RBC President and CEO, Dave McKay, sat down with Ryan Holmes, CEO at Hootsuite to discuss in-demand leadership skills, the evolution of technology and its impact on the workforce, and building strong relationships with millennials.

Ryan: What is the critical skill that you see leaders needing today?

Dave: "That's a really important question, and I think as the world exponentially increases its cadence of disruption, I think a leader's job increasingly becomes to put context to your team on what's going on around you, what you're trying to achieve, and increasingly the need for a strong vision is so important. You can get lost in everything going on. You can lose your focus trying to run after all the change that's going on and all the rabbit holes there are. So what teams really need is context and vision. I think the other thing, you know, leaders have to do is getting the right people in the right jobs. You're only as strong as the team around you. It's ever more true today than it has been over the last 100 years. Traditional businesses are looking at their workforce and they're saying this is a team that's done exceptionally well over the last decade or two decades or three decades. But the types of skills that you need on your team, you know, when I think of design capability and designing process, designing experience, designing customer journeys, and thinking along the lines of how a digital process or digital experience has to happen, those are things that we haven't done as a team. So I think those are all things that challenge leaders in all contexts, in all sized companies, but particularly larger companies."

Ryan: What do you see as being the most critical skills for employees in the workforce and this evolving kind of technology workforce that we see in the future?

Dave: "You know, I kind of put kind of three down when I think of that, and it changes sometimes, but curiosity is a skill that I look for in all employees, and particularly leaders. A question that great employees and leaders have to ask is not only why weren't we successful in something, but more importantly, why were we successful? And understanding the drivers of what we do and whether its repeatable and sustainable. So curiosity about customers, trends, technology, is a really important overall capability set for employees. Increasingly, we're solving problems as teams in an agile workforce, so collaboration and teamwork goes without saying. That requires in itself good communication skills, good partnering skills - an ability to not negotiate as much, but find common ground on issues. So curiosity, collaboration, you know, commitment. Commitment to the organization, commitment to a cause, is something that we look for."

Ryan: How are you fostering strong relationships with the millennials and digital natives?

Dave: "Things that we have to do to maintain an engaged employee base and workforce, I believe is one, you have to flatten the organization from a communication perspective at a minimum, but also from an organizational structure perspective. They want to be connected to the leadership team. They want to understand the strategy. They have a deep need to know they can influence that and be part in that thing, have feedback on whats going on. We just collapsed the organization over the last two days where I did jams with our employees, and you know, it was an 'ask me anything' session again, and you know, there was a wide range of topics that largely the participants were millennials and they really want to know whats going on and why we're doing certain things. So collapsing the organization, communication and frequency of communication from the top around strategy, intent, how were doing, what they can do to contribute to that is really important. In too many cases, large, matrix-based organizations work through infrequent committees, try to move too many things in parallel, and are inefficient. That disengages all employees, but particularly disengages the digital natives and the millennials who want to focus on something, want to deliver it, want to feel the accomplishment of that creation, and work as a team in a very agile, open environment. And the third thing I would say that's absolutely critical is they want an employer to help themchange the world. They want an employer thats engaged in their community, and not just philanthropically engaged in donating money. They want to make a difference. They want to get actively involved in changing the world, changing their community, making the environment better, social stability, diversity and inclusion. As an employer, you have to provide the mechanism and the path to that."

About the Author

Dave - headshot for article

Dave McKay was appointed President of RBC on February 26, 2014 and Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Board on August 1, 2014. He holds an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at University of Western Ontario and a Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo. He is the Vice Chair of the Board of Governors for the University of Waterloo and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) in Toronto.

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