I am absolutely thrilled to bring you an incredible conversation I had with a wonderful human who does amazing work in the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion space.
My guest on the show today is Sharon Nyangweso. Sharon is the Founder and CEO of QuakeLab, a full-stack inclusion and change management consultancy that uses human-centered design to help organizations move their commitment to diversity and inclusion from aspiration to action. An empathetic leader with a passion for community and civic engagement, Sharon is a regular contributor and panelist for the CBC, CTV, Rabble.ca and Live 88.5. Sharon immigrated to Canada from Kenya in 2010, and before starting QuakeLab in 2019, she worked with organizations in 11 different countries in varying roles including social advocacy and innovation, community building, accessibility, and content creation.
In this episode, Sharon and I talk about how human centered design or design thinking can offer a path to real change in organizations as well as Sharon’s journey to her current role as Founder and CEO of QuakeLab. We also talk about how emerging HR practioners who are passionate about EDI or who’s organizations are engaging in EDI work can get started and make an impact.
I think you are going to walk away from this conversation with a lot to think about, I know I did!
Here are my key take-aways:
  1. When planning your career ask yourself, "what do I want my life to look like?" [05:40]
  2. Organizations often fail to apply the same rigour to EDI work that they do to other aspects of the organization. This includes clear problem definition, putting humans at the center of the solution and taking clear action to impact change. [09:10]
  3. The first (and most effective step) to address a challenge is to get really clear on what the problem or gap is that you are trying to solve for and taking sufficient time stay in the problem space. Avoid falling in the trap of a "manufactured sense of urgency." [19:11]
  4. "What people are prepared to be uncomfortable with is other people's trauma." But getting uncomfortable means more. It means sitting in the discomfort of the systemic issues that impact people and that we uphold and/or ignore. [25:00]
  5. There is still a very key focus on individual behaviour change when it comes to EDI programs, but we know that behaviour change is very difficult. A better approach is to focus on structural change and in particular building structures to support equity and changing behaviour will hopefully follow the new structure. Organizations can't easily change behavious, but they can change structure. [31:00]
  6. Ambiguity and lack of clarity in performance management is the most detrimental to women and new immigrants. This is a good example of a structure that many don't associate with EDI work, but it is a system that prevents access to development and upward mobility, in particular because the criteria are not codefied. This is a prime spot for unconscious bias to thrive in an organization. [36:15]
  7. One of the ways HR professionals can move EDI forward in an organization is to act like a Trojan Horse. Begin the work and then make the case for what needs to be done and where the impact is to help gather support and resources from accross the organization. [42:48]
  8. It is not necessary to have lived experience to engage in EDI work. Empathy is important and useful, but don't let a lack of identity stop you from doing this work. [48:49]
  9. If you are interested in purusing work in EDI and adding value, you need to do a lot of individual work on positionality, increase your knowledge base on the topic and be prepared to do a lot of reading, constant learning and be self-motivated. [53:35]
Helpful Links to Explore:
If you are feeling extra generous and want to send some love my way, I would be so very grateful for a review and a rating on Apple Podcasts or a recommendation on LinkedIn. And if you haven't yet, don't forget to subscribe to The HR Mentor so you never miss an episode on the following platforms:
I really love the fall! There is just something so warm, comforting and inviting about this time of year. There is just something so warm, comforting and inviting about this time of year. Plus I hate being cold so a season where its acceptable to bundle up suits me perfectly!
Many people see the fall as a time to make career moves. It’s not often people will want to change positions in the depth of summer vacation and that usually works well because lots of employers hold off till the fall months to advertise for new roles. The other thing that happens for University students is that semesters end in August and December so this is often an active time of year for many of you to be seeking your first professional role.
