Highlights from Saba Insight 2018

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Industry Buzz

Highlights from Saba Insight 2018

Well, what a conference! At Saba Insight 2018 last week, the Saba team had the opportunity to connect face-to-face with our customers, partners and thought leaders to learn together how to create a richer employee experience.

On behalf of the entire Saba team, I'd like to send out a special thank you to our remarkable customers for sharing how they're using our technology to drive talent development outcomes in their organizations.

This year's conference covered themes centered on building an employee experience that delivers value to people and organizations, the importance of finding one's purpose amidst the unpredictability of change, and of course learning how peers are driving talent development strategies forward using Saba solutions!

Here's a run-down of Saba Insight with key highlights from the conference experience!

Kris Dunn kicks things off!

As conference master of ceremonies, Kris Dunn (Fistful of Talent, HR Capitalist) kicked off the conference with some humor and a candid look at how talent professionals are often perceived:

Kris also talked about the challenge of preparing for change and how thinking you can predict what change will come is a complete fallacy. He talked about how driving change forward is challenging because employees aren't all at the same place when it comes to being ready for it.

The key point Kris emphasized was that talent leaders are in a unique position to support people in preparing for change. If HR wants to be seen as innovative and as a change leader, they need to work on personal development and strategic competencies that will help them become the kinds of leaders their organization needs them to be.

A warm welcome from Saba CEO Phil Saunders

Kris' opening remarks segue nicely into a warm welcome to attendees from Saba CEO Phil Saunders. While Phil shared Saba's vision for talent management and our passion for helping our customers support a better employee experience, his message to attendees was neatly summarized by this statement, "Tech is important, but what we do is personal."

And one way we make it personal is by creating a rich, personal learning experience at #SabaInsight18!

Second City Works interactive keynote gets attendees laughing and listening

For the opening keynote, members of Second City Works engaged attendees in a thought-provoking exercise on the art of listening. It was interactive, entertaining and hilarious.

No surprise there. Second City Works is the professional services arm of The Second City comedy theater (you know... that comedy theater that helped produced some of the most unforgettable satire and influential comedians of the last sixty years).

The Second City team got attendees to flex their own improv skills through a series of interactive activities. All with the purpose to help us be in the moment and to develop our ability to "listen to understand":

It's a great reminder of how valuable listening to others is when it comes to creating an environment where people feel valued, and where their contributions are recognized.

Outlining the future of Saba Cloud and TalentSpace

On Day One of the conference, Karen Williams, EVP, Product and Customer Success, took to the main stage to talk about the innovation roadmap for Saba Cloud and Saba TalentSpace, and it was exciting to see the response from attendees.

Karen shared new connected platform advancements, connected experiences and connected insights to address three critical workplace realities:

  • Creating better employee experiences
  • Developing better leaders
  • Addressing generational influence

Panel discussions zone in on strategic talent development practices

Three different plenary panels across Day One and Day Two of the conference offered personal insights from talent leaders on the future of the profession and key strategies for moving talent development initiatives forward.

The Evolving Talent Professional - What's the Future Look Like?

During this Day One main stage panel, the conversation between panelists flowed from how to keep your best people to strategies for demonstrating the value talent development programs bring to the business. Moderated by Kris Dunn, the panelists included: Dr. Henryk Krajewski, Jason Lauritsen, Julie Winkle Giulioni, Sharlyn Lauby and Steve Boese. Here a few insights they shared.

On proactively shifting the perception of what talent professionals do:

  • Julie Winkle Giulioni: The number one stereotype that still exists about talent pros is that they are "the clerk" or "the personnel gal" - there is limited understanding of our roles.
  • Steve Boese: There's a need to broaden skills and development and not focus on just one skill.
  • Sharlyn Lauby: if you're a specialist, look for opportunities to grow beyond that specialty and learn about other aspects of HR and the business.

On being a strategic advisor to the business:

  • Jason Lauritsen: Forget the tired "seat at the table" conversation. HR should be comfortable crashing the damn party. We are the people experts and we need to share that expertise with the business to create a better employee experience.
  • Dr. Henryk Krajewski: Talent professionals need to know how to keep the best people and do it against "fill-the-role-and-go" pressure from the business.
  • Kris Dunn: Use follow-up questions to understand the how, why and when of a candidate's example to truly uncover their experience and competence for a given role.

Leading Through Change - Talent Leaders Get Personal

Day Two kicked off with an HR executive panel on leading through change. With Kris Dunn again moderating, this panel included Saba customers: Jill Jameson, VP HR at JMT; Tim Mulligan, CHRO at Vulcan Inc.; and, Gary Whitney, VP Global Learning, Intercontinental Hotels Group. The discussion focused on their vision for talent development and their experience in growing in their careers.

