I was delighted to host 35 of our key global executives in San Francisco recently, to do some dreaming about the future – for ourselves at Talent and for the industry in general. With many companies posting great results, there may be a tendency to think the future looks rosy for the recruitment sector. In truth this may be dangerous complacency, as I feel the absence of larger scale entrants to the market means the bigger players are getting an easier run than they used to. In other words, the big get bigger due to a lack of heat from meaningful new competitors. But look out! With over 200 HR Tech start-ups within the Bay Area alone and an estimated 1500 globally, it’s a time to be aware and be innovative because as with Edison, one of the light bulbs will eventually work.

Our ‘Break from the Pack’ session in San Francisco reaffirmed our commitment to innovation and thinking differently to how we approach things at Talent. Over the course of three days we talked about our purpose and our vision, and how we want our business to look by 2021. We kicked off our first morning with plenty of coffee and a group promise to end the week having achieved three things. We would be deeply connected to one another, inspired about the future and committed to taking specific actions. As we signed up for the task, the value of being together was instantly clear.

We reviewed one of our mantras ‘taking the customer to an impossible place’ and were delighted to have Eric Berridge, co-founder and CEO of Bluewolf – a pioneering Salesforce Consultancy and author of ‘Customer Obsession’ talk to us about the underdog mentality and winning through unconventional methods. He also explained that innovation is about solving today’s problems – not tomorrow’s. It certainly worked for Eric and Bluewolf, who recently had a very successful exit to IBM.

We collectively talked about the exciting vision for our technology platform Talent Engage, about the future of our ever-popular start-up program Talent Unleashed, and the global roll-out of our groundbreaking foundation Talent Rise which is helping so many young kids with barriers to employment find tech and digital roles. We heard about our plans to enter the global workforce solutions market and how innovation would support this. We listened to our young yet amazing global marketing team about their initiatives, and we examined people and culture and building first rate working environments.

We took a good look at brand – its importance in today’s new economy and its role in how businesses are valued. Historically companies were valued against hard or tangible assets i.e. plant, equipment, inventory. But we have now seen a dramatic shift towards a focus on intangible assets and as a result brand plays a bigger part than ever. At Talent, we are not only committed to building a great business but also a great brand that connects emotionally with its audience. With this in mind we welcomed Julie Cottineau, former Head of Brand for Virgin North America and a high profile brand consultant from New York with her business Brand Twist. We did a deep dive on our own brand – it’s promise, it’s values, it’s tone – and we had an exciting preview of a brand refresh that we will see very soon! We had fun following Julie’s method of twisting brands – mixing your brand with other well-known brands and imagining what that might look like.

All good workshops need a top rate facilitator and in Dave Kashen we had one. As a bonus he delivered a great session around conscious listening and above and below the line behaviours. This was a thought-provoking session for a room full of both developing and experienced leaders. We also had the great pleasure of listening to Jean Oelwang, President of Virgin Unite and her colleague Anna Gowdridge talk about the B Team, Richard Branson and the Elders, the changing face of capitalism and the need to be 100% Human at Work – an initiative Talent is proud to support which is based around ensuring that we see people for what they are and not faceless resources.

And then some fun with a collection of innovation groups brainstorming a whole range of ideas about what various elements of our business might look like in three years’ time. We had some crazy and amazing ideas some of which will certainly be developed – watch this space! It was great to see how quickly we could innovate and solve problems by bringing people from different backgrounds and regions together. Needless to say it was much more productive than an email chain!

A truly wonderful and inspiring few days. In the pursuit of business growth in our ever-globalised world, our gathering reminded us that it’s more important than ever to take some time to meaningfully connect with one another. Face-to-face moments are incredibly powerful in building trust, loyalty and longevity in a business. And whilst taking your entire global executive team out of action for a week might seem like a hellish amount of internal disruption, it’s nothing compared to the external disruption it might ultimately accomplish.

Unleash your potential!