Office Break News had the pleasure to spend a day with Dann Konkin, President of Ampco Manufacturers and Ampco Graphics. Where we had the rare opportunity to get behind the scenes and see just what it takes to be one of the largest Canadian printing organizations.
During our day at Ampco, we asked Dann some questions that we have wanted to ask him for a long time. Find out what Dann says in the video below.
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The vision for the Wuxly Movement was born out of love. In 2012, pro-football player James Yurichuk moved back to Toronto from British Columbia. James quickly realized that he needed to buy his girlfriend Daniela her first winter coat, as she was immigrating to Canada from a more temperate Brazil. In his search for the perfect parka James could not find anything that matched their values.
Noticing the quality of Canadian made jackets, James saw an opportunity to evolve from Canada’s rich manufacturing heritage by utilizing innovative and sustainable fabrics, while peacefully leaving animals out of the equation.
James approached Anthony DeBartolo, his best friend and Master Tailor to help with design and fit. Together they created the first vegan Wuxly parka with the intent to keep Daniela warm and in Canada. The parka worked. Daniela settled in Toronto and married James in the dead of winter the following year.
James and Anthony continue to make jackets that enable people to #livewarm in both body and soul.
WHAT MAKES WUXLY MOVEMENT A GREAT COMPANY
Wuxly Movement is a Canadian apparel brand founded on love and the philosophy that we can be kinder to our planet. Our mission is to inspire our community to live warm in our coats and in everyday life. In addition to performance and style, our ethical products are the work of Canadian experts, crafts-people, and industry leaders dedicated to excellence. Through the unique combination of innovative, sustainable and animal-free materials, Wuxly Movement designs quality outerwear to help people #LiveWarm.
MADE IN CANADA
What’s a parka without it’s Canadian heritage? A Wuxly parka is inspired by Canada’s rich history in manufacturing, making quality and super warm garments that will last for many seasons. Our dedication at Wuxly is to reshore manufacturing by producing locally with experts in our community. Manufacturing locally means our Canadian craftspeople have a safe work environment and are being treated with respect and warmth. The people who make our apparel are just as important as those who wear our products; the Canadian way.
We are dedicated to rebuilding our national tradition of craftsmanship and quality within Canada. Our Canadian apparel is crafted with care by Canadian experts and designed to last for years to come. It’s our focus to make innovative and stylish designed modern classics fit for any climate. We pride ourselves on being Canadian made with nods towards traditional parkas. Using the latest in innovative fabrics, materials and styles our quality crafted outerwear respects our heritage intermixed with sustainability for the future.
From the beginnings of Wuxly we have been dedicated to peacefully leaving animals out of our products. While Canadian parkas are traditionally made with fur and feathers, our team at Wuxly is committed to using superior and sustainable, animal-free materials without compromising warmth. With our love for nature and technology, we have found a unique combination of innovative materials that insulate and style our outerwear. We believe we can have it all, protecting animals, helping our planet and keeping people warm.
More about Wuxly Movement
Year Founded: 2014
Company size: 51 - 200 employees
Industry: Apparel & Fashion
Specializes in: Winter Fashion
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David as Co-founder: BRAND/BUSINESS
Our CEO and Co-founder David started Two Bears from the back of his van and has never looked back since. His ambition, grit, ability to figure out any problem and inability to take “no” for an answer moves our company forward. David is driven by self-improvement and meaningful connections; his spirit is truly what makes the Two Bears brand so special. He is committed to helping others be the best they can be, and the way he conducts business is a complete reflection of that. From boxing, to learning Spanish to making the perfect eggs, nothing he does is half-hearted and we’re faithful for our future because of it.
Joe as Co-founder: PRODUCT/CRAFT
Our not-so-average Joe, Co-founder and EXPERT on all things coffee is our resident family-man who brings true craft to Two Bears. “Average” just isn’t in his nature. From brewing beer at home to making the perfect pizza, his unmatched passion and commitment to craft is our secret ingredient. His days are filled with finding Two Bears the best beans and roasting practice, constantly innovating to bring you the best possible product. He truly puts his heart and then some into everything he does. Joe started a cafe a decade ago and has compounded his expert knowledge into the essence of Two Bears Coffee. Thanks for keeping us above average, Joe.
What makes the company and products great
We created a company that we want to work at, with products that we want to drink. Inspired by a life that allows you to connect to the world, not just your immediate circumstance, we chose craft oat milk and coffee to fulfill those inspirations, then elevated our vision and products to scale our audience and appeal. Picture a craft brewery, except for everything plant-based that uses the most artisanal procedures to extract the best taste from our finely procured ingredients sourced locally and across the globe.
Our mission is to energize your mission, your moments. In a world of influence, our hope is to reconnect you with you so that you can make meaningful connections with the world around you. We craft the freshest, frothiest energy for you to sip and turn into whatever you need that day – human connection, motivation, creativity, confidence, slowness... we encourage you to craft your moment with Two Bears, whatever that moment may be.
For us, a sip of Two Bears takes us to the ingredient’s origins; from a vast Colombian hillside overlooking a local coffee farm, to enjoying a beautiful, breezy afternoon on an oat farm in Saskatchewan. Where does your sip take you?
Benefits for the Bears (customers):
More about Two Bears
Year Founded: 2014
Company size: 11 - 50 employees
Industry: Food and Beverages
Specializes in: Oat Milk, Plant Based Beverages, Specialty Coffee, Flash Brew Coffee, Oat Milk Lattes.
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In business today, it is not enough to provide high quality products along with an excellent customer experience. Sure, those are extremely important. But the rate of change happens so quickly, that teams need to be good at finding new and better ways to serve their customers. This is not easy, especially when our human brains are wired for structure and comfort zones.
Creating a culture where teams are encouraged to find new innovative ideas and effective at testing and implementing them with customers is essential if your business is going to thrive long-term.
If this is something you struggle with in your business or team, try being intentional to implement these 5 habits.
Understand Your Customers
To just be innovative without first understanding your customers runs the high risk of churning out ideas that are “Innovation for the Sake of Innovation”. They may be “cool” or “neat” ideas, but are they products or services that anyone actually needs and sees value in?
Highly innovative teams know that understanding your customers is what allows your innovation to not just find new and better ways of doing things, but to find new and better ways of adding value for your customers. Knowing and empathizing with your customers must come first.
Imagine for a moment that you do not choose to invest in tools and strategies to gain insight into your customers. You did not analyze your data to see the trends it told you. You did not have a workable understanding of your various customer segments, personas, and their value to your business. You did not invest the time and effort to fully understand and then empathize with your most valuable customers and know what their wants and needs are. Nor did you invest the time and effort to fully understand your next level of customers and what it would take to make them more valuable to your organization. You would not truly know who your customers are, their habits, their trends, and most importantly why they buy your product or service.
If you have not put these strategies and tools in place, then where would you start with your innovation? The answer is that you would either be starting from a company/product focus or maybe even starting blind. Neither of these are a great place to begin.
Question Your Assumptions and Biases
Each person on your team is like a snowflake. We are all different in one way or another. Various personalities, communication styles, cultural beliefs, and family dynamics go into making us who we are. Some of the biggest influences that shape us and how we think and act are all of the various experiences we have had over our lifetimes.
Someone who was violently chased or even bitten by a dog at a young age is likely to have a bias against dogs, for example. A person who had happy family vacations to exotic and stimulating places as a child is likely to have a positive bias toward the need to travel and explore. The list of possible experiences we have throughout our lifetimes is endless and creates many biases, good and bad. Both as individuals and as a team.
So, what’s the problem? When it comes to innovation, we need our minds to be open to possibilities and new ideas. When we have biases, we may have a tendency to shut down ideas before they get a chance to be tested.
Highly innovative teams develop effective habits for recognizing when assumptions and biases may be holding them back and create a safe environment for questioning those beliefs. This helps to uncover the innovative gold that could be berried underneath those obstacles.
Implement Diversity and Inclusion
We hear diversity and inclusion mentioned frequently in the business world. They can easily become buzzwords. But when it comes to innovation, diversity and inclusion should be taken seriously.
Let’s start with diversity. Contrary to some people’s thinking, innovation is not a solo sport. All people deemed creative get their inspirations from many different sources. The worst thing you can do when putting together a team to solve problems, brainstorm new ideas, and be creative is to fill the room with like-minded people. The more diversity you can have, the more ideas you will come up with. The more ideas you come up with, the more exceptional ideas you will come up with.
In short, more diversity in the room leads to more and better ideas. But what does diversity look like?
Diversity should mean that different types of people in the company are included in various brainstorming sessions. Ideally you would have people from a variety of departments, management as well as front-line representation, people from different age groups, and different cultural backgrounds. Each of these people is likely going to see the problem differently. This is a good thing. You want as many different perspectives as you can, then the ideas will start to fly.
This is where inclusion comes in. If diversity can be described as being invited to the party, then inclusion can be described as being asked to dance. In other words, you can have as many different types of people and perspectives around the table as you want, but if they do not feel as if their thoughts are encouraged and valued, then you do not have inclusion. In those cases, your diversity might just be for show.
In order to really stimulate innovative discussions, highly innovative teams understand that everyone in the room should know and feel like their opinions matter.
Be Agile and Develop Prototypes, Pilots, and MVPs
“Go big or go home.” We often hear this phrase in many circles. The inference is that you should not hold back when it comes to committing to things. Put your money where your mouth is. Go all in. However, when it comes to innovation and going forward with a new idea, highly innovative teams utilize a different strategy. “Go small or not at all.”
If you have successfully implemented the first three principles of innovation, your team should be generating many exciting new ideas. The urge may be to get started as fast as you can on taking these ideas to market and begin to capitalize on them. You may be tempted to start putting together budgets and project plans and getting everyone on board with how and when to launch this new product, service, or business. However, you need to temper that excitement somewhat. The best way to find out if this is a good idea is to see how your customers react.
As a team, discuss how you can spend as little amount of time, money, and effort in order to get something in front of your customers and receive their feedback.
Get Feedback and Learn Fast
If you are to take a more agile approach to bringing your ideas to market, and you get skillful at it, you should find many benefits. However, if your main objectives are only to save time and money, then you are missing the biggest reward.
In order to consider your innovative products or services a success, you need customers to see value in these products and services. What agile prototypes, and minimum viable products (MVPs) give you is your customers’ perspective, their feedback, and their input on your ideas. How do they react to your new product or service or business idea? Is it solving their problems like you thought it would? Is it causing new problems? Are they encountering any gaps or frustrations? This information is the gold you are looking for. If you put innovation practices into place in your company, come up with several new ideas, and take your top idea and deliver a prototype to a pilot group of customers, then you have been following some sound innovation practices.
Now what happens if your prototype is met with negative feedback from your customers? Have you failed? Has your idea failed? You should only consider this a failure if you have not learned from the experience. The process is a failure only if you fall short in determining why the pilot did not resonate with your customers.
Highly innovative teams treat all customer feedback (positive and negative) as gold. Remember habit #1 of highly innovative teams? Understand your customers. This brings everything full circle.
Don’t just try to survive in today’s business landscape. Set your company up to thrive through a culture of innovation.
