HR Superstars
HR Superstars

Episode 3 · 1 year ago

The HR Industry’s Evolution from an Administrative Function to a Strategic Function w/ Josh Bersin


In today’s cultural climate, leaders need to consider the enormous complexity we’re all facing in the middle of a pandemic and how they can care for their employees as human beings.

A lot of companies tend to move to one end of the empathy/results spectrum. But if focusing about both results and empathy in equal parts is critical to organizational health, what does a good balance look like?

To find the answer, we talked with Josh Bersin, founder of the Josh Bersin Academy, the world's professional development academy for HR, about corporate citizenship.

What we talked about:

-Josh’s background in HR and business leadership and how he became THE Josh Bersin.

-The HR industry’s move from an administrative compliance function to a strategic function.

-How leaders can participate in creating more economic opportunity.

-What leaders can do to create security within their own companies.

For the entire interview, subscribe to HR Superstars on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher. Or, tune in on our website.

You're listening to HR superstars, a podcast from fifteen five that highlights stories from the front lines of HR and people ops. Each episode will showcase fascinating conversations with leaders offering their unique experiences and advice for building an extraordinary company and culture. Let's get into the show. I'm Shane Metcalf and I'm David Hassell. We're really excited to have Josh Person Join US today. Josh person founded person and associates in two thousand and one to provide research and advisory services focused on corporate learning. The expanded the company's coverage to encompass HR talent management, talent acquisition and leadership and became a recognized expert in the talent market. Person sold the company to Deloit in two thousand and twelve. In two thousand and nineteen, person founded the Josh Person Academy, a Professional Development Academy which has become the home for HR in past months. His frequently featured in publication such as Forbes, Harvard Business Review, HR Executive, the Wall Street Journal and Clo magazine. He's a popular blogger and has more than eight hundred thousand followers on Linkedin. Welcome to the show. Josh. Thank you, Shane. It's exciting to be here and talk about this topic. It's an honor to have you. Having run a HR Tech Company for the last eight years, you've certainly been a very prominent figure in our journey and it's really great to have a deeper conversation with you. Well, you guys are doing an amazing job, so I'm excited to be part of this and talk about all these topics together. So, Josh, one of the things that we would actually like to dig in a little bit because I think that a lot of our listeners probably are pretty familiar with your work and here you're a lot of your analysis and we're kind of wondering, how did you become Josh Person? How did where did your journey you really want to hear that? Okay, into the world of HR sorrow. I'll make it quick. I got out of college in One thousand nine hundred and seventy eight as an engineer. Worked as an... for two years, went back to school, decided I didn't like engineering, went into tech and sales at IBM for ten years. It was a moderately successful IBM guy. Then I left Ibi. Wanted to work for a software company, sybase. Spend eight years there and product management and marketing. Jumped out of there during their bad times and went to work for an online learning company in the very beginning days of online learning as the head of marketing. Little did I know this was going to be a new career. And that company didn't succeed. We had to sell it to another company. So I worked at the second company for a little while and left in two thousand and one during the recession, was laid off and had no job and I realized after twenty years of sort of messing around in tech and spending some time in the training industry, there was sort of a latent demand for research orch on how to do online training. So I stayed home and basically did research on online training and tried to sell research reports on online training, and it turned out there was a gigantic demand for that and that turned me into an industry analyst. So that's how I got here. It's kind of a kind of not a typical story, but I think most people's careers go through those kinds of wandering journeys. Is Interesting. I you know, one thing I've noticed from your writing is I experience you as having a very humanistic bent to your writing, you know, and what I mean by that is like, you know, care for people and understanding of that, and I feel like sometimes in hr I realize some people get so caught up in the structures of it and the administration and all of that that you can kind of lose sight of that. Do you feel like the industries moving more into, you know, away from kind of compliance and practices like that and into more of a how do we unlock the potential of our teams, how do we really create psychological safety and all of that? Do you feel like that's the progression the industries moving or is it more of just a subset in your mind? Oh,...