Whatever your reason or your career goal, you may find yourself currently in the depths of a job search, on the hunt for a promotion or thinking about getting started with either. If that sounds like you or you just want to learn more about how you can prepare for either, this episode is for you.
Today I am going to share some specific steps you can take to prepare yourself for your HR job search; either to achieve a promotion, a different HR role or land your first HR role. Because as I have talked about before on this podcast, most people start in the wrong place and space with a job search or career change and don’t get the results they want. Finding a great role or that first role might take a bit of time, but it’s not hard once you know what to do and take the necessary steps.
You can download the Prepare for Your HR Job Search Checklist here and see a summary of the show with lots of helpful links at www.unicorngroup.ca/episode-41.
Or you can go straight to the checklist download here: https://unicorngroup.kartra.com/page/beprepared 
If you are feeling extra generous and want to send some love my way, I would be so very grateful for a review and a rating on Apple Podcasts or a recommendation on LinkedIn. And if you haven't yet, don't forget to subscribe to The HR Mentor so you never miss an episode on the following platforms:
When I first began my HR career in the mid-90’s I had no clue as to what my career path would look like. In fact, I wasn’t even totally sure what a day in the life of an HR professional looked like. I had taken courses in recruitment and selection, compensation, and training and development in my undergrad degree so from my perspective, these were my choices.
And even though I was confident that HR was the right career path for me, I didn’t really understand the variety of options in front of me until I started my career and realized the number of hats an HR professional wears, especially in a generalist role. In my first generalist role at a credit union, I was hired because I had a strong recruitment background and the organization was expanding following a merger. But as I settled into my role I became immersed in many interesting areas of HR and it started to open my eyes to the sheer number of possibilities that existed under this one, overly simplified label of Human Resource Management.
Twenty years later, the HR function in many organizations has evolved as our profession becomes more integral to the strategy, success, and survival of an organization.
In this episode, I talk about three HR career paths that you may have never considered, but that are definitely in demand in our profession.
Even if you aren’t someone like me that enjoys change and describes herself as multi-passionate, you may still find yourself experiencing a variety of roles and functions within your HR career. Because if there is one thing I know for sure its that variety is the spice of any fulfilling career.
For a summary of this episode as well as a number of helpful links, visit www.unicorngroup.ca/episode-40
And if you haven't yet, don't forget to subscribe to The HR Mentor so you never miss an episode on the following platforms:
I am thrilled to have my good friend and colleague, Joel Peterson back on the show this week. Joel is the Founder and Lead Consultant of Arbutus Search Group, a boutique search firm in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. Joel and I spoke last year about all things recruiting and during our conversation, we agreed that an episode on Reference Checks was in our future.
Unfortunately, a lot of employers and HR professionals see the reference check process as a box to tick rather than the huge opportunity it is. When they are done right, references can provide you with valuable insight into your potential candidates that would be impossible to glean from other sources of selection information. In this episode, Joel and I talk about how to approach this important step in the selection process, how to engage your hiring managers, what types of information you should be looking for from referees, and a few stories from our own recruiting trenches.
I also learn a few things about Joel that I did not know before this conversation; things I am never going to forget!
It was a really fun conversation and I hope you enjoy it; as well as learn a few tips and tools to help you in your recruitment efforts.
Here are helpful links to help you connect with Joel, listen to relevant episodes, and a link to sign up for my weekly newsletter!
To see a summary of this episode and all previous episodes of the HR Mentor you can visit my www.unicorngroup.ca/episode-39
If you are feeling extra generous and want to send some love my way, I would be so very grateful for a review and a rating on Apple Podcasts or a recommendation on LinkedIn. And if you haven't yet, don't forget to subscribe to The HR Mentor so you never miss an episode on the following platforms:
September 16, 2021

