People Matters: Reflections on a conference all about people, and the future of work.
Last week, RDI Worldwide hosted People Matter 2022. A Virtual HR Conference held over two days. Today, a week later, CEO Gordon Dudley and Principal Consultant, Eric Sung Him Wan talked with Alex Jensen on what happened at the conference, what were their own key learnings and their viewpoint on the advantages of virtual conferences over offline ones.
The conference had 8 sessions that covered a wide range of topics from the metaverse, Korean market opportunities, Diversity & Inclusion on women in leadership as well as the critical skills in a volatile marketplace.
All of the topics were future facing topics, as we learn more and more than for successful businesses, people really do matter.
As Gordon says, “There have been some important shifts in the relationship between employees and employers, increasingly people really do matter. Right now, HR related activities have come to the fore and become more important than ever before. Companies are looking at these issues to find better alignment between work and life, and to make better leaders.”
Today’s episode is brought to you by the Four Seasons Seoul. Stylish elegance in the very heart of the city.
A successful niche player in the cutthroat world of delivery apps
Alex Jenson 00:08
You’re listening to Koreabizcast with the KBLA I’m your host, Alex Jensen and it is Friday, February 18. And what a big week it’s been on the Korean peninsula, attracting worldwide attention with the big 80th Birthday of late former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. A rather subdued affair as it turned out, although we may yet according to some experts have some big fireworks in the future, with another major anniversary coming up in April, and still that promise of provocations from Pyongyang. But then here closer to home in South Korea, the launch of the election campaigns and it was quite exciting. I think quite a lot of bustle in different parts of the country. More than a dozen candidates criss crossing now, there’ll be doing so over the coming weeks on Monday, we’ll be able to round out some of the key messages from that. So join us of the weekend. I’m going to go straight into our topic for today. It’s all that’s been going on. Maybe we’ve been neglecting HR matters, what’s your staffing life like? We’ll be getting into an in depth discussion on that, as well as I think getting some really useful tips for holding virtual events, which are still very much par for the course in 2022. And if you do want to host an offline event, or a virtual event, or perhaps a hybrid event, do consider the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, offering stylish elegance in the very heart of the city. So let me bring in on the line Gordon Dudley and Eric Wan from RDI Worldwide. Thank you, gentlemen.
Gordon Dudley 01:36
Hey, Alex. It’s great to be here today with you.
Eric Wan 01:40
Good to be here today. Thanks, Alex.
Alex Jenson 01:42
So good. And we’ve spoken to you before in the past, but never as a double with Eric in the same call in for anyone who may have missed those earlier segments where we featured you, perhaps both of you could begin by introducing what you’re both doing RDI Worldwide, especially in the context of 2022. And what you’ve been up to in the last few weeks, perhaps start with you, Gordon?
Gordon Dudley 02:06
Thanks, Alex. Yeah, so I’ve been running RDI in Korea since 2016. And I’m very glad that Eric has been on board with us from the very start. And some of the things that we are doing at RDI are helping global companies in Korea, with their HR related matters. And that is, in many cases, talent acquisition, recruiting, but also relating to performance management and professional development. And so we’ve recently had a very successful event. And we’re going to take a bit of time to introduce some of the outcomes of that event to you on this podcast.
Eric Wan 02:55
As for me, I’m Eric. And I’m from Hong Kong. I’ve been with RDI worldwide since 2016. Me and my team, what we do at RDI is we are leading the leadership and employee engagement advisory for our company. What we do is we help international company here to have better more engaged employees.
Alex Jenson 03:18
And when we all like that when we all like to be better engaged employees ourselves in some cases. So Gordon, you obviously deal with both sides of that, and you felt the need to hold this quite significant event. It ran over two days, you had a list of excellent speakers separated across panels, separated between some very relevant topics. Before we dive into the specifics for the broad strokes. why this event now?
Gordon Dudley 03:47
Well, the People Matters event series is actually an event that we originally started back in 2018 as an offline event, and at that time, we gathered in a single event space around a single topic on particular evening, and invited guests to share their insights and expertise on that particular topic. And we had a range of those events over the course of a number of years. But in order to be able to take advantage of the current situation, as of last year, we made the People Matters event as an online event, turned it into a virtual HR conference. And that just really allowed us to expand the scope of the event, of course, allowing us to invite anybody located anywhere to to join and participate in that and it’s just been able to get bigger and better. And this year last week, the first one of this year, we were able as you mentioned to have in total 10 sessions across two day’s inviting speakers from all across the world, I think I think maybe five or six different countries represented across the speakers, the speakers panel that we had across the the sessions, we had about 150 registered participants attending the 10 sessions across the event, and really just an opportunity to learn from a very diverse range of experts and practitioners in their fields, but also to share and to to actually discuss and try to go a little bit beyond the kind of typical webinar, which we’re all too familiar with over the last couple of years, and really try to get some valuable discussions going and audience engagement.
