3Sixty Insights #HRTechChat with Mike Erlin, CEO and Co-Founder of AbilityMap

With the picturesque Australian outdoors as his backdrop, Mike Erlin, CEO and co-founder of AbilityMap, joined 3Sixty Insights in the early morning his time for this episode of #HRTechChat. A fellow alum of Cornerstone OnDemand, Mike brings ideas that slot right into the future of work. Employers today have the tools to understand their organizational culture like never before. Mike delves into some specifics and explains why any company can ward off a plethora of related challenges before they even take root. Much of the way forward distills down to the deployment of the right psychometric instrument. But there’s much more to it, and if you enjoy geeking out on human capital management, then you’ll have fun following our conversation. Here’s some of what we covered:

  • How can organizations start getting deliberate and methodical about changing an employer culture?
  • Why are pizza Fridays, though a nice gesture, not an effective way to build an employer culture?
  • What are some of the attitudes that may have held the world of work back in resolving to evaluate and train for soft skills?
  • Why is now the time to start doing so?
  • How can learning benefit to become far more efficient?
  • How does Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs fit into this?
  • What do our basic vs. aspirational needs have to do with the history and timeline of the Fourth and Fifth Industrial Revolutions?
  • What matters to a CFO when it comes to investing in the development of soft skills?
  • How did COVID-19 surprise organizations in terms of inventorying and understanding the capabilities existing in their workforce?
  • Is it really possible to have an entire team of individuals who truly dig what they’re doing for work?

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Brent Skinner 00:00
Mike Erlin, who is co founder and CEO of AbilityMap, which is a very interesting company, and Mike is a super interesting guy. And we’ve had a couple of conversations now offline, just between the two of us. And I, frankly cannot believe how much ground we’ve covered so far as our viewers, we’ve been covering, you know, concrete and concrete and abstract HCM. You know, what are the hard benefits, the soft benefits strategic tactical, but also, we’ve been talking a lot about artificial intelligence and blockchain and maybe the future of work. And I think the future of work is really where Mike slots right in here. So, Mike, if you want to introduce yourself to our audience, and just, you know, we’ll start talking about this stuff. I know that we, we probably won’t even have enough time.

Mike Erlin 00:59
Yeah, yeah. No, I agree with you. Thank you, Brent, very much. Good, everybody. I’m, I am San Francisco origins, living in the mountains above, outside of Sydney, Australia. And we’ve had some rains the last couple days or last couple of weeks. So I had some connectivity issues. So welcome to the bush of Australia. That’s where we’re calling from. As I said, from San Francisco, I originally grew up in the HCM tech space, starting in 1999, with a very cool company called Digital think we were arrogant smart companies got it was our tagline. And, yeah, I came down here in oh five hooked up with a pretty amazing gentleman who was answering through showed me the answer to a question that I’d had for a long time. So yeah, living the dream ride in the railroad.

Brent Skinner 01:49
Fantastic. Yeah. How can I forget to mention to the viewers that you are in Australia, so we’re, we’re actually seeing, we’re seeing the future right now. Literally. It’s Friday over there. I know. It’s Thursday, late in the afternoon. My time. I’m just in plain old US East Coast. Nothing special there. A red background? Oh, yeah, that’s right. That’s right. So where to start? Okay,

let’s talk about

Brent Skinner 02:20
psychometrics and what it means we have. So there’s a there’s a conundrum, a dilemma that’s, that’s been persistent for years, just a very long time, essentially, as long as we’ve had hiring and the hiring of people, at least in the professional realm, but also for our hourly jobs as well, where we just don’t understand we think we know as individuals, what we need. But we’ve learned over time, that that what we think we need isn’t necessarily what we actually need. And there’s quite a bit of variance, and it leads to a lot of inaccuracy and in in hiring and a lot of the rest of the employee lifecycle. So without being too cryptic here, kind of give you a chance to, to sort of elaborate on that, because I think that really gets to the crux of, of what of what you’re all about, like, yeah, yeah,

