TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast

Ep. 25 - Holger Mueller

March 24, 2021 Fuel50 / Holger Mueller Season 1 Episode 25
TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 25 - Holger Mueller
TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 25 - Holger Mueller
Mar 24, 2021 Season 1 Episode 25
Fuel50 / Holger Mueller

Recently we sat down with Holger Mueller of Constellation Research along with special host Anne Fulton CEO of Fuel50 during the exciting final days of the 2021 America’s Cup. Both avid followers of the racing much of the discussion draws comparisons between America’s Cup and business, particularly for innovative tech companies.

Holger goes on to share his top 3 business lessons to be learnt from the last America’s Cup and why we should think more like the racing teams. He also discusses what we can expect for the decade ahead in terms of the shifting talent dynamics and where this might lead us.

Holger Mueller is VP and Principal Analyst for Constellation Research covering Next Generation Apps, Tech Optimization, the Future of Work and Human Capital Management. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter @holgermu or on https://www.constellationr.com

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

Show Notes Transcript

Recently we sat down with Holger Mueller of Constellation Research along with special host Anne Fulton CEO of Fuel50 during the exciting final days of the 2021 America’s Cup. Both avid followers of the racing much of the discussion draws comparisons between America’s Cup and business, particularly for innovative tech companies.

Holger goes on to share his top 3 business lessons to be learnt from the last America’s Cup and why we should think more like the racing teams. He also discusses what we can expect for the decade ahead in terms of the shifting talent dynamics and where this might lead us.

Holger Mueller is VP and Principal Analyst for Constellation Research covering Next Generation Apps, Tech Optimization, the Future of Work and Human Capital Management. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter @holgermu or on https://www.constellationr.com

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

Rhonda Taylor  00:26
Hey it's Rhonda Taylor, welcome to TalentX. This is the podcast that addresses everything about the talent experience and today, this is a very special podcast because we have two incredible guests. We have our co-host, I'm going to hand over to Anne Fulton, who is the Co-Founder of Fuel50 and she is going to be carrying on a discussion with an analyst that many of us know, he's the Vice President and Principal Analyst for Constellation, Holger Mueller. Holger has a strong background working in the human capital management space with the future of work and his focus is on tech optimization and next generation apps. He's a very well educated gentleman from Europe and what I love about him is that he can speak six languages. So on that note, Anne I'm going to turn this over to you.

Anne Fulton  01:42
I was worried that you were going to spring a language on me Holger. But we're so proud to have you on the call today and we've been following the Constellation Research and your thought leadership for a long time so it's fabulous to have you on the call. And I know we're gonna segue and talk about the America's Cup particularly with the Italians going up against New Zealand today again. I guess maybe we could even start there, so Fuel50 is a technology company and we love to be innovators in the way that we deliver technology to the world and want to be game changers and so far ahead of the competition. But what are your thoughts about the America's Cup racing today?

Holger Mueller  02:22
Well, first of all my heart bleeds because it's the first America's Cup that I've missed due to COVID so being a sailing enthusiast it's fine and growing up in Italy speaking Italian longer that English this is of course a historic return after the Italians lost it 20 years ago against New Zealand in the final there. And so nobody could be more dressed than the state of the races at one/one right now. So I don't remember an America's Cup which started one/one. So it's gonna be hopefully interesting races. 

There's tons of things to be learned from the America's Cup for business in my view. In my keynotes, I have like three lessons learned from the last America's Cup, which are basically you have to take risks and then the risk the Emirates Team New Zealand took is they showed up late. I was in Bermuda for conferences one and a half years before and taking the ferry from the to-be built America's Cup village. Oracle was training and BAR was training and Saudi Arabia to know everything about the wind and so on. And the Kiwi's showed up six days before capsized their boat so even not America's Cup historians know that capsizing a boat is bad stuff, they could have been out of it with broken boat or injured people and so on. But they didn't. And they waited so long because they had this innovative new idea which is lesson two think out of the box.

Traditionally on sailing ships when you have to generate power, you do this with your arms because you have to have a stable stand. The kiwis came up with this great idea, we know that that pressure cloud that shipping class is going to be air pressure tied, and humans can produce more power on the bike with the legs then with the arms on the winch and they showed up with four bikers got everybody surprised. But if they'd shown up two and a half years before, everybody would have copied the design because there was a DA. And personally as a biker I love this. I'm still sweaty coming from my peloton right here. Make total sense, so think out of the box. 

