A conversation about the future of HR – Utah Business

In our latest livestream event, we discussed what if HR could create a workflow for talent, developing employees in-house and then trading them to other companies when there might be a better role available elsewhere? And what if HR made money by developing that talent, and by referring that talent to their next company when they were ready? In this livestream event, we’ll dare to dream up a future for HR that doesn’t involve poaching talent or pretending talent won’t ever leave for another job. Watch the video above or check out the transcript from the event below!

Elle Griffin: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here with us. I’m Elle Griffin, editor-in-chief of Utah Business, and today we are going to be having a conversation about the future of HR. I’m going to be talking with a couple of people who know a little bit about the subject. We’ve got Elisa Garn. She’s the VP of thought leadership and brand marketing at GBS Benefits, and she’s the executive director of Utah SHRM. We also have Jared Olsen, who’s the head of customer success at Motivosity, and we have JD Conway, who’s the head of talent acquisition at BambooHR. Welcome, everyone.

Elisa Garn: Hello.

Jared Olsen: Hello!

JD Conway: Hello.

Elle Griffin: I met Jared at a photoshoot for one of Utah Business‘ events and he said something to me like, “Hey, you know what? HR is not as old school as it used to be and there are actually some ways that we can monetize it and make this way more cool and happening and awesome.” And so I wanted to start with Jared’s idea and then we’ll go from there, so Jared, why don’t you tell me how you see the future of HR?

Jared Olsen: Yeah, and thank you guys so much for having us. I have to say that I love Elisa and JD, and we’ve had a lot of these conversations together, and so it’s going to be a lot of exciting to just see all the things that they have to say as well, and I’d love to dive into the future of HR and how we’ve seen it evolve with time, and where we see it going to this human experience world. Anyway, the idea that Elle and I initially talked about had to do with the talent shortage issue that we’re having in Utah. 

I go to so many events, and Silicone Slops and SHRM and all these different groups, and we just keep hearing about the shortage and that there’s not enough talented people in the state. Having an HR background, one of my biggest pet peeves is how offended certain leaders get when somebody leaves the company but I feel like we’re ignoring a lot of the data. The data shows us that millennials, for example, are sticking for three to four years, and then they’re off to a new opportunity. When I look at myself, I’m a three to five year person, and it’s because lots of things happen.

I feel like I’ve checked the boxes for the employer, I maybe want a new change of scenery or new challenges. Maybe I want to work for a startup. Maybe I want to go to a more established company. I don’t think that’s anything bad that’s reflective on the company. I think it’s just a reality of how individuals change with time. My idea about this talent shortage, and something that JD and Elisa and I have all talked about in the past, is why don’t we just share talent more often? 

Here’s the framework: 

Let’s just say average retention is three years. We should be going, as HR professionals, to our employees that have been there for two and a half years and we should say, statistically speaking, you’re probably going to start looking a job.

Well, instead of hiding, changing in the bathroom, and going to interviews somewhere else or whatever it might be, why don’t you just tell us that you’re looking?

We as HR professionals have amazing networks, and so do CTOs, so do marketing professionals, so does everyone. We have our little communities, and the HR one in Utah is strong and thriving, and so why don’t we turn to our HR colleagues and say, “Hey, I’ve got a top performer, somebody that is super good. We’re devastated to lose them, but the reality is we’re not going to be able to keep them regardless of what they do. They just need a new challenge.”

And so we facilitate an introduction. JD’s over at BambooHR, so maybe he’s in need of a graphic designer and Elisa has a graphic designer on her team that’s looking to leave and so she says, “Hey, have you heard of Bamboo? I’ve got a good friend, JD, over there. Let me do an introduction for you.” Now, when you think of the time to hire, to post a position, to interview. When somebody leaves a position, the lost revenue that happens in bringing somebody up to speed, we can really shorten that cycle if Elisa went to JD and said, “I’m going to give you this person’s file, or I’m going to give you their graphic design work and I want you to see how great they are. To be honest, this is the reason they want to leave. Here’s what they want at their next opportunity. I think you’d be a great fit for that.”

That makes it a lot faster for JD to hire. It helps with Elisa’s secession plan, and it also helps the leave as a promoter. Because I know when I leave a company, I typically leave as kind of a detractor, and I think that’s normal. I think, “Hey, that’s a great place to work for a few years, and you’re going to need to know A, B, and C when you go to that company because that’s what they want.” I don’t leave saying, “Best place ever,” because I obviously left.

If we can help our employees get to the next opportunity that really excites them, they should leave as a promoter. They should leave and tell their friends, “Oh my gosh, GBS was amazing. Not only did I have a great experience working with Elisa, but they introduced me to my next job at BambooHR.” So it makes a lot of sense for the recruiting company, the current company, and the employee on a lot of different levels.

I think we just need to start thinking of talent shortage in this different light. Instead of saying, “We’re offended when you leave the company,” we say, “When you work for us, we’re the kind of company that will be a catalyst for your career and we will help you get to new levels because we care more about you than we do about a specific position. If you succeed, then we succeed as a company, whether it’s with us or somewhere else.”

Now, the other advantage this does for both GBS and BambooHR is it strengthens their relationships. Next time Elisa needs to hire someone, she can call JD and say, “Hey, who do you have that’s looking to leave your company?” And it’s a quicker hire and ability to share talent within the state. So that was kind of the initial idea of what we had talked about. Is that an okay recap of the discussion, Elle?

