Interview with Chris Bailey: HR Consulting and 3 Ingredients for Creating a Top Business Event

HRchat host Bill Banham recently got a chance to catch up with Chris Bailey, Director of People and Organization at PwC, President of the Cayman Islands Society for Human Resource Professionals, organizer of the first DisruptHR Cayman event, and a whole lot more.

Ahead of the podcast release, read the edited transcription:

Bill Banham:  Chris, It’s great that you could join us. At the beginning of these shows, we like to learn a bit about who you are. Tell us about your recent career up to joining PwC.

Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey: Up to joining PwC. I’ve pretty much spent the last 15 years in and around acquisitions, HR consulting, and recruitment in 3, well yeah, 3 nearly 4 different countries. I started out in the UK, worked in London, managed to join a couple of very successful talent acquisition consultancies. We floated one in 2007, and at that point I decided that looking at something away from the UK was going to be more fun and less rain and wind, and so I found a job in Bermuda.

That’s really where I think my knowledge of HR consulting started to blossom. I was thrown into the deep-end having to learn a market I knew very little about, which was the reinsurance market in Bermuda, and help devise HR strategies for a lot of reinsurance startup companies, and provide resources for those companies to manage that through.

Having had four wonderful years in Bermuda, for some reason we decided that going back to London was a really good idea. We arrived back in London, and actually enjoyed the great company there. It was all good, but we realized that being an expat and working in the offshore territories was something that was going to stay with us for some time to come. I think it was actually my wife’s 39th birthday, and she turned round to me in pub in Stratford-Upon-Avon and just sort of said, “Why aren’t we in the Cayman Islands?” I realized at that point that we were heading for another move overseas.

Fortunately enough we were offered a position out here in Grand Cayman with another consultancy that did a bit of everything initially. That was CML. CML is a great recruitment company. I was brought in to run that business, and did so for the last five years. It gave me a great insight into the offshore market and financial services, and obviously the Cayman Islands. Now when I tell people I live and work in the Cayman islands I lose a lot of friends very quickly. It’s a very, very nice place to be.

As part of that journey over the last five years, one of the things I believe in intrinsically is that you get out what you put in. When you join a small island, or small company, or any company for that matter, you’re going to get out of it what you put into it, so I threw myself into getting to know the HR community in the region, what it had to offer, and could I lend my expertise to helping growing, support it, in whatever way, shape, or form that may take.

That led me to joining the HR society in the Cayman islands. I think 12 months after joining it, I put myself forward to be nominated for the board, was successfully appointed to the board of the society. The first ask they had of me was to put on a large, Caribbean-specific HR conference. Fortunately, that led me to getting to know the likes of your good self and several other speakers in the US that I brought down for the conference, simply because I wanted HR professionals in the Cayman Islands to have access to international speakers, thought leaders, in the area of HR.

Until the last few years, I think Cayman had really been overlooked because we weren’t putting anything on that was attracting them down here. Instead, we were all leaving the island, going to the SHRM conference or other events in and around the US, and trying to bring that knowledge back here. What I wanted to do was bring that knowledge to Cayman.

This year is we’ve seen (attendee) numbers grow from 150 people attending to maybe 300, with the marketplace and exhibitors. It’s at the Ritz Carlton, so it has a certain level of prestige, and we’ve had people from all over the world now sign up as people who wanted to come to this conference. And I wonder why! Come and stay at the Ritz Carlton in Cayman Islands and see a HR conference. It sort of has a ring to it.

That conference led me to being introduced to a lady called Jennifer McClure, who is a big deal in the HR speaker world. She came down and spoke here. Jen (later) called me about something that she was spearheading, which was the DisruptHR events. She just said, “Chris, I really, really think that Cayman is ready for a DisruptHR event. Would you be interested in hosting it?” I think I gave it all of about three seconds of thought and just said, “Yeah, absolutely.”

