By Brenlee Coates
“I work with the most amazing, talented, funny, caring people a girl could ask for,” says Kristen Jones, director of human relations at Think Shift advertising agency.
Having coworkers that are easy to love makes at least one part of her job come easy: caring about the staff’s well-being. “That’s a huge part of it, just caring how they are,” she says. “The wellness of your people, their life balance.
“An HR professional should protect and grow people.”
With a Bachelor of Arts and certificate in human resource management from the University of Manitoba, Jones was hired by Think Shift originally as an account coordinator.
Think Shift’s focus on employee development helped land her a position as the HR representative – with a little cajoling. “I basically begged my boss, because that’s what I wanted to do,” jokes Kristen.
At its best, she says, HR helps empower employees in their roles, and it helps that this is interwoven in Think Shift’s culture.
“This is a very unique company… It’s an organization that’s run by the employees.
“Not only do we talk a lot about empowerment, but we are really empowered in our roles,” says Jones. “We’re employee-focused, and opportunity-based. Those who are performing at high levels, they’re going to be getting more opportunities to continue growth.”
Think Shift staff are encouraged to lead talks in ongoing Think Shift University courses in the evenings throughout the year – “anyone who wants to teach something, they just kind of raise their hand,” says Jones.
Every Tuesday, the agency also hosts Tuesday Talks at work, when a member of the executive team shares a message about leadership or the company culture. (You can catch videos of some of these Tuesday Talks on Think Shift’s website, thinkshiftinc.com.)
Not to mention, each day begins with an employee huddle to set the tone for the day.
“It’s just a great way to have everyone together in the morning,” explains Jones. “It’s fun; we always end up laughing at the end.”
Recently, the company underwent a merger with a company in Portland called LogiStyle, a corporate culture consultancy firm whose philosophies helped inform Think Shift when it was first forming its intentional culture.
The merger meant that Jones’ role grew to help facilitate the coming together of these two companies: “making sure that our culture is one,” says Jones.
This led to a recent company retreat to Minaki, Ontario including the Portland staff – and many trips back and forth for some of the Winnipeg team.
Jones says learning how their payroll and medical benefits work in Portland has been a bit of a learning curve, but the companies have managed to fit into one quite seamlessly. “Even during the huddles, they’re conferenced in every morning,” says Jones.
Having a job that’s so focused on personal growth means she’s always looking ahead to her own goals, as well.
Jones plans to pursue her Certified Human Resources Professional designation, and to continue finding new educational opportunities for Think Shift’s team.
What keeps her job exciting is that “it is such a range of skills. It’s so broad,” she explains.
She found that HR really became clearer from practical learning; “you never really get it until you’re doing it,” she says. “Anything that allows you to get hands-on, you need that.”
And it doesn’t hurt to get on with a company that aligns with your values as much as Think Shift does for Jones.
“You have to walk the walk,” she says. “Doing interviews, it comes across that I really believe in what we do. It comes across that I believe in the values.
“You have to be authentic.”
Where to study HR in Winnipeg
Human Resource Management Diploma Program (part-time/full-time, Professional, Applied and Continuing Education, University of Winnipeg)
Human Resource Management Certificate Program (1-6 years part-time, University of Manitoba)
Human Resource Management Certificate (Red River College)
Starting/Average Wage: $42,700/$58,300 (Manitoba Prospects 2013).