Next Generation of HR

October 2014

We recently hosted a group of clients at a Conference Board of Canada event titled HR 2014: The Next Generation of HR. Among others, we heard from:

  • Ferio Pugliese, President, WestJet Encore
  • Bob Deluce, President & CEO, Porter Airlines
  • Melanie Burns, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, TD Bank Group
  • Ellen Dubois du Bellay, Senior Vice President, Learning & Talent Management, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • Cheryl Fulton, VP, Human Resources & Stephanie Hauck, Production Supervisor, Maple Leaf Foods
  • Kevin Frank, Director, Training & Education, Second City

What follows is a summary of some key comments we've ascribed to various themes that emerged:


  • Understand the financials. If the HR leader wants to be 'at the table' with the executive team, he must understand the scorecard against which the team is measured. If there's no ROI for an HR program, why propose it?
  • Experience in the operating business itself is invaluable. The HR professional who better understands the workings of the business is more valuable to her clients.
  • Understand HR metrics and business analytics - again, know the numbers.
  • Bring technology/systems understanding and capability - what administrative tasks can we automate, leaving us free to add true value?


  • Anticipate talent and leadership gaps.
  • Interview longer - incorporate some lengthy interviews that may extend over a number of hours. Really get to know the incoming executive before she comes on board.
  • Accept that market premiums exist in certain geographies (Calgary comes to mind) and within certain functions. In financial services, those might include professionals in Risk, Compliance, Regulatory functions, and Quantitative Analytics, as examples. In real estate, there continues to be a dearth of strong leaders in Leasing and Property Operations.
  • A great corporate culture and employment brand go a long way in enabling companies to recruit the best talent without always having to pay top dollar. As well, candidates remain engaged in a lengthier decision-making processes.


  • Use data to forecast future leadership talent needs.
  • Development Decisions International indicates that while 66% of organizations have High Potential programs in place, 74% feel they are not very effective. How might this metric be improved?
  • Track and verify leadership program effectiveness (there's that focus on numbers/metrics again).
  • Position learning as a sequence rather than a series of independent events.
  • Ensure high quality development plans are in place.
  • Make the identities of high-potential leaders visible internally.
  • Clearly define competencies required for success.


  • The Conference Board indicates that while the majority of Canadian entities use some degree of technology in the HR function, U.S.-based organizations are further ahead. Only 2% of Canadian entities have completely integrated HR systems (versus 7% in the U.S.); 35% of Canadian companies (versus 56% in the U.S.) indicate that most processes are technology-based but are not yet fully integrated.
  • There is a need for improved measurement of HR programs in both Canada and the U.S. While 28% of Canadian organizations collect metrics that measure the cost of HR programs and processes (versus 42% in the U.S.), only 13% (versus 18% in the U.S.) measure the specific effects of HR programs, and 17% (versus 22% in the U.S.) measure the business impact of HR programs and processes.
  • Outsource appropriately. Find your organization's sweet spot in order to outsource most effectively.


  • Be authentic, transparent and add true value. Have the courage to advise a manager that creating a role for an employee in order to keep her employed may not be in the best interests of the business, or of the employee.
  • Don't confuse busy-ness and work volume with effectiveness.
  • Ask good questions of the business - facilitate them coming to their own solutions.
  • Be unafraid to make suggestions and provide advice and counsel that will generate positive results within the business.

We very much enjoyed the conference, and hope that you find some 'pearls of wisdom' in the comments and information outlined above.