Now that you have clicked on this article, the three P's must have caught your attention a great deal. I will tell you that what you are about to read, won't be anything new or unknown to you. This is just a little reminder to get you back on the horse as they say and continue on your journey to success.
PASSION - we all know that being passionate about your work is what will keep you in that particular job or industry for many years to come. The reason for it is quite simple, without passion, you are bound to quit the moment things don't workout the way you have hoped. With passion though, you would still be continuing on nevertheless. The guy that goes golfing every weekend, he is not doing it because he will someday be the next Tiger Woods.
He is doing it because he loves it, he does not need to talk himself into golfing in order to succceed, he just simply enjoys it. So much so that he is willing to make the drive, pay the money and spend the time doing so. Without passion, it will be very difficult to keep going when things get difficult.
PERSISTENCE - it is quite an interesting thing when you hear that most people quit right before they are about to succeed. Isn't that interesting, they have worked so hard for so long and right when success in around the corner they quit and start something else from scratch. Think about Mcdonald's, the burgers and fries most of us love so much. If you have watched the movie The Founder, you would have seen that Ray Kroc, even though he was an older man, did not give up on his dream to make something great and ended up achieving it many decades on than originally planed. It was all thanks to his persistence, that the world now knows Mcdonald's so well.
PATIENCE - Success won't come right away, you must be patient. Think about the last potential client you spoke with, it is quite hard to get someone to agree on a deal right away, it usually is a process and patience is key. As they say, Rome was not built in a day, it takes time to create a great business or land the perfect job. But by working hard and being patient, the reward will come on its own.
So remember the three P's. Passion, Persistence and Patience! I wish you all the best in your future endeavours!
As a business owner or leader, do you ever hope that your brand, your company, your products or services just blend in with the rest of your competition?
Do you aim to be the company where people see what they do as “just a job”? Where employees have no real sentiment and devotion for their role or the business?
Of course not!
Most business owners and leaders would strive to build a brand their customer crave and a company their employees are passionate to work for.
Those are the goals (or at least they should be), but getting there is an entirely different story. In order to achieve both of these goals (which are equally important to the long-term success of your company) you must understand that there are 3 principles involved.
You must first understand that the biggest challenge all businesses are facing is indifference. Yes, indifference. Not profits, or scaling, or great marketing, and so on. As important as they all are, those are all either bi-products or add-ons to what your main focus should be. Solving Indifference.
You see, the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. And indifference shows up in two different (but related) ways.
You have indifferent customers when there is no compelling reason for them to buy your product or service rather than your competitors’. When there is nothing unique about your brand, your products, how you serve people, then people will neither love nor hate your business. You will just blend in. They will be indifferent towards you.
You have indifferent employees when there is no compelling reason for them to be passionate about getting out of bed and coming to work each day. This happens when your business does not serve a strong purpose, or when you have a culture of complacency (i.e. “This is how we have always done it around here”). In these scenarios, people neither love nor hate their job, it’s just a job. They are indifferent.
Understanding that these are the two biggest challenges your business should be focused on solving (continuously) is critical to your long-term success.
This brings us to the next principle.
Since indifferent customers and employees are the main challenges you need to be focused on, that means your two main goals should be to a) build a brand that customers crave and b) build a company that people are passionate to work for.
In order to meet these goals, your business must be built on the foundation of being as customer centric and innovative (CCI) as possible.
The principle here is to strive to be a business that is rooted in the principles, tools, and strategies required to allow you to understand as much about WHO your customers are, WHY they purchase your products or service, WHAT their challenges are, and HOW you can solve those challenges. Investing in these areas, and continuously improving in these areas, is what will set you apart from your competition while creating a brand and a culture that both your customers and your employees will notice (in a good way!).
When a company is designed to be all about understanding their customers (customer centric) and finding new and better ways to serve them (innovative) then they have reached what I like to call the Magic Quadrant of CCI.
But doing this, and getting to this magic quadrant is not easy. It requires you to put a focus on customer centric innovation in the 3 most important parts of your business.
This brings us to the third and final principle.
There are 3 main building blocks, or pillars, that all companies must be firmly planted on, in order to build a successful long-term business.
The 3 pillars of every CCI company
- Purpose and Direction
- Team Collaboration
- Individual Skills and Behaviours
When the purpose and direction of your company is one that is both outward focussed (i.e. all about your customers and the problem you solve, not about you, your products, or services) and about a better future (i.e. the status quo is not good enough, you are striving for improvement and maybe even a level that is not realistically attainable) then you purpose is both customer centric and innovative.
This will mean something. To both your customers and your employees.
When you have a solid purpose for your business that is built on the principles of CCI, you then need to have ways for your team to work together towards that purpose. The tools, the strategies, the practices that you intentionally invest in will tell a lot about your business and whether or not you are truly customer centric and innovative.
Do you invest in tools and practices that will help you better understand your customers? If not, are you really a customer centric company?
Do you invest in understanding and implementing principles and practices that will create a culture of innovation in your teams? If not, are you really an innovative company?
When you put a priority on investing in these tools, strategies, principles and practices, then you are setting yourself up to truly live out your company purpose.
Then comes your people. If you really want to have these customer centric and innovative tools and strategies come to life, you need to have the right skills and behaviours within your business to take you there.
Do you intentionally look for the competencies required in team members that will fit in and heighten your CCI culture? Traits like empathy, humility, creativity, and engagement come to mind.
Are you intentionally motivating your team members to display these traits and incentivizing them when they do?
A CCI culture does not happen by accident, it is cultivated through deliberate intentions.
So, as a business owner or leader, do you want to build a brand customers crave and a company people are passionate to work for?
Put these 3 principles into practice in your business to create a formula for long-term success.
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When you think of the term “Human Resources”, I would bet many of you immediately conjure up something that sounds like this:
“HR is for hiring and firing.”
“HR does my payroll and looks after benefits.”
“HR is the “fun police” and we can’t do anything when they are around.”
“HR is all about policy and saying “no” to everything we ask.”
And my personal favourite:
“We don’t need HR.”
It should not surprise you that I have heard all of that (and more) throughout my HR career. It may surprise you however, that I have worked with many HR folks who fit into those statements very well and rather comfortably.
Human Resources is so much more than the shallow statements above. The value the right HR person can bring to any organization is priceless……if you are willing to hear me out.
At it’s basic function, the HR department is busy doing many of the below tasks on a daily basis:
- Recruiting, selection and hiring
- Orientation of new hires
- Payroll actions including time and attendance reconciliation
- Maintenance of employee records
- Participating in (or even managing) employee misconduct issues
- Benefit administration
- Maintaining training records for regulatory training
- Answering routine employee inquiries
- Supporting (and even managing) health, safety and wellness needs
- And just about anything and everything else other departments don’t want to do when it comes to employee administrative functions
- Oh! And maybe even planning the next employee function as well.
This may be what you have in your current job description for any HR role. Or, as many of the small and medium sized organizations I work with, you have the tendency to plop these responsibilities on an existing administrative person or persons. While the tasks – or as I like to call them, transactions – will be completed, the value of the HR function is being under-utilized.
And here’s why.
A true HR support system will do much more behind the scenes than you realize. Without a strong HR presence acting with purpose and direction, businesses will struggle with attracting and retaining dedicated and talented people. And without people……you have no business.
For me, working in HR for the past 20 plus, plus years, I know that HR can bring at a minimum the following two critical components:
Hiring for today’s needs but thinking about tomorrow as well. The goal is not to hire as fast, and as cheaply, as possible just to get a warm body into a position. We need to be looking at best people for the job while focusing on the hiring process and post-hire metrics. Hiring is one of the most important things HR and an organization does. When an organization engages with HR to invest in the hiring process as well as the retention strategy, people stay. And when people stay, organizations keep moving forward in a positive manner……..and that actually saves money!
Staying focused and entrenched in the employee experience. A solid HR presence will be engaged in leading the way in developing the best employee experience for the organization it serves. Why does this matter? Employees who disengage, or unplug, from their company, costs organizations significant amounts of money in lost production and quality issues which ultimately lead to customer dissatisfaction. Your HR focus should be on the holistic view of the employee journey from hire to exit while always looking for strategies to enhance and better systems, policies, and practices from both the operational and human side of the business.
If the person, or persons heading the HR function are transactional in nature and only overseeing compliance, chances are you aren’t thinking long term. What you should want is a blend of both transactional and transformational HR in your corner.
If you, or your employees, view your HR function in ways similar to the shallow statements I noted earlier, you aren’t getting the value you require to bring your people needs and the business needs together. Underestimating the HR function in your business will show in poor hiring, poor retention and everything in between.
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These are nervous times for all of us. COVID-19 has caused some of us to lose our jobs, and this can cause high stress and worry. My best tip is to use the fear to propel you to grow.
My name is Jim Estill and I am the CEO of Danby Appliances. Persistence has paid off for me, but success never happens overnight. Success depends on putting in the work—make finding a job your job and use these strategies to help.
Good luck with your search.
Strategy #1: Define Your “Brand”
When you are looking for a new job or career, one of the critical areas that few people do well is marketing themselves. In today’s highly competitive job market, the key to getting one’s name out there and having an edge over competitors is successful self-promotion.
Your personal brand is the sum of all your personal and professional skills, abilities, attitudes, and values. Developing your personal brand is only effective if you take the time to think about what you are doing and why. A sign of success is to be compensated for something that you are passionate about and love doing. Mix that in with a little bit of luck and opportunity and you will be on the path to creating a successful brand.
Brand discovery includes:
Strategy #2: Market Yourself
Once you settle on your own personal brand, it is time to think about marketing yourself, this is a way of owning your image rather than letting others define who you are from their own perceptions or misconceptions.
Consider the Four Ps of Marketing, a model used widely over the last few decades in various industries to introduce new products to existing markets. The same principles also apply to the process of self-promotion. The four Ps to remember when promoting yourself are Product, Price, Promotion, and Place.
Product: When attempting to sell a product in the store, retailers will focus on its features and benefits in order to gain the interest of potential buyers. Similarly, you will need to focus on your skills, capabilities, education, and personality in order to gain the interest of a prospective employer.
Price: The goal of retailers is to determine the price consumers are willing (and able) to pay for a product. The salary is your price. You need to understand your minimums, the job market, and the average salary for someone in your desired position with your skills and education. You need to keep a desired salary range in mind but keep it realistic since this can often make or break a potential job offer. If you are in a starting position, keep in mind that your starting salary will likely be less than you are expecting. Also consider other forms of compensation when determining your worth, such as vacation time, employee benefits, and other employee perks.
Promotion: Products are often advertised on billboards, commercials, flyers, etc. As an applicant, you will promote yourself through your cover letter, résumé, online profiles, attire, attitude, communication skills, and the use of your personally developed network. Social media is also a great way to subtly market yourself. Making meaningful updates on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook can get you found and keep you top of mind. Instagram and Pinterest are ways of displaying artistic talent.
Place: When determining the place to sell an item, retailers will pick certain markets where the product has shown positive gains, as well as place it in an area of the store where it will catch the eye of the shoppers. When determining your place, you need to think of the size of organization in which you will succeed, your geographical preferences and what kind of work environment would be best for you.