And then rethink the organization which I think in last America's Cup was very interesting, we can talk about this one as well. Because typically the helmsman is the God of the ship, right? He or she runs everything and Oracle BMW USA came up with this BMW designed steering wheel which not only steers the ship, but also controls the angle of the ship. It's important for dynamics so it was completely over engineered. Whereas again on the other side Emirates Team New Zealand had the skipper not being the helmsman. When does that ever happen in the America's Cup when the skipper is not the helmsman, right? But it was this young guy which wasn't very well known now of course famous and so on but different story right? So he's a Skipper now, I think, but when they split the rules, and the skipper was doing the lowly job of trimming the sails right and they split the things further, that the angle guy was the front biker on the side and front. So totally different thinking of organization. 

Which also leads us to this America's Cup because organization is the big discussion. What could possibly go wrong with two helmsman with which the Luna Rossa Italians are competing right and interesting like the learning. So in the freestate rumors there was a rumor that Emirates Team New Zealand is trying two helmsmen, with Ashby being the backup salesman anyway. But it's too late probably for them to change all the coordination which is needed for that. Which I love as a topic was one of my overdue blog posts is about I think two CEOs is better than one the co-CEO situation which you have unfortunately, is not common in companies. My view is much more better model in general for companies. Long story short, who's gonna win the America's Cup?

Anne Fulton  05:43
Yes. So very, very interesting. And I think we always talk about Fuel50's talent marketplaces as being like a kiwi innovation and the America's Cup, and we think really carefully about what does that mean and we want to be technologically advanced and sleek and powerful and fast and so much beautiful design and into the engineering of the boat, which we think of as our product. But we also think of the sail as being powered by...

Holger Mueller  06:10
You pay for it with taxpayers money.

Anne Fulton  06:14
There's a contribution of that. 

Holger Mueller  06:18
I was surprised when I sat next to the Minister of Tourism, Sports and the America's Cup, because New Zealand the government was sponsoring the America's Cup team right. So he was there in the early rounds for that reason to see that the money is well spent.

Anne Fulton  06:34
Exactly. There's a strong element of that here in terms of taxpayer support, but I think we also think about our boat as being powered by Olympian athletes you know, these cyclists - we describe our team of Fuellies as being grit, graft, grunt and grind but also gifted right. Every single one of my team is like a gifted athlete, like these Olympians that are on these America's Cup boats today, but interesting you're bringing up because I'm enjoying this whole dynamic around the duel helmsmen on the Italian boat and just thinking, I think it's exciting. And I love seeing that dynamic play out and I'm wondering why we're not doing the same. But I mean, I think looking at it again at our boat.

Holger Mueller  07:16
It's an interesting talent dynamic, the Italians started out with Francesco Bruni who was the helmsman, then they had the chance to get amazing talent on board. Someone who's won the America's twice, lost it once, has been in six finals, Jimmy Spithill. Then they change the organization and make the best out of it. Now they even have an advantage. So I think the lesson learned here we can say already, because they made it to the final is when there is amazing talent out there, you have to get amazing talent in it doesn't mean you have to ruffle the feathers and change everything. But they could be organizations very malleable, they could be a good way in the organization to make it something which they can work, this individuals which have to work and if you see them in press conference, they work well together. They get along together, because they want to win this thing. And having a common goal is something which gets people always together. So I think it's a great lesson learned already here at this point.

Anne Fulton  08:03
Exactly. Yeah, we're co-founded and co-led across our entire business in terms of sharing responsibilities, and I think it's a wonderful dynamic that can be utilized. And I think the dynamic is really, really powerful in terms of always back each other up. And there's two heads, and you've doubled the talent and power onto that team. So I think it comes back to your point around taking a risk and thinking outside the box, and what else can we do differently that's going to create an advantage. So I think it's beautiful.

In terms of talent dynamics. So that's a beautiful dynamic that's playing out in the America's Cup right now, in terms of talent, risk and strategy around talent. And I think because of your involvement in our space we're keen to understand what you're seeing as being maybe shifting talent dynamics that have emerged over the last 12 months. I think we're just on the 12 month anniversary of the world locking down so have you seen or what are your observations of how the talent dynamics have shifted, during this past year.

Holger Mueller  09:06
The way how people work, obviously, we've been working from home it's very different and it looks like longer unfortunately this pandemic goes the more likely they're going to work from home. So there has to be a different way of leadership, that's the first thing. Leader which was great at doing the famous managing the walking around and looking people in the eyes and going to drinks after work or lunch in the break right lunch with a different team member every day in the week lined up at his favorite restaurant. That is not going to work right now. So leaders have to change their skills. 