Elle Griffin: Yeah, absolutely. I want to elaborate that because I see so many different uses for that. I mean, if you can create a workflow, then not only when a company is letting somebody go to another company, but they can also pull somebody in who might be better suited to the current challenges that company is facing. I just see so many benefits to that as opposed to this whole weird, secretive, “I’m secretly applying,” and the company being like, “I secretly need to hire people,” but none of us are aware of our intentions. It makes so much sense. What do you guys think?

Elisa Garn: To tag onto what Jared is saying here, I feel like there’s such an innovative opportunity, not just for HR, but for businesses to invest in the elevation of talent when they’re with the organization. If we can help people grow to another potential of preparing them for the next leap of wherever they go, we just do such a disservice of hiring somebody based on the black and white version of the person that they are from their resume and then plug them into the company and expect them to be able to perform 100 percent of the job functions day one, which apparently means they’re not going to grow at all because they’ve already done it and you’re hiring for the perfect candidate.

But then we expect them to do that job, and unless there is some sort of promotion opportunity or growth potential in the organization, we do not prioritize investing in that individual’s growth if they do stay within the organization, we have missed capitalizing on their discretionary effort because they’re no longer engaged. They’re showing up for a paycheck and exchanging time for money.

So it’s no longer about, “I’m serving a mission. I’m doing more. I’m learning and growing as I’m helping this company meet its objectives.” It’s about, “This is a means to an end, and I can’t wait until I punch out and I can finally go home and be with my family and do the things I actually care about.” But if we invest in their growth and can offer them something, which we know has been proven through credible study after study,  to learn and to grow themselves, that’s already a trigger of engagement.

If we can tie in Jared’s idea to another level of creating training and development programs that help people grow with the existing needs of the organization, but also align with that individual’s career path or progression, whether it’s a lattice or a ladder career that they’re looking for, I do think that we’ll get a little bit more bandwidth from them as far as years of service, or maybe even months of service in today’s day and age. But the opportunity there of cross collaboration and mentorship, and the things that can be gained from their wisdom at rest within your organization is such a compelling idea that I really don’t think many companies tap into.

JD Conway: I love what we’re chatting about right now. It’s funny, Jared and I have discussed this in the past, and these ideas of consortiums. The exciting thing in Utah is that I feel like we already have some advancement towards that. Now, this is specific to the early times of the pandemic all affecting us, but a few members of my team at BambooHR made a LinkedIn page called Utah Layoffs. They brought in other recruiters from other companies and they went out and partnered with Salt Lake SHRM, who’s already making some posts about that and wanted to bring that coalescence together to try to help job seekers the best they could.

Some of these direct to consumer companies are thriving, so we have this shift and offset from one industry to another. That idea that Jared originally talked about, even if you’re not monetizing it right away, Utah is already doing some very cool things. It feels like a more tight-knit HR business community in that was as a result, and you see some evidences of that.

I’ve developed consortiums in my past experience in talent acquisition with other companies, with other third-party recruiters to try to say, “Hey, this person is amazing. I don’t have the exact right thing for them. Do you have anything?” This idea of just being able to have forums and places to develop a consortium, even pre-monetization of that idea, that’s evolution of HR and moving forward.

What you’re really doing is helping, and as a result, people know what kind of human resources and business professional you are. They know what kind of business you are. That just speaks to the importance of the human experience, and even if your company is going through rough time, you’re quickly communicating the people that were affected by that and trying to help them with an outplacement kind of function.

In fact, on our team over here as well, there’s been several times where we’ve performed that kind of outplacement function, where we first looked internally everywhere for someone and we said, “Okay. None of these things are exactly dialed in right. We didn’t have all of the resources we needed to create an amazing L&D program early on, so let’s see what we can do to help them in their next transition.”

I did a few of those, and there are other members of my team that did that where we were helping with that outplacement and transition already, so as a precursor to what Jared was talking about, and much of that is formed in the business community and the trust that we can have with each other and that we’re actually helping other companies with great people who just didn’t have the perfect, right skillset and they recognized it. We’re helping them with that transition.

To Elisa’s point, I see a vast need for the evolution of HR for a lot more investment there because that idea that she was speaking to of a talent shortage, well, I feel the same way as Elisa does. As we’ve talked, the three of us agree on so many different things that need to change in the future. With this evolution of HR, I think one key aspect of that is that organizations and  businesses need to really take deeper looks at learning and development programs and upskilling, and continually doing that because technology innovation is almost outpacing our ability to train humans. So we have to continually look at softwares and people that are well-trained for learning, training, and development. That really is vital, I think, for the evolution of HR, and it’s really exciting that it’s under that umbrella of human resources because it adds that human experience that Jared was talking about.

Elle Griffin: I’d imagine that there would also be some crossover, just like if a business knows that this school is very good at engineering and we need to hire lots of engineers, we have a partnership with that school to recruit at that school to get engineers coming in at entry level. I imagine it could work that way with businesses as well where you’re saying, “Okay. This company is in a similar industry to me, or this has the same job function that we use, so we’ll always take employees from that company into ours, or create these workflows.” Do you see that being a common thing?

