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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Violence in the Workplace: Is this your problem?

Yesterday in Oshawa, Ontario a 16 year old boy was fatally stabbed in front of his classmates.

What does this have to do with HR? Maybe nothing.  Maybe everything.

I have discussed the new legislation in Ontario surrounding bill 168 before, but I think this incident necessitates a second glance into what HR's role in the workplace is.

Depending on who you talk to, most people would say that if there is a dispute in the workplace - HR should be involved.

But to what extent?

Should it depend on the size of the organization? Should front-line managers be involved?

When we go to work, particularly us 9 to 5ers, we don't expect to be involved in life threatening situations.

So what is HR to do? Do we do some progressive discipline? Is it our job to try and revolve societies shortcomings?

What do you think?

Whose job is it to stop violence in the workplace? Do you think it is a problem in the average workplace?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Social Media Policy or Guidelines?

Does your company have an internet, or social media policy/guideline/code of conduct?

If it doesn't have one of these, grab some typewriter ribbon and get cracking!

Personally, I think online social networks are modern coffee & newspaper breaks; people used to take time and relax from work for a few minutes by grabbing a paper, some coffee, maybe even have a smoke - all in the convenience of their office!

Now, the reality is that alot of people spend time surfing the net or seeing what's happening on Twitter & Facebook ; through the companies computer or personal devices.

Good or bad, a policy should be written around this.  I was recently made aware of a site that can create this for you, for free, called PolicyTool.

It was developed by a group of Lawyers in Canada, so should be legally sound and save you time.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shameless Self-promotion

So I was lucky enough to have an article in the Financial Post...

So in a pure and simple self-promotion here it is for your reading pleasure:

You've already heard plenty about social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Many of you probably use them routinely - but as an employer, are you maximizing on their returns?

Social networks are all too often regarded as "trendy" or "for the kids," but in fact, businesses who utilize these tools even at a basic level can separate themselves from their competition.

Consider the following statistics for Facebook:

  • An average of 250,000 new registrations per day since Jan. 2007
  • More than half of Facebook users are college graduates
  • The fastest growing demographic is those aged 35 years and older
  • Canada has the most users outside of the United States, with more than 7 million active users
Despite these figures, the number of businesses and HR professionals taking advantage of an active online social presence are limited.

So What?

As Canadian digital marketing firm Twist Image's president (and HRPA 2010 annual conference speaker) Mitch Joel says on the cover of his recent book Six Pixels of Separation, "Everyone is connected. Connect your business to everyone."

Perhaps Joel puts it best when he says, "Your brand is not what you say it is, it's what Google says it is."

Basically, a company website isn't sufficient anymore - you need to create a richer online presence.

Simply creating a company profile on Facebook or LinkedIn can expose your organization to candidates you may not be reaching through your current means. Better yet, these methods are probably more affordable than traditional means.

How Can I Get Involved?

The first steps you take are up to you and may depend on the nature of your business, your role in the organization and the strategic direction you want to take.

One example is Ernst & Young. Ernst & Young have created a Facebook profile where they post jobs, interact with prospective employees, and draw attention to upcoming company-hosted events. Presently, Ernst & Young's Facebook page has over 38,000 "fans." This has been accomplished with little-to-no financial investment.

Other companies have gone as far as to advertise/post jobs on Facebook. Advertising on Facebook is based on a cost-per-click basis and a daily budget limit can be set, meaning it will cost you as much or as little as you care to spend.

Also gaining ground is the company TweetMyJobs ( Companies from FedEx to Sony have used TweetMyJobs "to reach targeted job seekers and the millions of Twitter users across the world." provides a 30-day posting for just under $20.

Essentially, exploring different social networks and how they can be applied to enhance your business is the first step. See what your competitors are doing (or not doing). Try creating a Facebook page for your company, perhaps a Twitter account, or advertise a job on LinkedIn – how you use these tools is only limited by your creativity!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tough Interview Questions: Knock 'em Dead!

There are questions that get asked by some interviewers that make me cringe - You know the questions that after the interview you're thinking, "Why the hell would he/she ask that?" and you're left paranoid until they call you again.

It's not fun being on the receiving end as the applicant, but you can prepare yourself.

Previously, I had posted some questions on what to ask when the interview is over and it is good to have these in your back pocket, but if you're feeling lost during their questions - you may not have the guts to ask any questions at the end.

That is why you have to prepare!

Mental fear of the unknown is often what produces the physical symptoms of nervousness... ya, we can see you sweating... did you just studder? Not exactly the picture of confidence today, are you?

Okay I'm done.

In addition to preparing yourself physically, you need to prepare yourself mentally. The best way to prepare mentally is to know what may be coming.

Fear of the unknown can only exist when there is an unknown.

Take the time to understand some of these interviewing questions that are designed to knock the average applicant into the dirt.

What is your long-range objective?

Make their job easy for them. Make them want to hire you!

The key is to focus on your achievable objectives and what you are doing to reach those objectives.

For example: Within 4-5 years, I would like to become the very best accountant your company has.  I am presently working towards my designation, to take the steps I need to becoming the expert that others rely upon.

