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Le blogue de Solutions & Co.

Le blogue de Solutions & Co.

Front-Line Personnel – Have we abandoned our soldiers on the Front?

Soldiers? Uuuh… On the front? What? As a soft skills trainer, I have encountered thousands of workers who come to learn the skills needed to face the daily workplace reality without losing their marbles. They are looking for tools to optimize their professional “know how to act” … Most of the time, they are professional in their “knowledge”, excelling in their “know how” …But they still need to learn the value of “knowing how to be” and “knowing how to interact”. To ensure their effectiveness, they must be hard-skilled, but also soft skilled.

What good is it to know your products inside out if you can’t present them with confidence?

What good is it to have a customer service if the person behind the counter doesn’t know how to manage their emotions, to show some empathy, to understand the customers and to manage a complaint?

What good is it to have the world best product if you can’t show any professionalism?

Believe me, those are not caricatural! These situations are seen every day.

Front-line workers are in touch with customers on a daily basis: they have an opportunity that other members of the organization don’t. They interact with the customer, promote and represent the organization.

And every time, I ask myself the same question: Why do people wait so long before teaching these “soldiers” how to use the essential survival tools before sending them to the Front?

No self-respecting general would pick people off the street and send them to the Front, left to their own devices, and think they still have a chance to win the battle! This is only a metaphor used to show you what often happens in our businesses: people are hired only because they can fulfill a task; but without ensuring that they are willing to embrace the mission and the corporate culture, with no concern for their ability to interact with customers or coworkers, nor for their ability to manage stressful situations, to solve conflicts, or simply to be aware of the benefits of active listening.

The way your front-line staff represents your business sets your customers satisfaction level. A positive approach to the front-line team allows you to develop and secure a long-term relationship with your customers.

In your opinion, what would be the most effective way to build a satisfactory relationship with your customers? An automated thank you note from your CRM in order to thank the customer for their business? Or a warm greeting at the reception desk? A personal attention from the clerk? Or a genuine smile from the deliverer? Obviously, a human and personal interaction has a much greater impact, doesn’t it?

Imagine what a difference it could make if we gave every front-line worker the possibility and ability to solve customers’ dissatisfactions, the opportunity to manage their priorities effectively, to gain the skills needed to adequately cooperate and communicate. Business performance would increase exponentially.

This article’s title might seem a tad bit pessimistic (even far-fetched for some), but soldiers Abandoned on the Front! Illustrates how all the front-line employees are left to their own devices, with no vision, no support, no training beyond their immediate duties, no encouragement, no coaching… Abandoned at a crucial time – the moment of truth, the moment where a trustworthy relationship can be developed, the moment where the customer’s loyalty  can be secured! There are more leadership and management trainings than ever before! Even if managers training is important, I think training the workforce is mandatory in order to cope with a constantly changing work environment.

For every manager’s vision, there are tens (even hundreds) of employees who must provide continuity. For it to be possible, it is first of all necessary to equip those workers so they can assimilate this vision and contribute daily to the organizational objectives’ achievement.

I strongly believe that these employees are and will remain the most important asset of any organization wishing to increase its productivity and competitiveness. I am convinced that their soft skills can never be replaced with software, and that they are worthy of our investments as well as our respect.

Every position is important. However, front-line employees are often seen as the bottom tier within the organization; they usually earn insufficient wages and are insufficiently equipped. Front-line employees are important, they deserve the title of the organization’s ambassador, in order to skillfully and professionally represent it before the customers. Because we entrust them to take care of our customers, of a complaint, or a need. The organization’ success thus rests on their shoulders…

As the new year begins, I want to encourage you to step back, think, and answer with sincerity the following: Have we abandoned them on the Front, or have we equipped them with the needed tools to win?
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48 lectures

Tattoos in the Work Place: is it Still a Taboo Topic?

Tattoos, once associated with rebellion, crimes, delinquency, gang membership, and machismo, has now become a modern phenomenon of self affirmation and expression. Incidentally, according to an Ipsos Reid survey, close to one in four Canadians is tattooed.

