Markham Voice - Summer 2022

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working with employers to future-proof graduates entering workforce


Managers: Four Keys to Improving Workplace Performance in a Hybrid Work Environment How Can I Be Happier in My Life and Career?

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Managers: Four Keys to Improving Workplace Performance in a Hybrid Work Environment

How Can I Be Happier in My Life and Career? 3600 Steeles Avenue E. C1 – Suite 105 Markham, ON L3R 9Z7 T: 289-844-3024

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to Improving Workplace Performance in a

Hybrid Work Environment

By Sharlene Douthit


ong before the pandemic transformed most of our workplaces, I was happy to work full-time as a remote employee. I’ve been one of those lucky people who didn’t really have to change all that much to adapt to the monumental changes that began to unfold in early 2020. Those changes brought about (among other things) a phenomenon known as the hybrid work environment, which of course has had a huge impact for managers at countless organizations. Now some people are working from home, some people aren’t, and some people are combining the two approaches… and a lot of leaders are struggling to adjust to this new way of working. Since Sandler (which has had remote employees for years now) was well positioned to make this adjustment, and since I’ve been doing this for a while, I thought I might share my top four insights on that issue, from an employee’s point of view. Each is, I believe, a key to improving relationships and improving performance in today’s work environment.


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Assume good intent.

Although Sandler isn’t one of them, I still hear about plenty of companies where managers assume, by default, that remote employees are going to try to game the system. This is a problem of managerial mindset. If your first and strongest instinct is to make remote employees prove to you that they are not cheating you or the organization, you’ve got a couple of big problems to address. Number one, you’re basically asking them to prove a negative, which is impossible. And number two, you already made the decision to trust these people when you hired them. Presumably you didn’t think they were the kind of person who would be out to take advantage of you when you extended a job offer. Work from the assumption that you made the right call and assume good intent. And by the way, if someone shows you, through their performance, that they do need structure, that they are not the kind of person who can be productive while working remotely, you still need to assume good intent. Yes, there are some people out there who do

better in a traditional, show-up-for-workevery-morning setting. That doesn’t mean they’re trying to cheat you; it means they need your support. You will find out very quickly who is and isn’t able to thrive in this arrangement. Most people want to get the job done … and do.

Acknowledge times when remote employees go above and beyond the call – which they often do. Personally, I believe that most employees who work remotely are more flexible and more productive in that environment than they are when they show up in person. I know I’m more likely to agree to take a call at an unusual time or email an important file after hours than I was when I wasn’t working remotely. And here’s the cool part: My boss knows that, too, and makes a point of celebrating those kinds of things when they happen. We both know there is a tradeoff

here: Sometimes something urgent comes up at home during the day that I need to take care of; sometimes a fire needs to be put out on the work front before or after “standard office hours.” We both know these things happen; we both know how to deal with them. My boss makes a point of expressing appreciation when I’m able to make a special effort in an unexpected situation, and that makes a difference.

Avoid the temptation to micromanage. This is a problem in any work setting, but it carries particularly serious ramifications in a hybrid work environment. Again: You trusted the person enough to hire them. Why not

trust them enough to do the work in the way that works best for them? Explain clearly what the objective is, including the desired completion date; make sure the person understands and has easy access to all the right resources; get mutual agreement on the circumstances under which the employee is to reach out to you for guidance or approval. If there’s something hurtling toward you that’s both important and time-sensitive on your shared horizon, ask for small pieces of it to review (briefly) at key points on the project timeline. Then – stand back. Get out of the employee’s way. Don’t throw on your Superman cape and leap into the fray. Don’t waste time delivering monologues on how you would do it. Respect the employee’s integrity and their working style. Let them do the job you hired them to do.

Set up a good communication cadence. A cadence is a repeating schedule of contact and interaction that people can buy into and implement. So, in my case, I work on the East Coast. My boss works on the West Coast. As a practical matter, that means we have a four- or five-hour window where we can talk. We have a regular cadence set up within that window.

Two times a week, Tuesday, and Thursday, we set aside an hour. We create an agenda with topics to cover ahead of time to keep us on track. I keep him informed on what I’m doing, and he lets me know what’s coming up. He’s sharing information down. I’m sharing information up. We’re co-collaborating on everything that’s going on. This kind of quality communication between manager and employee is hugely important in a remote environment, and setting up a good cadence, one that works for both sides, is how you make it happen. It really surprises me how few managers do this with their remote employees! This is what is working well for us. I believe managers who follow these four simple steps will unlock significant new levels of productivity, and will also boost morale, among people on staff who are working off-site. Read this blog post to learn which industries have best adapted to the hybrid selling environment. Posted in Blog Posts, Management & Leadership and tagged hybrid selling, hybrid work, leadership, management, remote selling, sales coaching, sales management © 2022 Sandler Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. Republished with permission.