Mike Erlin 03:20
I think it obviously ties to sort of delived problem that Kev Chandler, my co founder and partner came together to solve but maybe what I’ll say is, you know, I’ve been in the HCM tech space since 99. And I will say, we do a bloody good job of figuring out the hard and technical skills that people need to have to accomplish and effectively deliver in certain work areas. The piece that Oh, is mucks us up. And after you’ve made a hire more frequently than we like, you know, three, six months later, you go, ooh, that wasn’t right. Right. It is the it is the underlying human capabilities called transferable skills, and also previously called soft skills, that are the things that we as leaders have always tried to, you know, just figure out, do our best. We’ve all done our best. But our research showed and a lot of the research shows that about a third of the time we keep getting it wrong. And interestingly, the area that you mentioned, you started with psychometrics behavioral evaluation, cognitive evaluation has been around for a long time, yet this big chunk of a workforce not being predominantly in the right role. When we hire somebody, it’s because we like them, right? I mean, we go through the interview, if I’m good at interviewing, you’re good at interviewing, hey, I like these guys. We make the decision. But again, about a third of the time, you know, six months down the road we go hack we know that that didn’t quite work the way I thought it was so so yeah, so I think you know, I’m putting some putting Some rigor to help us make better informed decisions. On top of all the good things that we’ve done in a in HCM tech, of identifying the hard stuff, but that that middle ground that cloud is what’s been, you know, bugging us and that’s what we set out to solve is how do you accurately identify the capabilities, human capabilities of transferable skills that are really critical to somebody functioning in a culture environment such as management or customer service or a specific role? You start with that? It’s like Moneyball, right? You start with that. And then you play your team to those strengths, you got to figure out the team strengths. And so that’s what ability map is basically Moneyball for, for our HCM space.

Brent Skinner 05:50
I love that. I love that. One thing, one thing I want to get back to here that you mentioned that that’s intriguing to me, is, you know, sometimes I’m trying to figure out, okay, who are the nefarious characters? Or maybe they don’t realize they’re being that way. But they’re sort of holding us back. Right, in the in the ecosystem of, of, you know, of work, right. Why do you think we focus so much on the hard skills getting that right, but we’ve kind of, I mean, there is the MBTI, which I know, is loaded with a bunch of baggage and all that it’s not really that accurate? But why, why have we, to my mind, it seems like there’s been less of a of an urge sense of urgency around figuring out whether there’s a cultural fit with people, I mean, you’re seeing a bit more of it now seems to be emerging, sort of surfacing is a more important issue today. But for so long, it’s been kind of in my you know, just in my observation, it seems as if it’s been kind of just sort of discounted, and oh, yeah, well, that’s, you know, we got to worry about this other stuff first, in what you’re saying is that, it’s, it’s actually right up there, it’s at the same level,

Mike Erlin 07:10
I actually think I actually think it’s at a higher level. So I’ll give you my I’ll give you my arrogant perspective on it. And it’s not self serving, because I’ve raised my family bought a house on on the current HCM stuff. The fact is, the hard skills and technical skills are easier to do than the soft skills, the transferable skills. So if you’re trying to run a business, and you know, you can knock down a lot of stuff for the last 20 years, that’s predominantly what we’ve been doing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s, I mean, I’m not saying it. Well, I’m not I’m, you know, people are getting close to it, this and that, but the subjectivity and bias of determining a, what’s required the demand and be what’s available, the supply is absolutely clouded by subjectivity and bias, and you throw in the tools that are coming out with AI, this machine learning that it’s, you know, now we’re letting the now we’re letting the bots do it without a reference base of high quality evidence, because we’ve never touched the reference base of high quality evidence at scale. Right. Does that make sense? So

