Monday, May 2, 2011


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - May 2, 2011 (Calgary, AB) – Elevated HR Solutions is pleased to announce the appointment of Jillian Walker to Vice President of Client Experience effective May 20, 2011. Jillian joins Elevated HR bringing a wealth of Human Resources experience and talent to her new post. She has a thorough understanding of client service, employee engagement and human resource programs coupled with a creativity that will help set Elevated HR apart from any other HR outsourcing firm in North America.
Jillian has a Bachelor of Management in Human Resources and a Canadian Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation. In 2010, she was recognized as the HR Rising Star for both Calgary and Alberta. In 2011, she won the prestigious contest “What makes a top employer” by KPMG. Jillian’s seven years of experience has spanned banking, government and non-profit sectors. Her most recent role was in employee engagement within the municipal government.
Among her many community roles, Jillian dedicates her time to Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship, Junior Chamber International, World Skills International and is a member of the Human Resources Institute of Alberta. She is committed to empowering young women, most recently working with Young Women in Business and various universities in British Columbia.
Elevated HR’s business continues to grow at a rapid pace. The addition of Jillian to Elevated HR Solutions has allowed for expansion within Canada and the United States. Michelle Berg will lead operations in Winnipeg to Calgary and Phoenix to San Francisco while Jillian will manage both Vancouver and Seattle. According to Michelle Berg, President & CEO of Elevated HR Solutions, “Jillian definitely compliments our team.  Jillian’s strengths will be an asset to any start-up or small company looking to be a top employer today and into tomorrow.  In addition to that, we will be adding resume and personal branding workshops to our portfolio to ensure new grads are well versed and ready for the corporate world, bringing various generation gaps together.
About Elevated HR Solutions
Elevated HR Solutions was originally launched in 2007 and brings a radical and creative approach to HR.  Developing solutions that actually work for start-ups and small businesses, EHR develops programs and initiatives custom to each organization they work with - all at an affordable rate.  EHR encourages the entrepreneurial spirit and understands what’s most important to increasing the bottom line.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Making the switch

We've decided that we can probably increase functionality etc. through a Wordpress site.   So check out all future blogs at

Monday, April 18, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: The "Unexpected" HR Approach

When Elevated HR Solutions first came into existence, we really wanted to do HR differently.  That's obviously easier said than done.  But in all reality, we were embarrassed to say we were even in HR and that's an issue.  How can we offer a solution to companies if we don't even like what we do?

Dan and Chip Heath, authors of "Made to Stick" say that in order to make an idea stick, you have offer up the unexpected but stay away from the gimmicks.  In saying "We take HR out of the business," we aren't saying that you don't need an HR department.  In fact, we're quite supportive of them (dependent on size of the business that is!)  But traditional HR thinking and strategies need to go.

Does HR need a place at the executive table? Nope - not even maybe.  Screeeeeeech. (That's a record player stopping suddenly.)

Manager's just need to own management. And HR can be there to support them in their quest to becoming great managers.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again - people do not stay in organizations nor are they attracted to organizations because of good HR teams. They stay and are attracted because of good management.  Period.

Taking "Made to Stick" and using the principle of "unexpectedness" into perspective, EHR regularly tries to deliver results from a completely different methodology.  For example, while we have access to "Best Practices" we often ask "Why do want Best Practices?"  We try to figure out the root of the problem to get to a solution.  Sure that sounds familiar and probably like every other organization out there.  But in this example, rather than just trying to keep up with the Jones', we customize ideas that fit the company to propel the company past the Jones' so you don't need to worry about keeping up.

Now that's got to be unexpected, right?  We sure hope so anyway!

We may not be Nordies from Nordstrom's wrapping up a Macy's gift to show how above and beyond they go from a customer service perspective (this makes sense if you read the book), but we certainly aren't your typical HR people - so if your HR team needs some help (new ideas etc.), we are there. And if your company needs some  support because they just aren't big enough for an HR department - we've got solutions that fit (and they aren't one-size fits all!)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Yup - Let's stick to Simple

Think about all of the urban myths out there. From kidney harvesting to using flour as a burn remedy - they all seem to stick in general. But why is that?  Is there a formula? Well according to Chip and Dan Heath, there is.

After the GrowCo conference and listening to Dan Heath speak live, I decided to re-read the book "Made to Stick".  It's truly amazing how reading a book once, before experiencing anything (in my case, before running a business), is almost like reading a book for the first time on the second round, when you can actually put basic points into practice.

The next few blogs will be an attempt to try and get the idea of "Renegade HR" stuck in the heads of my readers, using the book (in chapter by chapter format) as it's base.  This may turn out to be a disaster in which case, I'm certain I'll abandon this notion sooner than later. But for now, this is the direction I'm going in.

The first chapter in "Made to Stick" is all about making your principle idea, simple.  Not so simple that you're dumbing it down and not so compact that it loses intensity.  But simple enough for people to grab on to and just get. 

