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.

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.

S.E.T.H. says “show me the money” (or does he?)

Marshall's flax-mill, Holbeck, Leeds, interior...

Image via Wikipedia

In this series of posts (SETH), I’m outlining the forces that we need to consider in the future of work.  This post is about the economic forces, but not from an economist, just so we’re clear!  The fact that I’m writing about economics in a public forum is making me nervous.  If any economists read this, I’d really love some input…. So far, we’ve looked at the social component of the future of work.

Some of the economic trends or indicators that I think will shape the future of work are:

Globalization/Localization – some feel the globalization of work will continue and others see a counter-trend to localization.   It’s possible that both will happen and have different effects.

BRIC economy (or the global nature of our economy at the least) – this is a force when it comes to automation and redistribution of work – Dan Pink talked about this in A Whole New Mind.  Accountants and lawyers, architects and other professionals, look out, your job is moving to India/Malaysia/China – where it’ll be done cheaper and faster.  Remember economics 100, supply + demand.  This is it. 

Many of us saw Jeff Rubin at the last BC HRMA conference talk about peak-oil and the subsequent ripples – less shipping of goods, onshoring, localized manufacturing, etc.  This might mean the manufacturing jobs that Canada lost may come back, but we’ve lost the “white collar” work to technological automation.  But, will they be the same manufacturing jobs or not? 

Economic cycles – Recessions and depressions happen every 10 years or so.  Don’t pretend that this one was so different.  More protracted than expected, but it shouldn’t shock us.  The subsequent labour cycles of hiring and layoffs are also predictable.  We’ve seen many people in the contingent workforce, self-employment and micro-work increasing, although seems to be more reported in the US.  Canada has been less impacted but when it comes to the future of work, a more flexible workforce could sustain economic shrinkage.

It is also important to consider specific industries.  Some will face stiff competition, others will experience slow and steady growth.  However, the future of work might also see organizations following talent; perhaps this will mean a different type of offshoring.

The point is, HR folks need to be considering the economic climate as it relates to work.   It’s not just about knowing the unemployment rate for your area but considering the global shifts and trends that may or may not impact your industry/organization.  Outlook 2020 produced some very interesting perspectives, including this economic synthesis

Any economists out there willing to add their voices here?  Am I barking up the wrong tree or simply barking mad?  HR folks – how have you used economic trends?


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.

Introducing S.E.T.H., the future of work

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Image by Shatterbug11 via Flickr

My Seth isn’t Mr. Godin (although he’s A Seth) or that other cool guy from TEDTalks.  This is a made-up SETH.  I was looking for a mnemonic device to help you remember some of the big things that might influence how you approach work.  Especially if you are in HR or have some job design responsibilities.  SETH stands for: Social, Economic, Technological, Human/Demographic (SETD wasn’t as catchy).  

Let’s start with social.  

My goal is that these blog posts will make you think or examine your current practices.  Maybe, you’ll find that they don’t impact you, but before you just post a job, consider these trends… 

  • Work-life balance – who hasn’t heard this term?  What does it really mean?  I have no idea, but the reality is that we can’t ignore it, individually or organizationally.  Many “jobs” are cobbled together tasks and most of us have experienced the ever-increasing number of tasks.  Expectations of hours worked or face time is a key component of how work is defined, and unspoken cultural norm.  These are the sacred cows of job design.  Remember Ricardo Semler – he espoused a revolution in management, where self-managed teams did just that.  And more recently the best-selling work of Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Workweek touched a raw nerve, encouraging people to stop treating work like a non-stop escalator of serial monogamy of work relationships, but rather your life as a series of sabbaticals funded through short bursts of work.  Where ever you happen to stand, the reality is that it is a mainstream trend. 
  • Corporate Social Responsibility – people are looking for something to belong to – in his recent work (Drive), Dan Pink tells us that people are motivated by 3 things: autonomy, mastery and a sense of purpose.  But, we’ve also seen this in surveys, keynotes/interviews, articles (and articles) as well.  Perhaps offering some paid sabbatical time to some workers to contribute to a social cause opens an opportunity for an intern or work experience program.  Some organizations do this already.  What if an entire intact team did it?  What if your organization sent a contingent of workers overseas which opened up many temporary jobs for others?
  • The role of education/skills and the impact it has on jobs.  What skills does your organization need?  How do employees acquire them?  How is the funding of public education and the quality/quantity of university grads mean to your organization?  Do you still say your jobs need “degree in X”?  Do you know what the forecast for degree holders in that program are?  Do you work with colleges/universities or other education groups to address skill gaps?  Do you offer your workers to these programs as experts in their field?
  • Housing costs/property taxes/urbanization are social issues.  Do people always go to where the work is or do they go where they want to/can afford to live first?  What impact does this have on where you locate your operations or individual jobs, if at all?   
  • Health care – here in Canada, many people seek out full-time jobs because of the desire to gain access to extended health care plans.  What if there were alternatives – increased commoditization of extended group health care plans?   What does the ageing population’s demand for health care mean to your organization? 
  • Climate change – greening of the economy and subsequent localism.  What does this mean to how you design work? 

