Brad Boyson is the Executive Director of SHRM’s Dubai office and has an impressive career history including the Mitsubishi Corporation, Royal Caribbean International and Hamptons/Emaar. In short? Brad is global HR.
Brad is a self-confessed deep diver… 8 months after being introduced to triathlons and hearing that the gold standard for the sport is the Ironman, he completed his first one in Hawaii. This “jump-and-backfill” approach to learning has stretched him careerwise as well, during the 1990s, he was fascinated by the Japanese way of doing business, so Brad studied Japanese (history, language and culture), moved to Japan and eventually ended up working for the Mitsubishi Corporation. While working in his next job for a ‘dotcom’, he concurrently completed 60% of a bachelor degree in computer science.
So it’s fair to say when Brad gets interested in something, he fully commits. This is why I’m looking forward to hearing Brad speak about whether global HR is still relevant. I’m one of the many international attendees that the SHRM Conference & Exposition attracts each year and it seems more and more that with migration and technology, HR expertise is becoming a more mobile profession.
Where does your passion for HR come from?
My passion for HR comes from my very first job as a teenager when I worked in a unionized supermarket back in Canada. When you are that age you are devoid of workplace politics and other more ‘adult’ issues. Nevertheless, the younger version of me was asking myself: why was the union and management so fixated on each other while the key stakeholder, in my humble opinion, was the customer who was paying my salary? I was a strange kid who subscribed to and would read the Harvard Business Review cover to cover even though, at the time, I was just a high school graduate.
What made you decide to join SHRM?
I think like a lot of people, SHRM becomes a part of your bloodstream once you take the red pill and decide that HR is your career not just a job. I first ‘discovered’ SHRM in 1998 when, as a Canadian living and working in Canada, I decided to look outside the national HR box for career and professional development. I quickly realized that SHRM was doing the most of any HR association in the world to advance and promote the HR profession. I proceeded to earn my SPHR in 1999.
A few years later I started to actively volunteer with SHRM in 2007 after participating in the SHRM delegation to China. In 2012 there was an opportunity to set up a SHRM office in Dubai and, as you might expect, I jumped at that opportunity.
What do you think of the current commentary in the global HR space?
I don’t want to give too much away about my session at this year’s conference, but the eureka moment seed was planted in my head when I was traveling through Heathrow airport last year and there was a book on display in the bookstore with a title that immediately grabbed my attention: From Global to Local – the making of things and the end of Globalization. It reminded me of the book by Francis Fukuyama entitled, The End of History and the Last Man. And I asked myself, are we really at the end of globalization? If so, what’s next, what’s next for HR?
Again, I’m hesitant to give away too much, but let me say I think we’ve made a big mistake by all too often framing HR as having two-worlds: one is an inward looking ‘domestic’ HR, and the other is an outward looking ‘global’ HR. At the highest-strategic level other professions don’t do this. You don’t have US-medicine or Canadian-law or Australian-finance, those are technical or lower order differences which do not define the ‘profession’, they define the local practices. In contrast, the profession is defined as the profession: medicine is medicine, law is law, finance is finance and … HR is HR. If ‘We’ choose to emphasize the technical aspects of HR at the expense of the higher level strategic aspects of HR, then we deserve the outcome we have always gotten: HR perceived as a secondary profession or worse yet, merely a management function.
How has your experience been working in Dubai? Has it shifted your thoughts on global HR?
I live and work in one of the most unique cities in the world – Dubai in the country United Arab Emirates (UAE). And as someone who has travelled most of the world, I’m confident of my assertation that Dubai is a real-world case study in what’s next. Imagine a place where 90% of the workforce is on a temporary work visa (akin to an H1B), imagine how that fact would change the work environment? It might work a lot like an economy where the vast majority of workers are gig-economy, project to project, dependent-contractors. I think that’s the workplace of the future – a new category of work that fits in between the more traditional notions of employee and self-employed; a bit both.
What are you hoping to get out of the SHRM18 conference?
At the risk of oversimplifying, I always learn something at SHRM’s annual conference I and hope that trend continues. As an employee of SHRM, most of our hours are allocated to supporting the event and hosting our coveted attendees, but if I can find time to sneak away and catch one or two concurrent sessions, I will be better for having had that experience. And I really look forward to the international reception and encourage anyone attending from outside the US to mark that event on your daily planner. My experience has been that event is one of the best single opportunities to connect and network with all our international delegates.
Brad is speaking at #SHRM18 in Chicago this June, make sure you get along to see him:
SHRM18 Conference & Exposition
Brad’s session on ‘Is Global HR Still Relevant?’ 4-5.15pm Tuesday 19 June (concurrent)