By Sharon Aschaiek
Last week, thousands of HR professionals gathered to discuss the broad range of issues facing this rapidly-growing profession.
The 62nd annual Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario (HRPAO) conference drew a record-setting 2,000 attendees to Toronto's Sheraton Centre from Feb. 18 to 20.
"It was a resounding success with more participants than ever before. That doesn't account for people sharing badges purchased by their company," said Andre Latour, president of HRPAO.
The three-day event featured motivational keynote speakers, more than 60 information sessions, new HR products and services, and plenty of opportunities for peer networking.
"The goal is to get members to hear from renowned speakers about what's happening in the workplace in general terms, including management, practices, legislation, changes to legislation, demographics and more," Latour said.
"It also provided the opportunity for personal development. A lot of them are working toward their (certified human resources professional) designation, while others attended to learn of new practices so their personal growth is gratified."
The event was also a prime opportunity for HR professionals to network with their peers and keep up on industry trends.
"It allowed people to share their experiences and learn from each other about the different issues they are facing and how they addressed them."
This year marked the first time pre-conference sessions were held, along with numerous other sessions, that covered topics such as: recent developments in employment law, preparing employees for retirement, avoiding burnout, mentoring and flextime benefits.
Latour said one of the hot topics this year that has been building for the past few years is the growing recruitment challenges as retirement rates continue to rise.
"HR professionals can't find the people they're looking for," Latour said. "HRPAO is looking to entertain conversations with the government on relaxing some of the rules on the entry of skilled workers in Canada."
And along with the challenge of replacing retiring personnel is that of retraining existing staff to meet the new needs of their companies.
"Employers have to pick up speed to retrain their own workforce to take on positions being vacated," Latour said. "We hear so often that when there are cutbacks, or in economnic downturns, training and development is the first thing that goes out the window. Employers may have to revisit their prior decisions and ensure that, with the help of their HR team, they continue training their existing staff."
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