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.


How should HR manage a micromanager?

Lately I’ve been working and volunteering with a number of different organizations.  It has been interesting to see how different companies manage their leaders.  Some organizations use a laid-back approach while others reserve significant portions of their budgets to support employee development throughout the year.

Recently I have been spending time observing an organization where employee morale within a particular team is falling because of the way that supervisors micromanage its staff.  Although the employees are competent with more than five years of experience working in their current roles, some (but not all) supervisors take the approach of double-checking the work of their employees, being strict with observing their attendance and ensuring that company time is used for doing company-related work only.

This topic came to mind when I found out that employee satisfaction surveys confirmed that employees within that particular team were unhappy with the way that particular supervisors led them.  When does it become the role of HR to ensure that supervisors and managers are not affecting the morale of its workers in a negative way?  How could employee morale be boosted without micromanaging the micromanagers?

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.

Where women must be sexy and the men, not so much

Sometimes in some industries, wearing a uniform (think McDonald’s) or something uniform-like (think nurse) is a job requirement.  You could even call the dress code a bona fide occupational requirement as the outfit performs some duty like identify who are the employees and what function they perform, protect the health and safety of the employee, or display the corporate brand or image. 

Now let’s consider establishments such as Hooters in which employees are required to wear a uniform as part of the corporate image.  Yes, their uniforms have the famous logo but that’s not the point.  The point is that the uniforms are designed to put the female servers on display.  The restaurant’s brand is very clear right down to its Hooters name about what their business model is and who their target customers are. 

With that preamble out of the way, let’s get to the case filed against the western Canada-based sports bar, Shark Club.  One of its female employee’s filed a sex discrimination complaint “saying she was forced to wear miniskirts and busty, cleavage-revealing tops”.  

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has chosen to look into the matter not on the basis that the employee was forced to wear a sexy uniform; whether or not this dress code is a BFOR is not at issue.  When it comes to human rights, the issue here is that only the female employees were required to dress in sexy outfits, not the men. 

The Shark Club’s defense in the media so far has been that they’ve always been “transparent” about hiring of employees and the job requirements.  The director of ops is basically quoted as saying “but everyone else is doing it!” when referencing other local restaurant and bars that enforce the same employee policies. 

Now I don’t know for sure but I imagine that, like Hooters, the Shark Club is targeting a predominately male, heterosexual, sports-loving clientele.  Given the business model, there may be little reason to hire male servers and requiring them to wear outfits as provocative as the female servers.  Hooters has seen its fair share of lawsuits, including one in 1997 that resulted in “the chain [agreeing] to create a few other support jobs, like bartenders and hosts, that must be filled without regard to sex”.  In fact, Hooters employees are now required to sign the following declaration:

  1. My job duties require I wear the designated Hooters Girl uniform.
  2. My job duties require that I interact with and entertain the customers.
  3. The Hooters concept is based on female sex appeal and the work environment is one in which joking and entertaining conversations are commonplace.
  4. I do not find my job duties, uniform requirements, or work environment to be offensive, intimidating, hostile, or unwelcome.

Hooters has seen a few policy changes in the last few years but the concept remains as-is.  But, these lawsuits happened in the U.S. – how will this suit play out in Canada?

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 wonders how is it that on “Undercover Boss”, the employees can’t guess that the visiting employee with the camera following them around is actually their CEO.

But I don’t have time!

Well, I have to fess up.  You may not have seen a blog post from me in a few weeks and it is because I haven’t written one.  I apologize for casting aside what I do believe to be a very important dialogue but the experience has inspired this blog post, so something good came from it!

Consider the title of the post, what’s the first thing that you think of?  For me, the first thing that comes to mind is, “well I’ve heard that before”.  I’ve heard it from friends, colleagues, teachers, and of course, myself.  Time is a scarce resource!  (For the record, I am not just realizing this now).  This is a phrase that is very common in our society.