Alex Jenson 05:55
It looks really professional, all the digital literature concerning the event. So that was a great start. You chose the topics well, and you’ve got a great lineup of guests, all those things tick the right boxes for holding an offline or online event. But Eric, perhaps you can tell us some of the more pearls of wisdom that came out of this that might apply to anyone in just about any industry looking to hold a virtual event of this kind. For example, you’ve got a relatively small team RDI Worldwide How did you delegate responsibilities? How did you go about finding the right panelists? How did you decide on the topics? And how did you negotiate some of the tech challenges like, for example, the difference in panel discussions with networking?
Eric Wan 06:41
I think we want to talk about let’s go from the start with the topics, right, because without the topics, we wouldn’t even have a conference itself. And it is one of the first thing that Gordon and I had to discuss had to decide when we put together this conference. I think, at the end of the day, we asked I think is important when it comes to putting together any sort of event. You got to ask yourself the questions. What would people want to know about? Right? I think Alex, you can emphasize on this point when it comes to getting the guests for your podcast. Right? So we asked ourselves this question more towards people, what are people curious about? And at the end of the day, I think if you look at the topics that we put together the eight sessions. We have a theme in mind and that theme itself is about the future. Because we believe that regardless of whatever specific topic that you are interested in, either be talent management, either be leadership, diversity, or even we have a topic of metaverse, right, which is amazingly amazing session where we get to see what working in metaphors would look like. But at the end of the day, I think people want to know what’s, what’s happening in the future. They want to know how it impacts their lives, how you impact their work, and how it impacts everything either in a big picture sense or in a small picture sense. So when we put together the topic, I think we are so what are some of the key topics that we need to people would be interested about the future when it comes to their work? So that is the first part of of challenge we had to overcome, maybe Gordon, you want to jump in with with the topics that we chose?
Gordon Dudley 08:27
Sure, absolutely. I think Eric has put it absolutely, rightly there that, that we wanted to strike a balance between topics that are important right now, here in Korea, but also that are meaningful for people to want to know more and try to prepare for the future. So for us, that’s why, you know, one of the sessions that we we did was about the Korean market opportunities, you know, a lot of Korea as a place to invest in and it’s the global awareness of Korea, as I’m sure most of the listeners are aware has really been going from you’re up and up over the last couple of years through a wide range of different factors. And so having some expert panelists to discuss about that, about some of the real advantages of investing in Korea was, I think, a good way to to kind of kick off the event. And then we were able to get into some very, you know, People Matter related events, as the title tells us, which are more in terms of our day to day as an HR consulting company. And so we were able to invite some Um, you know, real HR specialists as well as people with a very deep experience in leading teams and managing organizations to also have some good discussions. And so, you know, one of the important topics for me, from my perspective, as I help companies to try to attract the best talents is Employer Branding, right? The ability to attract the best talents is, to a certain extent, predicated on the positive associations that people have with that company, aka the employer brand. And so this was also another great session that we were able to have to start from, you know, discussing what is Employer Branding, right through to some of the best practices that are out there. And so, I think, you know, that there was just a couple of the highlights of some of the sessions that we had, which were very well received.
Alex Jenson 11:02
And it really was well received. But I would like to ask you about the issue of delegating responsibilities. Again, if you’re a company of any size, you’re not going to have 100 people working on an event like this. What do you think is the sweet spot in terms of planning and making sure it’s done right for the number of people that you would have as organizers?
Eric Wan 11:22
I think when it comes to an event like this, it is important as a leader, as a manager that you need to have your clear process in place, because you’re essentially planning something that is you cannot really see because everything is virtual, right? So I think it’s important for you to have a process counting down from day zero, or let’s say the zero is the first day that we have the event, from counting down to 14 days onward, what are the step by step things that we would want to take care of, making sure that is clearly communicated to our team clearly aligned, everybody needs to know what we, what we are going to do, have a clear, of RACI chart of who is responsible for things, who’s accountable, who needs to be informed, and who needs to be consulted. We find that because we don’t have a massive team. And we are, and one thing that we always do is make sure that we’re always communicating with each other as often as possible. And Gordon, I will always make sure that we are as open door policy as we can when we are working from home on a virtual space. So if a team member reached out to us, we will always try to respond to them as quickly as we can. Because we know that we are working in a volatile environment with a lot of uncertainties, right? We’re talking about a VUCA environment. And this is one of those things when you’re doing things on a virtual space, we need to be agile, we need to be able to respond to our teams quickly. At the same time, making sure that we understand their capability well enough to know when and where and how we can be delegating, and what tasks we need to take a more hands on approach and be more directive. So I think we need to be very, very, have a really clear understanding our people’s capability to know when to delegate and when to be directive.