Now the notion of HR and simplicity do not typically go hand in hand.  In fact, it may be why I have a business in the first place. But it's not that HR can't be simple, it's more to do with the fact that because it's dealing with people we automatically make it complex.  I agree that "one-size-fits-all" based solutions aren't necessarily the way to go, but honestly, breaking the activity into it's simplest form and trying to figure out the end result desired makes whatever program, practice, or strategy in place simple.

A recent example includes the design of a performance review process:

EHR: Why do you want a performance review?
Client:To provide feedback to employees on both their strengths and areas they can improve on.

EHR: Why formalize it?
Client: So we have a record of improvement. And because the employees want it.

EHR: How often do you want to do it?
Client: I like to think I do it all the time. But formally - once a year.

I provide my client with a simple form - one that can be easily populated with four questions to direct conversation.  The response: That's it? It's just too simple.  I laughed.  We discussed it more, I showed him a few templates and we made it more complicated (we added ranking systems, training plans etc.)  After he went through the entire review process with all of his staff, here was his response:

Client: Can we make it more simple for next year? I think I just want a one pager - the form seems to have taken away from a true conversation and mentorship.

It's funny - the simple form made it seem like it was too simple, and yet that's all they client really wanted in the first place.  We have this need to make things more complex.   HR becomes complex because we get in the way of ourselves.  Forms, policies, procedures don't manage people - managers manage people.  An HR support system just makes it simpler (if you let it be, that is.)

Elevated HR Solutions is a new approach to HR and management.  Stop looking at HR as if it's a heavy task weighing on your shoulders and if you ignore the problem long enough it will just go away.  Unfortunately, people issues don't just disappear and that's when HR starts to get really difficult.  We can help you to simplify your management processes (without getting in the way) - after all, I'm sure you've got better ways to spend your time!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Taking on Tony Hsieh of Zappos? Oh boy!

Alright - so admittedly I do not have, nor will I ever have, a company that sells for 1.2 billion dollars.  I actually just have a company that's only 8 months old and there are days when I'm wondering if I'll ever sell it for 1.2 dollars...period.  And of all the businesses to run - I run an HR business with no previous experience of running a business.  So the fact that I am about to write an entire blog questioning Tony Hsieh of Zappos has to sound ludicrous to most.  And yet here I am...

For many of my readers (there are least 2 of least my analytics tell me so!) you will know that I have fallen in love (platonically) with Tony Hsieh ever since the day I read Delivering Happiness.  The core values, the recruiting process, the attention to details is a great combination for employee engagement.  I have always said this will lead the way to insurmountable valuations and profits.  I've encouraged clients to adopt similar tactics and hiring processes in their organizations (at least, how I understood it).  Part of me has even been scheming about ways to move to Vegas and try to work for Zappos myself because I so enjoy the values on paper (a pipe dream really...but I mean, have you seen the cost of real estate down there???)

On April 6th, as part of the GrowCo conference held by Inc. Magazine in Las Vegas, we had the opportunity to check Zappos out.  And true to literary description, the minute I walked in I felt absolutely taken care of. From my name tag ready to go, to a nice water bottle given to me for free - it wasn't lavish, but it was definitely welcoming.  (This is the front desk.)

The minute we walked through the doors we watched a video of a handsome gentleman (who coincidentally, had a Canadian flag on his computer). We spent more time talking to him than listening to the video...besides it was the coles notes version of Tony's book anyway...boring for anyone who is as obsessive about Zappos as I was.

The only rule of the tour: Don't take pictures of financials. I'm pretty sure our tour guide, Rocco, would have kicked some serious a$$ had someone tried to take pictures anyway. We interacted with staff, took close up pictures of everything and anything and had a great time...

Then we get to the recruiting department.  Here I am, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to ask questions and learn. Then someone is asked to press a bell, which launches music and the whole group (almost 10 of them) pick up those stupid shake weights and shake them in unison to a song.  In front...of everyone. (In case you don't know what a shake weight is a close up...oh yeah.)

I then realized I could never work at Zappos.  I was humiliated for them.   This is the group of them (and yes I realize the irony in not only taking a picture, but posting it as well):

At any rate, I continue the tour and we get into the customer service division where Rocco tells us about the longest call on record: 8 hours and 23 minutes with nothing sold.  My new entrepreneur and operational efficiency hat blow off my head.  I mean - what was the point of that?? A beautiful friendship? Are you kidding me? Bah.  I scoffed.  And yet 1.2 billion dollars kept going through my head...

As the tour finished and the obviousness that Zappos should have stocks in the craft store, "Michaels" due to the sheer amount of crap...errr....crafts that hung from every direction possible,  that same number kept going through my head.  I mean, Tony, really?  And as I passed his incredibly dusty desk (I'm certain he's never there...not with all the junk piling up on it anyway...unless I was looking at the wrong desk...which, with all the stimuli there, I very well could have been!) the same thing kept going through my head, "But there is obviously something to this...I mean, he's got to be doing something right...I mean 1.2 billion dollars!" But what was it?

