TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast

Ep. 14 - Russell Klosk

October 22, 2020 Fuel50 / Russell Klosk Season 1 Episode 14
TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 14 - Russell Klosk
TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 14 - Russell Klosk
Oct 22, 2020 Season 1 Episode 14
Fuel50 / Russell Klosk

We’ve dealt with rapid unexpected change this year and never has the whole world been so focused on the same problem. Russell Klosk, talent strategy thought-leader and expert in workforce transformation, explores how 2020’s challenges have affected companies priorities when it comes to their talent and reveals what’s different this time round compared with past recessions. Russell shares with host Rhonda Taylor some of the often-unspoken pitfalls of working from home and what impact it has made on productivity, employee experience and engagement. Remote working vs. in-office, what will it be like on the other side of the pandemic? Listen in for Russell’s take!

Russell is a globally recognized thought leader in Talent Strategy, Workforce Transformation and Strategic Workforce Planning and has led multiple global transformation projects. Connect with him on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/russellklosk/ or Twitter @RussMK!

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

Show Notes Transcript

We’ve dealt with rapid unexpected change this year and never has the whole world been so focused on the same problem. Russell Klosk, talent strategy thought-leader and expert in workforce transformation, explores how 2020’s challenges have affected companies priorities when it comes to their talent and reveals what’s different this time round compared with past recessions. Russell shares with host Rhonda Taylor some of the often-unspoken pitfalls of working from home and what impact it has made on productivity, employee experience and engagement. Remote working vs. in-office, what will it be like on the other side of the pandemic? Listen in for Russell’s take!

Russell is a globally recognized thought leader in Talent Strategy, Workforce Transformation and Strategic Workforce Planning and has led multiple global transformation projects. Connect with him on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/russellklosk/ or Twitter @RussMK!

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

Rhonda Taylor  0:25  
Welcome to TalentX Podcast. This is a podcast that addresses all the relevant aspects of the talent world in HR today. I am Rhonda Taylor, the host for today's episode and today we're talking with Russell Klosk from Accenture. Thanks for joining us, Russell.

Russell Klosk  0:45  
Most welcome.

Rhonda Taylor  0:47  
Russell, before we move on into the topics of talent and what's going on in HR, especially with COVID, can you tell our listeners about you?

Russell Klosk  1:01  
Sure, I am a Principal Director in Accenture's Talent and Organization Strategy practice. I am based out of the Washington DC region. But I have a global role. I am the global lead for our offerings around strategic workforce planning, HR integrated operating models, and then pieces of our talent strategy offerings as well. Those are broad brushes and so they're complex things to pull together and no one person drives them anywhere, let alone at a company as large as Accenture is. But I help devise what those solutions look like as we take them to market and help our clients get better at those things. I've been here for six years, basically, I'm about a month shy of my sixth anniversary at Accenture. I was in the industry for 10 years and before that I grew up in a competitor.

Rhonda Taylor  1:51  
Wow, it seems like you've been at Accenture forever Russell for some reason.

Russell Klosk  1:56  
We joke about it, but Accenture is like dog years. I think a lot of consulting companies may be like that, but just the pace of the work we do, because we're stepping into different client environments and sometimes it's a crisis, sometimes it's a very deliberate transformation. But you're not going to keep the consultants there forever. They're there to help you do something that isn't your norm standard up and get out of the way and so it creates a pace that's a little bit, it's not a different job, it's not a different skill set, but it is a different pace than you find in the corporate roles.

Rhonda Taylor  2:30  
Right, right. Yeah. Well, you definitely seemed to get around the world because wherever I go, I seem to bump into you. So Russell, let's talk about talent. That's the hot spot, and that's part of your responsibility. In this time of COVID, what do you think are the priorities in the talent space that companies are dealing with?

