Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, September 18, 2017

job experts/ "Negotiating and evaluating job offers"

Jun. 2, 2017 Job experts:

Teen magazines: I have read a little bit of job advice from them.  It's for teen girls who are mainly applying for entry jobs in retail and restaurants.

Women magazines: I have read Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan that do have a page for job advice.

Newspapers: I usually get all my job advice from reading the business section of the newspaper.  I became very job- oriented when I was laid off from the Soup place in 2010, the Year of Unemployment. 

I was reading the business section of the Edmonton Journal, the Globe and Mail and the National Post everyday.  My family subscribed to all 3 newspapers.  In April 2013, my dad cancelled the National Post subscription.  I also read the 24 News up to Aug. 2013 until they closed down.

Then I replaced 24 with the Metro.  Then in May 2015, I stopped reading the Metro.  I will only read the Globe and Mail and the Edmonton Journal.  The job advice is good from these newspapers.

It is from CEOs, managers, entrepreneurs, business writers and journalists, statistics, studies, colleges and universities.

Most of the knowledge is helpful and I can apply it.

Job newsletters: When I was writing the above, it made me think about some job newsletters I get in my email like:

Job Boom
Alberta Job Centre

I also remember Talent Egg articles printed in the Metro.

This is making me go into my old emails.  I see that the newsletters I got from Job Boom in 2013 and 2014.  I clicked on the links so I can read the whole story, and the link doesn't work.  When I want to read old stories from the Globe and Mail and other newspapers, I can access it and read it.

Jun. 6, 2017 "Make me an offer!  Tips on negotiating and evaluating job offers": I found this from CAPS- the University of Alberta Career Centre.  I went there for this seminar in 2011.  I was the only one there.  I never went to that school as a student.  I got this power point presentation and hand out here that I will type up:

Seminar outline:

Preparing to evaluate or negotiate an offer of employment

Responding to the initial offer

Evaluating the offer

Negotiate?  No?  Yes?

Negotiating tips

Accepting or refusing the offer

Determining the dollar value of your work:

Research the prevailing rate of pay for your type of work

Salaries will differ depending on:

-size of organization
-geographical location
-labor market conditions

Jun. 8, 2017:

Sources of information:

-Professional associations
-Your professional network
-Collective agreements
-Salary surveys: career centres, Internet
-Your past experience
-Ads for similar positions -USA

What's your bottom line?

Reflecting your budgetary needs and average salaries, your negotiation range starts a little higher that your bottom line and extends to a figure (within reason) that would make you very happy! 

Initial Response to an Offer of Employment:

Congratulations!  You have an offer!

Here's how to respond:

-Express enthusiasm
-Ask for time to consider
-Emphasize the importance of the decision
-Clarify the offer

How to Evaluate the Offer:

Ask yourself:

-Is this position and organization right for me at this point in my career?


-the job itself
-career implications
-salary, perks, benefits

Questions about the job:

Will I enjoy my daily tasks?
Are working conditions pleasant?
Am I likely to get along with my supervisor?  Colleagues?
Will I need to make major lifestyle changes if I take this job?
Am I comfortable with the level of responsibility?

Consider Career Implications:

Will this job enable me to move forward with my career goals?
How interested am I in the organizations' business?
Does the organization have a good reputation?
What are the career prospects in the sector likely to be in 5 yrs?

Consider: Salary, benefits, perks

Is the compensation package competitive?
What % of the benefits package will I need to pay for?
How generous are the perks- stock options, signing bonus, education allowances, etc.

Should I negotiate?


Your temperament
The importance of the issues
Your alternatives
Your assessment of the organization's norms and alternatives

Something to think about?

We spend years in school.  We spend a large sum of money getting that education.  We spend hours writing resumes and cover letters and interviewing.  But when we get to the last detail-money, perks, and benefits- we usually negotiate this in less than 5 min. -Suzanne Green, management speaker

Why so reluctant to negotiate?

Applicants are:

Uncomfortable putting a dollar value on skills
Afraid that negotiating will jeopardize job offer
Ill-prepared to negotiate

Postponing salary talks:

What salary range do you have in mind?
I would consider any reasonable offer
I didn't realize we were ready to discuss salary so soon.  I'd feel more comfortable after we're both sure we have a fit.

