#HRandPayroll20: Why the Workplace is Broken with Special Guest Jason Lee

On this very special episode, Pete and Julie are LIVE from the HR Technology Conference and Exposition at Mandalay Bay Las Vegas.

They welcome visionary fintech entrepreneur, on-demand pay pioneer, and founder of DailyPay and now SALT Labs, Jason Lee, to the show to discuss why the workplace is broken and how fintech may be the answer to help fix it.

The group digs into the rising angst and battle between employees and employers, the challenges both face in the “creator economy” and every evolving workplace, and how employers can rebalance the relationship with employees and re-establish trust to put the workforce back on track.  Jason also teases his new venture, SALT Labs – a new fintech solution aimed at pushing equity to essential front-line workers.

Our HR & Payroll 2.0 Series is also available as a podcast on the following platforms:

Apple iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hr-payroll-2-0/id1643933833
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/10HlnoTCwGPVQEtUHNcCWl?si=197255cea5e949be
Audacy: https://www.audacy.com/podcast/hr-payroll-20-aa809
Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/podcast-show/649858828/HR-Payroll-2-0
Podbean: https://www.podbean.com/pw/dir-ur5np-280b3e


Pete Tiliakos 00:00
Well, welcome everyone to another episode, a very special episode of HR and Payroll 2.0. I’m Pete Tiliakos and as always, I’m joined by the legendary Julie Fernandez.

Julie Fernandez 00:08
Thanks, Pete, great to see you. Great to meet everyone. We’re actually doing something super special today. We’re at your live from the HRTech conference in Las Vegas. So excited to be here and super excited for our special guests today.

Pete Tiliakos 00:21
Exactly, yes, I’m very excited for this. This is an executive I admire greatly, you know, who has followed his work and his path, obviously, with DailyPay. And now, you know, again, Jason Lee, founder, entrepreneur, visionary futurist, and now the head of SALT Labs. And just excited to have you here, Jason.

Jason Lee 00:38
Pete and Julie, I am dreaming. I’ve been wanting to be on this podcast forever. And so, I really appreciate you taking that brown envelope for me. And getting me on to this podcast. Seriously, it’s great to see you both. I love the show, you had mentioned, you had mentioned DailyPay That’s where we launched that company, I was a lot younger, a lot skinnier, no kids, a little less frazzled, I remember I got up on stage at Gosh, back then I was doing the best new technologies pitch, if you remember that, and or the version that they have now. But, you know, going in front of a bunch of folks who, you know, I had no idea what this was all about HRTech. And, you know, I never set out to start an HR tech company. But, you know, here we were. And, and this, this show has always been, you know, such an incredible opportunity for me for us. Now, my new company, we’re launching it here again. And so, you know, really on behalf of all entrepreneurs, thank you guys, for always supporting the community and for just being just amazing. Friends and colleagues in this space. Yeah, thank you. Thank you.

Pete Tiliakos 01:47
Thank you. Appreciate it. We you know, we created this show, really to bring conversations to the table, right? We were always having these executive conversations; you and I have had several. And I love them, right? And I always like we could record these as we go. So, what I wanted to do is continue some of the combos we’ve been having lately. But before we get started, I want to ask your opinion, you’re obviously like I said, a futurist, a visionary. What excites you while you’re here? What have you seen? What do you what do you hope to see what suppose so far?

Jason Lee 02:12
Well, look, I know the right answer is a.i. But you know but let me tell you what I’m actually most excited about is when you come to a show like this, and you actually see the wide breadth of vendors and frankly, practitioners who aren’t really looking for just one solution. I talked to a bunch of folks who said, Oh, we’re not ready for AI, you know, we’re not ready for that implementation, we’re not ready to put that into production, but we are looking for is a really darn good, you know, fill in the blank employee engagement product or a new HCM or a new payroll, you know, and what I love about this is, you’ve got kind of classic, gosh, we just want to upgrade our product and upgrade our service better. And then you’ve got super cutting-edge stuff, and then you’ve got stuff in between and you know, what excites me the most? Is it being the thing that is always my event, so mind boggling to me, HR, technology, meaning this is one of the most incredibly robust and fertile areas of technology development. And that’s not what you think of right think of Toad, right. And when you think of HR, you think of those things, but you don’t realize it, it’s all being operated in the back end through very complex technology, very cutting-edge stuff, the biggest providers of Cloud Datastore. I mean, it’s all HR related, I was excited to see Microsoft, right, the presence Microsoft has, you know, and we all knew Viva was coming. But they’ve got a huge presence here. I’ve had three meetings with Microsoft. Yeah, when I was here, at the conference, just about all variety of topics. So yeah, I’m excited by all of it. Pete,

Julie Fernandez 03:51
it’s fun to have gone from the back closet where HR always had the least developed stuff to you know, being a leader in the cloud space around our functional technologies, and now really like being on the forefront of some of the AI and automation and different activities. And it’s great to be at the forefront of things technology instead of in the in the laggard.