Elisa Garn: I think that already happens. I mean, I worked for a local recruiting firm for four years and one of our clients was Goldman Sachs, and one of our sells to the candidates to take these positions, which were entry level, very minimal pay, recent grads, and you just worked 70 plus hours a week, which for a lot of people is like, “Why in the world would you do that?” But the sell was you do it for two years, and then you can go anywhere because they have the prestige. People know what it takes to be able to get through that.

I do play a little bit of devil’s advocate because I do think that that could be somewhat damaging, where you can encroach a little bit into bias and expectations and you’re dehumanizing expectations a little bit. I mean, people are still people. I could work at a certain company and be a top performer, but maybe I just didn’t align with those corporate values or the way that they wanted work done didn’t align with my style, so it’s not necessarily like the end all be all indicator that that’s going to be a match.

But back to what Jared was saying, this whole idea that he’s proposing, there are organizations out there that have these brand reputations of, for example, leadership programs. American Express and GE are notorious for how much they invest in the output of leaders that they provide through the learning and development programs that they’ve created with an emphasis on leadership development. I do think that it can be done, but when you’re talking about the landscape of Utah businesses, which is primarily comprised of startups, small to mid-sized businesses, a lot of times don’t have those same resources.

They don’t have that name recognition, and so we rely so heavily on the embedded threads that connect us within our community of word of mouth, and certain universities have different viewpoints and opinions tied to them as well. Although I agree on a whole level, there is definitely a micro-level on which you still need to humanize all of this. You have to treat people like individual people, not personalizing an experience will not work in the future of work. It just won’t. Everything around us is a personalized experience now, and if work doesn’t stay on track with that, then the companies that are innovating there and leading, they’re going to get the best candidates and everyone else is going to be stuck with everyone else.

Jared Olsen: A part of the human experience that we’re hungry for as individuals is information and knowledge. So we’ve got to become a lot more transparent. I think the future of HR is less red tape. We create so many dos and don’ts, and you can’t ask this and you can’t ask that, and you can and you can’t. We’ve got to change that to where we start thinking differently about our people. Instead of thinking about our people at our company, we just see people. When we just see people and we want them to succeed, this is when this miraculous stuff can happen where all of a sudden recruiting and finding people from colleges, or passing in between companies is so cool.

One of those ways that I would love to see more transparency in our profession is HR typically oversees performance management. So we coach leaders on providing effective feedback and having one-on-one conversations, and we are the stewards of the employee file. Why do we hold that so close to the chest? Yes, typical HR right now is going to be saying, “Because that’s what we’ve trained and what we have to do, and you have to be careful.”

I want to look at the opportunity cost. The opportunity cost to me of sharing somebody’s employee file with another company may mean that it helps my secession plan, it helps that individual find something they’ll be more happy with, and it means that it’s maybe better for multiple businesses. People want that information, so we shouldn’t be so “you can and can’t.” I think we need to start looking differently. That’s part of why I think the stereotype of HR is what it is. You think of the policy police, and not thinking of HR as a profit center.

I’ll just share this idea quickly, that let’s just look at recruiting in general. If we have five candidates that come in and interview with us, we’re going to hire one of the five, which means that four people are leaving as detractors. But if we can help places those four people in other companies, maybe we give them personality assessments, we give the other assessments we do. If they’re software developers, [we give] the code that they wrote for us. And we invest hours with candidates, maybe four plus hours with one person.

If I can go to another company down the road and say, “Hey, I just spent four hours with this person. If I had two positions open, I’d hire them. But I don’t. Are you interested in interviewing them?” Instead of me going back to the candidate saying, “Sorry, you’re not it,” the answer is, “Hey, I think I’ve found a better opportunity for you that’s better for your needs and what you’re looking for.” And if they place the [employee], I get a placement fee. Maybe my HR department, all of a sudden, with not hiring people, is making money by facilitating these introductions. You have to be cautious there, like Elisa talked about, of not just making a process and focusing on the human. But if we do it the right way, it makes sense for the business and it makes sense for the individual.

Elle Griffin: I would imagine that that also eliminates a very, very common problem, which is two weeks notice. Two weeks notice sends every company scrambling. “Oh my gosh, I’ve suddenly got to replace this person in a quick period of time when there might not even be somebody available, and this person’s going to have to train somebody else that we’re not going to have time for. Now we don’t know the skills that that person had or was doing.” [Those two weeks] are such a struggle. I imagine if we were saying, “Hey. Thank you for giving me this talent. Let’s work together to see how that’s going to work out well for everybody. Can I have this talent for a month so they can train the next person, and then you can take the person on after that for onboarding?” I imagine there’s all kinds of scenarios that that would solve.

Elisa Garn: As a matter of fact, a good friend of mine, one of the original founders of HireVue, another local Utah company, is building out a blockchain company called Atlas, which is all about taking information through blockchain of everything from background check information to employment data, so you put it in there and then you own it forever, and you can just give the key to employers or mortgage companies or whoever needs to just verify that information without all of this wasted work and time and effort that goes into just doing that over and over and over again, and a complete lack of consistency with results as well.

Although I agree with the original comment that, yeah, I think that’s going to disrupt and is already changing the HR profession, I don’t know if this particular dialogue of these ideologies are exactly correlated with the idea of blockchain because, again, there is still a human element here. I don’t think that recruiters will 100 percent be replaced by machine learning and AI because there’s still some work that needs to be done by a person when you have a person coming into a culture and situation of what exists within the organic nature of working with a group of people.

