TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast

Ep. 12 - Ben Eubanks

September 24, 2020 Fuel50 Season 1 Episode 12
TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 12 - Ben Eubanks
TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 12 - Ben Eubanks
Sep 24, 2020 Season 1 Episode 12

Host John Hollon kicks off this episode by asking guest Ben Eubanks, prominent HCM influencer and analyst, what is driving the need to reskill today’s workforce. Together they discuss talent mobility and how it fits into the reskilling conversation. Ben reveals his love for stories and love for data – both of which are evident throughout the conversation as he generously shares research insights and inspiring case study examples throughout.

Having worked as an influencer and analyst for more than ten years with a passion for leadership and culture he’s had his hands in pretty much everything at some point: recruiting, benefits, training, employee relations, executive coaching, and the rest of the spectrum you run across in an HR shop. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/beneubanks/.

For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentxpodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the TalentX podcast!

Show Notes Transcript

Host John Hollon kicks off this episode by asking guest Ben Eubanks, prominent HCM influencer and analyst, what is driving the need to reskill today’s workforce. Together they discuss talent mobility and how it fits into the reskilling conversation. Ben reveals his love for stories and love for data – both of which are evident throughout the conversation as he generously shares research insights and inspiring case study examples throughout.

Having worked as an influencer and analyst for more than ten years with a passion for leadership and culture he’s had his hands in pretty much everything at some point: recruiting, benefits, training, employee relations, executive coaching, and the rest of the spectrum you run across in an HR shop. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/beneubanks/.

For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentxpodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the TalentX podcast!

John Hollon  0:25  
Hello, I'm John Hollon and welcome to TalentX, the talent experience podcast. Today's guest is Ben Eubanks. Ben is the principal analyst at Lighthouse Research and Advisory, the author of Artificial Intelligence for HR and the host of the We're Only Human podcast. So he's a very busy guy. He's a speaker and researcher working to make HR better for talent professionals around the globe. Thanks for joining us, Ben. How are things?

Ben Eubanks  0:55  
Hey, John, I'm so glad to be here. It's gonna be a fun conversation.

John Hollon  0:58  
Wonderful. We have a lot to get to, so let's start with this. There's a lot of talk before the Coronavirus lockdown about a shortage of skilled workers. And even now, in the midst of so much unemployment, you hear that many companies can't find people with the right skill set for the jobs they need to fill. You have a lot of great insight into this, so tell me what is driving the need to reskill today's workforce and how does reskilling differ from good old fashioned retraining?

Ben Eubanks  1:29  
So you're gonna find out really quick, I'm a bit of a data nerd. I love to have some evidence to back things up and so we actually did some research on this. I kept hearing that question from companies prior to, again, all the Coronavirus, all the chaos that that brought with us. We were asking employers about this and 81% of companies said we think we're going to have to fundamentally change the skills we need and that they attributed it back to things like automation, changes in technology, just disruption broadly, because of those things and the way that work is changing. And I'd argue that that's even more pertinent, more relevant now than it was then. Because we've seen all these things, that were very far off in the future or someday kind of initiatives, suddenly became, okay they're today initiatives in the midst of all this change. And as you kind of alluded to, companies are trying to find people, that comes back to you, we need better data on the skills, we need to understand what they have, what's available, so we can tap into that. 

John Hollon  2:27  
So is reskilling just a different version of what we used to call retraining?

Ben Eubanks  2:34  
That's a really good question. So the way that I break it down, is we hear two terms today typically, upskilling or reskilling. Upskilling is, hey, John's really good at writing. But we're going to help him get better by teaching this new way of doing that. Whereas suddenly, we have an algorithm that can do some of that writing John was doing, now we're going to let him instead focus on creating new ideas and creating new focus areas for where to direct that writing. That would be an example of reskilling, trying to get you to focus on something because your job is changing, the fundamental things that you used to do are different. 

What's interesting, actually, in the book, I point out the human skills of work, because I looked at all the tools that are starting to automate some of the things that we do in HR, and talent and learning, and what those capabilities are the technologies. And what that means for us as talent leaders, we're going to have to change the things that we focus on and look at those human skills. Because if your only claim to fame is I'm really good at analyzing a lot of data. There's an algorithm that can do that better, faster, and with less errors, than you can, so we've got to think about that differently.