no? Yeah, I

Mike Erlin 08:15
does. I think I think we, you know, we’re humans, right? You know, you go the most people go the path of least resistance. As in terms of, you know, if you look at HR started in payroll numbers, pay numbers pay, right? Then we moved to, then we moved to, hey, we need to get into developing people. Okay, well, what skills do they need? Well, the ones that we can quickly measure development, pay development pay are the hard skills, the tactical skills, boom, boom, boom, we start nailing it, right University based on hard skills, tactical skills, here’s Of course, things that you need to do. Predominantly, I’m there are a number of generalizations we’re making here, but I think, I think, you know, the so the second point is, I think COVID slapped us all in the face and woke us up. And I can’t tell you the change in in market demand that we’ve seen as a result of companies going, Oh my gosh, I have no idea of the capabilities we call it a capability balance sheet that are existing in my workforce, around these human skills, because they’re the ones that matter. We talk about resilience, we talk about culture fit, we talk about, you know, whether people fit into that we’ve never been able to quantitatively measure that effectively. Okay. at scale. It’s required us to engage experts, consultants, a expensive be can’t scale it globally. It’s caused us to train our people up internally to interpret psychometric assessments and to interpret what’s required for the jobs in the language of whatever the psychometric assessment saying, it’s hard, man, it’s hard. Yes, we just we, we felt that this needed to be cut through hard and fast to get to the tack. Things in which you can affect capability development in these human capabilities transferable, because that’s what’s been missing. And what happens is it optimizes all the killer infrastructure that we already have in place. And it optimizes how you train and develop, it optimizes, how you onboard, it optimizes how you performance, develop somebody, it optimizes the career pathing that you have available. And of course, if you got to make a new decision and hire somebody make a better decision. Because you know, now, not only the hard skills, we’ve done a great job technical skills, we’ve done a great job. Well, now we’re starting to insight into the human skills, the ones that actually matters to how we work with each other. And if you look at people, like, you know, like Josh, and, you know, volunteers on this stuff now, and he’s been on it for a while, but you know, people are saying, Hey, you know, what, these, these, these human inherent human capabilities are really important, because that’s what people automatically pull from the play, right? We can, the hard skills, for the most part in you know, like, I may not be able to become a data scientist, because I don’t have the cognitive the core intelligence or not, but about everything else, I can learn if I have to, how to communicate, I can learn if I have to how to listen, I can learn to work better with others, I can learn to set goals. Those are, those are all skills that can be developed yet, if we don’t know where someone inherently sits, you know, how come we’re sheep dipping them in, in, you know, brainy,

Brent Skinner 11:28
you don’t know which you end up being you’re just blind, you don’t know, you just kind of throw a bunch of stuff up on the wall and see what sticks in terms of learning, even when, in what sticks still might not be what you need from that person, right. And you may be able to get that person to learn what you need, but you need to know what they need to learn. First, I want to just back up here, it’s very, very interesting here is? So first of all, this is sort of the lighter point here is that all the stuff that you met all that other stuff, yet super solid, it’s just it’s found. It’s rock solid, it’s there, we got it. And Okay, now let’s figure out the human, the human piece of the puzzle, which, which is so funny that the human piece of the puzzle is the last piece of the puzzle that we really kind of focus on. who’s working the humans, right. So, so if you think of the map, but you think of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and you know, I know it’s a little bit of a tired trope, but I love it, because really, you think about the chronology of this, we actually are at sort of loosely analogous to self realization right now, in terms of in terms of employment, right, we’re finally getting this point where we can focus on the people’s sort of deepest, innermost desires and in their work. What’s interesting, also about what you mentioned, what you talked about just then is, yeah, we started with payroll. Obviously, we started with payroll when we started employing people. That was the simplest thing. It was the first thing and it also the simplest, most straightforward thing, too, that would come to mind in terms of employing somebody, somebody, there was an exchange of, you know, I’m with you. Now, actually,

Mike Erlin 13:09
if you look at Maslow’s hierarchy, right. payroll was needed to hit the first level. I agree with that.

Brent Skinner 13:16
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Okay. I’m glad. I’m glad I got to convert here. So I’m starting movement, hopefully. Or maybe I’m joining yours. Who knows. But in a anyway, right tears. So we’ve gotten that now, with the thing that you’ve done. The thing that’s super important here, I think, is that it has been the impediment. Is that okay, the human stuff? You’re right, the subjective stuff, the soft skills, that’s tough. It’s really tough to figure those out. It’s challenging, right? And so, so there’s this this, I think there’s this reflex, to not want to think about them. Right? So yeah, no we’re not gonna think about this stuff. We’re gonna do all this other stuff, because it’s actually easier to think about right. And now we’ve gotten to a point where we, no matter how tough it is to think about, we have to think about it because it’s essentially the last thing to think to think about. And but once you’ve done that, too, so what you’ve mentioned that that’s so important here is that you’ve made it in a way you’ve made it you’ve recognized this and we’ve we’re making it more straightforward.

