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


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.


Fortes fortuna adiuvat

Just in case you’re one in the few people who hasn’t seen yet, here’s how a young woman to quit her job in 33 pictures in a story titled, “Girl quits job on dry erase board”.  In another time, I’m sure I would have felt very differently about how this woman named Jenny left her job.  But in a world where personality and personal connections (which HR professionals call “organizational fit”) fares equally with experience for job hunters, I think it’s hilarious!

I certainly don’t admire the fact that Jenny chose not to give her employer adequate notice that she was leaving but I do respect the fact that she had the courage to leave a position where she neither felt respected nor valued.  I also applaud the fact that she expressed her reasons for leaving.  Many times, angry workers stomp off and never express what it was that upset them – that’s a disservice to the organization (since appropriate changes cannot be made) as well as a disservice to the individual who quit (since they leave without a sense of closure).

It may seem inappropriate for a broker to publically behave in such a way – since she wants to work in a position of high responsibility and risk – but her actions may have been exactly what she needed to do in order to be noticed by the future employer of her choice.  Who knows what Jenny’s career goals are?  Even if she still wants to be a broker, she may still find work with other brokers who share her sense of humour. 

The Latin proverb, “Fortes fortuna adiuvat,” means “Fortune favors the bold.”  As the layoffs of 600 employees are announced at Service Canada, it seems that this is the time where fortune will only favor the bold.

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.

When cash is king and people are not.

Why do we treat money like gold and people like scrap metal?

During the recession, it was all about cost cutting and people were the first ones on the chopping block, whether it was a cut to their hours, pay, training or entire jobs.  Unfortunately, CFOs forgot that living breathing people are required for an organization to make money.  Money in itself does nothing.  Even when it’s sitting in a bank, a person is needed to make a decision where the money will sit to get the best return, otherwise it will just lose value over time.

Of course, leaders had to make tough decisions to manage their organizations through the recession in order to come out alive.  However, many of the cost cutting decisions were short-sighted and now that fact is becoming clear.  In this new story, CFOs say the biggest lessons they learned about the recession is to pay more attention to morale:

According to the Conference Board, employee engagement has taken a dive over the last year.  It wasn’t hard for employees to become disengaged when they were asked to do much more for less.  You know what that means… I’m no fortune-teller but I see the future and it includes huge turnover.  Consider the HR function as part of this group.  This poll originally published in this article is showing signs that your own HR department is not immune to some staffing changes in the near future.  Up to 1/3 of HR folks are considering leaving their organization in the next year.

View the HR Turnover Poll!

With good reason, CFOs were focussed on getting through the recession by managing the bottom line.  However, they cut in the wrong places and without considering the impact of their decisions on their people.

Sure, lots of people were just happy to have a job during the recession regardless of the pay cut and longer hours.  But where was the longer term thinking?  Pretty much everyone knew that the economy would eventually bounce back and there would be some job growth.  Knowing that that magical moment would arrive some day, did they really expect people to be loyal and continue working with them when things got better?

People make rational decisions (for the most part!) and will take advantage of opportunities thrown their way, like a better job offer with a different organization.  Ultimately, that means it’s going to cost the organization in turnover and potentially its competitive edge.  Alternatively, if you’ve laid off your staff in this recession you’re going to have recruitment issues because you’ve sent the message that you’re unstable.

This video is for the bean counters.  Sure, errors of judgement were made but they ‘fessed up, discussed what they learned and what they could do better next time.  What did HR learn from this last recession?

Helen Luketic is the manager of HR metrics & research at BC Human Resources Management Association. Besides editing this blog, researching, and running the HR Metrics Service, she’s recently bought a new set of golf clubs at Costco that she’s been eyeing for months.

An Olympics lesson in loyalty

Values, branding, participation, trust.  What do these things have in common?  I’ll get back to that in a second.

