TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast

Ep. 26 - Mary Faulkner

April 08, 2021 Fuel50 / Mary Faulkner Season 1 Episode 26
TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 26 - Mary Faulkner
TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 26 - Mary Faulkner
Apr 08, 2021 Season 1 Episode 26
Fuel50 / Mary Faulkner

As a principal at IA-HR, an advisory firm that helps guide organizations through business transformation, our guest Mary Faulkner has a lot of experience helping companies through various workplace challenges. In this episode she shares how the past year has gone for organizations and what they’ve been focusing on. 

Mary goes on to discuss the big trend towards optimization and maximizing existing assets, both technology and talent. Along with host John Hollon, they discuss why understanding the skill sets of your people is no longer a nice to have. In fact, it’s now an imperative to have an infrastructure providing visibility into these skills and capabilities.

Mary Faulkner is a talent strategist, problem solver and business leader with more than 15 years experience in helping organizations achieve their goals. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter @mfaulkner43 , on her blog https://survivingleadership.blog or through the IA-HR website https://ia-hr.com.

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

Show Notes Transcript

As a principal at IA-HR, an advisory firm that helps guide organizations through business transformation, our guest Mary Faulkner has a lot of experience helping companies through various workplace challenges. In this episode she shares how the past year has gone for organizations and what they’ve been focusing on. 

Mary goes on to discuss the big trend towards optimization and maximizing existing assets, both technology and talent. Along with host John Hollon, they discuss why understanding the skill sets of your people is no longer a nice to have. In fact, it’s now an imperative to have an infrastructure providing visibility into these skills and capabilities.

Mary Faulkner is a talent strategist, problem solver and business leader with more than 15 years experience in helping organizations achieve their goals. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter @mfaulkner43 , on her blog https://survivingleadership.blog or through the IA-HR website https://ia-hr.com.

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

John Hollon  00:26
Hello, I'm John Hollon and welcome to TalentX, the talent experience podcast. Today's guest is Mary Faulkner. Mary is a talent strategist and business leader who's worked for more than 15 years helping organizations achieve their goals. She landed in HR by way of learning and development, and then made her way around to every part of HR at one time or another. Currently, Mary is a principal with IA-HR, I think that's how you say it Mary, a consulting firm that helps guide organizations through business transformation. She also authors a leadership development blog called surviving leadership, great title, and is a regular contributor to a number of talent management publications, including HRExaminer.com and ERE. In addition, Mary is the co-chair of the Denver chapter of DisruptHR, a new way to network and think about people in work, and co chair of HROS an open source approach to human resources. Mary, it sounds like you are very busy. How are you and how is life in the Rocky Mountains?

Mary Faulkner  01:32
Hi John, thanks for having me. Yes, I can be very busy. Although right now, not a lot of DisruptHR is going on because it's an in person event. So we just talk about it a lot but we don't actually get to disrupt too much right now.

John Hollon  01:46
Oh, okay well, that's all good to hear! We've got a lot to talk about, our time always is really tight and we end up with more things we want to talk about than we have time to do it. So let's get started. I know that you're a principal with IA-HR consulting firm that helps guide organizations through business transformation but helping companies to do that must be terribly difficult given the lock downs and other business and workplace challenges we've experienced over the past year. Can you talk a bit about how that has gone? And what business transformation means today, compared to what it meant what you were doing before the pandemic?

Mary Faulkner  02:23
Yeah, it's interesting, we were probably in a position, a better position to transition to the pandemic working conditions. We've always worked virtually. The biggest change for us was we would always go on site with our clients when we do some of the current state assessments or work through some of the future state mapping. So probably the biggest change in our work is going virtual. We have figured out we've had about a year now to figure out the best way to do it. But we have to really reassure our clients to say yes, this is we've got experience in doing it this way. We have online tools that help us do this collaboratively. We know how long a session can go before everybody starts to get glassy eyed so we plan accordingly. 