Mike Erlin 14:25
Yeah, actually, let me there’s two really interesting points. And I do dig I got it. I got a noodle on that. Mazda, Mazda loves hierarchy thing, because I think I like that a lot. Okay, so let me tell you what caused me to realize how big an issue this was in about 2002. Okay, so I was working for arguably one of the best companies I’ve ever worked with called Digital think we basically built elearning content and delivered it and the way we went about doing it was bringing some really, really smart, great cool people into a business where they’d look at a particular function or job or culture and say, Hey, in order to operate here, these are the capabilities that need to be developed. We call them competencies back then we build learning objects, learning content to develop those competencies. We deliberate and go, whoo, all right. Now, what happened is I was running the existing clients. And so I’d go in and often work with my team, to get the people that had the budget to buy more, right, that was what we did. And I kept getting these questions from predominantly CFOs. And they got there was something like this, they’d go, Mike, I appreciate what you guys have done. We bought a lot from you. But I don’t know if the capability How do I know the capabilities that you guys are saying need to be developed to do whatever it is we’re setting out to do? And the projects are actually the ones that drive performance? You’ve given me no evidence, got smart people, but you given me no evidence, first thing? And then they go well, and even if I accept that, those are the capabilities, how do I know there’s a problem in my business? You’ve given me no evidence, right? And if I do know, there’s a problem in my business, how do I know where it is? So I know how much to give is what you’re selling me? He goes, you’ve given me no evidence. All right. So those three questions, quite frankly, if you go to most CFOs are people that are spending bucks, evidence, evidence, evidence is what we’re all doing based on data. And that, with all due respect, I think is largely missing in this area today. And it’s a problem because if you go look at Ballinger, and you go look at VeriSign, and you go look at people who are the visionaries, the thought leaders in this space, they’re saying, Hey, guys, COVID has showed us that when the environment changes, okay, when the environment does a wholesale change, and we could not have had any bigger change, hopefully, than what we just want, or what you guys are still going through, if you don’t understand the inherent human capabilities that are required to work in that environment, then you’re not optimizing these killer systems that we’ve been doing the decisions that we’re making for your unique business, that’s the issue. So define what you need, understand what you have, and then you can identify what you want to improve your performance. So that’s the first thing. The second thing that I’d say, is that the really cool thing if you look, you know, our logo, if you look at our logo, yeah. Yin in the Yang, right? Why is that? You want to know what this is? This is why I agree with your, your mass love hierarchy, think, realization, if you think about it, the best scenario, the yin and the yang, our productivity and job satisfaction. So if we identify people’s if we identify the capabilities that are required for performance in a given role, environment or culture check, we do that, right. Yeah, we can find the people and groups of people that have the strongest inherent capabilities to those requirements. If they have strongest inherent capabilities. You know what that means? They dig it. Yeah. Right. Now, you’ve got people who dig doing what a business needs. That’s pretty cool. I mean, in essence, yeah, we’re doing

you’re optimizing culture.

Mike Erlin 18:39
Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, culture. You know, Pete, we talk a lot about culture. Here’s our view on and this isn’t my views. My partner who’s the scientist, and he helped me understand this capabilities. Sorry, backup behaviors or behaviors. We’ve been measuring them forever. Okay. aggregations of behaviors make up whether somebody has an inherent capability, right. That’s how people operate in a business based on what their strongest behaviors are. Does that make sense? Yeah, okay, great. What’s a culture? A culture is an aggregation of how people, what people do, how they behave in an organization. Right? Yeah, there’s no other way you can say it’s this. But if your team behaves this way, that’s your culture over here, right?

Brent Skinner 19:30
It’s not Yeah, it’s not when you’re presenting to the outside world. It’s not what you want it to be. You can you can try to influence it and that that’s been done, but what it is in the present moment is however, your work forces

Brent Skinner 19:44
is I agree. 100%. So if, if, if I if you had a, you know, 5000 person company, and I came in and I established a catalogue of that organism of that team’s strongest inherent preference capabilities, right? And I said across these 5000 people, Brent, here’s what you got strongest in common. Would you reasonably say, oh, shoot, that’s my culture. Almost said. I almost said a swear word there. Uh, well, I’m doing here. Okay. Australia would have been okay. Australia has taken me down the slide a fair bit.

I love it.

Brent Skinner 20:23
I love it. You would have broken the seal for HR tech.

Mike Erlin 20:28
I’m still okay. I’m still okay. But do you see that? You got?

So yes.

Mike Erlin 20:35
So what happens is, so think about that. If you were just talking culture, if we can define what we actually have strongest in common in the capabilities that are aggregation behavior that tells us what our culture actually is. Do you agree? Yeah. Okay. Now you’re the CEO. And you go, heck, Mike, that’s not what I want. You say, No, there’s about 20 people, 50 people, 100 people in my business that operate exactly how I want. Okay, I go, which ones are they bred? You go, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And I go, Okay, well, that group over there has this group of capability, strongest and common, you go, yeah, that’s what I want. And I go, Okay, well, let’s take that. And let’s compare your 5000 people to it, maybe here’s your development plan, the arrows in your quiver that you have to change that are development, performance support, moving people around Moneyball, or hiring new people Moneyball work toward improving your capability balance sheet toward what you your vision is, that’s how you that’s how you go about affecting, because right now, what we do is wait, my old company, great company, Cornerstone on demand, I can tell you the hard skills all day long. Right? I could say you need these hard skills, here’s what your gap is, is what you need trade. Nobody can do that in the area of transferable human capabilities, soft skills. And it’s, it’s certainly a critical piece.