I’m currently on an Olympics high.  Last night I was privledged to watch the Opening Ceremonies dress rehearsal.  I’m not a gushy person but I felt the swell of pride at particular moments, surprise at others, pure amazement at the special effects and I downright pounded my fist in the air when I saw which singers performed.  Yep, I know just about everything that’s going to happen on Friday night and you’re never going to hear it from me.

Here’s why:  the audience was asked for absolutely secrecy on the details of the event.  But the reason why I’m not giving you the dirt is not because I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you.  Believe me, I am desperate to spill my guts to someone.  However, you won’t hear the details from me because it’s the Olympics, people!  I know, the event has become quite a commercialized event, huge cost concerns, etc.  But I believe in the core spirit of the Olympics – the Olympics really is about the athletes, a showing of national pride while welcoming everyone into the city.  It’s about excellence, culture, sports!

So going back to my original question on what values, branding, participation, and trust have in common… loyalty!  I won’t reveal the secrets of the ceremony because I was entrusted along with thousands of others with this top secret information.  With that trust, I got to participate in one of the most important events of the Olympics!  I believe in the values behind the Olympics and wouldn’t want to betray that.  And well, it’s the Olympics, I just wouldn’t want to reveal something so important to other people.

Imagine what we could do if we could build that kind of loyalty and spirit into our organizations!

Go Canada Go!

HR practices that are 2000 & late – Part Deux

Aaaaaannndd we’re back!

We’re playing “Are you ahead, on top, or behind the HR game?” and last week we had questions on recruiting, performance management, and trends in business.  This week focuses on your knowledge on the latest goings on in HR.

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!super mario bros







  1. During these tough economic times, organizations are trimming headcount, merit increases, salaries and benefits to keep costs down.  Are you offering alternatives to staff to offset these cost cutting measures,  such as flexible schedules, extra vacation time, etc.?
  2. Are you making business decisions without data?
  3. Are you outsourcing any of your HR functions or processes and gaining efficiencies or cost savings with them?

 & A: 

  1. Just like every organization is trying to figure out how to make do, so are employees.  Life is about  compromise and trade-offs.  Why not offer something your employees value at minimal cost?  Keep ‘em happy, keep ‘em loyal and at the end of the day, you’ll get to keep ‘em.
  2. When you make decisions without data, you’re upping your chances of making the wrong one.  Without data, who is really taking you seriously?  Imagine your organization’s leader saying to you that  he has this gut feeling that the organization isn’t doing so well.  Sure, he’s right but he doesn’t sound like he’s the right person for the job.
  3. Outsourcing is not always the holy grail of efficiency and cost savings.  ExcellerateHRO is getting out the outsourcing business because it discovered that it’s not making any money.  Other companies have had a tough go at implementing their contracts, especially when they are highly customized.  And on occasion, offshoring work can pose challenges and require contingency plans perhaps not previously considered, such as in the case of organizations outsourcing to Mumbai.  Outsourcing can still work, but only if you can keep your processes simple and you’re extra careful to cross your t’s and dot your i’s.

How about adding suggestions on any other HR practices out there that you think should be considered old school?  Submit some comments!

HR practices that are so 2000 & late

Thanks, Black Eyed Peas, for coining this new term.  I’m using it ad nauseam to annoy my friends, family and most importantly, coworkers.

BEP are always ahead of the game but then, they have to be.  As for HR, rest assured that you don’t always have to be ahead of the game.  But, you should at least be on top of your game by applying new ideas that have been tried, tested and produce results.

Trying to decide if you’re ahead, on par, or behind the game?  Here’s the quiz.  Make the most of it by thinking about your response before checking out the answer key.

  1. Are you upgrading your talent in the downturn?  In other words, are you letting go of poor performers in hopes of snatching up better employees?
  2. Do you care if your employees are at their desk or do you care if they deliver?
  3. Are you recruiting solely via your corporate careers site?
  4. Is your company making a profit, albeit less of one, and cutting employee pay and benefits to maintain it?
  5. Are you a hoarder?

