As we kick off this new year, it is more important than ever to ask ourselves what the future of the employee looks like. Tune into this episode of the Talent Experience Podcast with our returning guest Tim Sackett, President of HRU Technical Resources. Tim and host Rhonda Taylor discuss where the employee fits in with the rise of AI, helping people find their most productive environment, the complexity of skills, and the future of Twitter in the HR community.
Tune in to Tim’s episode below, at tlntx.co/timp2 or wherever you like to podcast!
Here’s how the conversation went… This interview has been edited and condensed.
Rhonda Taylor: Welcome to an episode of the Talent Experience. I’m your host, Rhonda Taylor and today I have a great friend of mine, Tim Sackett we go back, gee Tim, I’m not going to say how far! There was a time when we were at all the trade shows, and I always thought I was really connected. But I think everybody knows who Tim Sackett is.
Tim Sackett: Good or bad, right? Good or bad.
Rhonda Taylor: I hear you’re doing some work in Asia this spring.
Tim Sackett: My first time, like it’s been on a bucket list, the pandemic it so you know, it was hard to get out over there. And so, they called me and said, hey, come on over. So, I’m going to get to go to Singapore for the first time. So, I’m like, super excited about that! HR Tech Asia. And then I mean, I’ve been kind of going all over. So, it’ll be it’ll be a good year of 2023, I’m looking forward to it.
Rhonda Taylor: Yeah, you know, for those who don’t know, Tim, he is just not an influencer slash analyst, but he’s also an entrepreneur in the HR space. And gosh, Tim, I don’t know how do you find your time?
Tim Sackett: You know, I think I work efficiently is probably the better. And then I surround myself with people who are super capable and amazingly productive. And I refuse to let them leave me like, I will just continue to pay them more so nobody else will pay them what I pay them. And I think that’s the key is like you find great people, you overpay them, and then let just let them be great. Get the hell out of their way.
Rhonda Taylor: And let them grow.
Tim Sackett: Yeah, yeah. I mean, anything I can do like, but like, that’s the key to happiness is just surround yourself with great people.
Rhonda Taylor: And I think that that this sort of leads nicely into the topic that you’re focusing on this spring. And that’s the future of the human side of the employee. Can you outline that a bit for me?
Tim Sackett: Yeah. So, I mean, you know, we saw each other out at HR tech, like we like we have for years and years. And every time it’s always like, what’s the future of HR tech? And what’s the future of work? And what’s the future of… we keep coming up with new names for it. And at one point, I just was like, well, what about the human? What about the actual person doing the work? What’s the future holds for them? The concept was like for most of all of human history, humans did the labor, right? They were the labor work, like we actually had to put the bolt on the nut and weld the thing and dig the trench and do all that stuff. And then probably from about the mid 90s, to current, we opened up this creator economy, which was all of a sudden, we didn’t necessarily have to do as much labor, so there had always jobs now that were, hey, just create stuff, right? It started with like animation and design. And then, you know, now you have influencers like YouTube and TikTok and Instagram, and everybody’s creating and creating content. And so, we think, okay, well, that’s the future of employee was like creating. But then all of a sudden, like the AI explosion, and the artificial intelligence has gotten to a position where we see the end of the creator economy very clearly, because, like when I test, Chet GPT, which is kind of the next evolution of AI, and I did a blog the other day where I said, like, hey, I need a recruiting strategy plan that has these three as the top sources, it has this, and has this, and I just threw it to the AI within literally five seconds. It gives me 1000 words of a very detailed recruiting strategy plan for a certain position. And I was just like it not that it was exactly what I would have done. But it had like 10 steps, and I’m like, man, 7 out of those 10 are right on. And so, I’m like, if I no longer have to create that, as a TA leader, and AI can do it that fast, but then I was thinking, well, what part of that did I have? And that’s where we think the future of employee is which is as the narrator of the world they want, right? So, if you think of you went from labor to creator to now narrator, we’re going to spend a lot of time telling AI what we want. Think of your own software, you know, that you guys work with every time a client comes and says oh, can we add this? Or can we change this? Or can we do this? And you’re like, oh, for sure we can do that. We’re software engineers, that’s the customization is gonna cost you this much money, and it’s gonna take us this much time. Where we think with AI, I mean, again, not today, but in the near future, that person that’s using your software would go, hey, I need this changed. And AI would do it within seconds. And then but also, it would say, hey, by the way, if you change this, there’s some downstream impacts of some other things that are gonna happen, right? And then you’re like, oh, I don’t want that to happen, okay, and then you’re gonna go back and narrate again, okay, I want this, but I don’t want this to happen, I want this to go here. And we’ll get better and better at narrating the AI to create what we want to have happen, right? So, we’re now actually narrating the world that we want. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be an expert. In fact, you still have to be an expert of your function, you still have to be an expert user of the software that you’re using, you just don’t rely on a lot of other people, though, to have to actually do some of the things or the creating some of the customizations and stuff that we do. Again, that’s just one example. I mean, you can put that into almost any aspect of your life where you’re having to narrate. The other piece of this is I think, we’ll spend a lot more time in our own personal lives in VR, world augmented world where we’re actually narrating the world that we want to be in as well, right? I can put goggles on at night and say, I want to watch TV. But instead of watching TV in, you know, the middle of Canada, frozen on a snowbank, I want to do it on an island with hearing the waves and, you know, smelling the sea air and you know, everything that’s involved of having a great evening sitting by the ocean, we’re going to narrate a lot of things that we want in life versus creating them ourselves, AI will create them for us.
