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The Coming Shift in the Workplace

October 1, 2009 by Ruth Gmehlin, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

The Upcoming Labour Crisis

We recently attended a local OCRI event where Linda Duxbury, a professor and expert in the field of organizational health, was giving her informative and entertaining presentation on Dealing with Generational Differences in the Workplace. The main message I took away from this presentation is the absolute need for organizations to plan for the impending labour shortage we are starting to face in the Canadian market. For the first time in 45 years, we are moving into a sellers market, and for every two employees eligible to retire, we have less than one employee to take their place. Combine this information with the fact that the current labour market is as diverse as it has ever been with four generations, each with very different life influencers, perspectives and priorities contributing to the workforce. This will not only make administering human resources an extreme challenge for organizations starting up over the next three to 10 years, it will make HR, along with HR policies and procedures to support employees, the critical success factor.

The New Buzzwords

We are also noticing recent trends from working with our clients in the field, which in my opinion reflect the employees response to this upcoming labour crisis, from within.

It is not just about communication, it is about conversation. In other words, there is a real need to get away from faceless, drawn out email discussion threads. More and more people should make an effort to pick up the phone, and schedule a quick get-together to discuss challenges and opportunities face,to face. This would allow people to interact spontaneously in solving business challenges, as well as build out their relationships and networks. The new buzzword tune up expresses a similar sentiment; it is time to have a real conversation with your coworkers. Employees are demanding to have more face to face time with both with their managers and colleagues.

We regularly get called in to work with a team whose main objective is simply to get to know each other better, the challenge being that they do not know where to start. How does this happen, especially when these teams have been working together for weeks, months and even years? It is more common than you think, similar to the way you can carry on an indepth conversation with someone for so long that it seems socially unacceptable to go back and ask for their name.

The Importance of Face-to-Face Meetings

No matter how diverse our workplace is, no matter how advanced our technology has become, no matter how many processes we put into place, and no matter how easy it is to reach one another 24/7 using on-the-go computing devices; at the end of the day we are still human. That is to say, absolutely nothing can replace human contact and a genuine face to face conversation. Whether on a small scale, such as running into a coworker on the way to lunch and taking a moment to chat about on going projects, or on a large scale such as closing that major business deal with a handshake, real human contact is irreplaceable. As the workplace has become continuously more technologically advanced, as we use email, voicemail, video conferencing, web meetings, messaging, or blogging, somehow along the line we have become socially backward and forgotten the power of eye contact, real conversation and spontaneous creativity. Some large companies such as Loblaws and Intel Corp. have declared e-mail free days as one tactic to help address this issue.

Where to Start the Conversation

Nothing can get more basic than a genuine conversation about who we are at work; how we prefer to work, communicate and be compensated, what motivates us, how to achieve work-life balance, and what we are truly passionate about. Only by satisfying these needs and wants can the productivity and creative power of that employee be released to be part of the sustaining force of a company.

The only way to understand what makes your employees feel passionate about their job and be as productive as possible is to ask them. Ask and listen. Extend trust and responsibility, and allow them the ability to influence their work and work environment. In this next era of the sellers market there is no blanket solution, and the ability to customize the workplace to meet each of the employees needs will be key.

Impact on Organizations

With the effects of the labour shortage starting within the next three years, it is important for organizations to start focusing on their people strategies now, to keep their employees motivated, happy and challenged. The key to retention and recruitment is in implementing appropriate human resources programs to support current and future employees as they would like. Make people a priority today!

Case Study: Successfully Implementing DISC

September 1, 2009 by Jill Geddes, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

The Background

The Banff Centre, a well respected arts and educational institution, was looking for a single assessment tool that would help them with several of their learning and development programs, which included leadership initiatives, in-house team building workshops, succession planning, a mentorship program, exit interviews, and a recruitment tool.

The Challenge

Starting the search for the right tool to help with the learning and development programs in your organization can be overwhelming; there are many different assessment options and programs available, how do I choose the right one for our organization? As part of their analysis, The Banff Centre also took into consideration the cost per assessment and the training involved to implement the tool into their programs to accommodate their budget and time restrictions. The goal was to find the most practical and useful tool, that would be easy to learn, use, and administer, and be relatively inexpensive to implement.


After evaluating several different assessments based on criteria such as ease of use, cost, and training available, the Banff Centre chose the DISC behavioural assessment from Trillium Teams. The DISC assessment tool articulates how managers and employees approach problems and challenges, communicate with others, like to managed and motivated, deal with conflict, and adapt to change. They also chose the DISC assessment because it offered them several other benefits:

  • Available online, 24/7 and only takes 10 minutes to complete
  • Easy to administer and understand by the administrator and the recipient
  • Business specific with language suitable to the work environment
  • Internationally supported, the assessment can be filled out in over 30 languages
  • Natural and adapted styles, this is a unique aspect of this DISC assessment

Unique DISC Training

One of the main reasons the Banff Centre chose the DISC assessment from Trillium Teams was because of their unique approach to training. This program was a combination of customized training, one on one coaching, and practical application to their specific needs. To set each participant up for success, the training also included some pre and post event one on one coaching, to help them be able to seamlessly incorporate the DISC model into their unique programs.