Alex Jenson 13:23
When you get it right, Gordon, do you not have a sense that well, actually, we might want to do it like this every time getting that number of panelists, having that strength of personnel available to talk all on the same day, more or less the same times, you’re kind of limited if you do it offline to a certain extent, unless you happen to be very lucky, in the right city, or with a great network on the ground. So in other words, regardless of the year that we happen to be in, do you think you’ll be doing it virtually for the foreseeable future? What’s your thought on that?
Gordon Dudley 13:59
I mean, there’s definitely advantages to a virtual event, from the perspective of borderless attendance and participation That is without a doubt, a fantastic thing. And, you know, even you know, in the area that we’re working in, of course, recruiting more jobs, even full time jobs are becoming virtual and remote, you know, allowing people to be not necessarily be located in downtown city centres to be able to to have the job that they want. From, you know, reflecting in the final days before the event, I was actually thinking well, yes, we do have such a fantastic number of participants involved, but wouldn’t be wouldn’t it be great if we could have the best of both worlds have a virtual event where we can literally have as many people as we like in as in attendance, but also to them be able to Connect offline. And so I was, I was thinking how, you know, if restrictions were not quite so, so strict right now then wouldn’t it be great to actually round off the event by also having an offline event for people to kind of go beyond that, that virtual event. And, in fact, I’ve really been glad to hear that some of my team have, in fact, already been having those offline meetings already, in the week since the event from these new connections and relationships that were forged during the People Matters event.
Alex Jenson 15:36
Well, there’s one particular area where you can imagine it would be more successful offline and that’s the networking part. But both days of February 10, and 11th, you had a designated time, I think it was an hour session in the first day and 45 minutes on the second. Correct me if I’m wrong on that, where it says networking, and according to Rod Rothwell of the KBLA, he told me firsthand that that was actually really successful. And I’m not sure how it works. So over zoom, how do you get a hold of people networking,
Eric Wan 16:11
I think it helps us a lot of our session itself are very thought provoking, and extremely interesting topics. So we thought some of the session we actually have some of the speakers joining in during the networking session. And as you can imagine, if the talk is engaging enough, then there will be a lot more questions outside of the actual webinar itself. So we find that having a good topic, having a good speakers really helps with the networking aspect, because it really gets to as the saying, as the saying goes, it gets the people talking, it gets the people going. And from there, nothing is a matter of making sure that people are in a good environment where we, as host of the event, we want to make sure that either because we have some we have some students coming in from one end of the spectrum, he’s an 18 year old, in Korea and Busan. On the other end of the spectrum, we have some higher level executives, situated in Australia, and I think as a host, you have to pay special attention to your attendees, making sure that you can be that breached, where you can make the connection or help get them talking together by asking the right questions. I think those are the key elements. Why Why? Why Rod felt that the networking session was quite successful.
Gordon Dudley 17:32
I think also that this is particularly something that Eric himself is particularly good at, which is getting people to really talk openly and freely creating a comfortable environment. And so I think, as much as the the topic is is important to get people thinking about the possible questions, I think you also have to provide the right environment to do so. And I think that was also definitely one of the the key points from from this networking session, we were able to provide, for example, an English room and a Korean room so that people could choose to use the language which they are more comfortable in speaking. And I think that also definitely, definitely helped to get that participant engagement as well.
Alex Jenson 18:26
Yeah, well, again, congratulations. On the event as a whole your team, it’s six staff members now RDI Worldwide with your recent hire, is that correct?
Gordon Dudley 18:35
Going up all the time seven now.
Alex Jenson 18:38
Seven. Okay, I saw a nice image of you on the literature for the event. And I saw six of you. So I made the presumption, there we go shouldn’t judge a photo.
Gordon Dudley 18:48
And you know, what, it’s very timely that we were having this chat, Alex because now around one week after the event, we will very soon be actually releasing the video contents that we that we were able to record during the event. And so we definitely welcome anybody who wants to know more about the the People Matters event and some of the topics that we that we discussed at that time to check out some of the those posts that we’re going to be putting out in the coming days across our social media, if they want to know more about that.
Alex Jenson 19:31
Look out for RDI Worldwide as well as Gordon Dudley and Eric Wan. I’d love to hear from both of you, your highlights of the event if we could condense some of that so that we can get a bit more out of this discussion before we perhaps check out some of the social media releases that you’re going to offer us as you just mentioned, obviously Rod Rothwell of the KBLA, he featured on Day one in the Korean market opportunity session. He’d probably be upset if I didn’t raise that one as a possible highlight. For you guys, what were the key messages or key comments from guests that stand out as you look back now?
