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Bill Banham: Welcome to another episode of the HRchat podcast. I’m your host, Bill Banham. Today our guest is Christine Miners, Managing Director of Talent at Verity International, a Canadian HR consulting firm focused on providing service across three areas: career management and transition, leadership coaching, and talent and organizational development. With over 18 years of progressive and diverse leadership experience in talent and organizational development, Christine is responsible for leading the development and delivery of Verity’s talent management strategy and content. Christine, welcome to the HR Chat show.
Christine Miners: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Bill Banham: Okay. Let’s jump in with our hard-hitting questions for you for today. Firstly, let’s get to know a bit about you. Can you tell our audience about your career background prior to joining Verity?
Christine Miners: It seems like I have to share this a lot actually. I graduated from university with a math degree and a kinesiology degree and absolutely no idea of what I wanted to do. I went back home, I lived with my parents, and at the time my father said, “If you’re going to live here you’re going to earn your keep.”
I hit the job market. I was fortunate enough to join the sales team at Dell. This was back in the ’90s right before Y2K and all the panic around Y2K. When I first joined Dell originally I thought it would just be a good way to pass the time while I figured out what I wanted to do in my future.
Seven years later, I was still there. Lots of job changes. I spent almost three or four years on the operations side of the business. I had a chance to do a life-changing expat assignment in Panama where I helped to project manage the site startup of a call center in Panama before I finally landed in leadership and talent management at Dell, which instantly felt like home for me.
I’ve been a part of that profession ever since. I’ve had a great opportunity to work with a number of exceptional organizations. I’ve had a chance to work at Molson Coors Brewing company. I’ve had a chance to work at Sick Kids hospital … In all of those roles, I’ve had an opportunity to work and lead functions like leadership, talent management, corporate learning, and organizational development.
I took a career change in 2013 and joined a global consulting firm as a consultant, which was something that I really thought I wanted to do. It’s interesting transitioning from an in-house employee to a consultant. It’s actually more significant than I thought. The first three years were a great learning experience about how to truly leverage my skills in order to help the customers that I was working with.
I can say that it’s been a very long journey of growth. I’ve had lots of great experiences. I think one of the most important things that I’ve learned along the way is that my passion is not actually leading teams. My passion is helping other leaders to become more confident and more capable of leading in their business.
That’s really what’s brought me to Verity. I’ve been with Verity for the last 18 months and it’s just been a terrific opportunity to do the things that I’m passionate about on a day to day basis.
Bill Banham: Now tell us a bit about Verity then, its mission and how it helps HR folk and leaders.
Christine Miners: Sure. It’s interesting. I joined Verity about 18 months ago but truthfully I’ve been following Verity for a long time over the course of my career. I’m proud to be a part of this team and I can say that very truthfully and honestly. I could take you through all the programs and services we offer. We probably wouldn’t sound much different from others. We do career transition. We offer coaching. We offer advisory services in leadership and talent management.
I think we are different. I think what makes us different is we love what we do. We keep things simple. We take the HR lingo out of it so that the work is relatable with the business. Our mission is to help others succeed, whether it’s a business or an individual within a business. We’re there to help them be more successful at what they’re doing.
I think our customers would probably say the same in terms of the experience that they have of working with us. It’s not a transaction for us. It is a true partnership. We’re always thinking about how we can nurture relationships with our customers, how we can bring better value, how we can provide the best possible advice, guidance, and how we can help our customers.
I guess a lot of times we work with HR people. In fact, most of the time we work with people in HR. I truly believe this that one of our roles is to help boost the credibility of HR within their business. For us, it’s not just providing a solution. It’s actually working with the HR people that we partner with to ensure that beyond our work that they can successfully implement solutions and that they feel empowered, that they have the credibility, they’ve got the skills and capacity in order to make things work successfully in their organization.
Bill Banham: Okay. You said something pretty juicy there that I’m going to jump all over. You mentioned a moment ago about how you helped boost the credibility of the HR department. I guess that begs the question do you think HR has an image problem in many companies?
Christine Miners: Oh gosh. That is juicy, I guess, and very early in the conversation. You know, I think to some extent, yes. I think that HR as a function we’ve come a long way in becoming more valued partners inside the organizations. I think you’ll see inside lots of HR functions they’ve restructured the service delivery model in terms of how they operate within the business and how they partner with leaders within the business.
I think there’s still an opportunity for us to be even better. I think one of the things that … I don’t want to say it hurts our credibility in HR but I think sometimes we have a tendency in HR to take a bit of a compliance role. We push out a program or we push out a policy or we push out performance management and then we measure people on did they do it or not?
It is a bit of a policing or a Big Brother or a compliance kind of role. I think there’s an opportunity for us to shift to more of a value add role and to move away from measuring compliance and actually measuring impact and focusing on dropping some of the traditional HR lingo and some of the traditional HR approaches.
