In conversation with Jaqueline Knapp who is studying Industrial Relations at McGill University. Jacqueline and I met during her summer intership at our company.
1. Jacqueline, you are currently studying human resources/labor and employment relations. What made you choose this particular path and how do you think this educational background will position you for career opportunities?
In my first semester at McGill, I completed a sociology course called Technology and Society. It was a challenging course for me at first because the subject matter was different from anything I had ever studied. As the semester progressed, I gradually became more and more interested in the curriculum. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but Technology and Society was a prerequisite for the Industrial Relations major offered within the Arts Faculty at McGill. When it came time to selecting my major, Industrial Relations was the only discipline that genuinely interested me, which ultimately lead me to choose this particular career path. In Canada, McGill is one of the few universities that offer an IR program at the undergraduate level. I feel that graduating with a strong background in IR will position me for career opportunities in HR due to the specialized nature of the program that I am currently enrolled in at McGill.
2. Do you find that this learning experience helped broaden you intellectually and personally as well and if so, can you provide us with some examples?
Thus far, university has most definitely developed me both intellectually and personally. In particular, I have had to adapt the way in which I learn in order to keep up with my studies. Prior to attending McGill, my classes were never structured as lectures. Over the past two years, I’ve been required to attend classes of 300+ students. Having to sit in classes that are 15 times bigger than what I have been used to my entire life has been one of the more challenging aspects of university that I have had to overcome.
3. Have you been part of a mentorship program? If yes, what have you found most beneficial? If no, what would the best program look like for you, and why would you join it?
I have never been a part of a formal mentorship program, but I know of mentorship programs at other financial institutions in Toronto that allow students to network with employees in different departments within the organization. I think I would find this kind of mentorship program useful because it would allow me to connect with employees who work in different streams of HR, whether it be resourcing, compensation and benefits, or employee relations, I could get a feel for the kind of work these HR professionals carry out on a regular basis. Informally, I’ve had the opportunity to work with an HR associate who I feel has acted as an admirable mentor for me this summer. In addition to her work in HR, she is involved with the diversity committee that exists within this organization. About a month ago, I had the opportunity to attend one of her diversity committee meetings. I feel that this was a valuable experience because it gave me the opportunity to explore another facet of the organization that I would have otherwise not been exposed to.
4. I always say that our professional/educational successes are partially based on our individual efforts and partially the gift we receive from either our mentors (teachers, managers) or the colleagues that we work with. Do you have any great stories that would attest this?
Anything I accomplished throughout my educational career can be attributed to either my individual efforts in school (whether it be taking the initiative to seek extra help when I needed it, or spending that extra hour reviewing material for an exam), or to my parents who provided me with the tools I needed in order to achieve academic success. Sending me to boarding school was the best decision my parents ever made – for both academic and personal reasons. Because I lived at school, academic support was always available. If I needed help during lunch periods or after school, teachers were always available; and if I needed help in the evening, my roommate could always assist me. Throughout my professional and educational career, my accomplishments have always been the result of both my individual efforts, and the opportunities and support that have been given to me by my classmates, teachers, coworkers, family, and friends.
5. How do you envision your future career? What would be your ideal first job and why?
Working in resourcing would be an ideal first job for me. Some of my favourite projects that I have had the opportunity to be a part of this summer were associated with resourcing which is why I feel that it would be a good stream in HR for me to follow. One of the reasons why I initially sought after a career in HR was because I felt that it was not only a safe career path to follow (because HR is a necessary component of many organizations), but because I felt that it had the potential to provide me with the opportunity to work at a multitude of diverse organizations.
Thank you Jacqueline and best of luck with your studies!
Every year, the abundance of presentations, the trade show and networking opportunities make it interesting and insightful. This year, my focus was to attend sessions that would tackle innovation, new trends, employee engagement, as in my view, they are all interconnected. I will share some learning bites from David S. Weiss’s presentation on “HR as a Driver of Innovative Intelligence” and Amanda Lang’s keynote on the “Canadian Economy, Business and HR”.
“HR as a Driver of Innovative Intelligence”
- innovation: applied creativity that achieves business value
- we need time to think to be innovative
- there is a shift from the industrial economy to the knowledge economy
- multiple intelligences: analytical (acquired in school), emotional (social), innovative
- the stronger the analytical intelligence, the less likely you are innovative
- ensure organizational levers (budgeting, HR practices, structure, rewards, etc.) do not make innovation more difficult
- it is not about innovative leaders, but rather about leaders of innovation
“Canadian Economy, Business and HR”
- create an environment where people ask “why” and “why not”
- we teach kids early that asking “why” is irritating…we shouldn’t
- Canadians are behind in innovation
- engagement = innovation = productivity
- the way people are going to be managed will change (social media effect) / the “why bother” generation
- the social network will be the greatest innovation of the century
- how do you get employees as passionate about their job as they are about their lives?
Sometimes you decide to let the year end and only worry about the new one when it comes. This was my choice this time…I have been exploring HR trends and things to be mindful of throughout 2011. However, at the dawn of the New Year I realized that most of the predicted trends are probably going to take second place in priority and only a handful will most likely prevail throughout 2012, a year that is expected to be rather difficult.
The shift comes from the fact that more than 80% of organizations have undergone a major restructuring effort, and it’s not over. (as per the Corporate Leadership Council). Businesses are faced with a dilemmatic situation in which they have to pay attention to both the economic crisis and also their employees. This becomes the number one challenge in 2012 and the question is: will business leaders and HR manage to find solutions to address this? On the one hand, the economic crisis will impose its own risks and limitations and with that in mind, on the other hand, organizations need to find creative ways to maximize employee performance and to focus on retaining and supporting talent.
It might so be that in the next year organizations will hire less, the training and education budgets will be somewhat downsized or temporarily frozen, organizations will focus more on transformation, on how to manage effectively and basically how to do more with less. Although in any crisis situation, the sense of emergency and panic might persist at first, most likely, strategic organizations will find the right model to pull them through this transformation. And as we have seen in the last few years, most success comes from knowing how to blend human change and organization change in the same bowl, rather than one following the other.
Opening The Harvard Business Review (Nov Edition) and seeing pages filled with Sarah Morris’ paintings was refreshing….wait, no, confusing. What does art have to do with business? Well, HBR tackled a great topic in this edition: “How great companies think differently”. The overall thought is that great companies, instead of being mere money generating machines, combine financial and social logic to build enduring success. These enterprises intend to accomplish societal purposes and also provide meaningful livelihoods for those who work in them.
Connecting art with business could be ultimately a way of trying to be different. Art teaches us to find more meaning in what’s around us, to be more innovative. Sarah Morris’ busy imagery is metaphor for the challenges that institutions and individuals face trying to find their spot in society.