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Photo Credit, Valerie Everett, Flickr

The great Tim Sackett recently admitted that he, like millions of middle-aged guys, was lonely.  He explained that his profession, HR and blogging, pushed him into a world where relationships are wide and shallow.

Indeed, I’ve spoken with many HR folks who have said that they lead a double life.  There’s the real world where you function like other people, hoping that when you open your underwear drawer in the morning that you’ll find something to wear that you wouldn’t be mortified to be caught in in the off-chance that you actually were in that accident.  Then there’s the work and online world, where you have to mask your experiences somewhat to protect the innocent, or the guilty.  We substitute describing our feelings for the really bad decisions our clients make for videos of puppies and kittens doing cute things. I’ve decided to interpret the release of dog videos by friends in HR as the equivalent of releasing hostage videos with a lot of blinking going on.  We clearly need help.

Then there’s the issue of authenticity.  Let’s face it, most people really don’t like HR people.  We have this reputation for being a bit wooden; and a bit out of touch.  We get delegated the role of cop.  We’re either too cheerful or not cheerful enough.  Fake.  We attempt to counteract the accusation with being prolific posters of all things delightful.  The dichotomy of this leads to a terribly screwed up picture.

The interesting thing to me is that other professions, those that have to deal with a lot of crap, well, they have support lines. Police officers who witnessed violence or are exposed to the drug trade, they have access to professional help.  So do child welfare workers and first responders.  But HR folks, who have to deal with people sometimes at their worst, well, we’ve got bupkis. And in most organizations, we are a small contingent whereby we can’t really speak with each other about the PTSD associated with dealing with supporting the person publicly humiliated by the boss in a meeting. We set up the EAP but we don’t use it, out of fear of that .000098% chance that confidentiality will be breached.

Well for the benefit of everyone, I think it is time to STOP IT.  Unicorns and rainbows are OK, but that’s not all we are about. It is time we supported each other more deeply.  It is time to develop deeper friendships.  It is time we all told the real story of our lives as a whole and not in parts. Raw rather than idyllic.  And this story needs to be told on other platforms beside social media.  If there’s one thing that I take away from the Workhuman movement, it is this.

Tim’s advice, “Stop reading blogs and go touch someone. Not inappropriately, but physically see them and talk to them. The human body needs real life relationships to thrive.”   Well said.

Making Lemonade

The good news is that it is March and spring is in sight.

The bad news is, wow, I have been dealt a lot of lemons lately.

Of course, I am referring to where I am at on the Bruce Trail right now.

Ahh, setting a goal of walking 1000 kilometers in the wilderness in one year, it was so lofty.

Then came the downer of realizing in about September that there was no way it was possible to do it at my pace, and that I’d have to revise the goal to extend to 18 months.

Deep Snow in Meaford

Then December came. It snowed. A lot.

Most of you know little about winter “up there”.  Geez, it sounds funny even saying it that way.  After all, you can get in a car and start driving and as long as there’s no snow, you can get there in 3 hours.  How can the weather 300 kilometers northwest of Toronto be so dicey?  Well it is.  It is kind of the Buffalo of Canada. The wind comes off the Bay and brings gads of snow.

Then in January it was freezing.

Then in February it started snowing again.  3 feet deep in some places.

Try to imagine how far you would get in a single trip walking in 3 feet deep snow?  3 kilometers, 5 kilometers?  And would you get in an accident in your vehicle on the way up those slippery roads?  We nearly did, twice.  And at one point I had to be towed out of a hole.  Lemons, lemons, lemons!

Walter’s Falls

So, in 3 months, instead of walking from Epping Lookout to perhaps Wiarton, we’ve been stuck in the nothingness of countryside around Walter’s Falls.  I have nothing against Walter’s Falls.  Cute falls, little Inn next to it, but I have grown to hate the road signs to it.  There are many.  Once you get there it feels like Hotel California.  You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Rock Walls West of KOA in Owen Sound

I am determined to make lemonade from this experience.  Despite long drives for short hikes there have been some bright spots.  For one, I’m getting pretty good on snow shoes.  For another, there have been some surprises, like the day we skipped forward by 10 walks and saw Inglis Falls just after a heavy snowfall.  Or, the extraordinary rock wall just west of the KOA in Owen Sound.  Or the caves to the west of the Owen Sound airport.

By the way, the greater Owen Sound area is a pretty big place.  I think I have been walking there for 8 weeks now.

I am still in the game.  You can’t get to where I am on the trail right now and give up.  They tell me the best parts are still to come.

It is this part of the experience that I hope will resonate with you.  Look, I know that the chances are that none of you are ever going to try and walk across Ontario.  That said, it is important to find something challenging in your life, something where you will win and you will lose.  HR can be a tough field to be in. It is helpful to have something else challenging in your life that you succeeded in to refer back to when you just don’t see a positive light.

Do you want ice with your lemonade?  I’ve got a lot of it right now.

Three steps to better retention through improving workplace satisfaction

Photo Credit: Glenn G, Flickr

According to the recent Hays report on Fit and Retention, nearly half of Canada’s working population are unhappy in their current role which means employers have a retention risk on their hands.

The second part of Hays “Fit” Series takes a look at the impact that finding your ideal fit has on workplace satisfaction and what factors could contribute to someone’s dissatisfaction. It’s a challenging balance to have both the right fit as well as career progression and salary to keep your employees happy.

We’ve all hired someone we think is a good fit, but after the “honeymoon stage” they’re less engaged, and less productive – and they might be considering moving to another company in hopes of finding something fulfilling long-term.

What can you do to improve retention?

Before you hire:

1. Make the most of the interview process

Encourage hiring managers to see the interview process as a two-way street – make sure candidates get an accurate information about the work culture so they can also make better decisions. Include questions about management preferences, social behaviour, and preferred work environment. The Fit report also shows that only one in five employers are using behavioural or psychometric testing. These tests can be an excellent addition to your hiring toolbox.

2. Involve the team in the final decision

When considering a new hire you’ve considered how well they will fit with the existing team and their direct manager. Arrange an opportunity for them to interact informally with the team. The number one contributor to an employee feeling they fit in was their direct manager so encourage the manager to take them to coffee to have an informal introduction before making a final job offer to make sure you’re on the same page about the role and their career.

 For your current employees:

3. Ask the right questions

Instead of trying to brainstorm why someone may be unhappy in their current position there is a more straight forward approach to take: ask your employees directly. Identifying the problem and taking steps to address it can inhibit retention issues. Hays has an annual global employee survey with a more than 90% participation rate and our HR team actively looks for ways to improve any issues flagged.

 4. Be seen taking action

When you have the results, release an overview of the findings, and offer specific actions you will take to address the main concerns. The Hays HR team ensures they communicate with all employees to let them know that they’ve been heard, and that changes are in the works. It takes time to implement new programs, so being seen to listen and make changes based on suggestions can go a long way towards re-engaging your workforce.

Get more insight from the Hays “Fit” Series 2: Fit and Retention including a practical exercise for assessing workplace satisfaction.

Hays Canada division manager Rachel Finan has more than 14 years of experience working in HR recruitment, She excels in making the right match and brings expert insight into market trends, employer needs, and candidate requirements.