A day later I think I figured it out (now, I was in Las Vegas, slightly hazy in thought process): Instead of a massive advertising campaign or marketing budget, all of their money gets funnelled into an account that pays for walking billboards. And instead of those guys you see spinning signs on the side of the road, advertising, these guys have literally drank the kool-aid and enjoy working at Zappos.  You're never going to get the most fulfilled person to sit answering phones for a living, but if you can make it that much more tolerable, it's natural employees talk about it to their friends and anyone they come across.  And the tours (which they have a significant amount of people dedicated to) are other ways of advertising the business.  Suddenly Zappos becomes a Disneyland ride or tourist attraction and suddenly their sales go up!  It's a genius marketing campaign really - and gets to be called employee engagement instead.

But Tony - don't you think you're taken advantage of just a bit? I mean isn't there a middle ground?  Then again...why am I trying to find a middle ground when you obviously got the equation right....for you.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Human Rights Tribunal and the Courts can have very different opinions

I'm often asked about the differences between a human rights hearing and a court hearing as it relates to employee/employer related matters.  How do they work?  Are they the same? Simply put: Nope, they are not the same. In most cases, the person making the claim does not have to pay anything to make a claim (unlike having to pay for a lawyer).  In addition to that, the Human Rights Tribunal only arbitrates in cases of discrimination (as in the employee was treated unfairly because of their ethnicity, religion, gender etc.)  They are not deciding if a dismissal for example, is unjust.

Here's a recent case of how an Ontario court  overturned a $36,000 Ontario Human Rights tribunal award for discrimination against an Ontario Muslim woman, saying that there was no logical or legal basis for a finding of discrimination.  As you're reading the below information remember this...from start to finish, this took 2 long years of back and fourth hearings.


The Employee:
- Audmax (the Employer) adopted a policy that banned French in the office - the Employee felt like they wrote this policy because she spoke French more than she spoke English
- Audmax banned the heating of certain foods in the microwave (those that were odorous)  - the Employee often brought food from home and heated them in the microwave and felt she was discriminated against (As an aside, I've written this policy multiple times)
- Audmax wrote up the Employee several times because of dress - the Employee originally wore professional office attire, but decided to start wearing loose robes and a head covering to represent her culture.

Audmax (the Employer):
- They implemented a policy to ban French in the office to avoid mistaken impressions (the native French speakers of the firm didn't feel discriminated against and were onside with the policy)
- The policy on microwaving certain foods - they had received multiple complaints from others regarding their allergies and smell sensitivities so they developed a policy.  This also included wearing perfumes etc.
- Dress code - they were supportive of the Employee's hijab (a regular one) but then the Employee started wearing a new hijab which the employee thought looked more professional but the CEO of Audmax felt it was a cap. 
In May of 2008, two Muslims resigned and the Employee felt like she was being targeted.  The Employer admitted they started watching the Employee more closely because she seemed to act more suspicious around the office after the resignations.  On May 27, 2008 the Employer had another disciplinary meeting with the Employee regarding computer use, microwave use, the dress code and handling of files.  As she was on probation, on June 8th the Employer terminated the Employee.   There were multiple violations in her file and they determined she could be let go with cause.

The Tribunal:
- The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal found the language policy and the Employer's monitoring of the Employee were NOT discriminatory because French was not her first language and the Employer had reasonable concerns to keep their eye on her.
- The Tribunal found the microwave policy was discriminatory because it didn't specify the foods
- The Tribunal found the dress code policy was discriminatory saying that making her dress in business attire had an adverse effect on her religious beliefs regarding modest clothing and head covering.  They said the dress code was not essential for the job, particularly the difference in the style of the hijab.

The cost to the employer: $36,000

The employer appealed the award in court...and the decision was over turned!

The Court's Reasoning:
1.) The Tribunal wouldn't allow written testimony from a witness who couldn't make it to the tribunal that day.
2.) Everyone else stopped using the microwave but the Employee - so it was easy to know who was cooking the odorous foods (she wasn't being targeted).
3.) The dress code policy was determined to not be arbitrary and was well known by all staff and all members were informed during the interview process of the dress code - therefore, the Employee was not discriminated against.  Because a traditional hijab was allowed in the past, the Court felt the Employer was accommodating.

Not only did the court overturn the $36,000 decision, they also ordered the Employee to pay $10,000 in costs to the Employer. Ouch!

For more information on the case see Audmax Inc. v. Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, 2011.

My quick thoughts:
- I could see this going either way. It really depended which judge they got in court, and fortunately for the employer they got one that one that sympathized with them.
- I probably would have just let her go, and paid her out not alleging cause.  In the end, the employer received $10,000 back - however, think of all the time (2 years!) the employer had to put into this case.  Fortunately they won.  2 weeks pay would have saved so many headaches and frustrations.

**The information included in the above blog was taken from an article from Canadian Employment Law Today.  The article is called "Employer wins appeal, saves $36,000". It is written by Jeffrey R. Smith.**

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Getting your staff involved in the performance management process

A best practice in performance management is definitely to get a complete review of your employees by utilizing feedback from themselves, from their peers, from their clients, as well as yourself as management.  It's definitely not an easy process to engage in, and dependent on how big your organization/department is, it can be a very arduous task taking careful coordination and constant reminders.  While anonymous information is best, it too can be skewed.  Building your organization up to provide such intricate and a total 360 review of staff can take months, teaching soft skills and ensuring that giving and receving feedback is done so in manner that is respectful.  While feedback is a gift, it's not always perceived that way.

