation has a very different definition of “privacy” than previous generations.  Some people congratulate these people on their transparency and willingness to share.  Others are concerned that people who share too much will regret it later in life.
  • Gen Yer’s expect to move up the career ladder faster than their predecessors.  Understandably, this has seemed to annoy some of those who came before them; many have called the generation entitled (or “the Reality Show Generation”).
  • People in this generation have been coddled by their parents and by educational institutions such that they are not prepared for the work place.  Once again, this is a big area of contention in the literature on the subject.

I obviously have a biased opinion about the work habits and values of my generation, and the interesting ideas that I’ve picked out will reflect that.  So, if you are interested, I’d recommend the sources below (this is the tip of the iceberg).  As a Gen Yer, I’d suggest taking it all in with a healthy degree of scepticism!


Krysty Wideen is a learning and organizational development consultant with The Refinery Leadership Partners, based in Vancouver. Failing to leave her day job at work, she often finds herself relating every day, commonplace observations and activities to insights about leadership, business, human resources, and anything, really. Now she has a place to share her observations and insights.

Looking for a good book, Part II: Book Club!

Cover of "Grown Up Digital: How the Net G...

Cover via Amazon

Thank you so much to everyone who replied, either on the comments or to me privately, about great books to read!  I really appreciate the suggestions!

Here are some that were sent to me directly (i.e. they were not in the comments of my last post):

I could go on.  The great thing about everyone’s suggestions was that they were so diverse.  I look forward to my now LONG reading list!

So, besides having a great list of books, I found another way to motivate myself to get through some of these business books – sign up for something that gives me a deadline.  In this case, I signed up to attend the BC HRMA Book Club.

This month, we read Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott.  The book is quite insightful, I would highly recommend it (and so would my fellow book clubbers!).  However, more importantly, getting together with some intelligent and thoughtful people to talk about the book was the really inspiring part.  By discussing our general thoughts about the book, our likes, our dislikes, our lessons learned, etc., I felt like I got so much more out of the book.

The great thing is book clubs are so easy to find and to set up.  While joining the BC HRMA Book Club is an option, your company might already have one or would support it, you could get a group of friends together, you could start an online forum, etc.

It is so easy, it is great motivation, and it really brings books to life. I would highly recommend joining or starting one of your own!


Krysty Wideen is a learning and organizational development consultant with The Refinery Leadership Partners, based in Vancouver. Failing to leave her day job at work, she often finds herself relating every day, commonplace observations and activities to insights about leadership, business, human resources, and anything, really. Now she has a place to share her observations and insights.

Modern phone etiquette

Do you ever stop and think about how you come across on the phone?  We do so much of our communication these days in the office through email and text messages that sometimes the art of conversation is lost.

People will make assumptions within 60 seconds about your education, background, ability and personality, based on your voice.  And not only does what you say count, but how you say it.  That doesn’t give you a lot of time to come across professionally.

It may not seem fair but hey, we all judge people by their phone mannerisms.  Here is a little refresher on how to improve your phone etiquette:

  1. Try to answer your phone within three rings if possible.
  2. Identify yourself when you answer the phone, “Good morning, this is _____speaking”.
  3. Have a smile on your face when you answer the phone. As crazy as it seems, people can hear a smile in your voice.
  4. Speak clearly, slowly. If you are naturally a fast talker, this may be harder to do (it is for me!).
  5. Actively listen to the other person – that is not typing emails, eating lunch or engaging in other distractions – people can tell if you aren’t fully taking part in the conversation.
  6. Always be polite and courteous on the phone.
  7. Speak with confidence.
  8. When away from your desk, forward your phone to voice mail and make sure to check your messages often.
  9. Return calls promptly.
  10. Remember to treat others as you wish to be treated on the phone.

Once you are conscious of how you come across on the phone, you will sound more confident and professional.   In a judgement-based society, confidence and professionalism are a good thing!


Dana Sebal has over 10 years Marketing and Human Resources experience.  Outside of her professional career, Dana’s passions include her family, rowing, running, tennis, skiing, yoga, and Beagles.

The CHRP as a catch 22

Starting 2011, those who wish to take the NPPA portion of the CHRP must have an undergraduate degree in order to write the exam.  According to an HRVoice.org article, “the number of people writing the exams for the designation increased by more than 50 per cent in the past year.”  That was comparing the October 2009 session with the May 2010 sitting; I can’t wait to hear the numbers from the October 2010 exam.

A number of exam writers were likely HR professionals who graduated from 2-year programs and were attempting to avoid the need to complete a four year program.  However, one pronounced group that I’m willing to bet will be easily visible come exam day is the new face of the CHRP – students and the new graduates.