But already, we’re seeing more and more automation as it relates to screening, and if any of you follow Ben Taylor, he’s one of the world leaders on artificial intelligence specifically in this space. He just spoke at our conference last week, and the data that’s available about how even machine learning and AI is starting to introduce bias into the recruiting process is fascinating to me because the whole reason that we were excited about it in HR was because it was supposed to solve that problem, take out the human element of those subconscious biases to be able to hire more diversity and create inclusive environments.

When in reality, it’s still human beings that created the technology that is doing the screening and so there’s still a layer of bias there. Anyway, that was a little bit of a tangent, but I just thought that comment was so interesting and I do think there is. I mean, that could be a whole topic in and of itself of the adaptation of technology for our profession. 

JD Conway: Yeah, and I think to both of these points, it’s the experience overhaul. Right? We’ve talked about the experience economy for years now, and how quickly that cannon needs to adapt in all facets of human resource functions. When you’re looking at other HR functions, this is how I view talent acquisition, which again, puts me a very different spot. A lot of organizations can be very process-driven, and they’re looking for that automation so they can eliminate the human touch points.

To the contrary, we’re trying to automate that which we can automate but humanize everything else that is absolutely needed for it. When you go look up the research on this and the statistics that point to all of the performance metrics that happen when people have a better candidate experience, my whole purpose over here is trying to create a better candidate experience as much as we possibly can because that leads to a better onboarding experience, a better employee experience, and that continually builds.

You talk about value centers, like Jared brought up earlier, you can clearly see the difference between what an organization was and what it becomes if performance increases, engagement increases, and overall human experience is much better. We have to create these environments where we are transparent about our objectives and where we’re at with that. Jared spoke as well about the transparency that’s needed and that is one experience point that I hope business leaders immediately latch on to.

The more transparency you have in all of these areas [means] you don’t have these “I’m leaving in two weeks problems.” People feel if you have the environment and culture for comfort, to be able to talk about where you’re struggling or what you’re looking at in the future, you can find opportunities within an organization if you have more time to do so. You can look at upskilling people if you have more time to do so. You can figure out a lot of different things for employees if they feel comfortable enough to be transparent about what they actually want to do in their career path, where they want to move, where they want to go. Do they have the skillsets for it? There are a lot of people that will experiment in a new field, and then  find out that they did not want to do that. 

Elisa Garn: Or go to college for four years and pay $35,000 to learn you don’t want to do that?

JD Conway: Right. How many people studied weird ancient languages and then said, “What have I done,” and loved it but did not want to do that as a career? There are so many people that are in that scenario and organizations can help them find other pathways with them and without them. But the key is having a better experience, and one key component of that is transparency. Being the type of comfortable culture and environment where you can be open about your long-term objectives and what you want to do.

Jared Olsen: Can I add to that? I think that the business leaders and businesses for sure have to be more transparent. I think it’s also up to employees to be more transparent, and transparent about what their individual why is, their intrinsic motivators.

Yesterday, I had an interview with someone. As I interviewed with them, he said, “Hey, so you know, my biggest motivator is my family and what that means for this position right now is that if you hire me, you’re going to let me work from home until I can figure out working arrangements and all that type of stuff.” I love the transparency and honesty of connecting the dots, of here’s what matters to me and how that actually aligns to the position.

Part of where this creativity of advancing HR comes in is the transparency of saying, “What are we really trying to do?” I’m going to give an extreme example here, but an idea I really love is really considering if we hire one or multiple people. This idea stems from I love my wife, and I want to spend more time with my kids and I know she needs a break from the home as well, as a stay-at-home mom. That’s just kind of her choice and she occasionally wants to get out and I occasionally want to go in. What if Motivosity, instead of just hiring me to put in 40 plus hours a week, hire my wife and I and we decide who wants to go in which day and what we’re going to be doing for that day?

Obviously, there are different skillsets and things that come in. It’s kind of a messy idea, but a really good illustration of how this would work is like a bank teller. If you had a bank teller, they sit in the same desk or same place from 8:00 to 5:00. At the end of the day, we probably don’t care how long one person sits there. We just need someone. What if you hired a newlywed college family? Or what if it’s just an individual and their best friend, or something like that? And you said, “Hey, we just need someone in this chair from 8:00 to 5:00. We don’t care who comes and when you come. Amongst of the two of you, figure out who will be here.”

I love that idea because it really fosters this idea of work/life synergy. There’s a lot of different [things] you can call it. But it’s not just a balance, it’s like we’re living our life and there are some days where a college student may have more homework and the other person doesn’t. Can they just manage that themselves and saying, “Hey, today I’m going to go in and tomorrow you’re in,” or, “Hey, let’s go four hours and four hours.” So how do we vocalize “here’s what my individual needs are” in our state of life? As a father, I want to help Motivosity, but I also some of the time don’t. Sometimes I just want to be with my kids. So how do we change that perception so that the expectation is not you are here doing this all of the time, but instead we need someone with the skillset that can help and you help us figure that out?