The one recommendation I do make however, is to always get feedback from a self-evaluation point of view before writing the performance review for the employee.  This allows you as the manager to do the following:
1.) You can see if you're actually in alignment with your employees - you can assess to see if they have actually taken cues from your feedback throughout the year and incorporate it into their own self-evaluations.
2.) You can prepare for the interview better, knowing examples they have used and incorporating such ideas into the final performance review.  Working collaboratively will make the process easier, more enjoyable, and gives management great clues into where they need to step up their game in terms of giving feedback throughout the year.

I've had a few managers struggle with this process - but given the alternative, which is walking in cold into a performance review interview, not knowing what your employees are really thinking about their performance - now that's a scary thought!  Getting them involved in the process is truly a great way to start your feedback process!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Inflated Job Titles

I have blogged in the past about job titles - I've said that they can be a great way to reward employees instead of compensation.  I've also recommended when recruiting for new employees to use job titles that will match the external market (in other words, make it so people will understand what the role is, and then change the title to suit the internal culture).  And now, I have a third comment on job titles - giving an inflated title may be a risk for employers and may be disadvantageous for the employee.

How is it a risk to the employer?

Well - admittedly - the biggest risk is during the termination - and I know what you're thinking: I don't give titles out to employees I'm going to terminate.  Sure...that's usually the thought.  But let's say something happens and you still have to make the decision to terminate.  A higher title means a higher pay-out.  One way around that is having an air-tight employment agreement, but even then, if you aren't providing better than common law you could be in trouble as the employer.  In addition to that, bigger titles also deem bigger responsibilities.  If they aren't ready for the responsibility of a Vice President, Officer or Director that could spell trouble for the employer as well.

How is it a risk for the employee?

As an employee to get a great big title, is nice for the ego.  That said, if you ever want to make the leap to a new company, an inflated title could stop you from getting a position you are actually ready for.  As a recruiter, I've often overlooked people with big titles on resumes because I don't want them to be bored.  In fact, a friend of mine was recently let go and she had a title of Senior Vice President.  There are very few SVP's out there and she would be happy with any management position. She simply changed her title on her resume to say HEAD of and she's been getting a lot more calls.  However, it could still hurt her (why is your LinkedIn Title different than what's on your resume?)

I'm all for great titles and being creative when it comes to developing titles - but be realistic at the same time.  Chiefs, Directors, and Vice Presidents aren't to be taken lightly.  If you're handing them out, make sure you've addressed it in your Employment Agreements at the very least!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: An Ode to My Clients

I have had an amazing journey as an entrepreneur.  I am writing this today because the last few months I have realized something - that each client that I align myself with has brought daily smiles to my face and I have gained an even stronger sense of purpose.  I want it on record, that I am truly grateful for all of my clients to date.

To the clients that say, "You're right, but..." and challenge me to think out side of the box.

To the client that said, "I don't want to talk about this today. It's not Friday afternoon talk."

To the client that said, "Where were you 3 years ago?"

To the client that has given me numerous recommendations and accolades during my very short tenure with them -- all of you truly make this worthwhile!

T H A N K - Y O U!

It's just not said often enough...


Monday, February 28, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Running a business is like running a marathon...

A few weeks ago now, an amazing entrepreneur and mentor here in Calgary wrote a blog post making the analogy that chess and business are very similar.  Very succinctly, Cameron talks about 3 lessons he has learned about business from the game of chess.  You can find the full blog post here:

That said, I'm doing some of my own learning lately and have easily made the analogy that running a marathon is very much like running a business.  Here are some important lessons I'm learning along the way:

1.) Deciding that you will sign up and run a marathon tomorrow, without any planning (and/or training) to do so will ultimately end up in a great big fail.  Similarly, the guy that decides today that he will quit his job and tomorrow start a business probably shouldn't expect too much in terms of success either.  A solid plan for both successfully running a marathon and successfully running a business needs to be devised before diving head first into the activity.  Sticking to that plan will help you to optimize your success.

2.) When training for the marathon, I have found that my plan occassionally needs a tweak here and there. If I noticed that my legs were giving out a bit during my long run, it's imperative to address the issue immediately so that I am able to continue on my journey to 26.2 miles.  The same goes with running a business - a plan is essential, but if it's not working or if there is another direction one needs to go in, you must address it, not sometime or some day, but as soon as you recognize there may be an issue. 

3.) Prioritization is equally important in both training for a marathon and running a business.  Life can get in the way of a well orchestrated plan.  If you can only get to one type of run in your weekly training schedule, it's essential to get your long run in (this sentiment is echoed by elite marathon runner Josh Cox in this youtube video  Similiarly, in business, the activities that are going to produce the greatest results sales/revenue/growth wise are the areas you need to focus on most.  In other words, by focusing on the key drivers of the business will ensure the business prospers.  If I decided to just blog all day, rather than pick up the phone to return a call to a potential client, I'm not doing the business any justice.  The blog is secondary to the primary sales call.