Jason Lee 04:10
So, here’s kind of a wild thought, which is, so here’s like an analogy, when you look at the advent of digital payments. Well, actually, what happened is the place where that actually advanced the most was in China. Now why did it why that happened? Because China was actually a cash-based society. They skipped the whole credit card thing. So, they skipped a whole generation and just went to mobile phone payments. And now people, you know, homeless people, ask for donations through, you know, through mobile. I say that analogy to kind of talk about HR, which is, I think, in part because there are so many aspects of HR that were left a little bit behind historically. Now it’s such an opportunity for in particular things like generative AI Yes, a job description. Yes, as They like these things are great opportunities for practitioners to be able to use those tools in kind of unique ways. And so, it’s sort of like you skipped over a bit of a generation LeapFrog. And now you kind of get the best of the best.

Pete Tiliakos 05:14
I’ll tell you what I love is that, you know, the community here, I was telling someone yesterday asked me what my favorite thing about or the best thing has happened to me this week. And I said, well, one of the best things is walking down the hallway and all the hugs that you get all the reunion. someone’s like, the first day of school again, you know, like, hey, but no, but really, but back to your point. Like I love that I love the mainstream nature of HCM now, right, I was talking to one of the vendors, their name is on as on one of the NFL stadiums. That wasn’t five years ago, right? You know, you’ve got Phil Mickelson wearing an HCM shirt on golf, right? You’ve got but more importantly, big tech has come in and said, hey, we need to do something to help employers and really put their power to HCM. So, I love it. I think there’s just so much and they’re solving real problems that employers need solved. And it’s not it’s not easy, man. It’s not easy.

Jason Lee 05:55
So long as they don’t go into my area. I’m totally okay. So long as we’re not creating SALT or On Demand. Yeah, I’m totally there with you.

Pete Tiliakos 06:05
No, I agree. I yeah, hopefully. No, I don’t know, man, you’re always disruptive. So, you probably ahead of everybody else anyway, but, but look, I’m going to continue on some of the conversation we’ve been having lately. And I know we’ve exchanged some things on social media with different topics, but just this topic of like, the workplace, the workplace being broken, right, like, that’s what a lot of these folks are in here in this room trying to solve and you could you could put, you could look at a lot of symptoms of why the workplace is broken, right? You’ve got productivity, I’ve been to I don’t know how many conferences this year, and I promise you productivity has been almost top of the list. Engagement still lives at the top of the list, retention, development, finding, you know, all of that is, is on everyone’s mind. So, like, how do you get all of that? How are you? How do you pick a technology? They’re going to fix all that. And what do you do? Right? Is technology even the right answer?

Jason Lee 06:53
Well look, I mean, let’s state the obvious, which is, the human condition is deeply unsatisfied. And so, I don’t care what, you know, faith background, or what family background you have, the human condition is deeply unsatisfied. And so yes, people will leave jobs, you know, on a regular basis. And by the way, when the jobs are hard, and when they are difficult, and when they are physically grueling or taxing, the people are more likely to leave those jobs. And so, there is an element of the human condition. But putting that aside, just for one moment, look, when I sort of survey, what’s going on, when I talked to practitioners, and I spent a lot of my time talking to C suite folks, operators, practitioners, not so much other vendors, because I’m a provider myself, but I will tell you, there’s an element of this, which is yes, things haven’t changed. Yeah, this morning, I had a call with the CEO of a nursing home a 3000-person nursing home. And he said, well, look, Jason, turnover in our industry was 100% 30 years ago, it’s 100% 10 years ago. And it’s 100%. Now. And so, there’s an element of as I said, the human condition, which is, look, these are, by definition, high turnover industries. With that said, I think that there’s heart, one of the aspects of HR technology that I think we don’t talk enough about, is the fact that HR, and I don’t mean human resources, corporate, I mean, humans are constantly evolving. And oftentimes, technology is actually not catching up with her that with where the humans actually are. I’ll give you a great example, from a space that I’m more familiar with, which is, we spend a lot of time thinking about it. Some of this comes from the person’s research and whatnot, but thinking about hay, people get consumer grade experiences in their personal lives. Okay, what does that look like now at work? Yeah. And in that dissonance that that creates, at some point, it just becomes untenable for a worker to be satisfied at work. You know, in my old company, I used to say a lot. Well, look, these kids are growing up thinking that money moves instantly. And you’re trying to tell me, you think someone’s going to wait around for two-week payroll, there’s a head is there back there? That that the way the way to think that that is over. It’s not going to happen. And I remember seven years ago, I said, this is inexorable. Okay, whether you like it or not, it’s going to happen. And you can either join me now, okay, or, and by the way, I had just come back from the APA, which was the American Payroll Association Conference, which is a lot more now payroll, payroll, org, and I look I, I’m friends with these guys, I love them. But I told them, I said, either you listen to the you hear what I’m saying today, or this is going to sneak up on you and look at where we are now. You know, there’s 10 million people using on demand pay, you know, all in the US and its global now and becomes an expectation now, and now it’s a standard piece of this. And so, all of that to say humans are evolving, and there, they’re evolving in their personal lives. Hence, you have got to make sure that at work, we’re offering common Soon or commensurate experiences at work.