Strategy #3: Finding Jobs and Networking Online
Social media is an excellent way to connect with prospective employers. While connecting with a hiring manager in person is still more powerful, the ease and universality of online networking will inherently open up more opportunities. In other words, connecting in person is still the most powerful tool to open doors, but online tools will help you find those doors.
The drawback to the job market moving online is that while it is easy for you to find jobs, the same is true for everyone else as well. It is also easier than ever to research a position before you’ve gone in for an interview. You can find out what past employees of a company thought of working there, what you can expect for salary, and whether or not it is worth putting in the time and effort into a position that isn’t what you ultimately wanted.
Finding jobs online is massively more convenient than old methods of scanning through local newspapers or using recruiting agencies. The cost of this convenience, however, is that there will be a lot more competition for any posted job. For many job postings in high demand careers, it is not unheard for it to reach hundreds of applicants.
Strategy #4: Use LinkedIn
LinkedIn is currently the world’s largest professional network and exposes you to a plethora of potential connections that could lead to your dream career. One of the top uses for LinkedIn for job seekers is to establish your own personal network of professional contacts including old colleagues and employers, instructors, or even classmates. You can connect to people that you have met briefly or at work only, unlike adding friends to your Facebook account— it is expected and common to have a colleague you only worked with on occasion in your network.
The connections in your network can also endorse your skills and make recommendations directly on your profile. The majority of recruiters actually use LinkedIn as a method to vet potential candidates for their positions. If you do not have a profile, or do not use it to its full potential, you are missing this aspect and it could cost you a great job opportunity. LinkedIn can send regular job alerts to your email based on the information that you have provided in your profile, making your job search much easier. LinkedIn is the only social networking website focused solely on creating and cultivating business and professional relationships. Because of the professional nature of the platform, it is much easier to retain a clean public image, lessening the potential for employers to find unpleasant information about you online.
Of course, LinkedIn is only beneficial if you use it properly. Many on LinkedIn make mistakes when they create their profiles. Some mistakes not only make LinkedIn lose its full effectiveness but can actually hinder your job search if recruiters or other potential employers consider your profile to be a deciding factor.
No Profile Photo: No one likes to see a blank face on LinkedIn. Put a face to your name and your qualifications to increase your legitimacy to recruiters, connections, and potential employers.
Using a Generic Headline: LinkedIn provides users with the opportunity to create a headline for their profile that appears just underneath their name, but many users use old or vague titles. In many cases, students have a headline that says they are a “Student” and not that they are seeking a job or any information regarding their field of study.
Inactivity: An empty profile is a sign of an inactive user. An inactive profile on LinkedIn means that potential employers won’t see updated information about your experiences and qualifications. It gives the impression that you are not keeping up with relevant industry news, growing the number of connections in your professional network, engaging with other users, or looking at the job openings advertising on the website. You should strive to post relevant content in your updates at least once a week or more if you are actively seeking employment. Be mindful to post significant updates to your main profile every couple of months. This will help maximize your visibility on the website and increase LinkedIn’s overall effectiveness in your professional career and job search.
Sending the Default Connection Request: The default connection request is impersonal and can give the wrong impression. Using the default message that LinkedIn sets up when you make a contact request is easy, but you may find fewer acceptances when using a default message. A personalized request will increase the likelihood that someone will accept you, especially if it is someone that may need a reminder of who you are.
Updating Only When Unemployed: Many users feel that LinkedIn is only useful when they are unemployed or actively seeking a job, and don’t want their current employer to believe that they are thinking about leaving. Building a good professional network takes time and regular commitment through maintaining an active as well as engaging profile even while employed. You can use this opportunity to add new connections from your colleagues at work.
Strategy #5: Tailor Your Resume
Your Résumé: Every time you submit a résumé, it should be tailored for the job you’re seeking. This means making sure your summary of qualifications matches the qualifications on the job posting, the language you use in your résumé matches the jargon used in the posting, and your key responsibilities at your previous jobs align with the job duties for the desired position. Use action verbs as the first words in bulleted lists to add emphasis to descriptions of your accomplishments, responsibilities, and experiences. Here are some examples: 195 Action Verbs to Make Your Resume Stand Out | Indeed.com
Résumé Updates: It is recommended you update your résumé every three to four months, even if you have a job. This ensures it is current and captures all your experience gained at your current job. Keep your résumé up to date because you never know when you might be approached for a promotion, or even another job that would allow you to progress in your career.
Strategy #6: Avoid Résumé Pitfalls
You want your résumé to stand out, but not for the wrong reasons! Here is a list of things to AVOID with your résumé:
Don’t Use the Wrong Font Size: The perfect font size to use for your résumé will be between 10 and 12 point. It should be as readable as possible; we don’t want an employer to be squinting to see what you are all about.
Don’t Pick the Wrong Font: Avoid using hard to read, unprofessional, wacky, or just plain tacky fonts. When it comes to writing a résumé, it is best not to indulge your experimental side and try out different fonts. The best fonts to use are the ones that are low key. Some possible fonts you should use for your résumé are Arial, Calibri, Century Old Style, Garamond, Georgia, Times New Roman, or Trebuchet MS.
Don’t Try ‘Gaming’ the System: You might hear others say that you should include all relevant key words at the bottom of your résumé, but in a white font that won’t be seen by human readers. Instead, put the time in to make sure that your application materials mention those important key words. For example, in your cover letter you could write, “While I don’t have much experience with software x, I am proficient with software y.”
Strategy #7: Dress for Success
Never judge a book by its cover, right? The unfortunate reality is that the first impression that you make can be a deciding factor on how well your interview goes. Here are a few tips that can help make that crucial first impression a good one:
· When it comes to clothing, the general rule of thumb is to dress a level above what would be worn on the job. And it is always safest to err on the side of conservative; avoid loud colours or bold patterns. If it is discovered that an employer encourages individuality, then personal style can be put on display after landing the job.
As with almost any rule there can be exceptions. The key is to know the position you are interviewing for and your potential employer. If you honestly have no idea what would be appropriate to wear, it is not inappropriate to call or e-mail asking about the dress code before the interview. You want to nail that first impression so make sure to do your research!
Strategy #8: Prepare for Interviews
It is a good idea to assume that your interview starts once you enter the building where it is being conducted. As an interview candidate, you will need to adopt a professional persona the minute you start dressing for the interview. This will help you mentally prepare. Despite the many different types of interviews, they all follow a similar format:
Greeting: Initially the parties introduce themselves and form first impressions. A firm handshake while making eye contact is critical to making a good first impression. Be polite to all those you make contact with when entering the building; acting in a professional manner will help make a great first impression. And of course if you are on Zoom secure a clutter free, quite space that is well lit and where you will not be interrupted.
Company Presentation: The company presentation gives a brief overview of the company and summation of the position you are being interviewed for. You should bring a copy of the job description so you can follow along. This is also a good time to jot down any questions that you may have about the company.
Résumé Review: In this phase, the interviewer reviews your résumé and asks you questions while scanning it. This is possibly the first time he or she will go through your résumé in detail. Be ready for questions that can be used as a lead into your portfolio. Be sure to have a copy or two of your résumés you can leave behind for them to share with other influential people within the company.
The following questions are commonly asked at job interviews. Do not expect them all, but make sure you would be able to answer if asked.
1. Tell me a bit about yourself.
2. What are your biggest strengths?
3. What are some of your weaknesses?
4. Why are you leaving, or why did you leave your last job?
5. What was an accomplishment you are particularly proud of while in this position?
6. What was a failure or professional disappointment that occurred while in this position?
7. Why do you want this job?
8. Describe how you get along with coworkers?
9. Do you find you do your best work as part of a team or on your own?
10. Describe how you handle stress and pressure.
11. What is your primary motivation?
12. What is your dream job?
13. What are your hobbies?
14. How did you impact the bottom line at your last job?
15. Describe a time when you had to handle a difficult person or situation.
16. What goals have you set for your future?
17. What relevant experience do you have for this position?
18. Why should we hire you over the other candidates?
19. How would you evaluate success?
20. Do you have any questions for me?
Strategy #9: Expect the Unexpected
Why is the sky blue? Why are manhole covers round? Why is a tennis ball fuzzy? Imagine having to answer a question like this in a stressful situation like a job interview.
Well, one of the growing trends for interview techniques is to ask random, out of the blue questions to which the answer does not matter. These almost rhetorical questions are a fun and interesting way for interviewers to gauge your reaction to a difficult, creative, or unanswerable question. Although these questions often have no one true answer, the way in which you answer a question like this could determine whether or not you land that job.
What is the point of asking this ridiculous stuff? There is a method to the madness. You may perceive a wacky question as just a way to trick you, but from the employer’s perspective your response can tell them a lot about you. Some things that they may learn are how well you will fit within the culture of the company, how creative you are, or what your sense of humour is like. For this reason, the worst thing that you can say is, “I don’t know.” So even though there may not be a right answer, there is definitely a wrong answer.
Things that you should not say or do include:
Strategy #9: Stay Positive
We have all been there but there is nothing more uncomfortable than the feeling of rejection. Whether it is a rejection from a job application, a position in a course, or even a social rejection, it always stings. When you are searching for a job though, rejection should be expected. You will not always be the best candidate for the job, and you will rarely get the first job for which you apply. Here are a few things that you can do to keep the rejection from bringing you down.
You are Not the Only One! One way to avoid getting discouraged is to understand that rejection happens to everyone, even the most successful of individuals. Most ads that are posted online receive dozens of applicants who are just as qualified (or even more so) than yourself. This means that there are dozens of others that get rejected and are in the same boat as you. Accepting that you are not alone will help with the feeling of being not good enough.
Understand Why. Sometimes it can help to understand why you were passed over for the position. Review the posting, read over your application materials, or run through the interview in your head. Often, you can pinpoint exactly what may have cost you the job with this self-reflection. You can even contact the employer and ask why they passed on you as a candidate. Do not dig too deep though, as sometimes there is no real reason why you didn’t get the job and finding excuses can be counterproductive. Sometimes you are not the best candidate for the job.
Have a Plan B! You never want to put all your eggs into one basket; your disappointment will be greater when all is lost instead of some. This is also true when job searching and dealing with being rejected. If you are turned down for one job, it is always easier to take if you have one or more to follow up with. This is why you should always plan to apply for several positions every time that you work on your job search. The more opportunities that you have the less disappointed you will be when one or two falls through.
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My understanding of conflict and how we show up to relationships at home, work or in our communities is that our behaviour is driven by our own thoughts and feelings, which have a huge influence from the past. Yet, in the heat of emotional turmoil, it’s human nature to blame other people for the conflict.
For example, people get excited and are attracted to my Play Nice training program coming to their workplace, because they relate to the fun metaphor, but they think that I’ll somehow fix everyone else.
Here’s the real deal:
The greatest opportunity to resolve conflict is an inside job, meaning it’s your responsibility to work on how you get attached to conflict or how conflict affects you.
The best way to sort through conflict is by going within, because there is only one person that you really have control over and that’s yourself. When you let go of the need to control other people, or circumstances outside your control, you find peace faster.
