The power of teams The impact on the future of work


Jason Averbook

Jason Averbook is recognized as one of the top thought leaders in the space of HR, workforce and enterprise technology.

Jason brings with him over 20 years of invaluable experience helping organizations resolve common business problems through the use of innovative solutions. As one CEO has said about Jason, “He just gets it and can put it into language that we get.”

Jason has been a contributor to Inc., Businessweek, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CIO Magazine, HR Executive Online, Talent Management Magazine, NPR, SHRM, IHRIM and other well-known publications. He was named as one of the World’s 10 Most Powerful HR Technology Experts by HR Executive Magazine.

Webinar Transcript

Jason Averbook is recognized as one of the top thought leaders in the space of HR, workforce, and enterprise technology. Jason brings with him over 20 years of invaluable experience helping organizations resolve common business problems through the use of innovative solutions. As one CEO has said about Jason, "He just gets it and can put it into language that we get." Jason has been a contributor to Inc., Business Week, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CIO Magazine, HR Executive Online, Talent Management Magazine, NPR, SHRM, iRim [SP] and other well-known publications. He was named as one of the world's 10 most powerful HR Technology experts by HR Executive Magazine. Please welcome, to Elevate 2015, Jason Averbook.

Hello, thank you so much for joining this session. My name is Jason Averbook, CEO of the Marcus Buckingham Company, TMBC, and I'm really excited to be here today with you to talk about a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Which is really how the future of work is changing and how the power of teams and how people actually get work done today is going to change that. So as you can see up on the screen here, here's me. I look kind of similar, a little bit different, sure, but kinda similar, and my coordinates. So my @jasonaverbook is my Twitter handle. Feel free to tweet away as you're listening to this. And I always tell people that take part in these, if you're not on Twitter, get on Twitter. And this is a great opportunity to take time and get on Twitter and just practise, try it. I always tell people, "If you don't follow anything, just follow me, I'm safe. I don't talk about what I'm eating or anything like that." So should be all good.

So let's move on to where we're at today. I want to frame this session in really three things: where we are today, where we're going into the future, and what we need to be thinking about. Now, whenever we talk about where we're going today, people end up saying "Oh man, I missed a huge wave." or "We're really backwards." I think the best way to think about that is, "No, you're not." You're not backwards. Where we're at is we're in an ever changing world. And because we're in an ever-changing world, we have to constantly be thinking about what's next. So it's not that we missed things. You shouldn't go back and say "Wow, what an idiot I am.", or "Wow, my organization is backwards." What hopefully you take from this is "Guys, here's an amazing opportunity that we all have to leapfrog. Not just copy, but leapfrog, where we are and where we're going into the future." So let's just talk about work today, besides this guy showing up on screen being tired.

So first of all, we're very hierarchical. We all know that org. charts drive a lot of our business. And the reason that that is, is because we're used to working for a manager, A. And then B, all of our processes and systems are all tied to org. structure and they're tied to org structure because of financial purposes. So who reports to who, the geo-structure such as who reports to who, drive hierarchically how our systems, processes, and people work. And that's great in an organization that's very, very static. It stays the same. You know, I'm going to do my personal action forms and transfer people from here and there. You know, and if it takes three or four days to go through, that fine. But we live in a world today where organizations are different than that. We're going to talk about that throughout.

So today we're hierarchical. What else? We're rigid. We're really, really rigid. "I want to record my time because I did some work in a different department, but I can't do that because I'm not tied to that department." "Oh, I want to understand my talent in the entire organization. Well, I can't do that because I don't have access to that security." "Oh, I want to be able to think about, 'How do I think and spread compensation differently for people who are about to have babies versus people who have kids that are in college?' and think about 'Wow, maybe I should offer some flexible personalized plans when it comes to compensation and benefits.'" We've got our processes. So we're really, really rigid today. Once again, we've needed to be rigid for certain reasons. Going forward, will that work? Maybe in some organizations. What else? Command and control. Everything is top down. Top down. You know, that's fine, in an organization where goals from the top and they go to the next level and they go to the next level and they go to the next level and they go to the next level. Yeah, we have to be organized that way. But where most of the best ideas come from and where most of the work comes from today is bottom up. Bottom up.