Elisa Garn: Well, and on top of that, when you look at the impact of shared ownership in that particular example you gave, again, it’s extreme and there are so many layers, of course my HR compliance brain all the bells are like, “No, you can’t do that! How are you going to manage performance?” Really and truly, the impact that that creates is it’s no longer you have ownership to a company, it’s you now have ownership to each other, so you have to work out if somebody is sick or if they don’t show up to work or if they’re not pulling their weight, it’s no longer just the manager or the company coming to them and saying, “Look. We need to have that conversation because you’re not meeting the requirements here.” You’ve got somebody else’s job on the line and their income relies on it too.

I love when you’ve talked about this before, Jared, in other settings, with different examples because when you hire someone, you hire their spouse. You hire the iceberg of everything that comes along with [that employee]. It doesn’t necessarily that they’re going to be in your brick and mortar location doing the work, but you are hiring a unit because you need that spouse’s support. You need them on board with the company. You need them supporting their spouse to be able to go into work and do what’s necessary to be able to meet the objectives and have understanding and align with the benefits and all of that.

I think in a way, [this] already exists, but we’re so focused on “we hire that top level of the iceberg resume of a person,” and everything else underneath we just pretend disappears when they cross the threshold of the doorway walking into our company. If you really redesign that and if we’re truly talking about the future of our profession, it basically means we’re going to see super clearly and continue to celebrate our employees― instead of tolerate them― for everything that they are and that they’re bringing to the company instead of just the parts that we want to see.

Jared Olsen: When you talk about transparency, when was the last time your company talked to employee’s spouses, or confidants, or parents, or whatever it is? We don’t share company data with them. We say hi to them at a company party, and this year you might not even have a company party because it’ll be virtual. And so, are you connecting with your employees’ families? I’m going to guess you’re probably not. When we talk about transparency, how can you? Well, the next time you have a performance we review or even a one-on-one conversation, why don’t you say, “Hey, does your spouse want to come in and join us for this? I would love to get to know them. I’d love to hear their thoughts. Or let’s go to lunch or I’ll send you Grubhub to your house and we’ll do a virtual Zoom call and I just want to get to know your family. What’s on your mind? What are your concerns?”

The advantage of that is that I think the most important conversations happen during pillow talk time. We as employees nod our head to our boss. When we go home, we tell our spouse an unfiltered view of the truth. When we’re having pillow talk we say, “I think I’m going to leave. I think I’m going to start job searching,” and when our spouse says, “Yeah, you should,” then we do it. Imagine if this spouse said, “You can’t. You have the best opportunity and I love this company and they care about our family. You got to stick around.” That’s way more impactful than what a manager can do.

That transparency, sharing that information with spouses and even with kids, we need to do that so that they’re fans. I heard my son the other day talking to his friends. They were playing together in a room and they started talking about Motivosity. My son was like, “I’m going to work at Motivosity one day. They have a hoverboard in the office.” He was just going off on all the little things that we have, but that made a difference to me and to my wife that like, “Okay. Our kids are on board with what our company is doing.”

Elle Griffin: [That is a] very interesting idea. I have to say the feminist in me is rebelling a little bit about that whole situation. I personally feel like my husband should not be involved in my career and I shouldn’t have to be involved in his and we should be able to do our own thing with our companies not requiring the presence of a spouse at a dinner party or something to make the unit feel whole. I feel like there’s some equality issues that could come up there, especially if somebody doesn’t have a spouse or is single, or for somebody that doesn’t have kids versus somebody that does. I see there being some issues there.

But I think the underlying thing that you’re saying is super true.

Right now we’re paying employees for blocks of 40 hours, so to speak, worth of work and then we’re trying to fill that docket with stuff. Whereas I do see that a move towards a more project-based compensation package where, “Hey, I’m going to pay you take on this project. Do you want to take on this project too? That’s an extra this rate. Do you want to take on this project too? I have another three month block of projects coming up. Would you be able to take that on for December through February?”

I see that definitely being more of a conversation to your point, whereas then the employee can say, “Okay. Right now school is starting and I need to be home with my kids. I can’t take on that extra project right now, but if you have other projects coming up in January, I’m all on board.” I definitely see that blocking out happening, for sure.

Jared Olsen: Elle, one of the things I’ve recently been studying on that, because it’s so messy, as you said, there [are] a lot of people who are saying we should have less HR and we should reallocate funds of HR to leadership because what we’re trying to do with the human experience is really connect with individuals. How can one department have a relationship with everyone when it really should be the manager and the employee?

I was listening to Radical Candor again recently and one of the things that I love that she says is she went into the office one day, had all these important things to do and she was first stopped by an employee. The employee said, “Hey, I’ve got to go. I’ve got a family emergency, and let me tell you really quickly about it.” And it drained her. Then she walked around and saw another person who said, “My daughter just had this great celebration and let me tell you about it.” And that emotionally drained her. As she was trying to get to her office, she was focusing on her people, and by the time she got to her office she said, “I didn’t have any energy to do what mattered.”

Then she said, “‘What matters’ is people and understanding them.” So these ideas that we’re tossing out there right now, they definitely do not work for everyone. It should not be a mandatory thing for a company. It should be individualized. That’s what a human experience is. That’s the future of HR is helping managers understand their people well enough to be able to customize these type of things for their individual needs.

JD Conway: I think one key to all of that is what we’ve already seen is that companies are starting to re-engineer jobs and what jobs can and should be. They’re trying to engineer flexibility into them, they are trying to rethink. In fact, I propose that most people looking for organizations should be looking at companies that are trying to innovate here because they are trying to allow for many different types of scenarios of one’s personal life or actual life needs. These are vital things to consider now.