And it might be also a less, potentially a more intrinsic person who's better at picking up on a phone call or on a video call if somebody is not doing as well because we can't see the full body language. So I think it's going to be very, very different skills with these remote working teams and even teams that can go to the office, people have realized why should I spend 1,2,3,4 or five hours a week on commuting? So I think we see new leadership requirements, but the most important thing which companies seen, we separated the companies in three large buckets in a pandemic world, there are the super busy ones, the hospitals and the essential business basically who are just realizing, oh my god, this is not a 5k race, this is the marathon, this is running much longer, we also have to invest into our system again, we cannot stop everything just holding the fort down. So there's awakening there, which is good for the windows and technology space doing things, and good for HR because of to develop new things to make sure people don't burn out, have the skills for the future, to have huge hiring pressure to hire people because people want to not be in dangerous jobs, and so on. 

So there's a lot of things to do which have to happen. The other ones are the staggerized, they even more kind of like in a child's situation, I call them the staggerized because they're on off on off closed. Often the problem is by order of magnitude bigger, because they have to do this across different cities, locations, and all of a sudden, it's no longer the central command headquarters saying telling you from the ivory tower, this is how you run your business. No it's the local managers make hiring decisions, opening decisions, salary decisions, because he or she is the only person who even sees people on that path perspective. When asked to tell them sorry, we have to shut down again, you have to furlough you or has to hire people to open up in five days and these cycles, they used everything our systems are very well done to the average economic cycles of seven years up seven years down. But now you have to operate on seven weeks, potentially seven days, up and down closing for location.  

And then there are the sidelines ones. Techie as we are, this is why the super busy, the staggerized and the sideline ones. Sidelines ones don't even know if they're going to reopen the business like this. Like the airlines. Are you going to be an airline? Are you going to be in the hospitality business? Are you going to be something totally different? So they have totally different systems, or from an IT cause they sit on IT infrastructures, which don't make sense, they have to pivot quickly. And that comes back to the ability of employees and the main capabilities into one you can train this why we've seen a strong focus on training, obviously, and learning for people now. It really comes back to who are my best people? How can I get the best people who I dropped.

And if you want me to talk longer I'm happy to talk about the concept that's called transboarding. It's a word I created with transfer and onboarding. Because yes, you will hire people from the outside but transfers, especially now the company's pivot and change their value proposition are going to be even more because you can get in quicker on the pace of the skills and you're better employee to keep your people in new jobs, make their life more interesting. In this trend, in the transfers in the company usually outnumber the new hire people by five to seven to eight. So if you get the transfer experience better, qualified people earlier for the next job, get them running on the next job, transition them better in the next job. The transition is easy, right? Remember, when office you had to move if you were changing departments, today, you don't have to move anything. This is the day where the cost center cut over either because everybody's working from home and many places people are working from home. So the transboarding the speed, which leads to the overall research matters, enterprise acceleration companies have to move faster and have to become more agile. So transboarding is a super important process for infrastructure.

Anne Fulton  13:01
Yeah, that's an amazing kind of concept I think, because I mean we do need talent agility in the workforce today, more so than ever, but this ability to, as you say, prepare talent to be agile and to be fast movers, and ready for the next project or assignment that might be coming their way, unexpectedly. But also I'm liking your three buckets and helping those that have got the marathons in front of them, as well as those that need this extreme agility and unpredictability in there. So we're preparing people for all sorts of unknowns, but I think the the transporting kind of conceptualization into the new kind of career currencies is really important to support that enterprise accelaration right now. So what do you see going into that, what's supporting that methodology?

Holger Mueller  13:56
You have to understand what can your people do? And there's this big trend around skills right now, as we see by a company starting with W ending with Day who has finally has got this done. And now everybody's kind of like reacting on what they're doing. But unfortunately, the way how they approach it is the electronified traditional way how to capture skills. So as we know in the old world we would fill out forms and the forms will be collated and tabulated. Half a year later or one year later, you would know oh, this is what my people knew a year ago. You don't know what they're doing right now. And yes that's being proved to be done better, there's no question with electronical bills cloud with AI. But I think very strongly and I'm looking for vendors and companies and a few which are doing this as custom applications. I think our digital artifacts, artifacts that we create, and our digital exhaust tells enough about your skills dynamically to come up with which skills does somebody have. 