Pete Tiliakos 10:02
Yeah, we’ll try to spend some cash now and most people don’t. I’ve been I’ve taken trips literally where the entire trip, I couldn’t get my cash away, they want to just digital pay, right? So, it’s almost like an expectation that you’re going to do that anyway. And society is going that route. So yeah, absolutely. So, look, we talked about these things being broken, right? And a lot of times, it’s like, oh, well, you can just, you know, throw more money at it, you can just throw more bodies at it. And the reality of it is I don’t think today, more bodies is a linear path to productivity, right? It just isn’t happening. And wages are, you know, yeah, they’re going up. And inflation is going up. So, it’s, it’s not really, it’s just a wash. In fact, a lot of folks, I think there’s data that says, even in all that wage increases we saw during the pandemic, and after it got eaten up by the by the inflation, right. So even those things aren’t traditional ways or aren’t necessarily working. I feel like you have got to get out of the box.

Jason Lee 10:48
Well, let me say something that might be a little controversial. But let’s make sure the listeners keep on listening. Place now expecting that I’ve read him on this thing. Let me say something, it’s probably a little not a little in artful. But here’s kind of my perspective, which is, wages have gone up. And by the way, that’s a great thing. And employers should do that. And inflation is out there. And but that’s a good thing. But I want to be very clear, that’s helping the employee meet her needs, that has nothing to do with whether or not the employee feels recognized. So, these are two separate matters. One matter is, are we actually paying someone a wage, where she can still come to work because she’s got gas, fix the car, eat, you know, pay the rent, put food on the table, a livable wage, and we can debate? I’m not a big politics guy, we can debate what that level is, but that’s what the purpose of wages are. Wages are inherently structurally, it is impossible structurally to use wages, in my opinion, as a way to recognize an employee, because in the hourly workforce, you’d have to pay everyone statutorily the same. How is that a differentiator if everyone’s getting paid the same? And so, I think when I talk to companies, they asked me, I don’t get it, I just raised wages 30% Over the past 12 to 18 months. And my employees, they haven’t changed their behavior at all. Yeah, I think this is usually accompanied by some impolite, impolite things. And, and what I have to tell them, as I say, Listen, respectfully, that has nothing to do with whether or not an employee feels acknowledged or recognized. That’s a separate discussion. You need to deploy technology or, or a different approach or get your managers to figure it out. Because at the end of the day, that employee is only going to stay if she feels engaged, broadly defined. That’s actually what gets someone to stay. That is separate apart from how much she’s getting paid.

Julie Fernandez 12:53
Yeah, yeah, talent is seeking work. Now. Instead of work seeking talent. I mean, really, the workers in control, that’s much more driving, they’re driving the show.

Pete Tiliakos 13:04
you know, we were talking, we were talking to Union the whole thing, right? Every day, I feel like another major right, we’ve got Hollywood going crazy. Yeah, she’s in Detroit, you know, the auto workers. You saw the Kaiser; I don’t know where the Kaiser thing ended up the big healthcare. That’s scary. And I’m sure there’s other you know, others that we’re not even thinking of. It’s like there’s this battle between upper management and the frontline worker, yet the frontline worker or the product in a lot of in a lot of industries. How do you reconcile this?

Jason Lee 13:31
So, look, the in the Hollywood thing in particular, look, I’m not a big movie, yet. I forgive myself I can’t remember the last time I watched television, or watched a movie, but I guess Disney. But you know, the Hollywood one, I think is a very interesting case study of what people want. So, if you actually get underneath, well, what are these people striking about? What and there’s some AI and all this stuff, but really what they’re striking about is a concept called residuals. And I don’t know if you know this concept, but it’s, it’s essentially, hey, I as a writer, or I as an actor, you know, I perform on a gig or I do a show or and the concept used to be, well, if that show got syndicated, so take friends. Remember the old show, Friends? Yeah, that’s rerunning, you know, all day long on UPN.

Pete Tiliakos 14:23
She’s contributing.

