This is my first time hosting an HR Tech Chat and my first guest is Larry McAlister!
My colleague Brent Skinner included me on HR Tech Chats before – Talent Management – It Will Blend and 3Sixty Insights Shares its Takeaways from the HR Technology Conference & Expo. We are going to make a regular practice out of sharing our big ideas, and he has encouraged me to host my own HR Tech Chat too. I am so grateful for this opportunity!
When I first met Larry, our professional paths intersected at NetApp and Fuel50, I was struck by his passion for helping organizations transform their talent and culture through the effective use of technology. It is not surprising that he recently published a book about this very topic – titled “The Power to Transform.” He is always eager to share his insights and experiences with other leaders in the field.
We both agree the definition of success is changing. With so many individuals working remotely and needing to adapt to changing conditions, skills development and well-being have become key components of success. And in this new landscape, HR technology is playing an essential role by providing tools for managers to have more meaningful conversations with their employees.
By leveraging innovative HR tech solutions like talent marketplace and virtual coaching tools, managers are able to provide employees with the support they need in a way that is fast and efficient. Additionally, these technologies help to promote empathy and understanding among team members, allowing them to communicate effectively even during times of stress and uncertainty. It is clear that modern HR tech is enabling a new definition of success in the age of the post pandemic, empowering both individuals and organizations as they navigate this challenging time.
As more and more companies embrace the concept of an ecosystem and explore different ways to bring together diverse solutions, it is clear that the ability to think creatively and effectively manage different perspectives is critical. And in order for companies to fully realize the potential of this ecosystem mindset, they must also pay close attention to their HR tech stack and talent strategy. Furthermore, it is crucial that businesses recognize that automating tasks alone is no longer sufficient; rather, it is how we leverage the resulting data that truly matters. With greater data democratization across all levels of an organization, people have an opportunity to see exactly what they’re capable of achieving. Whether individuals are looking to climb up the corporate ladder or simply want to improve as individuals, having access to meaningful data will help them realize their full potential.
We covered a lot of ground in this discussion and there’s definitely something for everyone. So whether you’re an HR pro looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve or just starting out on your tech journey, we hope you find this information helpful.
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Jennifer Dole 00:03
Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to HR Tech Chat. I am Jennifer dole. And this is my first podcast. And I couldn’t be more pleased than to be sharing this time with Larry McAllister talent and transformation expert. And soon he will be adding author, title and introduction. So excited, Larry, tell us a little bit about that journey to
Larry McAlister 00:35
Well, I feel honored that I am your first guest. This is kind of cool. So yeah, I left corporate world couple months ago, in the effort to start a consultancy and write a book to help all CHR OHS and all HR people move their talent and transformation and technology into one cohesive ecosystem for the future. So the book is called the power to transform. And it’s really my story of the past three and a half years of transforming a culture to catch up to the business. So I’m super excited. November 15. There’s the presale and a launch in January. So it’s right on us.
Jennifer Dole 01:10
Very cool. And of course, it’s on that journey where we met.
Larry McAlister 01:14
That’s right. Yeah, you were one of the first intelligent super tech people to understand the big picture. And we I think at the time, when you were at fuel 50, we were the fastest adoption rate of fuel 50 in a company. So I’m proud we were jointly able to do that.
Jennifer Dole 01:32
Yeah, we had joint success, I’d say and it was always fun to listen and learn and help guide the team. So proud of that, that you’re
Larry McAlister 01:45
still there. It’s still a big part of the culture at NetApp. So you know, the legacy continues?
Jennifer Dole 01:50
Yeah, very cool. So excited to have you here. And we’re really talking about success. Right? You’ve had that success at NetApp. And before I had that success that feel 50 And before, but I just want to ask you, you know, do you feel like the definition of success is changing?
