Podcast: Where We Go From Here


Mark Feffer: Welcome to People Tech the podcast of the HCM technology report. I’m mark Feffer. My guest today is William Tincup. He’s the president and editor at large for recruiting daily. He’s also a well-known annalist advisor and speaker in the world of talent acquisition, HR and technology. We’re going to talk about the talent wars, DEI and what private equity brings to the table on this edition of People Tech. William Tincup. Thanks for joining me today.

William Tincup: 100%. Glad to be here.

Mark: What’s going on in the world, HR recruiting, HR tech? And I want to talk about three or four of those today. And one of the things that really strikes me lately is that employers say that they can’t find the workers they need. But I’m also talking to a lot of workers who can’t find jobs. What’s the disconnect? Why is that happening?

William: Flexibility. I think, the thing that we’ll, we’ve created, what we’ve learned through COVID, which of course a lot of these things were going to happen anyhow. It was just going to take another 20 years. It’s unfortunate that 700,000 people had to die for us to get to a place where remote work for knowledge workers isn’t a foreign concept, or paying hourly employees more for what they do, isn’t a foreign concept. Okay. But we’re here now. And these are some of the silver linings that came from some, this terrible thing that’s still going on, technically. But I think on one level, hybrid, the concept of hybrid, really at its foundation is flexibility. Which I remember my mother talking about flexibility and work in the ’70s. And just being able to take off our way for kids appointments or show up late cause she was dropping kids off or something like that.

And the IRS actually to their credit did actually a pretty good job of being flexible back then,, which a lot offices weren’t. And so I think on a knowledge worker side, I think one of the things is, now that we’ve taught employees and candidates that work can be done from everywhere. Now they know that the air can’t go back in the bottle. And so flexibility becomes not a foreign concept or some type of academic thing. It becomes very real because candidates are now driving the conversation. Employees are now driving conversation saying, again, if I want to work in an office and there’s a lot of legit reasons that I would want to go to an office, then I want to have flexibility. If I want to go to the office two days out of the week, I want that flexibility.

So you’re seeing the power shift to the employee and candidate that says, yeah, I want to work how I want to work. Which is a foreign concept for most leaders to then deal with, no, you work the way I want you to work. So I think that’s one thing. Now on the hourly side, I think it just comes down to, again, we, because of the pandemic, we cut a bunch of hourly jobs and those folks got bit. They got snakebit. And now with the parts of that economy coming back, they’re not willing to do certain things. And so that’s what you see with the no shows and the ghosting or accepting a job and then not showing up and all that other stuff. So the disconnect on the hourly side to me is, they have more options and now they’re now they’re looking at, as they should have always and probably did. Who’s going to give me ultimately the best job? Now I have options.

If is Chipotle going to give me $15 an hour and pay for my college. And I’m part time I’ll choose that over the McDonald’s job that pays me 15.50, but doesn’t pay for my college. And so I think on one level, the disconnect between you have people out there looking for work. You have looking at people out there that are looking for people that, candidates, et cetera. I think it is a candidate driven market on both sides, which is rare for us. Because usually it’s an hourly or it’s in the knowledge worker salaried. Now we’re to an area where it’s both. And because of, especially on the knowledge worker side, the world is now your playground as a candidate. You can now apply to jobs in Paris or Dubai or whatever. If you can navigate the time zones and navigate the work, you can work anywhere in the world.

It’s also great for recruiters because now they can hire from anywhere in the world. So the complexity is just ratcheted up, that I don’t have to apply to the job, and I live in DFW. I don’t have to apply to a job in DFW. And before there were certain groups that, that didn’t apply to, mostly in the tech world. But now it’s everybody. Person in demand Gen, it’s the person that works comp and benefits, it’s all the way throughout the organization on the knowledge worker side. So I think that the reason we see the disconnects is because the power shift, from a candidate and an employee perspective. They just want things as Burger King. They just want things the way that they want them and the way that they want them. Period. It’s our job to respond to that.

