Podcast: Michelle Jukoski, SVP, National HR Technology Practice Leader, HUB International

COVID-19 Office


Mark Feffer: Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer. My guest today is Michelle Jukoski. She’s Senior Vice President and National HR Technology Practice Leader for HUB International. They’re the fifth largest broker in the world and serve all lines of insurance, as well as a number of financial services. We’re going to talk about the impact COVID has had on business and business technology on this edition of PeopleTech.

Michelle, thanks for joining me. We’re recording this in August 2021, still trying to work our way through the COVID-19 pandemic. In talking to a lot of people lately, it’s very clear that they’re looking at their jobs, their careers, their responsibilities as being in two buckets, pre-COVID and post-COVID. How do you feel about that? How has your job changed in the last 18 months?

Michelle: That’s a great question. I’m no different and have certainly put a lot of thought into that. Pre-COVID, I think about just the first few months of last year, I was traveling almost every week, whether it was visiting vendors or visiting other HUB offices or going to prospect meetings to suddenly being stuck. And working in an office when I wasn’t traveling. And having the, what I would call, luxury of working from home. But it was at my discretion when I wanted to work from home. Now, fast forward, we’re at a point where we’ve been home every day now for the last, it feels like 10 years, but it’s probably only been about 17, 18 months. And being behind the camera all the time as opposed to out and meeting people in person and relationship building. It’s very different trying to build relationships via camera, when you don’t have the opportunity to shake hands, to go have coffee, or lunch, or a cocktail at the end of the day with folks.

I think, we all thought that at this point in 2021, we’d be in a different place, that we would have been back to the office. Maybe not a hundred percent, but life would have gone back to some sense of normalcy. I think we still don’t know now what normalcy really is. We thought we were getting there. And all of a sudden, now, we’re faced with this Delta variant and companies are pulling back again and HUB is no different, where you can go in the office if you want to, but there is no demand or need for you to do that unless you want to. We’re not really traveling again, either.

So, we got out a little bit, which was nice. I think going forward, as someone who runs a national practice, you really ask yourself, how am I going to make an impact going forward? How am I going to manage my team of folks across the country? How are we going to make that impact with our customers? And how are we going to, I think, strengthen our relationships with the vendors that we work with?

Mark: COVID imposed a lot of changes, obviously, which you’ve just described. But how about changes to the way we have to do business, changes to client expectations? Has that impacted your technology strategy or how you’re approaching delivering your services?

Michelle: Absolutely. I guess, good for us that the pandemic has accelerated the need for employers to digitize. Those that didn’t have a digital footprint for their HR functions are scrambling to make sure that they have a really positive and easy-to-use employee experience. Because they’re having to reach folks from not only from the recruiting standpoint, but onboarding, and maybe from hire-to-retire in a whole different fashion, where you used to have people come into the office and do an interview. It was just a whole different experience. We’ve seen within our practice, basically, a doubling of the amount of ask and engagements from our clients. Also, we’re seeing that from new business prospects, as well. They’re not necessarily trying to solve a benefit problem. They’re actually trying to solve an HR tech problem. And how can we help them with that?

Mark: How do you approach that?

Michelle: We’re all in sales these days. It’s important for us to understand what the need is. A lot of times the client doesn’t exactly know what it is. They know they need something. We really do spend a lot of time with them to understand what they’re doing today, what systems they may or may not have in place and what their ultimate goal is. Because today, now, it might be an employer that was in an office with 150 people, but now they’re all going to be remote forever. So, how do they attract and retain employees and making sure that the process, again, from hire-to-retire is one that promotes a positive employee experience?

I recently was talking to a prospect of a fairly large institution and the comment was… You think today that most employers have a fair amount of technology. There are still scores of them that do not. This was a high-level individual, who said, “My onboarding experience at this institution was abysmal, almost to the point where I was rethinking like, is this the place that I want to work?” Those are real areas of opportunity for us to come in and say, “Well, we have the subject matter expertise to come in and take a look at what you’re doing today and bridge the gap to where you want to be in the future with HR technology”

Mark: I’ve heard it said a number of times that COVID has, basically, just sped up changes in HR that were going to happen anyway.

Michelle: Yes.

Mark: Do you think that’s fair?

Michelle: Oh, that’s very fair. Absolutely.

Mark: Can you tell me about why?

Michelle: I think, again, it’s that need to. Right now, ben admin is a huge piece. Especially in the smaller end of the market, say, the 150 employers that were still doing things on paper for open enrollment are like, “Oh my goodness. We can’t do this now. How are we going to educate our employees? How are we going to gather the data?” Historically, account managers would come in and do their dog and pony show around what your benefits are, present them, and they’d collect the forms, and do all that nonsense. So a huge need and acceleration in ben admin.

But, also with onboarding. Again, making sure that recruiting and retention is really important since we find ourselves in this time that people are calling the Great Resignation. We’re seeing so much turnover. I myself, when I look at LinkedIn every day, and I know scores of people that’ve been in this industry for many years, and I can’t believe the number of people that are changing jobs. So again, really important that employers have the opportunity to have systems in place that are going to attract and retain key people.

Mark: Has the attitude of employees changed the kind of technology solutions you have to offer? Are their expectations changing even beyond just working from home?

Michelle: Absolutely. It’s funny, I just wrote an article about this. Previous to COVID, we were concerned about the workforce and the drain on the number of baby boomers that were aging out to 65 and retiring every day and kind of dealing with that. Now, we’re dealing with COVID. The millennials are rising up into the managerial and leadership roles. Then we’ve got this whole new layer of gen Zs coming in. And why I say all that is because their expectation is, everything’s got to be mobile. They need to be able to do everything on the fly, quickly, without a lot of minutia, so really having to pivot and change to accommodate that.

Mark: Okay. Well, Michelle, thanks very much for visiting us today.

Michelle: You’re welcome.

Mark: My guest today has been Michelle Jukoski, Senior Vice President and National HR Technology Practice Leader for HUB International. This has been PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. We’re a publication of RecruitingDaily. We’re also a part of Evergreen Podcasts. To see all of their programs, visit www.evergreenpodcasts.com. And to keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology Report every day. We’re the most trusted source of news in the HR tech industry. Find us at www.hcmtechnologyreport.com. I’m Mark Feffer.

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