Brent Skinner 22:00
I can’t think of any conversation that demonstrates that better demonstrates the absurdity of trying to create a better employer culture by having pizza and beer day on Friday. I mean, do not I mean, like this is it’s this complete antithesis. I mean, that’s just, you know, this a nice thing to do, obviously, you know, it could, it could be part of your culture, but it’s not going to change your culture, changing your culture is actually this is what’s so interesting is that culture, it’s thought of at first blush as this sort of wishy washy squishy thing that, yeah, that’s just you know, snake oil, but it is it, it’s very exact, it actually has to do with, you know, your attitude, and, you know, manifestations. And that was an overly complex way of saying, you know, the way that your employees act and what how they most naturally act in that work place. That’s what’s so interesting. And you can actually create, you can actually, by doing what you’re talking about, you’re actually getting from point A to point B, in terms of employee player culture change as quickly as possible.

Mike Erlin 23:21
Yeah, I’d actually say I’d say you’re getting I agree, I’d say you’re getting from point A to point

E. Right? Right. Right.

Mike Erlin 23:32
Yeah. Yeah. What happens is, I think there are there are solutions and approaches that touch on the, the B or the C, or the D, or the E, right? They touch on them. But the problem is, they have so much baggage in what needs to be done to convert it to the next step. We haven’t looked at that full supply chain, right? And if you get too, if you think about it, if you think about it, and culture is a good one, it’s it goes back to it goes back to our logo. And this wasn’t I don’t know why this, I wish I could say that the logo was that clearly articulated the logo, we’ve come to realize that our logo is actually a really powerful vision of what we believe in, came out at the start, but it wasn’t that clear cut, I wish it could be. But if I think about if I think about one of the things that I do, when I when I speak with people, leaders, and I, this is going to sound arrogant, I don’t mean it to be but I’m getting old enough now where I don’t have a lot of time to muck around. Okay. And so and so. There’s a very simple question that I slip in generally. And that is, what’s the purpose of your people function? Yeah. And I remember In 2019, I was in San Francisco and it was just like a heyday, everybody, you know, candidates were walking down the street with five offers in their pocket, you know, anything tech, anything, sales was just insane. People were picking up their dry cleaning at their houses as part of the package. And I was just like, Oh, my God, what’s happening here, you know. But what, what I what I think is interesting is when they respond, and they say, employee engagement, or retention or acquisition, if what happens is, oftentimes you’ll hear a portion of the people leaders focus on a tactical issue, when at the end, the answer to the question should always and should never change from sustainable productivity. Yeah, that’s all that’s all our people function is about is we have a workforce, they’re producing x, we either need to do more with the same or the same with less. Okay? Now, how we do that. Our premise is that if you find people that are inherently have inherent strong preference capability to what you need, you got to first define what you need, then that’s a, that’s a really good place to start building. And then if you want to go pick up their laundry, to make them super happy, or you want to massage their toes while they’re at the desk, all good. But start with that pizza.

Because the pizza and beer

Mike Erlin 26:39
Yeah, that’s the pizza and beer. Because the deal is if you get people who inherently dig what they’re doing, I love what I’m doing. I’ve never, I’ve always loved this space, but I love what I’m doing more than anything I’ve ever done in my life. Okay, you can’t stop me. You cannot stop me right now.

All right, and only got it.

Mike Erlin 27:00
Yeah. And if you get a whole team like that are closer to that you’ll never get it all. Don’t get me wrong. But if you can shift 20% of your workforce to really be in that passionate moment. And then you give them beer, pizza and massage their feet. Okay, let’s do that.

Brent Skinner 27:19
So here’s his couple, a couple, just completely unwell. It’s all interrelated. But these are these are like this idea is way out here. Like this is what we’re talking about this idea is way out here. And this idea is like in this other area of the of the discussion. So one is, let’s shift gears, or let’s go back a little bit. As you mentioned, the questions that CFOs were asking you back in the early aughts. And that was super interesting. But you also you kind of just glossed pass or you didn’t mean to but you just kind of went past what the why what, how did you convince them to buy from you in the first place? What was the thing that that that that convinced persuaded CFOs that this was something to do, because I think that’s that that’s critical, and it feeds into something I want to get into?

