Straight Talk

I have to say I am getting tired of the words metric, measurement and return on investment.  Not because they aren’t necessary, but because they are; and in the end it’s hard to get companies to truly commit to do what they need to do, to get what they want to get. 

There is work upfront before any training program is initiated.  Where are the participants’ skills today?  Where should they be?  What has worked in the past to improve skills?  What hasn’t?  Who needs to improve?  Who doesn’t?  Have other options besides training been utilized?  If so, what?  Did they work?  If so, great… why look at this again?  If not, why not?

Sometimes an assessment is used to get measurement.  But, what assessment measures what you need measured?  Should it be very specific to one skill or measure a lot of skills for future use?

The work that is done up front will pay off in the long run.  The challenge is that many companies don’t have the internal team members to do this type of work, so…. a training program is put in place for a perceived skill shortage and everyone crosses their fingers that improvement will occur.  The truth is that sometimes this works.  Sometimes organizations get lucky, pick the right topic, the right company to work with and participants improve as a result of the training. 

At ETL we really feel that the work up front in the needs analysis phase gives companies a better chance to succeed in their training plans.  We are more than willing to help.  We suggest you get us involved early so that we know the current skill level, the expected skill level and through program customization, provide the right content.  Training dollars are always tight.  Let ETL help you to spend them wisely.

This has been straight talk by Patricia DeMers

Training Doesn't Have to Take a Summer Vacation

Some organizations think that employees can only learn in what we commonly think of as the school year - September to June.  Yet businesses are not schools, and need to be running all year long, and profitable every month.

Sometimes learning is best scheduled over the summer especially if it is your quiet time. This allows employees to attend workshops and not return to chaos after. 

Excel Thru Learning offers training programs when you want and need them.  We don't take the summer off and in fact we offer a slight break in pricing if clients choose to run sessions in the summer.  Keep us in mind if you can see the advantage of employee development all year long!

Learning doesn't have to take a summer vacation!

You know you are old when...

I am not sure I have a way to finish that sentence. 

What I do know is that ageism is alive and well. Perhaps even in your organization. But, at what cost?

I never figured I would be excluded from anything because I was 'mature' or over 50. Yet, I see it happening all of the time and have experienced it myself. I have often thought that with age, comes opportunities. The thought of exclusion or disadvantage never occurred to me; that is until recently.

This is not a rant. This is a concern.

Adults today are living longer and working well into their 60's. Yet, many are denied promotions or meaningful jobs because of their age. From an HR perspective, no-one in their right mind would tell an applicant they are too old. They'd never say they didn't get a promotion because of their age or their nearness to retirement. The truth is... we all know people that have had interviews and were not offered promotions or positions even though they were the best person for the job. There is something wrong with this in a world where diversity is honoured and discrimination is against the law. 

I am lucky in that I own the company where I work. My age is not a hindrance nor is anyone else's at ETL. We hire people of all ages because we appreciate that there is value in the young, middle aged and mature workers. In the work we do to help people find jobs - either through our outplacement for clients, or recruiting, we see that anyone over 50 is rarely considered - possibly out of fear of potential retirement in the near future. 

What I find funny in this is that young people are staying on average 3-5 years with employers and then moving on with the hopes of gaining experience and building their careers. Someone in their 50's is looking to find steady work, expecting to stay 10 years plus and will not spend hours each year looking for something better or different. Based on this... loyalty, productivity and longer tenure is almost guaranteed in a mature hire. Yet, we overlook them. 

Fast food restaurants and big box stores are benefiting greatly from the mature population that still wants to work, but cannot find a place in their chosen fields because of their age. Are other businesses losing out by not taking advantage of close to retirement boomers? I think so.

What are your thoughts? What have your experiences been with your mature workers and is ageism as real a problem as it appears to us?

Have your say by joining us on our LinkedIn group - RevolutionHRy

Pat DeMers, President, Excel Thru Learning

Engagement – What is this?