Negotiation tips:

Begin negotiating by "bracketing" -give a salary range
Be prepared to justify "the high end"
Offer too low? -ask for more- with discretion

Say: "I'm flexible"

This is a cordial discussion
Some salaries aren't very negotiable
Negotiate on objective grounds
Raise all your issues at the beginning of your negotiations

Ask: "Is that open to negotiation?"

Establish a negotiation style
Express enthusiasm throughout the negotiations
Recognize a firm offer
Ask for a commitment to review salary in 6 months

Accepting a job offer:

Expect to sign a written confirmation which features:

The job title
The starting date
Salary information

Read carefully, the signed document is legally blinding

Inform other potential employers that you are "off the market"

A perplexing situation:

You receive an offer from Organization A while waiting to hear from Organization B, your preferred workplace.

What do you do?

Contact Organization B to inform that that you have an offer but are still interested in their company.  Inquire about your status.

Declining a job offer

Explain why you are declining
Express thanks
Leave the door open for future work opportunities

Jun. 13, 2017 Job information and knowledge: I have been reading the business section of the newspapers since 2010.  It has been 7 yrs of reading about jobs, careers and business.

In 2011- the Year of the Office Job Search
In 2012- the Year of New Directions (looking for an office job and some temp jobs)

It got me to 2013- the Year of the Office Job.  I worked there for 5 months.

I was then dismissed because I wasn't good enough in handling customers.  I then put that job on my resume and it was a boost to it.

In 2014, the Year of Education and Research.  I was looking for an office job, and then I was researching every college program at MacEwan.  I then looked at programs at other colleges like NAIT.

You can see all this on my blog posts.

It then lead me to 2015- the Year of the Office Job and Dating (and Decluttering).  The office job was the home installation place for 3 months.  The dating was my speed dating events I went to.  Decluttering was the side thing where I put up every job article I ever cut out onto my blog.  I then gave all the physical news articles to my co-worker Je.

Job articles: You probably can't tell, but I have mainly posted most of those old job articles on my blog.  Old as in from 2007-2015.

Book reviews: These are the other articles I post.  The creative ones.

I have 500 something emails/ blog posts saved into my drafts account.

I can not send/ post all of them at once.  I can only send/ post 3 emails/ blog posts a week.

So some emails/ posts may seem dated.

Jun. 28, 2017 Job search complaints: I may have wrote about this before.  It was back in 2006 when I got laid off at Call Centre #1 and then worked at the Office Supply store.  I then got an interview to work at Chapters at West Ed.

I did the interview there.  Chapters is a good fit for me because I really like to read and write.  However, I did not get hired.

That is okay.  I then got hired at Call Centre #2 which was a really good fit for me.  If I had gotten hired at Chapters and then got to work at Call Centre #2, I would quit Chapters to work at Call Centre #2.

"Innovate and adapt to thrive in the age of Amazon"/ Evelyn Ernst

Jun. 26, 2017 "Innovate and adapt to thrive in the age of Amazon": Today I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail:

Wal-mart has been the colossus of retail for many decades. But in some ways, it’s small potatoes these days.

In 2015, retail expert Doug Stephens pinned’s inventory at 11 million products, a mere 4 per cent of the 260 million products he found available on even before it purchased Whole Foods. And Amazon, of course, offers ease of purchase and delivery that is shaking up the retail world.

It wasn’t so long ago that many retailers were putting up their first websites. For a decade, they have scoffed at Amazon’s inability to make a significant profit. But Mr. Stephens, author of Reengineering Retail, says in an interview we have “crossed the Rubicon” and in the last few years “retailers have awakened to the fact that Amazon and other online players are an existential threat to retailing,” leaving the industry in chaos.

Silicon Valley powerhouse Marc Andreessen said a few years ago that “software eats retail.” And while there is truth in that phrase, Mr. Stephens does not believe we are seeing the death of retail. But we will need to see retail’s reinvention, and soon. At the core will have to be the understanding that we don’t need physical stores for distribution of goods, as Amazon has shown. But we will need them for experiences.

To his mind, Amazon is actually not a retailer. It’s a data technology and innovation company that succeeds by ignoring the conventional wisdom of retailing and following its own ways.

He notes that last year Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren said that while Amazon might pose some threat in apparel sales it would suffer because it was not prepared to handle complexities such as returns of items. But to Amazon, that’s just another challenge to be handled by data and technology, as it is showing. When Amazon opened a physical store, it looked at retail through its own eyes and, in an age of mobile devices, eliminated cash registers, checkouts and lineups.