Rhonda Taylor: So, are you saying that to be successful in the future workforce, your communication skills are going to be have to be excellent?
Tim Sackett: I think so. Yeah. No, I mean, someone would say, well, I’m just narrating the AI, how excellent do I have to be? And I’m like, well, you’re definitely going to narrate in a very specific level, or at least, have having to go back through and like, try a lot of different things. Right? So, you know, from that standpoint, but I also think like, as you get with a group of people who are saying, oh, this is what we want to see happen, and being able to communicate that very specifically, and come to a consensus and understand like, this is what we’re going to narrate I think becomes very important.
Rhonda Taylor: Over and over you hear like, Tim when you and I were young those where soft skills, leadership, communication, and now, they’re going to be the dominant necessity of the future.
Tim Sackett: You know, LinkedIn has shown this for a couple of years. I went to LinkedIn Talent Connect, not this past year, well, I saw it online. But over the last really three or four years, they’ve shown that the number one skill that employers want are soft skills, by a large margin. And so, I still think that’s one of the things, and when you go, you think about traditional, post-secondary education, you think about university education, even though the micro credentialing that we’re doing, the micro learning that we’re doing, it tends to not focus on soft skills, it’s always on these hard skills. And then we’re getting into this whole skills economy. And again, we go back to, how do we increase the soft skills of an individual, you know, to be able to communicate really, really effectively?
Rhonda Taylor: Well, you actually see the marriage of the education that comes to the STEM program for women, and the leadership and communication. It’s a marriage in the future. And this leads to the next question, the world’s changing big time, especially since COVID, what are we going to see for the future employee? Like, what is their life going to be like? What is the requirement for their jobs?
Tim Sackett: Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, I think the biggest, like immediate impact we see is this kind of remote versus in office. And if you think before COVID, it was 6%, 7% of the world’s workforce was remote. Currently, the most recent stats that I saw, like this last week was 13%, are fully remote. And I think most people would predict that was a lot higher. But what we’ve seen was pre-2019, there was no cohort of workers that was labeled as hybrid. And now we have like 34% of the workforce is in hybrid, which I always say, all hybrid is, is like treating your employees like adults, right? Like letting them make the decision. When do I need to be in the office? When can I work it from anywhere? You know, let’s just treat people like adults and understand that they can make that choice themselves. We don’t have to say hey, you need to sit at this cube for, you know, 40 plus hours a week, and that’s gonna make you more effective. I think the other piece of that is, we’ve always been really bad at managing performance of humans. And I think if we’re going to allow this flexibility, we’re going to allow hybrid, more remote, we have to get really, really good at being able to understand what productivity really is by position. And then how do we manage that? Because I could care less if somebody, if I said, hey, if you get to 10, whatever 10 is, you’re the most productive person in our organization. And they go, okay, well, I want to sit at a Starbucks all day, and I can get to 11. Amazing, you never leave Starbucks, please stay there all the time, right? Like, whatever, you’re gonna be most productive. The problem we run into is most companies, and we’re seeing this right now, Salesforce came out today and said, hey, our productivity has fallen off the charts. Everybody gets your butts back to work. We’re you know, and they’re blaming remote work. Well, I’m like, you can’t really blame remote work, they’re just correlating our productivity is down, thus, we have a higher number of people that are working remotely, it has to be remote. I think there’s people that probably work remote that are highly effective, I think there’s probably people that work remote, that are highly ineffective. And we have to be able to balance those and say, hey, if you can’t be effective, in whatever environment you in, let us help you find the environment that’s going to make you most effective, and make you most productive. I think that’s where organizations are changing. Because the ones that get to that point first, are the ones people will come to work for. Because I have people on my own team, when we sent them remote, they literally went off the charts, they were amazing. Like they were I mean, they got levels of productivity that we never saw when they were in office. But I also had the opposite happen. I had people that failed. And I was like, look, I’ve either I’m going to fire you, or you need to come back in the office because something’s not working right. And I had one actually admit, like, I just I can’t focus when I’m at home, I you know, I got the dog, I got the TV and things, so like, I just can’t focus. And then when we got him into an environment where they could focus, they got back to their normal productivity. And I think that I think that’s where we fail is that we think everybody’s the same, and they’re not, I think we have to help them find that environment, and then you’re gonna have to have some really hard kind of heart to hearts because I think I’ve talked to people that were like, no, no, no, I only want remote, you’re like, you suck at remote. You know, it might feel great to for you to be remote, but you are not productive. And so, either you need to find a company that will actually reward you for being lazy, or you need to actually, you know, find an environment that you can be productive.