Our first event was in May this year. We had six or seven international speakers, perhaps with six or seven local speakers here. What was beautiful about it was, everybody gave it their all, and you couldn’t really tell the professional international speakers apart from local speakers. They all had great stories, they all had good messages, it was a really fun evening, plenty of wine and song, and it’s hotly contested for speaker at the 2017 event. Which will be announced shortly, maybe on one of your next shows..


Bill Banham: We’re going to circle back on DisruptHR Cayman in a bit, but before that, let’s talk a bit more about your role as director of people and organisation at PwC. You’ve been there now for a little while. Now that you’ve had a bit of time to settle in, what does your average week look like? Tell us about your role.

Chris Bailey: It’s seven months into what is a fascinating service line for PwC. Globally PwC have this service line called People And Organization. Historically it was probably called Human Capital Consulting, but basically it’s part of their advisory service line, where we help PWC clients really get the best out of their people. We all know, because we’re in HR, that the human capital element of any business is probably the most important, so how do you maximize it, how do we make sure we’re utilizing it correctly, what do good metrics or data look like, and how can you use that within your organization? Many companies really want an extra pair of eyes to help them with their HR strategy. They may not know why they’ve got high-turnover, so sometimes it’s just easy and credible to just ask somebody who knows what they’re doing to help them identify risks, pitfalls, strengths, positivities, anything that can help make the most of it.

Globally we have this service line, but it’s never been available in the Cayman Islands. My goal is to identify the qualifications that we had in the region. We’ve got some brilliant HR experts in Bermuda, Barbados, and Bahamas, Jamaica, and we’re bringing them together to provide a Caribbean offering of People And Organizations. For example, we’ve done some amazing work with some of the government organisations in the region, and we’re allowing other organizations, similarly, to leverage the knowledge base in that. That’s the beauty of the PWC global offering, is that we’ve worked with so many of the world’s leading organizations that there’s a knowledge base here that we want to bring to market.

I think it doesn’t matter where you are in the world these days, if you’re a company that is growing, if you’re a company that really does believe in core values and its people, then you really understand what’s driving your people, what’s engaging them, and what policies which you can put in place to make sure that you get the best out of your human capital workforce. Being able to provide thought leadership in the region, coming from the region, offering best practice advice that’s of a global standard, is something that hasn’t been done before, and I’m really excited to kind of be leading the chart in our little slice of the world. That’s going to make a huge impact on companies here.

Bill Banham: Tell me, what are the top online tools that a director of people and organisation uses during their average working week?

Chris Bailey: There are so many different tools out there that it is a minefield of what’s right to use, what’s wrong to use. Honestly, the first thing I say to people that are thinking of doing something is, only use a tool that’s going to be effective for what the outcome’s going to be.

Some of the most successful stuff I’ve seen being done and implemented recently is using really good benchmarking data. Being able to say to yourself, “How are we benchmarking ourselves against our competition, similar size organizations,” and so on and so forth. What I mean by that is actually looking at what metrics you’re going to benchmark against, and then using the relevant tool that gives you very good, specific, benchmarking data. PWC has one, it’s called Saratoga. There are thousands of companies in various sectors providing data, and have been proving data for nearly 20 years, into the Saratoga benchmarking tool. Therefore .. we can benchmark like for like businesses so that you can get a really good idea as to where you currently stand. What’s working for one company might work better for you in your company.

I find that a very, very powerful tool, but I think so many people get carried away with technology these days that they forget to take a step back and look at the simple data.

It’s interesting, I’m actually more old school … Yes, there are phenomenal IT tools to use, but only when the company’s ready to actually do it. If you don’t have your data right to use a tool, the tool is meaningless. I’m a big believer in the power of talking to your employees, talking to the relevant (people), getting quantified responses to really good metric creation, and utilizing that in order to assess what your HR needs might be. You can do that on a small, medium, and obviously large scale. I’m not going to plug any one particular tool right now, simply because I think that so many companies need to take a step back and identify the why, rather than the which one.