The Results

The results were clear. At the end of the three day workshop, each participant felt confident in using the DISC assessment for their respective learning & development initiatives, whether it be facilitating a team building workshop, creating a mentorship program, or using it as part of the recruitment process. Each participant walked away with the following tangible items:

  • Individual DISC Links: Each participant was equipped with their own unique DISC link to be able to administer and implement it into their learning & development programs. Each person would then receive a monthly invoice, based on a pay per use basis, no additional or hidden fees.
  • Practical Next Steps: Each participant created a tangible action plan, with guidance and input from the group, for how they would implement DISC into their respective programs.
  • A Trusted DISC Advisor: Upon completion of the training, an ongoing supportive relationship was formed with Trillium Teams, which meant that each participant could call upon their expertise when encountering challenges or when initiating a new learning and development program.

What Made the Difference?

Finally and most importantly, Trillium Teams unique approach to training. Trillium Teams was extremely responsive to the client needs and requests.

  • They offer a well balanced combination of training, learning by doing, and coaching in a supportive learning environment.
  • The pre workshop 90 minute coaching call gave each participant an opportunity for personal development, to discuss their specific learning objectives, as well as the chance to get to know the instructors to build rapport and trust before the training event.
  • The post workshop one on one 60 minute coaching call gave each participant an additional opportunity to ask specific questions about DISC once they were using the assessments with their clients.
  • Trillium Teams asked each participant about their learning objectives for the Train the Trainer session and ensured that the needs of each person were met.
  • Post training, Trillium Teams was available whenever the client had an inquiry about administering their unique DISC link.

Are You Managing Your Team as a Team

August 1, 2009 by Ruth Gmehlin, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

If your team is to work at maximum efficiency and achieve its full potential, all of your employees need to work together as a well-functioning team. This means using effective team management skills.

Being an effective manager and effective team management skills are not always the same thing. You may have different teams that need to be managed in different ways. For instance, it is just as important to manage your senior management team as it is to manage your more junior staff members. The following are a set of six simple guidelines to keep in mind as you think about managing your team more effectively.

1. Roles: Ensure Everybody Knows Their Role and Set Clear Lines of Responsibility

As basic as this may seem, this is one of the most common challenges facing teams today. As new team members are added, and with work loads constantly changing and shifting, taking some time out of the schedule to clarify not only individual roles, but how each role meshes with the greater role of the team can be a great way to increase team efficiency and clear up misunderstandings before they happen.

2. Goals: Set and Communicate Clear Goals

It is important to clearly communicate the corporate goals, departmental goals, team goals as well as the individual goals. When was the last time you checked in with everyone on your team to make sure these are all in line and clearly understood by everyone?

3. Involvement: When Appropriate, Involve All Team Members in Decision Making

This is the greatest tool you have as a manager to motivate and empower your team to achieve beyond expectation, so make use of it as much as possible. As an example, using facilitation techniques at your next team meeting when an important decision needs to be made will encourage a forum for people to bring their collective ideas to the table, rather than a simple vote, and results in obtaining a mutually agreed upon outcome. If everyone has had the opportunity to voice their opinion and the team has agreed upon the decision together, the chances of that decision being enforced are so much greater.

A common role arrangement for meetings could be to have the manager use a chair approach to start the meeting, deal with the agenda, direct the communication and information sharing portion of the session, then switch to a facilitative approach to be able to get feedback from the team, problem solve or make decisions together.

4. Diversity: Encourage and Promote Diversity along with Ways to Manage and Resolve Differences

A good manager will suggest processes for the group to follow, and seek ratification for any changes necessary from the team. Part of the role of the manager is to empower team members, and only intervene when group dynamics are hindering productivity. This should only be necessary when team members become dysfunctional; do not forget that in the process of collaboration, conflict is a natural component of reaching a consensus. To the extent that the situation allows, rely on the team to decide to what degree and depth issues need to be discussed.

5. Listen: Be a Ready and Willing Listener and Ensure Regular Reviews

Appropriate team managing may involve a great deal of one on one work with individual members. Being able to really listen coupled with providing regular reviews is a skill that must be actively developed.

Some interesting strategies you may want to try the next time you are faced with a difficult conversation:

  • Try to understand the feeling a person is expressing in addition to the intellectual content. If you can avoid getting emotionally involved yourself, you can take time to understand first and defer evaluation until later. When in a situation where you believe the other viewpoint is wrong or irrelevant, indicating simple acceptance, not necessarily agreement; can go a long way to resolving a conversation.
  • In the listening stage, try to limit the expression of your views since these may influence or inhibit the other person. If they genuinely appear to solicit your viewpoint, be truthful in your reply.
  • Finally, if possible, allow the time for a discussion to truly run its course, without interruption, as this can go a long way to resolving a situation and limit distress down the road.

6. Motivate: Motivate Team Members and Reward Initiative

Each employee has different motivators; it is important to reward your team members both individually and collectively as appropriate. As well, remember to be actively involved; encourage your team to take new training and pursue their personal development needs as this will ensure a dynamic and continuously evolving team.

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