Rhonda Taylor: Right. And when we’re talking about the future, I have to ask you about HR skills. There’s just so, it’s so dynamic, and it’s so changing. What are you seeing happening in the space?
Tim Sackett: I mean, everybody’s talking about skills in the skills economy and how we get there. And I think even when we take a big look at all the HR technology providers out there, it seems like everybody has a skills offering right now. And then when I was just last week, I’m on the Josh Bersin Academy, we have a think tank of all these great kind of HR TA leaders that come in from enterprise organizations, and we ask let’s, let’s talk about skills, and like, yep, we’re all talking about skills. And then they’re all like, it’s, it’s really, really freaking difficult. And no one knows how to do it. And there’s no roadmap. And I think the one failure for a lot of large HR technology companies, is they believe that I think the actual technology is farther ahead than the process. And you know, of the HR leadership side, the technology says, hey, we built this really great tech around skills. And we probably actually have some of the process already done and baked in for you. But they but then they’re going back to the buyer or to the user and going well, what do you guys want to do? How do you want to do this versus kind of like leading them down that path. Because I think there’s mass confusion out there of how to get it done. It’s so complex on how you gather and how you update and how you maintain and, you know, and again, then like, what do you do once you have it? And you know, and I think there’s a couple of companies out there that are really doing a lot of hard work and been doing the work. But I still think there’s so many out there that are just massively confused by it. Oh, yes. And there’s many out there who say, oh, we can do this. But their interpretation of what this really is, is not practical. Yeah, one of the one of the great examples I heard last week was one of the employers they’re just starting with one position. They’re like, hey, we hire 10s of 1000s a year, right? But there’s one position that we know we hire 500 of every single year. And so, we’re going to start with this one position and try to prove this out, right, because we know this is an ongoing challenge for us, and we know that we could probably move so many people in our company into this position, if we could give them the right skills. And so that was, to me one of the better ways to say hey, you don’t, this this, this whole skills thing screams to me of traditional bad HR program, where HR goes and spends five years and millions of dollars building this entire giant thing. And then they’re like, hey, January 1, 2025, we’re changing, and we’re gonna jam this thing on the entire organization and immediately fails and everybody gets fired. Because that’s not how stuff works anymore, right? We need to take more of a software approach of saying, hey, let’s try this with one job. Let’s try this with one set of like, people. Let’s try to prove this out. And then we’ll move from there. And we’ll add one out, and we’ll add, and too many of the companies I think are trying to do it, they’re trying to eat the elephant in one bite, instead of taking one piece at a time.
Rhonda Taylor: Oh, you’re so right Tim. You throw a company into chaos, throw talent mobility, and upgrading their skills on top of that, and literally, chaos erupts unless they are strategic.
Tim Sackett: Yep, I think that’s the one win right now of skills is internal mobility. I think when it got launched, everybody kind of said, is this what people want? I think the employees have come out and resoundingly said, heck, yes. Like, this is awesome. We love internal mobility. And so, I think that gives us a lot of energy around hey, what we need to figure the rest of this out.
Rhonda Taylor: Yeah, and I think a lot of employees too, now are saying, like, I love to upgrade my skills, and the way that people upgrade now, it differs, it differs from one person to another, it could be a mentoring program, it could be, you know, having a coach, it could be an LMS.
Tim Sackett: I think that is the one difficult piece too right, because I think how we get the skills is really evolving. It’s the validation, like if someone says, like, hey, I did this, and I had a great mentor. And then somebody else says, oh, and I went to Harvard and did that same thing, we’re still going to view the Harvard one as better yet, the person that had a private mentor, maybe had mentor was the best in the world, that whatever skill that is, gave them some insight and learning that they could get nowhere else. But we have no way to validate those two skills very well.
