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Promoting success in organizations

HRPA conference about individual and organizational success
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

By Brian Kreissl

Last week, I attended the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) annual conference and tradeshow in Toronto. As always, the conference was stimulating, inspiring and engaging.

It was a great way to learn about new and emerging trends and best practices in HR, recent developments in employment law and global trends impacting business and society, and meet and network with HR practitioners, employment lawyers and some of the vendors at the tradeshow. It was also nice to reconnect with former colleagues and some of our authors.

Similar to last year’s conference, which I thought was largely devoted to the theme of performance, for me this year’s HRPA conference was about driving success for individuals, organizations and society. How we define success depends largely on our perspectives and priorities in life, and it’s important not only to promote and strive for success, but also to determine what success looks like in the first place.

While it could be that I simply chose breakout sessions that related to similar themes (after all, there were so many to choose from), many of the keynote sessions seemed to tie into the theme of success in one way or another.

High technology recruitment

One session I attended was entitled “The Future of Work: How the Internet Economy is Reshaping Markets for Talent.” Presented by Kevin Walker of job board Indeed, it was a fascinating look into the world of high technology recruitment and the issue of talent shortages.

Walker pointed out that the majority of software developers and engineers don’t work for technology companies, and only 48 per cent of developers have a computer science degree. Employers may therefore need to get creative and flexible when it comes to sourcing tech talent and be willing to look outside the box.

He also highlighted how some talent shortages may be permanent and unfilled roles can affect competitiveness. Nevertheless, he also points out that Canada continues to be a major international destination for top talent, which has a positive impact on our economic success.

Promoting gender equality

One of the keynote sessions with Kelly Joscelyne and Elizabeth Nyamayaro was about promoting the United Nations “HeForShe” campaign for gender equality. It highlighted how men and women can help level the playing field for women in organizations and society in general.

Joscelyne and Nyamayaro encouraged delegates to challenge double standards, expand networks, acknowledge blindspots, call on more voices and promote equality at home as well as in the workplace. For organizations, it’s important to challenge stereotypes, collect meaningful data, promote inclusive talent practices, train employees on the issue of unconscious bias, promote inclusive behaviour and engage men.

Promoting gender equality not only helps women be more successful, but also leads to organizational success and lifts entire societies. Equality isn’t a zero sum game, and empowering women doesn’t necessarily mean fewer opportunities for men.

Treating success as failure

Rasmus Ankersen, author and chairman of Danish soccer club Midtjylland, talked about the paradox of success and the notion of hunger in paradise. Because organizational success breeds complacency and can simply be the result of luck, it’s important to treat success with the same degree of scepticism that organizations apply with respect to failure.

Using the example of mobile phone manufacturer Nokia, which refused to acknowledge the changing market or the iPhone as a serious threat, Ankersen discussed how corporate lifespan is decreasing as human lifespan is increasing. Part of the reason is the rate of change and technological advancement and the fact that many successful companies fail to innovate and grow while they’re at the top of their game.

Many organizations fail to respond to changing conditions until it’s too late. According to Ankersen, it is important to change and innovate from a position of strength. “If it ain’t broke,” he argues, “consider breaking it.”

Keeping our promises

I attended many other sessions that were equally as interesting and thought-provoking, but unfortunately I don’t have enough space here to cover them all. However, the most touching and poignant session of all was the closing keynote with Alex Sheen, founder of “because I said I would,” a non-profit dedicated to the keeping of promises.

Sheen argues that people, organizations and society would be better off if we all made promises and kept them. Many of the world’s problems would be erased if we simply kept our promises to ourselves and others.

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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