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York University working with employers to future-proof graduates entering workforce


ork University’s new Markham Campus will offer a uniquely flexible and innovative alternative to traditional university education in Canada. Aimed at reflecting the local economy in the fast-growing and diverse region of York, new academic programs and research opportunities are being developed with a focus on the core themes of technology and entrepreneurship – and how they are driving innovation across all areas of knowledge and society. And when it comes to designing these programs, York has gone directly to


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employers across York Region and beyond to find out what skills and knowledge students need to be job ready. “There are skills and competencies that employers in a fast-paced economy need their new hires to have,” explains William Gage, York U’s associate vice-president for Teaching and Learning. “How could we [university faculty] know what a company needs or where an industry is headed in five years, if we don’t ask?” Over the past two years, Gage has spearheaded a series of virtual roundtables for Markham Campus to establish a

relationship with employers, industry, and community partners. They provided an opportunity for faculty leads to collect feedback and test assumptions about the skills and knowledge graduates should be acquiring through the new Markham academic programs, and the ways in which companies might benefit from the new campus, contribute to the student experience, and drive economic growth. “We know that one of the best ways to develop the skills employers are looking for is to receive some instruction but then practise – students need to have experience,” Gage says.

“The University and employers are working together to create opportunities for students to gain experience in the workplace so they can gain job-related skills, learn more about that particular company’s culture and what it means to be a productive employee.” Employers who have engaged in York U’s roundtables include IBM, BMO RBC, Rogers Communications, the Regional Municipality of York, the City of Markham, Basketball Ontario, and the Ontario Para Network. “Our multiyear relationship with York University has been helpful in our efforts to hire students who possess desirable skills, along with industry and IBM product knowledge,” says Colette Lacroix, the higher education and research lead for IBM Canada, and one of several representatives from the Markham-based technology giant who has participated in the University’s roundtables. Lacroix says the economy is moving so quickly that even the jobs of today are not the jobs of tomorrow. The world of innovation IBM operates in is fuelled by knowledge and diversity, she says.

“This world is fundamentally driven by bright, innovative and agile people from diverse backgrounds, who have great communication skills and can solve realworld problems,” she adds. “Our collaboration

hard to develop new programming that helps our students to develop those more practicable skills. We are looking at what it means to be ‘career-ready’ or ‘work-ready’ upon graduation.” It has never been more critical for post-secondary institutions and employers to work together to keep up with the shifting labour market. Economic growth depends on it. In its 2022 Foresight Report: Shaping the Future Workforce, eCampus Ontario says the future of the economy, work and education are “intrinsically linked.” “As we move into post-pandemic recovery, the skills most valuable to the labour market will continue to evolve, and post-secondary education will have a significant role in preparing the existing and future workforce,” the report says. Research by the McKinsey Global Institute concluded that even in a labour market that is more automated, digital and dynamic like this one, employers across all sectors are looking for employees to demonstrate that they can:

“How could we [university faculty] know what a company needs or where an industry is headed in five years, if we don’t ask?” with York allows us to build our pipeline of ‘new-collar’ knowledge workers. These workers are ready to work, build, innovate and create a bright future in our Canadian economy.” Universities across Canada are increasingly plugging into ¬– anticipating, even – the evolving needs of the labour market as they seek to supply the talent pipeline with graduates who have the skills and critical thinking needed to propel the local, provincial, and global economies forward. “It’s a trend that’s been emerging over the last several years within the university sector,” Gage says. “Universities are working

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add value beyond what can be done by automated systems and intelligent machines, operate in a digital environment, and continually adapt to new ways of working and new occupations. eCampus Ontario says post-secondary institutions are drivers of change but must also demonstrate agility in an ever-changing environment. “The future demands a system of postsecondary education that is as dynamic and adaptable as the technologies around which our world now revolves,” the report concludes. “Work readiness integrates postsecondary learning opportunities with wraparound learner supports that can enable learners to become career-agile and futureready.” Markham Campus will boast the broadest range of experiential education opportunities in Canada. Nearly every program at the new campus will feature experiential learning – either in the classroom and outside it, in the workplace or community. By bringing together diverse perspectives and applying them to concrete problems, communityfocused experiential education shows students how they can use what they’re learning in the classroom to create positive change. To help create opportunities for students to apply their knowledge in the workplace as