Pat Demers - President/ Owner of Excel Thru Learning

Everyone is talking about engagement; but what does it really mean to be engaged? 

Engagement can be described as commitment, passion and a high level of productivity.  Engagement occurs when organizational and personal progress is measured, recognition is given, employee strengths are leveraged and there is meaning behind the work being done.

In every organization not all employees have the same level engagement.  In fact, in most organizations you will have some disengaged employees, if not all of the time, at least some of the time.

Understanding some of the benefits of an engaged workforce is what creates the drive to make change.  An engaged workforce creates a competitive edge, retention, profit, collaboration and innovation.  Engagement is something most of us want from our people; yet find it difficult to get. 

How can you achieve engagement?  My suggestions on how to do this may not be the complete or perfect answer for you, however, they may help just a little.

I would first want to determine with individuals what is important to them at work.  Everyone is unique and what may engage someone could potentially disengage someone else.  Don’t assume everyone is excited about feedback or that an excellent relationship with you will make the difference.  Talk, listen, and when possible give the employee what they suggest they need.  It may surprise you that it won’t likely be more money.  In fact, we all know people who work for organizations where salaries are low, but the employees are very engaged in their work.  Once you know what your employees need and you address that, you will need to put some measurements in place.  As creatures of habit it is easy for people to go back to where they were, that disengaged place, and you don’t want that to happen.

Measurement is critical to a sustainable engaged workforce.  In order to have accurate data, you start with current engagement levels.  This can be achieved by surveys, focus groups, one-on-one discussions or assessments.  Once you have this information and have had conversations with your people, you determine what needs to happen to improve engagement.  This typically means something has to change.  Once you initiate the change, you will need ongoing measurement on what is improving and what isn’t. It can be hard to get a definite number but in most organizations when employees are engaged, it is obvious – attendance has improved, idea generation is a normal occurrence, there are happy sounds such as laughter and positive conversations, less conflict and more open discussions where everyone participates and in general relationships are good.

If you have disengaged employees you are not getting the results you want and your employees are not getting what they need.

What are you doing to get engagement?

Join in the conversation by following this link to ‘revolutionHRy’ – our LinkedIn group dedicated to sharing knowledge, resources and expertise. Weigh in on our question: How does your organization fight for engagement with your most valuable asset – your people?

Your colleagues and peers in our group are looking forward to your response… Share your voice!

Engagement. Buzzword or Necessity?

I’m on my way home from our head office – about a 3 hour trek I’ve made hundreds of times before. It’s not a difficult drive and it’s usually pretty peaceful. Suddenly, I’m hit with this thought – a thought I’m sure we’ve all had before – I know I was navigating traffic, making turns and I eventually pulled into the driveway, but how did I get here?


We make it home, but the journey is conspicuously lost in our memory…

Just like last year, we now look back on our first new month of the year and ask a familiar question… where has it gone? We’ve navigated through our projects, we’ve changed direction or focus when it was required and we’ve brought some tasks through to completion.


 We’re ‘getting our work done’ but are we truly (insert buzzword here…) engaged.

Engagement has become a widely talked about topic in Human Resources and in organizations as a whole. And for good reason. Engagement is a buzzword because it is a necessity for success. Many of the challenges we recognize on a daily basis can be explained as issues of engagement – difficult behavior, interpersonal challenges, stress, medical leave, illness, turnover … the list goes on and on. All of these behaviours point to a disengaged employee.

So, what is engagement… fundamentally?

In our experience, engagement, or lack thereof, looks like this:

Engagement blog engaged v disengaged image.JPG

What we’ve noticed in our work across industries is that a disengaged employee seems to routinely run on autopilot. I don’t have to tell you… we all know this comes with a cost.

I’ve heard it mentioned before that if you are not learning and growing, then you’re falling behind.