Jason Lee 14:24
And each of each time that gets played well, Jennifer Aniston is getting a quote, residual. What happened? And this is what happens with technology. Well, all of a sudden, the big technological advance in the media industry in the last 10 years was streaming. And Netflix was smart enough to say, we’re going to buy the catalog. There are no more residuals. We’re not We’re not borrowing this thing. We bought it. Yeah, no more residuals. And so now all of a sudden, these actors are saying, Netflix is playing this all day long. And I’m not getting a piece of my ownership. And I say that long story to get to this point, which is I think the modern workforce, it’s about that issue. It’s about ownership. People don’t want to just work and get a paycheck. They expect that already. That’s the base. That’s the law. That’s the base. You know, they think that’s the law is the law. That’s a statutory thing that they’re receiving. They want a piece of ownership. You know, I’m not a big soccer fan. But if you saw, if you’re familiar with this player Mark Messi down and Lionel Messi. Messi, yes. down in Florida. You know that he was offered a deal for $1.5 billion. Yeah, to play overseas. And he turned it down. That’s right. He turned down a $1.5 billion salary. Now. I’m glad he’s not a daily pay user. Okay. I don’t know where I’m going to come up with what he turned out to and why did he turn it down? It’s because the gig that he actually took, what he what he negotiated was, I want a piece of the team. Not only do I want a piece of the team, but I also want a piece of it every time Apple TV shows a game that I am on, because I know that I am helping Apple TV sell more products, because people want to watch me play in the US. It’s this attitude of I’m the product. Yeah, I’m the I think labor. Look, they’re not lean on se and they’re not Hollywood writers. But that theme exists, which is I’m the product, and I’m the most important part of this equation. So, I kind of want my piece of it.

Julie Fernandez 16:23
Well, right down into the sports for, you know, for colleges. And you know, even I mean, the whole the same argument is playing out over and over.

Jason Lee 16:32
That’s right. And it’s it played out there for the individual. I think what’s going to happen is it’s going to creep into media rights. Yeah. You know, well, why shouldn’t LeBron James get a piece of the advertising revenue when he’s being interviewed by Jim Gray as to, you know, is he going to Miami? Or is he going to stay in Cleveland? And I think that probably becomes the model. And I guarantee you, when you start seeing that play out on social media on Tik Tok, that will filter down to the worker at McDonald’s. And she will say to herself, well, where’s my piece, like, and that’s sort of what I mean by these big tectonic shifts that are happening in culture, in society, amplified through social media, through tick tock, like, for me, my job is to like, look at all of that and say, Okay, so what’s going to come out of that, as it relates to how people comport themselves? At work? Yeah. And the dissonance that that just continues to get wider and wider.

Pete Tiliakos 17:31
Yeah. Well, it is that it is that divide, right. And just to go back to that I managed payroll for the Walt Disney Company and was very intimate with that Hollywood world. And what I’ll, what I’ll highlight there is that people don’t realize is not everybody is Brad Pitt. Now remember, he’s getting Brad Pitt money, not everybody’s getting a little messy money. There’s a lot of people involved in making Brad Pitt’s movies come to the forefront, that bar behind the line that you’re not seeing, and those people aren’t being taken care of the way they should. And by the way, if you’re a vendor out there, focused on the gig economy, I’ve been saying this for a long time, it’s been happening in Hollywood since 1930, something you can go out there and see exactly how it works and how it functions. But you’re right, I think it’s just a disparity between the upper Brad Pitt’s of the world, and the executives maybe getting and the frontline guy who’s who is the product, getting it done, get making it happen, that’s not being compensated fairly, or taking getting that equity.

Julie Fernandez 18:17
You know, it strikes me because I’m working with an investment company now, where you have some, you know, some high performers, and then you have a lot of support activity that is necessary to make all the magic happen. And it strikes me that, you know, we’ve always had this focus on executive compensation, how we make things special. And now we almost need the reverse, right? We need to focus on how I bring some of that, that the residuals Right, right down into the organization, so that the so that the base layer of contributors feels like they have a stake in what’s going right. And it’s going to require some special administration and some special thinking in order to do that. And that’ll be different for every industry, really. And for every employer value proposition.

Jason Lee 19:03
You know, I don’t I just like being on this podcast, I don’t want to get into products or things like that. But I will tell you, for people who might be listening in, I think the key to this issue, yes, there will be as you as you said, you know, structures or administration or think I think the key though, is how do you leverage technology? Yeah, where it’s not coming top down where you can where you can fix this issue or get to that effect by actually going bottoms up through the employee, because we’re in an environment right now. And yes, HR tech is great. And there’s a lot going on here, but let’s face it, we’re in an environment where stuff is contracting. We are, you know, we are in a contracting environment. And what I’m hearing from practitioners and operators is, give me something where I can do more with less, you know, and I need more with less. I want to consolidate these kinds of areas over here. You know, you’ve got something that answers you know, in A, B and C priority. Great, because I’m using point solutions for each of you know, I’m using three different point solutions. And so, we are seeing I am hearing that, you know, in certain areas around this. So, I think it’s yes, its companies making that decision. And then it’s people like us coming up with technology, which enables them to do it like super cheap,

Julie Fernandez 20:23
Cheap data right. You need granular data to be able to figure out how do I do that with any type of data foundation so that it’s equitable?

Pete Tiliakos 20:33
Yeah. Do you think there’s employers out there right now who are doing exceptionally well at this point?

Jason Lee 20:44
Well, look, let me give you one example that’s not going to be helpful. But let me because I think it’s very, I think it’s bespoke,

Pete Tiliakos 20:50
Because I’ll tell you a conversation in general seems to be angsty, too. And I’m hearing that around here. Like compensation is still an area people are challenged. But yeah, in general.

