PoweredbyTalent ‘Attraction’

Justin Rush, Director, Abacus Talent Group; Paul Duddy, Human Capital Director, Optum; Julie Browne, Head of Strategy, EY Ireland; Sorcha Diver, Head of Risk Management & Compliance, Allstate NI; Lisa Bryson, Partner, Eversheds Sutherland; Adrian Hughes, Business Project Manager, Allen and Overy; Fearghal McVey, Associate Solicitor, Carson McDowell.

I learned a lot at the recent PoweredByTalent ‘Attraction’ seminar on October 17th hosted by Abacus at the Life Church, Belfast.

As I sit and draft this short blog, I cannot help thinking about the famous quote from Jack Welch of GE, the one about being the ‘smartest person in the room’.  Well, I did not have that problem and I did not need to find another room. I was surrounded by really top-class professionals, people at the top of their game, much smarter than me. I stayed in the room.

As host, it can sometimes be difficult to gauge interest in an event, not so on this particular Thursday morning.  With people taking their seats from 8:15am in order to gain prime position, I knew that the desire to soak up the content was present with our audience.  I also noticed that plenty of attendees listed questions on ‘stick-it’ notes and placed them on the white board. Fodder for the days presenters.   

So, to the speakers, first up Julie Brown, Head of Strategy for EY Ireland.  A high calibre speaker who immediately jumped on to her central topic, ‘Purpose’.  Increasingly, purpose is at the centre of the corporate agenda. It is now the basis from which organisations aim to stare down todays volatile and disrupted world.  People need to believe.

I also loved putting the Capital “P” in Purpose. Click here to read more, it is a worthwhile concept to understand. A hint, it is wider ranging and more encompassing than you think.  Now here is the kicker, this is why purpose is important, organisations with a real purpose outperform the marketplace. Very significantly in some industries and territories because they attract talent, retain customers, and develop new markets.  Not a bad start to a seminar.

Next up, Damian Duffy, Director of Development for Belfast Met, a man of understatement and the odd one-liner.  Damian provided some impressive stats regarding the Further Education sector that just can’t be denied, the FE sector is a fountain of talent at all levels.  He spoke passionately on the perception of apprenticeship programmes versus the reality.  The more acute thinkers in the audience were able to note the changing aspects of the FE offering via Assured Skilled programmes and other bespoke partnerships. Tailored support on-tap anyone?

Our speaker before the mid-morning break had an unenviable task, ‘Make the subject of immigration accessible and valuable’, well so I thought.  Lisa Bryson, Partner at Eversheds Sutherland is a savvy operator, no wonder she is called in to advise and support organisations of all shapes and sizes on this ongoing ‘hot’ topic.  I would compare her to a Captain steering a ship through difficult seas.  One able to navigate roiling torrents of policy change (mainly emanating from Priti Patel as much as I can make out) while keeping the weary passengers focused on calmer seas, mainly by talking in warm tones about what the future ‘likely’ holds.  Special commendation for reduced use of the ‘B’ word.

Ninety minutes in and we all needed a coffee fix, a lot to gather in, digest and discuss at the break.  Great to see so many warm interactions between speakers and attendees, notes exchanged, laughs and handshakes–  have been told that Damian Farrell claimed to donate £10 to our nominated charity for the event Mary’s Meals, he was heartily rebuked by Stuart John.

Into the second half we go, caffeine coursing through the veins and bright eyes from the audience, who are these three attendees seated upon the stage?  None other than Fearghal McVey from Carson McDowell, Julia Andrade Rocha from Deloitte and Adrian Hughes from Allen & Overy, our relocator panel.  After a short introduction we got down to business, what made you decide to come back to Northern Ireland?  Fearghal referenced his stringent adherence to his two 5-year plans, the fact that his speciality existed in Belfast and his desire to wring every ounce of return from his time playing Gaelic football (We have no reference point for Fearghal’s GAA talent, perhaps someone will comment?).  Julia adamantly stated that, although Brazilian-American, and having lived in many places, she calls Belfast home. She was able to list the many positives of life here easily (this is because she reminds her partner, who wishes to move away, very regularly).  Not least, the joker of the pack, Adrian, who with his wife, daughters and dog made the move back to Belfast 18 months ago.  I cannot equal in the written word Adrian’s description of his decision making and journey back – sometimes you just need to be there.

A hard act to follow, perhaps for some, but not Sorcha Diver of Allstate NI.  It is so easy to spot people who are so genuinely passionate about their subject area, Sorcha stood out in this regard. Hardly a note required, she blazed through her visuals (which many took pics of) with ease.  Particularly of interest was the D&I Roadmap that Sorcha provided, if you were in any way unsure how to implement diversity and inclusion into your organisation this was for you.  Personally, I loved the fact that Sorcha was able to show that D&I is commercially beneficial and not a choice.  It is essential, ignore it at your peril!

Closing a seminar, being the last to take to the stage, having seen standards set so high, you can appreciate it may generate some nerves.  Happy to say that my old friend, Paul Duddy, Human Capital Director with Optum is as unflappable as ever.  Automation was his topic for presentation, and he approached it with vigour.  The US healthcare market is a great platform to illustrate a case study upon. Paul was able to highlight potential returns from investment in this type of technology solution with ease.  For the technophobes amongst us, he did so in a ‘paint by numbers’ style, allowing us to understand the difference between an RPA and genuine AI (sorry just showing off now).  Fearing automation is not the issue, fearing our capability to harness the opportunity automation presents is.

No event can be a success without relevant and supportive exhibitors, massive thanks to BlueSky Video Marketing (the people to go to if you want to produce top class corporate video to enhance your employer brand), to Helios IT (the people to who keep your tech infrastructure secure and fit for purpose), to Calibro Workspace (the team that ensure your working environment supports workforce productivity) and OCN NI (the people to speak to when learning and development advice is required).  To Peter, Garry, Wendy and Martin, just so you know, your financial contribution helps us cover costs and meet the charity donation target we set of £1,390. You are therefore pretty awesome!

If you did not make PoweredByTalent: Attraction you may have missed out.  But do not despair, our community are still willing to help.  We share a desire to promote best-practice and to continually learn from each other.  If you would like a pdf copy of the presentations from Julie on Purpose, Damian on Apprenticeships, Lisa on Immigration or Sorcha on Diversity & Inclusion email [email protected] with your request. 

Look out for us in 2020 and if you believe you have something relevant to share on talent attraction, talent retention or talent development, we are keen to hear from you. Get in touch.

Justin Rush

22nd Oct 2019

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