Russell Klosk  2:58  
Let me start in the time before COVID for just a second, because the priorities they were dealing with before COVID, some of those trends have not changed. How they're dealing with them in the short term may have changed. But the reality of a globalized workforce and what work gets done where and why, and the realities of multi-generational workforces in different work styles and the realities of for certain knowledge worker skillsets in certain professions, as they change and evolve, and as machine learning, and RPA, and AI and all these other things come into the workplace, those things are still going on. Those problems that companies were having before are still there. 

What's a little bit different about COVID and one of the things that you would have seen in a normal recession that we're not seeing this time is, I don't want to call it ethics, but I don't know a better word. In the past companies that were financially flush or in a positive cash flow position would use a downturn in the economy to upgrade their talent. This time around, primarily for public relations reasons and because it hit everybody at the same time, that's not what's occurring. People are furloughing people, unfortunately, and laying people off, but they're doing their best to bring back the talent they have. They're doing the best to hold on to the talent they had. And so those talent management activities and those talent strategy activities have shifted more to the near term. How can I do this? What is it going to look like? 

But the investments in RPA, and all those other things that were going on and the reasons behind them, which were not cost, but capability and optimization and those kinds of things. They may have slowed down, but they're still going. We have to do it differently. We have to be able to find a way to differentiate ourselves. We have to be able to innovate in a different way or at a different scale. We want to have agile teams and not take three years to develop products and all of those things. Haven't seen it stop. I've seen the decision making slow down. I have seen the pace that it's being rolled out at slow down because companies are dealing with other graces. But the COVID world has just shifted that. 

To give a specific example the workforce planning and the types of solutions we were building for clients last year were focused on what kind of workforce do I need three years from now, four years from now, five years from now, based on these other things I'm doing, not only how do the jobs change, but more importantly, when do they change and which skills are adjacent? And how can I move people between roles? The kind of workforce we're planning, we're helping companies with now we've shifted from the concept of critical roles to the concept of essential roles. I need eight people or I can't do this, therefore, I'm going to have eight people, not nine, in the near term. But we have also seen more focus on those longer term things. Let me be more deliberate about where I'm going to lay technology and let me be more deliberate about job fluidity. And that term in workforce planning, job fluidity used to be about mobility, and how do I keep the same person and move them from job to job to job and create lattices instead of career ladders. 

Now, it's about you're a financial analyst, and you have this bucket of 10 skills, but I only really need you doing that for the finance department, 20 hours a week, so the other 20 hours of your life, I'm gonna let you help HR with HR analytics, I'm gonna let you help procurement with procurement analytics, I'm going to point you toward business intelligence and help the operations folks. But I'm not going to create a whole separate career path or transfer you on p&l's, and all of those things, your job is still financial analyst, your career path still sits where it does, but I'm going to stretch your skill set. And what's different is it's occurring in big companies. In a startup, you would expect that, in a large company you don't see that, the jobs get narrower. Does that make sense?

Rhonda Taylor  6:42  
Oh, yeah. We're seeing it, whether it's in small or large companies, that talent mobility/internal mobility, is probably the number one issue right now. And of course, along with the internal mobility, as you were saying, that accountant going in more into analytics, there's upskilling. And that is a whole new game changer. Are you seeing that?

Russell Klosk  7:17  
I am. I would call it rapid upskilling. And that was going on before March as well, but as the roles change, I have these 10 skills, in the new role I need six of them, but I need them at different levels, four of them I don't need any more but here's four new ones I need. But what's different this time is that used to be: here's my career development and here's this learning path and I go on that as my career develops, and I get good at these things. Now, it's the combination of what originally grew up in manufacturing environments is now finding itself into knowledge workers and service roles as well. 

That concept of just in time learning and just the right amount of learning, as we do the upskilling so that it can be deployed rapidly, it can be deployed cost effectively, it can be deployed at scale and it can shift quickly with the business. I need your role to shift this way, we're going to push you that way, or your interest shift to this thing and so you need these four skills. And in my learning system, it's not that I don't have the course but I actually have a course with 10 or 12 modules in it, you don't need all 10 or 12, you only these three, take these three. Right. The trends on how you deliver it have changed as well. A little more simulation based, little more experiential learning, little less, whether it's CBT, or classroom, traditional regurgitation learning for lack of a better term, and a lot more of and you're gonna apply it tomorrow so it sticks.