However, despite some democratization and hierarchies flattening, tattoos can still carry some derogatory overtones and can induce discriminations and prejudices in some work environments.

The rights of all individuals intertwined with one another

According to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, each individual has a right to a freedom of expression, which now includes tattoos, and your employer can not ask you to hide them, unless the object of the tattoo itself is considered hateful or offensive. Although, in some cases the organization could prevail over your rights. The employer can impose restrictions or prohibitions regarding the dress code or someone’s look if it causes any damages to the organization’s image and reputation (tattoos, piercings, etc.), or if it causes any work’s health and safety issues (beards, jewellery, etc.) by means of directives or a work contract. Such right must be exercised cautiously in order to draw up a clear, reasonable, and fair policy stating any restrictions the organization would see enforced without being discriminatory.

It is recommended to have yourself acquainted with any rule, policy, contract, or ethic guides mentioning this topic in your organization. Going against those rules becomes a breach of an employment condition.


First impressions

But beyond the law, there is the human factor… from a new encounter’s very first moments, the brain is processing a large quantity of signals, from what the person is saying (verbal communication) to the posture, the appearance, the gestures, the gait (non verbal communication) and to the volume, the pronunciation, the speed, and the tone (para verbal communication), and makes a general interpretation – a first impression.

A study group from Princeton University states that only one hundred milliseconds are required to form a firm and final judgment about someone. And only one tenth of a second to decide if a person is attractive, reliable, amicable, and even … qualified. A tattoo, just like a hairstyle, a makeup, or an outfit, is a non verbal clue contributing to the first impression.

 "We judge books by their covers, and we can't help but do it," says Nicholas Rule, researcher of the University of Toronto” This human behavior can be traced back to the beginning of times. To ensure its survival, the prehistoric man had to quickly decide if what was in front of him was a friend or an enemy; if he had to fight or flight. This reflex is buried in our reptilian brain and is ubiquitous in our instinctive reaction. It is an oblivious process, often conditioned by our memory or our upbringing. This first impression is natural, inevitable, and indelible!

Overlooking this process and not adapting to it only diminishes your credibility and your influence to their eyes. And if the impressions you give off is not in tune / harmony with the one they were expecting… even if you wear your tattoos with pride, interacting with employers will become more difficult, bumpier, full of distortions and misinterpretations which may cause misunderstandings … And unfortunately, you will be suffering the consequences.

To each culture its codes

Tattoos are not necessarily compatible with all professions and fields of work, and depending on the career or occupation you wish to have, tattoos will be more or less tolerated, accepted, appreciated perhaps even admired.

Some field of expertise are more open minded and value the creativity and the self expression, while some are more formal, and want to give off a more rigorous image of impartiality, confidence by means of a fitting and polished appearance. In those cases, a tattoo must be more … discreet – in order to respect the neutrality and formality required by the organization.

In terms of tattoos, corporate image must be a key element to consider. One should show some caution, all depending on the kind of employment and the context. It is essential to understand the organization’s culture (its implied rules), its philosophy (its values), the nature of the job… And above of all whom will you be in contact with!

It’s a matter of interpretation

Your appearance is an indicator of your judgement and inspires (or not) confidence in your abilities and your role. Those interpretations are neither correct nor incorrect, there is no for or against, bad or good, legal or illegal, fair or unfair, but only a congruity or incongruity with the message that you want to deliver to whom you are offering products or services to.

Our clients come from various environments and their perceptions, reasoning, values and style vary depending their interpretations. Tattoos, being a medium of really personal messages, can still, for some, have a negative ring and be interpreted as an indicator of a lack of professionalism and conscientiousness, or as non-conformism, hence projecting a differing image from the one you want to convey.

It is entirely legal and fine to have tattoos. You are free to express yourself however you want. But you cannot expect it to be accepted the same way by everyone.

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Here is the second of two articles about mental imagery. In the previous article we explained the technique and how it helps the performance and development of emotional intelligence. This article will focus on the step-by-step process for using it to learn and integrate "soft skills" such as controlling emotions, stress management, public speaking, versatility, influence, creativity, managing conflicts, etc.

