Chris Taylor is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Best Buy Canada. In this role, he oversees the wellbeing of more than 12,000 employees across the country, leading the HR teams supporting all Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores, distribution centres, and the corporate headquarters in Burnaby, B.C.
Chris joined the company in 2004 as a Human Resources Manager and has served in a breadth of human resources, talent development and employee relations leadership roles since, most recently as Vice President, Human Resources.
A natural innovator and champion of corporate culture and change management, Chris has led the company through key growth and rewards initiatives over the years that have advanced Best Buy Canada to becoming one of the top employers in Canada.
Prior to joining Best Buy, Chris held leadership roles with The Home Depot and Office Depot.
Chris holds a CPHR designation, along with an MBA from the University of Fredericton.
Alana Free | VP, People & Culture | GoodLife Fitness
Alana Free leads GoodLife Fitness’ culture of caring, oversees a team of 13,300 Associates and is an expert in staff engagement, retention, development. She is a firm believer in creating a culture of caring, where employees are a vital part of decision making and feel valued and rewarded in their jobs. As VP, People & Culture, Alana is focused on acquiring the best talent, keeping them engaged in their jobs and growing GoodLife’s people and business through learning and succession planning.
During two decades with GoodLife Fitness, Alana has held positions ranging from front desk reception, to club manager, to manager of learning and development. She has been responsible for opening new club locations across Canada and knows what it takes to get, keep and grow a team of more than 13,300 GoodLife Associates.
Before working in the fitness business, Alana worked for a non-profit company called Up with People, an international, non-profit, non-religious group in which youth travel the world for a year, living with host families, doing community service and entertaining audiences with a musical show.
Alana has a bachelor’s degree in geography and international development from University of Guelph.
When she’s not working, you can find Alana mountain biking, water skiing, participating in any winter sport and spending time with her two daughters.
Dean Sockett | VP, People & Culture | Keg Restaurants
Dean has lead The Keg’s Human Resources department for the last 18 years, creating, implementing and championing HR strategic initiatives for one of Canada’s most iconic brands. Keg Restaurants Ltd. is a chain of 104 steakhouse and bars located throughout North America employing over 8,000 people. For 15 consecutive years Keg Restaurants has been recognized as one of Canada’s Best Employers (Platinum) by Aon Hewitt.
Dean is an integral member of the senior leadership team providing consultation, advice and direction on operational initiatives as well as overall company strategy. Recognized internally as well as externally as an expert on creating and delivering a superior service culture with truly engaged employees, he is a strategic thinker with proven leadership skills that is proud to have contributed to The Keg's success and enviable status in the industry.
James Ayres | Talent Acquisition Leader | Intuit Canada
James has been in Global Talent Acquisition for the past 16 years with major stops working in Australia, Singapore, England, India, United States and Canada with a number of the top companies in the world.
He is a passionate, innovative and a strategic leader with experience from both agency and corporate recruitment across many industries but with a keen eye for the software industry.
James is very enthusiastic about driving business results through hiring the best people in the market who are highly engaged, passionate and smart, and bring with them a learning mindset.
James has a University Degree from the University of Ottawa in Social Sciences and has been the Talent Acquisition Leader at Intuit for the past 8 years.
Ken Johnston | SVP & CHRO | Purolator Inc
Purolator is a leading integrated freight, package and logistics solutions provider. With more than 10,000 employees in Canada and the United States, and more than $1.6 Billion in annual revenue, we have built one of Canada’s most extensive transportation and logistics networks and supporting infrastructure.
Reporting to the President and CEO, Ken provides overall executive leadership for the Human Resources function. Included in Ken's direct reporting responsibility are more than 130 team members across a broad spectrum of activities, including Corporate Communications, Health and Safety, Organizational Change Management, Organizational Development, Learning and Development, HR Service Delivery, Labour Relations, Talent Acquisition and Total Rewards.
Mark Dreschel | SVP, Organizational Excellence | Bird Construction
Mark obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in history from Brock University. Following a too short stint backpacking in the Middle East he then returned to Canada and completed a Master of Arts degree in American Foreign Policy at Queen’s.