Speaking of which...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Confession Time...Recruiters Beware

In August I launched Elevated HR Solutions as it is today (a reactive, outsourced approach to human resources for small to medium sized businesses) but during that time I've been applying to jobs in the Human Resources field for 2 reasons:

1.) I needed an ego boost to see if I could get the job (am as I good as I think I am? ;)
2.) Everything I know has been self-taught in a lot of ways (I faked it till I made it) and wanted to learn what  big corporations did in the interview process that would be different than mine

So here's the confession:  After 11 resumes sent out, 9 phone interviews, 7 in-person interviews resulted in 5 job offers.  Boo-yah!  And I never intended to take one of them! (Pssst - that's the confession!)

The Worst Interview:  I'd love to tell you who it was with but I think that may just be mean spirited. I didn't get the job offer either, so it could also be seen as me retaliating (which I'm not - I swear!)  After the walk through the back-office, which seemed eerily like a walk-of-shame (employees not smiling, not wanting to make eye contact, no personal possessions on any desk) I had already made the decision this was not a place I wanted to work...ever.  As I sat down in front of two women doing the interview, who also could not hold eye contact with me,  I knew I too, was written off immediately.  And then the scoring began for each of my answers. Since they weren't looking at me, I could also glance at their sheets and see they were scoring me on a scale of 1 to 5.  And for each question I gave, I saw my score.  And while I did okay on some questions, I had to laugh at the situation.  All I could think was, "Note to self: This is how NOT to do an interview."  The funniest part was the email rejection letter I received had the wrong name in it.  Dear Sasha... We regret to inform you that...Classy.

The Best Job Interview: Admittedly, it was exactly the type of organization I could see myself working at, so it was easy to be enthusiastic and do the research before hand.  They were also super bummed that I turned them down and almost felt duped when they found out the truth (I felt I had to tell them at the end!)  A couple of things came out of it for me: I got to be interviewed by potential clients (in other words, department heads as well as employees outside of the HR department), they asked me to put a presentation together about myself and my style (rather than them asking canned questions and me firing out canned answers), they took me for a tour prior to my presentation and had me speak to several others that weren't involved in the presentation, and finally at the end when I asked if there were any questions, I could tell they had done their research on ME! They had actually read my twitter account, my blog and checked out my LinkedIn page. It felt great knowing they were investing themselves in the process as much as I was investing myself into theirs.

It's good to know that great organizations exist out there - and that there are those company's that are committed to the recruitment process.  I've said it before and I'll say it again (and I'm sure I got this quote from some one else) - you take years before you decide to make a decision on a potential spouse, why would you rush the recruitment decision when you will be spending 40 hours+ a week with this person?  Be creative with your approach to hiring - especially if fit is what is most important.  Get the community involved in the hiring approach and your results will be worth it in the end.

By the way - I couldn't convince the company that outsourcing was the way to go...but I did make a good impression on the manager and she still calls me occassionally to see what I would do in certain situations.  Because I feel like I owe them something, I never hesitate to answer!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Who says Compensation Can't Be Easy?

Who says compensation can't be easy? Pretty much every book you pick up on the topic - that's who.  Twenty-seven chapters later (and a background as an HR Professional)  I'm just as lost as the next guy.  And like most people - if you can't get it from a book, the next logical step is probably to hire a consultant. Look at all that potential compensation walking out the door!

However, I'm convinced that it's possible to make it simple and easy to follow and have been successful in doing so for my clients.  Considering there isn't a whole lot of help out there on the topic I figure now it's time to publish a resource that small business owners and entrepreneurs can pick up and implement - and not drown in a myriad of details.

Simply put, I'm writing the book and even have a publisher on side...that is IF I can prove I can do the above!  In other words - concept accepted but now I have to actually do something about it!

So I'm looking for the opinions from small business owners and entrepreneurs as well as HR professionals who work in organizations with 3 employees and beyond, in any industry, in any province or state.  All I need is a simple survey to be filled out that will most likely take 20 minutes of your time.  Quotes may be used in the book, ideas will definitely be used, and most importantly - the book will be targeted towards the feedback from the survey to help the intended audience of managers and HR professionals alike.  The end result - employers who have employees who understand how and why they get paid what they do (and therefore, that much more engaged!)

Do you have time to fill out a survey? If so, email me at to let me know you're interested.

Here is the link to the survey:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Selecting an HRO

So here you are: You've grown your organization to a pretty good size, where it's evident you could use some help when it comes to the administration and support of your employees.  You are officially presented with 2 choices - hire an HR manager/advisor and officially proclaim an HR department OR bring on an Human Resource Outsourcer (HRO). 

Here are some things to keep in mind if bringing on an HR Manager/Department:

1.) Someone on staff now has intimate details of your employees: From salary to performance to possible terminations.  You need to trust this person implicitly and they need to know how to temper internal relationships and friendships.  Conversations may happen and information that shouldn't be shared often is.