What’s really exciting about human resources is that the field is absolutely needed to look at this, and we have the people, analytics and data to be able to even make aggregated decisions for larger companies and corporations when we understand what companies or what employees need at companies, and we’re able to survey that information and we’re able to really get realtime information from managers. 

It’s a little easier to be nimble in these things when you’re a smaller organization. You can make some very impactful changes, and you can test and try it out and see how it impacts people’s lives. But these larger corporations, they have the data now to be able to make these kinds of decisions. They have to make a concerted effort. I think that’s part of the evolution of HR is really looking at the data to understand all the variables of human experience.

One interesting thing that has been talked about over the last several months is employee assistance programs. Right? Addressing the fact that people have real life difficulty, struggles, trials. While the employer does not need to know all of those personal details, when you have the right kind of environment, people may share those things and you can adjust work for that if it’s built into your models, your jobs.

Elle, as you were talking about, if there’s some type of flexibility where you pay for the project, whatever it is. But these employee assistance programs are employers trying to address that need as well saying people have clearly very difficult things that happen in their lives and we are going to allocate funds toward that to take care of them. We’re going to figure out new ways to make sure that there’s not just psychological safety at the workplace, but support for difficulties outside of it, even if we don’t know all the details of it. We shouldn’t, we don’t need to. But at the same time, we need to allow a place for them to go.

I think a lot is being put on employers nowadays because a third of your life is there. If somebody goes through a very difficult divorce or just very difficult life situations, then employers are thinking about these things. That’s what’s important. The evolution of HR is and should be, in its future, to really think about all the variables of the human experience and what can we do to help?

Elisa Garn: It’s interesting because I’ve found that there’s been a revolt of employees and talent. We use that word interchangeably with employees, but arguably the people that are expecting more from the workplace, I don’t even think it’s necessarily tied to a generation, although some would argue against that. People are tired of, again, I used this phrase before, but we’re tired of exchanging time for money.

So they’re looking for opportunities where they can make a living and they can meet their monetary needs, but it’s no longer about this, “I go to college. I get a job. I stay with the company for 30 years. I retire. And then I travel with my significant other.” That ideal is no longer the ideal. I think because companies have been so slow to adopt this new wave of what the four of us are talking about here today, they’re coming to us and say, “Fine. If you’re not willing to give me what I want, I’m not going to work for you. But you can hire me as a consultant at an inflated rate.”

Now, HR is being tasked with, and this is borderline now. I don’t even know if it’s future. But we have to figure out how to motivate, inspire, engage, and manage talent whether it’s bought, rented, or leased because we no longer just hire employees to do work. The gig economy is still continuing to rise. It was projected to be, I don’t know, I think something like 44 percent of the workplace by 2020, which it’s not there yet, but it’s definitely on its way there. It’s in a 30 percent-ish area.

When you think about just how work gets done, it is changing and how that affects even the laws associated with pay and how you can have oversight into somebody’s work, but still knowing that you have tasks that need to be completed inside your company in order to meet its objectives and goals of growth, you have to look at that part of the equation too of like how JD’s talking a bit about dancing around mental health.

Mental health is such a huge spotlighted topic in our industry this year. It should’ve been forever because it’s something that has always been happening, but companies have not been forced to address it because they’ve had the dotted line of like, “Oh, here’s a number to the EAP, the employee assistance program, call them. You get free counseling session, and bleh, don’t talk to me about it.”

That’s not okay anymore. After suffering two major natural disasters this year: windstorms, earthquakes, and COVID and having to go to remote work and feeling isolated and layoffs and furloughs and instability, if you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the bottom of our pyramid is crumbling. It is crumbling. Even if you’re feeling secure with your own job and your own company, the influence of what’s happening around you to your neighbors, to your family members, to your friends, that conversation is turmoil for us and the stress is elevated to a level that companies can no longer just say, “Call the EAP.”

It is now becoming front and center of the conversation. When we talk about future of HR, I agree with something that Jared said that it’s more about investing in the leadership potential and capability inside your organization and getting away from where we have promoted people, which is, “You’re great at your job, you’d probably be great at making other people great,” or, “You’ve been here a really long time. Let’s give you a promotion.” Or, “Okay, you’ve tapped out on your pay band. We can’t pay you any more unless we put you into a supervisor role.”

Elisa Garn: Many times when we do that at companies, we end up disengaging that high performer because they were doing great in the role that they were in, but leadership doesn’t come from any of those ancillary items that I just talked about. It comes from this internal motivation to help others succeed and be better. If you don’t have that capability or even passion within the career environment, you’ve just done such a disservice and stunted your growth as an organization because people who don’t lead can’t lead others.

This whole conversation about where we go from here, I think there’s tactical things that are happening to our profession that we’re having to react to that are going to innovate and change in our daily lives of what we do, but then there’s also just the psychological impact of where we go and what we can do as the element of the business that represents the people side of our organizations.

Elle Griffin: I do want to take something you said because we actually got a question that was relevant. You spoke a lot about what a company should provide ethically to its employees in terms of emotional support, physical support, financial support. My questions are, one, if those things are considered ethical to provide, then isn’t that also an issue because not all companies are rich enough to provide them? 

