‘It's important to actually understand what that generation of leaders is going to be looking for in an organization’
Twenty CEOs are planning to spend an insightful day with students from universities and colleges across Canada in February and March, as part of the CEOx1Day program.
The annual event provides participants with a day of mentorship and leadership experience, and this year’s CEOs include Chris O’Riley of BC Hydro, Christine Healy of Total E&P Canada, Sasha Suda of the National Gallery of Canada, Mary Ann Yule of HP Canada, and Dolf DeJong of the Toronto Zoo.
It’s about students learning what it takes to be successful as a leader and for the CEOs, it’s a day to gain an appreciation of what this new generation of workers will be looking for in the workplace, says Eric Beaudan, global head, leadership practice, at Odgers Berndtson in Toronto.
“This generation is much more interested in purpose in understanding the values of the organization, how it contributes to making the world a better place. So I think it's helping CEOs understand that, ‘Hey, we're not dealing with the same generation of leaders,’” he says.
“And they need to think about this because by the year 2030, 50 per cent of the workforce around the world will be made up of millennials… and those millennials will step into their first leadership role 10 years before my generation, generation X or the baby boomers did.”
So CEOx1Day is not just a nice, friendly day to spend with a student, says Beaudan.
“It's important for [the CEOs] to actually understand what that generation of leaders is going to be looking for in an organization, from a leadership perspective, from a culture perspective. And what they're going to need to do as a leader to prepare the organization, so that they can take this next generation, they can attract and retain that generation of leaders.”
To participate, students must first apply as they would for any job, and then if their application is accepted, they are interviewed by a consultant at Odgers Berndtson to understand why they’re interested, what skills they’re looking to develop, and the type of CEO they’d like to shadow for a day, he says.
The students are then asked to complete a Hogan Assessment which allows the consultants to fine-tune the field of candidates to better understand their personalities, leadership skills and qualities.
If they are then selected as a semi-finalist, the student does a full day of interviews, networking and exercises, along with being given a debrief of their Hogan Assessment. At the end of the day, the finalists are announced, says Beaudan.
As for the actual day, CEOs can decide how they want it structured but they are given some advice, such as “Don’t make it a boring day where you’re sitting in your office, and reading your annual reports,” he says. “That’s not going to be very stimulating for students.”
The leaders are encouraged top pick a day that might involve a strategy meeting with their team, for example, or a review of the company’s performance, says Beaudan.
“We ask them to create or to craft an agenda for a day where the student is going to experience as much of what a CEO gets to do, not just one aspect of being a CEO.”
And soft skills are an important part of that, he says.
“[Students] get to watch that CEO in action and how they interact with their colleagues, their direct reports, their shareholders or investors… their customers or their key suppliers. So they can get to watch how the CEO manages those conversations, how the CEO manages her team perhaps. And that's really the art of being a leader — understanding the businesses is one thing, but leading the business is much more about influencing other people and building the relationships that are going to help you execute a strategy or win new business with customers.”
Casey House gets involved
Casey House decided to get involved because one of its initiatives involves building capacity within the medical community, including clinicians, physicians, nurses and social workers, says Joanne Simons, CEO at Casey House in Toronto.
“This is an extension of our ability to provide some intelligence and hopefully some learnings to other students outside of the medical environment… Casey House is a unique hospital, we occupy a space unlike others, in the specialty around HIV… working with a very kind of vulnerable and marginalized community. I think it offers us the ability to continue to bring awareness to the work that we do.”
As for her day with the student, the agenda is still being finalized, says Simons, but they hope to provide students with an opportunity to see the organization from a number of different angles.
“So [that means] from the most senior volunteers, engaging with a board’s committee meeting or a board meeting to attending a meeting with the senior leadership team, and understanding how we both build our agendas, what do we focus on, where is the work really concentrated at that senior level? And then having them engaged with some of our medical team so that they can understand ... how is strategy that is formed at the board level translated through the leadership team and what does that actually mean for frontline care delivery?”
The organizers of CEOx1Day provide leeway in how Casey House structures the day, she says.
“They were quite cautious as to obviously wanting [us] to help, educate, inspire, motivate a student, but also that it be a real representation of what a day looks like, so it doesn't become just a show that we're putting on, that there really is the kind of reality of a day-to-day of a CEO and what individuals may be tackling on any given day.”
Participating CEOs in 2019
Toronto: Jennifer Jackson, president of Capital One; Dolf DeJong, CEO of the Toronto Zoo; Terry Yanofsky, senior vice-president and general manager of Sephora Canada; Mary Ann Yule, president and CEO of HP Canada; Garrick Tiplady, managing director of Facebook and Instagram Canada; Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House; and Brian Bentz, president and CEO of Alectra.
Ottawa: Sasha Suda, director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada; Mark Goudie, CEO of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group; and Alex Munter, president and CEO of CHEO.
Montreal: JF Gagné, CEO and co-founder of Element AI; Mario Plourde, president and CEO of Cascades; Sylvain Prud’homme, president of Lowe’s Canada; Lucia Pollice, president and managing director of CDMV; and Sylvain Cossette, president and CEO of Cominar.
Vancouver: Christy Wyatt, CEO of Absolute Software; Chris O’Riley, president and CEO of BC Hydro; and Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering.
Calgary and Edmonton: Christine Healy, president and CEO of Total E&P Canada; and Andrew Ross, president of Clark Builders.