In business, as in life, this is completely true. The competitive edge of any organization, department, team or individual is the ability to be an agent and manger of change. Engagement is evolving – being in the moment at work, seizing opportunities, recognizing chances to grow and develop and capitalizing at that time. Being engaged means taking ownership, switching off autopilot and taking the controls. Being engaged is activity – anti-stagnation activity.

Sounds rosy, but it’s harder in practice than in theory.

It’s our duty as HR professionals, leaders, managers and supervisors to ensure engagement. In the conversations we have with the participants of our training sessions, we quickly see that the ‘blame’ always rolls uphill. Front line people will inevitably point the proverbial ‘finger’ at the ‘higher ups’. And, whether or not you accept this as truth, it is definitely the reality. I will say this… it’s hard to change the mind of anyone, let alone the mind of someone who harbors frustration, and the opinion that their suggestions, stressors and tribulations are not being taken seriously and are falling on deaf ears.

You want to see disengagement, talk to someone who tries to articulate a lack of resources, time and tools and then feels that nothing is done as a result. The real problem: this is happening every day. And, in the absence of concrete proof that ‘something is being done’ all that is left is our own perceptions and interpretations. And that is where disengagement is born.

This begs the question, then: How do we balance the responsibilities of executive leadership and the genuine concerns of the front line to create an ‘engaged workforce’ that recognizes they are all playing in the same sandbox?

Join in the conversation by following this link to ‘revolutionHRy’ – our LinkedIn group dedicated to sharing knowledge, resources and expertise. Weigh in on our question: How does your organization fight for engagement with your most valuable asset – your people?

Side note: We all know the effects of stress are far reaching and result in waning levels of engagement. Why not brush up on some strategies to help Manage Stress Effectively. Check out our FREE webinar for some relevant and practical tools you can use to help limit the stress you are, more than likely, feeling:

Check it out here:

Limiting Stress in 2018 - A lofty Goal!

Life is settled back into normal after the Holiday season. The rush and hustle of the preparation is over and worry over those final details and last minute surprises has come and gone. We are left with a distant memory of the holidays and we’ve turned our attention to the year ahead.  

We’re striving for the ‘best’ this year… For most of us, this will be ‘our’ year – a time to seize opportunities, develop and grow personally, and to bring our team along for the ride. We all want success and, when the ball dropped and the clock struck midnight we were all motivated and willing to make it happen.  

The reality is: we’re two full weeks into the New Year and how much have things really changed?  

For some of us – and in spite of our best intentions - New Years’ Resolutions have been broken, abandoned and possibly even forgotten. No one wants this to happen, but reality sets in hard. There’s still hope… 

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Let’s shift our mindsets, focus on our positive attitude and go after some (not all) of the goals we’ve set.  

Work is stressful. The standard across the board today is higher workload and less people and resources to accomplish everything. And, it all still needs to be done… yesterday! That’s the truth. While we can’t necessarily change the workload and the stress that it creates, we can shift our attitude from: it’s too much, I’ll never get it all done, to: let’s work smart, prioritize, and strategically tackle these tasks one by one.  

A new year is definitely a new opportunity – remember, so is each new day. Let’s re-engage with ourselves, re-engage our team and our organizations and embrace the right we have each day to go out and make small changes for improvement. Look for ways to simplify, look for opportunities to grow, modify the way we interpret those incoming challenges and make sure our attitudes are where they should be to keep us moving in a positive direction. Be mindful that we can’t do it all and it won’t happen right away, but if we focus on the right things, the positive things, our attitudes will keep us driving towards our goals.   

I learned some time ago that ‘life doesn’t give you what you want; life gives you what you are willing to accept!’  

Ask yourself, what are you willing to accept and what you can do to change the things that you aren’t. Make this year a success! 

Want to couple this new found focus on ‘Attitude’ with some sound strategies to limit stress, follow this link to our recently posted webinar on Effectively Managing Stress: 

This amazing content is complimentary and chock full of great tips, tools and explanations that will help in your goals of limiting stress.