2.) Your overhead suddenly goes up exponentially with a full-time salary on board.  While they are providing operational efficiencies, it's a hard one to quantify in real numbers.  Plus, they get vacation and benefits and training on TOP of their base salary.

3.) When an HR manager recommends programs, they usually do so based on their own wants and experiences. As an employee it's pretty hard to not be biased.  I remember really pushing for a maternity top up program and a Health Spending Account...and I had all the back-up in the world that supported my claims too!

All of this goes away when you bring on a Human Resource Outsourcer (HRO).  However, it wouldn't be right if I didn't say to take precautions with them as well.  Here is a list of questions you should ask when looking at an HRO:

1.) How hands-on do you want to be / can you be?

2.) Do you have options or are you a “one-sized fits all” solution center?

3.) Do you provide the basics or can you help with implementation?

4.) Do you want to be purely strategic or purely administrative?

5.) Do you offer solutions for employee questions as well as management support?

6.) Do you provide reports and statistics that will help with budget and planning seasons?

7.) Do you offer an employee benefits solution?

8.) Do you have a payroll solution?

The answers should be in alignment with what you need and what you want.  It's tough to know what you don't know - but a good HRO will be able to walk you through how to determine what you need, recommend how it can be done and of course, do it all at your pace.

And yes - I'm an HRO with clients all over Western Canada!  I support employers with 3 to 125 employees.  On top of it - I love what I do!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Social Media Policy Anyone?

UPDATE: Read Gowlings opinion on the latest Facebook Termination:

"So, this whole social media thing isn't going away is it?" 

I smiled at the question and shook my head softly.  A potential client and I just sat down to a coffee when he noticed an individual with their lap top open next to him, clearly engaging in a Twitter conversation and flipping back and forth to Facebook.  "No sir, it definitely is not."

"Did you see our Facebook page?" he asked.  "Of course I did. I wanted to learn as much as I could about you and your company."  "Really?" he laughed, "Would you believe I haven't even seen our Facebook page?" I was slightly taken aback, "Really? Why not?" "Because I thought the whole thing was kind of stupid."  I smiled.  This again, was not the first time I had heard this story.

"Who's writing your material for you?" I asked. "A couple of the employees came to me with the idea. I said I wanted nothing to do with it, but they could do whatever,"  he said. I sat back, and must have had a concerned look on my face. "I take it that's probably not a good idea?" he asked.  "Well - it's not that you have to be involved, but these people are speaking on your behalf. Are you sure their thoughts are consistent with yours? Facebook and Twitter are pretty powerful tools if used right.  Your employees could also completely wreck your brand if you don't set out the right parameters."

"So you're saying I should be more involved?"

"I think so, yes.  At the very least, perhaps draw up a social media policy and give your employees parameters to work within.  Once they know the rules, you are protecting not only them but your company and hopefully your brand.  The policies don't need to be super strict and I have an easy way of sorting out what's best for you and your company.  The policy doesn't need to stay static - it can be a living document.  I just think we need to do what's right for you and your company right now."

Does your company have a social media policy? If's your chance to build one...for FREE!
FEBRUARY SPECIAL:  I'm a Valentine's Day sucker (even though it's about as commercial of a holiday as one can possibly get) and as such, I'm offering a Valentine's Day Special:  The Development of a Social Media Policy for any small to medium sized businesses in the month of February (completely customized to your management style and type of company).  The best part: It's FREE!

Even if you aren't engaging in an actual strategy for your company, your employees are. This is a simple way for you to protect your company, protect your brand and protect your employees.  Email me at for more information!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Video Resumes Are Here!

Yup - it's official - I have finally received my first video resume!

Verdict:  I LOVE the idea of it.  It certainly got my attention (similar to how a heavy stock paper resume that comes to me in the mail still gets me every time!)   However, I don't really know very much about the person, so the 5 minute intro wasn't used as well as it could have.  But interestingly enough I'm still thinking about much so that I'm writing about him.  So whether or not it was good or bad, right now I want to find out more and that's exactly what a job seeker should aim to do!

Perhaps the trend continues or perhaps it will take a while to catch on.  I think the key learning out of this for me is this: Job seekers - definitely dare to be different! A foot in the door is better than the door slammed in your face! The best places to work are still tough to get into - if you're the best person for the organization, make it known!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Dare to be different with job postings

So admittedly, I am a total Tony Hsieh worshipper. I am enamoured with his book, "Delivering Happiness", I go to both his sites regularly ( and and try to read as many of his employee's blogs that I can find. So it's probably not really a surprise to you that I push his book where I can and quote him and his stories regularly, especially when I'm trying to prove to my clients that employee engagement really does lead to higher profits.

If you download the book on your iPod, you will hear Tony actually reading it out loud, but his staff also have been asked to read their emails or passages or thoughts about Zappos intermittenly throughout. One of the excerpts is written and read by their recruitment manager, who prior to joining Zappos was a recruiter and when she joined Zappos she wanted to do anything BUT recruit. That was, until she was given the reigns and recruit in her own way.