Panelists provided insights on supporting people through change and shared their vision for talent development. Key takeaways included giving people what they need to succeed, be it feedback, learning opportunities or other kinds of support. Being of service to people surfaced repeatedly, as did the need to provide well-designed employee experiences that inspire and enable people to succeed.

On leading through change:

  • Tim Mulligan: HR is stepping up as the leaders of change management at Vulcan. Our organization is complex...we're dealing with lots of change and some unique talent needs. We're constantly figuring out ways to attract and retain that talent... And Saba is helping us do that.
  • Jill Jameson: I want passionate HR people that want to learn the business and understand their impact on it. We rallied our talent team around the mandate the organization needed to achieve - It was effective because people understood their part in making it happen, and they got excited about it!
  • Gary Whitney: We need to give our people tools to help them choose their own adventure and adapt to change. One size fits none.
  • Kris Dunn: All employees aren't in the same place when it comes to change. Need to meet them where they are.
Check out our recap of everything that happened at #sabainsight18! Tweet this

On HR's impact:

  • Jill Jameson: C-level relationship skills are all about being able to communicate your value, understanding what drives your C-level and knowing what matters to them.
  • Tim Mulligan: I don't want an HR team that chases best practices. I want a team that creates best practices.
  • Gary Whitney: We are business people that happen to be in HR, not HR people who happen to be in the business.
  • Kris Dunn: High-potential employees are limited by the individuals they report to.

Doing the Work - Talent Practitioners Share Their Wins

Paige Newcombe, Chief Customer Officer for Saba led this Day Two panel discussion on successes in deploying Saba Cloud and Saba TalentSpace.

Here are a few sound bites:

  • Alicja Zopf, McDonald's: Training is sitting at the table and it's exciting to be part of the change value learning brings to our strategy.
  • Helen Rossiter, West Marine: Saba Cloud's social capabilities allowed us to turn or learning team of three to a team of 4,000 by leveraging the expertise of our employees.
  • Karen Blalock, Builders Mutual Insurance Co: It's easy to capture feedback in Saba TalentSpace - Helps employees demonstrate their success/growth through examples. provided from peers/colleagues. It's been very powerful/impactful.
  • Kelsie Bathurst, Virginia Hospital: Kelsie Bathurst "Leading the TalentSpace implementation helped me grow my career personally.

Breakout sessions showcased talent development strategies that drive outcomes

So many great breakout sessions! Seriously. Here are a few of the sessions that attendees buzzed about on the conference floor and on social media.

Tim Sackett shares how to make HR metrics matter

Tim Sackett gave insight into how talent leaders can effectively connect HR metrics to business success. While providing strategies for effective data storytelling, Tim's session also focused on how to grab executives' attention by:

  • Using business metrics not HR metrics
  • Framing your data story around competitive data
  • Using data to directionally predict future talent business needs and identify gaps

USA Today and DXC Technology share winning talent development practices

Craig Lutz, Sr. Manager, Learning & Technology for USA Today Network shared strategies for building personalized development journeys for employees. A key piece of advice: get the ball rolling with development on Day One of employment so employees experience it right from the start.

Silviu Nedea, Delivery Lead for DXC Technology shared how DXC (a long-time Saba customer) is using Saba to connect skills development with goal setting and performance conversations in order to develop and retain its people. As a global IT services leader, DXC Technology needs to invest in and grow its people so they are ready to adapt to and address the disruptive digital transformations facing clients.

DXC Technology developed a supply and demand ecosystem with Saba Cloud as the "gold source" for skills using a structured data approach and governed skills taxonomy. Used by over 10,000 DXC recruiters worldwide, this ecosystem helps recruiters quickly determine what skilled resources are on the bench or quickly becoming available as projects end. Better utilize and support their people to support their clients.

Symmons Industries and Harford County on people development

Keisha O'Marde, the Head of Human Resources at Symmons Industries shared how her organization created a continuous learning experience for their people by identifying critical skills and addressing skills gaps. As a result of this talent development strategy, the organization is creating learning opportunities and experiences to help people grow in their careers at Symmons. Awesome.

Jim Richardson, Director with Harford County shared how his organization is creating a culture of learners by focusing first on leadership development. By preparing leaders to have rich coaching and development conversations with their people, the County is creating a talent development mindset that empowers employees to be their best.

How do you create a better employee experience? Be human and flex learning to the needs of the individual

On the theme of creating great employee experiences, Jason Lauritsen's session focused on why it's important to: "Think differently about work. Think beyond the contract. It's about building healthy relationships with employees." Jason's session centered on this key fact - despite all of our investment and efforts, overall levels of employee engagement continue to be flat at best. Twenty years of effort in driving up employee engagement and organizations are still getting the same "meh" result.

