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Employee Engagement | 6 minute read

Challenging Status Quo: 4 Takeaways from DisruptHR Toronto

July 27, 2017

DisruptHR is an “information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field.” Held throughout the year in cities across the world, each one night event features 14 speakers, five minutes each, with slides rotating every 15 seconds. Their tagline, “Teach us something, but make it quick.” I had the opportunity to attend a DisruptHR event on June 7th in Toronto, sharing in some engaging, enlightening and even humorous conversations with various industry leaders and peers. 

There was one primary takeaway from the event: the “challenger” mindset is alive and well, prevalent and evolving. Throughout the event, a number of people spoke about how change and challenging status quo is not just possible but rather essential to moving the business forward specific to HR, company culture, engagement, talent acquisition and the like. As I listened in on the various conversations, presentations and question asking, all surrounding the idea of challenging the way we think about talent in 2017, there were four additional conclusions drawn from Wednesday’s conversation: 

The Entire Experience Matters. There were a number of presentation topics that stood out during DisruptHR, all related to the full employment experience. To name a few, pay equality, artificial intelligence specific to talent acquisition and management, whether job descriptions are still relevant, as well as the employee journey. We also discussed how today’s talent leaders need to have high EQ (emotional intelligence) in order to best empathize with others, perceive and assess others' emotions/character, and use emotions to facilitate more strategic thinking. We live in an ever-evolving digital age, and yet no matter how much technology infiltrates the way in which we think and work, the human relationship will continue to become more critical. 

Specifically, today’s talent, candidates and employees, are resourceful and wise; they are educating themselves about job opportunities, company brand and culture, leadership style, compensation, growth opportunities, and more. People know what they’re worth today, and if they don’t feel they’re finding or receiving it, they won’t join or they will leave. In response, disruptive organizations are focusing on the full employment journey. From pre-candidate experiences to ensuring long-tenured employees remain engaged and appreciated, leaders are adopting a total talent strategy. Leaders are uniting their holistic talent landscape through nurturing, honest and accountable human relationships and interactions, from the top down. 

Work Smarter, Not Faster. We are in a fast-paced, multimedia-driven, interconnected society. The way we engage with candidates, companies and clients has reached hyper-speed through networking, social media, technology and online resources. Located in Toronto, I can connect with a colleague from our WilsonHCG London or Kraków, Poland office via video with the click of a button. However, as the pace in which we work continues to increase, we first need to work smarter in order to avoid becoming reactionary and transactional. 

As the head of engagement in Canada at WilsonHCG, where we strive to provide consultative partnership to our clients and delivering business-impacting talent solutions, we need to be flexible, agile and strategic in our approach. We see this need across all industries, from the way we at WilsonHCG strategize about talent to the way consumer businesses operate as many retail conglomerates are shifting away from in-store shopping to digital, online retail. Companies across all industries and regions are finding ways to work smarter, and in turn methodically meet the rapid pace of change we’re going to continue to experience in the years ahead. 

The Need to Balance Soft and Technical Skills. Energy, character, accountability, trust, adaptability, authenticity, purpose. These are just a few characteristics and personality traits we need from our leaders, our employees, our recruiters and our candidates. During one presentation at DisruptHR, it was suggested that we get rid of the job description all together, that culture fit and character are the most important traits. This brings to mind an interesting conundrum. 

You have a complex, niche job opening that needs to be filled; filled not simply with another body but someone with unparalleled potential, driven to lead but willing to follow, someone who is proactive in their efforts to rise above the general job description. You've sourced many candidates, conducted screenings, phone and face-to-face interviews, and performed background checks, resume review and comprehensive reference confirmations. Weeks later, finally, you've landed on a select group of two candidates. Do you hire the resume, the impressive blend of experience, educational background and professional qualifications? Or, do you look beyond the resume and place greater emphasis on the exceptionally positive reference responses, engaging face-to-face interview and character traits? 

Today, many companies are faced with such decisions. According to the research, it would appear many employers are choosing the latter. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report, 92 percent of surveyed executives rated soft skills as a “critical” priority. Wherever you land on the spectrum, it’s clear that we as leaders need to find the right balance between hard and soft skills in order to ensure we’re building the most dynamic workforces – people filled with energy, character, accountability, trust, adaptability, authenticity and purpose – at all levels.

Empower Change. Today’s leaders need to be in lockstep with their people. We need to focus on the entire employment experience, work smarter, and find balance between both soft skills and technical skills. We need be accountable, accessible and available, aligned with the pulse of our organizations, aware of the talent pipeline, regional yet with a global mindset. We need to embrace the many recruitment marketing, automation and talent management technologies available. We need to inspire diversity and inclusion, and build our employment brand from the inside out. Above all, we need to empower our people. Change is happening. It’s here, we’re in the middle of it. Change can feel overwhelming but – if we continue to invest in our people, the brightest minds, the most motivated drivers of change, and inspire collaboration amongst peers – we can instill the “challenger” mindset and in turn find change to be invigorating and exciting. We can empower change by empowering our people. And by empowering our people we empower the business as a whole. 

As noted above, the tagline for DisruptHR was “Teach us something, but make it quick.” Thinking about it, this event was a perfect reflection of our fast-paced reality while at the same time providing the opportunity to sit back and reflect on the way we invest in our talent in 2017. Above all, DisruptHR provided a nice opportunity to  discuss many of the hot button issues taking place around us while simultaneously making sure we’re not forgetting what’s most important to business success: our people.


About Paul Dodd

Paul Dodd is the head of Canadian engagement for WilsonHCG. Paul helps organizations, across a spectrum of sizes and industries, realize their unique talent needs by combining global knowledge with specialized Canadian expertise. He is a recognized thought leader with more than 20 years of practical experience. Under Paul's leadership, WilsonHCG has developed a range of customized, strategic recruitment solutions that shorten the recruitment life cycle while driving value for for each client. Paul continues to push for greater innovation in recruitment solutions development, while emphasizing the need for customer service and comprehensive support.