A twenty year career in the Ontario Public Service that included project management, business process improvement, and strategic planning roles culminated in his role as vice president of the prevention division at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), where he was responsible for overseeing management and funding of the province’s workplace health and safety system.
In 2011 Mark joined Bird to build their national safety program. A change agent, his role eventually expanded to include responsibility for human resources and corporate social responsibility. Working closely with the senior executive team, operations leadership, and front-line management and workers, Mark is committed to driving continuous improvement and the pursuit of organizational excellence in all facets of the business.
He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Work and Health.
Catherine Finley | VP, HR | American Express
A dynamic change management expert with a passion for diversity and inclusion initiatives, Catherine Finley is helping to define HR policy for American Express both in Canada and around the world. Throughout her career at Amex, Catherine has earned a reputation for seamlessly fusing cultures and integrating complex teams in post-M&A environments.
In her role as Vice President, Human Resources North America and Head of Human Resources Canada for American Express, Catherine leads a team of 20 HR professionals, supporting a workforce of over 15,000 employees. Catherine and her team focus on Talent, Change and Performance Leadership across North America.
Prior to this in American Express, Catherine was Vice President, HR Business Partner for the Global Commercial Payments (GCP) team with responsibility for the people agenda of a workforce of over 3000, spanning 26 countries. In this capacity she was a member of the GCP International Executive team, partnering with the President to drive a transformational agenda.
She sits on the HR Committee for the Board of the Amex Bank of Canada and is a participant of the Board. She also sits on the Board for the Children’s Breakfast Club.
Tony Frost | Professor, Strategy and Economics | Ivey Business School at Western University
Tony Frost is Associate Professor at the Ivey Business School at Western University. He completed his Ph.D. at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of British Columbia.
Dr. Frost has been a member of the Ivey faculty since 1996 and was the director of the school’s MBA program in 2007-8. He has taught courses in strategic management, economics and international business. Dr. Frost has taught on numerous Ivey executive programs in Canada and Asia, including the Ivey Management Development program and Accelerating Management Talent. He has also worked with corporate clients in a wide range of industries.
Dr. Frost’s research interests revolve around strategy and competition in a global context. The main focus of his research is on technological innovation and cross-border learning in diversified multinational enterprises. Dr. Frost’s work has been published in leading journals such as Harvard Business Review, Strategic Management Journal and the Journal of International Business Studies.
In the classroom, Professor Frost teaches subjects in the overlapping domains of strategy, economics and public policy. Dr. Frost specializes in helping students understand the strategic implications of “big picture” issues such as macroeconomic shocks, technological change and regulatory/policy shifts.
Sonia Boyle | VP, HR | TD
Sonia Boyle is VP Human Resources, TD Bank Group, supporting numerous functions including Compliance, Legal, AML, Enterprise Project Delivery Excellence (EPDE), Marketing, and Communications & Public Affairs (CAPA). Her career expands 25+ years within progressive, senior HR roles in industries as diverse as healthcare, manufacturing, and professional services.
Sonia joined TD from GE Canada, where she was VP Human Resources, and led the HR strategy for the country, providing leadership and direct responsibility for GE Canada's 7000 employees. In this role, she had responsibility for talent, compliance and HR operations, including talent acquisition, learning and development, total rewards and labour relations. She was also the Executive Champion for the GE Women's Network in Canada. Under her leadership, GE Canada achieved Top 100 Employer status in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Prior to this role, Sonia was VP Human Resources for GE Capital Canada. Prior to joining GE, she held senior roles at Maple Leaf Foods and Deloitte.
Sonia holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees, in Labour Relations and Sociology, from McMaster University. She has also obtained her post-graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management and holds the designation of Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL). She is an active member of the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario (HRPA).
She is a Member of the Board of Governors for Junior Achievement of Central Ontario and Co-Chair of the Governing Body for the Toronto CHRO Leadership Summit. She sits on the Advisory Council (Eastern Canada) for the Conference Board of Canada Council for HR Executives as well as for the IPMI HR Management Institute.