Rhonda Taylor  8:41  
Yes, yeah. And we're finding that gigs is probably one of the top learning processes in today's workforce.

Russell Klosk  8:55  
We use it internally a lot, you know, not all of our things, but a lot of them are built in that manner.

Rhonda Taylor  9:01  
Oh, yeah. We had a biotech company, right at the time of COVID who was using our platform, and there was 60,000 people signed on and I think there was like 242,000 job skills that were signed on to. Like people took some sort of action. That's incredible. But of course, COVID and a biotech company, these are the people that would be ramping up their skills, big time, right off the bat.

Russell Klosk  9:44  
Biotech's interesting, because whatever one's views are of vaccines, and how these are being developed, and how different countries in different places are responding to this virus. The one thing that's unique that I've never seen, at least not just in my lifetime, but in my view of how I studied history is, has the world ever focused on one problem universally before? All of it? Right? Usually, it's this country's at war with that country, and they have different views. Now we're all trying to solve the same problem in one way, shape, or form or another. It's a staggering amount of not just financial, but intellectual resources that are being thrown at something and the optimist in me says, if we can solve this one, what else can we solve? We're going to create a roadmap on how you do that.

Rhonda Taylor  10:30  
Oh, exactly. It's amazing. Getting back to gigs, there's a lot of companies that have them, they might be something internally, or they might even be something externally, like setting up the red feather campaign or whatever for the company. People have to take their blinders off and realize the learning opportunities that there are with these gigs, and you know, Russell, you and I, we didn't have these opportunities, when we were younger,

Russell Klosk  11:10  
There's a related trend. What's a good way of putting this. So we're seeing two trends that contradict each other a little bit. We have seen consolidation in the core systems, and so depending on your view of Kronos really recent acquisition, there are either three or four core platforms that everyone is using. And those four platforms would tell you, they can do everything and be everything to everyone. But at the same time, we're seeing a massive rise, we used to call them bolt-ons back in the day, the third party independent platforms that they don't care what your core system is, they do this one niche thing, and they do it really well. 

And it was the learning space that got me thinking about it, but it's a lot of, it's a lot. It's not just talent acquisition and learning like it used to be, it's pick a specialty, and if that's the one that can allow your company to differentiate, here's nine or 10 different vendors, that can get you content in a different way and allow you to engage in your people and play with your talent strategy in near real time. And in the learning space, and to those gigs and to the cognition things and all of the rest of them. Pick an independent platform, but I'm not just buying content and hosting it in my LMS. I'm literally sending you out to a different platform and here's the skill set you're going to learn and here's how you're going to learn it. And we're giving the employees enough flexibility to say you go to this one, you go to that one, I don't care, I'm gonna get charged 50 bucks to send you to a class no matter who offers it. Those are in direct contradiction to each other, but they're both occurring at the same time.

Rhonda Taylor  12:43  
Yep, yeah. Well companies are, now I don't want to say desperate right now, but they're being strategic. They're doing what needs to be done in order for success to occur. And it's, as you say, it's not always logical. That sort of leads into the next topic that I wanted to talk to you about. And that's the remote worker. I'm not talking about the technology behind the remote worker, but like, it's a big change to our society in having everybody staying at home and working. Russell, what do you and where do you think this is all going to end up?

Russell Klosk  13:35  
My view is going to conflict a little with the popular narrative. I think it's amazing how fast all these companies that were never going to the remote worker centric, were able to flip the switch when they had to and didn't have a choice. And all the technology that came online to make that possible for about 60-65% of the jobs that can be done that way realistically and it's amazing and people like working from home. They have since it became possible about 30 years ago, we started seeing those trends, right? It's nice to not have to commute, it's nice to not have to deal with the hustle and bustle. 