...absolutely know the history of HR. HR started as an administrative compliance, payroll function. You know, it was called personnel in the reason it was set up that way is because the companies were set up that way and the human beings were basically workers and you had managers and workers and the workers did their jobs and the HR people paid them. And then, as the world became more focused on empowering people and giving people more interesting jobs and roles and the economy adapted to that, the HR function is now turned into a strategic function, especially during the pandemic, where it's really central to coming back to work to pull together the human issues, the emotional issues, the psychological issues and the business issues of why are we performing well here? WHO's the right person for that job? How do we better develop leaders? Do we have the right leadership culture? Why are we not being diverse? Why are we being too hard on people? Or should we be harder on people? It's a very, very complex profession and the reason I love it is it brings together a lot of human things, about psychology and caring and empathy, with a lot of very hard things about accountability and results and business and innovation. And I think for me, you know, I am a science sort of scientist by nature, but because I've a little bit older, I've had two kids, I have a wonderful wife, I'm very sensitive to the human issues too. So I'm well that. You know I'm not. I'm not the most caring human in the world. You can ask my wife to give you her opinion, but I think I can bring that perspective. And the other thing that's to me very important in hr is this topic of corporate citizenship and society the companies exist in a world of societal issues and every employee and every customer obviously has a perspective on the rule they want to play in society.

So when they come and work for your company, they are bringing that with them and you know, you would like them to leave it to the door and just come in and do their jobs and go home, but they can't. So now we have this really interesting issue of what is company's rule in society, whether it be income inequality, that pandemic, black lives matter and that is now falling in the lapse of HR so h. Our people have to be pretty good systemic thinkers to do their jobs. Well. Yeah, I do not think we're going to put this genie back in the bottle, where we need to actually care about the psychology and the entire human and the enormous complexity that we're all facing right now. Yeah, just just one point. You know, I love how you've kind of framed that in both that, you know, the empathy side of it and the accountability side of it, and those two worlds sometimes feeling like their odds of each other. You know, will often talk about inside of best self management that a lot of companies seem to skew to one side or the other. We hear the Muse language like, Oh, you know, we're a sports team, which typically means like we care about results over the people or relationships, or we're a family, where we care about we have more empathy than we care about results. We're trying to find the middle ground where we can say no, no, you can care about both of those in equal parts, and that's actually the future. But it's tricky. It's definitely tricky. The reason I like your whole philosophy of best self management is I think in this is a little bit of a philosophical statement. I think every human being wants to succeed in their life in their own particular way and when they go to work they leave some of that aside unless they find a really good fit. And so if we can create a company and a set of jobs and management practices that allow people to fulfill their destiny in alignment with the business, because they learn a lot by being at work, the company does great and then you get end up with a company where the people take care of the company instead of the company taking care of the people, and that is not impossible to do. A lot of companies do that, but leaders have to sort of understand that...

...and think that way. I've learned a lot about management from people who worked in the military actually, where they empower people with tremendous responsibilities very early in their careers and give them vast amounts of training and lots of accountability and rules. But people grow up very, very fast in the military and I don't think companies often do that. Sometimes companies don't give people the opportunity to expand themselves as quickly as they could, and every industry and every company is a little bit different those ways. So that's why I kind of like what you guys are talking about. That's great. Thank you so, Josh. There's a couple of things I want to pick up on. One you know your dual role as an economist. You know kind of baby I some bleed over from the parallel universe where you are a full time economist. So you recently wrote a paper of making some economic predictions. I'd love to hear a little bit of that because I think we are we are in such uncertain times and everybody's wondering where is the economy going to go? How do we create a more just economy, create more equality, create more economic opportunity for disenfranchised communities, and then how do we as company leaders, participate in that process? Say, and thank you for asking that question. I don't get a chance to talk about this very much, but I think one of the problems with the quote unquote the economy is the way we measure it. We measured by GDP, we measured by stock indexes, we measured by the unemployment rate, but we're not really measuring the economy that everybody feels every day. Income inequality, people not keeping up with the cost of living, healthcare issues, those are really the part of the economy too, and they're not included in any of those measures. Yeah, I mean what I think fifty percent of Americans don't have more than that. Would I mean it's would be sad and point to come up with a thousand dollars. Right, exactly so, and I don't know who to even say this to, honestly, who? Because there is no person who runs all this data. But we need to measure the...

