With a successful career in the corporate sector under her belt, our female founder Lisa was called to focus full-time on shaping the Future of Work and Canada’s approach to career development.
As a technology strategy consultant in the 1990s, Lisa had been actively involved in the early stages of Internet disruption. By the mid-2000s, she started to notice that the same type of early unrest that had occurred in the mid-90s was re-emerging. Workforce and staff related systems and processes weren’t working the way that they used to, and new questions were being asked of leaders, who didn’t have good answers.
At the time, Lisa was managing a team of more than 120 staff whose average age was 48, with 17 years of service at the company. As she conducted regular career conversations with her staff, she was appalled to discover that many of them were “successful, but not satisfied.” They were good at their jobs, but bored. Yet, they weren’t interested in any of the potential new opportunities Lisa could offer. They all had something that they were waiting for – a final mortgage payment, or their last child graduating from university – before they were willing to discuss their future. For many, the amount of time they “just had to get through” before making a change was longer than Lisa’s entire career had been at that point.
Lisa became curious about the impact and costs associated with entire workforces “just passing time.” It led her to the study of demographics, labour market dynamics, and career life-stage theory. Lisa realized that the next wave of disruption was not going to be technology-led. It was going to be led by the changing nature and needs of the workforce and how people work: the norms, values, and activities that the workforce wanted in exchange for their labour, across a much longer working life.
She quit corporate life and launched Challenge Factory with a focus on shifting demographics, individual career transitioners, and new tools for workforce managers. She identified the opportunity to get ahead of the Baby Boomers reaching the traditional age of retirement without new career systems, structures, and expectations in place that ensure careers can grow through one’s late 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond.
This was in 2012, well before the conversations that we are having today about ageing populations, “gig” economies, and hybrid work.
Challenge Factory’s focus on “Hidden Talent” has evolved from this thinking. Challenge Factory understands, better than anyone in Canada, those workers who are not well served by traditional hiring methods such as Legacy Career(R) seekers, older workers, or military Veterans. Recognizing that services delivered to these individuals (labour supply-side solutions) will fall flat unless employers restructure talent and training programs (labour demand-side solutions), Lisa had identified a need for a systems-approach to address changing labour dynamics.
Today, our work is in use around the world by leaders, educational institutions, and governments as new workforce programs, training paths, and policies are formed.
Challenge Factory believes:
- Wasted workforce potential is wasted impact
- The Future of Work is human. People are at the centre of work and technology is there to enable them
- Seismic shifts in human and technology-driven innovation have made change a constant in today’s workplace, and organizations now must learn how to work within this new normal
- Business can be a force for good
Incorporated and hired first staff member; launched career test-drive service offering a guided “day-in-the-life” experience to clients with over 70 jobs available to test-drive
Worked with Toronto Community Housing Corporation to create a creative on-boarding program for board members to understand the complexity of day-to-day challenges faced by front-line staff in 6 key roles
Created an intergenerational career and learning program for labour negotiators in anticipation of future workforce shortages with Ontario Nurses Association
Selected as the subject of a CBC Documentary Film: The Boomers; Followed a client who was on a Challenge Factory test-drive to own a Bed and Breakfast after a 25-year financial services career
Lisa was selected as one of the Top 100 Women in Canada for city building by the Urban Land Institute
Lisa was nominated and selected by peers as the Career Professional of the Year (sector’s highest award)
Won a major contract to re-imagine the Future of Work within the steel manufacturing industry
Completed first Canadian quantitative study of workplace behaviour, motivators, and competencies of military Veterans in the civilian workplace; Report became foundational for the Canadian Armed Forces, Government of Canada, and Veteran support providers in Australia and the US
Lisa’s book, Retain and Gain: Career Management for Small Business, is published (CERIC)
Documentary film released capturing a crowdsourced activity at a major industry conference capturing the fears/dreams related to the Future of Work (involving over 1200 participants)
Challenge Factory nominated and supported by the World Trade Centre (Toronto) to be part of a Trade Accelerator Program
Another book, Retain and Gain: Career Management for Non-Profits and Charities, is published (CERIC)
The Talent Revolution: Longevity and the Future of Work is published (University of Toronto Press); Lisa tours Canada
Lisa selected as one of five Team Canada members at the International Centre for Career Development & Public Policy (ICCDPP) symposium in Norway; Lisa is also selected as one of 3 speakers to address the 34 ICCDPP countries
The Canadian Guide to Hiring Veterans is published
A fifth book, Retain and Gain: Career Management in the Public Sector, is published (CERIC)
(April) Pandemic-led key business decisions were implemented: (1) all regular contractors were offered employment contracts (2) all staff provided with health, dental and life benefits (3) immediate pivot to support public sector workforce needs
Challenge Factory launches a digital magazine, Workforce Architecture
Lisa is named Associate Fellow, National Institute on Ageing
Lisa is recognized as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women in the WXN Top 100 Awards
Challenge Factory becomes a B-Corp Certified Company
Lisa appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs as an expert witness