Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Celebrating the holidays

Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.

~Oren Arnold

Christmas is coming – just 26 shopping days left. As the busyness of the season approaches we thought it timely to conduct a brief survey on ways to celebrate the holiday season at work. We received some fabulous feedback – thanks to all of you who found time to respond.

Nearly all respondents (i.e., 96.5%) indicated their organization celebrates the holidays at work; most respondents felt it was very important (59%) with 11% indicating that organizations must celebrate the holidays. Although most respondents did report that Christmas was the specific holiday celebrated, most also noted how important it was to recognize that not everyone celebrates Christmas. Suggestions for being inclusive included taking a more general focus (e.g., winter solstice) and celebrating more holidays throughout the year (e.g., Chinese New Year, Diwali, Eid-al-Adha, Hanukkah).

There were numerous ways in which organizations celebrated the holidays – the top three selected were decorating the office (80%), holiday-themed staff party (80%), and supporting a charity (71%). The Life Strategies team does some decorating but always ensures we get together for a holiday-themed event which includes our families. This year we are going on the North Pole BC tour. We also support a charity every year . . . our team has a great time buying items from the World Vision catalogue. We’ve outfitted Canadian children with backpacks for school, helped families start businesses, and stocked medical clinics. If you don’t have a charitable project in mind, help our team make a difference by shopping through our World Vision catalogue. Other charities and organizations in need of support include the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau, the YWCAs Adopt-a-Family program, or the Pan Pacific’s Annual Christmas Wish Breakfast

For more on the 10 ways to celebrate the holiday season at work, check out our latest tip sheet.

From all of us, at the Life Strategies team, we wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday season, and all the best for a healthy and prosperous 2012.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Diversity Dream

Did you know that November is National Career Development Month in the US? As this year’s theme is “My Career Dreams,” the National Career Development Association (NCDA) held a poetry and poster contest open to students (i.e., Kindergarten through College/University). In reviewing the winning entries, the diversity of the individuals became clear; each person coming from a unique background, experiencing the world in a unique way, and expressing their career dreams just as uniquely. For example, Sarah Elder's entry showcases both Eastern and Western influences and a unique mode of expression (i.e., art).

This contest celebrated diversity and encouraged students to creatively explore their career paths. This prompted me to think about my diversity dream. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for diversity to be truly celebrated in the workplace, not just through contests aimed at students? What if diversity and multiculturalism was more than just “policy,” but actually a corporate value in action? What if employers truly recognized and supported the benefits that diversity can bring to the workplace (e.g., creative thinking and problem solving).

Although many organizations do take a strong pro-diversity stance and walk their diversity talk (see http://www.canadastop100.com/diversity/), many still struggle to successfully integrate diverse workers. My diversity dream, is for those same students who submitted entries into the NCDA contest, to be able to continue to express themselves and be permitted to bring their whole selves to work when they enter the workforce one day.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Giving Back

As we approach Remembrance Day and reflect on all that our veterans have done for us (and are still doing) it seems like a good time to focus on how we can each give back in some way . . . whether to our immediate circle of family or friends, or, in a slightly bigger way, to our community, region, country, or world. Just like a pebble dropped into a pond, the expanding ripples from even a tiny contribution can make an incredible difference.

Most of us are busy – in some circles, busy-ness is worn as a badge of honour, in others it brings sympathy, and in still others it’s abhorred. However, it really doesn’t serve as a good excuse for not finding a way to give back. You know the adage, “If you need something done, ask a busy person!”

Identifying a worthy cause isn’t much of a challenge either - local news stories, fund-raising campaigns, conversations with friends and colleagues, and personal reflection will likely surface 100 or more ways you could make our world a better place. Choosing one may be the real challenge – you can’t do it all but don’t let that stop you from doing something!

For several years now, I’ve adopted a personal philosophy of “tithing” my time as well as my income. Tithing is an ancient notion of setting aside 10% for others – in a Christian context, the money is considered to belong to God to be used to help others. Aside from churches, however, there are many organizations in Canada and abroad that rely on donations of time and money to do important work.

Statistics Canada is able to track trends of charitable donations through income tax records – only about 23% of Canadian taxfilers report making charitable donations and, sadly, that number is going down rather than up. This number, however, doesn’t represent the far larger number of Canadians who do report giving to charitable organizations (84%); it does reflect, however, that most people aren’t giving enough to be claiming their donations on their income tax forms. The Fraser Institute reported on percentage of income that Canadians donate to charity – at 0.73% it’s nowhere close to tithing (and is only about ½ of the US average). In tough economic times, giving money is challenging (the stats reflect that) – but some people find other creative ways to give back, perhaps by giving up a coffee or purchased lunch each week, carpooling to save gas, or donating empty bottles and cans to a local youth group’s fundraiser.

Giving your time, however, doesn’t need to have a negative economic impact on your personal finances. About half of Canadians 15 and older volunteer with associations or organizations (considerably less than those who give money to charities); a much larger number (84%) state that they’ve helped someone outside of their family – volunteers can offer direct support to friends and neighbours in need rather than
contributing formally through an organization.

Similar to the stats on charitable donations, though, the bulk of the volunteer hours are contributed by a small percentage of the volunteers – in fact, according to the most recent Statistics Canada report,the top 10% of volunteers contributed more than 50% of the total hours.

I personally invite you to join me in making our world a better place. Consider choosing one organization to financially support this year and one organization to support with your time. I’m confident that you will experience what most volunteers do – you’ll gain more than you give. Dag Hammerskjold, former UN Secretary General said, “You have not done enough, you have never done enough, so long as it is possible that you have something to contribute.”

Note: If you’re in the position of recruiting or motivating volunteers, you might find these tip sheets helpful, from a workshop on Volunteer Engagement that Jayne Barron and I facilitated this week: