Getting Ahead of the Shift: Summit Inspires Thoughtful Conversations About the Changing World of Work | Queen's University IRC

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Getting Ahead of the Shift: Summit Inspires Thoughtful Conversations About the Changing World of Work

Cathy Sheldrick, Queen's IRC Marketing Assistant
Publication date: May, 2015
Summit Chair Brenda Barker Scott
Summit Chair Brenda Barker Scott

With an impressive line-up of guest speakers and facilitators, the Queen’s IRC 2015 Workplace in Motion Summit brought together over 100 leaders in HR, OD and LR from across the country to engage in conversations about the workplace of the future, and the trends that are driving new models for organizational planning.

The Summit, held on April 16, 2015 in Toronto, featured a number of themes, including:

  • Talent: How do we engage, retain and motivate a new generation of workers?
  • Transformation:  How can organizations transform without trauma?
  • Making the shift: What do organizations need to do to shift to new models?
  • Managing overload: How do we keep up with evolving technology and trends?

What Matters in Today's Workplace?

Summit Chair Brenda Barker Scott shared the characteristics of the new employee and introduced Courtney Jolliffe from Free the Children and James Prince from Me to We to talk about millennials at work. “Passion trumps choosing a location. We’re following what we’re passionate about,” said Jolliffe.  Jolliffe and Prince discussed what makes their jobs attractive, how they want to work, career expectations, and where in the world they want to work. They joked that, in true millennial fashion, they surveyed their teams to get input before their presentation – they prefer to work collaboratively and learn by interacting with their peer group.

Visual Art at the Queen's IRC 2015 Workplace in Motion Summit - Free the Children, Me to We, Shopify
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“We don't want our career to be limited by our job,” said Prince. He noted millennials have a flexible and fluid work-life balance and are seeking variation in their jobs.  Technology gives them the mobility to work anywhere in the world.

Brittany Forsyth, Vice President of Human Relations at Shopify, talked about the importance of culture in her organization.

“When we interview, we look at potential. Are they going to push their boundaries? Are they going to challenge other people? Are they ok with being challenged?” They want employees to fit their culture of innovation and resourcefulness.

The highlight of Forsyth’s presentation was the concept of Hack Days.  Every three months, Shopify employees are given two days to work on a special project that will improve the Shopify platform. They stop their day-to-day work and do something outside of their regular role. “It’s about creating the right environment for people to grow, learn, experiment and innovate,” Forsyth said. Many of the products and features created at Hack Days actually make it to market.

Visual Art at Queen's IRC 2015 Workplace in Motion Summit, including OpenText
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Hugh Ritchie from OpenText shared how technology is changing the world of work. "It has never been so disruptive," he said. He discussed the impact of big data, the cloud, mobile, security, digital and the internet of things. He shared a number of facts and statistics:

  • There are generations that have ONLY known life with the internet.
  • Today more information is created every 2 days, than from 0 AD to 2003
  • 90% of world’s data was generated over the last 2 years
  • Mobile data traffic will grow 13X by 2017
  • 15 of 17 U.S. sectors have more data per company than the Library of Congress

A Deep Dive into HR, OD and LR

Visual Art at the Queen's IRC 2015 Workplace in Motion Summit - Deep dives into Human Resources, Organizational Development and Labour Relations
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The afternoon featured break-out sessions with OD Leader Françoise Morissette, HR Leader Diane Locke, and LR Leader Anne Grant. Participants were able to choose two of the three sessions to attend, and then all attendees returned to the plenary for a large-group debrief.

Human Resources

Diane Locke talking about Talent Management at the 2015 Workplace in Motion Summit
Diane Locke

Facilitator Diane Locke led a discussion around HR practices in a new work model, and introduced guest speakers from Telus and Samsung to share their best practices for attracting, developing, engaging and retaining talent.

