Bill Boorman

Bill Boorman: The Job-Full Recession

On this episode of the Talent Experience Podcast we have a returning guest, Bill Boorman, Founder of tru. Together with host Rhonda Taylor, Bill discusses the current workforce challenges including a job-full recession, skills-based hiring, and changing the way we view turnover. If you’re curious what HR trends are forecasted to be prominent in 2023, this episode is for you!

Tune in to Bill’s episode below, at or wherever you like to podcast!

Here’s how the conversation went… This interview has been edited and condensed.

Rhonda Taylor: Hello, I’m Rhonda Taylor, the host of the Talent Experience. And today we have a friend of mine from across the pond. He’s no stranger to you, he is well known in European market, but he is one of the true global influencers/analysts in the space. And today, I would like to welcome Bill Boorman. Hi, Bill!

Bill Boorman: Hi, Rhonda, it’s good to be back on the show. Thanks for having me.

Rhonda Taylor: Yeah, you know, we all know you’re so well, but can you give us the elevator pitch of who Bill Boorman really is?

Bill Boorman: Yeah, I think I’m still trying to figure that one out quite often, but if I can give you an idea, I work with technology companies. So, I work with marketplaces like placed and hacker job. I’ve worked with people like Candidate ID who was sold to iCIMS in the past year. Real links, horse flyer, a range of organizations in the technology and talent acquisition space, advising on things like product and what the market demand is. And then I do a lot of research and a lot of speaking around just what’s going on. I’m connected through Tru which is the recruiting (inaudible) with lots of heads of talent acquisition globally. So, I tend to have a reasonably good record of looking and forecasting what’s going on in the market.

Rhonda Taylor: Yeah, you really do have your finger on the pulse of the HR professional. And I heard you speak recently, and it’s kind of interesting, or you spoke about the crisis of the crisis. Do you want to expand on that?

Bill Boorman: Expand what it is, okay, so unashamedly, I stole that, I first got really started looking into this from a European analyst and thinker who’s my guru, a guy called Peter Hingson, based out of Belgium. And Peter talks about the crisis of crisis, which got me really thinking about this, and this is that we’ve been through a period of time when we’ve had a number of significant kinds of headline crisis. So obviously, we’ve had COVID. And then there was the invasion of Ukraine, which created, and it triggered an energy crisis triggered the economy. We’ve had lots of different crises going on to the point where it seems that in talent acquisition and HR, we’re moving, we just moved from one crisis into another, you know, if we look at things like the general environmental crisis, whatever your position is on that, the only impact in the environment and what that means the move the migration of people displaced for economic reasons, I think we’ve got something which I’m expecting kind of looking at very closely, both in Europe and in the US is, I think we’re getting close to some political crisis and, and civil unrest or things which really affect our economic environment, which then naturally falls over into hiring. So, we’re permanently reacting to what today’s crisis is. And that’s what we mean by that is this need to be constantly agile and understanding what’s going on. You know, I’d say closest to home, the biggest thing is really, the recessions, economic recessions, which are going on which conveniently we’ve kind of had this theory that if we don’t talk about it, it won’t really be happening. (inaudible) calls fantasy and lala land. We’re in the middle of a recession, but for us in our roles. It’s a really weird and strange one. There’s not a playbook. You know, I’ve worked around recruiting for about 40 years, I’ve worked through six or seven recessions historically, they’re normally quite predictable in terms of the playbook, you can follow the data. The number of full-time roles dropped significantly the number of contingent and temporary roles rise and then fall, people are less comfortable making long term commitments either to hiring technology contracts, any of the ways that we do things, it’s harder to get long term money out of your C suite for projects that you’re doing. And normally, what happens is you get an influx, a sudden rise of candidates in the marketplace where you have more candidates and you have jobs and the hiring companies gain quite a lot of power in that in terms of things like negotiating power, what offers can be, and so on. And yet, what we’re seeing in this recession is zero unemployment pretty much. And it doesn’t matter whether we’re looking at the US, you know, we’ve seen millions of people go out of the labour market as a result COVID and decide not to return into it, whether that’s people taking early retirement, or people will take an opportunity to the new world of work where they can, they can do some gig work, and a bit of money and do some consulting and be okay. A lot of people have gone out of the labour market without a lot of people going into it because we’re also seeing younger people extending education by a number of years, because of lack of opportunity, right? So, the labour market is getting squeezed on both ends, we’re in a recession, but we have zero unemployment, and we’re scrapping around for talent. So, I think it’s a, and there isn’t a playbook for that this hasn’t happened before. So, I think it’s really exciting times with lots of opportunities, and also times with a lot of threats. So, I’m really following it. And we’re getting different reasons. So, six months ago with some of the tech companies I was working with, we were looking for longer term contracts, people were coming back and saying, no, we don’t want to do that. We don’t want to do that because there was COVID, and it was the Ukraine wall. We’ve had the Great Resignation, we’ve had Quiet Quitting, Quiet Firing, all kinds of things going on, which we’ve not seen before, which is which I think makes the market super interesting in a minute.