#38: Is It Time To Go?

If you’ve listened to this podcast for a while or know anything about my background, you know that I have changed roles and employer’s a few times over the course of my twenty-plus years in HR. And when I tell people that until I became a professor, I had never worked five years or longer at any one place they often raise an eyebrow with a “there must be something wrong with you” kind of look. But I know that each time I have made a move it was for a good reason and in the best interest of my career or my family or both.

Now I also have a personality that makes me more comfortable with change and I am a bit of a risk-taker so for other people the thought of changing roles or organizations is terrifying. Perhaps that comes from a fear of rejection and maybe it is just a self-fulfilling prophecy. Either way, their fear of the new or the value they placed on security overrides any desire to take action. And so they stay.

And sometimes staying is the right and best decision for all those concerned.

But there are situations where making a move is exactly what that person needs both for their career and their overall health and satisfaction. In this episode, I explore some of the signs that it might be time for you to make a career move.

Honestly, we only get so many trips around the sun and we spend far too much time at work for it to not be an amazing, fulfilling, and satisfying experience!

To access resources to support you if you are having challenges at work that affect your health and wellbeing make sure you check out the show notes and links on my website at www.unicorngroup.ca/episode-38

Here are some other helpful links and episodes to explore:

Other Helpful Links and Episodes to Explore:

If you are feeling extra generous and want to send some love my way, I would be so very grateful for a review and a rating on Apple Podcasts or a recommendation on LinkedIn. And if you haven't yet, don't forget to subscribe to The HR Mentor so you never miss an episode on the following platforms:
September 2, 2021

#37: Communicate Your HR Brand

You have probably heard the term branding as it relates to marketing a product or service. You have probably also heard of branding a company or an organization. You might even have a friend or two that pursued marketing and branding as a career path.
What might be less known to you is the term personal branding. Personal branding is how you present yourself and how you are viewed by the world. It is based on what makes you unique; your skills, experiences, attributes and personality. Some say it is the sum of how people describe you or talk about you when you are not around.
So what does that have to do with your HR Career?
Actually, quite a lot. You, as an emerging HR professional who may be looking for a job or building your career also have a personal brand that tells people what to expect of you if they meet you.
If your brand is communicated in the right way and through the right avenues it can help you stand out, help you make more great connections and ultimately create more career opportunities for yourself both within your organization and outside of it.
In this episode, I talk about some of the best places and ways to communicate your personal brand and share a couple of things you can do today to be more intentional about how you show up online and in person so that the perception you leave people with is the one you want to portray. Being intentional about your brand will not only make you feel more confident, but it will also help you attract the right people to you so that you can realize a satisfying and fulfilling HR career.
Find a summary of this episode with helpful links on my website at www.unicorngroup.ca/episode-37
If you are feeling extra generous and want to send some love my way, I would be so very grateful for a review and a rating on Apple Podcasts or a recommendation on LinkedIn. And if you haven't yet, don't forget to subscribe to The HR Mentor so you never miss an episode on the following platforms:
I talk a lot on this podcast about the positive aspects of my profession and how to get the most out of an HR career. Mostly, because I really do love my profession and what I do, but also because I believe a lot of emerging HR practitioners would have more positive experiences in their organization and more career satisfaction if they receive some guidance, coaching, and mentoring on how to navigate some of the things they will face.
That said, this profession is not without some major pain points!
So, in the interest of having a healthy mix of optimism and realism, I want to flip the script a little and talk about some of the biggest challenges of being an HR professional. I know, every profession has its challenges, but I believe there are some that are unique to an HR role. I also believe that if you anticipate that these are on the horizon or if you are in the middle of some of this discomfort it might help you see your way through.
Regardless of where you are in your HR journey, there are five major challenges that I see in our profession. None of these are insurmountable, but being aware of them is the first step to overcoming them.

If you want to go deeper in your learning and development as an HR professional I also recommend you get on the waitlist for my HR Career Academy program. It is launching in the fall and there will be a special bonus for anyone who is on the waitlist when it goes live. This program is delivered virtually and it is designed to help you set yourself up for an incredible career in HR.

You can find the link to sign up in the show notes of this episode. Which can be found on my website at www.unicorngroup.ca/episode-36.

If you loved this episode or any others, I would love it if you left me a five-star rating and a review on Apple Podcasts. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to The HR Mentor podcast on Apple, Spoitfy or Podbean. 