John Hollon  3:36  
So are we reskilling hard skills, soft skills, or a little bit of both?

Ben Eubanks  3:43  
I'd say a little bit of both. There's some really great case studies. And again, we're, I know we don't have three hours here for the session, but there's some really great case studies that illustrate those things and how they're changing. GE had a really great initiative recently where they were pushing some of their people through that had some basic development skills, but they were not modern skills they were very outdated. And they thought now, okay, if we don't get these people changed in what they're doing, then they're going to be obsolete completely. So they turned them into web developers put them through some classes and other things to upskill and reskill them, get them ready for this. And that's a really great example of how that can happen on the hard skill side.

On the soft skill side, a good example of that one is actually Walmart's, when they started doing the drive up, pick up your groceries kind of thing. I always make the joke that it's made for the mom, like my wife with four kids under the age of 10. Like it's made for them to solve their problems. But they started at first thinking all those people that used to be checking people out are gonna lose their jobs, so they started retraining them as personal shoppers. And what's interesting is they started doing compassion training with those workers on soft skills. What do you do if you get to the vehicle and it's an elderly couple that, you know, maybe can't hear you or someone who doesn't speak English, someone who can't step out of the car and help you because they're the maybe disabled. So they're teaching you how to think differently about that. And it's a really, that's a neat story, developing this compassion muscle in them. And what's fun for those workers actually, is they actually enjoyed that type of work more than they did standing there as a robot checking someone out and never really having a personal conversation?

John Hollon  5:17  
Well, that's a really great point. I know a lot of companies, a lot of people who can really use a little bit of compassion training. So that's great. What are the best ways for companies and organizations to do this reskilling, how do companies track the skills they need from their workers? And how do they adjust those skills as the needs of the business change?

Ben Eubanks  5:41  
So the first part of that, how do we develop those? So one of the things that I've always been guilty of as an HR leader, as a practitioner before I was a researcher, and I was always guilty of thinking that my view of the world was the view that everyone should have. So when we did that research I mentioned a minute ago, we actually asked the learners, the workers themselves, 'How do you want to learn these things?' We also asked the talent leaders and interestingly enough, that doesn't often happen, but both groups agreed on the same methods as the primary. And the first way they want to do that is experiential. Let's learn by doing, by trying, by experimenting, in a safe environment, so if I mess this up, it's not going to break anything or ruin the business. But let me try these things and try these skills. And when you think about it, I could give you an article, I could let you watch a TED talk on how to be you know, a visionary leader. But until I give you a chance to start really casting a vision for your team, it's gonna be much harder to just do that. You've got to try it and practice and learn like, hey, that didn't resonate, or that's the right way to do that. I could do that next time. You figure that out by doing it.  

The second most common way is through coaching, mentoring, having someone support you and walk you through that. And then last, very, very last, in that list is some formal training, some formal sort of structure around that. And what's interesting is the learners who responded to this they, I'm going to go out on a limb and say they don't have much advanced knowledge of learning theory, but adult learning theory, the 70/20/10 model tells us that 70% of how we learn as adults is actually experiential, 20% social and 10% from the formal stuff that companies structure and put out in terms of content. So the way we actually naturally learn is how they said they want to learn those things, which I thought is interesting.

John Hollon  7:23  
You know, I know that prior to the lockdown, and the Coronavirus, and all of that, companies, some it seemed to be some were struggling with how to do training. I remember the battle days long time ago when people learned in person, and so much of it had migrated to online, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But companies weren't spending on training in some cases what they had spent in years past. It almost sounds like with reskilling, it's a process that's got to continue with non stop and they need to spend more money about it.

Ben Eubanks  8:06  
I would definitely agree there needs to be there needs to be some structure to it. It can't just be, hey, you go and figure out a web developer and come back when you do. Because that's not a good strategy. One of our other studies found that companies that are high performing or that have better business results, performance, profitability, employee engagement, better employee retention, those companies are twice as likely to have a strategy around how they're getting people developed and skilled up and ready for whatever the challenges are, that are going to face them. 