When I first started Elevated HR Solutions - I definitely wanted to stay away from recruiting too. I certainly wasn't passionate about it and thought that there were enough of them in Calgary that I didn't need to try and be part of that. However, it always seemed to be something my clients struggled with to do on their own. It was incredibly expensive to get a recruiter to do it for them (typically 15 to 25% of first year salary), they didn't really know how to articulate their cutlure, never mind their job postings and everything was a race for finding talent (taking a bit of time, wasn't really an option). But seeing as I push the necessity of employee engagement in organizations, I realized that it begins with hiring the right people and so...I started recruiting again.

That said - I needed to find a way to get passionate about recruitment and take some risks to fuel that passion. Writing the same old job posting had just gotten old and boring for me. Go to any of the current job sites right now - all the job postings are the same: "Come work for us because our company is great, our leadership is great...yadda yadda yadda." Yawn. I'm bored. There are a few good ones out there though:

Here's a quick and easy piece of advice that isn't really rocket science: your company's culture must be represented in your job ads. It's just that simple. If you want to change your culture, then you need to hire the right people to help you. You need to figure out the culture you want, develop a code, a mantra, a maxim (whatever you want to call it) - and hire to that.

So admittedly, not all clients want to be as out there as my last ad: but I have to say this - I pretty much got the biggest response I have ever gotten from a job posting - and people who weren't even in IT wanted to be in IT because of this ad.

Here are some quotes from emails:

"I'm interested by the tone of the ad on Workopolis and your website. Thanks for the lift to my day" -- Kary

"What a great ad on Workopolis! Creative and foosball – I want to play!" -- Sam

"I was intrigued by your jobs posting, didn't quite understand what you were looking for (i.e. the pulse thing), but again intrigued enough to want to find out more." -- David

It's true - you can't just post an ad and pray that someone applies (I stole that from a conversation I had with Geoff Webb of Radical Recruitment today) because it simply doesn't work that way. You have to build a strategy and if you want a piece of the action when it comes to recruitment sticking to the same old same old doesn't work either. You got to be a little bold and a little bit out there to attract even the talent that IS looking - and then as much as you are talking the talk, you gotta walk the walk in the interview process. A great candidate pool will lead you to not only a great employee, but greater customer service, productivity and last but certainly not least, greater profits.

If you don't believe me - just ask Tony Hsieh what he did to get himself a 1 billion dollar deal with Amazon. He'll say it's the people every time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Titles and Job Postings - Is there something in a name?

When it comes to developing a job posting and asking the question "Does title matter?" it's akin to asking "Does size matter?" The answer is obvious - of course it does!

Here's why:

1.) When people have finally made the decision to start looking for a job, and become an active job seeker rather than a passive job seeker, they go to job sites and start their search.  The process is simple: They log onto their search engine or the job site in general and type in the position they are seeking.  Initially, the company is not what is important -- they are simply searching for the position that matches their skill sets (fun, innovative companies come second in terms of who they apply to).

2.) People that are currently in junior to intermediate roles are looking for a specific role (typically, a step up).  They rarely will take a step down or a step laterally (unless the company they work for is absolutely awful).  Most job seekers are looking for that next step in their growth or development.  So if they are currently an associate, an advisor, a coordinator etc. they will automatically skim past those same positions posted even if it is a senior position for the company who has posted it.

3.) Anything that asks for more than 5 years of experience IS a senior role which demands higher compensation, higher education and more responsibility.  If the position is titled incorrectly, a lower calibre resume will come in for the role causing more work for the recruiting team.  Being concise with titles in the job description in comparison to market will help all recruitment efforts.

4.) Even if the title is different internally (for example, one of my clients call their executive assistants "Intuitive Support" (which is awesome)) they certainly didn't post it as such on the job sites.  They did explain however in the interview that they like to get creative with titles and that it most likely would switch should the candidate accept the position.  

At the end of the day - if you want people to find your posting and have the RIGHT people apply for your role, it has to be easy to search for (in terms of key words).  If you have a quirky organization, you can describe that with the design and the words you choose to define the position.  But the first goal is reaching the right people.

I'd love to say that I do something different than support "Human Resources" but if I told a potential client that I support "Mortal Assets" (the thesaurus at it's best), they probably would think I was on crack or about to release a take on a famous video game from the early '90's.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Terminations are never easy but they don't need to be hard

During the last while, I have had the privilege of meeting with many small business owners to discuss how I can take the "HR out of the business".  The topic of choice always seems to land on terminations.  I've been through my fair share of corporate terminations (one of which even ended in my life being threatened, but that's another blog in itself) and have certainly learned what to do and more importantly, what NOT to do.  It is an art - as are many actions integral to the HR world.

Unfortunately, I often get asked to come into an organization AFTER something bad has happened (reaction).  At any rate, this particular client had just gone through a "terrible" termination and were literally exhausted by the whole ordeal.  They claimed they had warned the employee over and over again that if the behaviour continued they would eventually end the employment with them and after 3 months of no change, the finally let the person go.  They claimed it was due to performance and then provided the statutory amount of pay as legislated by the province (thinking they were being nice).