Big, heavy issues are at play here, and those of us who have the ability to make a change should think about it.  You aren’t just maximizing the dollars spent by your organization on people, you are participating in the future of society.  You may not agree with all the things I’ve listed or some might just not apply to you, but you owe it to yourself and others to think about it anyway. 


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.

Dealing with end of summer burnout

I love fall!  I am not sure what it is about the season that I find so wonderful considering in Vancouver it rains most of the time!  But as summer nears its end, I start to feel exhilaration and a sense of renewal.  This is when I sit down and plan out my year, make goals for myself and start to feel revitalized.

Maybe it has to do with conditioning from childhood.  A new year at school, connecting with old friends and making new ones. The vibe on the street is energetic and makes you feel like you can take on the world.

But with the renewal of fall also comes the post summer burnout.  I read a great article on Entrepreneur.com called Helping Employees Beat the Summer Blues that talks about ways to energize your team for the latter part of the year.

Here is a summary of the points to deal with mid-year burnout and revitalize your team:

  1. Ask employees how they feel about summer coming to an end.
  2. Ask employees what their goals are for the year.
  3. What motivates your employees?  Find out how to make them more productive.
  4. Help create a sense of accomplishment in your employees work.
  5. Praise people for a job well done… I don’t think we do this enough.
  6. Increase your employee recognition efforts.  If you don`t have an employee recognition program, start one.
  7. Talk about career paths to get people focused on their career goals again.
  8. Increase levels of responsibility if possible.
  9. Create some synergy in the workplace and do a team based project to get people working together.
  10.  Start a mentor program.  If you already have one, good for you!

Not all of these points may be relevant for you and your company, but I hope at least one helps your team work efficiently and productively through to the holiday season.


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.

How do ideas mate?

Buddy systems are simply two people doing the same thing.  We have had buddy systems in kindergarten when you had to go somewhere were the teacher couldn’t go with you; you had them in high school when running outside school grounds for the Terry Fox Run.  Did you realize there are buddy systems all over the place?  Police, ambulance, doctors, work out groups, run clubs, and even powered golf carts.  They work because more people (buddies) means more ideas and as ideas get shared, they improve.  Then why is the thought of having a buddy system at work is so scary for many people?  Is it the fear of being perceived as inferior, or is it a form of creating job security?

I am fortunate to be a part of multiple teams on multiple projects, all of which are high performing.  If it wasn’t for buddy systems, sharing knowledge and releasing ownership of work, real innovation wouldn’t be a possibility.  This is the era when HR stops being the police and participates in “idea sex” (see the video!).

In my own personal opinion, buddy systems have worked in the past and continue to work.  There is no shame in not having all the best ideas.  Allow yourself and the people you work with be part of amazing possibilities.


Agata Zasada is an HR generalist in a fast-paced company no one in Vancouver ever has heard of, lululemon athletica.  She has three years of experience in HR supplemented by a BBA in HR. Outside of her love for her career, Agata has been learning to run as well as practicing yoga (mainly Savasana), and is known for her witty humour.

Employment is a master-servant relationship

I am self-employed.  My boss is really easy to work with and yet I have no work-life balance.  It’s all in the same bucket.  But, I like it that way.  No messy vacation requests.  No performance reviews.  No income security.  No banked overtime or nine day fortnight applications.  Not everyone would love it.  But, what if you worked in an environment where things were really flexible?

ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) is becoming a new buzzword in the world of work.  At the heart of it is a focus on performance rather than presence.  A cynic would say to allow the employer to take advantage of the employee and work them like dogs.  Hmm, seems to me when I talk to my “indentured” friends, this may already be happening (emails at all hours, vacations which are interrupted, etc).  A glass half-full type of person would say that it is because the employer trusts the employee to get their job done and treats them like a grown-up.

I think that we need to consider how to move the employment relationship from the master-servant realm to one that is more suited to the 21st century.  Heck, I’d even be ok with shifting to the 20th century!  Trends tell us, we’ll have fewer bodies to fill roles, continued demand for work-life balance (whatever that is), shifting economy (commoditized jobs moving to India/China), etc., etc.  But, we don’t seem to be doing anything about it.

HR has their head in the sand.  We let the lawyers dictate what we should and shouldn’t do.  The risk is managing us, not the other way around.  If we are going to help our organizations compete, we need to remove our heads from the sand and come up with some new alternatives.  Otherwise, we’ll all be fighting for the same shrinking talent pool and losing talented employees to the highest bidder, and continuing to pay escalating costs to manage the employment relationship.  Maybe ROWE isn’t it, but not everyone wants to work full-time.  Or be a servant.


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.