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they are learning, the Dean of York U’s Lassonde School of Engineering, Jane Goodyer, says she engaged with more than 70 employers. The “trailblazers” – as she calls them – are helping bridge talent gaps and skill shortages in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector through the design of the School’s programs. “The actual knowledge, skills, and behaviours that we specified for these software developers, cybersecurity specialists and data analysts, reflect the voice of the employer body representing the ICT sector,” Goodyer says. “Employers know they have to futureproof their workforce. They know they need highly skilled talent – talent that can keep abreast of what’s going on because technology is always changing. Employers have told us they’re looking for graduates who can bring critical thinking skills and the latest research knowledge into their organizations.” York is leaving nothing to chance. For example, learners in Lassonde’s new Integrated Program in Digital Technologies will work full time with the same employer for four years, earning a salary while studying towards a Bachelor of Applied Science degree. Students will spend 80 per cent of their time in the workplace, and 20 per cent on campus. Goodyer hopes to offer this alternative learning program to about 100

learners a year. They will be embedded in the workplaces of 30 to 50 different employers. The program allows organizations to both upskill their existing workforce and access new talent pipelines. Lassonde is well equipped to deliver such an innovative program, building on its experience with Shopify’s Dev Degree. Shopify, one of the ‘trailblazing’ employers, began its partnership with the University in 2018 when the Ottawa founded e-commerce software firm launched what it has coined its ‘Dev Degree’ Lassonde program at York U’s Keele Campus in northwest Toronto. Goodyer says it’s an innovative evolution of the traditional co-op program, allowing students to master software development skills faster. The four-year program allows students to spend approximately half of their contracted time working for Shopify, and the other half completing an undergraduate degree in computer science. They receive both academic credit for their work and a paycheque. Shopify pays the full cost of tuition. “We started this program to close the experience gap,” says Dev Degree’s Senior Program Lead, Alison Evans Adnani. “There are different things being taught in class compared to how you work in a team to develop software. There can be an experience gap and it can take nine months to a year for someone to get up to speed.”

Evans Adnani says every student who works at Shopify while completing their degree through the Dev Degree program lands a full-time job within six months of graduating, either with the company or elsewhere. In fact, students who graduate from the program are so attractive to employers, Shopify must sometimes compete with other firms to keep them. “We’re seeing that other companies are very interested in the skills our student employees have developed,” she says. This kind of collaboration helps students test whether they really enjoy their chosen field. It also removes barriers to education for underrepresented groups who may not have the funds or ability to spend years in school. And the University is producing top-tier talent. A 2022 survey found a 90 per cent overall satisfaction rate among GTA employers who have hired York U graduates. “It leads to so many good things for the learner, and employers have this pool of diverse talent,” says Evans Adnani. “It’s a program I wish I had available to me when I was in the field.” Goodyer says the new fully workintegrated Digital Technologies program is really taking the next step of immersing

Students are employed from Day 1 – they earn a competitive salary

across all sectors of the workforce, including those from historically disadvantaged and marginalized groups. IBM, the Markham-based technology giant that takes on many interns each year, is not just welcoming but seeking out a diverse workforce. “Innovation is based on the skill sets of people, and diverse skills and diverse cultural backgrounds bring innovation to the table in a way that would not occur otherwise,” says Lacroix. Goodyer says graduates from all backgrounds who have the opportunity to take part in experiential real-world training as part of their education, launch into the world of work with an advantage. “There have been studies done in the U.K.,” she says. “What we’re seeing is that the graduates from these kinds of programs are a step ahead of people who have just entered the workforce from a traditional degree. These people have been embedded in an organization for four years. They know the landscape and how to get things done in that system.” York U grads are helping organizations create positive change locally and globally. To learn more, visit

learners in the workplace. We’re now going from half of their time to 80 per cent of their time at work – learning on the job. While new to Canada, this type of program has been established in other jurisdictions like the U.K. for some time. “I wouldn’t say this is going to be the only model for engagement with employers,” she says. “But, for Canada, this is an additional approach for collaboration between employers and higher education which can be adopted across other universities and disciplines.” She says the emerging learning style is a win-win for students and employers. “Students are employed from Day 1 – they earn a competitive salary, and some employers even pay their tuition. If they’re good with their money, they won’t leave after a four-year degree in debt.” Like Evans Adnani, Goodyer says those features open doors to equity deserving students who are not always well represented