But in terms of the work that we're doing what was really interesting is there was that little bit of period of time. So my last business trip was the first week of March of 2020. And I was on the road 50 to 75% of the time. So when everything kind of shut down, everybody just sort of stopped and said, Ooh, what's going to happen? So there was this pause while everyone waited until things really kind of stabilized and everybody understood how work was going to get done. And then once people sort of saw Oh, this is what it's going to be like, we've seen an uptick in people really looking at needing to do the work that they've always been wanting to do. I think the pandemic really kind of accelerated some of the projects that were on the backburner, you know some of that, how do we make the employee experience better from a technology standpoint? How do we increase virtual workforce capabilities? So we really saw a shift in focus in saying, If not now, when? So let's just go ahead and do it.

John Hollon  03:59
Did that surprise you that they shifted focus? 

Mary Faulkner  04:04
Not, I don't know that it would surprise me it was work that we were already seeing change. Historically, a lot of what we did were helping do facilitated selection, so for RFPs, we'd help people find best fit providers. And we'd been seeing a shift and we still do that work and then we've been seeing a shift though towards more process improvement strategy work, help us think through our operating model, all the optimization work. We had noticed that shift and I think we just saw an increase in demand of working that way, because businesses have really had to rethink the way that they approach the work that they're doing. 

John Hollon  04:41
So what are organizations looking for when they reach out to you today? And what kind of workplace and talent management trends are you seeing now in the wake of the lockdown and so many people as you know working remotely? 

Mary Faulkner  04:55
Yeah I think again, really big trend towards optimization. So they really they're trying to maximize assets they already have. So whether it's technology that they already have, or the people that they already have, or some of the programs that they have in place. Some organizations recognize that their infrastructure is just really out of date and they just need to do a wholesale, let's go and completely redo all of our talent and HCM strategy. But a lot of it is just really saying, I have this system it's never worked the way we wanted it to work, but we don't have the capacity to go out and implement in a whole new system. So how can we just make it work better for us? So that's where we've been able to step in and say, in the past maybe you think you need to go to selection, but you don't you just didn't configure it very well at the beginning. So let's help you think through the way that you can reconfigure this or make it work better for you, especially with the changes in business today. 

I think from in terms of what organizations are really looking for, even for like any advisory firm, such as what we do, they're really looking for people to challenge them. And maybe that seems kind of obvious, but I definitely think that people want their advisors to question why is it that you're doing it that way? Have you thought about a different way to do it? From a talent perspective, you say that you need performance management with ratings. Why? Do you really need performance management? Do you really need just better development discussions, whatever it might be. So they're really kind of looking for someone to come in and kind of kick them out of the rut that they've been in and just really think differently.

John Hollon  06:31
A lot of times people need other people outside of what they're doing to bounce things off of and to get their perspective. And I'm sure that when they bring you in, that's one of the big things you can do. You hear a lot today about how a number of organizations are really focused on both reskilling and upskilling their employees and working to make their employee base more flexible and agile. How much of that are you seeing? And are there other workplace trends that are developing, that we just don't hear as much about?

Mary Faulkner  07:04
Yeah, I mean, I think the desire is absolutely there, especially in a number of industries. So we know a number of industries have just been decimated through this pandemic, travel, hospitality, some of those service industries, they're really hurting just to do business. But other parts of the economy, healthcare, or supply chain, or some of the frontline workers, those have really skyrocketed. So they're really struggling to find talent today. So what we're hearing from businesses is how do we have a better look at or a better view and visibility of who do we have today and what capabilities do they have? Can we easily transfer someone who's been doing work in one department to another department because they had a skill set that we weren't aware of? So they want to be able to do that, but they don't necessarily have the infrastructure to do that. 

So what I think you're going to see going on and on. So you know, having grown up in the learning and OD world where it was always about, Well, have you really thought through how to create employee profiles, understanding what skill sets they bring and how do you keep that up to date, and all that sort of thing. People wanted to do it, but it was always a nice to have, it's no longer going to be a nice to have. The nature of work has changed significantly, the way that even before COVID, you were seeing a shift more to that liquid workforce of dynamic teams and businesses evolving so quickly that you can't it's not really about a job anymore it's really about a skill. 