I believe my skills will continuously develop through continuing education so I will be fully prepared to take on any greater responsibilities which might be presented in the long term.

Are you a team player?

Almost everyone says yes to this question, and you're crazy not too; You'll probably be working with a team and they want to make sure you'll fit.  But it is not just a yes/no question. You need to provide behavioural examples to back up your answer.

For example: Yes, I'm very much a team player. In fact, I've had opportunities in my work, school and sports to develop my skills as a team player. For example, on a recent project . . .

Emphasize teamwork behavioural examples and focus on your openness to diversity of backgrounds. Talk about the strength of the team above the individual. And note that this question may be used as a lead in to questions around how you handle conflict within a team, so be prepared.

Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How was it resolved?

Don't lie and say no.  If you say no, most interviewers will keep drilling deeper to find an example of a conflict - don't go down this road.

The key is your behavioural reaction to the conflict and what you did to resolve it.

For example: Yes, like anyone else I have had conflicts in the past. Never major ones, but there have been disagreements that needed to be resolved.

I've found that when conflict occurs, it helps to fully understand the other persons perspective, so I take time to listen to their point of view, then I seek to work out a collaborative solution. For example . . .

Focus your answer on the behavioural process for resolving the conflict and working collaboratively.

Now for the ass-kicker of all interview questions...

What is your greatest weakness?

I hate this question the most!  Most career counsellors/teachers tell you to select a strength and present it as a weakness.  This is why interviewers get answers like, "I work too much. I am a workaholic that works hard everyday."

Bullshit you do! Seriously, can you smell the BS wafting off that answer? I can!

First of all, using a strength and presenting it as a weakness is deceiving. Second, it misses the point of the question.  And third, you must think the interviewer is an idiot...and they can tell it now.  Be more authentic in tackling this one!

You should select a real weakness that you have been actively working to overcome.

For example: I have had trouble in the past with time-management. However, I'm now taking steps to correct this. I just started making 'to-do' lists at work as well as using a Blackberry...

See how much more authentic that is?

Those are takes on the 4 that I find the toughest - any tough ones that you have had?


Monday, March 22, 2010

The Future Belongs to us!

Kinda sounds like something a pimply kid would say at a high school graduation, eh?

But think about it - How many of you when you were kids wanted to be on TV? Be a singer? Write a book?

As 1999 as it may sound, the internet has allowed all of us the access to do this, to some degree, very cheaply or even free.

Major media industries are changing/crumbling, so this really might be the turning point where all of us do get a have the ability to get a bigger piece of the pie.

Any of you familiar with the show Dragon's Den from the CBC?

The show allows entrepeneurs the chance to present their business ideas to a group of Canadian business moguls, for a portion of their company.  This almost completely cuts out any 'middleman' and puts the financers face-to-face with the entrepeneurs, who are putting their own money on the table.

And what about the music industry? Well I think most would agree that Napster was the beginning of the end of that dinosaur.

Now, SliceThePie (a British site) allows everyday people - like you and me, the chance to finance artists as well as to be paid to rate music.

So my question is this - are we better for having broken down some of these walls? Do you care? What industries do you think will be transformed next?


Friday, March 19, 2010

Workplace Violence: What you gotta know!

Hello to all my Ontario friends!

Just a question - how much of a problem has violence, or bullying, been in your workplace(s) during your career?

The reason I ask is that as of June 15, 2010 Bill 168 is going to introduce some amendments to the OHSA you need to be aware of.

Personally, everywhere I have worked has had some degree of 'teasing' and I would be the first to say that I think it is good to be able to have fun with your co-workers, but never to the point that someone would feel 'victimized' by another's actions.

Based on the amendments, harassment is defined as:

Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Workplace harassment may include bullying, teasing, intimidating or offensive jokes or innuendos, displaying or circulating offensive pictures or materials, or offensive or intimidating phone calls.

What do I need to do?

Employers must:

  • Prepare policies with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment,
  • Develop and maintain programs to implement their policies, and;
  • Provide information and instruction to workers on the contents of these policies and programs.
Workplace violence programs must include measures and procedures for:

  • Summoning immediate assistance when workplace violence occurs or is likely to occur, and;
  • Controlling risks identified in the assessment of risks.

This new bill aside, has there been any history of violence in your workplaces?

Do you think this new bill is necessary, or something else HR is gonna have to train on?


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Beer, Google, and some Fishing Hooks

The other day I was driving home and the Steamwhistle Ad came on, and the slogan 'Do one thing, really, really, well' made me think for a second.

Think of all the business and finance courses you have done - the key message has always been that diversification is the best strategy, unless you can miraculously create a blue ocean, and maybe it is - but have you ever thought of companies that can actually get away with 'doing one thing, really, really, well.'

Well here are 3:

1. Google
2. Steamwhistle
3. Forbes 20 most important tools

Google still operates on ten guiding principles that seem incredibly simple, but are mostly built around having the best search engine around.

Steamwhistle, only ever wanted to have the best Pilsner in the world - In my opinion they do!

The Forbes 20 most important tools, has items ranging from a fish hook to a rifle, and while not brand specific - all these things 'do one thing, really, really, well!'