Rhonda Taylor: Yeah. And I think they’re saying that this is a job-full recession that we’re coming into. And I guess with zero unemployment, you mentioned people going out and doing gigs and doing, you know, but we’re also seeing budgets being cut back, there’s a direct economic impact. What else are you seeing in regard to upskilling, along those lines?

Bill Boorman: So, you know, there’s a lot of looking at it and saying, it’s quite hard to hire at the moment.

Rhonda Taylor: No kidding!

Bill Boorman: And as a result of that, I think we’re beginning to genuinely look at how do we do more with what we have? So first, seeing some of that trend happening anyway, right? So internal mobility shifted, and you can see where the focus shifts over the last 18 months, two years, I think the last time we spoke, we spoke a bit more about this on the show. But internal mobility switching from a general HR function into talent acquisition, where if the hiring labour pool if you like, when you get talent, a lot more focus on who do we already have in the organization. Now what happens when you do that the pattern that we follow, is first of all, we saw internal mobility rise in importance and go into talent acquisition and more thought around things like retention, how do we keep people longer, but not just how do we keep people longer, you’ll probably remember the cliche phrase I kind of hate, but I know it when people were talking about Quiet Quitting. Which was kind of a weird one, because what everyone was upset about was people were coming in and doing no more than their job, doing no more than one paid for that we should have an expectation that everyone would do more. But really, I think that brought the real focus back on mobility, which is okay, how do we how do we reinvigorate a workforce? So that’s one aspect of it. The second aspect of it is that we’ve seen a real shift in trying to figure out and actually beginning to see some practical solutions. First of all, from a technology perspective, we’ve seen a number of players come in, that could really enable us to begin to work the skills market rather than the experience market. So, thinking about the way in which we’ve hired and mobilize people in our organizations historically, it’s been very much based on the CV resume, it’s been very much based on predictions and forecasts on capability based on experience. What’s your job title? How many years you’ve been doing that role? Where might you go? Actually, because the new job has a look a bit different. We’re looking much more about the organization of skills around job families. And that created a series of problems as in how do we actually assess these skills when we can’t make assumptions about them from a CV, right? So that was the first challenge that I’ve seen is beginning to fix. So, we’re now beginning to think about the skills we need in an organization and how we need to develop them. And at the same time, what impact does that have on mobility of individuals within the organization? How does that impact if we’re giving people more opportunity and have a clear career path for them, how is that impacting on things like retention and keeping people in the organization? But the skills pieces, I think is having one of the most dramatic impact on the way in which we think about hiring and the way in which we do things like just making a job description instead of a list of experiences, duties, a list of skills that are going to be applied. And who has those in the organization and who doesn’t. So, I think it’s been really interesting following that, and as all these things, it begins with technological capability. How are we actually going to measure that, what we’re going to do? I think there’s been some super interesting acquisitions going on in that space. Recently, not least, I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks on Code Academy that the computer skilling school that the open source has been acquired, right? So, Code Academy has been acquired GA was acquired a while ago, by Deca, we’re seeing the skills based and learning platforms increasingly being acquired and applied, not just within a very narrow L&D space, but looking at broader applications of skills and learning, in particular internal ability. And that creates a lot of opportunities. But it also means we need to, as HR leaders, as I tell acquisition leaders, we’re having to reskill and rethink ourselves about how do we apply this in the modern world.