Rhonda Taylor: Yeah. And that’s where, you know, I witness that there’s levels of accreditation that people recognize for skills, and again, communication, it has to be drawn out very specific as to what one is, two is, three out of four, you know, four being excellent.
Tim Sackett: Yeah, no doubt.
Rhonda Taylor: What do you think that 2023 is going to bring to the HR community?
Tim Sackett: Um, I mean, I definitely think we’re gonna see a lot of kind of acquisition around like different technology stuff, we have, like, you know, the buyer so confused right now in HR technology landscape, and I think it’s because there’s been so many products launched over the last decade, I think we’re gonna start to see a consolidation, a lot of that. I also think, like, we’re gonna see more and more AI being used in how we hire, which causes I mean, there’s gonna be a lot of regulation, I think that’s gonna be that’s gonna have to be drafted around that because I think people fear AI selecting talent, and you’re thinking, well, they might not select talent, it’s just going to be able to give us a lot more insight to, you know, the selection possibilities we have, in a lot faster way. We already see this with I mean, people using conversational AI to make sure let’s say you have 250 people apply to a job prior, a recruiter might be able to cherry pick the top 10 or 15 that they would even look at have probably only the first 30 that applies, conversationally, I can get through all 250 and then we go back to the recruiter and say, hey, here’s the top 10 that you should be looking at, right? And so, I think it almost to me becomes a little bit more fair and equitable when everybody gets a chance versus just a human basically, cherry picking resumes off the top of the stack.
Rhonda Taylor: Two years ago, you said, sort of like when COVID was launching, that companies were saying we’re evaluating their workforce and the people who were still employed but not from performing or underperforming, they were given the pink slips. Just because so much transition occurred in the workforce. We’re now seeing some cuts in the technology space. And like, it’s kind of surprising because you know, you’re looking at LinkedIn, you’re looking at Facebook, Meta, Twitter. Do you think this is going to be the norm? Or was that just a flash in the frying pan?
Tim Sackett: No, I think I mean, now that money is no longer free in the US markets, I think we’re getting back to really solid business fundamentals, you no longer can just lose a billion dollars and investors are gonna be like, oh, well, here’s more, here’s more money to lose. I think that’s when we see in the technology space is people had unlimited amount of money. They spent it like drunken sailors, they acted like they were going to double their workforce every single year forever, like it was never going to stop. And I think someone said, oh, no, it’s gonna stop. I’m just gonna stop right now. And now you have to show us can you actually make money and be profitable? And I think that’s the difference. I think we’re getting back to some traditional fundamentals. When you know, people have to make a decision, do I go to the startup and potentially make this great money if they go IPO or for the evaluation? Well, that was great when money was free. But now when you have credit markets at 6,7,8 percent, all of a sudden, now you can throw your money in a lot of other places and make really good money. You don’t have to throw it in technology companies. And I think that’s where a tech companies and you saw this with Twitter, where they said, hey, we’re gonna lay off 80% of our staff and everybody like, oh, my gosh, Twitter is gonna shut down that site will fall down. I use Twitter every day, and nothing’s changed. Twitter’s still up, Twitter’s still running and running without 80% of the staff.
Rhonda Taylor: And you brought up a good point, I really believe that the HR community is still going to stay loyal to Twitter, do you?
Tim Sackett: Yeah, I mean, again, I think it’s, whether you’re a fan of Elon or not, doesn’t really matter. It still is a public kind of place where people can go and say whatever they want to say, right? Whether you’re conservative or liberal, or whatever, people can just go there and say it and if that’s what you’re into, then it’s going to work out really well. I just, it’s gonna be hard for somebody else to break into that marketplace, because it’s such a widely used kind of system.
Rhonda Taylor: Right, right. For those of you listening on Twitter, although it seems to be a unique social media, is really bought in to by the HR community.
Tim Sackett: Oh, yeah! No, there’s huge (inaudible) I think a lot of people get their news, but a lot of sharing goes on there. Right, that in that happens really fast, especially around, you know, different regulations, or different ideas like that is something that you can put out there and immediately have hundreds of people all over the world kind of, you know, sharing.
Rhonda Taylor: Yeah. Tim, I always enjoy talking with you and you’re always on the cutting edge of things coming down the pipeline. So, I wish you all the best in 23. And thank you for joining us on the Talent Experience.
Tim Sackett: Thanks for having me, Rhonda.
Rhonda Taylor: This is Rhonda Taylor. Again, thank you for joining us on the Talent Experience. Bye for now!