HR Times Volume 2 Issue 1 - Engaging the Culture of Engagement

Page 1

HR Times

Engaging the Culture of Engagement SFU HRSA

Volume 2 Issue 1

September 2021

Table of Contents About Us


Editor’s Notes


Sponsor Recognitions


Introduction to Theme

6 ~ 7

Interview with Professionals

8 ~ 20

SFU HRSA Updates & Survey



Anthony Wong

Victor Le


Fiona Fang



Harman Chhina


VP of Finance & Operations
 Gurkirn Somal

VP of Events

Ivy Lu

VP of Events

Shahvir Sarkary

The Human Resources Student Association (HRSA) is a student-run business organization at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business. We provide students with networking opportunities and resources to learn about the various functions of Human Resources and its significance in the workplace. Through the initiatives and events offered by the organization, HRSA strives to increase student awareness and engagement. Founded in 2004, HRSA is regarded as a successful and accomplished student organization, recognized as the only Human Resources business organization at SFU.

HR Times is a magazine run for students by HRSA. Founded in 2020 as a new initiative, we hope to support and inform students on the various trends in HR.

VP of Internal Relations

Bonnie Lu

VP of Marketing

Mary Xie

VP of Corporate Relations

Anthony Wong

VP of External Relations

Victor Le

VP of Visual Media

Fiona Fang



Welcome! A new school year has started and SFU HRSA is excited to present to you the first issue of Volume 2 of HR Times.

This month’s theme - Engaging the Culture of Engagement - is centred around the idea of how an organization interacts with their employees and their environment. As Forbes describes employee engagement, “it is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals”, so understanding what steps are taken to ensure a positive level of engagement is vital to the success of an organization. In this issue, we are going to provide you with insights regarding this topic f rom industry professionals in vastly different companies.

It is a privilege working with professionals and students to connect our readers to learn more about the HR industry. If you are interested or know someone who is interested in being a part of our magazine, please reach out to us.

On behalf of the entire HRSA family, we welcome you to an eight month journey of content that we are excited to share with you!



Vice President of Corporate Relations

Vice President of External Relations

Anthony Wong

Victor Le

Sponsor Recognitions Our initiatives and events cannot be successful without the help of our amazing sponsors!

Here are the organizations currently sponsoring HRSA.

Platinum Tier

Silver Tier

Bronze Tier 5

Engaging the Culture of Engagement

When the term employee engagement arises, many individuals may relate the term to employee happiness but that does not necessarily mean they are adding to the efficiency and productivity of the organization. Additionally, with many workplaces moved to a hybrid environment, it has become harder to gauge the impact of employee engagement. However, through this issue of HR Times, our industry professionals will discuss the importance of employee engagement and how it plays a critical role in a company through its normal and pandemic-ridden operation.



Interview with Professionals

A dog mom, a cat mom of two, and lover of baked goods, Stephanie Chee (she/her) is a designated human resources professional (CPHR/SHRM-CP) and certified in volunteer administration. She has a blended experience in both the non-profit and private sector. As an individual that leads with empathy and a heart of curiosity, she is motivated by what she can do for others and is passionate about employee engagement. As a leader of today interested in all facets of people, Stephanie leads by creating positive impact on people and the organization through creativity, connection and gratitude.

Currently, she is the Manager, People & Culture at Ronald McDonald House BC & Yukon and a Board Member at AssistList, leading the People and Culture team. In her off

Stephanie Chee

time, she is studying for her Masters, volunteering with CPHR BC & Yukon and mentoring fourth year HR students.

Ronald McDonald House BC & Yukon

Stephanie is a settler and recognizes the traditional territories and ancestral lands of the Kwantlen, Katzie, Semiahmoo, Manager, People & Culture

Tsawwassen and Coast Salish Peoples where she has the privilege of working, studying and living.

Charisse is the People & Culture Manager at Vessi - a footwear startup based in Vancouver. She graduated from SFU with a degree in Communications and then continued her education at Humber College in Toronto specializing in HR. Throughout her undergrad, she has had opportunities to live in Toronto, Barcelona and Singapore for internship and university exchange opportunities.

Charisse’s passion is to create amazing experiences for both candidates and employees within the retail, apparel and DTC/ CPG industries. Namely, she had the opportunity to work at Canadian Tire Corporation, OAK + FORT, Clearly, and now, Vessi which has taught her all things HR such as talent acquisition, compensation, and of course, employee engagement.

Charisse Trinidad

Outside of work, Charisse is big on health and wellness, Vessi

fashion, reading and spending time with her chihuahua, Harley.