Mark: How much do you think of this? Is employers being too picky? Because that’s something I hear from employers. They can’t find the right person out there, who’s got all the skills that they want.

William: Well, first of all, it’s not about lowering your expectations. I would never suggest that, but I would suggest that you rethink how you do skills development. And so finding the right person is first of all, it’s a fruitless pursuit to try and find the perfect candidate. What you should be trying to do is find the candidate that best fits currently. And what are you going to do to get them to be the best version of themselves in your company. So the onus is on you as a company in HR, recruiting, C-suite learning and development, training development skills, et cetera, to then say, yeah, we’re not looking for a hundred percent match. Because first of all, doesn’t exist. It’s not just a purple unicorn or all that other stuff. It’s just, they don’t exist. They probably never have existed by the way.

We really want to be honest with ourselves in hiring. That perfect candidate thing, that probably never existed. We’ve always just massaged it into what we think is the perfect candidate. And then, Sally or John starts and then we figure out, okay, well we need to change some things. And yeah, we thought they were better at this and we adapt. I think we need to push that adaptive mentality into the forefront, into the job description. Into the actual expectations of hiring managers and recruiters and sources that say, you know what? Get us to 70%. I mean, what are the most critical things, skills that are needed in this job and do they have them? If they don’t have them, do they have the ability and the desire to learn the skills? And if they do, great.

So chasing the fountain of youth, the perfect candidate is a fool’s errand. Always has been, always will be. So stop. Like that’s, here’s my best advice. Just stop. And start focusing on what are we going to do to get the best version of people while they’re with us? What can we do? Again, in onboarding, and skills development, and promotions and comp. What can we do to get the best out of them and them? So yeah, you’re looking at more raw material. And Jane might not have all 10 of the skills that you need. But you know what? She has eight and she has the desire to learn the other two. Fantastic.

Mark: Now let me shift a little bit.

William: Sure.

Mark: Talk about hybrid work for a minute. I mean, you can call it hybrid work. You can call it remote work. But a lot of employers want workers to come back into the office, but a lot of workers want to spend at least some time working from home. How’s that all going to shake out?

William: Well, I think companies are, we’ve seen it in wall street already. Companies are going to make big mistakes here. And a lot of it is just not knowing your audience. So this goes back to that, know thy audience thing that we all learned, and in marketing and in drama. You really have to understand that people in both are your employees and the candidates that you want to draw in. And understand what their desires and needs are. And in order to do that, you got to actually have to have conversations. You have to have surveys, you have to form focus groups. You got to open up lines of communication to find out, what’s important to them today? Not five years ago, but today. What’s important to them today? And again, I think you see some of the mistakes that get made is again, leaders that think that they’re in control and they’re not in control. And I think the sooner that leaders understand that they’re not in control, that actually again, if it’s an output that you’re trying to reach, there’s many ways to reach the output.

Again, if it’s wall street and you’re managing a stock portfolio, there’s many ways to do that. Having people go to a place, there’s legitimate reasons for that of course. There’s collaboration. There’s other things that you want given culturally. You just want people to be in this spot one day a week. Yeah, that’s fine. But it’s like leaders don’t explain that. And I think that’s the disconnect between that and what the desires are from their people and candidates. Raising salaries’ going to get you some, but at one point even that won’t work. So I think it’s understanding having your finger on the pulse of your both candidate flow and employees and understanding like why, how do you like to work? It’s an outcome. We care about the outcome. And again, we want you to be successful. You want to come in four days a week, five days a week, seven days a week, you want to work from home, can we get to the outcome? So the conversation does need to shift from leaders, about how do we to outcomes and can we do this in a different way?