“But Amazon does not want to play in the physical experiences arena. They want to take the friction out of the equation. So if retailers can make the experiences in their stores rich, they can gain an edge,” says Mr. Stephens.

But most, of course, aren’t all that effective for now, even at a basic level of romancing the customer, let alone the redesigned future he is calling for, where stores are redesigned around experiencing the product under consideration.

He asks: In the past 30 days, how many consumer experiences have you had that were mind blowing? He suspects none, nearly 20 years after we were told by consultants Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore we were entering the “experience economy.” Toys “R” Us had a flagship store in New York’s Times Square where children could play with the products. “But that doesn’t help a consumer in Winnetka, Illinois, going into a store in a mall. Every store needs a flagship experience,” he insists. “It’s not easy to do. It takes patience, design and creativity.”

Pirch is an excellent example. In its U.S. stores, which specialize in kitchen, bath and outdoor equipment, you can have a totally immersive experience. That’s literal, if you bring a bathing suit, since you can try out the shower heads in their store.

You can also make coffee on the coffee maker you are eyeing, test all the other appliances and cook alongside a professional chef in a kitchen to understand those products. “They have made every inch of that store experiential,” Mr. Stephens says. And it’s paying off:

Sales for every square foot exceed the Apple Store, long considered the gold standard. Along with experiences, employees need to be super-knowledgeable in the product line, able to tell shoppers more than they can learn from Google.

These days, he says, the store is media. In the past, retailers and manufacturers broadcast messages to consumers and hoped they would shop. These days it’s instantaneous, as shoppers, at their desktop or with mobiles, react to messages and information, purchasing.

“There is no difference between the message and the ability to buy on the spot. So the store is media. Amazon does that millions of times a day,” he says.

In an Amazon world, retailers must adapt. We don’t go on for fun. We don’t sit around with friends and a glass of wine discussing purchases. It’s purely a functional activity, although virtual reality could change that. For now, experiences are the way to counter the new data-innovation-retail colossus. Companies must explore ideas and innovate themselves to thrive.

The Ladder: Evelyn Ernst: Today I found this article in the Globe and Mail

Evelyn Ernst, 48, with her husband David, is co-founder of Terra Beata Farms Ltd. in Lunenburg, N.S., grower and processor of specialty products and cranberries sold worldwide.

I never expected to be a cranberry farmer – it was not on the list, at all. I started university in chemical engineering, switched to biology, then music and education, starting out as a high-school music teacher. I’m so thankful I took a biochemistry course at Mount Allison. It’s amazing how that one course made so much difference – I’m sure [Professor] Jack Stewart never realized how much help his course would be to me.

I was born in Lunenburg, grew up near Chester. We spent the requisite few years living in Ontario after university but I’m an ocean person and it was hard to be that far away in the summer – on a hot day, I need to know I can run down the hill and go for a swim.

This land, 40 acres, was up for mortgage foreclosure in 1998. David wanted to buy it and plant a cranberry farm [initially with a partner]. David was an engineer – he wasn’t sure about the stability of the fishing industry because one task was to tear down a fresh-fish processing facility.

At that time, the price for cranberries was high; they grow well and wild here and it was a chance for him to buy an excavator and play in the dirt. The idea was to sell to one of the two packing houses, about 2,000 pounds that first year, but both [buyers] said no. We bought deep freezers out of the newspaper and sold those cranberries locally.

The next year, I went to markets and the fall fair – our now 15-year old in a car seat on the floor by the table. I made jars of cranberry sauce and recipe cards. The idea was people would sample food, pick up a recipe and buy cranberries. I got, “I don’t want to buy cranberries – how much a jar?” That caused us to change direction to be processors because one big farm was very strong in the fresh market, the other significant farm in the frozen market.

Nova Scotia’s a small province – we didn’t want to go head-to-head with neighbours. Customers kept asking for other products, like dried cranberries with less sugar than other brands. We developed a process to dry cranberries, a tricky thing because the skin is waxy, designed to hold water and protect the cranberry. Our process keeps vitamins and the juice, with 40-per-cent less sugar.

We started with used equipment – a colour sorter [was] the first major item we bought new in 2008. It cost more than our house. We harvested 250,000 pounds last year and receive cranberries from a dozen Atlantic Canada farms. We handled about 5 million pounds with $4-million in sales last year. Our community still doesn’t have high-speed internet or three-phase power, so we adapt.