Bill Banham: In addition to your position at PwC, you’re also the President of the Society for Human Resource Professionals, and you are the chair of the Annual Conference. Tell us about the Society and what you do there.

Chris Bailey: We have a really cool group of about 300 members of the HR society, which has been steadily growing over the last 10 years. They all have a thirst for knowledge, and trying to satisfy that thirst is difficult when you’re in the Islands. Because we have, something like the fifth largest financial center in the world is based in the Cayman Islands. Part of my remit is to make sure that we offer some of the best in class CPD training. We bring great people down for conference, we communicate effectively with our members, the website is completely overhauled and useful for people who want to use it.

I think the role of the President is really to make sure that we are certainly on a par with the other global HR societies around the world, and we talk as such. I think we actually send one of the largest contingents to the SHRM Conference per capita, or per head, than any other country. I think we have some 20-odd people from Cayman go up there to the SHRM event, so it’s a pretty big portion of our HR budget.

Bill Banham: Let’s take a moment now to reflect on the 2016 conference and Disrupt HR Cayman. Can you try to give me the top three components of what goes into creating an awesome event?  If you could list just three things that you need to make it work, what would they be?

Chris Bailey: I always look at an event like a wedding. If you think about what people talk about when they come away from a wedding, it is three things. I’m glad you asked what they are. Those three things is, the venue, the food, and the speeches. If you can get those three things right, you will have a successful event. Don’t worry about all the fluff in between. Honestly I used to spend so much time worrying about the bags, and the giveaways, and the sponsors, and the vendors. They’ll be there if people like this event.

First of all, your location. Obviously I have a made-in-paradise location. Having it somewhere like the Ritz Carlton does add an element of class to it. We also get some amazing service from the Ritz, and hence it runs smoothly when we’re there.

Second, the food. Everyone gets hungry at conferences. Giving them biscuits and coffee isn’t enough these days. Wow them a little bit. If you’re using a great event you can wow them a little bit with the food. It puts people in a good mood if they get good food, and if they’re in a good mood they tend to listen and be more receptive, and they tend to get engaged more.

At the end of the day, have a cocktail hour. People do stick around for it to do the networking, and like to enjoy a drink. I never like to be at stuffy event, so allow people to mix, network, keep it fun and lighthearted. Just because you’re in a fairly serious area of the market where you’re discussing pretty serious topics, doesn’t mean you have to play it straight the whole day, so add an element of fun into it, and use the food to do that.

Then you have the speakers. Your speakers are your be-all and end-all as to how your actual event will go. I very, very carefully pick my speakers. I want to be totally on-plan with the audience that they’re presenting to, I want to have some life. I want them to be energetic and really be passionate about what they’re speaking about. When you look at the speakers that we brought in this year, people like Tim Sackett, William Tincup, Chris Dunn, Jennifer McClure, Carmen Hudson, others that are really passionate about what they do. They use humor, and they use stories, that get their message across and keep people engaged. They know when an audience is drifting off, they know when an audience needs to be brought back in, and they don’t go on for too long. I tend to keep my speakers, if they’re having keynotes, 35, 45 minutes with a bit of Q&A afterwards, then a low a long enough bio break and a bit more food.

I also like, and really do feel passionately about, giving opportunity to local talent to present itself, and see how they measure up on a global stage. If you bring in international speakers to a conference then you really get a measure of doing that.

There, that’s my three things. Venue, speakers, and food.

Bill Banham: You make it sound so simple. I suspect it’s not. What are the plans for 2017, Chris? Are you going to be looking to do any more Disrupt events? Are you involved in any other events as an organiser, as a speaker, as an attendee? What can you tell us at this stage?

Chris Bailey: I’m definitely involved with the Disrupt Bermuda event. I’m not sure I’m allowed to tell you how or where or why at this stage, but I will be there. In what guise yet is to be confirmed, but I will be at Disrupt Bermuda. It is going to be a pretty special event, the first one they’ve had in Bermuda. I think they’ve got quite a large East Coast contingent heading across there for a little bit of warm weather.