So when we think that way, what we find ourselves, is we find ourselves working in a world where command and control is what's driven us. Yet today we live in a world where the best ideas, the entrepreneurship--and take that word and use it: Entrepreneurship. We want our workforce to think as entrepreneurs inside our organization--if we're doing that we want them to be able to have the data, get the data, use the data, and make decisions quickly without waiting for this command and control kind of model. So once again, where we're at. What else? We're very process oriented. These processes are the way we work. And we try to create standard processes across the organization. And any time where someone doesn't follow the process? What happens? It breaks down. Now processes are really, really important and this is not saying that they're not. But what is important is you have to design flexibility, agility, and fluid nature in your processes, A. And B, a peanut butter spread of process might not work across an entire, global, massive organization.

You may be able to do some processes and you need process. So this isn't the Wild, Wild West, you know, Shoot 'Em Up. But at the same time, we can't say it has to be this way. And that's the way a lot of our systems and processes and people have operated in the past, is that it has to be this way. And if it's not this way, well, "Maybe you're not right for this organization." Once again, I'm stating the obvious but I'm also salting the wound for you. So that if you're making the business case for additional investment over time in any sort of people, process, technology work around the future of work, you've got these wounds to go back to.

The other big thing that drives me nuts, and this has all happened for a reason, so once again, no fault is that we're very, very cyclical. So we do performance reviews once a year. We do them at the same time every year. If all of a sudden we want to start a new initiative in the middle of a process, very, very difficult. Benefits, open enrollment is always the same time. On-boarding, always the same time. We try to do things in a very cyclical nature. And once again, the future of work is not this. The future of work is the measure of...I call it The Measure of Now. In my book, I talk about The Measure of Now quite a bit. And we have to be able to act now and measure now. Act now, measure now. This is why I encourage people to get on Twitter. Try Twitter. Can you imagine if you only looked at your Twitter updates once a year? We'd never use it, adoption would be killed. Imagine if you only did performance reviews once a year? We'd never use it. Adoption would be killed. Oh, wait a second, that's what a lot of us are doing. Why do people hate performance reviews? Why do people hate our engagement surveys? Because they're cyclical. They're once a year. They feel rigid. And that's not the way the world works. Period. It's not the way the world works.

So let's talk about how that world works today. The way the world works today is much more grid-like. It's much more grid-like, okay? It's not a ladder, it's a lattice. So it moves around. Not ladder, lattice, like you see in the graphic. So to work in a lattice type environment, there's some things fundamentally that we, as an HR community, we as an Elevate community, have to change. And what are some of those things? We have to think dynamic. What does dynamic mean? Dynamic means that the workforce is an ever changing DNA body. So every day I hire a contractor or every day I get rid of a contractor. Every day I hire an employee, every day I get rid of an employee. Every day I acquire a company, every day I get rid of a company. Every day I open up new offices, every day I close offices. Dynamic is so key. And what does that mean to you? What it means to you is that you have to build from a people, process, and technology side, the dynamic nature of work into everything you do. Because if you don't, the business isn't going to change, guys. The business is always gonna be dynamic. If you don't build that into everything that you do and everything that you think and every system that you build or deploy, adoption will fail and people won't use it. And you will never get the data out of it or the ROI out of it that you were looking for. So dynamic is one of those key things. Future of work number one: dynamic.

Future of work number two, different, but kinda similar. Flexible. A straw. It bends. So I have an employee. A lot of people in HR would substitute this word as 'exception', and that's not what this is. Exception means "Okay, I'll do this one time comp. increase." or "Okay, we'll do this one-time thing for this one person." I'm sure everyone knows what I'm talking about. Exception does not equal flexible. Now flexible has exceptions built into it, but flexible means that my organization, my culture as HR, is someone who represents themselves as flexible. We realize that we need to have some processes and some standards but at the same time, we also realize that business is not cyclical. Business is not standard. Business is not rigid. All those grains of salt I gave you earlier on? Business isn't that. Business isn't that. So we have to think about how we can become as flexible as possible. As flexible as possible, which means all of our systems, all of our processes have to be flexible. Are they tied to org. structure, which makes it harder to move? In order for an employee to interact with anything, they have to actually wait for an org. structure chains to happen. Bad, bad, bad. Or are they tied to teams, or are they tied to the future of teams? Teams are flexible. Always forming, always disbanding. That's where work gets done. Flexibility: key.

