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EU’s largest HR and leadership conference makes a return

Talent Summit goes virtual and will be bigger than ever, providing support and advice as Covid-19 restrictions lift

Talent Summit is back. The international conference for human resources executives and business leaders takes place on Wednesday, March 3rd. This year it is bigger, better, and more important than ever.

The EU’s largest HR leadership and organisation transformation conference, which is going fully online as a result of Covid-19, includes a packed programme of addresses from experts in international organisations such as Harvard University, Hubspot, Aon and Dropbox.

It is even beaming in expertise from Nasa – an organisation that knows how to manage the most remote workers in the galaxy.

Making work work in uncharted territory

Talent Summit is now in its 10th year. Last year’s event took place at the National Convention Centre in March and was attended by more than 1,000 international talent leaders.


Because this year’s Talent Summit is going entirely virtual, it has extended its reach to cater for demand, with capacity for 2,500-plus delegates on a dedicated conference platform.

Entitled "Re-Working a Better Working World”, it promises to be more compelling than ever for HR professionals, senior executives and business owners trying to get to grips with the long-term impacts of the pandemic on the world of work.

“Talent Summit’s purpose is to enhance working lives and look at the ways in which the world of work changes. Up until last year, technology has always been the catalyst for change,” explains Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig, founder, Talent Summit and CCO, Sigmar Recruitment.

The pandemic upended this. As Ireland is home to some of the world’s best known international companies, many of which have been identified as being to the forefront of remote working, Talent Summit is the perfect place to tease through the legacies of Covid-19.

“Ireland is very much at the forefront of shaping the future of work post-Covid,” says Mac Giolla Phádraig. Last year delegates from 26 countries attended but whereas the goal then was to inspire, this year it is about transformation.

Because this year's Talent Summit is going entirely virtual, it has extended its reach to cater for demand, with capacity for 2,500-plus delegates on a dedicated conference platform

“It is focused completely on the moment when the rubber hits the road, providing delegates with practical toolkits and key methods required to enable a transformation,” he says.

“There is no best practice for this, because people are still trying to figure it out. Therefore, we need to learn, debate and share our experiences from this year-long remote experiment.”

With light at the end of the tunnel, employers are now planning for effective ways to reconnect their workforce.

“Last year we were challenged by the forced dislocation of the workforce from the workplace. This year, however, we will choose how, by whom and where work gets done, which requires deep consideration as we re-architect work over the coming months. This is a critical moment in time for the next generation of work,” he explains.

The world of work, transformed

Work rests upon a number of assumptions including who does it, where it is done, and how it is done, says Mac Giolla Phádraig.

Now, as we look beyond the “forced dislocation of the workforce from the workplace”, it is time to assess what we have lost, what we need to retain, and what we have gained, he says.

Through it all, we need to focus on what Sigmar calls HX, or human experience.

“The shift from employee experience to human experience has been the fundamental shift of the last 12 months. It is about being more compassionate. We have also seen that trust has been a clear winner of the remote working experiment,” he says, pointing out that the social, mental and physical wellbeing of the individual has moved centre stage.

For employers, figuring out new models of work, such as whether to return to the office, remain “remote only” or developing a “hub and spoke” hybrid, is already giving rise to concerns.

These include how best to communicate across a fully distributed workforce. If a hub and spoke model emerges, in which business leaders move back to the office, influence will ultimately reside there, “forcing others to go back too”, he cautions.

As Ireland is home to some of the world's best known international companies, Talent Summit is the perfect place to tease through the legacies of Covid-19

A real risk of “in office bias” could also emerge, as well as a risk of “virtualteeism”, where people at home feel the need to be “always on”, despite policies to the contrary.

There are challenges for social capital too. Mac Giolla Phádraig likens a business to a brick wall, with the humans being the bricks but the cement being the social bonds that hold them together. It has been eroded by remote working. “What mix do we need to retain it, to get back that social connectivity?” he asks.

That looks like not just networking but assessing what “knowledge sharing platforms, tools, frequencies and methods are required”, he says.

How we manage performance in a distributed workforce will be a challenge.

It’s a topic that will be addressed during Talent Summit by Daragh Sheridan, manager of High Performance Sport, New Zealand, who will talk about “how to influence from the sidelines what happens on the pitch”, says Mac Giolla Phádraig.

Equally, while we know culture eats strategy for breakfast, how do we build and maintain a healthy culture in a distributed workforce?

The pandemic has been clarifying. “Culture is driven by ideology and values. Some organisational values have been under stress during Covid. Those that were authentic stood up. Those that were fabricated did not,” warns Mac Giolla Phádraig.

“Culture comes back to how we influence hearts and minds, and the power of story-telling in doing that. It’s a ‘nearcast’, not a broadcast, and one that needs to be deeply considered in a distributed workforce, particularly at onboarding stage,” he says.

Where there is less proximity, we need more ideology, he suggests.

The pandemic will cast a shadow long after it abates. “How companies dealt with Covid-19 will become their employer value proposition for the next five years,” he points out.

Learn from the experts

The speaker line-up for this year’s Talent Summit is out of this world, thanks to Robert Cabana, an astronaut and director of Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center. He helped assemble the International Space Station which is, points out Mac Giolla Phádraig, “the most remote workplace possible”.

Other speakers include global HR guru Dave Ulrich; Patty McCord, former chief talent officer at Netflix; Prithwiraj Choudhury, from Harvard Business School and a world leading ‘work from anywhere” expert; as well as Billy Walsh, head coach USA Boxing – among many more.

It makes sense that Ireland, a nation of story tellers, should have founded such an important event. “We are dealing with hearts and minds,” says Mac Giolla Phádraig. “It’s about putting HX at the centre of the future of work. What’s next starts now!”

Talent Summit takes place online on Wednesday, March 3rd. Book tickets to Europe's leading HR & Leadership conference - www.talentsummit.ie