Mike Erlin 28:14
Okay, well, let’s see if I’m, if I’m gonna feed you here. The people that we would table on the project, to go look at the organization, where, you know, Berkeley, Harvard, Stanford, Wharton School of Business, they had all the credentials that said, they’re good, and they work away. But they didn’t have any of the tools to have. Or while they, they could, but we didn’t go that far. But they didn’t have any of the tools to provide quantitative evidence. So basically, it’s a lot like a resume, quite frankly. And it is that you got the credentials that everybody believes are the credentials you need to have. So you must be good. That’s old school may. Okay, so the CFO, the CFO, or the head of business would buy because they like us, because we had credentials. Because we delivered on time, because our recommendations made general sense. We have to train people, right. We know we have to train people, it makes sense that we train them and things that experts have told us as important that they’ll get better. So all that. Yeah.

Brent Skinner 29:35
Sorry to interrupt. But, but I think you hit it on the head this is so this was actually a little bit more straightforward than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t know what it was going to be. But it’s a little bit more straightforward than I thought training is this is just sort of a traditionally conventionally This is understood as sort of a postulate of business, right? We have to train our people, you know, right. So that’s how Okay,

all right. Um, But

Mike Erlin 30:00
okay, okay, but let me let’s just look at this for a second. All right, okay. Oh, just for a second. So let’s just take this one step further. So, right, and Mike, are both managers in the same company in the same division, okay. And we’re both about to get training. And I’m going to go back to what HR often tells me they care about not so much today, but it used to be employee engagement is everything right? So it still is a little bit, but that’s secondary in my mind.

Brent Skinner 30:32
Like you said, it’s tactical, it’s a tactical, you know, component of, or, or indication, culture?

Mike Erlin 30:41
I think so. And again, like everything, depending on the environment, and what it means employee engagement could be the most important thing in the world. But my view would be, that’s only when you have people with the right capabilities in the right jobs, or as many of those because then you want to soup, then you’re ready to put fuel on the fire. No point in putting fuel on the fire when you don’t have enough wood. Right? Yeah, you’re just going to burn out the wood. Okay. So you and I are you and I are managers in the same role. Same company. Right now, a digital thing comes in and says to the CFO, we got to train your management to manage goes great. What we’re gonna do is we’re going to basically train them on leading others, we’re going to train them on personal communication, we’re going to train them on working with teams and achieving plans. Sounds pretty reasonable, right? Okay. Yeah, you and I are head of, you know, leadership enablement, or whatever comes in and says, Brent, Mike, we’re going to take you through this program, you and I get sheep dipped in this program. Okay. And we both do the same amount of stuff. Now, you’re a lot better at leading others than I am, I’m better at working with teams. Okay. What happens is, when you’re going through the leading with others, you know, and you get to sort of the second module of seven, you’re going man, I, this is gonna kill me. I don’t like this stuff. I don’t need I already know how to do this. Right, right. Now I mean it up. Alright. When it comes to when it comes to working with teams, you’re going, Oh, this is really good. I’m getting from this. And I’m going don’t get me this. I’ve been I’ve been sailing and playing football and working with people for years, I know how to do this. Right? So what ends up happening is we’re not throttling, the supply of high impact content. And I’m just talking about developing but the same applies to performance support, right? Same thing apply. So I’m not throttling it based on the need. And what the effect of that has, is, if I’m flooding Brent with stuff that he’s already inherently good at, you know, it’s a waste of money, and it’s a waste of his time, and he gets frustrated. However, if I know, Brent needs a shape DEP, and recurring sheep dip on working with teams, and it helps him perform his job. He’s gonna love the company, because the company is giving him what he needs to be more successful. Okay.

Brent Skinner 33:11
Yeah, it does help. And now we’re getting into this is where it’s, so what’s interesting here is, and we’re getting off on a tangent, but well, not a tangent, but this is a different way of thinking than I, but let’s go with this right. So you can add get, listen, you got curation of content, right? You have technologies that are curating content, according to what the individual content learning content a consumer that not in a business context, right? It has been trying has been looking at so you have that curation engine that’s tailoring the content to what the learning content to what that learning content consumer has been consuming as content on his or her own volition. Right? And so we have, and so how do we know? So here’s a question I have is what you’re talking about a sort of, it’s a central command. That might not be the right word, but a central command approach where the organization is figuring out through a sacred psychometric analysis of the person, what they need to learn, right? And then but you also have this proliferation of curation technology in the learning space right now that is, that is tailoring the learning content to what the person is already learning. Do we know whether Do we know is there any research out there that says that what the person is consuming on their own volition is learning content aligns with what this sacrament? psychometric evaluation says they need to learn?