What else? Team based versus org. based. 80% of an organization's work gets done on a team. So to put together Elevate 2015, BambooHR's had to pull together a team of people that's a combination of speakers, and sponsors, and technical folks, and domain folks from all over the world. Do they all report to the same person? Oh my God, no. Could they report to the same person? No. They would be the biggest waste of time. But what they are is the team. And what we need to understand is how that team is working together, how that team is thinking, where there's problems, how long they're staying together, and who my best team leaders are. Not necessarily who my best managers are, who my best team leaders are. Because I want to build better teams. I don't want to build better org. structures. I want to build better teams, okay? So this is huge.

One slide if you could take away, team versus org. Team versus org. You have to have org. for financial purposes. This isn't saying get rid of it. But you have to have team to make future of work. If you don't have team and team structures in your people, process, and technologies...and include contractors, vendors, contingent labour, teams that disband and start, disband and start, disband and start, you're missing a big, big component of the future of work. It has to be real-time. What does that mean? I need to be able to collaborate, measure the pulse, understand my team at any minute, from any device. "Got my device, I need to see my team." "How's my team feeling?" "Oh, look, I just see it right here on my device." I get it up on my screen, some people have checked in. "Wow. Good to see some people have checked in." "How are they feeling today?" "What are they talking about?" "Oh man, here's a guy that doesn't feel good about his work today. Well, maybe I should talk to him today."

Could you imagine if I did that once a year? Now realize the best team leaders do this all the time. But in a world that's global, in a world that's virtual, which we're going to talk about in a second, that's disparate, I need technology so bad to be in the palm of my hand and to be real-time so that I, as a team leader, have this ability to it. If I don't have this, it's a major competitive disadvantage. So a lot of us have been so worried about counting heads. "What's my global headcount, blah blah blah blah blah, I'll get it once a year." I need this now. I need the data now to make decisions now. What else? How do we think about being collaborative? I want my team to know each other. I want my team to see each other. I want my team to talk to each other. That requires collaboration. In order to give collaboration, the processes, the technology have to be addictive, not adoptive.

So I can get people to adopt technology all day long. Once a year, change my address. Once a week, every two weeks, do my paycheck. Once a week put in my time. Duh. I can get people to adopt that all day long. But how do I become addicted to the technology? It has to tie collaboration into it. Which means there has to be a way I'm communicating between team leader and team member. Team leader, team member. Team member, team member. How am I constantly using the tool to benefit me on a day to day basis? That's what makes it collaborative; that's what makes it addictive. If I don't have that, and we start to question adoption, really, really, really hard to get. I said it has to be real-time. It always has to be on. What does that mean? I want to be able to do my check-in on Sunday night at 10 o'clock in bed. Weird? Maybe. But that's what I want to do! Someone else wants to do their check-in on the train. Check-in? What's a check-in? Check-in is a quick way to say "What's going on with you? What's your pulse right now?", once a week. Something we do within TMBC all the time. It's how I understand my team.

What's my pulse? I need to do that wherever. It can't be tied to being on the desktop. It has to be always on 24/7 where people want to work. The technology has to meet the people at the intersection of where they are and the technology. At that intersection. If it doesn't if these are off, I'm way off, I'm way, way off. So that always-on, real-time, has to meet at that intersection. It has to be global. You cannot work in today's world without being global. There's no such thing as an international version and a US version. Or a global version and the US version. The US is part of the globe. It always will be. It always has been. It always will be, hopefully. And when we think about global, we need to think about, when we deploy our processes, how do they work globally. Think about me as the CEO of a software company supporting global users. I have people 24/7 supporting, yet they're all on one team. I can't have them on multiple systems. I can't have them on different team leaders. They might have different teams because they're in their own offices and things, but I have one team supporting one account. And it's follow the sun, 24/7. I have to have that. If you say 'Well, we're not ready to roll out globally in Bulgaria yet.', well, guess what? That doesn't work. That just simply doesn't work, and the business will respond. Remote, self-explanatory. I have to be able to get to remote users.

