Disrupt HR Edmonton: Interview with Alison McMahon

Alison McMahon is a Certified Human Resource Professional, educator, consultant and entrepreneur. She is the CEO of TwoFold, an HR Consultancy, and the Founder of Cannabis at Work. A senior practitioner with over 10 years of experience, Alison brings expertise in recruitment, orientation, performance management, training and development, workplace policy, employee relations, compensation, leadership and organization design.

alison-atStartupAlison served on the board for the Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA) for 3 years. She is the Past President of the HRIA Edmonton Chapter. In addition, Alison is a Term Instructor at the MacEwan University School of Business. She teaches in the Human Resources Management.

With less than 48 hours until DisruptHR Edmonton, we explore Alison’s views on “disruption” and her upcoming talk at the event.

HR Gazette: Please tell us a little about yourself – your career path and expertise.

Alison: My professional career has been in HR; over 10 years experience as a generalist. I have an HR Consulting firm (TwoFold HR Services) and Cannabis at Work is an extension of that business. I started researching cannabis alongside my mom’s cancer diagnosis. Anyone who has a sick family member knows you will do anything to help him or her and using cannabis was not out of the question if there was a chance it would help. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became with the emerging science and industry.

HR Gazette: What’s your company and how does it help professionals in the HR & Talent arena?

Alison: Cannabis at Work provides education to employees and employers on cannabis in the workplace. I am uniquely positioned to help companies manage cannabis accommodation in the workplace by combining my expertise in HR and medical marijuana.

HR Gazette: What motivated you to become a speaker at DisruptHR Edmonton?

Alison: I have a background as an entrepreneur and have had a technology startup in the past. As a result, I often look at HR through a business lens and think ‘what can we change?’, ‘how can we do better?’. DisruptHR provides a platform for this discussion and I’m excited to be part of it.

HR Gazette: What will you be speaking about at DisruptHR Edmonton?

Alison: Weed + Work. Medical cannabis patient numbers are on the rise and full legalization is coming in 2017. Does your workplace know what to do?

HR Gazette: Why is your topic important to HR and Talent pros?

Alison: As part of my education seminars on this topic, I survey the HR professionals and ask the question “Do you have an internal process for managing medical cannabis patients?’ So far the answer is a resounding ‘No.’ Cannabis is here to stay and HR pros need to have tools to manage employees who have been prescribed this medicine.

HR Gazette: You only have 5 minutes to speak to the audience. What unique challenges, and indeed opportunities, does such a condensed speaking slot offer?

Alison: I think it’s great. Challenging, yes, but forces speakers to have laser focus on their main thesis and hopefully it leaves people wanting more.

HR Gazette: How does DisruptHR provide you with a platform to talk about talent in new ways?

Alison: As a HR pro myself, I have seen how HR folks can, at times, hold on really tight to their ‘best practices’ and not try new things. DisruptHR creates a community of people who want to explore new ideas – by the speakers they invite and by the attendees drawn to the event.

HR Gazette: The HR Gazette is a big believer in the shift from traditional thoughts of HR to embracing modern HR as part of ‘people and culture’. What does ‘people and culture’ mean to you?

Alison: I think that HR has to understand what it means to operationalize people and culture to ensure the business is best positioned to meet its strategic objectives. In my opinion, HR people need to get out of the HR department and find ways to truly understand the business – how the business makes a profit, customer development, product/service distribution channels, etc. Without an understanding of the guts of the business, you can’t truly operationalize people and culture to support it.

HR Gazette: Please share 2 or 3 ‘influencers’ in the people and culture space who you follow and tell us why.

Alison: When it comes to cannabis in the workplace, (with the risk of sounding egotistical) there isn’t anyone else leading the charge on this topic other than myself that I am aware of.

I am uninspired by many of the HR influencers today. I think that HR pros need to develop a new, more entrepreneurial outlook. For that reason, I would suggest reading things like the Lean Startup or following someone like Dan Martell and seeing what lessons you can apply to HR.
What do you think will be the major developments in the people and culture space to watch out for in the next 12 months and why? For example, how does the growing numbers of Millennials in the workplace shape traditional talent management approaches?

Watch out for:
The cannabis industry. It’s been called the ‘green rush.’ It’s coming and there is going to be an entire new business sector as a result. How will you hire and manage talent in this industry?
The shared economy. This is changing how companies hire and compensate a contingent workforce.
The contingent workforce – shared economy aside, there is a trend towards a freelance economy where people will join companies on a more short-term, contractual basis.


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