DisruptHR Calgary: Interview with Shane Wallace

Shane Wallace is the founder & CEO of CultureSmith Inc., an innovative and disruptive Employee Engagement firm based in Calgary, Alberta. A 17 year veteran of the Professional Recruitment industry, Shane launched his first firm in 2005 after spending 6 years as a Director of a multi-national Fortune 100 Recruitment Firm.

shane-img-NEWAs the leader of a rapidly growing enterprise, tackling employee engagement was a daily challenge. In setting his mind to solving this issue for himself, Shane soon realized that he had created a highly impactful model that was delivering amazing results. After “lending” the methodology to a number of his key recruitment clients, the demand for this service built almost overnight and CultureSmith Inc. was born.

We caught up with Shane after DisruptHR Calgary to ask him about himself and his experiences. Here is what he had to say:

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

Shane: My name is Shane Wallace and I am the CEO of CultureSmith Inc, a Corporate Culture Consulting and Employee Engagement firm in Calgary. I began my HR career by accident 17 years ago when I registered as a candidate with a recruiting firm and they offered me a job with them. I stayed with this firm for 6 years, launched my own recruiting agency in 2005 and evolved that into CultureSmith roughly 18 months ago.

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

Shane: Again, we are a Corporate Culture & Employee Engagement firm. Our model is broken into 4 key Components; Alignment (helping companies deconstruct and then reconstruct their cultures thereby aligning Purpose, Vision, Strategy & Objectives) Assessment (helping to assess employees, customers, vendors and pretty much anyone else you come in contact with relative to your culture), Attraction (attracting the right people and the appropriate amount of buy-in by all stakeholders via behavioral based communications training), and finally Activation (“turning on” your team via emotional analysis and compulsive attitude manipulations). In short we drive engagement in every sense of the word, and do so in a manner which is measurable, repeatable and predictable.

HR Gazette: What motivated you to become a speaker at Disrupt HR Calgary?

Shane: Our model is in and of itself disruptive. We challenge convention at every turn and it is not uncommon for us to make our clients extremely uncomfortable. I saw Disrupt as an excellent platform to get our ideas out into the world given that those who would attend would at the very least share our belief that stuff has to change, we are on the precipice of numerous human capital crises and we just happen to be willing to look like fools for shouting about them if it helps get even one person to pay attention.

HR Gazette: What did you speak about at Disrupt HR Calgary?

Shane: My topic was “Stop Leaving it at The Door”, and I am essentially arguing that you should be encouraging your employees to bring their emotional baggage from their personal lives into the workplace instead of forcing them to leave it at home.

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

Shane: If you have ever played with a Slinky, used a Post-it note, seen a fireworks display or microwaved your meal then you know my idea has merit because ALL of these things were invented by mistake. The same thing happens in your culture. If you allow someone to come in and work on their problems, with the proper guidance they will fix problems in your business that you didn’t know existed at the same time given how deep into their subconscious they are operating.

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

Shane: The 5 minutes was not the challenge, that was actually quite focusing. It was the fact that the slides moved automatically every 15 seconds, keeping my pace on point took a lot of practice.

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

Shane: Again, the people that will seek this event out are already open to disruptive ideas so half the battle has been fought. When I try and pitch this to companies, I get a lot of resistance and push back, largely because I’m talking about mood and emotion which in and of themselves are emotionally charged topics.

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

Shane: I tend to follow very few in the “talent” space itself because I find a lot of the ideas are regurgitated. This is why I absolutely love the idea of DisruptHR and will continue to be an ambassador for it. I chose to look outside the Talent arena and look for ideas that can be brought into it so with that in mind two guys I’m pretty geek’d out about right now are David Rendall (Freak Factor) and Jeremy Gutsche (Trend Hunter).

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?

Shane: To me it’s ultra-simple. Culture = Values. That’s it. Pool tables and masseuses and flex days and cyber-commuting; those are all perks that get miscast as culture. If your “why” is aligned with your company’s “why” then you have culture. Behaviors are what we do, values are why we do them so culture is truly nothing more than values. How you build those values, however, is key and I’ve seen almost every company I’ve come in contact with in the past 10 years get that part wrong.

HR Gazette: What do you think will be the major developments in the HR & Talent 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?

Shane: I don’t know if it will happen in the next 12 months but the biggest trend I see is the barriers to entrepreneurship, especially in Alberta, have been almost obliterated in the past decade. Right now, you could come up with an idea, buy a 3D printer and make a prototype, throw it on Kickstarter and get it funded, build a website for under $100 bucks, promote it via social media and legitimately have a company of your own in no time at all, with virtually ZERO financial risk. The access to everything an entrepreneur needs has never been better and it is improving almost exponentially every year. The last barrier to the flood of entrepreneurs that will hit in the next decade is that too many people lacked the motivation to take the chance given how many high paying jobs there were that were keeping them complacent. Well 100,000 of those have gone away in the past year here in Alberta and with them went the excuses to not start a business. Large companies who have ignored culture, or at the very least misunderstood culture, have jettisoned people to cut costs with the thought that they will just hire people back when things improve. Not only will these people not be on the sidelines waiting to come back, the companies they will start will in many cases topple the giants that fired them in the first place. Historically if you made the Fortune 500 you stayed on that list for 75 years, that number is now 15 years and it is expected to get halved in the next decade. Disruption is a given; you just need to ask yourself if you want to be the disruptor or the disrupted.


Shane now spends his time tackling the engagement issue on behalf of others. Teaching the four core concepts of Alignment, Assessment, Attraction and Activation, he helps companies leverage all about them that is unique, creating solutions that allow them to find prosperity in even the most challenging market conditions.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.
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