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.


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.

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.

Branding Through Recruitment

In my last post “Are you committed to your brand?” I talked about employer branding and how it relates to your current employees.  You can learn a lot from the people in your company, but what about the people you are trying to attract to work for you, or the people who no longer work for you?

How can the recruitment process help you with internal branding?  Think about it, would you rather work for a company that is ranked highly in Canada’s Top 100 Employers and has a great reputation for treating its employees well, or a little known company that doesn’t have any employer brand recognition?  Most people would take the safe bet and go with a company they know about.

When looking at your employer brand and how recruitment can help in this process, take a look at the following:

  • What does your recruitment process say about your company as a place to work?
  • How do you use your brand in your recruitment efforts?
  • Walk through the recruitment process. What does it say about your company as a place to work?  How long is the interview process?  Does the recruitment process adapt for the different generations you are trying to attract and retain?
  • Research how people feel about the recruitment process as a whole with your company.
  • Evaluate the orientation program. Does this process make people proud in their decision to work for your company?  Design training materials that will engage your new hires and align them with your corporate brand values.

What about the people who no longer work for you?  Do you conduct exit interviews?  How do you manage the exit process?

When committing to employer branding, it is important to carefully plan how to manage those employees exiting your company – yhey are still ambassadors of your brand even though they no longer work for you.  You want them to remember their experience with your company as positive and to spread the word that your company lives up to its employer brand promise and is a great place to work.

If an employee has a great experience in your company they will tell 10 people.  If they have a terrible experience, that same employee will tell 100 people how horrible your company is.  How do you want your brand positioned?

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.

Employee, I praise thee!

So you’ve heard me going on about my amazing experience at Disneyland.  (Yes, I’m going to milk this experience for all it’s worth.  What can I say, lessons in HR are all around us!)  But it wasn’t all about the service at D-land itself, the resort area hotels themselves seem to really help lock in that overall “I heart Disneyland” experience. 

A shout out to the hotel I chose on a coworker’s recommendation, the Sheraton Park Hotel in Anaheim. The staff was super helpful with all my questions, approached me when I looked confused, offered tour suggestions when I was poking through the brochure board, finished my sentence for me when I asked to switch to a room by the pool bar, even came and got me at the hotel lobby bar when the airport shuttle showed  up… I mean c’mon, I had to watch what I could of the Germany vs Argentina World Cup quarter-final game.  All around, impressive service. 

Upon leaving, I ran up to the concierge desk and asked “who could I contact to let them know about my great experience?”.  Perhaps, say, a manager I could speak to?  They then handed me one of those generic comment cards.  While my intentions were good, I still haven’t filled out that puppy. 

At least the staff that I personally thanked know I appreciated their service.  For those that weren’t on shift when I left… tough. 

Can we find simple ways to say “thank you” to someone who has offered good service?  Better yet, can we say thank you so that their higher-ups know about it?  If you spent so much effort making a good service experience and generating a return customer, why not make just a little more effort to ensure that your staff are appreciated for the hard work?

And please, make it easy for folks like me to submit that feedback.  That comment card lay at the bottom of my purse so long it became a tattered mess I had to throw out.

 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 is busy working on a policy which would allow her to wear her Mini-Mouse ears to work.

Do you love your job?

With summer now upon us, I am finding it harder to keep my nose to the grindstone and focus on the tasks at hand.  And in talking to friends, I have realized that this really is the time of year that people start to have qualms about their position and are sometimes itching to move on to a new opportunity. 

When it is hot outside, do you really want to deal with employee problems, hiring new staff and conducting training sessions?  Of course not….who would?  You and I know that Bob who tells you he needs time off because his second aunt twice removed is in hospital and asking to see him really has a tee time with his buddies.  Can you blame him?  No.  Do you envy him?  Yes. 

Instead of focusing on everything you are missing while working, and how guys like Bob are shirking their jobs to go golfing really tick you off, take some time to regain focus and learn to love your job again.

Here are a few ways to help re-focus your energies and to start feeling the excitement again that you had when you first started your position:

  • What were your reasons for taking this job?
    • Make a list and keep it handy for those days you really don’t feel like being at work.
  • What is wrong with your job?
    • Write down everything you don’t like about your job and then make a list on how you would change these things no matter how ridiculous these ideas are.  Having a plan will make you feel better.
  • Dress for success.  Remember how you much time and care you took getting ready when you first started?  Dressing for success will make you feel good about yourself and in turn you will perform better.
  • Socialize.  Get out of your chair and go say “hi” to your colleagues.  Don’t just email your question.  Go ask it in person.  Not only is it good for you physically, it is good for you to emotionally connect with the people you work with.

When the honeymoon is over and the job relationship is in full swing try to rekindle some of the old excitement.  You and your job will be better for it.

For further reading on this topic check out the following books:


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.

Creating stories, the bad ones

Today I was challenged with a tough conversation, and one I learned a lot about myself and all employees.  Terminations in general are pretty scary and can rock the boat.  But what we don’t usually see is the internal stories people create.  In my particular case, the person who was terminated was open, communicative, and willing to improve their performance.  When they were terminated, another employee who is also open, communicative, and willing (although not needing to) improve their performance felt their job security was in jeopardy.

The backlash was incomprehensible.  I saw tears in a typically strong and fun person.  I felt empathy for someone who usually challenges me.  I heard a word such as “being let go, fired, quitting” from what usually is a committed and loyal employee.

The outcome was good, we squashed the story created, but it took a while to dig to get where the fear was stemming from.  Once we both acknowledged what was the cause, we were able to see how a story can be bad.  Her personal learning was that she needs to continue to be outspoken, open, and willing as these are her strengths and natural, and that her coworkers termination is not the same path that she is on, even if they shared many similar characteristics.

Agata Zasada is a junior 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.