Jason Lee 20:58
let me give you two quick ones. Okay. The first is, and this one’s bespoke. But the second one is something you may or may not have heard of that’s in the market right now. The first one is Ben Affleck, the is became Hollywood, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. So, they started a production company. And they released their first film, it was called Air. It was a story of Michael Jordan. But really the star of that was Michael Jordan’s mother. And how amazing her mother what his mother was. And there’s this pivotal moment where, and you can see here, there’s a theme, but there’s a pivotal moment where she’s on the phone with Nike, and Nike saying, well, we’re going to pay you $3 million.

Pete Tiliakos 21:37
They were giving him at the time, right? Lucrative contracts.

Jason Lee 21:40
All these he just said, I want a piece of every shoe he sells. Yeah. And, and it’s this amazing moment where you realize he is the product. Yeah, and you’re going to sell more shoes, because it’s Michael Jordan, forget the cash deal. I want to and that deal is still paying dividends. To this day, obviously, I’ve got a pair of Air Jordans upstairs. And you know, every you know, he and he is still making something on that shoe because he owns that right? Yeah. The second example I would give you or a category I would give you is private equity firm. And this is ironic, you don’t normally hear things like this out of private equity, but the private equity firm KKR Yeah, I don’t know if you follow this. But a friend of mine, a guy called Pete Straw, those who you guys should get to know. He’s responsible for the entire US private equities business. And what they’re taking is a very unique approach to the private companies they acquire, what they’re saying is, you know, and they, you know, they’ll acquire some widget maker in the middle of Kansas. And what they’ll tell the employees because the employees are always very nervous, they hear all their stories about equity, and New Yorkers are going to get fired, and cost cutting. What they’ve done is they’ve created a private stock ownership mechanic, where every single employee gets privately owned shares in the company. And when the company gets sold, or when its IPOs, those shares pay out. And they you know, and they just, and they’ve sold now a couple of these companies, and these forklift makers who’s who just gets a onetime payout of 10x. is life changing. The last company, they sold the minimum payout, the minimum was 2x, annual salary, the Max was 32 times.

Pete Tiliakos 23:32
I’d love to see better productivity metrics, right? Like, what are their backs?

Jason Lee 23:36
So yes, and they’re seeing it and it’s working? Yeah, the absenteeism way down productivity way up. Things like enabling the employees to want to say things to management, if so, the story that he tells us, he’s like, well, before the employees never thought their voices were heard. But now they’re like, wait a minute, I’m an owner, I actually have a stake in this. So, the guy raised his hand and said, hey, just want to let you know that the way you guys do this milk route that I have to deliver, yeah, there’s like, you can make this three times more efficient. And we can put more milk in it. And so, he becomes part of the process. What the KKR folks are doing is amazing. And but by Pete’s own admission, he says but look, this is really hard. It’s time consuming, and not every company can do it. And so again, not a lead in but that’s what my new company does is it tries to create an ability for the hourly worker in a highly scalable, simple, not using private stock and all these things but basically using technology to create an equity like ownership payout for the hourly worker so the paycheck to paycheck person all the sudden saying well now I feel like an owner in the job through the technology building so I don’t want to go down salt Labs is that’s better a salt labs.com It has a good man. I love that you brought it, but you know, but yes, but that’s the short answer to I think very well.

Julie Fernandez 25:03
But Jason, I have a question about that. So, is the, you know, is the line that’s drawn really the hourly worker? Or what about there’s an awful lot of space up into middle management and salaried workforce that is not the executive, the C suite, and the executives that are really the biggest takers. Right. And those stories, so is it really the line at hourly or?

Jason Lee 25:24
I agree with you, it’s a line that we have drawn artificially, because, you know, we as a company, and certainly me as an individual, and as a as a leader. You know, I have I, you know, I just have a very, very particular interest. And frankly, like calling, I feel like building great technology for really the most disadvantaged and low-income workers in the country. But it doesn’t mean that the issue does not persist. And I’ll give you an example at my first company to only pay 12% of our users made over $100,000 a year that yes, now just let that sink in interesting 12% of our users could not afford to pay a pay bill on time. And they’re making six figures a year. You know, my father never made over $60,000 a year when he raised two kids in the US. And so, it kind of puts things into perspective.

Julie Fernandez 26:17
Yeah, yeah, I often wonder, just because sometimes there isn’t that much differentiation between some of the hourly workforce up to the salaried workforce that is, you know, kind of that middle layer. And so, it’ll be interesting to watch, you know, as you evolve. You know, how, how that comes about?