And again, is it in line with the desires, needs and aspirations of the people that they serve? Leaders, I learned this painfully. I learned this in business school, that your management teams C-suite et cetera, all leaders, all they are is agents for the shareholders and the stakeholders. And in this case, we’re talking about the shareholders and stakeholders being employees and candidates. They’re just agents. Their job is to actually respond to what’s going on and then plot courses. And those that do that without really understanding their audience, do it at their own peril. It could work out but why the risk? When you can really just ask people and find out exactly how they like to work, create a flexible environment and say, Hey, we care about the outcomes. At the end of the day, you’ve got a $9 million sales quota. How you get to that $9 million? We’re going to have a lot of different ways and we’ll help you. But if you want to do that in the office, you want the commute, you want to do those things, you want to just be there because you don’t like the energy.

I have a lot of friends that work on wall street. And one of the things that they’ve told me, that they’ve missed during COVID is the energy in the room. So yeah, you could do it online and yeah, you can do it from home and all that other stuff, but you’re doing it by yourself. And so many of these gals and guys are driven by that energy in the room. And that’s true. Not just in wall street, that’s true in a lot of places. That’s fine. Again, hybrid is really code for flexibility. That’s all it is. Is just being, opening up your mind to being flexible to the needs of your employees, your candidates, and getting the best work out of them and in the way that they want to work. And if we don’t do that, we run the risk of losing them. Not just because they’ll, through attrition they’ll just quit. But they’ll go find somewhere else to work. I mean, I always do this bit with marriages, people that cheat, right?

And a lot of people think of cheating and they automatically think of sex. It’s like, okay, well that, yeah. Okay, that’s fine. But really cheating is about an unfulfilled need. You’re not around someone that’s being supportive, or someone that trusts you, or someone that’s communicative, et cetera. For whatever reason you’re not getting that what you need, someone else provides that, which is the basis of cheating. In this instance with employees, if you don’t provide the things that they need to fulfill them, someone else will provide that. So whether or not you want to change is not really the point. You’re going to change because you’re going to go through a bunch of attrition. You’re going to go through a bunch of retention related issues because you just didn’t do your job. You didn’t listen to the people, the “most important assets,” of your company. You didn’t listen to them, you didn’t fulfill on their needs and it went somewhere else.

People always love that I bring it back to cheating because they’re like, “Good God, William, where are you going with this?” But it’s true. It’s just that it’s an unfulfilled deep. Yes. You can stigmatize it with sex, but really it’s more than that. And I think that’s way we need to look at employees and go, if we don’t do this, whatever this is, for this employee, someone else will. And they’ll seek it out. They’ll find it.

Mark: Let me move to the next topic.

William: Sure.

Mark: Diversity last year was there was a lot of talk and a fair amount of movement on diversity. And there’s still talk this year, but it feels like the discussion isn’t as immediate as it was.

William: George Floyd helped put a lot of pressure on companies. And it seemed like some of that error has been taken out of it.

Mark: Well, and the question is, do employers really mean what they say when they talk about DEA?

William: Well, yes and no. Right? So you’ve got a couple of things at play here. We’ve been talking about diversity for 50 years or more, right? So this isn’t a new concept. And I think by and large, most people would like to live in a world where work is equitable on all levels. Comp and gender, and, and race and everything else. I think most people want to work there. There has been lip service for years. What changed probably in the last two years from Me Too, to Love is Love, to Black Lives Matter on societal stuff is the societal pressures that are now being placed on companies to do something, which now it’s now it’s about budget. Now it’s about actions. Now it’s about transparency. It’s about communication. Well, these are harder things. This isn’t just lip service. Now it’s not just a little diversity statement that you put at the bottom of your job description and you don’t really give any credence to it. It’s just words on a page. Now you got to live it.