And then understand that they're like, make this video as an example. You may not be able to listen as we talk about talent management, but from the people who look at that video afterwards and what kind of potentially actions they take if they like it or not like it, you can kind of figure out if you had a good conversation or if you may be good at this because you might find in your video archives a few more videos of this. So obviously, you would then say that Anne has the ability to do a video interview conversation and we see this lady Rhonda always talking at the beginning so obviously she does the introduction pretty well for that. If you're looking for someone who can do video in the company, and then there's the other lady Paganne, it's French or English, pronunciation. She is muted, so I'll make you French. Paganne is very good at managing this whole thing because her signatures all over the digital artifacts and the digital exhaust right, the things you throw away, because it didn't make it into publication. So the skills can be derived by what we do, because we create so much digital things into the work right. 

And you can derive many people have been asking what do we do people manufacture cars. They have no diesel exhaust. Well, they check in, you know when they left the house, you know when they go on break, you know what systems they use and most importantly, you know what quality the car is. And you can track that back and figure out when Jack, Jo and Jill work together the car is always bad. And if you team up Jack, Jo and John the car's gonna be better and find a new home for Jill on different jobs. So this is the biggest missing link in performance management world, that the real world performance has no way to really be tied outside from spreadsheets into the real performance management systems. Once you have the value creation of teams being measured and you know the quality of that and bring that together into performance management and what skills they have then I think you've changed something. 

Anne Fulton  16:37
Yeah. And I think the skills intelligence that we're supporting our ecosystem with is increasingly vital. And the way that we're thinking about it is, contribution index rather than performance evaluation. But what's been, as you say, those digital contributions of somebody across the ecosystem, and how do we collate that? And how do we surface that information back into the hands of not just HR, but into the hands of leaders to be able to say, Okay, yeah, we've got this capability or skill doesn't exist as a job today, but it's aggregated into an emerging talent set that we need to find these kinds of capabilities. And how do you surface that? 

So I think it's twofold so we're certainly supporting clients with that kind of skills intelligence but it's also twofold because we also want exactly as your example before, we want the workforce to be reskilled and ready armed and able. And getting some great aggregate at scale gains of people actually doing the preparation for what might be trending in-demand skills in that organization. So to ask that is super important. Yeah, really keen to understand any additional thoughts that you have on the shift that the pandemic's created in the kind of talent technologies that are being used today, whether they're going to be in demand in the decade ahead? Love your thoughts on that.

Holger Mueller  18:02
Yeah, I mean, I think like I said before the biggest demand has been created for a new way of leadership, different skills of leadership and different systems of leadership. And that's kind of like I would say a new category potentially for HR or it traditionally would be in the HR core domain. How do you manage and lead your people? And how do you make it tell people leader are more effective and knowing what people can do. And the talent management side of things, we have to empower the talent, the hiring manager much, much more much better. The whole process of recruiters, the recruiters market different plays, difficult to get people in place. The manager has to live with that person, which comes on board anyway so serve the candidates to them, allow people to onboard much faster. So everything has to move faster, new ways of earning. 

And I hope that somebody is going to fix performance management at some point because it cannot be fixed by software alone. That's what has been oversold by many Talent Management vendors this, I think there's no software which can be created where somebody says, I'm looking so much forward to go on the office tomorrow and get three negative performance reviews and potentially fire one of the people. Software cannot do that. So there has been this software plus and the plus component has largely been missing for showing people what to do. But and we know that we need more continuous feedback, we need more little artifacts to figure that out. So the direction is there; the best practice has not been established. 

Anne Fulton  19:22
Yeah. And as work is being delivered more in deconstructed units like projects. So instead of having a job that you had your KPIs, you're now contributing to five different projects with different objectives and different kind of evaluation criteria, but allowing a type of feedback loop, so at the end of that project, or gig or assignment, whatever it is, that the way that we like to conceptualize it is to push the ownership and getting that feedback back onto the employee. At the end of that assignment, get your feedback and then you aggregate that and that gets surfaced into the hands of your leader when it comes around to having those growth conversations and developing conversations going forward. But yeah, at the end of that assignment so it's becoming a shorter unit.  And that you can invite feedback from your peers as well as your leaders and the project owner so that we're creating as you described before Holger, that kind of digital footprint that becomes measurable, around impact and contribution. So, yeah, I do agree that we need to create a shift because the world is accelerating and I'd like your kind of focus on the enterprise acceleration as being the outcome, we need to help organizations respond. Just interested in what changes you might be anticipating in workforce dynamics over the next decade. It's gonna be a really fascinating decade and the industrial era is well behind us and the digital era, what can we expect ahead that you're thinking about?