Larry McAlister 02:13
I 100% do. So I feel I’m calling where we are now. A pandemic affected workforce. So the first year of the pandemic was like, Oh, my God, I’m gonna die. And where’s my toilet paper? The second year was, or the second phase, maybe it was where is what’s work going to be like, how is work going to be, and now we’re understanding what works gonna be like, and I think success now is about the whole person, I think we’re getting much smarter. And companies are getting much brighter around mental fitness, and well being, you know, trying to remove the stigma of what that means having real dialogues about mental fitness. And I think we’re gonna see more and more tech companies, HR tech companies and regular companies embrace mental fitness. You know, I was doing some research around AAPs. And it’s only like, they only have like, 5% engagement. So that tool is not working. So newer tools, like better up and coaching, imperative and peer coaching, I think are going to become more prevalent.
Jennifer Dole 03:18
Yeah. And before we get to solutions, I agree with you that the definition of success is changing for an individual level, right, that pandemic just rocked all of our worlds. We had to adapt so quickly to work to school for our kids to how we buy groceries. I mean, everything changed. And I don’t know, I don’t think people want to go back to like normal.
Larry McAlister 03:49
I there. Yeah, I think normal is done. I said this early on in the first year, it’s like, it’s never going back. I think the power of talent in the marketplace has increased, people are making smarter choices about what’s best for them and their family or them and their personal. And talent is much more prudent on the kind of companies and cultures that they want to join. Because they want it to fit what their lifestyle is. So you know, when we shut down, I don’t want to say it was easy, it was super hard, but everyone shut down at the same time in the same way. So it was a joint sort of feeling about we’re all in the middle of this. Now we’re passing this post pandemic or pandemic affected workforce, that everyone’s making their own individual choices of how they want to work, and that smarter companies the Enlightened companies are embracing that and making that part of success.
Jennifer Dole 04:42
Yeah, and success right now. May may be changing in that you know, get a good grades go to go good school, go to a good you know, job, get promoted get from voted get promoted have an executive role, like people are stepping off of that path right now.
Larry McAlister 05:06
I agree. You know, I’ve been to a couple of conferences lately and this idea of, you know, skills, building my skills, how do I understand what skills I need? What’s the future, how much is getting better as a person better as a worker, expanding my skill base, mastering things is becoming more fulfilling, I think, and a lot, a lot of people are focusing on that, as opposed to let me grind 80 hours a week and, you know, get to the next promotion. And it’s really changed the way people think about their jobs and young people coming up. You know, if you graduated college, four years ago, you’re just a pandemic worker. And so even your first thoughts of what workers like are completely different than anyone who came before you. So the next generation of, of, you know, new to career has an entirely different view of what work is like, and it’s up to us to help companies cater to them.
Jennifer Dole 05:58
Yeah. You know, it’s not about giving people rewarding people with titles anymore. It’s rewarding them with skill development.
Larry McAlister 06:09
It’s so true. And I think, you know, it was a lot tougher for managers, employees, when they talk together to talk about promotions or specific skills, because they didn’t know, you know, I think before this new wave of technology came in, in the past five or six years, it was harder to have those discussions, it was guessing game like, Okay, go apply to an internal job, you know, that’s all I can do. Now, we’re able to have better discussions as a manager and employee to say, where do you want to go? What kind of skills do you want to have? How can I get those for you, there’s myriad ways inside a company for you to get better a mentor, or even a training or a coach, or go share a job or take a gig. So there’s a lot more, you know, easy to press buttons for managers, employees than there were in the past. And I think that’s accelerating this idea of, I want to just get better, I just want to build my skill base. And they’re easier discussions and more opportunities than there’s ever been in a company.
Jennifer Dole 07:04
Yeah. And you’ve been bringing HR tech into this conversation. And HR tech is really enabling this new definition of success.
