#nzlead Unconference (Auckland) – Wrap Up

This was my second #nzlead unconference having attended the inaugural event last October which was held at a scout camp in Blockhouse Bay (as all great conferences are). Here are my thoughts on that event from a year ago: A Recruiter in Blockhouse Bay.

For those of you unfamiliar with what an ‘unconference’ is: basically it’s less structured and the day runs its own course in terms of the topics discussed and what you do. In total contrast to a traditional conference where the day’s schedule and speakers are arranged well in advance. You contribute a lot at unconferences – you talk, you listen, you engage and you learn.

The day is broken down into 4 streams where the attendees break into 3 groups and discuss/dissect different topics from the initial brainstorming session we did early in the day. You are free to float between streams as you wish – like I said, there is no fixed structure. I chose the discussions around culture, the generational differences in organisations, recruitment/onboarding and storytelling in organisations.

This year was different to last. It was slicker and more of a ‘well-oiled machine’ given that the Wellington event was the day before. We were in the picturesque setting of the Ponsonby Sailing Club on Westhaven Marina in Central Auckland – which was great. It had the right blend of relaxed with enough space to accommodate everyone.

I was one of only three people (excluding Amanda Sterling who puts it all together with the help of a talented team of volunteers) who came to last year’s event so I felt like an old-hand at this type of thing. The great bit about that was there were plenty of new people to meet from all walks of HR, business and recruitment.

Below are my key take outs from the event and some pics from the day:


  • ‘Culture’ is something we talk about all the time in recruitment. Every day to virtually everyone. Yet defining it is impossible. It is the underlying heartbeat of an organisation and something that is really difficult to manufacture. It evolves itself from the people in the organisation over time.
  • You can influence culture by bringing certain types of people into your organisation. It is much more difficult to change the behaviour of people who are already established in an organisation however.
  • Many organisations would love to change their culture if they could. So many times I get briefed by a client to hire someone who is different to the current type of people who work in an organisation for example.

Generational Differences:

  • Yes of course they exist but fundamentally we are all people and want to go to work to do a good job – whether you are the CEO or an entry level person.
  • Certain things can bridge the gap between everyone in an organisation: Big sporting events for instance where everyone will be interested (in the All Blacks beating France J)
  • There is no longer a ‘job for life’ – when hiring Gen Y’s expect to get three years out of them.
  • Technology can be a great enabler and divider – particularly when you compare people in their mid-20’s who have all grown up using smart phones and social media.


  • As a recruiter for many years I took the lead in this section but really wanted to stand back and listen to what other people thought of the recruitment/onboarding processes that exist.
  • What is clear is that traditional recruitment practices and the way agencies operate in general is not efficient and leads to a lot of frustration – particularly from candidates. This over time gives the industry a bad name. A lot of processes still fundamentally involve attracting a large pool of candidates and screening down to shortlist from there. The communication with the large number who don’t make the cut at best is average/poor. This is common for both internal and external recruitment. Either communicate better or don’t ‘tempt’ so many people in the first place.
  • A lot of managers don’t know how to recruit efficiently and how to interview effectively.
  • Onboarding is a really critical component of effectively embedding someone into and organisation quickly and efficiently. It is done very well in some companies and appallingly in others. As an external recruiter this part is almost entirely out of your hands.
  • Technology can help substantially in onboarding people. They want to feel loved and are full of excitement for their new role. Don’t neglect them in their notice period or first few weeks.


  • I like a good yarn and I work with a number of people at Farrow Jamieson who tell great stories. Some of these have developed into legendary stories over the years. This was my biggest takeout from this session – how storytelling can weave the culture of an organisation over time.
  • People love stories: they are much more powerful and pull on the emotional heart-strings of people. In a people-orientated profession we should share and engage with people more through stories.
  • The medium in which you communicate these stories to your staff/customers etc. has to be considered carefully. Who is your audience and how are they going to respond? Again technology is a great enabler here – the use of videos, storyboards etc.

To sum up: A great day meeting some talented and engaging people from across the HR community. A big shout out to Amanda Sterling and her crew for making it happen and also Kylie Telford who did a lot of hard work in preparation and was sick for the event. The food was amazing. Not a Danish pastry in sight!!

I’ll be back next year and I can really highly recommend this type of event for those in HR looking to keep their finger on the pulse in terms of where the industry is heading and what is important for organisations in this respect.