So what the pandemic is forcing companies to do is to really build that visibility and infrastructure of how do we know who we have? How do we hire the skill sets that we need? And then how do we maintain those skill sets within our company? Because it's a lot harder to hire people right now, we know that there's delays in background checks, we know that there's delays in certifications, it's harder to relocate today. So if you can repurpose the talent that you already have or reallocate the talent you already have, you're going to be ahead of the game.

John Hollon  09:07
It's pretty amazing though, that we got to the point where so many organizations didn't have a good fix on the skill sets of a lot of the people working for them, and how they could adjust when they needed to.

Mary Faulkner  09:22
Yeah, I mean, well think about it. When you when you look at the way that employees are brought into a company, you're brought in for a job, you're not brought in for your skill set. Even when you talk to people who are looking for a job today, what is the advice that they're given, tailor your resume to the job description and tailor your resume to the keywords that they're using. And it's not about saying, you know, I'm a great example I have the most bizarre career background if you really look into it. I have a history degree and a physics minor and then I went and got an Instructional Learning Technologies master. What? Then all the jobs. I mean, I've worked for tech startups. I've worked for global organizations. I've worked for very tiny little organizations. I'm all over the mat. 

So what I bring is a bunch of different skill sets to an organization, but then that has to somehow fit in a box of some job description that somebody who didn't really want to write the job description in the first place and it's probably first written 20 years ago, and just kind of updated to replace the name of the software that you had to know. So we have sustained this system and this approach of its a job first, people second, skills third or fourth, and it's always been de-prioritized. And I think what we're seeing is that it's not about deprioritization anymore. It's really more about how do we find those people with that skill set, but then also maximize those skill sets and keep people up to date. I mean, IT is probably a really good example, where you see the certifications, and you see people continuing to get that education, because technology changes so quickly, the rest of the business units need to get on board with that as well.

John Hollon  11:11
One thing that I struggle to get my head around is the state of workplace culture, how can an organization build and grow an effective culture with so many people working remotely? And in an environment where the nature of work seems to be changing so dramatically? Is culture even an important thing for companies to be worried about now? 

Mary Faulkner  11:35
Yes, I think culture will always be a piece of it, whether or not it's front and center, like it's been in the past or an employee differentiator, 'we're going to hire people based on our culture', which I have a whole other set of opinions about that. But culture will always be a part of it. It impacts the way that an organization treats its people, how it does work, how it works with its partners. I mean, there are organizations that have a horrible reputation as a vendor partner, that's part of your culture, too. So you have to be aware of those things. 

In terms of the current situation and remote workforce, anyone who's ever worked for a virtual team knows that culture is still existent, it's still there. We are primarily virtual, like I said, none of us lives in the same state as the others. So it's a matter of being more intentional potentially. We still have what we believe as an organization, we still believe in transparency, we still believe in building relationships, both with our co workers and with our clients. Those are parts of our culture, it's a little bit of values. It's a little bit of what we measure, it's a little bit of how we reward employees and we've built it into the way that we work. 

I think what's more difficult is for companies that always based its culture on proximity anchors, so whether it's you smile at your coworkers, or we'd always go to the break room and there would be pizza on Fridays, whatever that might have been. It's different now. So it's really more about finding those values, beliefs and standards that you think are important in your organization and then build everything around that. If you think for example, that trust is important maybe don't use monitoring software for your employees who are working virtually. If you think that mental health is important, make sure your wellness offerings has some sort of resources for people for their mental health. Whatever it might be, but really be intentional about identifying those things, and then building a system around it to support it.

John Hollon  13:41
One of the things that I've always felt about remote work, and I've done it going on about 12 years now that I always felt lost because people would ask me, because I was doing that kind of work long before most folks were. But people ask me, what's the one thing you miss? And the one thing I miss the most is the casual conversations in the office, you've gone to get a cup of coffee, or you're walking by somebody's cube or office and you stick your head in to ask a question about something. And the conversation somehow changes and you started talking about something else and sometimes you come up with creative solutions to problems you had, or you get ideas for things that are good. I've always felt that that was the one big challenge to working remotely. Do you see companies struggling with that or trying to work on that? Because in some places they're now talking, after all of this stuff settles down maybe they'll let people work at home a certain number of days a week and then they'll come into the office a few days trying to do this hybrid model, where they kind of get the best of both. I don't know if that's possible, certainly worth trying but that's the big thing that I see that you miss in remote working.