We have defined mental imagery as a mental training technique that successful people use to prepare for action, repeating and training their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in order to optimize performance and well-being. Although frequently used to improve physical performance, mental imagery can also enhance activities with a cognitive and emotional component.

Mental imagery is an excellent technique for regaining control, finding balance and strengthening our emotional stamina. Taking a step back from your emotions and seeing them as an observer changes the way the brain processes feelings.

Mental imagery, step-by-step

Step 1: Get ready physically, emotionally and mentally

Mental imagery is much more productive when you are in a state of great mental availability. Be sure to set aside your current concerns and eliminate distractions in order to help create images and maximize brain potential (alpha waves enable 15x more learning...whereas in general, we're in beta mode).

Step 2: Conduct a Post-Mortem   

A post-mortem is a retrospective review of the event or situation you want to change or improve. It is an opportunity to analyze your past performance and evaluate your decisions and actions. Examine the situation and review what happened. Ask yourself:

  • What did I find particularly difficult or disturbing?
  • What was the source causing my tension or reaction?
  • What happened inside of me?
  • How did I react?
  • Would I have wanted to act differently?

The key to this technique is the ability to question your emotional reactions rather than simply submitting to them.

Step 3: Mentally imagine the performance

in this step, visualization is used to develop and develop more effective strategies. Ask yourself how you could change your reaction, your thinking and to reframe situations – to see them differently:

  • How would I like to react?
  • What would I like to say?
  • What could I do to remain calm the next time this happens?
  • How would I like to handle the situation?
  • What would I do differently the next time?

It is the step in which to imagine situations as we would like them to happen - how we would like to achieve our goals. We review all the parts of the encounter in a systematic way, the steps that must take place as well as ourselves overcoming the challenges. These mental representations of visualization should be closer to reality.

Perspective is our point of view during imaging and can be considered in two ways:

  • A first-person perspective (internal visual imagery): see what we would see if we really experienced the action.
  • A third person perspective (external visual imagery): see the action from the outside as an observer. From this perspective we observe our action from several angles to improve how we handle the relevant details.

There is no consensus on which perspective is best. The first-person perspective may be better for repeating attitudes and emotions or for repeating a strategy. A third-person perspective may be use to revise the form when performing a technical skill. Athletes report using both alternately.

Step 4: Use all your senses

Visualization is certainly an important part of the method, but the visual image alone is limiting. A kinaesthetic, an emotion or a feeling, is also necessary. We must imagine the most accurate and precise mental representation possible in all dimensions. Here, it's about experiencing the feelings related to your visualization: emotions, smells, sounds, etc.

Kinaesthetic images involve re-creating the physical sensations you might feel. It may also include awareness of your body movements or facial expressions or your positioning in space. Emotions are also an important element of an image's feeling, and for an image to be realistic, you must recreate the emotions felt during the activity. Repeating and developing the emotional reactions you want to feel during an activity is an excellent reason for using imagery.

Step 5: Recreate in great detail

Intensity, accuracy and positivity. The technique’s effectiveness also depends on the quality of the images produced. Mental images must be vivid, that is, clear and detailed. The clearer and more detailed an image, the more effective it is.

On the other hand, mental images must be accurate, that is, they must reflect reality as accurately as possible. It is important to imagine as many details such as: the physiognomy of people, the size and weight of objects, their placement, location, the distance between them, the surrounding space, etc.

Another thing to avoid when using images is negative language such as "Don’t do that!" or "Don’t say that!” Our brains do not deal with negative language without introducing what we do not want to see or do. Concentrate, and use words that only reflect what you want to do.

Step 6: Control and repeat

The images must then be controlled. This means being able to build sustained images for as long as needed and knowing how to manipulate, transform, evolve and adjust them in response to learning in order to progress. This involves not only physical skills, but also psychological states such as confidence and motivation. You want to control your image so that it meets your expectations.

A positive effect cannot, however, be achieved and maintained without regular and diligent practice. Experts recommend practicing imaging for at least 20 minutes, at least three times a week.

