Australasian Talent Conference – Day 1

Here’s a quick summary of the first day at ATC

First the bad news, Hilton conference rooms do not have wifi, which is a big shocker. I couldn’t tweet nor blog. Like most conferences, ATC delivered an ample supply of ‘PowerPoint Poisoning ’ moments. More than once, competent and respected thought leaders in our industry were let down by PowerPoint mistakes. Some of the presentations were unreadable….. massive amount of data cramped in one slide, endless bullets points, hardly any visual images, different fonts, Microsoft cliparts….the crime goes on and on. Knowledge is one thing, telling stories is another.

Other than the above hiccups the ATC is a well run event, and the first day is an immensely fruitful experience for me. Trevor and his team did an amazing job. Lisa Burquest (GM Human Resources, Origin Energy) as co-chairperson did a great job organising the whole event proceedings.

Our American guests did not disappoint, both in content and delivery. Dr John Sullivan opened boldly with the assuring words “be bold”, and went on to provide a treasure trove of tips, ideas and recruitment strategies to counter the downturn. Quotable quote: “Great recruiting is being laughed at” , while suggesting to embrace recruiting tactics that others may find laughable.

Dr Charles Handler made me a convert to the efficacy of pre-employment assessment. An authority on the subject, Dr Charles presented convincing data while encouraging listeners to embrace staff assessment, especially in a downturn.

In the world of Gerry Crispin, no stones are left unturned when it comes to career website analysis. With his voice soaring across the big conference room, lots of new data and insights were delivered with humour and authority. It’s a credit to Gerry’s immense oratory and presentation skills that a tired audience remain alert and entertained to the end (I met Gerry Crispin earlier in the day. That a man with so many feathers on his hat is downright humble, makes the encounter extra pleasant)

Is Red Balloon the Zappos of Australia? The similarities are, well, strikingly similar, especially the focus on employee culture and engagement. Naomi Simson’s stories are highly engaging, so are the lessons.

Russell Kronenburg of Pacific Brands demonstrated the trials and tribulations of talent acquisition in a mulit-brand, multi-national, 9000 strong organisation. Results confirmed that taking risk and being innovative in recruitment  is part and parcel of any organisation chasing excellence.

HR analytics: Unknown to me, a whole world of HR analytics exists. Mind boggling data, out of this world metrics and intricate methodologies on measuring HR performance presented by Sean Collins. Apparently, it’s a new science, with only a handful of unnamed Australian organisations able to embrace it. InfoHRM is pioneering the practice in Australia. Needed a coffee refill to sit through the presentation, nevertheless it’s important stuff. Worthwhile to check out their white paper.

Contingency staffing: Ex Candle CEO and current president of the influential ITCRA, Robert Collins, provided a lowdown on the state of the Australian contingency market. He recommends staffing firms to concentrate on what they do best, i.e. find talent, and leave the administrative burden like payroll to other specialist providers, dubbed CMO (Contingency Management Organisations). Example is CXC, a sponsor of the event.

Interesting Meetings
Good to meet Blair Cornwel-Smith, ex colleague of mine, now Talent Acquisition Manager at American Express. Memorable quote: “Internal recruiting comes with more pressures and accountability, than agency recruitment”.

Ross Clennett, recruitment trainer extraordinaire, never fails to surprise. A consummate professional, Ross eat, breathe, sleep ‘quality’. Shared his bold plans for the next five years. Lookout for his next move.

Michael Specht is a bundle of energy. Voracious networker, knowledge gatherer. Social media junkie. Absorbed endless information and caffeine. Relentless Twitterer; partner in crime. Great guy.

Serial entrepreneur, Riges Younis. Found out he had two new gigs Peerlo & Jobseekr (in collaboration with @Mspecht), since we last met to discuss his new product Jobgenie. I am struggling to keep up.

Reporter par excellence Jo Knox of RecruiterDaily showed up and quipped “I am inundated with press releases from recruitment firms”.  Also, long-time industry watcher Michael Burns, told me “ there is always a market for good quality content. Most are willing to pay for independent analysis of recruitment news & trends”.

Over breakfast, heard amazing story from head of recruiting of ‘cannot name’ company, who was instrumental in changing the demographics of a whole town  through their company’s hiring activities. I remain convinced that recruiting is the most critical function in an organisation with tremendous outcomes.

Met David Cvetkovski from Fusion, a new player in graduate recruitment, promising an end-to-end solution. Alex Martinez graciously gave me a good overview of Peoplepulse and Cloud9. Briefly met two reps from a Singapore based government institution, who attended because they have ‘talent management issues’. Will dig deeper.

Tony Brenan, Recruitment manager, leads the recruitment initiatives for Aurora Energy based in Tasmania. They are expanding and hiring. While the majority of the country reels under recession, some regions are scrambling for talent. There is no national economy, recruitment is driven by  local forces.

Some other closing thoughts

  • Recruiting/HR tactics are currently reactionary. While the rest of the industry talks about the recession, progressive organisations and service providers are already planning for the upturn and the future.
  • While ‘war for talent’ isn’t mentioned, the strategies recommended, services and products paraded and the overall theme is similar to those in good times
  • Innovation continues. Some vendors are gaining global recognition. New business models are emerging in places least expected. Unlikely alliances are formed. Lots of players, lots of new services. How does one rise above the noise?
  • Listen to the naysayers, but do not be distracted. The state of the union is strong. This downturn will pass.
  • Lots of information to decipher (took notes). Hope ATC organisers make the event presentation slides available (to the wider community if possible)
  • So many industry luminaries, generous with their time and knowledge, so little time.
  • Tomorrow promises more joys.

(p.s: The wifi situation is unlikely to change, and I am unable to arrange an alternative in a short notice. Follow @michaelspecht @RossClennett @rigesyounan for tweets or #atcsyd

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