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The power of community and conferences

WHO would have thought a couple of days in the tropical paradise of Fiji – where things seem to run at a slower, more relaxed pace – could be so empowering and enlightening?

Enticing industry leaders to this year’s RCSA Conference beside palm-fringed beaches lapped by tropical waters amid balmy weather conditions was never going to be a difficult task, but it would always take a special collection of inspirational speakers to lure them from the pool, and the event on September 6-8 definitely delivered.

From moving beyond our default thinking after we’ve unpacked our Fiji souvenirs to ensuring we don’t get bogged down in the “Bacon Wars” around the office, the conference had more than a few knowledge nuggets for everyone to take away.

More than 230 attendees from Australia and New Zealand enjoyed the Fijian hospitality last week, and maybe a little too much kava, as the peak industry body set out to challenge our thinking, shake up our leadership style and ensure we, as a community, are at the forefront of leading in the world of work.

But this conference wasn’t all about us and our industry. Thanks to the event organisers, this year’s conference made us take a step back and examine what the concept of ‘community’ really means and how we can play a stronger role in our own communities.

As the RCSA president Robert van Stokrom said in his opening address, when you step back and look at what the recruitment industry does it boils down to the fact that we, as professionals, make it happen so we get the joy of calling people to tell them they have a job. A job that will assist and filter back to their families and, in turn, their communities.

"our community contributes to the economic growth of Australia and New Zealand by finding work for around 500,000 people every year."

Robert helped us remember that our community contributes to the economic growth of Australia and New Zealand by finding work for around 500,000 people every year. It’s not something to be taken for granted.

Just like Young New Zealander of the Year Sam Johnson and NSW’s Australian of the Year Deng Adut reminded attendees during their keynote talks, it’s communities of diverse people, young and old, that make the difference when disaster strikes or when a young and angry refugee rallies against all odds and turns his life around to help others find their new community.

Pictured: Sam Johnson

Or as the leader of 58th annual expedition to Antarctica, Rachael Robertson, hilariously reminded us all, the only way to be a part of a working and thriving community is to encourage harmony through respect and not engage in triangle conversations.

With the help of Marina Pullin, this year’s conference also touched on the exponential growth of a new community. Gigsters, freelancers and flexible workers, whatever you want to call them, they are here to stay and if we don’t revaluate how we work with this new community, who opt to enjoy flexible working arrangements, we will miss out. Likewise, Seek’s Antony Ugoni shocked and enthralled us with how artificial intelligence can make us more effective at sourcing new talent.

Pictured: Marina Pullin

The sporting world is well-known for its tight-knit communities and this was evident in the talk with Australian Rugby coach Tim Walsh who revealed his winning strategy of harnessing the family network to assist in leading Australia’s first women’s rugby sevens team to win gold in Rio.

And talking of sport, who could forget when RCSA board member Andrew Sullivan showed his sense of community, by dressing in his beloved AFL jersey and beanie. Or maybe, along with Charles Cameron’s attempt at Ellen-style dancing, that is something we wish we could forget?

While looking at our own communities, conference attendees also got to appreciate the much-loved laidback tempo Fiji is renowned for, where life is about the family community and network.

As a nice break from sessions, attendees took part in 10 traditional Fijian games and school activities such as henna tattoo, coconut tenpin bowling, arts and crafts and a marble spoon race, to name a few.

Students from Saberto District School, which educates children from six neighbouring villages, were proud to show conference attendees their schoolyard games and pastimes.

It was also a great privilege for RCSA attendees to donate items such as school supplies, Aussie souvenirs, sporting equipment, jerseys and Prime Super’s donation of $2,000, which will go a long way towards the school’s much-needed fundraising activities.

As the conference drew to a close and everyone donned their Gumtree hats while walking to the pool, there were many already looking forward to next year’s conference in Noosa.

And until next year, when we look at the Art of Work – Recruitment and Staffing for a Changing World, do as the bearded academic rogue Dr Jason Fox suggests: don’t let growth and maturity in your business get in the way of creativity. Make meaningful decisions.

Keep an eye out for the upcoming RCSA Journal will have a series of features with guest speakers.

Article written by Sarah Morgan

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