Mobile devices and the cloud have made it inexcusable, inexcusable not to get to remote users. Now there's always someone in your organization, I swear to goodness, someone's going to say "Oh I don't have a cellphone. I don't have a smartphone. The signal there is not that great.", etc, etc. We in HR are always looking for excuses not to push the envelope. As part of Elevate 2015, if we can make an excuse to push the envelope, make an excuse to get this guy on the mountain online. Because we need his data. We need his data to be able to truly understand how he's thinking, how he's feeling, and how he's impacting the organization. Make an excuse to get him. Make a point, excuse me, don't make an excuse not to get him online.

So what has to change? What has to change? In some organizations, as you can see by that slide, it's massive. You say, "Oh, man, Jason, you're giving me a headache. What do we do?" In other organizations it's, "You know, we're not that far, but let's just talk about some tips. Just some tips, about what has to change and what we need to do going forward." So first of all, we have to be able to think about what is the measure of success. So a lot of organizations think of the measure of success as, hey, let's go live on this piece of technology. If your measure of success is the go live party, you shouldn't even start. Another measure of success: 'Let's redesign our processes.'. Cool, but to what end? Another measure of success, 'Let's make HR more efficient.'. Cool. But when you go to present that to your CEO, and you say "Mr or Mrs CEO, we've made HR more efficient." My response as a CEO is "So what?." "Well, we can reduce headcount, we've got three, we can get it down to what, 2.7? We're rolling out self-service so we can reduce headcount." No, you can't, it's never been proven that that's going to do that.

It's going to make it easier for employees, maybe. So what are the measures of success that I want in this new world? This requires a whiteboard session, where you sit down and you say what are going to be my measures as an organization of what makes us successful? What do we want to be great at? What's it okay to be okay at? And in this new world of work, what's our measure? Is it still time to org. structure? Because if it is, I'm missing 80% of the work. Are we still doing things once a year? If it is I'm missing 364 or 365 of the work. So I have to think about new measures. What else? I have to think about new systems. And this is really hard. This is a hard topic and I speak all over the world on this. The systems that most of us are using, and I say us because I'm part of it, I mean they're 20 to 30 years old, or more. And they were written in an era where there were no devices. So when people say to me, "Well, why doesn't PeopleSoft run on the cell phone very well?" It was never developed for a cell phone. Is it still called a cellphone? I don't even know. Smartphone. Why doesn't it run on the tablet? Why doesn't it touch? Why can't you touch effective date, and it automatically does all this stuff? Why doesn't it automatically integrate into all these systems like Slack? Slack. 30 years ago nobody was thinking of Slack. 20 years ago nobody was thinking about Slack. Six months ago nobody was thinking about Slack.

So we have to start thinking about our systems and designing our systems, we as software vendors, you as practitioners, as to how does this future world work. Which means we have to think about teams and all the things we've talked about so far. We have to think about new processes and realize that the process that has worked for recruiting doesn't work anymore. Most people don't hire people based on recs., they hire people based on who they know. Most people don't care about performance reviews once a year. Most people care about real-time feedback. Most people don't care about engagement surveys once a year. Most people want pulse, real-time, in my hand, so I can act on it today. Most people don't want compensation tied to a one to five rating that doesn't mean anything. Most people want compensation that's tied to truly what is going to drive performance from that person. That's what they want. So we have to rethink our processes, to frame them with where people are today. We have to think about getting rid of these concepts of competency models, and these old leadership models which are strict, stern, and lastly, so hard to maintain. And we have to think about how do we think about what people's behaviours are. How do we drive people based on their strengths? How do we drive people based on who they are. Who I am right here, me. That's how I want to be led. I don't want to be led based on who you think I should be. I want to be led based on who I am, what my strengths are, what my abilities are, and what I need to do to perform best in the organization.