Do you ever get that feeling that the role or organization you are in is just not quite a fit? It may be painful or uncomfortable or perhaps you just feel some apathy or a general lack of satisfaction. Maybe you love the organization and the industry, but you feel you have accomplished all you can in your current role and you’re ready for more?
This is a normal occurrence on many career journeys. I have been there a couple of times myself over the last twenty-plus years. First of all, I want to assure you this doesn’t mean you picked the wrong career or that you have to even leave your organization, but what it might mean is it is time to level up your career alignment.
Whatever the reason, if you aren’t feeling a level of joy, excitement, or “let’s get this done” attitude you could be ready for a new challenge, a new opportunity, or a new path for your career. Ultimately, maybe its time to level-up your career alignment!
To help you navigate this, I have a mashed-up process you can follow. It's a combination of gap analysis, self-awareness, and positive visualization. Yes, I like to use all my tools to tackle big challenges!
Here are the five steps I recommend:
  1. Know what’s important to you (really important)
  2. Imagine how changes in your professional life could create greater alignment to what is important for you?
  3. Consider what’s not working for you right now - what are you accepting that you shouldn’t and that’s holding you back from what you want?
  4. Brainstorm all the ways you can bridge the gap.
  5. Make a plan with deadlines and slay it!
You can find the show notes for this episode and helpful links at www.unicorngroup.ca/episode-35 
Thanks for listening!
As an HR educator I am often approached by new graduates or soon to graduate students for advice. And one of the most frequent questions I get asked is, "can you tell me what I am doing wrong with my job search?"
This usually comes after they tell me that they have been applying on HR jobs for months, they have tried literally everything and they are getting nowhere. And worse, they are now feeling depressed, frustrated and overwhelmed and they are doubting whether or not they have chosen the right career path.
Sound familiar?
If it does, then this episode is for you.
In this episode I share 6 common mistakes that HR Job Seekers make, especially when they are just starting out. Speaking from personal experience and countless conversations with HR grads, I know that you are putting in the effort, but I also know that all that effort focused on the wrong actions will only lead to more frustration rather than what you really want, you first HR job!
You can find some helpful links and a summary of this episode at www.unicorngroup.ca/episode-34
If you are looking for your first HR role and you would like some help with the process you may want to check out my brand new HR Career Accelerator program. It is a rare opportunity to attend a LIVE Virtual Workshop with me with a ton of support to help you find that first HR role. 
You can learn more and register as well as receive a complimentary three-part video lesson called 4 Essential Strategies for an HR Job Search using this link. 
I hope to see you there!
If you are a regular listener or you follow me on social media, you know that one of my strong beliefs is that building solid relationships is absolutely essential to a successful and fulfilling HR Career. When I look back over my twenty-plus years as an HR professional, I can honestly say that 99.9% of my success and happiness with my career has come from building strong, positive relationships.
My knowledge, my technical skills, and my ability to problem solve, write, present, etc. are all important, but when it comes to success and fulfillment, all the credit goes to relationships.
Yes, it is important to do good work. But, in order to really be successful in this profession, we also have to be human. Sometimes I think that is lacking in many organizations and sadly HR departments. What’s worse is that it's often the HR professionals who lack this human perspective that wonder why people won’t work with them or hate HR.
Showing interest and genuine care for other people goes a long way, but being interested in others in a sincere way and really caring is what is needed. I don’t just build relationships to get ahead in my career, but I do it because it feels good and I generally like people. Plus I know that in order to my job well, I need to get to know what the real issues are, and that means getting to know people, the humans doing the work. Without that understanding how can I possibly come up with real solutions?
In this episode I share five things you can do today, regardless of where you are in the org chart, to help you become a better relationship builder. Let's face it, work is way more fun if you work with people you like and respect, and the only way to like and respect people is to build relationships with them.
Here are the five actions you can take to build better relationships today:
  1. Become more self-aware
  2. Be interested rather than interesting
  3. Look for ways to collaborate
  4. Take initiative
  5. Be a positive force

Learn more, find the show notes and check out some helpful links on my websites at www.unicorngroup.ca/episode-33

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