When you’re honest with yourself and you think about how you are showing up (or not showing up) to conflict situations in your life, you’ll find patterns. (Quite a few of them if you’re willing to eat that humble pie). You’ll realize that you have enough work to do for your own self-mastery. This revelation will also help you understand another foundational sandbox strategy about what you don’t need to focus on because it’s a waste of your energy trying to fix or control other people.
When you’re vulnerable and honest enough to look at a conflict situation and admit “this is mine, and this is mine, and oh my goodness this is so old from my past … etc.” you’ll realize that you have a ton of work to do on yourself.
If you’re willing to just embrace that ‘inner work’ and let other people find their way and do their own work, then you’re at least taking on a job or a responsibility that you can influence and control. That means letting go of everything that’s outside your control.
This is the essence of conflict resolution from the inside out.
The more work you do on yourselves, the more prepared you’ll be to face and embrace things that come up regularly. With a willingness to reflect on what’s yours, and what’s not, you can dig within to understand your own thoughts about conflict and reach a greater sense of well-deserved inner peace. You might ask questions like: Where your conflict is coming from, what’s underneath it, why it triggers you and what it would take to reach inner resolve.
Once you recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and are vulnerable enough to speak about them honestly, and own it, you’ll experience a deeper sense of love and acceptance. I always see incredible results in my work with teams and families when people are doing their own honest digging.
If you can’t find your way, call Penny Tremblay because the high emotional cost of conflict, and powerless struggle of trying to control others, is avoidable. Your energy and resources can be used for better things.
PS. If you liked this blog post, it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what I shared in a guest appearance on Broken Families podcast. Access the entire recording here. Don’t hesitate to send it to anyone with a high conflict relationship, divorce, parental alienation, estranged family member or workplace issue.
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If you are starting to think that the term “employee experience” (or EX) is just another HR “buzzword”, you are not alone. There have been plenty of “hot topics of the month” being thrown around and from one trend to the next it can be hard to keep things straight. You may even think that employee engagement is the same as EX as the terms seem to be interchangeable. Employee engagement and employee experience are two very distinct (and important) components to your HR strategy.
Let’s take a very quick look at the difference between the two:
Employee Engagement is the output, or the result of the employee experience. It is usually a one time assessment (think yearly surveys) to measure employee commitment…..more or less. Think of it as a portion of the story from a slender slice of time.
Employee Experience is how employees perceive, interact, and function in all touchpoints of the employee lifecycle (from hire to employment end). In a nutshell, EX is what work life is really like on a day-to-day basis that will feed their engagement (pride, commitment, and advocacy of the business).
But it is so much more than an engagement score. EX is tied tightly with retention. Where an organization has a highly employee-centric approach they will generally see higher retention rates with much happier employees (which by the way ultimately improves the customer experience).
When we think of EX and the employee journey, we should think of it with a start, a middle and an end. Through each touch point we should be asking questions related to how the decisions we make and the processes we implement enhance or distract from a positive response from our people. I tend to look at the timeline like this:
In order to assess how employees move through these phases you need to first understand what your processes are, what system you use and what actions you currently have in place. Then you can start asking the relevant question: “With every action/decision/process you make, or have, within your organization, how does it impact your employees?”
To help you get started here are a just few simple questions I use when I am working with organizations to help identify opportunities for meaningful change.
How does the candidate move through the recruitment and selection process? Is it a user-friendly application system or are there unnecessary barriers?
Is the selection/hiring process structured with relevant criteria? Are all hiring managers engaged and plugged into the appropriate or said values of the organization?
When a new employee starts employment, are we simply providing an “orientation,” or do we invest in actual on-boarding practices? What do we do to make sure a new employee feels like part of the team? Can they relate their job tasks to the overall goals of the department/organization? Do they have the necessary support system in place to promote learning and connection?
How often does the employee receive meaningful feedback on their performance? How is the information delivered to the employee? What actions do we have in place to ensure the employee has the necessary tools/equipment/knowledge to be successful?
Do our processes and systems support the physical and mental well-being of our employees? Do they feel supported, encouraged and part of a team?
How and where do we offer areas for professional growth?
What system is in place when an employee decides to leave? How do we handle the exiting phase of employment (whether voluntary or involuntary)
Was their employment meaningful? Did they feel valued? Were they fairly treated?
In the end, organizations (small, medium, and large) should never under-estimate the value and power of the employee experience. Poor employee experiences at any point in the employee journey will often lead to disengagement, poor retention, lower productivity, higher absenteeism, and decreased quality of work, to name but a few. Encourage transparency with your employees and integrate their lived experiences into your decision making so you are working to enhance their overall journey.
Remember the best question to ask will always be: “With every action/decision/process you make, or have, within your organization, how does it impact your employees?”
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Those who care the most — will sell the most.
The best sales reps understand their customer.
The best sales reps understand their industry.
The best sales reps study the art and science of sales because they care.
After selling professionally for 15 years and reading over 300 sales books, some books become more relevant than others.
If you are in B2B sales, here are 33 of the most relevant books right now:
*Bonus: Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller (this one is marketing but every salesperson should read it)
**For a free copy of my upcoming "sales" book, send me a (dm) message.***Your Turn: What books are missing? What ones would you add?
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To be honest, it depends. You may think that is a typical response from an HR person – finding that grey, safe, middle ground in an answer. But hear me out.
If I were to draw on a comparison, I would point you to any customer service department. The role of that department is to provide excellent service and maintain positive relationships (to retain customers), but at the same time there is a competing interest to ensure they are also following company directives (adherence to guidelines).
In a situation where both the customer and the company are served well: friend. If one party feels they were not served well: foe. And so is the journey of HR.
Leadership may feel their HR department is being too “extreme” when it comes to following the legal aspects of employee related decisions. Employees may feel HR is of no value because they only exist to protect the company. Foe.
Solve an employee issue. Friend.
It is no wonder the push and pull in the love/hate relationship with HR exists. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the perception of the customer. How do they feel after an interaction with the Customer Service (Human Resources) Department?
Over the past year (and even longer) I have read stories, participated in many conversations and debates on the harsh view of Human Resources. As a practicing professional in this field, I have experienced the criticism firsthand. The one thing I have learned is you can accept this as truth and continue to be embroiled in the friend/foe tug of war, or you can make a decided effort to change and be a better HR leader by actively changing the narrative.
You may be asking how?
Simply put: STOP LETTING HUMAN RESOURCES BE DISLIKED. Be the leader that no longer allows people to “blame” the HR function. Be the leader that utilizes communication and displays the ability to work with people and not against them. Do not just manage relationships, build them. And for goodness sakes – stop hiding behind policies. You will never change the conversation if you do not use your voice.
What have you done to positively change the view of Human Resources in your company?
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Imagine you had a crack in the foundation of your home. Now imagine you “fix” the crack with super sticky glue only to find another crack, and another and another. The next think you know you are constantly patching cracks with a less than perfect solution, but it is all you can do to keep your house standing.
For some organizations their recruiting, hiring and retention efforts are very much like the super sticky glue. It can patch the problem, but it can’t “fix” the problem as more and more cracks appear. The next thing they know they are on the Merry-Go-Round Named “Recruiting”. The never-ending cycle of patch and repeat.
A large part of the problem lies in the recruitment process itself. Having unclear expectations of skills and ability, poor selection practices and ineffective communication with candidates all play a significant part in how a company attracts talent.
But (and this is a big but)…….you can really hone in and create a terrific recruitment strategy and still fall short. This is where many of the folks I work with are left scratching their heads. They identified a portion of the problem causing the cracks, invested in extra super sticky glue, but still see the cracks.
I believe that is because there is little to no effort going into the long-term retention plans of the workforce as a whole. A faulty foundation cannot sustain a structure and understanding what is happening and why will provide us the solutions we need to stop the madness if we are really wanting off the merry-go- round.
In all my years in HR there are a few fundamental components that many companies don’t invest in which can have such an impact on their overall recruiting, hiring and retention:
Onboarding (not just orientation!) – every company needs an onboarding process, not to be confused with orientation. Filing out new hire paperwork is not enough. Your new hire should be set up for success as of day one. Training, support, and mentorship is what creates an especially important part of the employee experience. Do not undervalue this step.
Communicate, Communicate – oh …..and Communicate!! The flow of communication between employees and their managers should be constant and on-going. Questions, concerns, feedback, and expectations are daily, weekly, and monthly occurrences. Containing them to yearly “reviews” gives problems a chance to fester and go unaddressed. Connecting with each employee on a regular basis is much more effective than sticky glue after the crack. This becomes an even bigger requirement with a new hire. Lack of communication in the early days will see them disengage much quicker than a tenured employee.
Training (and do not think you are too busy to invest in this!) - Part of new hire onboarding must include a training plan. New hires don’t just walk in knowing the job even if they have all the skills. They need to be shown the ropes. And to be honest, you should want to show them how to do things correctly from the beginning. But more than that, employees seek opportunities for skill development and growth. Is there really a downside to this? Where you can develop skills and train for tomorrow’s needs proactively, maybe, just maybe you won’t need to jump on the merry-go-round quite as often.
How you hire and how often you hire is up to you. If you find that using extra sticky super glue works on your merry-go-round named recruiting, I wish you success. But if you really want to fix the issues and create a structurally sound foundation look at your recruiting, hiring and retention strategies yearly (at a minimum). Replace what isn’t working with something you can build on. Your employees and your organization will be better for it.
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I recently had a negative experience with a big-box pet store chain.
I signed my young 15-week old puppy for some training classes. After a 45 minute call with the trainer, she confirmed the class would start on February 6th. I went into the store the next day to pay for the class, and another manager confirmed yet again the class would start on February 6th.
When the day of the class arrived, I took time to get my puppy walked, fed, and ready to go to her first day of class. I walked into the store, went over to the training area, and then gasped! No class, instructor, nothing. I asked to speak with the manager, who rudely said, “You should have looked at your paperwork!” I informed this very young and naive manager that I was given no such paperwork and that both the trainer and other manager confirmed this was the day. With no empathy or compassion for the mistake caused by the store, this inexperienced and un-customer focused manager began to argue with me, quoting “store policy” and a host of other irrelevant excuses for their mistake.
I explained that I had taken time from other projects to make this class. The manager didn't care. I said that I have been terribly inconvenienced due to their negligence. He didn't care. When I asked him to make the situation right, he boorishly said, “Don’t ever come back to my store again!” Without asking, he proceeded to hand me $129 in cash and walked away.
This is just one example of horrible customer service that millions of consumers face on a daily basis. Companies hold consumers in shackles and force them into submission. “Comply or die” is the new customer service philosophy from most organizations. Companies have designed a process contrary to serving the customer. They have established in great detail a dysfunctional process that is the exact opposite of good service.
It’s as if they get some kind of sick satisfaction over the power they can hold over another person. It is business slavery. They hold all the power, and we have no choice but to endure their horrible service or be denied the essential services we need in life.
It is an appalling truth that needs to change.
Customers are ready to fight
Customers today expect the worst from companies. They depend on poor service and anti-consumer policies. Naturally, customers will be defensive and on-edge. Why should your business be any different than all those others? This is what your customers are thinking, so they come in with the gloves on and ready to fight. They are like Rocky Balboa facing off against Ivan Drago. They are the underdog: outmatched and outgunned. They know they probably don’t stand a chance. So, they will fight to the death. They raise their defenses and are ready to rumble.