Larry McAlister 07:13
Absolutely, what I say is, you know, I did this, I did this talk at a conference, right before the pandemic, the golden age of HR technology. The idea was, the bots aren’t coming to get you, you know, it’s not like iRobot, or some movie where they’re just gonna be unleashed on us. I say that technology, especially like artificial intelligence, and machine learning, gets you to a human conversation faster. And with more data, so the conversations are richer, there’s more data, and you can talk about your future in in a framework now, as opposed to a guessing game, even AI recruiting tools, they match if they match candidate to a job instantly. So you’re way quicker talking to a candidate than you’ve ever been, because the technology has gotten you there faster. So our job as managers or leaders is to say, How am I harnessing this HR tech stack to have better, more meaningful conversations with my employees, even my customers? And so it’s definitely sped that up. And we are in the golden age of HR technology. I believe billions of dollars are being spent in HR tech. So new managers coming up have tools that I didn’t have when I was coming up.
Jennifer Dole 08:26
No, it’s so different. I mean, I was doing Succession Planning and Performance Management, on Excel spreadsheets, transitioning that to PowerPoint to go into binders.
Larry McAlister 08:39
Oh, yeah, I know. Well, I my very, very first job in HR years ago was as a recruiter, and I would get paper resumes Slammed on my desk, and I would go through paperwork, submit. So now to have an AI tool. So there’s an 87% match to the job and 72% chance this guy’s gonna return your call. It’s just incredible. It’s
Jennifer Dole 08:59
so incredible. And, and in my new role as a research analyst in this industry, one of the things that the themes that I’m hearing over and over again, is the technology is allowing for efficiencies and our human ability to be empathetic in and helping our people grow and develop and understand their situation. And I just am hearing that over and over and over again. And I think similar to what you’re saying right now,
Larry McAlister 09:33
yeah, when you almost all of these tools once you’re ready inside a company that’s really the recruiting tools. There’s a lot of self assessment that comes with that easy self assessment. And and it’s not just skill assessment, as we were talking about earlier, which is a huge factor, but it’s also desire assessment, what sort of brings me energy, what brings me joy at work, what brings me motivation, and having Mac you know, AI matching you to what That means not only does it inform yourself, it informs your conversations with those around you. And so desire of what I want to make me happy, was taboo to talk about, it was always about the next job. Now, I think the walls are coming down, and maybe it’s a silver lining from the pandemic, but the walls are coming down, and really what a whole person approach means. And a lot of these tools are going after that.
Jennifer Dole 10:24
Yeah. And, you know, I mean, we’re talking about kind of empathy for the employee, but empathy for the managers, too. I mean, your jobs got tougher during the pandemic, didn’t they?
Larry McAlister 10:34
There’s no harder job than being like a frontline or second line manager. Right. So you’re not, you’re not all the way at the top making all the big decisions. And you have 20 people reporting to you. So you have to navigate, you have to navigate what’s going on in the company, understand it, as well as keep 20 people or 15 people inspired, motivated and aligned to the mission, all at the same time, understanding that we’re in this, you know, pandemic affected workforce. And what does that mean for each individual? So it’s, it’s, there’s a, there’s a bigger burden for managers to think about what their employees want. But I think some of these tools are giving you a language and a roadmap to how you have those discussions.
Jennifer Dole 11:18
Yeah. And what I’ve always been impressed by you layer is its ability to bring these different solutions together into an ecosystem.
Larry McAlister 11:28
Right? I mean, I think and that’s what I’m doing in my consulting a little bit is, you know, we did in that building a, building an ecosystem for high performing teams, and the four elements of that are activate yourself, activate the team, activate the enterprise, and activate the future. And those four are all interlinked. And then what you overlay on it is your HR tech stack, how was the HR tech stack and your talent strategy, symbiotic, cohesive, and enterprise wide? I think some companies want to just go buy a piece of software or platform, turn it on, and right. And that’s not how it works. You know, you talk about the entire HR tech sector, the entire town strategy, so employees really understand what it all means together. And, you know, that helps them understand that this company cares about me. Right? That’s, that’s what we were starting to get back during the panel you care about us? And to hear that it’s better than any employee engagement score, because you know, that’s going to drive engagement. But what a powerful way to hear that they’re engaged.
Jennifer Dole 12:30
I hope that’s a preview of your book.
