Toronto Film School and Yorkville University recently appointed one of Canada’s top 20 HR leaders as its first-ever Chief Talent and Culture Officer.
Jenn Bouyoukos brings with her to this new executive leadership role more than 25 years of global experience in leading human resource operations at industry-leading international companies across the media, technology and financial services sectors.
A self-described lifelong learner and education advocate, Bouyoukos said she feels like her new position, which she will officially begin on Oct. 12, was “custom-made” for her.
“I’ve always had relationships with higher education. Through my entire career, I’ve built and lead campus recruitment programs and I’ve been accountable and responsible for converting student experiences into careers – and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said.
In her most recent role as EVP of Entertainment One’s Global HR, Bouyoukos served as Executive Sponsor for the multinational entertainment company’s global Pathways to Industry Internship program, empowering a talented HR team to introduce students to behind-the-scenes roles in TV, film, animation, and virtual reality gaming.
She’s also previously led the global campus recruitment departments at both Manulife and RBC, and is a frequent guest lecturer at the University of Toronto, a mentor at Futurepreneur, and a lifetime member and Past President of the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers.
“So, now, to be able to actually get a job on the inside of higher education is almost a bit of a dream come true for me,” she said. “It feels like a really fitting next chapter in my career.”
A brand-new position at Toronto Film School and Yorkville University, Bouyoukos’ new role as Chief Talent and Culture Officer is one that will see her reporting to Ashley Dafel, while also serving as a member of Yorkville President Julia Christensen Hughes’ Senior Leadership Team.
Her key focus, she said, will be to build on the successes that Toronto Film School and Yorkville University have enjoyed recently and to deliver the strategic priorities of its students, faculty, employees and leadership – all while keeping top of mind the “pivotal” role the schools’ internal talent play in achieving those goals.
“Our employees invest so much of their life, their time and what they do, in us. So, what we’re saying is that we recognize that that’s really important. That we’re going to invest in you, the talent. And that we’re going to build a culture that is deliberate and that is going to help support you in your goals, as well as the organization in reaching its goals,” Bouyoukos said.
“That’s where the talent and culture pieces come together in my title.”
To those ends, some of the “key people matters” Bouyoukos has been tasked with tackling in her new role include:
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
As a certified DEI Executive, Bouyoukos has 15 years of experience helping to develop pathways for communities and students into business and the arts. She’s partnered with hundreds of Canadian and global organizations on the commitment to equalizing opportunity for everyone and maximizing potential for success and has also built transformational programs that have left a marked impact on workplace culture.
“I really feel like solving the diversity challenge starts in education, so that’s obviously a priority for me and another thing that’s really personally driving me towards this opportunity,” she said.
A passionate employee experience and culture designer, Bouyoukos has a proven track record of using her developed design thinking skills to build journeys that are engaging, impactful and competitive in today’s talent marketplace.
“Engagement, to me, is the currency – it’s what gets people up every morning and doing what they do and contributing their best. It’s not just about coming in and doing your job, it’s about ‘I’m going to bring all my passion and all my integrity, and I’m going to bring my best’ – that’s engagement,” she said.
“There are different reasons why people choose to work at Yorkville University, and we need to ensure we’re delivering on those value propositions and that what they want out of a career at Yorkville is what we can actually deliver.”
For Bouyoukos, what ‘competencies’ ultimately comes down to is ensuring that your employees know they can be successful in the job that they’re doing, and what it will take for them to get to the next level.
“At Yorkville, we have people who look forward to their career journeys, so we need to help them understand what their roadmap is and what they’re going to be measured on,” said Bouyoukos, who has the proven ability to collaborate with cross-functional teams at all levels to ensure critical synergies that result in scaling a highly engaged and performing workforce.
“I think when you’ve got transparency around that, all sorts of things come into play – you’re hiring the right people, you’re compensating them properly and they’re developing at the right pace. That’s what makes career satisfaction.”
Employee retention, Bouyoukos said, is the ultimate outcome when employers get all of the above factors right.
“When you’ve got your competencies right, and people know what they’re doing, what’s expected of them, and the next step in their career journey and how to get there, then they’re engaged, and then they’re retained,” she said.
One of the biggest challenges faced by companies in this regard in today’s pandemic-era talent market is known as “The Great Resignation” – a ongoing trend first sparked in spring 2021 that has so far seen millions of employees around the world voluntarily leaving their jobs in response to COVID-19.
“That’s something happening in the world right now that’s going to be really important to stay tuned into right off the bat. I belong to a lot of external groups and task forces and I work with a lot of HR peers, not just in Canada but around the world, so I look to them for trends and thought leadership and to find out what I need to be aware of,” she said.
“When your employees know that you’re tapped in and that you’re really thinking about things before they bring it to your attention, that makes them feel really valued – knowing that you’re waking up every morning thinking about them and their experience at work.”
Known as a naturally empathetic leader with a “lead-by-example” management style that fosters teamwork and collaboration, Bouyoukos said her main goal as she tackles her new leadership role within Yorkville University and Toronto Film School is to continue to learn and grow, both personally and professionally.
“I’m a lifelong learner and a bit of a designer, and this is an industry I’m really looking forward to learning. I’m not going to go in and say I know everything – I know there’s going to be 100 days of conversations, and that, to me, is the best part of joining an organization like this one,” she said.
“This position allows me so much runway to learn and to continue to grow. I’m not done learning, and I’m not done growing. I’m not sure anyone ever is. That’s why I selected this role over a few others – I really feel like it’s going to open up my eyes and really challenge me.”