Mike Erlin 34:55
Yeah, no, no, no. Well, I certainly haven’t done it but that is I had I hadn’t really gotten that. far yet, but I think that’s a great idea the way I, the way I would probably look at it brim is I would say, let’s segment the, whether it’s command and control, or decentralized, I think there are different ways of approaching it right. And actually, the right way to do it is to blend it, you want to feed up to the individual, much data as you have about where they sit, what’s needed for their success within their job, and let them consume. But then, of course, from the company standpoint, you know, we’re gonna, this is our core program, we’re going to deliver this right. And the magic, the magic, in my opinion, whether it’s hard technical skills or transferable human capabilities, the magic is to give the people function, the ability to identify, Hey, you know what, Mike’s not doing what he actually should be doing. Right. That’s the interventions were coming. Okay. But let me just ask you a question. I would say right now for the technical and the hard skills, that that full spectrum as to command and control and decentralized and even being able to see that Mike’s not doing what he needs to do is available.

Okay. Yeah, right. Yeah.

I mean, Cornerstone rocks at that. Love it.

Right. Oh, that data is available.

Mike Erlin 36:17
Yeah. Right. Okay. Now, say the same thing for transferable or human capabilities. Is that available today?

No, yeah.

Mike Erlin 36:27
No sample saying, oh, here’s the capability framework, use lunger. Use your own use whatever it is cool. But there’s no quantitative way to evidence, two critical pieces. One, what’s required in your environment? Sure. There’s tons of research that says for to be an effective salesperson, here are the capabilities, I guarantee you that what I’ve done in our company, is to show that the difference between a sales force in a sass sales executive in Cornerstone, SAP, Oracle, and Salesforce, all have critical transferable skills differences. Why? Because cultures are different.

Yeah, yeah. Oh,

Brent Skinner 37:08
I’m with you. 100%. What you’re describing right now, is interesting. Also that in terms of the soft skills?

Mike Erlin 37:17
Hold on, sorry, we’re in Hold on just sec. Some guy lost his dog. Are you looking for a dog mate? Dog right behind you? No, no, I’m good. I’m just on a conference call, buddy. That’s all right. Have a good day. Welcome to Australia.

Brent Skinner 37:34
I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. Okay, we’re already in the matrix, if you will, the internet that hyperbolic. But so. So it’s not quite like it was when training started getting really big in on the work in the workforce, right in the workplace. But in terms of in terms of our attitude toward it, or our understanding, or our approach to our approach to it right, to learning soft skills, you know, that is in its nascent in, in that the organization is, is it’s sort of an organization one to many, it’s, it’s a top down as a central command situation right now. But perhaps it’ll evolve into eventually, where culturally macro culturally where individual employees across all lines of history will start to seek out some of the soft skills on their own. With the with the understanding that is for their full optimization of their

Mike Erlin 38:50
right, I just lost you a little bit. And I got 4g here. So it might be you. But I think I think what, what I heard is more your, your metaphor around command and control versus decentralized. So let’s, let’s go look at the future work, right. And I was just having a conversation with one of my customers last night, and it kind of goes something like this. And he. So your question is, will individuals seek to improve themselves? And take training and development to better make them capable? What I would suggest is, that’s a good example of a book that Carol Dweck wrote called growth mindset. Right? Okay. Right. In other words, Does someone have a curiosity and an interest and a commitment. So out of there, there was curiosity, self development, growth and discipline to do it. All three of those capabilities are, in my view of all the things that have been said about future work. Those are three areas that are attributes of necessary for effectiveness in the future work. So, what I said to James, just yesterday, I saw him in the city, and he’s a recruiter. And he goes, Mike, you know, I love the tool, and I’m providing quantitative evidence to my clients, but it’s kind of making me work hard. When I go, What do you mean? And he goes, I get 10 candidates in, I only get like three that actually have what the client needs. And I go, Yeah, that’s right. I said, if at the population, I can tell you from our data, that about 30% of the population is actually at a development need level in terms of critical thinking and problem solving. scares the heck out of me, but that’s the reality.