Larry McAlister 12:33
That’s part of it. That’s a big part of it, for sure. Yeah, so I think you’re gonna, I think you’re starting to see that more and more in your work. That in ecosystem is way more important than what individual piece of HR tech you bring, or what individual training you bring in the ecosystem is becoming much, you know, biggest, biggest goal of I think, a company now.
Jennifer Dole 12:57
Yeah. So it’s not just kind of one solution provider, thinking about the employee experience, or the manager experience or even hrs experience. But it’s how they interact together to create this experience.
Larry McAlister 13:13
And now what we’re seeing and what we need to get better at, and maybe you’ll do some research on this going forward as data you’re now getting on the back end of these HR tech companies, is data you’ve never got before most of our data would be around what is the pulse survey, say? And what is maybe your HR data, say about promotions, or retention or, you know, transfers, now you’re getting stuff from coaching, where that’s really it’s anonymized, of course. But there’s stuff you get from coaching data you would never get from a pulse survey, because they’re talking about themselves individual precision development at scale, which you don’t get from a post survey. So your post survey, you have data from a coach, you have data from like a fuel 50. Whereas what skills do people want to build? What jobs do they want to get? And if you can start tying those things together, you have a much more informed talent strategy. You know, I think that really helped us during the pandemic, to sort of make decisions and message, how we were going to go back to her how we’re going to move in a hybrid environment, because we had all of this data from so many different systems tied together. And I think that is a an unknown sort of uncovered gem that I think companies are going to start really digging into more than they have in the past.
Jennifer Dole 14:30
Right? So it’s, it’s not just about automating tasks anymore. It’s it’s the data that comes from within the automation. Exactly. That’s, that’s changing the way that we manage people we perform in our job. Is that what you’re
Larry McAlister 14:52
absolutely yeah, that’s a really good point. I’m glad you made that point because I think people feel technology as I can. Do something faster. And and that’s the base of it. But the intelligence now, the artificial intelligence, the intelligence of the data that’s coming out of it, the cross pollination of this data to form one view or a couple of views of what the future is, makes the company smarter, helps managers manage better, and helps individuals drive their careers in ways they never thought of before, and drive their whole life in ways they never thought before. Right. They’re those I used to say, you know, this is what killed work life balance, now that this pandemic, there’s no such thing. So you have to make your own, you have to the line of demarcation of work, and home is gone. So each individual is deciding what their demarcation line is, and what does that look like. And it’s different for everyone. So when we all shut down at one time, we all have the same feeling now we’re turning it on. So every individual we’re turning on 11,000, light switches individually. And there’s no way to do that without this kind of technology and data to help inform that, because it’s so difficult to understand how all these people are taking differently without some of this accelerated data were getting.
Jennifer Dole 16:13
Yeah, and that accelerated data is helping to personalize the experience, just like you’ve seen these kind of consumer grade applications and, and, you know, TV shows and recommendations like the Netflix and the Amazon, it’s, you know, we’re used to that, right?
Larry McAlister 16:32
We’re all part of a giant algorithm in the sky.
Jennifer Dole 16:38
Like, hey, this is making it better, right? Like, I don’t have to scroll through TV channels anymore, like, Netflix is surfacing for me what I’m going to like to watch next,
Larry McAlister 16:49
right, and they’re, and they’re getting better and better, you know, from the very beginning till now, it’s gotten much, much better. And you know, what, when we’ve worked with fuel 50, when I was working with you, the idea of, hey, here’s six other jobs in this company that might be right for you, you would never think of for those six probably. And I think that really, really helps open your mind to what career is open your mind to what options are. And I always say this, you know, the data shows, and I think this is getting better. The difference between males and females, when they’re applying for the job. Males will be like, Hey, I’m 60%. There, I’ll apply and females want to have a much higher match. But with tools like, like fuel 15, to say, Have you thought about this job? We think you could be right for this job? You do? Oh, my God, that’s great. Let me look into this in a different way. So I think it’s helping people break barriers of I can never do that, you know, the walls of I don’t think I can do it are being broken down by AI technology.