But you have a competitive advantage over all those other businesses providing humdrum and bland experiences. You will exceed your customers’ expectations in every way and watch as the defenses come down and the money rolls in.
Sadly, the vast majority of companies today are not customer-focused. They have not made quality service a priority. They have made transactional volume and bottom-lines the mantra.
Can you afford to say “no”?
In my first book entitled The Customer Service Revolution: 8 Principles That Will Change the Way Companies Think About the Customer Experience and the Employees Who Work For Them, I shared how Richard Branson revolutionized the concept of saying “yes” to customers. He tells a story about staying in a traditional hotel and noticing several buttons on the phone for various hotel departments. They transferred him from department to department until someone could assist him. So, he put a single red button on his hotel phones. You guessed it, “YES!” is at the top of the phone. He empowered his hotel staff to take care of the guest and their needs.
Branson infused the belief that every department is committed to service excellence. Finding opportunities to say yes exceeds customer expectations by doing what they asked you to do. It seems like a radical concept now.
As consumers, we expect the answer and the experience to say no. Companies will hide behind policies favoring them. It’s what we expect and count on. This is why when a company goes above and beyond to say yes and make it happen, it is a memorable experience for the client. Saying yes to reasonable requests is the action of doing something, not just saying the word. You don’t have to use the literal
words yes and no. Rather, your actions say the same thing, and often will say it stronger and louder. Giving your customers the run-around is saying no to them. Making your customers feel bad for spending their money with you is a definite no. But creating memorable moments for them is a big yes. Honoring the lower price of a competitor is a big yes. Giving the customer an extra 10% off just for the sake of being nice is saying yes. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
In business, sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes it has to be no. I am not ignorant to this fact. But the customer should never hear this. They needto know they have options and can make the best decision for their situation.
In most cases, companies can say yes to customer requests. They just choose not to. When the answer has to be no, turn those around into mutually beneficial results for both the customer and the business.
In a 2018 survey, Salesforce found the number one demand from customers was a memorable experience. What happens when they don’t get this from your brand? 76% of respondents stated it’s easier than ever for them to take their business elsewhere—switching from brand to brand to find an experience that matches their expectations.”
Further, a Bain Capital survey found that while 80% of corporate CEO’s think they are providing “outstanding” customer experiences, only 8% of consumers actually agreed with them. That is a discrepancy of 72%! That number shows the ignorance of companies who think that by simply providing a product or service they are somehow providing great service to match.
Customers not only expect great service; they are demanding it! They want to know their business is respected and appreciated. They will search high and low for it. And when they finally receive it, chances are they will become loyal brand ambassadors. They will recommend you to their families and friends, which increases profits for your organization. If you provide great experiences and promote a customer-centric culture, your sales will boom. Do the opposite, and your business will suffer. Which side of the aisle would you rather be on?
Customers will not tolerate bad service
We as consumers should not tolerate bad service. I said it before, and I’ll say it again.
I am really tired of hearing about how we need to simply “tolerate” bad customer service. Now before you start sending me nasty emails accusing me of being insensitive, keep reading.
Of course, I don’t mean you should be insensitive, discriminatory, and rude. I have never advocated such practices. But we throw this word tolerance around as a catch-all rather than using it in its proper context. Merriam-Webster defines tolerance as “the ability or willingness to accept opinions or behavior that one
does not necessarily agree with.”
It is this last part I want to focus on: behavior we do not agree with. We are told that we need to simply “put up with” bad service. We need to turn the other cheek and accept it for what it is. My question is this. Why should we? Is there some law that says I have to allow and just accept appalling and even abusive service from a company?
According to a 2018 study by Ipsos, of the 200,000 customers surveyed, government sector customer service had the worst customer service practices in the United States. A whopping 39% of those surveyed stated interactions with government customer service is deemed the worst. Following in a close second, telecommunication companies (defined as internet, cable, and television
providers) scored at a shocking 38%. Healthcare, airlines, insurance and big-box retailers all followed this wall of shame. Sadly, it isn’t getting any better.
If anything, it’s getting worse. Why? Because we as consumers tolerate it. We allow it to continue. We continue to patronize these businesses and enable their practices to continue. By doing so, we give them a carte-blanche excuse to be noxious and unfeeling in their service.
In the logo for my consulting firm, I use two Japanese characters that spell the word kaizen. It means “good change”, but is also the embodiment of a way of life. Kaizen means to continually look for opportunities to better one’s self and surroundings. What a great concept for customer experience!
Even the most customer-centric organizations will tell you that they can always do better.
You are presented daily with an abundance of chances to be a hero in your customer’s lives. Put on your cape and make it happen for them!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
By Bryan Horn
Bryan Horn is the founder of CX Solutions, and customer experience training firm located in Salt Lake City, UT. He is the author of two successful customer service books, The Customer Service Revolution: 8 Principles That Will Change the Way Companies Think About the Customer Experience and the Employees Who Work for Them!, and Get Your Stuff and Get Out! Why Customer Service Sucks and How We Can Make It Great Again!.
He is a graduate of the world's foremost customer service development programs, namely The Zappos School of WOW!, the Disney Institute, and The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. He was dubbed a “customer service superhero” by the UK based Clientship Partner podcast (hosted by Christopher Brooks).
For more information about Bryan, please visit www.thecsrevolution.com.
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Mental Health & Wellness in the Workplace. What Should Employers Do To Support Their Biggest Assets?
It’s no surprise that we all are feeling the stresses and anxieties of today’s world. According to a study done by Angus Reid in 2020, 50% of Canadians report a worsening of their mental health, and one in ten overall saying it has worsened “a lot”.
Now more than ever, we’re seeing open conversations take place about mental health and well-being in the news, in social media campaigns, and between family and friends. A new social norm is being created to open up about our feelings and struggles, which allows for healing and hopefully leads to more resources to seek help from.
So how does this fit into workplace culture? What role should employers have in their employees' mental health and well-being?
I had a conversation with Rhys Green and Jerry Gratton from Trailblaze Partners, a management consulting company, to discuss the benefits of creating a workplace that encourages a safe space for open dialogue and how to build an effective company culture that takes mental health and well-being into consideration.
How does a business go about ensuring employee’s mental health and well-being is being addressed or taken into consideration? What kind of resources or programs can a workplace implement?
Rhys: There are a lot of options in terms of programs, from health benefits to wellness challenges. However, I think ultimately it comes down to the role of their direct manager to stay in tune with the team members' stress levels and to build a strong trusting relationship that encourages their team to ask for help and speak up if the job pressures are contributing to an unhealthy mental health situation.
I think at minimum employers should have a designated counselor that they can refer employees to, should it become clear they need some support.
Jerry: It’s important to note that caring for our employees’ mental health and supporting or advising them are two very different things. Provide as much support as you can, listening being the most important, and leave the advising to the professionals.
If you notice an employee is acting out of character or is visibly not as happy as usual and it’s affecting their work, how should managers or team leaders approach the situation?
Rhys: There is a fine line between being supportive and prying. I think taking them for a coffee to a quiet place with some privacy and asking how they are is a good first step. The effectiveness will be dictated by how strong a relationship the manager has built previously though.
Jerry: Making a meaningful "check-in" as part of your one-to-one weekly meetings. Simply asking “how are you?” and actually caring and listening to their response. If you notice different behaviour, you can say "I noticed you were quiet...” or “if there is anything you want to talk about, I'm here to listen", to let the person know they have that opportunity to open up if they choose to.
After a year like 2020, do you think there should be an open dialogue with employees about mental health and common feelings of anxiety? Should a business provide resources and a safe space to talk openly?
Rhys: One hundred percent there should. 2020 was a tough year for everyone in one way or another, but every year is a tough year for someone. I think hosting a learning session about stress and workplace mental health is a great way to open up this conversation. It helps to normalise the challenges many of us face.
Jerry: I agree one hundred percent. The best companies make caring about mental health and providing support and resources part of the culture. You could include monthly ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ with different topics, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) availability, lunch and learns, etc. Don’t hold just one event but have repeated, periodic opportunities for your employees.
With a lot of us working from home and missing that human connection, what can be done to build a community online (other than the usual daily work calls)? Are there team and relationship building exercises that can be done online?
Rhys: There are a lot of team building exercises that carry over really well onto a video call and the breakout groups function can work really well in zoom. I like anything that gives people a chance to have some fun. Even a silly ice breaker like Two Truths and a Lie at the beginning of a team meeting can help to improve social bonds.
Jerry: It's really important to give employees permission to have non-work time with colleagues on work time. Employees are generally working longer hours in our WFH environment, and often all the time they spend interacting with colleagues is work-based. But we know that that’s not what work is all about. Some best practices are to encourage employees to book "no shop talk" times with colleagues or to implement virtual water cooler apps like Donut.
In my experience, most workplaces did not have much leniency towards taking time off for mental health. It can become a situation where the workplace keeps asking when you may return and that results in pressure to get back to work as soon as possible, even if you aren’t ready, leading to more anxiety.
Is it important to support your employees through the hard times and have contingency plans in place in case of these situations, to cover their workload? How can you make that employee feel comfortable when returning back to work?
Rhys: I would always lean toward the side of giving a team member the time they need. I think we, as people (not just business people and employees), have a responsibility to support each other through tough times as best we can.
Jerry: Treat mental health the same way as physical health. If an employee has a heart attack and is off work for a month, most employers are understanding and figure it out. Treat mental health (diagnosed and being treated) the same way. Also, in most jurisdictions, organizations have a "duty to accommodate" a return to work that may be phased or with a lighter work load after a leave.
Why should employers be so concerned with the mental health and wellness of their employees? How does it benefit and directly impact their business?
Rhys: I believe it's the right thing to do for a couple of reasons. First and foremost our work situation has a significant impact on the quality of our mental health. As employers we have a responsibility making the parts of this that are within our control healthy and positive. Secondly, investing in high-impact areas to better support employees can boost ROI. Deloitte makes a strong case for the ROI for workplace mental health programs in this report here.
Jerry: Our people are our greatest asset, so it’s not much of a leap to believe that we must care for that asset for the company to be healthy, productive and profitable. Investing in the wellness (mental and physical) of our employees is like investing in the maintenance of company equipment, vehicles or technology. It's funny how some companies have no issue spending on the latter but fail to see the need to spend on the former. –
It is well known that having a happy and healthy culture leads to better employee performance, a good public image for your company, happier customers and higher revenue. Yet, in my experience, I haven’t been a part of many work environments where mental health has been discussed openly with employees. Isn’t it time we make this common place across all industries?
Do you think more can be done in your workplace? What can you do on your own level to create that supportive space for those you work with?
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Business Survey Results Are In! Building Customer Trust and Experience is Key to Profitability in 2021
February 17, 2021, Halifax, N.S. - Success Through Trust, a business on a mission to help business owners and leaders build trust with their customers, is announcing key findings from its ‘Blueprint for 2021: Business Outlook’ a report that identifies key business priorities that will help privately held and family run businesses succeed in 2021.