Manager, People & Culture


Interview with Professionals

Jasmine Leong is a People & Culture Lead at StoryTap, an enterprise video marketing platform that drives higher brand engagement with online consumer audiences through its proprietary technology. Jasmine has almost nine years within the HR industry and a majority of those years were spent within a role of People & Culture. Not only is she an alumnus of the SFU Beedie School Business, but she is also one of SFU HRSA. Through all her experiences, Jasmine’s enthusiasm for HR has grown from the passion of improving business results through inspiring, developing, and retaining talent. Her absolute favourite thing in the world is helping tech start-ups build their foundation for their people and cultural function.

She is always up for connecting and speaking with industry

Jasmine Leong

professionals — or if you need any help in the People & Culture space with your startup, she’s your gal!


People & Culture Lead

Madison is currently in her first post-graduate HR role as a People & Culture Specialist at Riipen. She majored in HR during her undergrad and completed her research in HR during her Masters of Science in Management. She has had the opportunity to complete internships in HR during her studies as well and now Madison is excited to be starting her career in the tech industry.

Madison Sameshima


People & Culture Specialist


Q: How important of a role do you believe that employee engagement plays into the daily life of an employee within and out of work?


I think to an extent, employee

engagement can play a significant role within and out of work. I'll elaborate by saying that we spend a lot of time at work, at least I do. Whether it's 35, 37.5 or 40 hours a week role, it's a lot of time with people. Sometimes what goes on in a day whether it has been good or bad can carry into our personal lives. I learned throughout the years that time management is crucial and if you're doing a job you love, you're doing it because it's something you enjoy and a part of you is growing along with the organization. When I am engaged with something I do, I get excited and my energy carries with me back home where I recharge for the next day. I share my successes with those around me or I seek to learn what I could have done better. It's all about learning for me and the meaningful impact I'm making, not only within my sphere of influence but for others and that of the community.

Charisse: Quite important. Work is a huge part of peoples' daily lives and it has the power to impact their overall well-being both in and outside of work. There definitely should be a certain level of engagement there (depending on the person), in order for people to produce their best work.


Jasmine: Employee engagement is integral to an employee’s daily life, both in and outside of work. It would be nearly impossible to separate employee engagement from general wellbeing, simply because work has become such a huge part of our lives.

It makes sense. Employees who show higher rates of engagement and job satisfaction are oftentimes physically and mentally healthier, and vice versa. The happier someone is at work, the more they’ll achieve - and the more they’ll affect others in the same positive manner. The inverse happens as well: the more stressed or dissatisfied you are at work, the more likely you are to feel mentally (and sometimes even physically) drained, the lower your general state or mood will be, regardless of whether or not you’re working. One is interweaved and fully affected by the other. I truly believe the best engagement practices will recognize that.

Madison: From the employee perspective, I think it’s incredibly important. Within work, it’s how we approach the work we do every day, how we connect and collaborate with team members, and much more. I also don’t think that work and life are balanced separately, but that they blend together and influence one another. For myself and many others, the opportunity to contribute to meaningful work that aligns with my values, build connections with the people I work with and make progress on my professional goals directly impacts my life outside of work.


Q: When curating employee engagement initiatives or setting the engagement culture, through your personal experience, what is an important factor to consider during the planning phase?

Stephanie: Getting the people who you want engaged, involved and aligning them with guiding values. There's nothing more limiting for engagement than having a leader tell someone their opinion and close the door off to feedback/feedforward. In my personal experience, an important factor is to see what has worked in the past and to break down the components of why something didn't work and then to look ahead (as a team) where the light at the end of the tunnel is. A leader can totally be on the wrong frequency with their employees and it's important to be on the same frequency. Involve your people and think of them. Otherwise we aren't singing the same tunes. I found that setting guiding values (the organization & personal values) really brought the creativity out and it made people feel like they were a part of the summative whole.

Madison: As my company is in a growth phase, it’s important to be very intentional about the initiatives that we implement due to being constrained by time and resources. It can feel like there are endless opportunities for new programs and initiatives so we need to be able to prioritize what’s going to result in the most impact and what is easiest to action. Related to being intentional, we want to ensure that we do our best to understand the actual problems connected to the symptoms that show up. Are we effectively surveying and enabling opportunities for team members to share their opinions transparently?


Jasmine: When looking into engagement initiatives, it’s important to acknowledge a few different factors during the planning phases.

Every organization is different - understand your own team’s “Why”. My first and foremost advice would be to spend the time necessary to get to know the organization. Each company has its own set of quirks. Taking the time to learn what the organization is all about will be crucial to know what needs to be done in terms of engagement. It’s important to remember that what will work for Company A may not necessarily work for Company B.

Go directly to the source. Always ask people what they need in terms of engagement instead of assuming! Everyone’s needs can be quite different, and the definition of engagement can look different for different people. Doing an all-encompassing survey can help find the gaps for improvement to make the biggest impact. It’ll also show team members that you’re truly listening to what they actually need to be engaged.