That’s what I’m passionate about is if there’s a problem in the organization and what we’ve always done isn’t working or it’s not having the impact we want, doing more of it is not going to change that. It is about taking some risks, doing things differently, making things simpler.
At the end of the day business leaders don’t have a ton of time in their day to think about people practices the way that we do in HR. When we talk about credibility or we talk about impact I think the big opportunity for us is to figure out how to make our work and the good parts of our work more acceptable to leaders in the business, which means it’s got to be simple language, it’s got to be easy to apply, it’s got to be quick and not something that they have to do a lot of thinking about in order to make it work. To me, that’s where our big opportunity is a function.
Bill Banham: Thank you very much. Now you are managing director of talent at Verity. Can you give our audience a bit of a picture of what an average work week looks like for you?
Christine Miners: Busy. Probably just like everybody else’s. In fact, I suspect it’s probably not different from many other peoples. Most people would say this, it’s never the same day twice. I’m hopping from one thing to another. It could be in the morning I’m facilitating strategic planning with an executive group and in the afternoon I’m at another client doing one on one coaching with a frontline manager and everything in between.
In all seriousness, I will say my days are fun. I love what I do and I’m excited about what I do. I think on a week to week basis probably about 60% to 75%, it varies, but 60% to 75% of my time is actually actively engaged in client deliverables. Either facilitating or coaching or doing some strategic advisory work, completing diagnostics, building strategies, framework, which is a lot of fun.
Then a good portion of my week as well is spent with prospective clients. People that were not yet working in an engagement with but who have asked for some advice or who have surfaced a challenge or a problem and are looking for different ways of tackling it or some different solutions and strategies. We spend a lot of time doing that.
Then I would say the third big place where I spend my time is I’m constantly scanning the external landscape, constantly talking to others with expertise, trying to find those people who are doing it differently, who align with our value set, who might be good partners for us as an organization. Always looking for how can we build new solutions that solves old problems. That’s my favorite thing to do and quite truthfully where I get most energized is when I’m working with a customer who is ready to step away from traditional thinking and try something new.
Bill Banham: It sounds a lot like you love your job.
Christine Miners: I do. You know what? It’s important. You spend a lot of time at work. In fact, you spend a ton of time at work. I see my work colleagues more than I see my spouse or my children. I always feel that if I’m going to get out of bed early in the morning and go somewhere and it’s not with my children or my spouse than it better be something that I really, really enjoy and that I think is worth my time.
Bill Banham: Now we know that Verity assists people who are in career transition. What makes Verity support unique in the market? In your experience do millennials want different things to Gen X-ers when it comes to career transition? Are millennials, for example, much more open generally to jumping feet first into a completely different career and trying something new?
Christine Miners: It’s an interesting question. I’ll start with the first part of the question, which is what makes our approach to career transition unique? Verity has been operating in Toronto for over 30 years now. Career transition has traditionally been the backbone of our business. It’s something that we do very, very well and we’ve got great expertise in.
I think as a business or as a service, career transition has largely become commoditized. Organizations are taking packages and asking it to be a bit more of a commoditized service. At the end of the day, in our view, nothing is as effective as two people actually sitting together to have a conversation and create a plan.
Yes, we support people and transition through technology, social media, seminars but we have also really stuck to and maintained the human element in career transition. Truthfully, I think it’s just in our blood. It’s what we do. It’s the human piece and it aligns with our passion of helping people. When I look at our career transition coaches who work in our business where they’re most energized is when they have the chance to sit with someone face to face and actually see the impact that they’re having real-time and in the moment. That’s what I would say about career transition as a whole.
In terms of millennials versus Gen X-ers I think it’s interesting. Sometimes I think there is obviously a lot to generations in the workplace and how they’re forming. There’s some great work out there around generations in the workplace and what forms the qualities and characteristics of each generation. Then at the same time everybody within a generation is an individual and will make decisions in different ways than others.
What I will say is, yes, our experience is millennials have a lot of courage around making transitions in their career and making different choices about avenues or paths that they want to follow. If something’s not working out I think millennials are actually a lot more entrepreneurial than some of the previous generations. That’s not to say the previous generations weren’t smart or creative or clever or innovative.
I think millennials have had more opportunity and more resources to support entrepreneurial thinking. It’s very common to come across millennials who take risks and take an idea and run with it and run with it quite successfully or who, if they’re inside an organization, and the work isn’t meaningful, it doesn’t feel like they’re having an impact or adding value, I would say they’ve got a lot of courage around making a decision to leave and to find something that resonates more strongly with them.
Bill Banham: Okay. So.. you and I just got into an elevator and you’ve got about 30 seconds-ish to give me your top two or three reasons why Verity’s leadership coaching model really works. Go!
Christine Miners: Here’s the deal. If I were to say it and sum it up in one sentence we have business coaches coaching business leaders. My experience with coaching is often times there are lots of people who are out, who are credentialed coaches, but who don’t always have some of the relevant experience of having sat in the chair of the people that they’re coaching previously.