Amazon, for example, should be providing certain benefits to its workers because they’re doing super well and they’re a very wealthy organization. Whereas a startup with two people and no funding might not be able to offer that same support, or a person working at McDonald’s might not be able to get the same support, so when you’re talking Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the bottom is crumbling, well, the bottom aren’t necessarily working for organizations that have the financial resources to provide those needs to their employees.

My question is in two parts. One, what does the company ethically … What should they provide to their employees? And two, where does the noncompete sit in that? We had a question about noncompetes, and we recently did an article on Utah Business on whether or not noncompetes are ethical because, same thing, a lot of times organizations that have noncompetes, the people that have them installed, they’re only specialized in that field and so they necessarily have to get a job in that field if they lose their job. So what are the ethics here?

Elisa Garn: Well, first point I would make is creating an environment of psychological safety does not cost a dollar. I mean, that’s more in the actions and behaviors that you emit as an organization to help people feel like they are okay, that there’s the understanding that you’re going through something that even just open, transparent communication, which Jared talked about earlier, what’s happening in the company? Are we actually going to be experiencing layoffs? Where are we financially as an organization?

I understand the complexities. [Finances are]  not always appropriate or okay to share at a granular level, but in HR, we’re often the ones that get to be the bearer of bad news when we, ourselves, are either impacted or did not know anything about it. So we get called into a meeting and it’s like, “Okay. We need you to go layoff 20 percent of the workforce. Here’s the list of names. Go get it done. By the way, make sure we don’t get sued.”

All of a sudden, we’re in this role of, “Okay. We have to be the humanitarian here. We have to be the administrator. We have to be the coordinator of making sure to protect the company, but we’re also trying to humanize the experience,” and it’s a mess. Going back to how can companies do this with minimal to low budgets, there are certainly some resources of. Some companies have on-site yoga studios and they have massage therapists that come in and they have on-site counselors. I think that’s great. I mean, I think that would be a cool perk if every company could do that, but you’re also probably only going to connect with a very small sampling of your employees that are going to take advantage of those benefits. So the investment, the ROI on that doesn’t totally make sense to me.

But if you can have a culture of, again, this psychological safety to be able to have people know and trust the leadership, and if there is going to be bad news, they’re not sitting there with anxiety for two weeks not able to sleep because they don’t know what the company’s going to announce tomorrow, or they all of a sudden get that call from HR, “Hey, can you come to my office?” that [makes their palms] sweat thinking, “Am I getting fired? What’s going on?” Those are really easy things to do. We don’t have enough time to go through all of them on the panel today, but I would absolutely encourage people to do some research on that of how do you create an environment of psychological safety, and then a very brief point on the noncompetes.

I understand why they exist. You have some bad apples that get enticed and wooed over to a competitor that in order to collect and capitalize on the clientele they’re bringing with them from whatever company, so I understand. I just think that noncompetes in today’s day and age, you’re taking away somebody’s ability, especially if they’re a salesperson, to be able to make a living and sustain themselves if you’re telling them they cannot go work for anybody that does what they’ve been doing, for some people 15, 20 years.

How do you tell them that, “You’re not allowed to go do that for 18 months. You need to just sit still. Go be a Walmart greeter until you’re ready, and then you can go back to doing what you were doing.” I don’t know. I probably should be speaking on that from an HR point of view, but on a personal point of view, having had signed those before, I think they are extremely unfair and very much in favor of the company and not the person.

Jared Olsen: I would say the word that comes to mind is vulnerability. I think we need to encourage people to be more vulnerable. I also don’t think there’s one size that fits all, and so when it comes to a noncompete, we should be vulnerable if we’re going to leave. One, we should be proactive and going to people and saying, “Hey, you’re probably going to start looking, as we’ve talked about.” And if we do this say, “Listen, this is all I know. I want to go to a competitor.” Then let’s be vulnerable with each and say, “What’s your plan? Where would you start? Are you going to take our clients or aren’t you?”

If we genuinely have a relationship with the people that we work with, then we can be vulnerable with each other. We can say, “Here’s the concern,” and we can work through it. When have managers meet with their employees, those conversations should be, “Hey, how are you doing? This has been a hard year on everyone for a lot of reasons, and how are you? How’s your family? What questions do you have? How can we help?” When you create that secure environment, like Elisa was talking about, people will be able to open up and they’ll be vulnerable with you.

Then you can, in a human experience mindset, say, “What is best for this person? If what’s right is for them, then that’s going to be best for the company in their special circumstance.” So I would say just be vulnerable. If you’re struggling with a noncompete, if you’re struggling with a specific issue at work, be vulnerable. And it starts with the leader. The leader has to create that kind of environment because no one’s going to open up to you as a leader if they know that you’re just going to tear into them or say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” It starts with the leader.

JD Conway: Absolutely. Absolutely. To keep it succinct here at the end, for me, the things that don’t cost any money directly and only add value are changing the design of how you think about jobs, changing the relationship you have with employees, and actually making time to address the things that matter most. If you make time to address the things that matter most and employees are willing to be open and vulnerable about that, and the precedent is set by the leader or leadership as Jared talked about, that is how you can make a lot of change fairly swiftly, and you and your organizations can make some pretty impactful things happen, which affect you down the road because that becomes known.

There are no more secrets about what businesses do and how they treat their employees anymore, and so that becomes known out there and it’s only going to add value to your future hiring. It’s only going to add value to your own relationships and to your organization. There are so many ways that we could get into how it adds value, but those are the three things I highly recommend that don’t have upfront costs. They only have benefits down the road.