Sometimes, we can become frustrated by the lack of control of the images or their intensity. In this case, it is important to remember that imaging is a skill that can be developed with sustained practice, just

like any other skill. Knowing the results we might achieve, we must decide if we are ready to invest in order to overcome the frustration that may occur along the way.

In this article, I wanted to show that mental imagery is not an approach exclusively for high performance athletes, nor is it an esoteric approach. On the contrary, it is a scientific mental preparation that helps perform and master our professional skills. Whatever your purpose, this technique helps you to relax and find solutions, but most importantly, it can improve your effectiveness and well-being in the workplace. Best of luck!

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The next two articles are dedicated to mental imagery. This first article focuses on explaining this science-based technique, how it contributes to performance, and how it can help develop emotional intelligence for use in learning and integrating soft skills within our professional environment.

What is mental imagery?

Mental imagery is the act of representing sensory states mentally, which can include visual, auditory, olfactory, taste, and proprioceptive states, among others. It is a mental training technique that productive people use to prepare for action, repeating and training their thoughts, feelings and behaviours in order to optimize their performance and well-being.

It is used effectively in many areas, including by those working in sports psychology, psychotherapists, psychologists and remedial teachers. In psychiatry, mental imagery is used in cognitive-behavioural therapies, particularly for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social phobia. In the field of sport, mental imagery is a very effective method used by elite athletes as part of their mental preparation to accomplish very specific goals. In therapeutics, teaching, or personal development, mental imagery is used to induce physical, cognitive, or behavioural changes.

There are many reasons to use mental imagery:

  • To psychologically prepare for a future situation
  • To achieve a specific goal
  • To anticipate a possible future stress
  • To adapt or master difficult situations
  • To improve the healing process
  • To calm and control stress.
  • To change or improve a behaviour
  • To optimize or develop certain skills
  • Etc.

Supported by scientific evidence

When we physically learn to do something, the brain changes. Mental imagery is a cognitive process that stimulates the same brain areas involved in the unconscious planning and execution of movements and activates neuronal and behavioural responses similar to actual experience. Neural connections are strengthened, connections are added or removed, and new cells are formed.

Mental imagery is a scientifically proven technique that maximizes the brain’s potential through images. Through the use of brain imaging techniques, such as PET-Scans with radiotracers and functional MRIs (fMRI), it has been shown that the same regions of the brain are activated when we experience a real-life situation as during an exercise in mental imagery, and that the regions related to retinotopy (peripheral vision and/or central vision) are stimulated and reflect the same neuronal model found during the movement’s execution.

Imaging affects more than the muscles, producing cardiovascular and respiratory responses. By vividly imagining tomorrow's stressful meeting, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes short and shallow, as in real life. This functional equivalence extends to the neural activity that occurs when you see, hear, and smell things in visual, auditory, and olfactory imagery. The same neural process activated when you perceive things with your senses is recreated when you vividly imagine them.

In short, the brain does not recognize the difference between what it really experiences and what it imagines. This is a gray area from which we can benefit!

Improving emotional intelligence

Although mental imagery is frequently used to improve physical performance, it can also help improve activities that include a cognitive and emotional component, such as emotion and stress management or speaking in public.

Our work environments present us with constant constraints, such as angry clients, unpleasant colleagues, demanding superiors, goals to be achieved, recurring problems, and performance requirements, so it is easy to feel overworked, overwhelmed and to have a "short fuse". Whatever our roles, we sometimes find ourselves in difficult situations that lead to an outpouring of emotions.

It is in our best interests to master our emotions. Athletes regulate their emotions before competitions to help them perform better, and soldiers regulate their emotions before going to battle to avoid emotional collapses.

Mental imagery is an excellent technique for regaining control and balancing and reinforcing our emotional stamina. Taking a step back from our emotions and watching them as a detached observer changes the way the brain processes feelings.

Brain imaging studies show that this practice reduces activity in a highly emotional area of the brain, while stimulating an area linked to controlling your physical response to stress - a mental recoil that says, "What’s really happening here? How can I respond?” In other words, you are aware of your emotions rather than expressing them.

Mental imagery conditions our brain, making it more likely to act according to mental representation, resulting in true learning and development of this imagined skill. If you have prepared for this situation, you can simply take the appropriate action you have previously developed and practiced.