Atlantic Canada has only 10 per cent of Canada’s population – we can’t eat that many cranberries – so we looked to Ontario early. We’re better known in Europe than Ontario, about 90 per cent of fruit now sold internationally for 80 per cent of revenue. Our audacious goal is to grow our branded business until half our fruit goes into retail products and half to international sales in the commodity market.

A market not being met was pure cranberry juice, no added water or sugar, but grocery stores don’t like when a producer only has one product, especially a small bottle lost on shelves. We made pure blueberry juice, then a sour-cherry farmer came to us and we made dried cherries – they were delicious.

But, their pitting machine is old, doesn’t get every pit. “May contain pits,” means “Guaranteed to contain pits,” so we paid for the tooth of the lady from Prince Edward Island and only make cherry juice. The market’s grown so we’ll take whatever Atlantic cherries we can, but we also buy from an Ontario farm.

Part of my philosophy for our u-pick is being accessible for people to learn about cranberries. After I put a newspaper ad in the first year, our insurance company called to increase insurance because we’d have the public in. I had to complete a form, one question “What type of ladders do you use to pick your cranberries?” It was hysterical. I sent a photo saying “these are cranberry plants.”

As told to Cynthia Martin. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Lamont Cranston
2 days ago

Outstanding, and best wishes for success.
It is good to see this type of business sprout up in an area of Canada that needs many more stories like this..
One thing though : "Atlantic Canada has only 10 per cent of Canada’s population"
Actually, it is more like 6% - and falling.

"I'm a shy adult who's never dated- now I have a crush"/ guys like independence

Apr. 5, 2015  I'm a shy adult who's never dated - now I have a crush:  I cut out this advice column from Zarqa Nawaz in the Globe and Mail on Mar. 23, 2012.  Here's the whole article:

Regina-based Zarqa Nawaz is the creator of the CBC-TV sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom.

A reader writes: I’m a shy guy in my early 30s who has actually never dated. I’ve had crushes but never the courage to tell girls I like them. Last summer I travelled to Europe for a Catholic gathering and fell for a girl who is 21. I’ve seen her twice since then but have said nothing about my feelings. How do I let her know I’d like to get to know her and see what happens? I’m worried she may be more experienced than me in relationships.

Start small

As a guy who never dated until my late 20s, I'd say, “What are you waiting for?” I always assumed that my crushes were too good for me and I made the excuses so that I never had to hear NO. Don’t build it up bigger than it is. Start small with a meal and don’t be afraid to ask at the end of the night if it’s something she'd like to do again. Every relationship is new at the beginning and experience doesn’t dictate if it works or not.

Todd Simpson, Windsor, Ont.

Try being friends

When my husband and I met, he was the shy guy. He had never had a girlfriend, while I’d had other boyfriends. We met in college and got to know each other, talking a lot about our pasts. He was never judgmental. We started dating and a year later we were married! So do not be afraid to ask her out as a friend at first. Hang out, get to know her and do not think about her past. Be honest with her and yourself. The worst outcome is that you may have a new friend.

Lucia De Santis, Brampton, Ont.

Chalk up some experience

Not to put too fine a point on it, but with each passing year, the women you meet and are attracted to are going to be more and more likely to have more experience than you. That may matter in the case of this girl in particular, but it really may not. Attraction is one of those funny things that can break down almost any barrier. That being said, if she does not return your affections, don’t get discouraged! Even rejection is a form of experience in love.

Adam Green, Ottawa

The final word

My mother comes from the world of arranged marriages. Nobody, no matter how shy or bucktoothed, got left behind. When I put my foot down and refused to partake in what I thought was a medieval custom, I found out fast that there is one significant benefit to meeting your spouse on your wedding day: no work.

And work you must do in order to meet your future partner. The woman you’re interested in belongs to the Facebook generation, so do your homework. If you find out she’s in a relationship, it’s not the end of the world because, last I heard, there are still single women left on this planet.

And if she’s available, take Todd’s advice. Start small. Ask if she’d like to meet for coffee and see what happens. If that’s too difficult, it’s time to bring in the cavalry. Asking people who care about you for introductions is another way to meet people. I was nerdy, weird and simply incapable of attracting someone on my own.

When your conservative Muslim mother tells you “it wouldn’t kill you to flirt with a man,” you know you’ve hit rock bottom. My brother actually had to phone his friends across Canada in a hunt for a suitable husband. After exhausting several provinces, he struck gold in Saskatchewan.