Rhonda Taylor: Yeah, and we’re also having to understand the levels of proficiency of these skills. And that’s been the big challenge.

Bill Boorman: Yeah, understanding proficiency, understanding how you write them. I think the other bit, which is part of the discussion is being able to measure people not by current skill level, but demonstratable ability to acquire skills, you know, who is able to learn in a very agile way. So, the historical hiring based on experience has been very much a prediction that you’ll be able to do a job because of the experience that you had that you could demonstrate, I worked at this company for three years or four years, I worked in this job role, I did these things, these were interesting. What we’re looking at now is how agile have you been in the way that you’ve acquired new skill, you’ve faced a challenge, you’ve got into a new role, or maybe just your role has changed in the way in which has been performed, large parts of roles are being automated in in pretty much every discipline. Whereas I’d say the work that we’ve done historically has probably been 60 to 70% heavy lifting, admin type functions of getting work done. That’s getting increasingly being automated. So, what we’re looking at is a smaller skill set of saying, okay, these are the real skills you need to perform the job you have them, or can you show that you can acquire them? Have you acquired skills? Quickly if you learn and be gone to the right places? Very often for yourself self-guided learning, have you gone off and acquired knowledge and skills? Can you demonstrate that you can apply new learning? So, I think we’re equally looking at that agility in the way that we look at people for new roles, which is the agility to first of all, to identify what do I need, where’s my gap? The second bit is to go in and acquire those skills in some practical way. It’s usually unrecorded. So historically as much as we’ve hired on experience, we’ve also hired on qualification someone has X level of qualification, and that proves that they’ve been able to study in a classroom for three or four years and learn this particular discipline. Now we’re looking at and saying, you’re actually able to go and learn the pieces in your own way in which whatever way format you want to learn, and can you prove that you’ve applied them and progressed your career? So, I think that’s, you know, that creates a really interesting dynamic in how do we think about skills and how do we apply skills to traditional job families? How do we transform our thinking about that? And how do we use skill development and knowledge development, to enable people to plot their own career paths in organizations, which ultimately leads them to stay around longer just because they’re motivated by new challenge, new learning, and new opportunity.

Rhonda Taylor: Yeah, it I’m gonna, I’m gonna sort of go back to our original discussion where we were talking, you know, the crisis of the crisis. And I think what’s interesting of everything that you’ve spoken about, will eventually decrease turnover. And I think that’s the goal.

Bill Boorman: Not necessarily, it won’t necessarily decrease turnover.

Rhonda Taylor: No?

Bill Boorman: But it might change the way that we view turnover, we may not view it as a problem.

Rhonda Taylor: Exactly.

Bill Boorman: If we have more agile organizations, you know, retention generally has been a measure of how poor we are at sacking under performers in organizations, right? You know, I think we’ve not been, first of all, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a problem. If we’re (inaudible) companies, you know, the fact that people come in and do their best work. What’s more important is their lifetime relationship with the organization and they’re willing to come in and come out and plug in and plug out. And that means a rethinking of certain things like what really is the IP of an organization? What really are the secrets? And what is general market knowledge? Right, I think we need to rethink that bit that it’s okay that people move around and move around with knowledge that we don’t have too many secrets. And what secrets we do have are protected by trademarks and legal stuff that that protects us. But actually, we need to have much more almost open-source organizations where talent moves around works in different places. People can become micro specialists in small areas. And as a result, we work for multiple organizations, and your challenge is keeping a relationship with those people and keeping them in. So, I think we’re gonna have to rethink all of work, like, you know, is retention, is it necessarily a problem. And I think that it is a big problem at the moment. But the driving factor of that problem is the complexity of hiring because it is that it’s difficult to replace someone rather than if somebody leaving. So, I think we might need to rethink what the real problems are with things like retention.