Jennifer Dole 17:48
Yeah, it’s it’s that kind of transparency. And that democratization is just giving more people opportunities to and see what they’re capable of see what they can become. And just because you’ve been on one career path, have one set of skills doesn’t mean that those skills don’t transition.
Larry McAlister 18:12
Right. And it’s just opening open people’s eyes to what is transferable? What do I need to get different? Why don’t we need to grow in in ways that that are much easier to understand. And I think, you know, people who were, if you think about people who are just coming out of college, so their experience with technology is, this should be so easy, so quick predictive to what I want to do. And then you come to a company that doesn’t have any of that. It’s like, what am I back in the stone age’s. So having having technology now inside a company that’s equal to consumer grade technology, I think makes, you know, that generation coming in feel like oh, I can do anything here.
Jennifer Dole 18:53
Yeah, exactly. So you know, what I hear you saying is that it is possible for the new definition of success that individuals have to be. It can be achieved in the business world. Patients are adapting.
Larry McAlister 19:14
Absolutely, I think I think now that, you know, whenever someone is doing something new when you ever doing a transformation, the first question is, what’s the ROI on this going to be? Why would I break my neck to? I don’t know how they’re going to turn around. Now, the ROI is obvious. You’re seeing people move to different jobs, you’re seeing them build skills, you’re seeing them ask for things that might not have been feasible in the past. So I think success is broader than it’s ever been. And the ways to be successful are much easier to tap into. So I think, you know, the straight up the ladder. You know, some people want to do that for sure. But not everyone and I think it’s easier for those to say let me try different things. You know what The best thing that happened to me, early in my career, I was coming up in HR, a guy who’s in the logistics job, fell ill and was out for a year. So I took over this logistics job to figure out how to deliver medical devices to hospitals coming off the factory and shipping. And I had no background on that. But that’s how my mind works, you know, tying everything together. That’s just my basic core principle. So what an exciting year for me to be able to do that, like, you know, you walk out there going, I can do anything, I can do anything. And this company gave me this opportunity, I’ll always love that company for giving me this opportunity. So those moments in your career or just, you remember them forever?
Jennifer Dole 20:39
Yeah, you do. It’s those moments, those relationships that you remember, and you bring forward. Right? I mean, you’re just, you’re doing that for lots of other people. Right, right. Like that
Larry McAlister 20:53
happened to me, I want to pass that on to others. Right? Try it, try it, try it. You know, I want to go back to the term of use democratization. I completely believe in that. And we talked about that in this in this ecosystem. So if you think about, you know, activating yourself, the idea was, you can get a coach, right democratizing coaching years ago, I gave up on coaching, because there’s always at the top, it was always for executives who are jerks, and you’re trying to fix them with a coach. It’s so difficult to get ROI. And it’s super expensive. Now, it’s democratized, better up imperative, there are several that do this. So you as an individual, like my EA, got a coach and then got promoted to a new job. And then you know, with the pulse survey used to be corporate would go into a room and come back two years later to solve your problems. Now, we want to democratize it, you as your team, don’t get beat up about it, you as your team use that data to help your team get better. Right. So that idea of democratize your career with a fuel 50? Right, those kinds of things, in your own hands, as an employee is so expansive, you know, I think democratization is the answer. And I started at the democratization at all employees have access to those. And then we started building things as we went up the stack. So democratize democratization was my first goal in that ecosystem? talent strategy?
Jennifer Dole 22:17
Yeah. And giving access to tools and resources to people that had never had it before. And you were doing it in different languages around the world. I mean, that’s a complex challenge, and you solved it.
Larry McAlister 22:32
And it does, it shrinks the world. If you’re, you know, I think people feel the farther away I am from headquarters, the different time zone I’m on, if I’m an underrepresented group, you know, I may not get the same opportunities, but these kind of enterprise wide HR tech stacks tied together, it shrinks the world, you could get a gig in a different country, you could get an opportunity to talk to a coach in your own language, right. So that’s the idea of the world has shrunk because of technology. And you’re we’re all closer to the same things, because we’re all using the same tools. And that’s, I think, you know, that permanent tattoo, you know, that you live and breathe it all in the same tool. So the whole company, the whole companies feel it.