And I think, one of the things that I like at least coming out of this, is a couple things. One, the annual reports on DNI that are being produced by DNI leaders and HR leaders, where they just basically say, here’s where we’re at. Here are the things that we’re trying. Here are some of the things that we failed at. Again, we’re just going to be transparent. We’re going to tell you what we’re doing. We’re going to tell you what we’re attempting. We’re going to tell you where we failed, where we succeeded, et cetera. But now we’re going to be transparent and we’re going to communicate. I think that is helpful because it takes it from lip service to some form of action because budgets have to be involved. There’s going to be people. There’s going to be budgets. There’s going to be programs. There’s going to be things that get done, which I like. I think that movement, I think the pay equity movement and much of the same as being transparent and being more communicative, I think that helps.

So stated with the exact same reasons of like, okay, we’re just going to be more transparent about where these inequities lie and how to fix them. Okay. So I like that. And then thirdly, I think pointing to the SEC, most recent mandate to, for publicly traded companies to disclose people, analytics data. And in particular DNI data. I think, when wall street makes it a priority, as they did with SoCs with, as they’ve done with other things historically. When they make it priority, turns out it becomes a priority. So if we want to talk about the lip service, you and I have lived through 60 years of lip service. I think we’re getting to the edge of, yes, some of the air got taken out of that. But I believe that if you look at the hires of diversity leaders, the money that’s going into diversity programs, diversity technology, that people are trying to get to a better outcome. They might be doing it a little bit quietly.

One of the interesting things Mark is that, keep no one. You can’t get somebody to go on record at a company and talk about how successful they are with a particular program, because they don’t want to put themselves on a pedestal. Because they know how much other work they have to do. It’s fascinating on some level because they might be a really super successful with, let’s say, women in leadership and they’re doing just a great job. They’ve got a great pipeline. They do creative promotions. And it really is doing well. But their track record with Latinx community is horrible. And so they’re unwilling to then state, Hey, we’re doing great here publicly. We’re doing horrible here. This is just horrible. Great here. Horrible here. Very difficult to get folks to go on record and talk about that. And again, I think some of that is just because of the, I call it the, especially in Twitter, it’s the false, I’m shocked, everyone’s shocked about things. I’m shocked about this, shocked about that. I’m shocked that people are shocked about things.

So I think some of this comes down to people don’t want to put them on a pedestal because they don’t want to be put on blast. And they don’t want it to become a thing and a new PR nightmare. So they’d rather just not talk about it. But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t getting done. I actually do believe things are getting done more this year than they were last year. People just started talking about it.

Mark: That’s an interesting point. Everybody always seems to have an opinion about this.

William: Yeah. It’s the outrage.

Mark: Yeah. But the fact that they don’t want to talk about it is interesting in itself.

William: Because no one’s got it all figured out, which is true of everyone, by the way. No one’s got it all figured out, news at 11. That’s the life. But maybe at a certain point we get to a place where people are more comfortable with being vulnerable because that’s what you’re really getting at is vulnerability, corporate vulnerability. And understanding that yeah, we don’t have it all figured out. And yeah, we are vulnerable here. But you know what? We’d rather be vulnerable and transparent and vulnerable and silent.

Mark: Last question for you today.

William: Sure.

Mark: Big story this week was, Cornerstone OnDemand, It’s going private. Being brought private by a PE firm. What do you think that’s going to mean to the business? Anything?

William: Oh, yeah. I think it’s great for the business. When private equity gets involved, first of all, they see value. But they also see, on some level an underperforming asset. And when you have a publicly traded company, essentially what you’ve made the decision is, if we take this private, we can do things that we wouldn’t be able to do if we had investors. If we had publicly traded investors. And some of those things are rebuilding the technology. So Bullhorn’s a great example of this. When private equity first got involved, they gave him money to buy their competitors and to rebuild their entire technology stack. Kronos is a great example of a company that went public, went private. And again, it’s one of those things that when they went private, they fixed stuff. So yeah, it’s a way of looking at and saying, Cornerstone’s been around for 2006. It’s not a young company. So to assume that because of the pressures of wall street and quota on quota, month on month, quarter on quarter growth, you don’t get to do some of the things that you should do as a software company.