Although the CCHRA and its affiliate provincial HR associations suggest that exam writers gain at least two years of experience working in human resources before they write the exam, there will be a number of professionally young writers in the exam room.  While they realize that a CHRP is not a requirement to practice human resources, many are writing in order to stay competitive with those entry-level and intermediate-level professionals who have already written the exam successfully.  Students and recent grads have already been achieving their CHRPs, and hopefully there will be more to come (as the deadline to register for the October 2010 session is closed).  I certainly wish all writers the very best of luck.

This catch 22 is one that’s most felt by those who are at the beginning of their careers.  Despite whatever optimistic statements are made regarding employment in B.C., entry-level opportunities in human resources are limited.  One writes the CHRP in order to differentiate oneself from other professionals, and other job applicants.  Although the full designation is never demanded of an entry-level applicant, I’ve heard so many young professionals express their decision to write the exam because of today’s competitive job market.  They’re simply more willing to take the gamble that their education will be able to carry them through the experience-based exam, rather than lose out on an employment opportunity for not having written it at all.

This is the entry-level HR professional’s dilemma: on the one hand, it seems silly to write the exam so early in one`s career, but on the other hand, it seems to be a necessity to keep running with the bulls.  It’s a catch 22.


Geraldine Sangalang is an HR pro working at the Robson Square Courthouse.  She volunteers as a BC HRMA GV CAN Networking Co-Chair, as well as a recruiter for Meaningful Volunteer.  On her private time, Geraldine loves scrapbooking, hiking, kayaking, and dining out with friends.

Working with a consultant

OK, so you’ve followed my advice and selected a consultant, and now you are wondering how this relationship might evolve.  How are you going to work together?  What are the rules of engagement? Here are some of my”do’s” and “don’t’s”.

DO…

  • Be as open as you can up front in initial meetings (all interactions, really). Trying to keep that proverbial closet door closed won’t help scope the work.
  • Outline and agree to the work – figure out what is billable, what isn’t.
  • Realize that you’ll have to participate.  Hiring a consultant doesn’t mean that they do everything in a vacuum – they need your time to find out about your organization.  Ask for a time estimate for your involvement as well.
  • Think long term.  For example in the world of training – you can buy (or customize) a program/course, where you will pay ongoing usage fees or you can contract for a work-for-hire where you own the materials outright and control what’s in them, how they are delivered, etc.  Back-test your thinking with some scenarios to see if this is a good call for today and tomorrow. 

DON’T…

  • Go fishing.  If you don’t really think you are going to hire this person for the work, then say so up front.  It is a waste of time and will lead to an awkward conversation and a strained relationship.  If you have no budget to do the work, then just say so.
  • Assume the consultant is at your beck-and-call, be respectful of their time and recognize they have other clients.
  • Pay for a proposal or initial meeting.
  • Buy solely on price.  Be up front with your budget and if you’ve picked a consultant that you trust, they should tell you where they’ll add value and where you can cut costs.  If not, then they aren’t really on your team and are more interested in selling you something.   If you are provided a proposal with a breakdown of costs (based on assumptions), don’t try to eliminate steps because you want to save money.  The steps are not put in to gouge you, but because that’s the logical way of doing the work.  Tell the consultant what you can afford and ask for them to give you a proposal that fits with your budget.

What would you add to my list?  Anything you disagree with?


Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.

Give new employees a learning plan

One of the most valuable HR lessons I’ve learned from my new job is the value of a learning plan.  By that, I mean a training timeline for new front-line staff.  It is understandable that new staff cannot be given all the training they require in one day.  To learn the job-specific and site-specific skills they require to excel on the job site, employees may need to work with multiple trainers, shadow multiple employees or learn to work with various types of tools and media.  In reality, orientation may extend over more than one day, and training may take place over more than one week.

Not every company has the ability to implement an onboarding experience for their new employees.  A learning plan, however, is a great foundation for exactly this – by outlining when a new employee will work with certain individuals and complete particular training programs, your new hires become more aware of the duration of the training process at your company, giving structure to your company’s training process and enabling you to schedule all of the relevant trainers before the new employee enters the job site.

A very simple example of this is shown below:

By making your training program more transparent, it becomes easier for your new employees to embrace their new workplace, and to understand his/her role within it.


Geraldine Sangalang is an HR pro working at the Robson Square Courthouse.  She volunteers as a BC HRMA GV CAN Networking Co-Chair, as well as a recruiter for Meaningful Volunteer.  On her private time, Geraldine loves scrapbooking, hiking, kayaking, and dining out with friends.