Can you think of any other companies that have built their image on a single product/service?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

HR & Marketing: One and the Same?

For this one, I'm looking for some feedback.  In my employment I have held HR and Marketing roles and find that they are increasingly similar - or at least have some parallel guiding principles.

What the hell are you talking about, you ask?

Well look at it like this, HR is typically responsible for 3 main things:

    1. Attracting people (talented applicants) to the organization
    2. Making sure they are happy and stay (through compensation & rewards)
    3. Ensuring there are replacements when they leave (succession planning)

Marketers are responsible for 3 main things as well:

    1. Making people aware of a product/service (creating demand)
    2. Ensuring people continue to purchase ("look, Barbie has a new hat!")
    3. Following demographic trends to keep people 'loyal to the company/product' (Buy a Mustang when
        you're young, a Windstar when you're old)

Kinda the same isn't it?


Your Business Card is Crap!

I found this on YouTube the other day, it's pretty amusing - in an 'American Psycho' kind of way.

Porter's Five Forces: Revisited

I found that over the past month or so, I keep referring to my Competitive Strategy book by Michael Porter.

While so much has changed in the business world, there are lessons and models that continue to prove themselves true.

For those of you that are not completely familiar, here is a link
for an illustrated overview of Porter's Five Forces

The reason, I think, I find myself reading Competitive Strategy again is because of the economic climate we are in.

To me, there seemed to be less focus on competitive advantages during the 'good times', but now more than ever there is this sense of having to prove yourself in the workplace, which I think is great, but certainly says alot about human nature.

Have you found this?


Monday, March 15, 2010

Job Interview: What to ask When it's Over

Alot of people come to the end of the interview and are asked, "Do you have any questions for us?"

Most say 'no'. This is a mistake. To increase your chances of being called back for a second interview, ask questions!

It not only shows your interest in the company/position, but can help you determine if the roll is right for you.

Some questions from a recent CareerBuilder article are:

What do you see ahead for your company in the next five years?

How do you see the future for this industry?

What do you consider to be your firm's most important assets?

What can you tell me about your new product or plans for growth?

How do you rate your competition? The position's history Asking about why the position is vacant can provide insight into the company and the potential for advancement. According to Annie Stevens and Greg Gostanian, managing partners at executive and career development firm ClearRock, good questions include:

What happened to the last person who held this job?

What were the major strengths and weaknesses of the last person who held this job?

What types of skills do you NOT already have onboard that you're looking to fill with a new hire? The department Asking about your department's workers and role in the company can help you understand more about the company's culture and hierarchy. Stanford suggests asking:

What is the overall structure of the company and how does your department fit the structure?

What are the career paths in this department?

What have been the department's successes in the last couple of years?

How do you view your group/division/department? The job's responsibilities To avoid any confusion later on, it pays to gain a solid understanding of the position. FGP International's Eddie Payne recommends inquiring:

What would you consider to be the most important aspects of this job?

What are the skills and attributes you value most for someone being hired for this position?

Where have successful employees previously in this position progressed to within the company?

Could you describe a typical day or week in this position? The typical client or customer I would be dealing with? The expectations To determine how and when you will evaluated, Payne recommend advises asking:

What are the most immediate challenges of the position that need to be addressed in the first three months?

What are the performance expectations of this position over the first 12 months?

How will I be evaluated at XYZ company, and how often? The next steps At the end of the interview, don't forget to ask:

What are the next steps in the interview process?

Hope that helps!


Love it or Hate it?

Have something to say about HR?

Feel free to vent it here.

CHRP/SPHR Certification

Do you have an HR designation?

I have found that alot of people, especially those under 30, want to have a designation behind their name to seperate themselves from the competition in the job market.

I personally have my CHRP for this reason, as well as the fact that I think if you are going to be considered a 'professional' in your field, you should subscribe to a certain standard.

That being said, what is the reason you want/have/don't have a designation?


Personal Branding

As information flows more freely, the easier it is for you to access information on companies, products, services, vacation destinations, and everything in between; but what about you?

Yes - People can find out pretty much whatever they want about you, especially if you are on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIN, or have a blog of some kind.

So What?

So why not use this to your advantage? Start by Googling your name - what do you find?

Whatever you have found, a potential employer could have found as well. So from here, you have to think "when my name gets Googled, what do I want people to find?"

When consdiering this, think about the type of job you would like to have in 1-2years (maybe sooner). Start getting your name out there in the right places.

If you want to be seen as knowledgable in business topics, start commenting on posts/articles from the Economist on Twitter.

If you want to be seen as a fashion expert - maybe start your own blog on latest trends.

The point is, create depth to your 'brand' by pursuing different avenues that will allow others to see you as a subject matter expert.

A great book I recently read on this was Six pixels of seperation by Mitch Joel.

Joel goes into great detail discussing how people can build their online profile and ultimately enhance their exposure through various online mediums.

Have you taken steps to increasing your personal brand? What have you done? What would you suggest to others?



Welcome to In Your Face HR!

This blog is for those of you who are in, want to be in, or just have something to say regarding HR practices in the workplace.

This is where you are free to speak your mind, interact, and gain insight to the world of anything and everything HR!

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