Holger Mueller  20:58
I think it will be a huge saving grace, you can say for the first world, which has an aging problem. If you're working right now in an economy that's optimized of six people work and one person retired. And then in 10-15 years, we're using into two people working one person retired, assuming the 65 typically retirement age. And one of the hardest thing for people when they get older is to go to the office, it's not to sit in a chair and do the work. Now, it's basically from their beds to the chair where to do the work. So I think it's going to give a break to the first world which has it's unfavorable aging dynamics, which we're not prepared. So to certain point it will hold us back, now saying people who love AI. If you're concerned about AI, just talk to the Japanese senior who prefers a robot to assist them than a human. Because the robot is reliable, is always there, doesn't steal from you, which is a big concern of seniors in Japan. And so they prefer the robot over the real person. So we might see less AI automation than we want to from that part, but we will be able to work much, much longer than we ever have before. Because that gruesome commute, in some places is no longer part of the whole equation. So I think that's gonna be a big pay from that perspective. Just one because we're running out of time here, because we still have to come back to who's gonna win today at the America's Cup.

Anne Fulton 21:28
I'm going another one all that's what I'm thinking today. That's my prediction Holger. What about you?

Holger Mueller  22:19
I hope it's gonna be a tie again. The suspense is gonna be there and the interesting thing is that obviously nobody can overtake with the sports clause. They're super exciting boats. I mean, every time when people have to wear helmet on something moving fast, sign me up. That's exciting. Right? So boats, which go 80 kilometres and faster an hour, and people have to have even their scuba equipment that they can get under the boat trap potentially, God forbid that will happen. But there's no overtaking. No, overtaking to a certain point the cross is coming you can overlap or not. That's the interesting thing of the match racing of America's Cup. So may the better team win is my heart. I speak Italian longer than English. So change is good, right? 

But especially if nobody manages to overtake in the race, whatever the spare is, I like Luna Rossa to win because I'm hopefully there's going to be a different boat. Because as exciting as the boat is, I want to see some overtaking action. Whereas I'm concerned if the Kiwis win they might keep the same boat, which is going to hopefully attract more teams as it has upsides to because the boats are very expensive, only four teams, that's not happened since a long time. But I think they will double down on the same technology and it doesn't provide us very exciting races right now.

Anne Fulton  23:30
Yeah no we want an exciting race, for sure. And I think, just kind of, you're obviously passionate about the America's Cup and you're passionate about the work that you do. And I think we'd love to hear at TalentX we want everyone to love the work that they do and we'd love to hear about what are you passionate about with the work that you do? As our closing question today. 

Holger Mueller  23:56
What motivates me is the seeing if my work can make a difference. If somebody sees Oh, I learned something, I see something that most importantly, I've done something differently and was more successful or it comes back to me also and said, Look, I tried what you said and doesn't work. And I'd love to hear that even more, because that's the only way to get better. Trying to make a difference for my research and my work is enough motivation to get me out of bed.

Rhonda Taylor  24:18
Wow, you two, we could listen to you all day. You're just such a wealth of information and Anne Fulton, the host. Holger, you do incredible work. Thank you for joining TalentX thank you for making TalentX a better product. And again, a last word in parting Holger?

Holger Mueller  24:41
No I mean exciting times. It's hopefully that we come out stronger and better out of the pandemic. And I think from a technology and leadership and HR perspective, there's so much upside over disruption of that. There's this joke of saying who has done more for digital disruption than the CEO, the CFO, the CIO, the C.O.V.I.D. Officer. The COVID officer, who's just not really an officer. And we've done a lot of transformation improvement of things. I mean, remember, three, four years ago, I had panels where people said no people can't work at home, we're not gonna be productive, that's the wrong way of doing this. And secretly, you know, they were trying to get people leave because they didn't want to do the commute. And now we see that for most companies if they're not affected, they're even more productive. So what kind of like traditional like horses, how you call the thing that horses have on there so they can't...blinders, right. So we had the blinders on for the longest time on the working from home perspective, which is a very sad thing. So hopefully that helps us and hopefully we learn from it for different aspects to where we also have the blinders on.

Rhonda Taylor  25:41
Yes, it definitely is a time of learning. So again, thank you to all. This is Rhonda Taylor from TalentX. Thank you, remember in these times to test negative but stay positive. Bye all. Thank you.