The survey revealed a number of strategies likely to be adopted to achieve profitability in 2021. They include reducing costs (61%), investing in the customer experience (60%), identifying new business opportunities (57%), launching new sales and distribution strategies (51%) and investing in training to strengthen relationships of trust with customers (47%).
Survey sponsor, and President, Success Through Trust, Natalie Doyle Oldfield, said, “Ninety four percent of all survey respondents said customer trust is extremely important in this business environment. Yet, 58 per cent do not have a clear idea of what steps to take to achieve this.” “In 2021, businesses need to operationalize trust in the customer experience. It is not the time to wait, retrench or cut back. Companies that balance online interaction with personal interaction will win in 2021,” said Doyle Oldfield.
There are a number of companies that stand out as customer focused trust leaders. Kohltech Windows and Entrance Systems (Kohltech), one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies is one them.
Kohltech works with Success Through Trust to build and measure customer trust and improve customer experiences. CEO Kevin Pelley, said, “It is important to us that everyone at Kohltech be focused on providing extraordinary customer experiences and have strong customer relationships. Natalie Doyle Oldfield has helped us to understand our customers better and build our business. We worked with her to develop a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) and to train our team to consistently build trust and deliver extraordinary experiences. This training was invaluable when COVID-19 hit. We immediately reached out to customers to listen to their challenges and as a result we gained an understanding of their needs and were able to pivot and create a new tempered safety glass barrier for them called, Kohltech Shield.
This allowed them to have safe interactions with their customers. In 2021, finding ways to build trust when you can’t always meet in person continues to be a priority for us.”
Success Through Trust has designed an evidence-based framework including the Trust Building Model to help companies operationalize trust across their business. To download the Blueprint for 2021: Business Outlook visit: Success Through Trust.
This survey was conducted online between January 3 and January 22, 2021 with 172 business owners and leaders across North America. Seventy one percent of the respondents were business owners and leaders, the other respondents included managers, front line and customer facing people. Seventy-three per cent of the respondents were Canadian and include responses from every single province; 19% from 15 states in the USA and 8% were from Europe, Africa and Asia.
About Success Through Trust Inc.
Success Through Trust works with business owners and leaders to build relationships of trust to improve customer experiences and grow revenue through a proprietary framework. It’s President, Natalie Doyle Oldfield, is the author of The Power of Trust: How Top Companies Build, Manage and Protect It. After being named one of the world's Top Thought Leaders in Trust for 5 years in a row, in 2021 Natalie has been recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Trust Across America—Trust Around the World. Established in 2013, Success Through Trust is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
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Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is widely acknowledged as more important than IQ in achieving success. Fortunately, EQ skills can be developed, honed and practiced over time.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is one of today’s hottest buzzwords. Now recognized by many as more important than intelligence (IQ) in achieving success in work and in life, EQ shows up in many corporate dialogues as something to focus on.
“Business leaders are no longer being defined by their IQs or even their technical skills. It is their emotional intelligence that makes the difference. It is rarely for the lack of smarts or vision. Most unsuccessful leaders stumble because of one simple, fatal shortcoming. The failure is one of emotional strength.” - Forbes Magazine.
While many people talk about EQ, it remains a somewhat intangible concept for most. There are also many self-proclaimed EQ “experts” who aren’t certified as EQ coaches or assessors, further muddying the waters. So let’s set the record straight on EQ – what it is, why it’s important, and how to develop EQ skills for success.
What is EQ?
EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we:
· Perceive and express ourselves
· Express our thoughts
· Develop and maintain social relationships
· Cope with challenges
· Use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way
I like to look at it as “how you show up” to others – in the workplace and in life.
Why is EQ so important?
With a strong EQ, individuals tend to make better life choices, have better interpersonal relationships, are more successful at work, and make exceptional business owners and leaders. What’s more, businesses that make EQ skill development a part of their organizational culture see greater productivity, improved morale, better results and reduced turnover.
Why? To answer this question, we can look at the four basic principles of EQ.
1) Self-Awareness. When individuals are self-aware, they know what creates an emotional response and can manage situations accordingly.
2) Self-management. Knowing what to do in order to control emotions, and how to use emotions in a productive way, can ensure emotions are used in a positive, constructive way.
3) Empathy. The ability to put oneself in other people’s shoes is a vital skill, particularly for those in a leadership capacity.
4) Ability to build relationships. Understanding how to help others manage emotions – and how to use emotional awareness to navigate, build and maintain positive relationships – is an EQ skill that can transform good leaders into great ones.
Knowing and understanding one's own emotions and recognizing how to use them for positive impact allows individuals to make good choices and create a collaborative, supportive work environment. By developing skills in empathy and emotional awareness, they are equipped to lead with compassion and purpose, and can build teams based on mutual respect and cooperation.
Developing EQ skills for success
Like with most things in life, knowing where you stand helps you determine how to move forward. The same applies to EQ – and this is where the EQ-i 2.0 assessment comes in.
The Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i 2.0) is the world’s leading assessment tool used for assessing emotional and social intelligence. A self-rating tool, it offers an excellent way to understand current emotional competencies. It also provides a picture of how an individual operates emotionally and outlines areas of strength and development based on responses to 133 questions. Scientifically validated, the assessment provides a reliable measure of self-perceived emotional intelligence.
Unlike IQ – which tends to remain relatively static throughout ones life – EQ can always be developed and refined. Through the consistent practice of EQ skills, anyone can develop the ability to use, understand and manage emotions in a positive, constructive way.
As a certified EQ coach, I debrief and coach EQ assessments to help individuals understand their EQ potential and opportunities. Trained by Multi-Health Systems (MHS), I use their tools to identify and assess strengths and opportunities. Plus, as a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, I also provide coaching to cultivate the EQ skills that need development and offer insights to practice the skills that are already strong. Through the assessment and coaching, I can help your leaders learn, polish and use the EQ skills that will take them to the next level of competence and accountability.
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How often do you hear “happy employees mean better productivity”? I am betting we have all heard it
at one time in our working lives. And if asked, I am sure we all believe that to be true. I mean, there is
nothing more important to a business than its employees………right?
Then why are so many managers left scratching their heads wondering how to truly make their
employees happy? And why are there still some skeptics around insisting it is not up to them to make
their folks happy?
Simply put – somewhere over the last many, many years we have been led to believe that foosball, ping
pong and on-site yoga instructors were are only option. You do not need grand (and often empty)
gestures to engage employees. Implementing smaller (and more impactful) changes can drastically
increase the employee experience creating much happier – and more productive – people.
Here are a small, but impactful tips to get you started:
Efficiency. One thing I hear often is that many employers want their folks to work efficiently, tasking
them to find ways to change how they work to make things better. Remember though, as leaders we
must be open to looking at how WE work and how our employees interact within our systems and
Why not ask:
Is there a better way of doing things? Do our systems enhance how our employees’ function? Do our
people have proper functioning tools and equipment? Do they have enough of what they need to get
the job done? By automating a task have we decreased or increased the amount of effort required to
get it done?
Clear Direction. A common problem facing managers, supervisors and employees alike is not always
understanding what is expected from them. Or worse yet – not knowing at all. By offering clear
direction, complimented by realistic goals and well-defined job expectations, organizations can
eliminate poor communication leading to poor performance. Employees have clear focus and managers
can easily identify performance issues before they become a problem. You would be surprised how
often this is an underlying problem in many cases of dissatisfied employees.
Appreciation. Inspire employees to work toward success and cultivate a sense of fulfilment by simply
acknowledging and appreciating them and all they do. Tell employees when they have done a good job
or when they have gone above and beyond to solve a problem. Recognize their efforts and provide
feedback (constructively) so they can grow and learn. Sure, you can offer tangible rewards, but never
underestimate the power of a single “Thank you” or “We appreciate you”. Letting employees know how
much they are appreciated, valued, and respected goes a long way. The gift card is nice but showing
someone, you really see them is much more valuable.
And last but certainly not least - if you want to know what would make your people happy……..just ask
them! Start a dialogue and see what small ……but impactful…….changes you can make today.
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As one of the most accomplished Top Line Turnaround experts in North America, Alice Wheaton has been helping leaders create highly successful sales forces for over two decades.
With focus mainly in the fields of sales, customer service, influence and negotiation in relation to leadership and performance, Alice helps organizations thrive by improving the performance of their people and processes.
Alice has authored several books translated into seven languages.
Visit Website to learn more about Alice and how she can help your organization.
The Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) choses cases based on the importance of the legal principles the case evokes. Generally the role of our highest court is to correct errors of law in the lower courts and to bring clarity and uniformity to the law for future cases and to allow the population to “know the rules of the game”. In some cases the court succeeds: eg Shaffron which deals with restrictive covenants in employment contracts. In other areas the court struggles to create that clarity for example in defining the scope of review of administrative tribunals: e.g. Dunsmuir.
In Matthews versus Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd. 2020 SCC 26 the SCC overturned the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and awarded an employee who had been constructively dismissed $1 million under an incentive plan because the triggering event for payment occurred during the 15 month notice period. Further, it held that the language in the LTIP did not remove this common law right to the bonus as damages for wrongful dismissal. This analysis clarified the law in this area but unfortunately the SCC also took this occasion to attempt to clarify various other aspects of wrongful dismissal law, including the duty of good faith in the performance of contracts. While clarifying certain aspects of the law of wrongful dismissal and damages, the decision creates uncertainty in respect of the scope of the duty of good faith and honest performance of contracts.
Mr. Matthews was a well-respected experienced chemist who occupied several senior management positions with Ocean. As a senior manager he was entitled to and enrolled in the long term incentive plan (“LTIP”). Under the LTIP a “Realization Event” such as a sale would trigger the payment to employees who would qualify under the plan.
In 2007 Ocean hired a new COO who began “a campaign to marginalize” Mr. Mathews which included limiting his responsibilities and lying to him about his prospects and status. He was ostracized within the company and the actions of the company officials were “characterized by dishonesty”. The misconduct was truly egregious as the company had “no qualms about leaving Matthews in a state of anxiety about his future” and left him in a “prolonged state of anxiety and uncertainty”. Mr. Matthews endured the misconduct for years primarily because he knew the company would be sold and he wanted to preserve his LTIP bonus. However he finally had enough and quit. He successfully sued for constructive dismissal and the court awarded damages based on a 15 month notice period. Neither the constructive dismissal nor the notice period was challenged in the SCC. The company was sold 13 months after he quit. In his wrongful dismissal action he claimed payment of the $1 million bonus under the LTIP. He also sought a declaration that the dismissal was done in bad faith.
BONUS PAYMENT AS DAMAGES FOR WRONGFUL DISMISSALThe SCC confirmed that in this case there were two basis to find a constructive dismissal as per its hallmark decision in Potter. First the employer had substantially breached an express or implied term of the employment contract by unilaterally reducing his responsibilities. Secondly Ocean’s mistreatment of Mr. Matthews over the years made his continued employment intolerable and the cumulative actions over time demonstrated that Ocean no longer intended to be bound by the contract.
The SCC noted that it was unnecessary to consider a separate claim for damages for the breach of the duty of good faith and honesty as the key issue of whether Mr. Matthews was entitled to the LTIP award was easily answered by applying common law damage principles.