The popular perception in the world is people are happier, they're engaged more, they're sitting in front of their computers, all those things that can be a little creepy, but that you can do with HR tech. How much time are you spending in front of your screen? Are you actually doing work? Companies that are measuring those things. Yeah, people are working, they're absolutely working and things are getting done and companies are continuing to grow, not at the pace they were as the economy slowed down, but they're continuing to grow and invent things and all the rest of it. And if you ask the average person that's working from home, they're gonna say I'm just as productive or more productive because it feels that way. 

But when you dig into the data, and not just the post COVID data, but we can dig into that too, but even the data over the last 30 years as people have looked at remote work and what does that look like? And what kind of structure do you need to do it? When you get past about two days a week, there is a falloff in productivity. In the post COVID world and the world we're living in right now, there's about four studies that are out there right now and they all say the same thing and it's somewhere between 25 and 35% falloff in productivity in the private sector, it's worse in the public sector, maybe the nature of the type of jobs in the public sector. It's not a disparagement to people that work in the public sector. But that's real. 

What's going on is people are working, on average 2.8 more hours a day. Yeah, that's the time they used to spend in their cars, maybe, but that time in your car was time to set your brain, I'm flipping from my home self to my work self. That's not occurring. I go downstairs and I sit down, and I never had the formality of putting my suit on and I never got in the car and went to work and my brain never shifted, it just doesn't stop. And so you're answering emails at 11 o'clock at night, and at six o'clock in the morning and all the rest of it. That's part of it, part of it is certainly driven by and my kids are home too, and those kinds of distractions. 

That falloff in productivity to me and I think what we will find tomorrow, because we got to solve this crisis first. But if I look out 18 months, 12 months, whatever the magic number is, I think we'll be back in the offices. I don't think we'll ever go back to five days a week, 40 hours at a time, nine to five kind of thing. I think we will find people going in three days a week, probably on average, maybe four, some two, there'll be some flexibility there. Offsetting hours, but so that you can have the right people in the building at the right time to have the right kind of meetings. Because we're all living through it, every meeting you go to is: here's six people in a formal invitation on Teams, Zoom, take your collaborative workforce software of choice and here's the agenda for the meeting and here's the meeting minutes afterward and here's the action items we took away from it. And those things are all important and we do that when we're in the offices as well. 

But where does the real work get done? It gets done in a five minute conversation in the hallway? Or can I pull you in front of this whiteboard for a few minutes and just brainstorm this idea? And so we've lost that. And that's why the productivity is falling off. And human beings are social creatures, to some extent, they need the instant gratification of someone agrees with me. And innovation occurs, because you're not looking for it, and you just stumble across it, a whole lot of the time. You set up the right environment for those big ideas to boil up and not because you can force the idea through six specific meetings talking about it. And so I think when I look at the world of remote work, yeah, it's now going to be part of our lives, that was always going to happen, it probably happened 10 years faster. But it's going to flip back a little bit, too. We're not, all of a sudden the cities are going to be vacant shells, and no one's going to go there. All the things that we liked about big cities before, we're going to like again, it's nice to go out after work and be in a big city for a couple hours.

Rhonda Taylor  17:57  
Oh yeah, definitely! One thing you didn't talk about Russell, and I think that going back to the workplace will alleviate is the amount of stress and depression that is existing in the workforce right now? And I think it's because we don't have that collaboration with our peers.

Russell Klosk  18:22  
It's affecting engagement for sure. I haven't seen a study yet but if you think about traditionally, what are the levers you pull when you're trying to build employee experience and engagement? A lot of that is being deliberate about how people interact with each other. How your company culture puts people in a room, and whether it's an open environment or a hierarchical environment, it doesn't matter what the answer is, but that's your culture. Right? That's all missing right now. And so I think we will also see falloffs in engagement when the survey starts to come out as people go through their annual exercises, falloffs in the sense of belonging that you're part of, in this together and part of a team. And if I look past the immediate recession to something that's closer to a more normal unemployment rate, the turnover will follow it because people will crave that. 