We’ve got a roster of people with a depth of experience, depth of level at which they operate, but more importantly, they have the ability to play between coaching and acting as a sounding board to business leaders who are potentially moving into their first executive level role. I think that to me is what differentiates us and I think it’s core to our model and to our approach in terms of how we bring people into the organization as coaches.
Bill Banham: Verity International are sponsors again of an event that the HR Gazette is involved with called InnovateWork Toronto. Firstly, a big thank you for your continued support. You guys are awesome.
The next event is on November 7th at the MaRS Discovery District. There are some tickets left, folk, as we record this certainly so jump on that. Tell me a little bit about why Verity decided to get involved as a sponsor.
Christine Miners: Yeah. Actually, we will be at the forum on the 7th of November. We’re very much looking forward to it. Back in the spring, I was introduced to one of the founders of the InnovateWork TO forum. I was instantly impressed. Actually, by him as an individual. Forward-thinking, he’s practical, down to Earth, tons of integrity. Just instantly likable.
What was more impressive is the momentum that this forum has gained in such a short amount of time. Verity, we’re excited to be a part of that. Our brand is about pushing the envelope. It’s about thinking about old problems in new ways and focusing on our impact. To us, InnovateWork TO it just feels like the perfect place for our organization and our people to interact with other professionals who share that very same passion.
That’s really why we continue to sponsor InnovateWork TO is it’s a great opportunity for us to connect with other people out in the field who have an approach and have a style and a thought around HR practice that’s similar to ours.
Bill Banham: Wonderful. Check out InnovateWork.co to learn more. There’s the end of the shameless plug for the event. Moving on, are there any new initiatives or releases happening in the next six months for Verity, which you’d like to share with our audience?
Christine Miners: Yes. Absolutely. First of all, we’ve always got something new and exciting that’s cooking. We’ve got a lot of things going on in our leadership and talent management practice. There’s many of them I’m incredibly excited about. One of them, in particular, I’m very passionate about is it’s a platform. It’s a new technology platform that we’re in the process of bringing to our customers.
Where it came from is if I go back to early in my career I spent almost 15 years in talent management inside organizations with accountability for developing high potentials. I have always been struck by how much succession planning and talent management seems to fall apart once calibrations are done and lists of high potential are created.
It astounds me how much time and rigor we invest in running these extensive processes but then we don’t have a great mechanism to actually follow through on developing and growing this talent. To me, it’s always felt like a big drain on company resources but without a lot of payback.
I think at Verity we’ve actually come up with the solution. I think most people probably listening are familiar with the 70-20-10 rule of development, which would say that about 10% of our professional growth comes from formal training and education, another 20% comes from more coaching and mentoring relationships, but the other 70% comes from real on the job experiences.
When you think about high-potential talent, the big test of high potential and the big growth of high potential and the important part of developing them is all about their agility. How do you take them outside of the function in which they’ve grown up? In the function where they’ve got expertise already built and put them somewhere else in the organization where they can learn how to build credibility fast, learn fast, make decisions and problem solve in areas where they don’t actually have the functional expertise to do so.
The platform that we’ve created allows organizations to make on-the-job development experiences more accessible and more visible to high potential talent and more of a mechanism that you can use to actually integrate into your high potential development strategies.
What’s interesting is when we are out talking to our customers about the platform they come up with all sorts of other ways to apply it, which is even more exciting because they can see the value-add. We’ve got customers who are looking at it for women in leadership programs, mentoring programs, diversity programs, career management.
I think the key to how the platform works is it is about people having a sense of what are the skills and competencies they’re trying to develop and the tool actually matches development opportunities inside the organization that would allow them to actually grow and develop those skills. It takes some of the manual pieces out of trying to get people access to better on the job development opportunities.
Honestly, the first time I’ve ever done something like this I got to say it’s the most fun I think I have ever had because it’s new, it’s exciting, it’s challenging and more importantly it is a real solution to a problem for which currently we don’t have one. This is an exciting opportunity for us to engage with our customers in a different way.
Bill Banham: How can folk learn more about Verity? Also, how can people connect with you?
Christine Miners: Okay. Well, I’d love to say that we have one of those simple websites but it’s not as simple. You can find out more about our services on our website, which is verityintl.com. Or you can call us, for people who still like to talk on the phone, at 416-862-8422. Then we’re also on LinkedIn on Twitter. It’s that simple!
In terms of getting in touch with me through our main phone line is probably the easiest way to get in touch with me or even through our website. We do have a way for people to link in and contact with me or connect with me on the website.
Bill Banham: Well, that just leaves me to say Christine Miners, thank you for being the guest on the HR Chat show today.
Christine Miners: Thank you very much. I’m looking forward to seeing people at the conference out in November.
Bill Banham: Me too. It’s going to be awesome. Listeners, until next time, thanks very much for tuning in.