Right? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Mike Erlin 40:56
And then actually, I could even show you that about 60% of the population is below average, average or below in that. Yeah, that’s a really scary component. So what I’m saying is that, you have to recognize that when you take on looking at these things, you’re, you know, you can’t expect everybody to be high. And so what’s going to happen to your to your to your question is that I would suggest that probably 30% of the population is the is going to maybe 40, is going to be actively committed and curious to grow and develop and have the discipline to do that on their own their resume.

Brent Skinner 41:42
That’s right. That’s right. And it doesn’t, it doesn’t follow that, that, that they the same percentage would be maybe motivated to acquire new hard skills, right? Because that’s a little that’s a little bit more of a of a, there’s more of a of a line of sight, from, from the lack to, to, to having right, so. So just as a sort of corollary to what you’re saying, I totally agree.

Mike Erlin 42:11
I don’t I mean, again, the line of sight, respectfully, and humbly, is available now through ability map, and I’m not trying to push us, I’m just saying, that’s what we needed to do. So that’s what we’ve done. So I would, I would kind of think that if a person became aware that working with teams was critical to being effective in this new job they wanted, it would be I’m not, I’m not clear that it would be any different than it being just another hard skill that they have to develop. I think I think I think it would probably go that same way. The bigger issue is, and this is where the command, this is where the magic of the command and control versus decentralized comes in. Right? If both if both the yin and the yang know what’s needed for performance in a role, and the HR department can see that Mike isn’t in the top 30%, who is curious, has a growth mindset and has the discipline to enable it, then the read the whole reason for Cornerstone is to enable the command and control to bead Mike development interventions consistently over time and short, sharp bursts that help them develop a skill that can be developed, but needs to be maintained. Because he doesn’t have an apparent preference in that area.

Brent Skinner 43:30
That’s critical. Right. Right. Exactly. Exactly. Is it in as with any as with any other learning focused company? It was, this is just fascinating. So I just looked at the time, and we’re, we’ve already gone over by a couple minutes here. You know what, let’s do another one of these sometimes. Yeah, there’s, there’s a couple of things. There’s a couple of things I want to get into. We didn’t get in, we didn’t really, and we won’t today, because I think this is enough that we’ve covered a lot of ground, but I want to get into AI and also want to just get a little bit more into the idea of the CFO, and in more in line of what is the decision making process in an organization that that that can potentially feed into this moving into this area? Yeah, great. I

Mike Erlin 44:31
mean, I think the only thing I’d say is that the CFO conversation I think has broadened in 2000 to three it was the CFO, okay. However, what we’re seeing now is it’s heads of business. So it could be the CEO driving the decision. It could be the, you know, the head of sales driving the decision, it could be the head of development because, for the most part, they’re measured on And rewarded on productivity within those divisions more than they ever have them. Because of the systems that we have in place that measure productivity that may not have been around 1520 years ago, right?


Mike Erlin 45:12
Okay. Now, the interesting part is, and this I think, is caused a chiasm to grow in my 20 years in the human capital, human HR space, is that there’s always been a question of value credibility as to how HR really helps the line. Yeah, right. So and what that means is HR, we need to show up with the equivalent of Salesforce or SAP for production, or finance, or we have to show up with quantitative data, backing the recommendations that we’re making to the line to allocate their people’s time and to spend money from them. Because it has an impact on productivity, that whole side has been fine on. Fine on hard and technical skills, no big deal. You know, you got to learn, you know, Python. Okay, that makes sense. But how come I got a third of my workforce that I wouldn’t rehire?

Brent Skinner 46:18
Right. Right. Right. speaking directly to the, the, the inadvertent bad hire, right at the end of it, and you’re singing my song around HR showing up with, with hard data analytics. I mean, that’s, you know, HR is at a, at a crossroads right now. I mean, you know, they could I could miss the train, but it has a super opportunity of, of being at the forefront if it negotiates its next steps correctly.

Mike Erlin 46:52
I would say like, I would say one last thing. I think HR is on the precipice of an absolutely incredible opportunity and transformation. And about it’s a, it’s about the top level of Maslow’s hierarchy. I’ll leave it at that.

Brent Skinner 47:09
Lovely, I love it. Thank you, Mike. Thank you for joining us. It’s been a pleasure.

Mike Erlin 47:17
Yeah, thanks. Great. I really I’ve enjoyed I hope I hope the audience has enjoyed it. And I hope you get some good edits out of this but yeah, I’ll just I’ll sign off with good a from Australia.



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