Get buy-in. Having your leadership team and management onboard and bought into aspects of culture first can only benefit you, as they will represent and champion your initiatives when they wholeheartedly support your engagement plans. A great way of getting others to champion your engagement is to hear people out and to involve them in the process of planning and brainstorming.

Charisse: It's okay to start small. It's actually better to start small. You can gauge interest, get feedback, and then slowly keep adding to it. If you start with a big initiative right away, you may learn that it might not be sustainable after already putting the time, energy and resources into it. Also, employee engagement starts from the top and people tend to buy into things more and participate when senior leadership does so as well. So it's important to plan initiatives that your leaders will participate in and promote.


Q: What role do you believe that employee engagement levels play in attracting and retaining employees of an organization?

Stephanie: I always do a lot of research when I am applying to roles. I like to see what the company is about and if they're doing anything other than what they actually do (ie. volunteering, employee communications, reviews etc.) what I get from folks and friends nowadays, is that they are always looking at how the company culture is and whether or not it fits the person that they are truly inside. It's super important to invest in people within an organization because they're the ones moving the organization forward with leadership. Nowadays it's about finding the "why" in jobs that is beyond the typical 9-5 norm. The more engaged an employee is with their jobs, the more they are self-invested in their role and the company. In terms of attracting talent, if a role within an organization is fulfilling, you'll see the person live and breathe it. They live to love their work and not work to live. It's invigorating and it makes others curious.

Charisse: It plays a big role! As a recruiter, a question I get asked a lot is what our culture is like and what types of engagement initiatives we have in place, especially since the pandemic hit. People want to know if a company is a place that prioritizes these types of things and if it would be an enjoyable place for people to work and make new connections.

Of course, it's also important that the current team has a strong sense of employee engagement in regards to retention because they can feed off each other and start a ripple effect. If someone new walks into a company where engagement levels are very low, I'm sure you can also suspect what would happen! People are more inclined to stay at a company that they enjoy and one that pushes them in their field of work.


Madison: It plays a very important role in both areas. Regarding attracting talent, while the company and the HR

Jasmine: Employee engagement has

department crafts and decides how to

everything to do with attracting and

market the employer brand, the

retaining team members.

employees also have a large influence and ultimately shape how the employer

In terms of attraction, engaged

brand is perceived. Employees who are

employees can be seen as your

engaged in the work they do and aligned

organization’s greatest ambassadors.

with what the company is striving to

Good people know good people; an

achieve are much more likely to speak

engaged team member is far more likely

positively about the company in

to refer others into the organization

professional and personal settings and

when they’re able to speak to their

encourage talent they know to apply.

enjoyment at work with enthusiasm. Their energy will radiate, and their words

It also plays an equally important role in

can oftentimes excite others about the

retention. Employees are much more

organization or about their work as well.

likely to stay with a company where they are able to pursue meaningful work,

There’s also a direct correlation between

where their input is appreciated and

retention and engagement; engagement

acted on, where they feel they have the

is likely the biggest factor in how long

support and opportunities to grow, and

employees stay within your team. The

much more.

more engaged a workforce is, the more they feel valued and the more they feel like their work is meaningful, the more fulfilled they feel. Engaged employees are far less likely to look for any other work and therefore, far less likely to leave.

The bottom line is, if an organization has issues with recruitment and/or retention, a deep dive into an organization’s employee engagement should be the first to be investigated.


Q: Since the pandemic, many organizations transitioned into a hybrid work environment, what has your organization done to upkeep/maintain positive employee engagement?

Stephanie: Pivoting an entire workforce is always a trying time for everyone. What did I do? I was human. I was honest, open, humble and willing to listen. One important thing I will reiterate is that everyone is in it together. Leaders who listened to their employees and leant an ear, were able to foster a closeness and respectful working relationship. Through many of the hardships that people have had to overcome, it was about being clear, concise and consistent in messaging. I was able to maintain positivity with my colleagues, team members and volunteers through communication and kindness. Everyone is dealing with the pandemic in their own way and lending an ear and being the first to lead the way and take initiative really brought my team on their feet to move with me.

Charisse: We've tried to build more of an online culture. We post a "new hire welcome card" on Slack which introduces the new hire to the company with their name, position, and some fun facts about them. The engagement part comes in where the new hire asks the team a question such as "What's a hobby you picked up during the pandemic? " or "If you could be any animal, what would you be?" and it's interesting and fun to see everyone's responses.

Another thing we did was have team members lead our weekly company meeting by starting the meeting off with a quick exercise of their choice and sharing their recommendations for the week. We leave this super open and employees have recommended anything from books, movies/TV shows, podcasts and even experiences or things to do around the city.

We also recently moved into a beautiful new office space and have a hybrid work environment so we try to have in-person gatherings when we can. We had a fun welcome party the first week we moved in to welcome everyone in the new space and reunite in-person since that was the first time we were all together since the pandemic.