I will be at SHRM this year as an attendee. We will be having Disrupt Cayman again this year. We might not have it at the same time as the conference. Speaker lineup is to be announced.

In addition to the many other things that we try and do, I work with rotary in a company called the Guatemala Literacy Project, which is an education product that helps kids in school in Guatemala. I travel a little bit around the States speaking at various rotary clubs and that sort of thing to inform about the projects. It’s part of my wellness strategy because it keeps me grounded. It’s something that the PWC do because I enjoy doing it, and it makes me thankful to them, so it keeps me more engaged. I think it’s a really good engagement strategy and I come back to work with renewed vigor. One of the things that I am speaking about this year is [inaudible 00:22:44] the wellness projects and engagement initiatives that don’t necessarily have to cost your company fortunes. There’s so many good ones out there that the little things really do make big differences in companies.

Bill Banham: You spoke a moment ago about vigour. You’re such a busy guy, you get up to so many different things you haven’t even spoken about the fact that you’re a triathlete as well. If you could share, in a couple of sentences, maybe a mantra that you have, something that you take into your day-to-day life that you draw strength from what would it be?

Chris Bailey: You make it sound like something that other people don’t do. When I look at working mums, one of the presentations I did was how certain talent is overlooked, and there’s a huge missed opportunity out there at the moment with vacancies going unfilled, and young recruiters and talent acquisition specialists overlooking the mature work force and the returning parents. I know I’m going off on a tangent here, but it’s one of the things I’m quite passionate about that there’s some key demographics in the workforce that need looking at.

When you say I do all of these things, I look at what a working mom or dad does in terms of getting the kids up, going to school, going to work, taking them to after school, picking them up. I get to do things that I want to do, so none of this is a chore for me. I really enjoy doing the conferences, I really enjoy DisruptHR events, I enjoy doing the charity work, and the one thing that all of these things have in common is good food..

In terms of trying to keep my waistline down, I need a few goals throughout the year to do so. That being said, I did three ironman events 2016, and I’ve just signed up for the Ironman Florida in November 2017, with a couple of marathons in between for good measure.

My personal mantra is, if you think you’re done, you’re really only 40% done. That comes from a Navy Seal in the US who wrote a book called The 40% Rule. From an endurance point of view, when actually you think you can’t do any more, you really are only 40% done. Because your brain will give up 1,000 times before your body actually will. I think that’s my endurance mantra.

From a day to day perspective, you’ve just got to enjoy what it is you do. I don’t mean that, I know Mike Rowe says one of the first pieces of advice he got was “Do something that makes you happy,” but if what you do, you do well enough that it makes other people happy, that tends to make you happy as well. I just try and do the things that I enjoy, build my career around that.

Bill Banham: Amazing. Thank you. That takes us towards the end of this particular podcast episode. Just before we wrap it up, how can our listeners learn more about you, Chris?

Chris Bailey: There’s a couple of, I’m on Twitter, I do tweet, so you can find me @CaymanHRGuy. I have a blog called Anything Over Ice, because really and truly anything does go over ice, except bleach. Feel free to reach out through Twitter, through LinkedIn and that sort of thing. I’m always happy to take messages.

Bill Banham: Thank you very much for being our guest.


More about Chris Bailey:

Chris has developed a considerable skill set in Talent Acquisition, HR, Business Development and outsourcing during a successful career covering several jurisdictions including Europe, Bermuda and Grand Cayman.

Chris is highly experienced in international HR, search and selection, and leads some of the most successful offshore HR & Recruiting teams in Grand Cayman and the Caribbean.

As a qualified HR practitioner holding both the GPHR and SHRM-SCP, he has been the conference Co Chair & Chair for the last three of Cayman’s biggest HR events and will be the incoming President of the 2016/17 Cayman Islands HR Society. He holds several board appointments for other charities and is a supporter of the Guatemala Literacy Project.'

Author: Editor

Share This Post On
468 ad