Elle Griffin: Well, I want to end with one final question that I think encapsulates a lot of the things we’ve said here. During the interview process, one of the favorite questions is where do you see yourself in five years? Considering all of the things that we spoke about, I think traditionally the response has been expected to be, “I anticipate being at this company in five years and growing to this position in five years.” But as we all know, that is a lie in most cases because often that individual has their own personal five-year goal and this company only fits into part of it, so what would you suggest saying in [response to] the five-year goal question?

Elisa Garn: First of all, HR needs to be asking better questions because if that question is still being asked, boo. What a terrible question. I mean, a little bit obviously a jest there, but asking somebody what they want to accomplish with your company, like where do you want to grow, what can we offer you, I think there are still so many interviews in format and in question that create this environment like “we’re doing you a favor by hiring you,” which is weird. Right? It’s so weird. It’s like, no. It’s kind of the opposite. We’re hiring somebody to be able to help us accomplish something. They’re doing us a favor. Obviously, there’s going to be a transaction there. We’re going to compensate them for that.

But when you treat the interview like they are a guest that you are trying to impress, it completely changes the dynamic of the conversation and that question particularly, you can get a sense of how you can architect an employee experience during the time there, whether it’s six months or six years, of meeting their needs, helping them grow. They’re going to be more engaged, they’re going to be happier and more fulfilled, and you’re going to tap into discretionary effort, which is the amount of work that they’re willing to do above and beyond without expecting a penny more.

I don’t have the numbers in front of me and I’m terrible at remembering stats anyway, but the level of monetary impact of discretionary impact of employees on production inside organizations, it’s not a tiny, little percent of, “Oh, that’s interesting.” It’s like, “Holy crap. How have we not tapped into this before?” I think as far as on the candidate side, if you’re asked that question, maybe revisit if that’s the right company for you, but if you are trying to give a good answer to show that like, “Look. I understand what you’re getting at. You want to make sure I’m in this for the long haul. You want to make sure I’m not going to jump ship, like I’m treating your company like a stepping stone.”

There’s certainly some understanding there, but I think that a way that a candidate can reframe that question back to the employer is citing specifically why did they apply to the job or the company? What excited them to come in to be a part of this story for the next foreseeable future? I think, again, going back the what Jared said, the vulnerability of where I see myself in five years is being able to accomplish or achieve X, Y, Z and I would love to have part of that story be with your organization because I see that in the people I’ve interviewed with and where I’ve been, but I don’t think it does a candidate or a company the service to just give the canned answer of, “Well, I can’t wait to be able to grow your company and improve your profit margins.” It’s silly. I don’t know. If managers like that kind of an answer, shame on them. They’ll probably be unemployed in … I’m just kidding. I’m kidding. Okay. Anyway, that’s all I have to say on that.

JD Conway: To [Elisa’s]point, I consider it an unfortunate poker game and bluffing match, and what are we doing exactly when we do that? The point is if we’re trying to also create these environments where people can be transparent, the transparency needs to happen right there and employers need to start out by asking different and better questions. That’s a whole other, that’s a three-hour webinar I could talk about on that one. Even with that, just break down this poker game that we’re all playing in interviewing.

I find it funny when I see all these articles saying, “Way to ace the interview,” and I go, “How about we just be open and transparent, and it’s more of a discussion and agreement that this company can provide what you need and you can provide what the company needs?” And if that is not the case, gone are the days where we can dillydally. Forgive that phrase, but gone are the days where we can just dance around that idea because people are going to find out pretty soon anyway and things carry with you in your experience and in your network, and it’s pretty easy to find out how somebody performed at a company or whether they lied to a company, or whether a company lied to them. Again, the world is much more transparent, I think only for its own good and benefit, and we just need to break down these ridiculous questions that we have to question what they have done for us in the past either way.

I’ll just say how I respond to that question is I would say, “Hey, one thing I’ve learned about myself is that I typically need at least eight hours to interview with a company. I’ve got a lot of questions for you. That’s a great question. I still haven’t made up my mind if I’m the right fit for you and if you’re the right fit for me, so how about we continue to go down the rabbit hole and when we get to the bottom, I’ll let you know what my plans are on what you can do for me in the next five years and what I can do for you in the next five years? But I guarantee you if this is a good match that we’re going to crush it and hit it outside of the park. And how long that’s going to be? No idea, but if we’re always on the bleeding edge of the latest and greats for human experience, I can promise you we’ll do some great things together. So here’s my next question for you.” And then I would go into my next question.

Elle Griffin: Wow, that’s great. I really love that answer. Awesome. Well, thank you guys so much for being with me today. I really appreciate it. You all had some very interesting insights and I think we should keep this conversation going. For all of you that are watching, we’ve got a bunch of these coming up, so just go to utahbusiness.com/live. Coming up, we’re going to be talking with about six heads of huge healthcare companies in Utah. We’ve got them all sitting on one stage and we’re going to do a deep-dive two-hour panel on what exactly it’s been like to work [in healthcare] during the pandemic this year. So join us at utahbusiness.com/live and I’ll see you next time. Thank you.

JD Conway: Thank you. Thank you, Utah Business.

Jared Olsen: Thanks.

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