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!