This year marks Verity’s 35-year anniversary. We caught up with Paul Bates, Chairman of the Board at Verity, and Tim Arnill, President and CEO, to talk about the early days of Verity, how the company has changed over the years, and what the future looks like.
Going back to the early days
At the start, the primary focus of Verity’s business was on career transition services. The team worked mostly with medium to large organizations and supported transition at all scales: from individual terminations to large-scale downsizings of hundreds of employees. From the very beginning, care for the individual was at the core of the approach. As Paul puts it, “there was a deep sense of caring for the people going through the process and assurance for the company that there will be constant follow-up and feedback.” Not only did the person going through the transition get services tailored to their unique professional needs, but the individual who invested in career transition services for their organization received support throughout the process.
National reach with the local touch
To support organizations nationally, Verity partnered with five other Canadian-owned and operated organizations across the country to form the VF Career Management partnership 25 years ago, in 1999. Both Paul and Tim characterize this partnership as a unique advantage over other companies in the business: we have the creativity and personal touch of a local organization that is focused on the community in which it operates, coupled with a national network prepared to support organizations that span across the country.
Having a truly local presence makes a difference. Paul recalls engaging with a career transition client who didn’t have an extensive network in Toronto and was not having much luck finding a new role. “I thought I could introduce him to a person or two based on his CV. Soon, he was able to find a job with someone in my network. The client called me a week later and was very emotional. I asked him, ‘What will you do differently now?’ He said that he would start building a network.” The high-touch support of a local organization delivers greater impact through personal interactions and deeper connections in the community.
Transforming to support the changing workplace
Organizations from 35 years ago are not the same as today’s organizations. And as organizations have changed, Verity has grown its services to support the unique challenges that companies face today.
One of the biggest transformations that we’ve seen is the change to organizational structure, with organizations becoming flatter and less hierarchical. According to Tim, this change has had a significant impact on leaders: “There is now a much deeper gap between the role of the front-line leader and the next role of management because intermediate levels of management are gone. People get promoted much earlier than they are ready and there are fewer mentors in leadership roles who can support them.” To help organizations meet this challenge, Verity has made significant investments into expanding its leadership development and coaching services, growing its team to include expert consultants, facilitators, and executive coaches with direct experience leading teams at the executive level.
At the same time, business has become faster and more complex. Organizations are looking to shift their structure to be more nimble and are seeking greater alignment among their senior leaders to remain competitive in this tough environment. This is coupled with a greater focus on corporate culture and responsibility. Verity has deepened its organizational development practice to support these needs and provide strategic advisory services that help organizations transform their approach.
Doing the right thing first and foremost
What hasn’t changed in the last 35 years is our approach, anchored in deep care and doing the right thing for the individuals with whom we are working. Tim sees this in all of the work that we do, regardless of whether it’s career transition, leadership development, coaching, or organizational development. “Everyone we work with has their own story to tell. It’s on us to not lose sight of that. Our responsibility is to craft a service offering that meets their needs.” At times, this might even mean embedding a 50-person team in a small town in Northern Ontario with two weeks notice in the middle of the winter to operate onsite career transition support centers after a mine closure.
We treat every engagement as a partnership. We’re not just another external vendor, bringing a cookie-cutter solution that gets deployed with every customer. We become an extension of the organization, taking time to understand its challenges and its context. We build a level of trust that allows us to dig deep and uncover what’s really going on, creating solutions that are practical for the reality the organization is facing. What’s the secret sauce that enables Verity to create these partnerships? According to Paul, it’s our team: “We hire people who have a caring approach to every relationship.”
There’s no sign that the speed of organizational change will slow down any time soon, and we’re not planning on slowing down either. While Verity will continue expanding its services and deepening its bench in response to the new challenges that organizations will face, it is committed to maintaining that local touch that cannot be matched by large management consulting and outplacement organizations. And, most importantly, our values will continue to be the same, to be a trusted advisor with a caring approach, focused on doing the right thing for every individual.