The client did have a couple of things going for them:

A.) They had a policy on corrective discipline
B.) They had sat down with the employee multiple times
C.) They had a signed action plan

While it never went to court, lawyers eventually settled on an additional 4 weeks of pay (for a total of $8,425 settlement plus legal fees.)

"So let me get this straight..." I said, slowly, trying to comprehend the story. "So you spent 90 days, trying to coach someone, who you knew was inevitably uncoachable, and you still had to pay them out an additional 4 weeks of what you originally offered? Where's his employment agreement? Where's his termination letter?"

Pausing, they said they didn't really have an employment agreement and as for the termination letter, they just gave him his record of employment and told him it was over. Further to that, when I audited his employee file, there was only one action plan and no evidence of follow-up.

3 learnings came out of this:

1.) Ensure you have an employment agreement that stipulates what may happen upon termination without cause (remember, this is different per province and must comply with minimum provincial statutes).  You may elect to provide more (to mirror common law) but this is not mandatory.
2.) If you go so far as to have a policy on how corrective discipline works in your organization, you may as well follow it.  Remember - if you're already going so far as to writing down an action plan, meeting weekly, having crucial and tough conversations - you better make sure it is supported in writing that the employee understands the consequences if the behavior continues.  The consequences MUST be laid out.
3.) Always ensure a termination letter is included in the termination package. And the wording should be laid out in such a way that protects the organization.  In other words, "Effective immediately, your services are no longer required and we are terminating your employment agreement as per section 7.1, dated June 1, 2010. We relieve you of your job responsibilities immediately, so you may secure alternative employment."
4.) Finally - there is no such thing as little bit of cause.  If you are paying out something anyway, you are not alleging cause and therefore, should make no mention of poor performance or WHY you are letting go of the individual.  Yes, it FEELS like the right thing to do (to explain it) but don't get caught up in the emotions of it.  Pay them what is required inform them their services are no longer needed.  If you believe you have the right to terminate someone without pay, then you are alleging cause and you have to have ample proof that you can prove in court.

There is nothing nice about terminations.  You are responsible to  to do it humanely and discreetly to avoid Wallace damages / punitive damages, but that doesn't mean getting into a conversation. It's quick and simple.

What would I have done if I were working with the client prior to the termination?

After 2 weeks of coaching and clearly no improvement, knowing what the final solution was going to be...I'd have let him go.  Thank him for his services, pay him a bit more than what legislation requires, get him to sign a release for the additional monies and be done.  I save time (there is no credit given in court for the amount of "coaching" you do), I save legal fees (even it's lawyers talking to each other) and ultimately I've mitigated my overall risk (a bad seed in a organization can do more damage than what's at the surface.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: Employee Engagement

I had the extreme pleasure of presenting to a group of business owners, CEOs and senior managers this past week on the topic of employee engagement.  I was given an hour and a half, and admittedly was initially overwhelmed of where to start.  I have often complained that the only people who are talking or caring about employee engagement are fellow HR colleagues and here I was: Presenting to the audience I've always wanted.

As much as I was there to teach and facilitate, I had the opportunity to listen and learn a lot myself.  At the end of the day I think we all were reminded that Employee Engagement isn't rocket science. Nothing I said was new or extremely innovative - just gentle reminders of how to improve it and how it can really boost an organization in terms of sales, profits, productivity and customer service.  The main points touched on were reminders that if you are having issues with motivation, complacency and employee engagement in general, it starts with the top. They have to put the time and energy in to engaging their employees.  No one else (including myself) can do it for them.

If you need help in identifying whether your employees are engaged or not - ask them.  It's a great first step!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Elevated HR Solutions: New Years Resolutions May Mean Higher Turnover

Just like clockwork, the end of the first week of 2011 had my phone ringing non-stop.  Employees have decided to resign and my clients (and potential clients) need help to replace and/or have asked me to complete exit interviews of their departing staff.

Unfortunately this was not a surprise to me as unemployment rates have started to drop as recovery from the recession continues and employees start to feel confident enough to look for a change. Those companies that used the phrase, "Stick with us during the hard times and we'll reward you when we get through it," need to either pony up or watch their A-Stars leave. This is the perfect time for it - as New Year's resolutions are most acted upon within the first to two weeks of the new year. 

If your company still can't necessarily afford raises or bonuses (or any of those recession promises made), a company's next greatest defence is communication.  Grab your A-Players and make sure that they know they are that (A-Players). Remember - the whole carrot and the stick trick is running out.  So try to give them something like meaningful praise or maybe an extra day or two off before things get crazy in 2011, or perhaps a gift certificate for dinner and an offer to pay for the sitter for a night - anything that would be customized to the person's life outside of work that says, "We care! We want you here!"

If you can get through January, you've got a chance to keep them hooked again for the year.  Of course, employee engagement and employee enablement initiatives should technically last more than a month - but that's another blog!

Happy New Year All!