Technology and Innovation in Talent Management

In this article, Cathy Gallagher-Louisy of the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion, highlights the work of two Alberta employers who have used technology and innovative approaches to address the challenges of talent acquisition, retention and talent management in order to their diversify their workforce and create an inclusive work environment for all.  

This article was originally published in HUMANCapital, Winter 2013 issue , and reproduced with permission of HRIA and its publisher Naylor (Canada), Inc.

By Cathy Gallagher-Louisy, Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion

As an HR or Talent Management professional, the biggest challenges you face are attracting and retaining top talent, and providing an engaging workplace where employees can thrive.  These are no small tasks.  Alberta’s HR community is well aware of the myriad of challenges posed by talent shortages.

One of the best ways to address these challenges is by ensuring you are tapping into all available talent in the market.  This can be done through diversifying your talent pool and creating an inclusive work environment for all.

Talent pools look more different today than they ever have before.  Immigration is rapidly changing the demographic makeup of Alberta’s towns and cities.  We are challenged with providing engaging work environments for four generations in the workplace – with each generation having vastly different expectations of the employment deal. Furthermore, the fastest growing demographic in Canada is Indigenous People: Aboriginals, Inuit, Métis and Peoples of the First Nations. All these demographic changes impact the talent pool and ultimately Alberta’s workplaces.

Talent shortages, low engagement and high turnover all create significant costs for
organizations; therefore HR and Talent Management professionals have the opportunity to provide real bottom-line impact for their employers.  Organizations that create an inclusive and engaging work environment have a competitive advantage when trying to attract top talent – especially in a talent shortage.

The Challenges of Attracting, Retaining and Promoting Diverse Talent

Recently Halogen Software embarked on a unique interactive research initiative called HR Raging Debates, asking over 8,000 HR thought leaders for their views on the topic of the talent shortage. Their findings indicate that most view the talent shortage as a real problem, but it is not necessarily caused by the things we thought, such as lack of
employment-ready college and university graduates, or lack of the right skills or experience. Instead, they suggest the talent shortage is in part, being caused by organizations’ lack of ability to think creatively in order tap new talent pools and attract the right people.

Innovative, creative approaches are required by HR and Talent Management professionals to address today’s challenges.

Innovative Approaches Using Technology

We are pleased to highlight the work of two Alberta employers who have used technology and innovative approaches to address the challenges of talent acquisition, retention and talent management: The City of Calgary and Morrison Hershfield.  To find out more, we spoke with Cheryl Goldsmith, Business Partner, Talent Acquisition and Anne-Marie
Pham, HR Advisor, Diversity & Inclusion at The City of Calgary, as well as Zakeana Reid, Senior Manager, HR Strategic Initiatives at Morrison Hershfield.

LinkedIn Program at The City of Calgary

The City of Calgary  has implemented an innovative approach to increasing the diversity of their applicant pool.  The LinkedIn Program, implemented in October 2012, uses technology to leverage relationships and reach previously untapped networks.

Here’s how it works:  each week, The City posts five of their hard to fill positions on LinkedIn.  The unique aspect of the postings is that there is a “Contact Us” link which enables individual job seekers to directly connect with a City recruiter.  Potential applicants can ask questions about the position, and get information from a Human Resources Advisor  about working at  The City of Calgary, all prior to submitting an application.

“This significantly levels the playing field,” said Anne-Marie Pham,, HR Advisor, Diversity & Inclusion.  “Applicants no longer have to rely just on their existing network and who they know at The City to find out more about the position and its requirements.”

Implementation of the Program

In order to implement this new program, The City established recruiter accounts on LinkedIn, and put together a marketing and communications plan to internally and externally promote  The City’s LinkedIn page.  Internally, the Talent Acquisition team developed a plan to encourage employees to share LinkedIn job postings. They used all available channels, including The City s intranet, emails, banner ads, and in-person presentations to business units and HR advisors.

Externally, communications included presentations and regular communication with partner agencies of The City , such as Bow Valley Collegethe Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC)Champions Career CentreAboriginal FuturesAboriginal Human Resources Association, Hire Canadian Military, and many others.

“The City’s employees’ existing networks are diverse, and so are the networks of our community partners,” said Pham. “Through this program, City recruiters, with the help of employees and partners, are able to reach out to a very diverse network.”

Goals of the Program

The goals of The City’s use of LinkedIn are: to enrich the candidate experience, to make the The City of Calgary an employer of choice for all citizens, and to use LinkedIn as a key tool to create a broad and diverse pipeline of candidates for various positions.

“Our primary purpose was to be more inclusive for all individuals wanting to work at The City of Calgary ,” said Cheryl Goldsmith, Business Partner, Talent Acquisition.

Measures of Success

Measurement is a key component of any successful program.  Quantitatively, The City tracks the number of followers on The City of Calgary pages, the number of applicants sourced through LinkedIn, the number of interviews and hires made from LinkedIn-sourced candidates, and the number of shares through LinkedIn. Qualitatively, they collect feedback from hiring managers and new hires about the quality of their LinkedIn experience.  Response to the program has been very positive.