This is a huge massive change you guys because we've all spent so much time and money on competency models and all of these theoretical things, all of which have not proven themselves out. So let's get rid of it all and let's be real. Who am I? I'm just some dude sitting with a black t-shirt with a headphone on that's ugly, talking about competencies versus behaviours. So help me get better. Help me focus on my strengths. I need a focus. This focus means I need to think every single day about what I'm going to do to change this. Every single day I wake up, "What am I going to do to get ready for the future of the work?" I always think about the future of work as something I call Workplace 2020. I wrote a lot about it in my book. Workplace 2020 is simple. Simply by 2020, all of this stuff I've just talked about is going to be here, and where are we going to be? If we're still thinking about ERP systems and doing upgrades, we're still thinking about once a year stuff, we're still thinking about IT running reports for us, we are screwed. Excuse my language...we're in trouble. So how do we put a focus on this stuff?

We have to have new impact. So those measures I talked about? Give me the impact. So what? So what? It's not, "Oh we've reduced our time to fill." It's not our comp. ratio is better. It's our impact has been this. Our teams are better. We know who to deploy on what teams. Our engagement, which drives performance--don't just measure engagement, don't just measure performance--engagement drives performance, equals business outcomes, means I've sold more. I've delivered more. I have better customer service NPS scores. Whatever it is. We have to think about new impacts, what those impacts are. And all of this, all of this says what's the new world of HR? So HR's been a lot of things. It's been Personnel, it's been Payroll, it's been HR, it's been Human Capital Management. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what it is. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what it is. What matters is that you've learned from where we've come from to where the future work is. All pretty much not arguable. I mean, you can argue all day long, but all pretty much you can't say "Oh, remote's going to go away." "Virtual's going to go away." "Real-time's going to go away." "Twitter's going to go away." "Internet's going to go away." It's not arguable. It's here. So it's our job now to say, "How do we take this concept of teams, building better teams, replacing org. models, tying this all to the future of work, putting it together in a nice bow, and saying 'This is my new world of HR.' Well, how do I do that?" Act now and leap.

Five key things to wrap this up. A, interactions versus systems of record. Systems of record are great to store things like compensation, to store things like org. hierarchy. Interactions, how people are interacting, how they're thinking, how they're feeling, how they're talking, how they're collaborating, that is key. You need both. It doesn't mean it's one or the other. You need both. How do I think about teams versus static org. structures? I have to have processes and systems that support teams. If I don't, I need to work on that immediately. Third, how do I get rid of these models and think about behaviours? How I am feeling today and what is my team leader going to do to help get the best of me today? Not next week, not next year. Today. This is like a massive mind meld for people. We're like "Oh man, I just got the yearly performance review thing done." But we live in a world today that's changing. Real-time versus cyclical. That's what that leads into. How I think about that. And lastly, team leader versus org. Team leader versus org. When I do an engagement survey, who do I want to get the data first? The team leader. Not the CEO. Not the VP of HR. The team leader. So what can they do? Act. When I want to understand how my people are feeling, I, as a team leader, need to know that today, so I can act on it today. I have to go to a call right now on someone who's not feeling great. If I wait for HR or the executive team to push that down to me for then to me to act, that person's gone. Long gone. So that data needs to come to me first, not last. It needs to come to me first.

So five things. Interaction versus system of record. Teams versus static. Behaviour versus models. Real-time versus cyclical. Team leader versus organization. So, where have we come from? Where have we been? Here's what you do. All of these things should be part of your roadmap when it comes to HR, Human Capital, process, structure, teams, all as we move throughout 2015 and into 2016. I want to thank you guys very much for your time today. It's always fun being part of an event like this. I hope you enjoyed it, I hope you tweet along. And as always feel free to follow me on Twitter, ask me a question on Twitter. If you follow me, send me a direct message. I respond to every single one of them so I would love to continue the conversation. Thank you guys very much for your time and have a great rest of the event. Take care.