Jennifer Dole 23:16
Yeah. And there’s a common language, a common practice, your, as a company, you’re known for that.
Larry McAlister 23:23
Right? Right. And it’s attractive, because people now are asking, you know, candidates are asking, what’s the hybrid work policy? And how am I going to build my skills and career there? And you have to have really real answers for that, because they know, right, they can understand they, they can talk to people in your company, and they can see what you’re promoting on like a LinkedIn or whatever. So having answers to those two questions. If you don’t get to the interview, if you can answer those two questions with real answers and future oriented answers for candidates, it’s, it’s current trade,
Jennifer Dole 23:58
hey, they are more informed about themselves, their worth their value. And they’re expecting that in return.
Larry McAlister 24:08
Absolutely. Yeah, I think the I hope I get a job I hope to be promoted. Little by little for 20 years. It’s just archaic. It’s like, what am I gonna do this year? How am I gonna move my career this year? Like, what’s now? What, what, what impact Am I making now? What does your company do around helping their communities do about helping underrepresented groups get the same opportunities, you know, it’s a much more thoughtful, you know, full thought about what a company does for you, as well as what you could do for the company. So that relationship is evolving in a good way towards what we’ve always wanted it to be. And I think technology and mindset is really helping that accelerate. Yeah.
Jennifer Dole 24:51
So we have talked about so much today, and I don’t want to overwhelm someone that may just be Starting out on this journey. So what is your advice to someone about the kind of next three steps that they should take to moving towards this vision that you’re laying out for us?
Larry McAlister 25:16
Yeah. So I do you think, the idea of a talent ecosystem, and I laid out the four ways that we did it, and I recommend that just answer questions about what does that look like in your company, you don’t have at least a working discussion around what is the ecosystem look like in our company. And then I think for HR folks, you are a technologist. So you may not feel it. But you have to be because HR technology is all around us, it may not be ready to bring it to you. So what we did is we had an HR tech parade and brought in 16 vendors, including you 50, and better up and then decided, What do all these things do? I felt lost? Right? I was like, I haven’t looked at this in a couple of years. So to see what’s in the market. So putting your diving into the HR tech world, I think is super important for HR folks, just to know what’s out there. And then step three would be how do those two things come together? How do you marry those two things together? And it doesn’t mean you’re going to solve all of it in year one, you know, it’s a two three year journey. But at least there’s a story that you can now fashion for employees, like here’s what we’re going look at this entire idea of how we’re supporting you and moving you around. So think cohesively think ecosystem, understand what technology is out there. And it’s confusing. There’s a lot. So sometimes you have to ask somebody at least helped me with one of the five sort of areas I can look at to third, how do you marry those together and turn that into a cohesive, easy to understand story?
Jennifer Dole 26:48
Yeah, very good. Well, great advice, Larry, it was so cool to connect with you again. I appreciate you spending some time here on HR Tech Chat. And look forward to that book coming out on again, November 15. So we’re
Larry McAlister 27:07
in resale November 15. So you can get it for really cheap on that day, special sale price on November 15. And then it’ll be really in bookstores and everything in January.
Jennifer Dole 27:17
Very cool. And are you going to have like a website? Or how can people get in touch with you if they want to learn more after reading the book?
Larry McAlister 27:25
Yeah, I think step one is I’m always on LinkedIn, Larry McAllister. And then I do have a website, the corporate humanist consultancy. You can see me there and that’s where you can understand sort of what I’m what I’m consulting on, but either one of those, and then you’ll be able to follow the book as well and start a community around all of us helping each other move forward to help employees
Jennifer Dole 27:46
grow. Awesome. Thank you, Larry.
Larry McAlister 27:50
Thanks for inviting me. Thank you, Jennifer.
Jennifer Dole 27:51
Talk soon. Okay, bye. Bye.