Mary Faulkner  15:04
Yeah, I mean, it ties down to that Zoom fatigue. The biggest challenge, I think, is the fact that you have to be scheduled, you almost have to schedule those casual conversations, versus just like you said, if you're walking by and you're like, Oh, hey, why don't you run to my office and whatnot, and we'll talk about that. So you do have to be really intentional about it. I have also worked remotely, off and on for a ridiculous number of years. And one of the organizations where I worked we did what we call virtual coffee chats. And so I was here and then all of my team was in completely different countries and you were required to schedule just like 15 minutes where you didn't talk about anything about work and it was about building those relationships with your co-workers and understanding what some of the challenges they might be facing just personally and that fostered that relationship, so that you would be more likely to just organically reach out if you had a question or a thought.

John Hollon  16:04
I like the sound of that, the virtual coffee cup. That is a great idea. Although I worked one place where they tried to do a virtual happy hour, and that didn't work.

Mary Faulkner  16:14
Those don't work. No, this is just one-on-one.

John Hollon  16:18
Given your work, I'm sure you get a good close up look at what business leaders are doing. Have you seen any decisions that have been made during the lockdown that either particularly impressed you or struck you as a really innovative solution to some of the current workforce and talent management challenges that we are dealing with?

Mary Faulkner  16:42
I think some, I mean it's the little things that add up to big things, right? One of the things that happened that you see is they're just cutting through red tape. They're getting past all the bureaucracy and all the approvals and just saying, do you need it? Here you go. Whether it's laptops, or WiFi, or whatever it might be? From the talent perspective, and it's proof that you were all able to suddenly pivot to a remote workforce. And you've always said you never could. So now what else can we blow up and do better?

John Hollon  17:08
Isn't that amazing?

Mary Faulkner  17:09
Yeah, it's really kind of amazing when you're required to do something. We also talked to a healthcare leader who was having trouble filling some of those critical roles because of the backup with background checks and certifications. So she just went out and interviewed all of the employees that she had in house, built a homegrown Excel spreadsheet mapping of all those skills and filled all the critical roles with internal employees. Is it sustainable long term? No. But it really shows that there was a desire to get it done and now she has a great start to be able to make that an infrastructure in that talent piece. So I think leaders are just being creative. And I also, just from a human side of thing, I think leaders are just listening more. Some examples come to mind that maybe they're not. But there are more and more leaders who are truly listening to the challenges that their employees are having, granting more flexibility and really thinking about what does this mean long term for my employees. So that's good to see.

John Hollon  18:07
You know, it amazes me some of these things that people have been talking about and wanting for a long time, and somehow couldn't get done now suddenly have gotten done and...

Mary Faulkner  18:17

John Hollon  18:18
It's a good thing, but it shocks me that took us so long to finally get there. So, as I said, we run out of time on this really quickly, and here we are near the end. But at the TalentX Podcast, we wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have a job that they love, and one they're passionate about. So Mary, what is it that you love about what you do?

Mary Faulkner  18:41
So many things. I love the variety of the work that we get to do, the opportunity to problem solve. I'm a curious person so I always get to learn new things in this role. But mostly, I love it that we get to help our clients uncover solutions that might have already been there, or just the pieces were there and they just weren't able to see it. And I love the fact that we're able to give a voice to people who felt like they were not being heard. 

Mary Faulkner  19:04
So our role, we've always taken it under saying, We are here to amplify your voices to help you build a solution that makes sense for you. And I love that we're able to, we include all levels of employees in our process. So when we have that frontline employee who hasn't been able to get anybody understand how frustrating it is to try to print a resume, to be able to say no, this is really a pain point we need to solve and the CEO goes, Yeah, why are we not allowing that? It just really, it really gives them that sense of accomplishment and that realization and validation that I knew that that was a problem, and I can be part of the solution. So I just love that we're able to do that.

John Hollon  19:43
Well, Mary, thanks so much for the great discussion, and how generous you were with your time. We really appreciate it. We'd love to do it again at some point. So for the TalentX Podcast, this is John Hollon. Thanks for listening.