Pete Tiliakos 26:34
I’ve definitely seen more, we were talking about this breakfast to more companies looking at the, you know, making it employee owned in their organizations and trying to hold on to it. Yeah, it’s tough, right? You keep seeing data on, you know, shifts, adoption going down, right. UKG picked up great data on shifts, you know, the frontline worker, you know, so much that we were talking about, like, today, customer service being dead. And I’m like, I don’t know, the dead, it’s just that it’s just not stuffed. And the quality isn’t there, like it was right that the experiences of going out to eat or whatever. And it’s largely talent base, right? And like, and I know, they have so many things to compete for, right, I think you’ve got the creative economy happening. So now employees have much more autonomy and ability to say, no, this is how I want to be treated and compensated. And this is how long I’ll work here.

Jason Lee 27:18
But Pete, that you’ve tapped into something that’s critical, which is Taco Bell is not a creative economy company, they still need to hire people. But what you have to come to grips with is, there are there are now alternatives. You know, when I was growing up, I had, there was one supermarket in town. And that’s where I worked. When I went to college, I worked at Chili’s, there were very, very few opportunities to figure out how to pay your bills when you’re when I was growing up. But the mobile and the Internet have completely radically changed people’s lives and for many good things, has given people a lot more choice. And so now they don’t have to work that job. And if you’re an employer who needs people in that type of profile, you better very quickly figure out how to interact with them. Because the analog way of doing things, it isn’t going to work. Yeah, like, it’s just not going to work.

Pete Tiliakos 28:06
Doing more of what we’ve done in the past. You’re right. And I think there’s a lot of organizations that are still throwing the same effort at this at the same problem, and they’re getting the, you know, the same outcomes, and they’re like, what do we do, right? So, I think you’ve got to get creative, I think you got to get really agile and be willing to open up and say, hey, there’s another way of doing this, and we need to go and see, you know, see what it is.

Julie Fernandez 28:26
A couple of years ago, creativity was just well, maybe people can share work part time, or be mobile or be virtual. And now I think, you know, it’s like the, to the next level, right? Now, you have to think about, okay, well, if I’m having people work less than a full time, you know, now how do I engage them? And how do I make sure that they’re rewarded, and, you know, and they might be as forgotten as the hourly population, just because historically, corporations have not felt that the part time workforce or gig workforce is really, you know, is really the core contributor and they’re making a bigger and bigger percentages of the workforce.

Jason Lee 29:01
Let me ask you both a question, you know, from my seat, which is, I’m just curious, do you feel like companies are given up? You know, like, this has been such a long, persistent problem? Do they just accept life and say, it’s going to be 100% turnover? And I’m just going to get you it just is what it is.

Pete Tiliakos 29:17
That’s why I’m going to defer to Julie first. She’s on the frontlines much more with customers on a transformation basis. What do they still want to get out? Do they still believe?

Julie Fernandez 29:28
You can’t go without workers. Right. But I do feel sometimes like there’s an over reliance on how technology can solve this for me because it’s more difficult. I mean, it’s kind of easier to think about plugging in technology. That’s why maybe AI is getting all the buzz this year, right, you get a lot of buzz. It’s because that, you know, that kind of can supplement the workforce. But I feel like sometimes there’s too much enthusiasm about that. So, if you’re going to toss your weight behind a technology solution, you know, you can’t do that at the expense of motivating workforce and getting them, you know, engaged Shouldn’t rewarded the way that you’re talking about right? So, you can’t just do one and not the other. Yeah, you have to do both.

Pete Tiliakos 30:06
So just to play devil’s advocate for a minute, let’s think about this, right? If I’m going to, if I’m, let’s say, I’m an employer who’s maybe like, this is never going to work in my organization, we could never afford to do this right, equity would be just too much. What’s the what’s the, what’s the answer to that?

Jason Lee 30:19
You’re talking about from, from our particular?

Pete Tiliakos 30:22
yeah, just bringing that together, like, I can see employers being like, oh, you know, this is never going to work. Right? Look, there’s a lot of this that still goes on with our major access, oh, this will never work. Our employees will never take it, they’ll just do it.

Julie Fernandez 30:33
You also see you also see a big glut behind like, what Vaughn? What are the ancillary benefits? Or what ancillary programs can I toss into the mix? And, and you see this, you know, like composite compilation of, you know, things that you’re offering an employee that go into their life, life, work life balance, and that go beyond the workplace? And I don’t, you know, I don’t know, like is, is that the right answer is certainly not solving all the issues is certainly doesn’t address.

Jason Lee 30:58
At the turn of the century, George Eastman, of Eastman Kodak, wanted his factory workers to produce the cameras quicker. So, he started to pipe in classical music, at lunchtime in the cafeteria, to get people to come, you know, to calm their mind, and then they would go in and produce it. And maybe he started it. But I had been puzzled myself, at how many things are offered by an employer, that don’t have nothing to do with word of mouth. And I, and I often wonder, Are these just weird forms of bribery? And so, you know, we have this thesis at our company, which is, okay, sure, employers should always engage employees. And that’s great. And they should do that. But what you put the missing piece of this, in my opinion, is, can you get the employee to engage with the work? Imagine that? Imagine that no longer employers are sorry, in addition to employers engaging in employee, what about the employee engaging with the actual job itself, doing the job, something they want to come do?