Rhonda Taylor  19:13  
Yeah. And I was waiting for you to say belonging, because that is the new buzzword that is out in the space right now is the ability to belong. And COVID took that away from a lot of us.

Russell Klosk  19:30  
And with no warning, and that's the bigger shock, right, like one day things. My own experience. I was at a client site on a Thursday, I flew home that Thursday night and Friday, my kids are home and we're remote. It changed that fast.

Rhonda Taylor  19:44  
Yep. People walked back into their office just recently and the calendar was there March 12. You know, so the world just stopped, stood still it's hard to believe. So saying that Russell, you've been with Accenture and you're incredibly passionate about your job and with TalentX, we're always interested in knowing what drives you, what do you enjoy in your work? Because enjoying what you do makes you good at it. So tell us what...

Russell Klosk  20:25  
 It's an interesting question and it's different for everyone, of course. And it shifts as you go through your career. I think, I'll put both lenses on it an employer that can allow you to shift with them and them with you, as you go through those different swings. I'm at a point in my career where I enjoy the challenges of fixing these complex problems. I'm at a point in my career, when I think about how I deal with my internal colleagues. That I get as much enjoyment in helping them get to the resources and the things they need, so that they can go and do those kind of things as I do in doing them myself. 

I'm no longer at a point where I actually care what my title is. I'm no longer at a point where I'm chasing some, it's not that I'm not ambitious and I don't want to advance but I'm not chasing some arbitrary thing that I have to get to the top of this artificial pyramid or my life's not going to be complete. I've come to terms with, this is what I'm good at, this is what I like doing it, and I want to be the absolute best person at doing that, that I can be. And that may not be the absolute best person at that thing in the entire world. And that's okay. Right? But the best that I can be and that self-actualization piece, and wherever Maslov's is sitting in his grave and smiling right now, but I think you get to that at a certain point. Hopefully most people do. But it's not the way. 

I did a recruiting event yesterday at a college in Texas, virtually. And that's not the way I looked at the world at 22 and it's certainly not the kind of questions I was getting from the 22 year old kids and doesn't mean they're wrong they're just at a different point in their career, and they're looking at different things that are going to drive and motivate them. I think the beauty of what COVID and some of these things are forcing companies to do is bespoke it a little bit. Bespoke the employment experience, bespoke the learning experience, bespoke career development, it's not the same for everyone. It doesn't need to be. You want to get the most you can out of me so you get value from it, and you want me to be happy so I stay and I give that to you. And that's not going to be the same thing that motivates you, Rhonda, that motivates me, and it doesn't need to be and the technology and the shifts in the economy and all the rest of it we finally hit a point where we can do that at scale that was never possible when we were standing on assembly lines, and it was how do we put the cars together?

Rhonda Taylor  22:38  
Yes, exactly. So Russell, we're coming to the end of into the podcast and I want to thank you so much for being a guest. You're always so knowledgeable and entertaining. Do you have a closing statement before we sign off?

Russell Klosk  23:00  
I would I would leave it at this. To me the secret of successful organizations and the secret of successful careers both. One, they're not linear they look like stock charts, in both cases, there's going to be ups and downs accept it. But find something you can love doing. Because then you'll throw your heart into it. You don't have to be a cookie cutter. Everybody doesn't have to approach work the same way. For some people PCs the answer for others it's not. It doesn't matter, you know, don't go out of your way to make people upset or anything like that. But find your space and find where you're comfortable being you and then be you.

Rhonda Taylor  23:36  
And I think that's a great way to sign off. Thank you, Russell. This is Rhonda Taylor from TalentX. We'll see you again, you know during this COVID time, take care be safe and remember we're all in this together. Bye all.