Madison: As a remote-first organization, we have a committee that plans ongoing and standalone virtual events that provide an opportunity for people to connect with others on their team and cross-functionally. However, we also try to balance programming to keep Zoom fatigue in mind.

Regarding transitioning to remote onboarding, we have worked on improving our onboarding program to account for a lot of the informal learning that happens in an inperson environment. We have built-in additional sessions, materials, and support to help new team members better understand the culture, what we’re working toward, and how we work together.

We have also worked on improving our internal communication channels which have included building a company

Jasmine: As a fully remote team even prior to the

wiki, having departments provide

pandemic, this topic has always been top of mind.

sessions on what they are

Some of the ways that StoryTap team members have

currently working on, a regular

been able to engage each other include ensuring

company newsletter, and more.

that there is always space and time for connection.

This communication goes both ways, and we also have a number of channels for team members to share their feedback.

Over Communicate < Under Communication. For example, while onboarding at StoryTap, we ask each new team member to schedule ‘Get-To-Know-You’ calls to chat freely for 15-30 minutes about things that fall outside of work, whether that’s your family, your hobbies, your pets, etc. with every single employee. We also make sure that we are always in constant communication with one another. When we have meetings, our cameras are always turned on.

Celebrate your wins. It’s easy to forget how to celebrate together when you’re working remotely. We try to celebrate our wins with each other (via video, if we must) and we take the time to acknowledge and recognize good work.

Flexibility where it matters. We believe that flexibility is key to engagement and every individual’s success as well. We want to ensure we remain flexible to the ever-changing circumstances of the pandemic and open-minded to the way we work best by offering remote work but also the flexibility of going into an office hub.


Q: What is one misconception about employee engagement?

Stephanie: That it's primarily a social committee. Employee engagement matters at all levels of the organization. As an HR practitioner, finding out the why's and partnering with everyone is a great start to see where engagement sits and where the needle can be moved in company culture. Make an effort to hear from the folks who don't speak up and make it a safe space to welcome all diverse opinions and perspectives.

Charisse: That it's "just fun" and that adding a ping pong table or throwing an office party can solely count as employee engagement. People don't realize that it's so much more than this and it's not just the responsibility of the HR department.

In regards to employee engagement initiatives, these should involve a bit more intention and strategy behind them and you should not just do things for the sake of doing things. All initiatives should be connected to the company's core values, mission and/or goals and have leadership buy-in and participation.

As well, employee engagement is not just initiatives and programs at work. Employee engagement is how connected employees feel to their work and the company, meaning to say that it's the job of leadership and management to ensure that their team members are doing work that caters to this.

Jasmine: One of the biggest misconceptions about employee engagement is that it is the sole responsibility of the People & Culture or HR team to manage. While HR professionals can devise programs, policies, have the right conversations and start initiatives relating to engagement, it’s still very much up to management & leaders to uphold engagement strategies as well, and to have the relevant conversations in support.

Our role in HR is to know which levers to pull when it comes to engagement, but buy-in from others needs to be present - otherwise, the efforts from the HR team won’t be nearly as effective. Employee engagement definitely can stem from HR, but it does not end with HR.


Madison: A possible misconception could be around engagement surveying and that it’s the answer to solving engagement issues. However, with most HR initiatives that are not successful, if there isn’t buy-in from the top and managers, clear communication on the importance, and follow up and actions taken as a result, just the act of surveying is not going to be effective. Some steps we take to support this process include short surveys quarterly and a long-form survey annually to reduce survey fatigue, clearly communicating the importance of this feedback, sharing the results and leading discussions in areas of interest at the company and team level, setting actionable goals for the upcoming quarter and year, and sharing our progress on these goals over time.


Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell our audience?

Stephanie: It's okay to not be perfect, it's okay to stop, reflect and pause. The demands of society and being a version of yourself that you don't wholeheartedly believe in can be exhausting. Take that time to relax and to take care of your mental health. I am not perfect. I don't expect those around me to be perfect. A little bit of love and some cookies can go a very long way. Remember to appreciate the little things and to not sweat the little things.

Madison: Engagement is such an interesting area of HR and since I graduated last year, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of interesting related projects. As a recent grad, I’ve really enjoyed starting my career in a tech start-up environment where there’s an opportunity to assist with building programs from scratch and the flexibility to iterate on current initiatives. As a student, I was able to intern in three different industries where engagement was approached in different ways and I appreciated the opportunity to experience those perspectives. Therefore, I think it’s important to see which environment most closely aligns with your interests when considering where to start.


SFU HRSA UPDATES Bi-monthly magazine issues and bi-monthly podcast episodes are coming your way! Look out for the first episode of Season 2 of our podcast series, HR Secrets, coming out in October 2021!

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