Dating websites are a fantastic resource. I would go to one that says something like (I’m just guessing here) “” and be honest in your profile. Share, among your other good qualities, that you’re shy and don’t have a lot of experience. Like Lucia said, the right woman won’t care. And if you don’t judge her, she won’t judge you.

Remember Adam’s advice: Rejection is par for the course. You can’t let it deter you. It’s either that or have my mother hook you up on your wedding day.

Feb. 17, 2017 Guys like independence:

Looks can hook a guy, but what is it that keeps them wanting more? After discussing the topic with some guy friends, my boyfriend, and even my parents, I noticed a particular trait that was consistent across conversations. It was agreed that the sexiest trait in a woman by far is independence.

Independent women are assertive, self-assured, and play by their own rules. They don't need anybody else but themselves to validate who they are. So when it comes to relationships, they're low maintenance as partners because they're busy running their own lives. They know when and what to give without being overbearing and have enough confidence to thrive on their own.

Here's what some of them said:

"It shows that they don't need me." - Jacob (27)

"Independence is attractive because it means they have their own thoughts and interests outside of me - creates a much deeper and interesting person." - Sam (26)

"To be independent, you have to have a lot of other good qualities. Like you've gotta have some sort of level-headedness, intellect, and confidence." - Marcus (27)

"Because you're creating your own path for others to follow." - Sunny (49)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the biggest turnoff they said was neediness. It's a deal-breaker if she doesn't know how to be without her boyfriend. This can be in the form of expecting constant communication, not wanting to hang out with her own friends, or showing irritation when her significant other is unavailable. If this sounds like you, cut it out.

You have to know how to be secure with yourself and in return, you won't need a man to make you feel complete. Whoever recognizes this about you will appreciate you as a partner even more.

But there's a difference between being self-reliant and playing hard to get. It's only a matter of time before that becomes old, and the chase is no longer fun or going anywhere.

Independence is a characteristic, not a game. Men appreciate this quality in a potential partner because it proves you'll be a good teammate who can pull their own weight.

My week:

Sept. 12, 2017: Yesterday was my day off.  I dropped off an envelope to my co-worker S at my 2nd restaurant job.  

Sell Travel: I found this in the Edmonton Journal classified ads.  I did the phone interview a couple of weeks ago.

It's selling travel plans and insurance.

You need a license to sell travel insurance (like a real estate agent).

It's work-from-home.

It's not a scam.

They have a 2 day class to train you.

You get 60% commission of what you sell.  Ex.  You sell $100 plan and you get $60 of it.

The co-worker S says she lives in a military base at Lancaster Park.  She is looking for an administrative assistant job like I am.  However, she lives by the north side and I told her I will send her job ads on that side because it's really far away from me.

Also the military base has buses that are like 6am-8am and 3pm-5pm.  In her case, she needs to get a driver's license and a car to help her get to and from work.  That's why I sent her the work-from-home job.

Chiropractic office: I did a job interview there last week.  


1. It was really close by, like 1 short bus ride.

2. The pay was good.

3. It was part-time, but the hours were days.  I can work my restaurant job around it.

4. I can do the job.

Cons: None.

My opinion: I would work there if I got hired.  However, I didn't get hired.  I will give them points that one of them called me back and said I wasn't hired.  

Sept,. 14, 2017 Kristen Bell Saves Frozen Co-Star Josh Gad's Family From Hurricane Irma:

Now that's friendship.
Josh Gadrevealed late Friday that his Frozen co-star Kristen Bell "literally saved" his entire family on Florida's east coast from Hurricane Irma by getting them a hotel room further inland. The actor, who voices Olaf the snowman, was raised in Hollywood, Florida, which is located near Miami. Hurricane Irma is projected to hit those areas on Sunday morning.

"So @kristenanniebell literally saved my parents and my entire family tonight from #hurricaneirma," Gad wrote on Instagram, alongside a selfie showing Bell with his parents. "When they were stranded in Florida, she got them a hotel room at her hotel in Orlando and saved them, my brothers, my sister-in-law and niece and nephew."

The actress is in Florida to film her new comedy movie Like Father and has been hunkering down at a Walt Disney World resort. The theme parks are shutting down over the next few days because of Irma.

"They don't make them like this girl. Thank you Kristin. You are truly an angel sent from above. And thank you @ewablueeyes for bother her when I asked you not to!!!!" Gad added.

Summer 2017 shows: These are the shows I have been watching.