Here’s your answer key:

  1. It’s understandable if you’re trading up while the War for Talent is on hiatus.  But let’s be blunt – you’re not giving the impression that you’re regularly dealing with underperformers and you’re missing an opportunity to be a game player.  (and pssst… like in your case, the high performers may still be working….)
  2. Of course, you care more that your employees deliver.  However, chances are that you pay by the clock and not the results.  The underlying assumption is that your employees have to be at their desks.  Think about it – how would you react if your employee walked out of your office after doing only 4 hours and yet they’ve met all their targets?  Figure your way around this to be on top of your game.
  3. If your answer is “yes” (save for the occasional newspaper ad), you must be watching the hit new show Three’s Company.  Using only your careers website as a sourcing tool is like being a hotdog vendor in the corner of an underground parking lot.  If you’re using LinkedIn, Facebook,  or Twitter, you’re at least on top of things, but you’re a long ways away from being ahead of the crowd.
  4. It’s a new world out there, one where people are fed up with exorbitant executive compensation and the sole focus on the shareholder.  Harvard Business Review says that “trust in business is running out”.  These smarties say that the future will include a “broadening [of] the list of key stakeholders to include employees, customers, suppliers, communities, the press, unions, government and civil society.”
    In other words, if your focus is on profit and the shareholder, you are officially 2008 and late.
  5. I get it, there’s a recession and we’re all in survival mode.  But history has taught us that society thrives when it works together.  Hoarding ideas, resources, people, money, knowledge, and whatever else is soooo over.  It’s all about collaboration, sharing, adding value, and unity because we’re all in this together, baby.

Thanks for playing!  Get ready for Round #2, where the questions will be tougher and the stakes higher.  Coming at you next week….

In management we trust

Do you trust this boss?

Do you trust this boss?

Your manager is a walking nightmare.  They demand absolute perfection each and every time, bark orders, require your absolute attention and dedication, even when you’re sleeping.  They belittle you in front of your peers for being human and messing up once in a while.  At their worst, they curse at you for simply showing up to work.  The dung beetle has an easier job than you.  So, what keeps you working for the manager from hell?

In the reality show Hell’s Kitchen, top chef Gordon Ramsay does all of the above and more.  So why do people sign on to work for him?  Since Ramsay is a famous brand name and promises winners a chance to run one of his new restaurants, I’d say people stick with it for the prestige and the possibility of taking their career to stratospheric levels.  But even burning ambition isn’t enough to keep some chefs around because the job, quite simply, isn’t worth the soul-crushing abuse.

Ramsay is interesting to watch for the entertainment value – hey, so long as it’s not me, it’s OK!  While I have no particular affection for this foul-mouthed gastro-god, I suddenly had new level of respect for him after last week’s episode.  Andrea, the chef who was certainly the next chef to be sent to exile, won a challenge which granted her immunity and guaranteed her a spot in the top three.  As you’ve likely seen in other reality shows, generally when a contestant gets immunity, their work often takes a nosedive as they suddenly don’t see the need for effort.  (Insert parallels to work-life here).  This case was no exception.  Andrea’s performance in the kitchen that evening was a stunning failure and she deserved the boot, regardless of her immunity.

At the end of the episode, Gordo called her to the line and proceeded to spit out his trademark uncensored feedback.  Just when you foreshadowed her chef’s jacket being hung without regard for her immunity, Ramsay says that “he is a man of his word” and sends Andrea back to work in the kitchen.

Wow, someone that keeps their word and can be trusted.  Now that’s someone I can work for.  Vote for.  Or become friends with.

I’m sure remaining AIG employees wished for that.  Sure, they eventually got their promised retention bonuses for sticking around and doing a thankless job, but they didn’t get it the easy way.  Even their CEO has sold them out, initially claiming that the bonus plan was necessary as a retention tool, but then later asking for the money back.  Tough as it is, I think sometimes managers have to swallow the backlash to keep employee trust and therefore keep their employees – even if it means having the American public throw tomatoes at you.