Eric Wan 20:09
Sure, certainly. So, for me, there are two session that particularly stood out. One is both session was moderated by me. So maybe I’m a little bit biased, if I’m here. So the first session we will be the first session will be the metaverse session where we have a guest from a real estate company that has fully migrated the whole workforce in on to the metaverse, so that for me, it’s a really eye opening experience for me, because it really showed us the possibility of what technology can brings when it comes to just changing the whole nature of work, and changing how people can be interacting with each other when it comes to the workplace. And that gives me a lot of food for thought because of the amount of interaction that you can have with people on the metaphors. And also at the same time, the amount of I think Gordon mentioned a little bit about what I do what I do, a lot of the time is about intervention to help people have better relationships at work, and also to be more effective at work. And I just, personally, I just see these days, so much more potential when it comes to the interventions, when it comes to implementing beneficial infrastructure for people to be more effective to be happier at work. So yeah, I did, let’s just pick one, then I wouldn’t pick two, that would be my highlight of this session.
Alex Jenson 21:39
Well, we get a second in the form of Gordon’s answer, then.
Gordon Dudley 21:43
And so from my perspective, I think I would pick actually, the very last session of the People Matters, which was critical skills for growth in a volatile marketplace. And in that session, we were able to, to hear the personal insights of of several experienced panelists around some of the key skills which they think have helped them to be successful in their careers. And so for me, hearing that adaptability as one of the guests most important skills through the different types of work that he’d been involved in has had served him well. Another panelist mentioned that actually public speaking was the skill, which he wished he had developed sooner, in the sense of one on one conversations with management through to presentations through to actual public speaking. He believes that that is something that is that has helped him considerably. And then finally from another panelist, just staying curious that, that thirst for knowledge and always being being curious, whilst whilst at work, and in the professional capacity has been a very important part of their career. And I think, for me,those are very good skills to apply to all walks of life, whatever career or job you have, and was very useful way to round off the people matters event.
Alex Jenson 23:30
We are still just about in that period where people will be formulating strategies for the coming months. And maybe we can finish with a hopeful note for 2022. The last couple of years have been challenging for people in all sorts of ways. Maybe it has been an opportunity for learning for rethinking for even rebooting amongst the difficulties. How do you view 2022 at this moment in time, in light of the discussions that you had last week at the event, and also in light of your own strategies for this year.
Gordon Dudley 24:01
So I think from my perspective, you know, that the title of our event was People Matters. And I think that is so perfectly aligned with the developments of the last couple of years within the professional world, the world of work that, you know, we have seen some some real shifts in the relationship between employees and employers. And that’s where increasingly, People Matters, HR related activities have really come to the fore and been more important than ever before. They’ve always been important, but they were just not given the the the amount of resources or interest that they previously deserved. And so I think that’s where we, as a company at RDI feel that we’re very well positioned to be at the forefront of that, you know, in this year, as these these issues are being looked at more thoroughly than ever before. And and so that’s why we very much looking forward to working with with more companies and more people helping more people to find that alignment between their work in their life and, you know, or even just to be better leaders. You know, I think, you know, that, for me is one of the the most important things that we’re going to be doing throughout this year and beyond.
Eric Wan 25:42
Yeah, absolutely. I think, as you mentioned, Alex, we are just coming off to very difficult years in or anywhere in the world. But I do you think that as we step into 2022, it is opportunities for us to reset to rethink what are some of our priorities when it comes to work itself, or when it comes to leadership when it comes to employee engagement, and talent management as well. So I do believe that 2022 will be a good year for us to restart to refocus, and to think about what we can do better when it comes to employee engagement when it comes to talent management. And also, as Gordon mentioned, as leaders ourselves.
Alex Jenson 26:28
Well, I know that both of you are proponents of social media, and Gordon. I seen a lot of your own posts on LinkedIn, for example, and I would direct people there, as well as the RDI Worldwide, just to keep an eye on some of the nuggets that are gonna be coming out of that event in the coming days as you promised. Both of you. Thank you so much for taking the time. It’s been a pleasure, e-meeting you or virtually meeting you. I’m looking forward to a hybrid event with you both very soon.
Gordon Dudley 26:57
Thanks so much, Alex. It’s been a it’s been a pleasure chatting with you and also very much looking forward to two more hybrid events very soon.
Eric Wan 27:06
Thank you, Alex.
Alex Jenson 27:07
And as I mentioned at the outset, a great place to think about if you are looking at a hybrid event is the Four Seasons Hotel. So I genuinely think that it’s been a wonderful venue that I’ve enjoyed for various family and professional reasons over the years anyway, and they’ve been so supportive for this podcast that it gives me great pleasure to say that they have made today’s episode possible. In the meantime, I want to wish everybody a wonderful weekend and we’ll see you again Monday.