The court clarified that a claim for the bonus was part of the claim for damages for wrongful dismissal and was not a claim under the LTIP. That is to say a court will put the employee in the same position as he would have been if he had been given “reasonable working notice”. Therefore the question was in the first instance “whether, but for the termination, the employee would have been entitled to the bonus during the reasonable notice period.” The court had no problem in finding that Mr. Matthews would have been so entitled.
The second question then is whether the terms of the LTIP removed Mr. Matthews’ common law right. The test for exclusion is very onerous and the language of the clause will be “strictly construed”. The language of the exclusion clause must be “absolutely clear and unambiguous”. So, for example, language requiring an employee to be “full time” or “active” will not suffice. Even language such as “with or without cause” will not suffice to remove the common law right to the bonus. The SCC puts an exclamation mark on this point—the exclusion clause “must clearlycover the exact circumstances which have arisen” in order to be effective (emphasis added).
The court applied these principles to find that the exclusion clause in the LTIP did not apply to exclude the bonus. That clause 2.03 read:
“ONC shall have no obligation under this Agreement to the Employee unless on the date of the Realization Event the Employee is a full-time employee of ONC. For greater certainty this Agreement shall be of no force and effect if the employee ceases to be an employee of the ONC regardless of whether the Employee resigns or is terminated, with or without cause.”
SCC then looked at clause 2.05 that had not been considered by the trial judge to see if it excluded the bonus claim. The clause read:
“The Long Term Value Creation Bonus Plan does not have any current or future value other than on the date of a Realization Event and shall not be calculated as part of the Employee’s compensation for any purpose, including in connection the Employee’s resignation or in any severance calculation.”
The SCC said no. It distinguished between “damages” and “severance”—the former protect employees by providing an opportunity to seek alternative employment; the latter “acts to compensate long-serving employees for their years of service and investment in the employer’s business and for the special losses they suffer when their employment terminates”. The court noted this is how the concept of severance is used in many provincial employment standards legislation.
The SCC also confirms that there is no implied term that an employer provide “pay in lieu” that would supplant the concept of reasonable notice. Such a term would be too complex to provide pay in lieu of notice; if there was a term that required “pay in lieu” then that would require the employer to pay it at the time of termination and finally pay in lieu would eliminate the obligation to mitigate damages by seeking alternate employment.
Interestingly the SCC ducked two important arguments that were made by counsel. First it did not consider whether the exclusion clause must be brought to the employee’s attention before it could be effective. Secondly it did not consider whether such exclusion clauses were contrary to minimum employment standards: see Machtinger v. HOJ,  1 S.C.R. 986.
In the normal course this would have been the end of the decision. The plaintiff had argued not only breach of contract but also breach of the duty of good faith. The plaintiff did not claim mental stress damages which are usually associated with bad faith claims. Nor did he pursue in the SCC claims for punitive damages. These damages may have been available to him if he had pleaded same:
So long as damages are appropriately made out and causation established, a breach of a duty of good faith could certainly give rise to distinct damages based on the principles in Hadley …including damages for mental distress. Punitive damages could also be available in certain circumstances.
The plaintiff never claimed damages for mental stress which are different than damages for wrongful dismissal. Since the result would have been the same i.e. payment of $1 million, it was unnecessary for the court to consider this alternative argument for damages for bad faith.
However although not necessary for the outcome of the case ,the SCC decided to opine on the nature of the duty of good faith performance of a contract as outlined by the SCC in Bhasin and further analyzed in Keayes and Potter.
The court noted that despite the outrageous conduct of the employer in the four year campaign highlighted by dishonesty, the trial judge did not explicitly find a breach of contract.
Here are a few principles extracted from this portion of the judgment:
- The duty of honest performance which applies to all contracts means simply that parties “must not lie [to] or otherwise knowingly mislead” the other side “about matters directly linked to the performance of the contract” and this principle applies to employment agreements.
- There are clear differences in the contractual breaches: “To say that one has been treated dishonestly is quite unlike saying that one has been dismissed without notice.”
- The failure to give reasonable working notice “does not turn on whether or not the employer acted honestly or in good faith”.
- An employee can allege dishonesty in the performance of a contract by the employer “independently of any failure to provide reasonable notice”. Such misconduct by the employer can “serve as a basis to answer for foreseeable injury that results from callous or insensitive conduct in the manner of dismissal”.
- “Damages out of the same dismissal are calculated differently depending on the breach invoked”. The failure to act in good faith “during the manner of dismissal can lead to foreseeable, compensable damages“. This is because the two breaches are different. “It suffices to say that a contractual breach of good faith rests on a wholly distinct basis form that relating to the failure to provide reasonable notice.”
- However although the causes of action are distinct they cannot be “deployed to provide what amounts to double recovery”. So in this case all the plaintiff sought under the breach of the duty of good faith was the payment of the LTIP but that was awarded to him under the heading of damages for lack of reasonable working notice.
- It was important that the trial judge found that Ocean had not intended to terminate Mr. Matthews in order to avoid payment of the LTIP. One would assume if that had been a motivating factor then damages may have been awarded for breach of the duty of good faith.
- Where an employee alleges a breach of the duty of good faith the court can look back over the period of employment and is not confined “to the exact moment of termination itself.” It was open to the trial judge to tie the dishonesty over the four year period to the “manner of dismissal”. That is to say the “manner of dismissal” as considered in the cases is not tied to the “moment of dismissal”. So for example constructive dismissal cases are often found as was the case here based on a history of misconduct and a series of changes over time. This allows the court to apply a “more flexible measure of conduct over the period leading up to the moment of actual termination of the employment contract.”
- The court also raised some “interesting questions” but failed to answer them. For example it noted that not all mistreatment by the employer will lead to a constructive dismissal:
This is a dismissal case. In light of the comment in Bhasin that the common law should develop in an incremental fashion, I would decline to decide whether a broader duty exists during the life of the employment contract in the absence of an appropriate factual record.”
- Finally since no additional damages were sought in this case for breach of the duty of good faith the court considered whether it would be appropriate to issue a declaration of bad faith:
Since the plaintiff offered no explanation as to why such a declaration should be issued the court would not make a declaration of a contractual breach related to good faith in the formal sense. But it went on to note on the facts that such a declaration would have been appropriate.
This last comment by the court is most troubling. The court provides no road map as to how these obiter comments will play out in future claims or what the utility of a declaration of a contractual breach related to good faith in the formal sense would be. Yet it continues to assert the importance of the role of work in an employee’s life. Nevertheless I am certain we will see plaintiffs’ counsel build on these comments to construct further claims against employers who have alleged acted in bad faith. Such claims might include in the extreme case a claim for reinstatement or extension of the notice period beyond the normal notice period.
TAKEAWAYSOn the key issue in the appeal, employers should consider the wording of their employment contracts to see if in fact they have contracted out of the obligation to pay any incentive bonus that would otherwise come due during the notice period. It will be extremely difficult to craft such enforceable language in light of this decision.
But perhaps a better solution is to ensure that there is a written employment agreement in place that limits the employee’s right to reasonable notice at common law. In this case it could have been possible under BC law to have an enforceable contract that limited Mr. Matthews’ damages to 8 weeks notwithstanding his 15 year tenure. That in turn on the facts of this case would have eliminated the right to the $1 million bonus.
The uncertainty created by the SCC’s obiter comments on the duty of good faith and honest performance is unfortunate. In the real world it is hard to be honest with employees all of the time. However the comments by the court serve as a good reminder to employers to treat their employees with respect and fairness and above all honesty.
Check out our Related Articles here.
Note to our Readers: This is not legal advice. If you are looking for legal advice in relation to a particular matter, please contact our Employment & Labour Group.
“This high-conflict case arises out of the breakdown of a 20-year friendship and business relationship between Michael Price (“Mr. Price”) and Farrukh David Robson (“Mr. Robson”).
 In addition to their business and personal relationships, both Mr. Price and Mr. Robson suffer from significant life‑altering illnesses. The emotion engendered as a result of these factors led to a difficult and “hotly disputed” trial; particularly the factual matrix. Both sides accused the other of lies and fabrications. Within this context, the factual reality must be distilled.”
Two court cases illustrate what can go wrong. In both cases the employer had a binding contract that limited the employee’s rights, but were found liable for damages for negligent misrepresentations that occurred at the hiring stage.
Price v 481530 B.C Ltd 2016 BCSC 1940
In 2010 I wrote a blog on an interesting case involving a fight between two brothers who jointly owned a very successful company along with other companies they owned individually. One brother had laid off an employee from his own company and had him hired by the jointly owned company. The other brother strongly objected to the hiring and refused to pay him. The employee brought a complaint before the E S branch and was awarded a significant amount of wages. The court in a separate application broke the tie between the two brothers in the management of the company by referencing the articles but not after a huge amount of money had been wasted on legal fees.
Since then I have done two more blogs on similar cases while I sit in amazement on how much acrimony can develop with family or friends owned businesses:
Family Feud (weilerlaw.ca)
Family Feud #2 – Family Businesses, Take Note (weilerlaw.ca)
Family Feud Gets Downright Nasty (And Expensive)
Many of these problems could have been solved by careful planning at the outset. When I read the recent case of Dubois v Milne 2020 BCCA 216 I couldn’t help think it was “déjà vu all over again”.
Dubois v Milne
The Plaintiff and his spouse bought a 5% share interest in L Inc. a small, closely held company founded and owned by C. The Plaintiff and C were longtime friends. M convinced the Plaintiff to join the company as general manager and subsequently the Plaintiff became a 45% shareholder. The Plaintiff’s role increased and M’s role decreased over time. The Plaintiff was paid $100,000 and M’s salary remained at $60,000. M went into the hospital in 2009 and when her returned a year later he expressed a wish to reassert control over the business to which the Plaintiff acquiesced. However M had a deep negative attitude towards the Plaintiff for no apparent reason. In January 2011 M caused the company to terminate the Plaintiff. The wrongful dismissal action that ensued was settled. But that was not the end of the matter.
M as sole director appointed himself CFO at an annual salary of $100,000. He also approved for himself an annual salary of $50,000 as President and appointed himself Director of Purchasing at an annual salary of $75,000.
Most importantly he caused the company to stop paying dividends in 2010 and 2011 notwithstanding the dividend history of the company.
On August 1st 2021 the Plaintiff commenced an action in the form of a Petition claiming relief from oppression under section 227 of the Business Corporation Act. He sought an order that M purchase or redeem his shares for an amount determined by a valuator. The matter was placed on the trial list. The trial judge held in the Plaintiff’s favour finding that M had oppressed the Plaintiff and that M, not the company, should be ordered to purchase the Plaintiff’s shares. Given the excessive amounts M took in salary and the company’s current economic condition he ordered that the appropriate date to value the shares was the date of the Petition August 1st 2012. It is noteworthy that the company did start to pay dividends again in 2014. The appeal of the trial judge’s decision was dismissed with concurring reasons: Dubois v Milne 2020 BCCA 216.
