By Sarie Leroy

Monday Nov 16th. The Sheikh Maktoum Hall at the World Trade Center is filled with HR professionals, ready for 3 days of thought provoking HR keynote speakers.

Summarizing these 3 days, striving to be complete, would be almost impossible. I therefore chose to limit myself to quotes that drew my attention. Since there are clearly some topics that are disruptive at the moment, I grouped the quotes accordingly. The speakers’ initials are in brackets each time, full names can be found at the end of the article.

Engagement – Job satisfaction – Work/life balance

“The leaders behavior accounts for 37% of the employee’s engagement.“ JK

“Non-engaged employees stopped long ago, they just didn’t leave the company.” SD

“Split up your daily activities at work into Transactions at the one hand, and Value adding activities at the other. How much time do you spend on each side? What would this balance look like if you were to add maximum value to the company?” RC

“Historically we have done a terrible job on the mental wellbeing of the workforce” PC

“Managers and employers should be managing the psychological workload more than the physical workload.” CO

“If people have an impact on the pace, timing and sequence of their work’ they become more productive. And even more: they are less likely to die from a heart attack or suffer from mental illness”, SB

“We have a very low turnover at Google. Maybe too low … future will tell” YA

“How about using Finish-line instead of Deadline” SF

“Turn on your GPS every day: be grateful, play and surprise. Because you are good enough for it.” SF

“You can’t agree with something as long as you don’t understand him. You can’t put it into engaged practice as long as you don’t agree” JK

“If you were not allowed to do your emails anymore during family time. Would that bring a better work/life balance?” CO

“Work/life balance: is that doing half of your emails at work and the rest at home?” FT

“About 60% of people say they need encouragement to be at their best; and about 98% of people say it helps when they get encouragement.” JK

Diversity – New trends in the workforce – Recruitment

“Diversity helps better business decisions.” PC

“We often stop at diversity and don’t go to inclusion.” SD

“Today’s reality is 4 generations at the same workplace.” SD

“49% of all college students worldwide are women.” SD

“We don’t have a high-potential program, since we are convinced that all our people are high potentials.” YA


“We live in a bi-polarized world (think of tools like MBTI and alike). Bi-polarized does not work in a multi-cultural world.” FT

“4 steps in dealing with cultural differences: recognize; respect; reconcile; realize.” FT

“Culture is the way we solve problems to survive. If it works, it becomes the norm.” FT

“We select candidates on 4 attributes. One of these is Googlyness “What is the fit with the Google culture?”” YA

“Humor is when two opposite logics both turn logical and make you laugh.” FT

Changes & Confirmations

“I keep hearing that it is always faster than before. But the one thing that has not changed over the past 40 years, is the paste of change.” FT

“Who is the Chief executive who said: “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”? Aristotle (around 300BC). Men has not changed.” CR

21st Century Leaders & Training

“Servant leaders are like parents: they combine being tough and loving. They enable others to perform better.” FT

“The icons of this world are always servant leaders: they owe their leadership to serving.” FT

“The future is not about innovation, it is about exnovation. Going outside your own industry for your new business development.” FT

“No athlete becomes a champion without practicing.” RC

“We need to make practicing opportunities a part of the daily routine.” JK

“The average age at which people follow leadership training is 40 to 50. That is on average 10 years after they start supervising. Ever imagined that for a medical doctor?” JK

“3 questions a leader should be able to answer: Who am I? What do I care about? Why should people be following me?” JK

“Imagine there are 12 frogs sitting at the side of a Pont. 5 decide to jump into the water. How many are still sitting at the side? All 12 … deciding ain’t the same as doing.“ JK

“Imagine that you were voted the leader of the year. What would you like people to say about you in their speech?” JK

“Leaders are not probability thinkers, they are possibility thinkers.” JK

“Are leaders born or made? All leaders are born, and so are you.” JK

Some more wisdom

“There are only 2 types of recourses in companies: people and finances.” RC

“The 2 most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you understand why.” SD

“What if your health, family, home and job were taken away from you, and then given back. Would you have something to be grateful for?” SF

“Whether you call the prisoners’ dilemma “community game” or “wall street game” has a major impact on the choice people make to remain silent or to betray each other.” JK

… closure

James Kouzes asked “Who would you like to have a conversation with? What about?”

For me that would be with Fons Trompenaars on Culture, in a nice Antwerp café.

How about you?

The speakers

  • Yvonne Agyei [AY], VP for people operations, Google
  • Stephen Bevan [SB], Director at the Centre for workforce effectiveness, The Work Foundation
  • Ram Charan [RC], Global Adviser to CEOs & Corporate Boards, Bestselling Author
  • Peter Cheese [PC], CEO at CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development
  • Shirley Davis [SD], Global Talent Management expert; Corporate Executive; Int’l Speaker, Success Coach/Author
  • Scott Friedman [SF], a funny, engaging speaker on employee innovation, customer experience and celebration as a strategic tool
  • James Kouzes [JK], author and one of Wall Street Journal’s twelve best executive educators
  • Cristian Orsted [CO], Keynote speaker, bestselling author and leadership advisor
  • Fons Trompenaars [FT], Partner People & Change at KPMG, International Keynote & author of best seller Riding the Waves of Culture

This article is written by Sarie Leroy and first appeared on her blog here.