So, what can we do about it so that I don’t disappoint you next week by again missing a blog post?  I can’t say I have the perfect answer, but I can say that repeating “but I don’t have time” won’t be helpful.  The phrase itself takes all responsibility off of myself and gives the power to elements of my external environment that I have no control over.  Instead of blaming the lack of time (which is a very disempowering statement), I should take ownership over my decision.  For example, last night, I chose to watch Glee instead of writing my blog post for Fireside HR.  Was it the right decision?  Maybe not (I do really like Glee…).  But it was my decision and I have the power to make the same or a different decision the next time.

Now that the answer lies in my own power to make decisions about how I spend my time, the question is, how I decide where to spend my time?

One example of a useful tool is the Time Management Matrix presented by Stephen Covey in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  In this tool, Covey maps out on a grid two components of the ways we choose to spend our time:  Urgency and Importance.  He asserts that we often spend a lot of time in the urgent but not important quadrant, neglecting things that are important and not urgent.  He argues that we should focus on these tasks as well in order to truly be effective at managing our time.

What I really like about this tool and find useful is that it reminds me that just because something is right in front of my face, doesn’t mean that it is the most important thing in my life right now nor is it necessarily where I should spend all my time.  The other reminder it gives me is that I need to be clear with myself about what is important.  I’m not saying it’s easy but identifying your priorities gives you the freedom to make decisions about how you spend your time, rather than leaving you a victim to ‘not enough time’.

So yes, the next time I’ll tape Glee and write my blog!

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.

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 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.

Inspiration & business. Oxymoron?

I have recently acquired the knowledge of something important.  I will share this shortly, but look back to your favourite boss, manager, trainer, and team captain and ask yourself “why were they great?”.  I am sure we can list many attributes that make or made them great. I believe that Richard’s 500 interviews is due for a concise list.

In my opinion, INSPIRATION is something that has made our great leaders epic. Inspiration can come in different sizes and shapes –  Gandhi versus Martin Luther King, for example.


One day I will be a manager and be a part of change, big game-changing change, even though right now I feel that I am not inspirational (that I know of).  I went to a beloved pick me up website  and looked for some videos tagged inspiration to inspire me.  This one by Richard St. John on 8 secrets of success just blows my mind every time.

Once you watch the video and see the 8 secrets of success, you think “yes, yes, you’re right, Richard.”  But I know there are people in the world that have been following the 8 secrets of success, but aren’t.


I won’t get into name calling but just think politicians, actors, athletes, executives that buried their businesses and someone will come to mind.  But the ones that are successful I think have that extra quality of INSPIRATION.

Inspirations moves people, your focus (one of the secrets) won’t move others, your passion may, but inspiration is what gets your troops moving and makes things happen.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African proverb. It also takes more than one person to make an idea, company, initiative, organization, school or association successful. Inspiration forms the bond and ability to make change happen.

Today, ask yourself, who do you inspire?

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.

What’s the Future of Work? It’s all about S.E.T.H.

Human Resources

Image by zachstern via Flickr


Recently I wrote about Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and how it presented one option of job design (or non-design).  There seems to be buzz about ROWE: Netflix kinda does it, BestBuy does it, even the Girl Scouts do it.   And Dan Pink promotes it.  I like Pink.  

I would really love to expand the simplistic equation {work = job} to {work = a variety of options to fit a variety of needs}, or something a little catchier (suggestions welcome!).  But don’t want to just blindly support ROWE.  I know that those in my “social media circle” have talked about the networked economy/enterprise 2.0 and the impact on work: herehere, here, here and here.  

I think there are 4 major drivers for this work overhaul and will take a series of posts to describe them in a little more detail. 

  • There are forces that are happening on a societal level.
  • There are the obvious economic drivers to consider.
  • Like it or not, technology will not disappear in the future, so we need to track those trends.
  • And last, but not least are the demographic or human resources aspects.

Hence the name “SETH”. 

I hope that you’ll weigh in and tell me where I’m wrong or misguided.  Futurecasting (forecasting + imagination) is not an exact science as well all know, and I hope these posts are useful or at least thought-provoking. 

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.