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Halsall Associates


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Halsall Associates

Meghan Watson left the University of Western Ontario with a degree in psychology and criminology, not sure what her next step would be. Over the next two years, she taught snowboarding for a season in British Columbia and did a variety of jobs, trying to figure out what to do. Returning to school to take a graduate certificate program in Human Resource Management at Sheridan College, Meghan then had to fulfill a four-month co-op requirement. This is where she finally found a job that felt right for her with Halsall Associates.

What drew her to apply to Halsall?

I researched the company and saw their core values posted on the website. I also saw the interesting projects they had worked on, like the addition to the Royal Ontario Museum. Fit with an employer is important for me. I want a work/life balance, I want to be constantly learning, and I want to be able to ask questions.
Meghan is an outgoing person with a strong internal locus of control. She was not disappointed with her experience at Halsall, a consulting firm providing building engineering services.
As soon as I started I was incorporated into the career development team, given real work, and put in charge of real searches as if I was a junior on the job. They were open to my suggestions, welcoming my requests to get my hands on anything I wanted to do. The orientation day was great. I had the first-day jitters. There is a buddy system set up. I was introduced to everyone, shown the office and where coffee, tea, and juice are provided, and given tips like “bring your own fork for lunch because they run out quickly.” Appointments with IT and accounting were set up for me. I was taken out for lunch by my buddy and my new manager. I was told stories about the company and filled out many forms but this was interspersed with the various meetings and activities. It was arranged that I come in late and leave early which was great because I was exhausted.

Meghan worked in Halsall’s Toronto headquarters. It also has offices in other Ontario locations (Sudbury, Burlington, Ottawa), in Vancouver and Calgary, and in Dubai. In her role Meghan sourced applicants, screened resumes, conducted phone screens for first interviews, sat in on high- and low-level interviews, was in charge of three entire searches (although accompanied by a colleague when interviewing and making the hiring recommendation), checked references, worked on a violence policy for Ontario’s new Bill 168, compiled job descriptions and postings, and worked with colleges on job fair scheduling. Meghan also carried out various administrative duties, including tracking applications and scheduling interviews. “It was nice to file stuff for a while when I had been incredibly busy.” Meghan was also given a lot of responsibility:

One day I was going crazy, working on new graduate recruiting. The potential recruits had to meet with Human Resources, the manager of their area and a senior manager so I was setting up interviews for people in three different places using videoconferencing and juggling with their crazy schedules. It was a nightmare. But I got it done and went to lunch. When I came back, there was a cupcake and a thank you note saying “you’re an amazing part of our team and we appreciate your efforts.” It encouraged me to continue to work hard. I knew I was noticed and appreciated.

Halsall is a relatively flat organization, with most work being done in teams and project groups. The engineers are typically involved in several projects at a time. The president and regional managers take on the role of principal on projects, staying integrally involved with the company’s activities. The office is open with “pod” groupings of six or seven people, low walls separating them. All pods are on the outside facing the windows. Meeting rooms and the president’s office are in the centre, all with glass walls so activities within are visible. Occasionally all are invited to breakfasts with the president, which are casual information sessions on where the company is headed, and an opportunity to ask questions.

Meghan’s constant learning Philosophy is a good match with Halsall practices. There are lunch-and-learn sessions regularly. These may focus on describing current projects, new technologies or new materials. Meghan says, “I knew nothing about engineering before but now I can speak their language.” Employees know what work the company is involved in. “We get e-mails regularly sharing information about various successes at the company.” Meghan’s work/life balance priority is also a Halsall principle in action. There are flexible hours around a core set when employees must be there. It is a cyclical business so there can be long hours but then you can leave early other times. Every Wednesday there is a Pilates program organized for staff (although employees pay for it if they join in). Fridays there are free refreshments and chips in the lunchroom. The company culture shows up in other ways as well:

During Earth Week many of us went out at lunch and cleaned a local park and then had pizza together. To raise funds for the World Wildlife Fund we did the CN Tower climb. There were nine teams and we raised over $100,000. There is a very competitive spirit at Halsall—we competed for the team that raised the most money, and had the best time.