1. 21 Thunder- it's an average show.  I only watch it for Edmonton actor Kyle Mac.

2. Midnight, Texas- it's an average show and it's fun.  

3. Somewhere Between- it's an average show.  I have recorded 4 episodes and I haven't watched them yet.

4. Zoo- they're in the 3rd season it was fun to watch.

I haven't watched Salvation at all.  I watched the pilot and recorded all the episodes.  Now I will go and delete it.  I don't like the pilot.  I recorded this show in case I didn't have anything to watch over the summer.

I remember the days when I used to watch Maury in 2003-2005.  I used to like watching the paternity test results.  It's not until in 2005, I started disliking and getting too angry at it.  Why are you watching something you hate?  This is your free time, and you should be doing something you like. 

Chores: It's not like doing household chores.  I don't like washing dishes, but I'm not going to buy paper plates and plastic forks and knives and throw them out.  That's bad for the environment.  I know you're using water to wash dishes, but you're not creating more garbage. 

Starting Over TV show: Though the shows like Once Upon a Time and Emerald City episodes got deleted, fortunately, I got the One Network (Telus channel 349).  It airs this TV show on syndication at 6pm.  I have recorded all the episodes.  

I have currently watched the last half of season 3.  I saw the season 3 finale/ series finale.  Now they started mid- season 2. 

The Fall 2017 TV shows: They are all coming on the last week of Sept.

These are the pilots I'm going to check out:

1. Wisdom of the Crowd
2. The Brave
3. Seal Team
5. The Good Doctor
6. Alias Grace (6 eps)
7. Inhumans
8. Ghosted
9. Frankie Drake
10. 10 Days in the Valley (10 eps)
11. The Disappearance (6 eps)
12. Star Trek: Discovery
13. The Gifted

I'm probably going to watch Alias Grace, 10 Days in the Valley, and The Disappearance because they are all mysteries.  Also it is a limited run.  Everything else I will probably watch the pilot and never watch again. 

Sept. 18, 2017 Fergie and Josh Duhamel announce separation:

Pop star Fergie and actor Josh Duhamel have announced they are separating after eight years of marriage.

"With absolute love and respect we decided to separate as a couple earlier this year," the couple said in a joint statement to CNN. "To give our family the best opportunity to adjust, we wanted to keep this a private matter before sharing it with the public. We are and will always be united in our support of each other and our family."

The two married in 2009 and are parents to 4-year-old son, Axl.

My opinion: I'm not really a fan of either of them.  I'm kind of sad, but I will give them points they lasted 8 yrs.

Amber Alert: The highlight of my week was that I saw this TV movie that starred Edmonton actor Kyle Mac.  I tweeted to him:

Your TV movie Amber Alert is on CTV 2 tonight at 8pm. I'm going to watch it.

He "liked" my tweet.

On  It is also called I Have Your Children:

A young man takes a bus full of kids hostage in a desperate attempt to receive ransom money from an insurance company save that denied his very sick mother's claim.

My opinion: There were quite a few surprises in this action movie.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

"The winning formulas for workplace wellness"/ "Puzzling approach to hiring"

Jun. 22, 2017 "The winning formulas for workplace wellness": Today I found this article by Paul Attfield in the Globe and Mail:

Health and wellness can be many things to many people, and individuals will always have a preference over what works for them.

But for an employer, ensuring staff have the mental and physical capacity to perform to the best of their abilities with a smile on their faces can reap rewards far beyond the bottom line.
There are many things that make up an ideal workplace, though. The nine winners of the inaugural Employee Recommended Workplace Award, which recognizes companies that prioritize the health and wellness of their staff, describe the one thing that helps their company stand out from the rest.

Family first

“As a theoretical physics institute, we’re trying to create a fantastic environment for the world’s top scientists and their families.

“So we’ve got a room for kids to hang out. We have an extremely family-friendly facility here. This building is full of blackboards, because everybody writes on blackboards. It’s not uncommon to see blackboards full of math on the top section and down at the bottom doodles of cats or fish because we have a lot of events where we have families come into the building. For example, every week there’s something called family night in our restaurant.”

Michael Duschenes, managing director and chief operating officer, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Waterloo, Ont.

Full engagement

“The most important thing for us is that the health and wellness program has an important impact in our community because we work on the program with the staff but also with students.

“Students don’t make one action and personnel the other action. They all make moves together on the same things. That’s very original.