One of the things that I've actually been having lots of talks with different businesses in the last two months is around that informal learning of that piece that does more experiential that is more social. How do we emphasize that right now? Maybe you think you're moving really fast and that's the other aspect of business. If the truth is changing every week, which it feels like some days, that's the truth, that's what happening right now, the truth is changing every week, how are you going to put together a formal piece of content to develop your people that's accurate, and timely and relevant? We can't keep up with that pace. So letting them have a little bit of ownership over where they want to go, what they want to do, how they're gonna develop those skills, that's an important part of it. Not just because it allows them some freedom and we know that's a driver of engagement and retention long term, but also because we can't keep up as a company, we can't put enough structure in place to support all of those things that they need to learn.  

At the same time, though, I want to talk about both sides, at the same time, we need to emphasize that, we need to support that, we need to encourage that, that learning, that development going on because otherwise, people aren't gonna know which direction to go. Do they know what skills are most important in the business? Do they know what those priorities are for the leadership team so they can make sure and go in that direction? A lot of people say no.

John Hollon  9:55  
I know you also have some really great insights into talent mobility. Can you talk a little bit about that, you know, just what is talent mobility? Why is it important and is it acted with the need to build the workforce.

Ben Eubanks  10:10  
Absolutely. So the way that we define talent mobility is it's that intersection between the things the business needs, and the skills and aspirations of the individual workers, right. It's not just about what their skills are, but also what their aspirations are. Because sometimes, we know that the skills that someone has doesn't necessarily line up with what they want to be, what they want to grow into. And it's about considering all of those things together or deciding where to put someone. 

Unfortunately, most companies look at it from a succession perspective, which is better than nothing, but it's very top down. I'm going to decide where you go and what you do and if you don't like that, you can leave. But that's not exciting for most people, to be told what to do and where to go. I'm actually reading Bob Iger's book right now and a lot of those things kind of fell into his lap as he became the CEO of Disney eventually. A lot of those opportunities fell into his lap over time where people were like, 'Hey, we need you to go do this thing, because you...' and it turned out. In his instance, he had some basic skills, he didn't know where he wanted to go where he wanted it to be and so they're helping him figure out what that next path is. There were times where he pushed back saying, 'it's not the right time', 'I'm not ready for that' 'I need to I need to hold where I am.' That's been an interesting kind of case study and how that happens on an individual person's level that eventually becomes a CEO. 

In terms of the question you asked around the talent mobility and how does that connect to the reskilling conversation? What we found in our research is, talent leaders say they truly believe that reskilling someone internally, trying to move them into another role, using this intersection for that talent mobility is cheaper, it's less risky, and it's less of a, you know, a potential for all kinds of issues both on the performance front, the culture front, everything else. There's a lot of data that says internal hiring is safer for the organization and it's less expensive, but that study also validated that. The talent leader said absolutely, it's much more risky to try to go outside the business and grab someone than it is to try to move someone inside that we already know. You know, I know John, I know what issues he has. That's okay. At least I'm aware of those issues and we can work around that. 

There's companies all the time that think oh let's go hire that perfect individual outside the company, because they don't yet know what those issues are. And you're rolling the dice when you do that, because everyone's got something, everyone's got something that they're not good at. And you just don't know what that is yet. It's so much safer to pick that person inside the business that, you know, fits the culture, understands the business, understands the objectives, and has those warts that you already do know. 

John Hollon  12:37  
Well and you're getting to a great point, because this has been one of the management frustrations I've had for years, is that companies frequently go outside and bypass really good, solid people that they have inside because they know their own people really well and the people outside you don't know as well. So it's kind of the grass is greener. But then you get those people from the outside in and you find out, hey, you know, maybe I should have promoted or done some more time working with, you know, Jane who had worked here and had been here and by my move, we drove her to leave. And now we have a person who isn't as good as Jane.

Ben Eubanks  13:18  
Yes, I was gonna say, if you didn't point that out I was gonna point that out like Jane, in addition to not getting picked, ultimately left because she didn't see a career vision at the company. If you don't put a career path in front of someone, help them visualize that, they'll visualize it somewhere else when the recruiter calls them from the competition. They'll see that path and they'll go there. So let's help them see what that path looks like. 