The company’s engineers are almost evenly balanced between males and females and are ethnically diverse. Halsall recruitment includes participating in a program to give foreign-trained engineers Canadian experience. Career coaching is important at the company. And there are different paths for career development, so people can choose to become knowledge/technical specialists or to specialize in business development. Retention is also important. During the recent recession Halsall has been unusual in choosing not to let employees go. Even in good times, engineering firms tend to hire and fire on a project basis whereas Halsall believes in sustainability for the future.

Now back at school to complete her certificate, Meghan has had a chance to compare her co-op experience with that of her classmates. Her compensation was average and she had a long commute to deal with. But the range of experience, the level of responsibility, and the autonomy she was given were better than most. Would she return to Halsall for full-time work if asked after graduation? Absolutely. Meghan’s experience at Halsall illustrates why it has been ranked as one of Canada’s Best Workplaces for four consecutive years.

Discussion Questions

1. Describe which of Maslow’s needs seem to be important to Meghan and what the company offers to meet those needs.

2. Which of McClelland’s three learned needs seem to apply to Meghan and what does that suggest about how she will be motivated in a workplace?

3. Apply equity theory concepts to explain why Meghan would be motivated when comparing herself to her classmates.

4. Apply expectancy theory to explain why Meghan was so motivated at Halsall.


1. Theory Y assumptions seem to accurately describe Meghan’s motivation.
2. Meghan seems to be operating near the base of Maslow’s pyramid in terms of relevant needs.
3. ERG theory suggests that if Meghan is frustrated in her desire to meet growth needs, she is likely to focus her energies on social opportunities at work and her relationships with others.
4. McClelland would likely identify Meghan as having a high need for power.
5. Herzberg would identify the responsibility and achievement opportunities given Meghan at Halsall as hygiene factors.
6. Meghan’s level of equity sensitivity seems to reflect an entitled approach.
7. Meghan’s motivation at Halsall seems to reflect perceptions of high expectancy, high instrumentality and high valence, according to expectancy theory.
8. If Halsall was to use a goal setting approach to motivate employees, research suggests they would get better results by using general “do your best” goals rather than by setting specific targets.
9. Adam Grant’s research suggests that, if Meghan was to have contact with the beneficiaries of her work at Halsall, her motivation would likely increase.

Multiple Choice

10. If Meghan was given a new and highly complex task to accomplish, what does research tell us will be the most effective type of goal in motivating strong performance?
a. A specific, challenging goal to solve the task at a certain standard by a specific deadline
b. No goal at all—goals should only be used for familiar tasks
c. A learning goal to discover a specific number of ways to solve the complex task
d. A “do your best” goal

11. Meghan believes that, if she puts the effort in, she can successfully achieve a strong performance in her position at Halsall. What is this describing, according to expectancy theory?
a. Expectancy
b. Instrumentality
c. Valence
d. Equity

12. Which of the following would equity theory identify as inputs for Meghan?
a. Her commuting time
b. The appreciation shown by Halsall for her work
c. Her being allowed to work on a flexible hours schedule
d. The open office arrangement

13. How could Maslow’s progression hypothesis be applied to Meghan?
a. It suggests she will not progress in the company unless she is highly motivated.
b. It explains her motivation as a progression of small motivational incidents.
c. It claims she will stop being needy as she progresses to a higher level of moral maturity.
d. It says that she will progress up the pyramid of needs as lower level needs are fulfilled.

14. If Meghan has a high need for achievement, what would McClelland’s research suggest is appropriate for motivating her?
a. Set extremely hard goals for Meghan.
b. Give Meghan the opportunity to have power over others.
c. Give Meghan extensive feedback on her progress.
d. Ensure all her work is done as an individual and not as part of a team.

15. What would Herzberg’s two-factor theory say about Meghan’s happiness working at Halsall?
a. Meghan is motivated because she has an internal locus of control and is given the autonomy that satisfies that.
b. Meghan is satisfied because she is provided with motivators, and not dissatisfied because of the strong hygiene factors.
c. Meghan is happy because she is treated fairly in comparison to people both inside and outside the organization.
d. Meghan likes working at Halsall because it meets both her achievement and affiliation needs.

  • SubjectBusiness
  • TopicOrganizational Behavior
  • Difficulty LevelCollege/University
  • Answer has attachmentsNo
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Elva Utkin
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