“And it’s received well because the program came from them, not from me or the direction team, so it’s implanted within the mentality of our culture within Cégep Garneau.”
Denise Trudeau, executive director, Cégep Garneau, Quebec City

Importance of communication

“The No. 1 thing is communication with the people. When I was at a conference this weekend there was a sign up that said whenever information is missing, people fill in the blanks. So when they don’t know what’s going on, most people fear the worst.

“It can be something as simple as when there are visitors to the office, we send out an e-mail to let everybody know who it is because in today’s culture, you see someone new walk through the building, you think: Is the company being sold, are we going to be out of a job? People never know.

“So then when we have visitors they see everybody smiling and most people will say hi to them because they know who they are.”

Scott Foster, director of sales and marketing, NEBS PAYweb and Payce payroll companies, Cambridge, Ont.

Whole-person development

“People are leading busy lives. We’re in the client service business, so we’re basically on 24/7.

“Our whole-person development program was designed to equip staff with a toolkit that they could draw from for sources of energy when things get stressful.

“We’ve done an eight-week course in mindfulness, we’ve done work around energy management, which incorporates nutrition, healthy snacking, water consumption, getting good sleep.

“It’s a whole person development program built around mind, body and spirit content.”
Sarah Liverance, partner, Sklar Wilton &a Associates Ltd., Toronto


“It’s our employee-centric culture and how we’ve embodied our core value of empathy in how we think about and treat our people.

“For example, we had an employee that had been going through some serious health issues and was also moving house. We took that as an opportunity to show our empathy and caring for their health and wellness by organizing a moving company to help them through that life experience.

“We have a Klick Experience Team whose job it is to proactively help nurture and grow culture and engagement at Klick through events and celebrations, and their job is to try and find those surprise and delight moments wherever they may exist.”
Glen Webster, senior vice-president of finance, Klick Inc., Toronto

Promote physical wellness

“For us wellness is everyday, it’s part of what we do here at our offices and we don’t think of it as wellness programming, it really is how we do our work.

“We have informal meetings on the treadmill. We put gyms in our corporate office, and because it’s such a normal thing to pop upstairs and go for a walk or a run or participate in a class, it just sort of becomes a place where we do business. You talk about work while you’re there, you talk about other things, too, but for us the lines are blurred a little bit and it really is part of the culture.”

Colleen McCarville, vice-president, human resources, Killam Apartment Real Estate Investment Trust, Halifax

Celebrate people

“We celebrate people’s milestones, if it’s a birthday, et cetera. So people will e-mail them, or if they’re in the same office, will stop by and say happy birthday or happy anniversary or good luck with this event that’s happening, that type of thing.

“We make sure we have pot lucks or socials that are happening here and there throughout the year. Everybody can come and share life, that type of thing. That culture is nourished here at the office or throughout our offices and it keeps growing.

Danny Soucy, executive director, New Brunswick Association for Community Living, Fredericton

Be open to new ideas

“Don’t assume that you know what’s best. Not too long ago an employee introduced a meditation program that is now run on Skype for employees working offsite to join – this idea did not come from the management team but was a creative solution identified and launched by an individual employee.”

Alastair Macdonald, senior vice-president, human resources, Nestlé Canada Inc., Toronto

Be wide-ranging

“Our wellness education sessions, wellness fairs, annual health checks, healthy catered food, employee benefit programs that support active living and weight management, benefits that focus on preventative health care programs, an active health and safety committee, all contribute to employee health and wellness. Not all employees participate in every aspect of our health and wellness program but we believe there is something that everyone can benefit from.”

Sheila Kendall, vice-president, human resources, L.V. Lomas, Brampton, Ont.

How we chose the winners

Companies are discovering that paying attention to the wellness of their workforce can help their bottom line. Executives are learning that their employees’ personal lives don’t get left at the door to the office, and those issues can have an impact on an employee’s productivity levels and overall focus at work.

The Employee Recommended Workplace Award, jointly created by The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell, recognizes companies for excellence in achieving a healthy, engaged and productive workforce. And it’s an award based entirely on feedback from employees.
Here’s how the award works.

A company’s employees take a survey based on four pillars: work, life, mental health and physical health. Each employee gets a score based on their responses, and the aggregate of a company’s employee responses determine that organization’s score. The company with the top score is the Grand Prize winner in their category. It’s a very unique award that’s purely statistically based and in which employees determine if their company wins.