Section 227(2) of the BCA is a powerful tool that is frequently used by disgruntled shareholders especially in small closely held companies. And there are many cases where the plaintiff/petitioner is also a key employee:
 Section 227(2) of the BCA establishes the oppression remedy:
(2) A shareholder may apply to the court for an order under this section on the ground
(a) that the affairs of the company are being or have been conducted, or that the powers of the directors are being or have been exercised, in a manner oppressive to one or more of the shareholders, including the applicant, or
(b) that some act of the company has been done or is threatened, or that some resolution of the shareholders or of the shareholders holding shares of a class or series of shares has been passed or is proposed, that is unfairly prejudicial to one or more of the shareholders, including the applicant.
The Supreme Court of Canada in the seminal decision on oppression cases in BCE Inc v 1976 Debentureholders 2008 SCC 69, at paragraphs 56-62 gave a broad and liberal interpretation to these provisions
 In our view, the best approach to the interpretation of s. 241 (2) is one that combines the two approaches developed in the cases. One should look first to the principles underlying the oppression remedy, and in particular the concept of reasonable expectations. If a breach of a reasonable expectation is established, one must go on to consider whether the conduct complained of amounts to “oppression”, “unfair prejudice” or “unfair disregard” as set out in s. 241 (2) of the CBCA.
 We preface our discussion of the twin prongs of the oppression inquiry by two preliminary observations that run throughout all the jurisprudence.
 First, oppression is an equitable remedy. It seeks to ensure fairness-what is “just and equitable”. It gives a court broad, equitable jurisdiction to enforce not just what is legal but what is fair: Wright v. Donald S. Montgomery Holdings Ltd. (1998), 39 B.C.L. (2d) 266 (Ont. Ct. (Gen. Div.)), at p. 273; Re Keho Holdings Ltd. and Noble (1987), 38 D.L.R. (4th) 368 (Alta. C.A.), at p. 374; see, more generally, Koehnen, at pp. 78-79. It follows that courts considering claims for oppression should look at business realities, not merely narrow legalities: Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, at p. 343.
 Second, like many equitable remedies, oppression is fact specific. What is just and equitable is judged by the reasonable expectations of the stakeholders in the context and in the relationships at play. Conduct that may be oppressive in one situation may not be in another.
 Against this background, we turn to the first prong of the inquiry, the principles underlying the remedy of oppression. In Ebrahimi v. Westbourne Galleries Ltd.,  A.C. 360 (H.L.) at p. 379, Lord Wilberforce, interpreting s. 222 of the U.K. Companies Act, 1948, described the remedy of oppression in the following seminal terms:
The words [”just and equitable”] are a recognition of the fact that a limited company is more than a mere legal entity, with a personality in law of its own: that there is room in company law for recognition of the fact that behind it, or amongst it, there are individuals, with rights, expectations and obligations inter se which are not necessarily submerged in the company structure.
 Lord Wilberforce spoke of the equitable remedy in terms of the “rights, expectations and obligations” of individuals. “Rights” and “”obligations” connote interests enforceable at law without recourse to special remedies, for example, through a contractual suit or a derivative action under s. 238 of the CBCA. It is left for the oppression remedy to deal with the “expectations” of affected shareholders. The reasonable expectations of the shareholders is the cornerstone of the oppression remedy.
 As denoted by “reasonable”, the concept of reasonable expectations is objective and contextual. The actual expectation of a particular shareholder is not conclusive. In the context of whether it would be “just and equitable” to grant a remedy, the question is whether the expectation is reasonable having regard to the facts of the specific case, the relationships at issue, and the entire context, including the fact that there may be conflicting claims and expectations.
The trial judge had a very unfavourable view of the credibility of M in contrast to the Plainfiff who the judge found was “a forthright and credible witness”. In the result the trial judge held that where the evidence of M is in conflict with evidence of the Plaintiff he accepted the evidence of the Plaintiff. In my view that finding in a case of equity and fairness indicated the eventual outcome.
Applying these broad principles the trial judge held that the Plaintiff had reasonable expectations that
 Dubois’ reasonable expectations that he would participate in the management of Lucid and that he would have employment with Lucid as long as he was a shareholder were contravened by the actions of Milne in wrongfully terminating Dubois’ employment.
 Wrongful dismissal by itself will not justify a finding of oppression. It is only where the interests of the employee are closely intertwined with his interest as a shareholder, and where the dismissal is part of a pattern of conduct to exclude the complainant from participation in the corporation, that the dismissal can be found to be an act of oppression: Krynen v. Bugg (2003), 64 O.R. (3d) 393 (S.C.J.) at para. 74.
 Milne wanted not only Dubois’ money in purchasing the shares in Lucid, but also his ability and skills. Dubois considered himself on an equal footing to Milne and I infer, based on the evidence, that up until 2010, Milne shared the same view.
 Dubois’ interests as an employee were closely intertwined with his interest as a shareholder. Dubois worked long hours and conducted himself as an owner would.
 In my view the wrongful dismissal of Dubois establishes a finding of oppression on its own.
 Further, Milne tripled his salary after Dubois was terminated. This was contrary to the Agreement and there was no precedent in the operation of Lucid to justify this. Based on the evidence, I find that Milne increased his salary for the specific purpose of depriving Dubois of the dividends he was entitled to.
 Milne wrongfully withheld dividends from Dubois, again for the purpose of forcing Dubois out of Lucid.
 In my view, these two further grounds would establish a finding of oppression on their own. However, I am confident that the cumulative effect of these actions by Milne clearly establishes oppression on his part against Dubois.
The decision of the trial judge was upheld on appeal.
The Honourable Chief Justice Bauman dismissed the appeal. However he disagreed with the trial judge’s last comment that a wrongful dismissal alone could constitute an act of oppression. As the Chief Justice noted:
I do note the error in the judge’s statement that, in his opinion, “the wrongful dismissal of Dubois establishes a finding of oppression on its own” (at para. 273). I emphasize again that the oppression remedy is distinct from contractual remedies: just as oppression relief does not require the breach of a contractual right to be available, so does a breach of contract not mandate oppression. To reiterate Justice Newbury’s statement from 1043325 Ontario Ltd. v. CSA Building Sciences Western Ltd., 2016 BCCA 258 at para. 54, quoted above:
[W]here the complainant is able to show an entire course of oppressive conduct which includes another cause of action (in Naneff, wrongful dismissal), that cause may also be remedied under the oppression provision.
[Emphasis in original.]
 Or, as Justice Blair stated in the trial decision in Naneff v. Con-Crete Holdings Ltd.,  B.C.J. No. 1756 at para. 25 (Ont. Gen. Div.), var’d with respect to remedy  O.J. No. 1811 (Ont. Div. Ct.), rev’d  O.J. No. 1377 (Ont C.A.):
[A] claim for wrongful dismissal is not, in itself, a proper claim to be asserted by way of oppression remedy. Where the dismissal is part of an overall pattern of oppression, and where the complainant’s position of employment is closely connected with his or her rights as a shareholder, officer and director of the company, or companies, in question, the dismissal may properly be considered as part of that pattern of conduct . . .
 Oppressive conduct can encompass other legal wrongs, but cannot be contingent on a finding of a separate legal wrong: see also BCE at para. 71, making this point. To the extent it suggested otherwise, the judge’s statement at para. 273 was incorrect. Yet given that the judge’s finding of oppression did not indeed rest on wrongful dismissal alone, and was based on the existence of close connection between Dubois’s employment and his rights as a shareholder, there is no error in the result stemming from this misstatement. I note further that there is no suggestion that the settlement Dubois entered into for his wrongful dismissal resolved any claims he might have as a shareholder, or that the remedy in this case duplicates a remedy for wrongful dismissal. The relief in this case was specific to his shares, and there is no argument he has been overcompensated for the harm suffered.
 The judge’s conclusion that Dubois’s employment expectations were reasonable in the circumstances betrays no error.
Mr. Justice Groberman would likewise have dismissed the appeal but he gave separate reasons concurred in by Madame Justice Fisher. The main point of disagreement with the Chief Justice appears to be the argument that the expectation of employment was tied to the Plaintiff’s interest as a shareholder:
Where shares have been issued on the clear understanding that investors will, as a consequence of holding shares, be entitled to employment, termination of that employment can constitute oppressive conduct against those investors qua shareholders.
 The mere fact that an employee is a shareholder does not mean that an oppression action will lie when the employee is wrongfully dismissed: Mohan v. Philmar Lumber (Markham) Ltd. (1991), 50 C.P.C. (2d) 164 (Ont. General Division). An action for oppression is concerned with the reasonable expectations of a shareholder qua shareholder. The onus was, therefore, on Mr. Dubois to show that he reasonably expected to continue to be employed by the company as a function of him being a shareholder.
 The judge accepted Mr. Dubois’s testimony, that he anticipated that he would continue to be employed by Lucid so long as he had shares in the company. He found that Mr. Dubois’s expectations were reasonable, but does not appear to have considered whether the expectations were expectations qua shareholder, or merely expectations qua employee.
 It is clear that the court must determine, in an oppression action, whether a shareholder’s expectations qua shareholder, are objectively reasonable. In my view, the evidence in this case was not capable of sustaining such a finding.
Notwithstanding these findings the justices would have likewise dismissed the appeal.
Feldstein v 364 Northern Development Corp (BCCA)
In this remarkable and troubling case the BC Court of Appeal upheld a damage award of $83,337 for a former employee for lost benefits due to a negligent misrepresentation made in the context of pre-employment discussions.
Mr. Feldstein had cystic fibrosis and at the hiring interview he claimed he disclosed his CF which was denied by the company. He asked about the company’s LTD plan. He asked about a monthly benefit limit of $1,000 apparent in the plan and he claimed he was told he would qualify for the full benefits of $4,677 if he worked 3 months without illness as that would satisfy the “Proof of Good Health” requirement in the plan. Again the employer denied it made these statements. After some months his health declined. When he applied for LTD he was told while he was entitled to LTD he was only eligible for $1,000 a month not the full benefit of $4,667 per month. His benefits were reduced because he had not filled out a medical questionnaire that was required to establish “Proof of Good Health”.
The court held the company liable for negligent misrepresentation. Its assurances at hiring were misleading and inaccurate because the insurer’s more stringent requirements were inconsistent with what had been represented at hiring. The court found that an implied representation may give rise to a claim for negligent misrepresentation. It stated:
“Mr. Nizker’s duty of care with respect to representations made during pre-contractual negotiations included not only a duty to be honest in making those representations, but also to exercise reasonable care in ensuring that the representations made were accurate and not misleading.”
An honest but mistaken belief did not relieve the employer of liability.
The court held that if he had been properly informed he would not have accepted employment with 364.
Finally the court ignored the fact that Mr. Feldstein, with legal advice, signed a written employment agreement that contained an “entire agreement” clause that was intended to avoid claims for representations made prior to the contract being signed.
This is an important case for HR specialists. For a more detailed discussion of this case I invite you to see my blog article at: Troubling Decision Of The Court Of Appeal On Negligent Misrepresentation
Michael J. Weiler has more than 35 years experience in the ever evolving world of employment, labour and human rights law. And experience in this area is critical to protect our clients—this is where law is not just a science but most often an art. Judgment is critical for our clients and that is what we bring to the table based on our years of experience. This means first and foremost knowing the law—keeping updated and current. Experience also means knowing the players in the game and their processes—the LRB, the Employment Standards branch, WorkSafeBC, the courts etc.
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