Julie Fernandez 32:09
The days of having the ping pong tables, like arranging the furniture and special ways so that you can.

Jason Lee 32:15
That’s like, like, it’s sort of crazy to me that, you know, you offer these ancillary benefits these voluntary better, and there’s nothing wrong with those things. But if you’re only relying on that, what you’re really just doing is assuaging the friction. And as opposed to saying, look, you’re deferring it. Yeah. It’s almost a hey, look over here. You know, don’t look over here, look over here. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think one of the things that we’ve lost sight of is, what about getting that worker to actually want to do the work itself? Yes. And how do you actually improve that? And how do you, in some cases, do it programmatically or leverage technology? Or through management? How do you sort of get that bond? Fixed? Yeah. Because look, how many times have you heard why, like my manager, but I can’t stand this job. So, I’ll keep in touch with her over social media.

Julie Fernandez 33:05
I think one of the interesting passes along that has been, you know, all of the hype around giving you opportunities, right? So, the whole talent mobility and how to identify projects or, or activities that you can get an employee involved in that’s interested in that. And that that follows at least that train of thought, right. But it also maybe doesn’t address the issue of what is your primary work, right? And so, so is it a distraction? Because you’re offering them a chance to work on something additional. Right? But you still have that base of work that you have to do?

Jason Lee 33:37
Yeah, and I think we have lost sight in some contexts of, well, it’s not called play. It is called work. And it’s there’s nothing wrong with making things more enjoyable for the employee. But just don’t forget, you got to get that person to actually want to engage in the actual job itself. And I think that we’ve kind of lost sight of that thing, because it’s easier to offer other stuff. I mean, you know, I don’t want to have a 30-minute disciplinary discussion with my son, I’d rather just take an ice cream, okay. It’s a lot easier to do that, than to actually try to create real change. And because that’s hard, it’s taxing. It’s, you know, burdensome, and I’m really bad at it. And, like ice cream.

Pete Tiliakos 34:20
You think, Julie, you’re out there all the time. Do you think employers really get it? I mean, when it comes to like, the fact that they’re in this, there’s this massive gap and this trust gap and all this, like I know, they know, there’s engagement problems. I know, they know, there’s retention problems, but like, do you think they really get that, like, the old ways are not going to work anymore?

Julie Fernandez 34:39
I think the biggest one of the biggest issues for employers is who gets it, right? Because you’re going to have a lot of folks that get it and even a lot of folks in HR that get it, but they may not be the decision makers, right? They may not be pulling the strategy cords and so, you know, it’s the age old. It’s the age-old setup of you know, who gets it and then who’s kind of leading the strategy in the direction? And then who’s holding the purse strings? And are those three things coming into line with each other? Yeah, are they not?

Pete Tiliakos 35:07
We did it we did a show on, you know, our, you know, when your executives are invested, but not in or investing but not invested in HR transformation, there’s a difference, right? It’s cutting a check. And buying a system in putting it in is different than being leaning in and as a culture, saying, we’re going to make a change in this organization for the better around people. And that’s what I wonder if there’s still that disconnect of investing in investing in an opportunity.

Jason Lee 35:33
So obviously, no doubt that it comes from the top, of course. But look, I will tell you, it’s a tale of two cities there. I you know, I can’t not say that. I think that a lot of folks have unfortunately woken up after this, the last 10 years of growth, and zero interest rates, and where capital was plentiful. And I think, you know, for better for worse, some people have woken up and said, wait a minute, all of that investment, I made an HR technology and in in HR, okay. Like every other business that I have, is measured by some level of performance. So what is the measurement here, like I spent a lot of money, doing HR transformation or technology, or frankly, even HR departments rolling and growing and whoever, whoever funky needed an employer experience brand demand, I mean, you know, all these new jobs that we’ve all invented, probably, you know, here. And but the question is, I think a lot of operators are saying, I don’t get it, like, how do I measure the effectiveness of this? And, you know, in the last 10 years, when capital was plentiful, no one ever thought to ask those questions. But now, I think people are asking those very difficult questions. That’s on one side. On the other side, no, I still think you know, I’m talking to a company, or we’re about to launch for a company at salt. And I would have told you now that they would never have done it. Like when I when I, when we prospected them originally, I said, “now this company is probably too worried about certain aspects of their margin structure in their business, but from CEO on down, this is the best thing I’ve ever heard. We have got to do it. How do we fast track, you know, putting your mind? Yes, and so I don’t mean to be equivocating, but I think though it’s probably those the two things that I’m seeing, and it really just depends how much pain you have. You know, on one hand, if you’ve got margin pain, you’re the one asking, okay, what is this gotten me? If you’re over here, and you’ve got labor pain, are you still willing to make the investment?

Pete Tiliakos 37:38
Absolutely. You’re right. And that’s sometimes that’s the problem is the reactionary nature versus the be proactive with it. And I think that’s where most are in that reactive moment.