Those companies that meet a minimum statistical threshold earn the distinction of being awarded the Employee Recommended Workplace Award Badge and are considered finalists.

This is no small feat. It means those companies were in the top percentile of our participants and have a workplace that prioritizes the health and wellness of their staff.

Of our 32 finalists, there are nine Grand Prize winners. These are companies that had the top scores based on their company size and in their category of business.

In addition to the employee surveys, each organization completed an employer questionnaire in which companies outlined some of their key operating principles and the wellness programs they offered.

Several themes came to the fore in the questionnaires from our winners.
Most winners have a focus on mental health with training programs for their managers and a strategy to implement a mental health strategy.

They place importance on one-on-one manager and employee chats; they have regular employee engagement surveys and staff turnover is low.

These companies have zero tolerance policies regarding harassment and bullying and ensure their culture makes employees comfortable with reporting any negative incidents.
They are companies with flexible work options for their staff, such as flexible hours, job sharing and telecommuting.

These companies also offer an array of health and wellness programs that focus on areas such as healthy eating and physical activity.

Although the first year of the award has come to a close, organizations can register now for the second year of the Employee Recommended Workplace Award by going to the award website at
--Gillian Livingston

Companies can register now for the 2018 Employee Recommended Workplace Award. Visit

Read more content related to the Employee Recommended Workplace Award here.

Jun. 21, 2017 "Car maker takes puzzling approach to hiring": Today I found this article by Amie Tsang in the Globe and Mail.  It's about a company that gets job applicants to do puzzles to get a job. 

It reminded me of a Blindspot season 2 episode, where a hacker group gives a cache of private information like FBI and CIA undercover agents, but through puzzles.  Though they could have auctioned off this info to the highest bidder, they made it challenging and fun with puzzles.

Jaguar Land Rover is encouraging potential new engineers to complete a series of puzzles to ‘fast-track their way into employment’

Want to work for Jaguar Land Rover? You could improve your chances by solving puzzles.

The car maker announced on Monday that it would be recruiting 5,000 people this year, including 1,000 electronics and software engineers. The catch? It wants potential employees to download an app with a series of puzzles that it says will test for the engineering skills it hopes to bring in.

While traditional applicants will still be considered, people who successfully complete the app’s puzzles will “fast-track their way into employment,” said Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by Tata Motors of India.

The car maker’s recruitment effort is unusual but far from unique: Increasing numbers of employers are using alternative methods to hire workers.

Companies once relied on job fairs and advertising to court applicants, but they are having to be ever more inventive to attract candidates with the technical savvy and skills they need.

“The nature of jobs is changing, and what we should be looking for is changing,” said Barbara Marder, senior partner at Mercer, a consultancy that specializes in human resources and has a stake in Pymetrics, a company that makes games for recruitment purposes.

Ms. Marder said such games had not been in use long enough to provide ample data on their effectiveness. Still, she said, they could be more useful than traditional tests and interviews.

Games offer additional benefits, she said.

“They’re very attractive in attracting candidates and keeping the short attention span of millennials,” Ms. Marder said. “That’s not an insignificant challenge.”

In the case of Jaguar Land Rover, applicants are invited to explore a garage belonging to the band Gorillaz and assemble a Jaguar sports car. Once they complete that stage, they are confronted with a series of codebreaking puzzles.

Other organizations have used games that similarly offered candidates an opportunity to experiment with skills they would actually use on the job and to show off their abilities in a way they perhaps could not in a traditional test-and-interview recruitment process.

In 2011, Marriott Hotels asked applicants to manage a virtual hotel, serving guests, managing a budget and training employees, all to see if they had what it took to run one of the company’s hotels. Marriott said it hoped the game would help people see how rewarding a career in hospitality could be.

The same year, the Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s main signals intelligence agency, tested potential recruits with a public challenge that required they crack a digital code.

Some companies have started using other kinds of tools in their searches for specific traits and attributes.

Axa Group and Daimler Trucks have teamed with Knack, which says its games measure traits and abilities such as social intelligence and spatial reasoning. One of its games, Dashi Dash, involves playing as a restaurant waiter and serving patrons based on their happy, sad or angry facial expressions.

Arctic Shores, a games-based assessment company, boasts Deloitte, Xerox and the BBC among its clients. Its games include Yellow Hook Reef, in which participants have to deal with issues such as storing fresh food on a ship, which the company says test an individual’s ability to communicate clearly and learn skills.