...economy by the financial health and wellbeing of every individual in the society. That doesn't mean we have an average, because the average is meaningless because there's a small number of people who make a ton of money and have great lives and a large number of people have terrible lives. So we need better measures of that and you know, unfortunately that's not the way CNBC and the rest of the world measures it. So we feel it as employers and I've the reason I talk about it is not because I'm a bleeding heart liberal. I'm probably more conservative than than liberal, but I know companies struggle with the impact of that. When the company finds we have high turnover or we can't recruit people or our employees are complaining about this and that it's because the employees are basically coming into the company with those economic issues and then the company is trying to fix them. And companies do amazing things. Businesses, you know, come up with new benefits programs and rewards programs and career programs and development programs. No matter how big your company is, even if your Walmart, you can't change the whole economy. So I kind of feel like on the political side we need better measures of the true health of the United States and that will make us allocate resources in a slightly better way, and I think we're realizing that in the pandemic, because what the pandemic seems to have done is it sheared off all of the layers of protection we had on not talking about social issues, because we're all dealing with are we going to get sick? Are we going to die? You know, how are we going to get our food food? Is Somebody going to break into my house? So all of a sudden these things have become raw and we can talk about them. So I think right now we may see some progress on this, better measures of what economic health really needs. I think your spot on. I mean it's so on display to now, you know, seeing the record high unemployment on one end, lots of businesses struggling and starting to declare bankruptcy and the kind...

...of the very small businesses, and then the stock market roaring back to the you know, higher than the peak before this all happened. So it's really it's really weird. You know, in fact, I wrote an article this week that I had to tone it down, that the Beerau of the Labor statistics miss calculated the unemployment rate and was quite a bit off by three percent. Unemployment rate is more like sixteen or seventeen percent, but they said is thirteen and a half percent. There's all sorts of stuff written about this and then I turn on CNBC and Jim Kramer goes the economies back and the stock mark. You know, remember that day was yesterday, the day before. I'm like, what is going on here? Yeah, yeah, we live in a very psychotic world where there is just that disconnection from the things that we're seeing on TV and what the stock market is saying and the actual lived experience. So I'm curious, I you know, because as company leaders, we know we are a drop in the bucket and, as you said, even if we were Walmart, we would still have very little influence on the societal level. What can we do, you know, what are you seeing the best companies do in order to create at least some security, some sense of sanity within their own companies? Well, I think it's a really interesting question. I think it's very similar to what we can do as individuals. You know, you can go home at night and watch TV and get mad, but you can make your life better, you can turn the TV off and you can take care of your kids and your family, your friends, and I think that's what we have to do in companies is each company has the opportunity, because most companies have a reasonable amount of resources and a reasonable amount of flexibility on where to put them. Each company has to decide. I like the word citizenship. What is our level of citizenship? Who are we going to take care of? Obviously we're going to take care of our customers, we're going to take care of our employees. Are we going to take care of our employees families? We're going to take care of our ploys...

...communities, or we're going to take care of the environment? Or were going to do things in the political environment? There's a range and there's sort of a it goes sort of up and some companies are very, very focused on being good citizens. You know the stories of Patagonia, as everybody knows, and you know leave her, and these are companies that were founded many years ago as mission driven organizations. In some ways, I mean this the funny way they you know, talk about Patagonia. Patagony is a mission in disguise as a company, and you know leaver has the same history. And so you know, every company has the opportunity too to move around that scale. The CEO, the CFO, the senior leaders can think about that and then during bad times when the company's losing money, it's hard, you know. Then you've got to decide. Well, you know, can we continue to be this way? In the answer as you can. You just have to do it in a more modest way. So that's the rule I think we play and that's the reason I like what I do, is I hopefully can influence companies and give them a little bit of freedom and a little bit of authority to do that, because it always pays off. It always pays off to think more about your role in society. It seems to always make the company more successful. Fifteen five is the only evidence based people and performance platform for highly engaged and high performing organizations. Strategic HR leaders in all industries use the platform to win by improving communication, up leveling their managers and increasing company wide engagement. Learn more at Fifteen Fivecom you've been listening to HR superstars stories from the front lines of HR and people ops. Be Sure you never miss an episode by subscribing on your favorite podcast player. If you're listening on Apple PODCASTS, you'd love for you to leave a thoughtful review or give a quick rating by tapping the stars. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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