Julie Fernandez 37:48
HR struggle still with just what do I measure to even figure out if I’ve made progress or have not made progress? Right? Am I measuring the size of my HR budget? Am I measuring productivity? And how do I even do that? And so, so just figuring out what the measures are to cross the bar has been an eons old problem for HR as well, and I’m not sure you know, are we doing any better at that?

Pete Tiliakos 38:10
Yeah. Well, we’ll see. Right where we were, you know, I think we’re, I think we’re entering into a point where now, employers are really having to step back from themselves and go, hey, look, these things like we’ve said all along, these things aren’t working. The old ways aren’t going to get it done. We’re going to have to do some creativity. But you think the horse is out of the barn? You think we can? I mean, there’s a lot to factor in here society, you know, we’ve got all kinds of economic problems and pressures and inflation and right, I mean, do you think it’s too late? Do you think we’re too little to get the horse out of the barn?

Jason Lee 38:40
Well, the answer is you better not be Oh, yeah. Regardless of what I make,

Pete Tiliakos 38:45
Productivity is not getting better, right, or GDP is not getting better as a nation,

Jason Lee 38:50
There are some not so great outcomes and not so great answers. You know, that’s job replacement. That’s automation. That’s all the things that I think we all know, are kind of lurking in the background. There’s, there’s, you know, AI, and look, I I’m guessing if there are some underground roundtables of the top 20 CEOs of, you know, McDonald’s, hourly workers, everyone’s trying to get that automate that machine, and robotics and automation. I mean, even something as trivial as kiosk ordering. Oh, you think about how a meet up just that has been incredible. Right? Now the store staffing for McDonald’s has gone from 50 down to 30.

Pete Tiliakos 39:29
I was just in San Francisco, and they have one of the I think it was San Fran they have one of those stores where you swipe your card to walk in. And I think you get your things, and you walk out kind of like China has RFID. I thought that was interesting. I was like, wow, that’s a that’s an interesting I’m not seeing that physically. I’ve heard about it, read about it.

Jason Lee 39:45
So, look, I think that there’s that’s out there, but look at the end of the day. People are people we have a lot of workers. I mean, I think if we if we got rid all those workers, I think we’d have other bigger social unrest issues. And so, I think my hope is that that technology can be used to draw the best out of out of folks and make them the best versions of themselves. But I’ll tell you, I have another kind of my last plug, or my last observation rather, is, I guess, think we’re past this era of like, top down, you just this notion of, you’re going to roll out a new program, and then you, your VPS will understand that your managers will do this. And then your squad leader has to, and then very command and control, oh, my goodness, I think technology ought to be able to go flip that on its head and go bottoms up. And it should be self-initiated. And, you know, it should be like, it’s really incumbent upon people like me and my industry to build technology that’s so easy to use, that it doesn’t require the employers involvement, because I think, look, we want to get great things out of the workforce, but the impediment will still will always be can the employer execute on what they’re trying to get done? And that’s a that’s a tall order.

Julie Fernandez 41:05
Beyond that. I think your executives have to prioritize the bottom of the stack, right. They have to prioritize the masses, when traditionally, you’re learning and your performance and your development has been focused so much on leadership, that, you know, the priority has to really be flipped. Yeah. Yeah. In order to adapt to some of these things.

Pete Tiliakos 41:23
Yeah. Yeah. This has been a great conversation. Jason, I really appreciate you so much. What’s next for salt? Tell us? So, it’s got up their sleeve?

Jason Lee 41:30
Yeah. Well, we’ll look just I mean, you heard it here, first on this show. We launched it in April of this year. And we were Thank you. We were. Yeah. So, we launched in April, thanks to our investors, who backed me 100% of the money that went into salt was from DailyPay. Investors. So that was, it was great to hear that to get that validation. And so, they have been supporting us along the way we have. We launched a product, an alpha product. And we kind of got the results that we thought we would get, which is great. And now we’re starting to onboard employees. We started about a month ago. And you’ll hear some stuff out of us. Towards the end of the year about, hey, we’ve got our first cohort of employers, they’re on it, here’s what they’re seeing. And then look, who knows, seven years ago, I said, look, I don’t believe me, but every company is now going to have to offer this. And you’ll see in job ads, you’ll see it in the new hire training. That’s what I said about earned wage access and on demand pay. And I’m making the call here that seven years from now, it won’t just be the paycheck awesome that you will receive, earn something that’s permanent.

Julie Fernandez 42:38
So, we just need to have some touch bases seven years from now.

Pete Tiliakos 42:42
I want you to come back with a client once you come back with clients definitely. Let’s talk about it. I’d love to hear the impact of this.

Jason Lee 42:51
I have to timestamp this because it works, I’m a futurist. If it doesn’t, Pete, bury the podcast.

Pete Tiliakos 42:56
Well thank you so much, Jason. It’s been great. Enjoy the rest of the conference man and good luck to SALT.

Jason Lee 43:02
Thank you both.

Julie Fernandez 43:03
Take care.

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