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Expo Business Education Spotlight: HR 101

Ed Wenck
Jul 12, 2018



Courtney Berg has managed retails stores, handled insurance underwriting, studied at med school, and eventually landed at an ambulance company. Along the way, she picked up a unique set of human resource skills that led her to open her own firm specializing in helping small businesses: CourtSide Consulting in Colorado.

She’s also taught a number of courses at CEDIA Expos, and she’s returning with a pair of courses that cover hiring, team building, and even the thorny questions that surround discipline and termination.

When it comes to her day-to-day client interactions, Berg says she’s “a practical strategist. I figure out what's the right strategy for that organization by asking questions, by listening, by really zeroing in on a company’s culture and needs.”

But, while her one-on-one advice is tailored with precision, she’s uncovered some general principles that can help firms both large and small in the CEDIA universe.

The Employee Life Cycle

On Thursday, Septempber 6, Berg presents a three-hour class called “The Employee Life Cycle Workshop.”

The “life cycle” covers the following for those making hiring decisions:

  • What to do before you hire someone
  • How to orient them to your company
  • How to effectively set expectations and manage their behavior
  • How to discipline and terminate employees safely

Berg shares that she covers “preparing attendees to hire people, how they go through the hiring process, how they make a hiring decision, even the interview questions…I give them examples. Then once they get on board, how do you manage that employee day-to day? How do you manage their activity? How do you keep them engaged? All of those things are going to be in the Employee Life Cycle.”

The End of That Cycle

And Berg covers both hiring and firing in that “life cycle.”

“It's not easy to sit down with somebody and say, ‘Hey, you're not meeting expectations,’” says Berg. It's not easy to say, ‘I've got to fire you.’ You know that your conversation is not just impacting that individual, it's impacting their family.


“If you're not ready to hire the employee, and you bring somebody on, chances are that person won't be successful because you're not exactly sure what you want them to do.”



“How do you have those conversations? What I do is set up a system — a system where you don't start at the point where you're disciplining. You start at the point you notice there's a problem.”

And one way to avoid that discussion? Ensure you’ve got your priorities straight at the outset of that employee’s “life cycle.” “If you're not ready to hire the employee, and you bring somebody on, chances are that person won't be successful because you're not exactly sure what you want them to do.”

Teamwork and Trust

Berg’s Friday class, “The 5 Keys to Building Teamwork and Trust,” covers her philosophy of giving employees enough autonomy to become real stakeholders in a firm’s success. The example she uses is that of a farm: “I'm not going to give you the keys to the farm, but what I am going to do is say that barn right there, that outbuilding over there, that's yours. You get to decorate it the way you want. You get to lock it up at night the way you want. You and I are going to meet once a week, and we're going to talk about why you're doing those things. If I need you to correct something, I'm going to tell you, but I'm not going to do a daily inspection of your outbuilding. I want you to own it.

“I gave you some guidelines on where you can make decisions. I gave you some parameters on what those decisions can be. Maybe they're budgetary, maybe something else. Then I'm going to say, okay, now I'm going to give you another outbuilding. Here you go, now you have two. What are you going to do? Can you duplicate your effort from that first building to the second one? Can you transfer those skills?

“What I've done is started to teach you and lead you down that path, so that you build your confidence. I'm not giving you the entire farm, because you're going to blow up if I do that. I'm not giving you the entire farm, because I'm going to blow up if I do that.”

Through all of the courses that Berg presents, she’s well aware that the material can be dry — so expect a good dose of humor that’s drawn from real-world examples.

“You've got to find the humor in HR, or you're not going to keep anybody interested,” says Berg. “A lot of times, it's stories. It's the, ‘Wow, somebody really did THAT?’ kind of stories, that draw the audience in; stories like, ‘I can't believe somebody thought that was okay. How can a manager think tying up a female employee and squirting her with water is okay?’ ‘I don't know, but that's what they did.’”



The Employee Lifecycle Workshop

Thursday, September 06
9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Room: 30B

The 5 Keys to Building Teamwork and Trust
Friday, September 07
1-3 p.m.
Room: 30C



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CEDIA blog posts are intended to provide general information and should not be regarded as legal opinions or advice.

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