One of the things that we found in that study was that one out of every five workers doesn't even know if their employer has any idea what their skills are. How does that feel if you're that one person, I mean, some of us might be that one person. But how does that feel if you don't even know if your employer cares enough about you to know what your strengths, what your abilities are, what you want to be? That's a really tough place to be in and it's hard to imagine that group being very excited about coming to work.

John Hollon  14:01  
Well, I love that there's a new focus on talent mobility, and there's a term for it. Because there have been smart companies in the past that have had a plan to get people experience at various levels in various roles throughout the company and they were systematic about it. So talent mobility sounds to me to be just another version of that, but like a smarter one and one that people are willing to talk about. I can recall people who tried to say, hey, how do I get a chance to do those jobs and they could never quite get a straight answer from the people on top. This is a much more transparent way to go about it, it seems to me. 

Ben Eubanks  14:43  
Yes, absolutely. Well, and again, it's from a practical perspective, like this is a great idea but a lot of people say well, yeah but, how do I do that? And there's Tata Consultancy Services one of their approaches to doing this is when you start at that company, and you're meeting with your manager for the first time, they say 'What do you want to do eventually?' 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' You know, what do you want to do? What do you wanna move into? And at most companies on the first week on the job, when you meet with your manager, if you said, 'Hey, here's the next job I want', they're gonna say, hey, shut up and get back to work we just hired you for this job. But there it is encouraged from the very first moment you join. The CEO, the CFO, and the CTO, all arguably the most important people in the company, all started at that company as trainees years ago, and moved up because that's the way they they treat people. They look for ways to move them up according to what they want to be and they don't ostracize you if you say, hey, I want to be somewhere else in the company in a year. They don't they don't make you feel bad about that. They encourage that and try to find ways to support it.

John Hollon  15:40 
What companies do you say are doing a really good job with talent mobility, right now you probably have some insights about that, too.

Ben Eubanks  15:50  
There's, goodness, there are some great stories and what I love is that everybody takes a little bit different approach to it. It doesn't have to be just like that story where you you do that one thing and copy someone else and do that because it may not fit your culture really well. One of the things that I found in the last 12 months or so, is that there's been a bigger focus for talent acquisition leaders to be thinking really hard about talent mobility and how they can support that. Because when you ask them, they can look at the data they have on hand and say, I understand more about the people outside our company than I do about the people inside our company. That's a scary place to be, when you don't know what those capabilities are. 

So one of the companies that does a good job of that and does a really great job of prioritizing that is Credit Suisse. They actually have a program called Internals First, and if you are an employee there, you've been there for a year let's say, you pick up the phone one day and someone's calling you about a job and it's a recruiter at the company that you're already at saying, hey, we found another role it might be a fit for you, it looks like it's a good, your skills align with it. Are you interested? And you can say no, there's nothing wrong with that it doesn't kill your career. But you can also say yes, and you can have that conversation and look into it. 

What's interesting is, you think about that feeling you get when you got that job offer for the job you're in right now. When you're listening to this, you're thinking that felt really good, that feels really nice to be wanted. When you give that person a call, and you say, hey, we still want you, we wanted you then and we want you now, that recreates that feeling all over again, for them to say they desire what I have to offer. That's an exciting place to be.

John Hollon  17:19  
Well, Ben, this has been a great chat. And as is normal with these things, we have much more to talk about than we have time to talk. But there's one last question we ask everybody who comes on the TalentXPodcast, right before we close that I want to ask you to. And here at the TalentX Podcast, we wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have a job that they love. One they're passionate about and just can't get enough of. So Ben, what do you love about what you do? 

Ben Eubanks  17:50  
John, I'm gonna admit it here. This is no secret, I don't think, but I'm going to admit it here. I'm professionally curious. You can probably tell by just how I'm sharing. I love stories. I love data and in my research, I get a chance to really dig into and untangle the questions, the things that I'm curious about, that I want to understand. So that's so much fun for me to be able to uncover those questions, uncover those issues and really shine a light in those areas where we can all learn a better lesson to do HR in a better way.

John Hollon  18:15  
Well, Ben, thanks so much for taking the time to be with us here today. It's been really a great discussion and we really appreciate you being so generous with your time. 

Ben Eubanks  18:26  

John Hollon  18:27  
From the TalentX Podcast. This is John Hollon. Thanks for listening.