Like rebuild your entire technology stack. Rebuild all your APIs. Do all of these things that reorganize the company. When you do that as a publicly traded company, it becomes a news story. And all of a sudden your stock takes a hit. What you do as a private company, nobody knows. So I actually think this is, I think it’s great for all the investors in Cornerstone A. B I think it’s great for Cornerstone because I don’t know the things that they need to fix. But I’m assuming that just because of the age of the company, this is a good time privately to go and fix any of the stuff. If it’s leadership, if it’s software, if it’s marketing, if it’s structural, or international expansion, or connect connectivity to other applications, they could do all that now. When you’re, you know this because you study wall street. When you’re publicly traded, man, they don’t care. They care about EBITDA. They care about profit. They care about very specific and I would say, myopic things. And that’s all they care about.

You said your earnings were going to be this, they’re this. Great. You’re stock gets punished. But again, that kind of hamstrings, leaders of these companies, to not be able to do stuff that they know they need to do. They know they need to, let’s say again. I use that example. That rebuilding the software from the kernel, they know they need to do that. They know their softwares. And again, I’m not picking on Cornerstone, but any company. Technology changes. And you need to always be investing in making sure you’re always up to date. Right? Well, when it’s publicly traded, it’s harder to do because of the infatuation with short-term gain. And that’s the problem with publicly traded companies in my opinion, is all they care about is short-term gain. They don’t really care about the long-term play. Most of them. They look at, what are you going to give me now? And maybe that’s fine, but I think PE getting involved and doing what they do and then taking it private, I think is actually a good thing.

Mark: PE firms have this reputation for taking control of a company and then pulling it apart. You think there’s a danger of that here?

William: Yeah, of course. Usually those are the LBOs that are the ones that really do that. It’s the Gordon Gekko’s of the world that come in and see a piece of meat. Here’s a cow. And they cut it up into pieces and sell off. Private equity can do that. I’ve seen that done. But by and large, they see value. There might be a pairing off. They might see an acquisition that Cornerstone has done and say, Workpop is a investment and an acquisition that they did. And say, you know what? We’re going to peel Workpop off and spin that out as a separate entity and, or sell that to someone else. That’s fine. That’s just a part of the, that’s part of I think, the ecosystem. And I think that’s just a smart way of looking at the, again, the future of what Cornerstone will be. If some of those things don’t make sense, maybe they made sense at a point. But they don’t make sense now. Maybe they want to go again, much easier as a privately held company than public. Maybe they strategically say, Hey, we want to focus on more global business.

William: So a lot of this SMB stuff, this 5,000 employees and below it’s actually, it’s really choking us down. So we’re going to figure out a way to sell that part of the business off or partner with somebody that could take that to over, so that we can focus on global expansion and just global businesses. We want to deal with just companies over 150,000 employees in over a hundred companies. And again, as a private company, it’s easier to do that because you can set the strategy and then just go do it. And when a publicly traded company, you got to talk. You got to set the expectation. We might succeed. We might fail earnings. All people again, from picking on wall street in a way, all they care about is the numbers. They don’t care about all that other subtext.

Whatever. How was your profit? At the end of the day. What was revenue? You said it was going to be this, it’s this. That’s all they care about. And again, that’s our job to care those things. But to me, I love it when companies in our space go private. Because it’s usually what it means in our space is that there’s an investment that’s being made into making that company better.

Mark: William, thanks for being here taking all of your time and Hope you’ll come back.

William: Well, I will. Absolutely. Happy to. And this was fun. This was good stuff. Good questions.

Mark: I’ve been talking with William Tincup, industry analyst and president and editor at large for Recruiting Daily. And this has been People Tech, the podcast with the HCM technology report was a publication of Recruiting Daily.

People Tech is also a part of Evergreen Podcast. To see all of their programs, visit www.evergreenpodcast.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 www.hcmtechnologyreport.com. I’m Mark Feffer.

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