The City of Calgary  has found the use of LinkedIn to be valuable in several ways. First it is giving them access to more diverse talent pools; second, it is allowing them to more easily fill hard to fill positions; and third, it is allowing them to easily develop relationships with potential candidates and community agencies for future opportunities.

Management Capability Development Program at Morrison Hershfield

Morrison Hershfield, an employee-owned engineering with 2 offices in Alberta – Calgary & Edmonton –has increased the ethnic and gender diversity of their management team through the Management Capability Development Program.

In the early stages of the program, Morrison Hershfield wasn’t deliberately targeting women and visible minorities.  But the results of an assessment showed there were a number of women and visible minorities who were ready to move up into leadership roles.

Multi-year Approach

The Program has had a phased implementation over the last 6 years.

The first phase involved identifying potential employees for the program: existing high-performers who were at a point in their careers where they might be looking for their next promotion, such as those in senior consultant roles.

Next, they began behavioural and aptitude assessments using a science-based assessment tool called Pathfinder.  Based on 30 years of research, Pathfinder predicts the likelihood for an individual to have exceptional performance in a specific role.  They’ve determined that people who have specific characteristics and aptitudes would tend to perform well in people-management positions.

Although they want to retain high-performing employees and give them the next opportunity on their career paths, Morrison Hershfield wanted to ensure they were not putting people into roles where they were destined to fail. In many organizations, high-performers who are technically excellent individual contributors are often promoted into management roles because it is the only way to give them a promotion.  But not everyone is a good manager.

For those employees who don’t necessarily have the aptitude for people-management, Morrison Hershfield provides a technical career path that goes up to the senior director level, one level below Vice President.  This allows Morrison Hershfield to retain and promote high-performing employees without having to give them management responsibilities.

“We don’t want good employees to leave, even if they aren’t great managers,” said Zakeana Reid, Senior Manager, HR Strategic Initiatives. “It’s important for us to provide them with opportunities for advancement where they can thrive and feel like they are valued for their unique skills and contributions.”

Significant Challenges

While multiple studies have shown the benefits of having more gender diversity in leadership teams, the challenge of promoting women into management roles in the engineering field is twofold.  Few women go into engineering as a career path.  Female enrollment in undergraduate engineering programs in Canada reached a peak of 20.6 percent of total enrollment in 2001 and has fluctuated between 17 and 18 percent for the greater part of the past decade.

Further exacerbating that problem, studies have shown that many women leave the engineering field within the first five years of joining.  Since so few women join the field in the first place, and many leave within five years, the pool of management-ready women in engineering is even smaller.

“Studies have suggested that some women who join engineering may become disengaged by being in an environment where there is a majority of scientific men, many of whom tend to enjoy working individually.  Whereas, many women may feel more engaged when their workplace provides more of a sense of community,” said Reid.  “Interestingly, the types of attributes that Pathfinder has found to be characteristics of good managers happen to be aspects that some women in engineering want to have more of in their working lives.”

Training and Development for Management Roles

The third phase of the program involved training and development.  The HR team worked with identified candidates to improve their capabilities around financial management, implementing policies, HR management, and more – essentially how to be a manager at Morrison Hershfield. Developmental plans were created in the company’s talent management system, Halogen, which automatically recommends appropriate courses.


Communication to employees was about career development rather than diversity and inclusion.  “We wanted to ensure our learning management system and developmental tools were available to all employees at all levels,” said Reid.  “Removal of barriers is about ensuring all people have the same access to same tools.”

The final phase of the process was waiting for available opportunities to arise.  “Just because a bunch of people are ready for promotion, doesn’t mean 20 new management positions suddenly open up,” said Reid.  Over several years, retirements, resignations, re-organizations, and the addition of some new lines of business opened up additional management positions.  When these opportunities arose, they were prepared with promotion-ready people who could apply for those roles.

Results, Results, Results

Although the program was a talent management program, not initially intended to focus on diversity and inclusion, there have been excellent results for Morrison Hershfield’s diversity and inclusion goals.  As a Federal Contractor, Morrison Hershfield is subject to the Employment Equity Act and the requirements of the Federal Contractors Program.  Between 2006 and 2010, they tripled the representation of women in management, and more than quadrupled representation of visible minorities in management.  Also, because of increased representation in middle management, Morrison Hershfield now has a more diverse pool of high-potentials candidates when executive roles become available.

Innovative Use of Technology Yields Great Results

Acquisition, retention and development of diverse talent are essential for every organization today – especially in a talent shortage.  Sharing promising practices like these programs at Morrison Hershfield and The City of Calgary, and leveraging great ideas about the innovative approaches that are being used by some employers can help all HR and Talent Management professionals access new sources of talent and remove barriers, creating more inclusive workforces for all Albertans.

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