Bryan Acker, Culture Change Ambassador with TELUS, discussed their Work Styles® program, which gives employees the flexibility to work when and where they are most effective, so they can focus on supporting an exceptional customer experience. He said this supports work-life balance, improves employee retention and delivers consistent productivity.  According to their new hire survey, work-life flexibility is shown to consistently be a talent attractor for TELUS.

Christine Greco, Vice President of Human Resources and Corporate Affairs at Samsung Canada, shared her company’s philosophy to have highly engaged, innovative “brand ambassadors” breaking boundaries in order to achieve long term success. Samsung’s work environment includes collaboration spaces, creativity rooms and a lounge/café. Their recognition program offers unique employee perks, and they are heavily involved within their communities.

Strategies and themes from the HR deep dive:

  • Creating organizations that are employee-centric
  • Encouraging collaborative connections
  • Mapping out varied career paths
  • Taking advantage of millennial strengths
  • Releasing collective leadership capacity

Organizational Development

Francoise Morissette
Françoise Morissette

Françoise Morissette opened the OD Session by talking about how the world is changing and organizations have to transform in order to remain relevant, sustainable, effective and successful. She introduced John Wilson, Corporate Culture Strategist with the City of Edmonton, to share how the City is strategically building a better city and changing their corporate culture.

The City of Edmonton’s long-term strategic plan, called The Way Ahead, establishes six 10-year strategic goals to achieve the City’s vision for Edmonton in 2040 and to direct long-term planning. Wilson shared the Citizen Dashboard, which provides performance information to the public about municipal services that support the City's strategic plan.

Strategies and themes from the OD deep dive:

  • Culture shift needs leadership
  • Engage employees and clients to create solutions
  • Goals must be regularly measured, evaluated and adjusted
  • Build engagement and involvement through transparency and accountability
  • Find a vision, commit to the vision, and stay with the vision

Labour Relations

Anne Grant
Anne Grant

In the Labour Relations session, Anne Grant noted that, by 2031, it’s expected that one in three Canadian workers will be born in a different country, and that there will be roughly three people in the labour force for each retiree. Grant shared stories of unions cultivating strategic allies and partnerships, rather than adversarial rivalries in order to succeed in the global world.

Crystal Scott, past-president of CUPE Local 3521, told the group about turning around a fairly inactive local by increasing engagement, providing training to members (who hadn’t had training in almost 20 years), and working with management to create better processes and policies for her members. The session revealed that unions and employers deal with many of the same kinds of issues.

Strategies and themes from the LR deep dive:

  • We must develop partnerships and increase communication between unions across Canada, North America and internationally
  • Social technologies can increase membership and engagement
  • Bargain for more than monetary benefits
  • Honour seniority but embrace new talents and contributions
  • Form partnerships with employers to forge more collaborative, less adversarial relationships

What’s your one thing?

Visual Art at Queen's IRC 2015 Workplace in Motion Summit
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At the end of the day, participants were asked what “one thing” they would take action on when they returned to the workplace. The most common theme was a determination to increase collaboration – between colleagues, across teams, in change, in long-term strategies, and with senior leaders.

Other action items included:

  • Have the courage to search and advocate for best practices not just accept the status quo
  • Look for solutions not problems
  • Help to foster an environment where new ideas, innovation, improved processes, creativity and fun are all encouraged
  • Share at least 1 positive/optimistic thought with coworkers everyday
  • Think about what's next and not get caught up in what's right now
  • Invite and create more opportunities to hear other perspectives outside of my immediate team
  • Look to find commonalities across groups of employees, rather than focus on our differences (ie: age, gender, department)
  • Update outdated key messaging on job descriptions and ensure that we are selecting the appropriate staff to fit our culture
  • Integrate the considerations for millennial workforce into the senior leadership HR and OD strategies
  • Promote client and leader reflection with thought-provoking questions
  • Build strategies to engage youth in organized labour
Smartphone capturing visual art at 2015 Workplace in Motion Summit

Summit Proceedings can be found here.

Pictures from the Summit are available on Facebook or Google+

Infographics from the Summit are available on Facebook or Google+