Jason's point is that while employees come to work to earn a paycheck, what they need to be fully engaged goes far beyond that. They need to feel a connection and have a purpose, and to make that happen the employee experience needs to be more human. His advice? Look less to workplace best practices and instead study what makes for healthy relationships between human beings. His tips: manufacture positive moments (yes, this means being intentional in making positive moments happen - small gestures like smiling and saying hello as you pass an employee in the hallway have a huge impact), and to teach and model gratitude and appreciation.

In her breakout session, Julie Winkle Giulioni shared how enabling on-demand learning has the power to grow individuals, the business, and the results of L&D programs. But while learners today now have 24/7 access to the technology-enabled, just-in-time learning they crave, this doesn't mean HR and learning leaders should adopt a "build it and they will come" mindset.

Julie offered six strategies to help organizations embrace on-demand learning, including the power of curation, context, curation, contemplation, connection and coaching. For a deeper dive into how these six practices work in supporting on-demand learning, and how to make the most of your talent development investments, read this blog post from Julie.

Developing great talent means focusing on continuous improvement

Dr. Henryk Krajewski shared key insights into identifying and developing 'high potential' employees. While theories abound on how best to do this, Henryk shared one key success driver in the practice of talent assessment and development: your best employees select you...it's not you who selects them.

And, if you want to attract and retain the best, you better offer a talent development experience that meets their needs, helps them grow and shows in tangible ways how this HiPos are contributing value to your organization. Here are three kinds of development experiences your HiPos need and expect:

  • Modeling - do participants know, specifically, what the new behavior looks like and why it's critical?
  • Practice - do they have time and a safe, trusting space to practice the new behaviors?
  • Error Management - do they know how to respond when efforts fail?

HR Happy Hour episode 340 recorded live at #SabaInsight18

Smack dab in the middle of the conference, HR Happy Hour podcast hosts Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane spoke with Helen Rossiter, Senior Talent Development Specialist at West Marine, about creating an employee-centric learning organization.

Listen to the interview to learn how West Marine used its talent development programs to make the connection between people, development, and business results:

Sir Ken Robinson closes off #SabaInsight18 with guidance on "finding your element"

The closing keynote with Sir Ken Robinson was a powerful look into how finding your element - the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion - changes everything. Sir Ken opened his talk with a reflection on how the world of work has changed, and how intellectual work is changing so rapidly we can't predict how technology will impact corporate or human life.

And this unpredictability is scary. It's difficult for people to ready themselves for some future, yet-to-be-known change, and one of the reasons why is because none of us are tapping into our full potential. Sir Ken bluntly shared that many people don't have a sense of purpose. Those who do, however, have a sense of being in their element and loving what they do. Unfortunately, too many people have a limited sense of possibility.

Institutions in our society - like schools and work - aren't structured to fuel our imaginations. Culture too blinds people to opportunities because cultural preconceptions can get in the way of making more of ourselves than we do.

Sir Ken's advice: we need to find creativity and imagination within ourselves and do it with intention. We need to see opportunity in the challenges we face (in life and work). To do this well, we need to look beyond our five senses to tap into other senses within us (e.g. intuition, yes but also our sense of balance, sense of pain, sense of temperature to name a few) in order to cultivate our creativity and our talents.

Sir Ken closed with this comment: passion trumps obstacles. And human capacity is surprising and fathomless. We have to find our element and cultivate it in order to truly understand our full potential. To bring this point home, Sir Ken showed this video:

In work and in our personal lives, we need to build environments where people can explore their talents, tap into their creativity and have room to fail. Room to grow.

Fun and networking

Attendees also had tons of opportunities to network, talk shop or just hang out. Bringing our customers together is one of the favorite parts of this conference.

Closing out a great conference

Saba CEO Phil Saunders kept his closing remarks short with a genuine thank you to our customers and a commitment to their success.

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Saba Insight 2018 sponsors for supporting our conference and make it a stellar experience for customers. These brilliant, forward-thinking companies extend and enhance Saba's talent development solutions and it was truly awesome to have them join us at Saba Insight!

  • Platinum sponsors: Educe Group and RapidLD
  • Silver sponsors: Bluewater and Ultimate Software
  • Exhibit sponsors: OpenSesame, ej4, Jobvite, LinkedIn Learning, DDI, SureSkills and JobTarget

Finally, a huge thank you to the entire Saba team and our brilliant presenters who worked hard to put together such a great lineup of learning experiences for our customers!

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