 In this article I wanted to make this science-based technique credible and explain how it helps with performance, be it physical or emotional. Start exploring it, and in the next article we will be able to focus on the process and steps required to incorporate it into your professional toolbox as a regular practice. See you soon!

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164 lectures


We all understand the difference between white-collar workers (those who have historically worked with their minds) and blue-collar workers (those who have historically worked with their hands). But what are “new-collar” workers?

The term “new-collar” is used to identify workers in new jobs in the digital industry, technology workers such as cybersecurity analysts, application developers, cloud

specialists, etc.

These are jobs that require a combination of specific skills - acquired through vocational or technical training - with a knowledge base from higher education, but not requiring a university degree. It’s a new generation of professional careers that lies between white-collar and blue-collar ones.

IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty coined the term in 2016, following the organization's efforts to increase the number of skilled people in technology jobs. A skilled workforce, for whom the education system no longer responded, was in high demand.

The manufacturing industry will quickly embrace this type of workforce too, since computers are essential to operating factories. Manufacturing jobs now require skills in the fields of automation, robotics, CAD, 3D printing and Big Data, etc. and are in need of machine managers, programmers, technicians and operators with the necessary digital skills.

These new needs will lead major industrial players to upgrade their "technical component"; the set of theoretical, technical or tactical professional knowledge related to an operational vision. The knowledge required to exercise this new profession requires reconciliation between "knowledge", generally acquired at a school desk, and "know-how", generally acquired on a machine, thus combining technical skills and academic knowledge.

Therefore, the term "new-collar" is gaining momentum and prestige in the industry, as well as better wages! It also finally enables promotion of technical and manufacturing jobs, thus enhancing the image of yesteryear’s blue-collar workers. Today being a "new collar” worker is admirable, enviable and profitable.  

Going beyond technical skills

According to TechForce Foundation, the demand for information technology and communications graduates in the United States was twice the supply in 2018. Due to an initial shortage of skilled labour, firms were primarily interested in technical skills in order to meet their needs. But as the supply of specialized school programs increases and the demand for these "new-collar" workers stabilizes, employers will seek more than technical talent and woo those who also have good interpersonal skills.

Obviously technical knowledge and know-how are paramount, as they must be acquired. But, as for any specialist, demonstrating "Know how to be" and "Know how to interact" is also expected, as it is for any other role in the organization.

Relational skills are the "human component"; the person’s set of professional qualities. These include "Know how to be", which is the set of interpersonal skills related to attitudes, such as self-assurance, autonomy, versatility, resilience, authenticity, self-control, etc., which enables a person to be in touch with themselves, and "Know how to interact", which is the set of behavioural attitudes like respect, courtesy, politeness, punctuality, diplomacy, empathy, etc., which enables them to be touch with others such as their colleagues, customers, suppliers, etc.

During the hiring process, after validating a candidate’s knowledge and experience, HR professionals try to select those who, beyond operational skills, also understand how to work well with others, who demonstrate the ability to adapt and to problem-solve, who are fluent in written and verbal communication, and who demonstrate emotional intelligence and effective professional relationship management. This means that the candidates should have also acquired relational skills (soft skills).

In any professional situation, relational incompetence is a source of tension, misunderstanding, dissatisfaction and inefficiency. In general, a person is hired primarily for their operational skills, but usually fired for lack of relational skills.

Knowing how to operate machines and having a special affinity for computers, diagnosis and technology is not enough. In today's workplaces, we no longer work in silos or solo. It is sometimes difficult to find this blend of operational skills and relational skills and "new collar" workers with relational skills definitely have an advantage over other candidates.

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Ville de Québec

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…et nos clients aussi!

« C’est avec un grand professionnalisme que l’entreprise a offert une formation attrayante et de qualité à nos employés. Nous sommes particulièrement satisfaits des résultats obtenus grâce à cette intervention et il nous fera plaisir de retravailler avec Solutions & Co. dans l’avenir. »

Xavier Aymé, Chef des opérations | Mercator Canada Inc.

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