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How Can I Be Happier in My Life and Career? By Playful Humans | Mike Montague


any people are burnt out, languishing in their jobs, or struggling to decompress and rejuvenate themselves during their time off. Heavy workloads and added stress from global events in an always-on culture of email, social media, and streaming make it hard for us to relax or find joy in our lives. When you feel like you have lost control of how you spend your time at work and at home, it can lead to serious physical and emotional challenges. However, the good news is that the opposite is also true! When you take back control of your attitude and your time, you can choose to invest it in the people and projects that bring you the most joy! One 2019 study found that agreeing with the statement “I have a philosophy of life that helps me understand who I am” was associated with fewer symptoms of depression and higher levels of happiness. Other positive psychology studies have shown that happiness drives success, not the other way around. If you want to feel fulfillment, you must first find your joy and flow state in play. Markham VOICE Summer 2022


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Playtime creates a positive feedback loop that will help you feel even more fun and fulfillment from the rest of your life. Author Matthew Kelly says there are three good reasons to do anything. It is morally right and makes the world a better place. It is practically necessary to survive (eat, sleep, and pay taxes.) Or it makes you happy.

Here are five things you can do to be happier with your life and career: 1. Lower the stakes. – Start with a simple yet challenging mindset shift to relieve the pressure that has built up in your life. You are enough. You are doing enough. Everything will be OK in the long run. Social media, the news, and societal pressure to keep up with the Jones has turn life into a panic, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When you lower the stakes of what you are doing at work, at home, or even on your day off, you give your mind and body permission to relax. Under extreme stress we can’t perform at our best over the long haul. Stress and high stakes are for immediate, short-term survival. Long-term success and fulfilment comes from passion not panic. 2. Enjoy the power of less. – This is another simple, yet challenging, concept, but it is important to remember that happiness comes from the difference in our expectations and our results. Our culture has taught us to set big stretch goals and always be seeking higher levels of production and success, but science has proven that doesn’t make us happier. The less you want and need, the more you can exceed those expectations and be grateful for what you have. Learn to focus on how far you have come. It is easy to feel like you have less than the richest people we see on TV going to space, but it is equally easy to feel grateful compared to the poorest and sickest people on the planet. If you keep trying to climb the latter of success, all you will find is more latter… Enjoy what you have before you seek more. 3. Create more than you consume. – Now, it’s time to put those new beliefs into action! One of the easiest ways to tell if you are building a life worth living is if you create more than you consume. Do create more media than you consume? Do you grow or cook more food than you eat? Do you give more to others than you take? These are tough questions, but if we can create more value to the world, our organization, or our family, than we receive, we will always feel fulfilled. It is a Backwards Law of life. Consuming will never make us feel full. It is the doing, being, and giving that fills our satisfaction the most, especially when we choose how, who and when. 4. Say “Hell yes!” or “No. – We get to decide how we spend our time, who we spend it with, and when we get to play, pause, practice, ponder, and perform. Sometimes, we forget that. We give into other’s expectations of us. We are afraid to say no. We sleepwalk through life answering emails, phone calls, or other requests of our time, attention and energy. To find more fun, flow, and fulfillment, you are going to have to find a way to say no to those things that prevent them. Any easy way to decide if you should commit to something is that it excites you and brings you joy. Derek Sivers tells us that it should feel like a “Hell yes!” or you should say no. If it is a no, then find a polite way to delegate it, delete it, or defer it to a later time when it becomes a priority. Just remember, saying no doesn’t mean you just sit around watching Netflix until inspiration strike. You must choose to do something else that is a HELL YES! 5. Give gifts and extend invitations to others. – These are two magic loopholes in our society for when we can reach out to others without the fear of being pushy, interruptive, or intrusive. Even if they don’t want a gift, it is always nice to receive one. Even if they don’t want to accept an invitation, it is always great to feel invited. If you want more fun in your life, be the person who invites others to the party.

Make something for someone, give them the gift of your time and attention, or invite them to show you want they are passionate about. Happiness is contagious, and if you can spread joy to others, it will rub off on you and your family.

It’s time to do some spring cleaning in your life. What was the last thing you did just for fun? What activities put you in the flow state where you feel playful and engaged? When do you feel most satisfied and fulfilled with your life? What is causing you stress, anxiety, and fear that you can remove from your life? If you need more fun, flow, and fulfillment in your life, ask yourself how can I start? • #TreatYourself. • Find your theme song to sing or dance it out. • Make your own fun with a prank, joke, or funny picture. • Dress up in a costume. • Invite someone on a playdate to a concert, movie, park, sport, or museum. • Try a “yes day” with your kids. • Play a game just for fun like darts, pool, mini-golf, board games, or ping pong. Finally, don’t forget you are an adult. That means you can give yourself permission to go make a mess or ruckus!

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