Rhonda Taylor: Yeah, and Bill, there’s also the flip side of the spectrum from what you’re speaking about. And they’re saying that the employee, because they’re doing retraining, they’re becoming of a greater asset to their organization, and through their relationship with the organization may make me wear many different hats, and have their different jobs within their organization, and not necessarily have to go outside.

Bill Boorman: They might not need to go outside to apply that, they might need to go outside to acquire new skills, but I actually think it’s a case of as an organization. As organizations, we need to look at retention of relationship rather than retention of employment. And I think that’s two very different things. Right? So, retention relationship is that we’re always engaged, we always know where you are, that we have a good feeling about each other, you know, we have good feelings about you as a person, we don’t have trust factors because you moved around or whatever. And you have a good feeling about us that when we talk to you about that, another opportunity or where you might want to go, that you will always update us when things change, that you feel positive balance. So, I think retention of relationship is going to be more important than retention of employment, and that’s going to require examining what that relationship is and how do you deliver in a different way. What do you need to maintain that?

Rhonda Taylor: Yeah. And out of all of this Bill, we all have learned to be resilient. Bill, you know, you’ve been in the space for a while, we’re kicking off a new year, your specialty is talent acquisition, recruiting, what do you think will be the one significant difference in 2023 in your space?

Bill Boorman: What do I think is the main difference?

Rhonda Taylor: Yeah, what will be different?

Bill Boorman: What do I think will be different? I think the main difference is going to be, I think the main difference is going to be first of all, skills, as we’ve talked about. The next one is going to be what a relationship is between an organization and an individual with which we’ve talked about. I think you’ll see a lot less attempt to ownership of people. And a lot more collaboration, when we’re going to need a different mindset about that. I think the challenge is going to be, actually I’m very excited by the opportunity that this is presenting, I think we’re reaching the talent tipping point where, you know, if the labour market is gonna be pretty exhausted, we’re gonna have to find new ways of doing things.

Rhonda Taylor: Yeah. Absolutely.

Bill Boorman: In hindsight, if we look at the whole global commerce, what are the big challenges that we’ve got? Sustainability. One of them right, you know, how do we use our resources in the right way? How do we work in the right way? Well, actually, in the HR world, that isn’t, we’re no different. We have a finite resource of people, we can’t just go out and keep, doing what we’ve done for the last 15-20 years, which has really been rinse and repeat, get a job, go out and hire someone, get them in to do that job for a period of time, they leave, replace them. I think we’re having to look a lot closer our resources, what are the skills? What’s the capability level? What’s the requirement? What’s the demand? Does this mean, we need to take a longer-term view of the skills we’re going to be needing in 18 months or two years, three years down the line? Does this mean we’re going to need to be training and evolving skills? Some of that might be through the evolution of work, some of that might be by delivering more traditional training, whatever it might be? How are we going to sustain our workforce so that they are gainfully employed and rewarded and also motivated. That’s means looking at the whole thing. I think my biggest fear at the moment, the biggest thing I’m worried about is the first thing that’s been going out the window or been talked about going out the window at scale where we’ve had a talent shortage, has been all the great work we’ve done in diversity in the last, it’s been top of agenda over the last period of time, right? And suddenly is not.

Rhonda Taylor: Yeah, then there’s so much, Bill, you’re such a wealth of information, and we could go on and on because it’s just an ongoing transition. And I liked the word that…

Bill Boorman: We might be talking about something else, right? And that’s what’s really exciting about our sector, it changes all the time, and we need to rethink the challenge all the time.

Rhonda Taylor: Yeah, rethink, and I think the buzzword is going to be collaborate. I really do. So Bill, it’s always a pleasure to speak to Bill Boorman in the UK. Bill, thank you for joining us on the Talent Experience.

Bill Boorman: Yeah. My pleasure!

Rhonda Taylor: And we wish you all the best. Thank you for joining us. Bye for now!

We hope you enjoy listening to this episode of the Talent Experience Podcast with Bill Boorman! We look forward to sharing more learning with you.