#HRTechChat with Pamela Stroko: Challenges and the Role of HR Leaders in Curating Culture

Welcome back to another episode of #HRTechChat, the Podcast where we explore the latest trends, innovations, and strategies in the ever-evolving world of HR technology. I’m your host, Jennifer Dole. And on today’s show, we have a very special guest joining us again, someone who has made a significant impact in the HR tech landscape with her expertise and thought leadership. She’s a trailblazer, she’s an innovator, and she’s a true advocate for leveraging technology to drive positive change in the workplace. Welcome back, Pamela.

In this episode, we delve into the challenges that HR leaders face. The job market and talent shortage are hot topics in the news, with economic factors and uncertainties impacting companies’ hiring strategies. As Pamela points out, the predicted recession seems to be pushed further into the future, and HR leaders must navigate these changing landscapes. One significant shift in the market is the emphasis on skill building. Upskilling, reskilling, and alternative routes to acquiring skills are gaining prominence in talent acquisition.

State governments, organizations like STAR, and initiatives like “Grads of Life” are recognizing the value of skills over traditional degrees. This shift opens up opportunities for underserved and diverse populations who may possess the necessary skills but lack formal education credentials. Pamela highlights the importance of tapping into underrepresented groups and using technology to increase visibility and encourage their participation in the job market.

However, she also emphasizes that skills cannot be solely assessed based on a list on paper. Real conversations and understanding how individuals acquired and applied their skills are crucial. As technology evolves, HR leaders can leverage advancements to gain more insights into candidates’ capabilities and potential fit within the organization.

The conversation then transitions to the role of HR leaders as curators of company culture. Pamela explains her choice of the word “curate” and its definition: selecting, organizing, and presenting using professional or expert knowledge. HR leaders are tasked with carefully choosing the elements that shape the company’s culture. With a myriad of responsibilities, they must prioritize and focus on areas that need attention, such as candidate experience, talent acquisition, skills development, and internal mobility.

To curate the culture effectively, HR leaders must be aware of external factors, such as market trends and talent gaps. By using their professional expertise and knowledge, they can make informed decisions and drive positive change within the organization. The key lies in carefully selecting the right initiatives and strategies that align with the company’s goals and values.

In conclusion, this episode sheds light on the challenges faced by HR leaders in the talent marketplace and their role as curators of company culture. By embracing skill-based hiring, leveraging technology for inclusivity, and curating the right elements, HR leaders can create a positive and thriving workplace environment. Stay tuned for more insights and discussions on HR tech trends in future episodes of #HRTechChat.

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Jennifer Dole 00:00
Welcome back to another episode of #HRTechChat, the Podcast where we explore the latest trends, innovations and strategies in the ever evolving world of HR technology. I’m your host, Jennifer Dole. And on today’s show, we have a very special guest joining us again, someone who has made a significant impact in the HR tech landscape with her expertise and thought leadership. She’s a trailblazer, She’s an innovator, and she’s a true advocate for leveraging technology to drive positive change in the workplace. Welcome back. Pamela.

Pamela Stroko 00:42
Thanks so much. I loved our last webcast. And so did a lot of people that that had downloaded it and sent us comments. And I’m thrilled to be here again, and to talk about culture and what the role of HR is in curating culture.

Jennifer Dole 00:59
Yes. And it’s our pleasure to have you here again, we can’t I can’t wait to dive into this conversation. So let’s do that. Let’s get into the challenges that HR leaders face in this current talent marketplace. And could you elaborate on some of the things they’re grappling with?

Pamela Stroko 01:21
Oh, absolutely. First of all, you can’t watch the news on any given day, morning news, evening news, without them talking about some element of the job market, some element of talent shortage, some element of are we going to have? What kind of economic impact is what’s going on in the market going to have on your company? Are we going to have a recession? And what I can say is, and we’ve talked about this before, that whether or not we’re going to have a recession seems to be pushing farther and farther and farther into the future. And you have big bank saying that now there’s less than a 25% chance that we would have a recession this year. And so people are trying to read the tea leaves every day on what did the economics is going to be? How is that going to impact my company? What about talent? How am I going to find talent? And then how did they deal with all the changes in that landscape? So let’s let’s talk about one element of that landscape, because there are technology implications for this. So we started talking about skill building a few years back. Yeah, we talked about Skilling and upskilling, and rescaling and we’re still talking about those things. And there were some solutions out there that offered a view of skills and how to codify skills and how to do skill building. Well, what’s happening in the market is that’s now part of how you look for talent and market. That’s now part of what the market views as a way to go after talent. So you’ve got things like, you’ve got the governors of many, many states have come out and said, we took away the requirements for a college degree. We’re going to we’re going to do this on skills. So you’ve got organizations out there, like star that talk about how you have upskilled yourself through alternative routes. You’ve got business roundtable, where companies have committed to hiring people based on skills. You have organizations, there’s one that Cleveland Clinic did, where they worked, they looked at life experience, and they said, Hey, we’re going to hire on life experience. And we’re going to look at the skills that were built through that life experience. And that their program was called grads of life, which I really liked that I liked that too. And it helped them a lot that it helped them fill jobs that they couldn’t have filled otherwise. So one of the things you have to do is when you look at all the external things is you have to be, I think, context and environmentally savvy, if you’re in HR. And that environmentally savvy is, what is the economic situation? How might that impact my company? And by that I’m saying, you know, you you saw all of these articles and heard all of these interviews where we’re going to downsize because of recession is coming, and we’re going to cut in we’re going to rationalize our workforce. Well, you’re probably doing that for other reasons, in most cases, because at the time we were saying that there wasn’t a recession. So you know, it’s you have reasons like we spent too much money we over hired, we wanted to hire 10 I want before competitors could. So we hired people, and sometimes they want on the beach until we found things for them to do. And so you have to be contact savvy, like, why are you doing what you’re doing. And I’m hiring for the sake of hiring obviously wasn’t helpful for those organizations. But hiring for the sake of, you know, driving an agenda, delivering growth in the market, growing your company getting into new businesses, obviously, you’re the right ways to do it. And the only thing in terms of being environmentally savvy, is I think you always have to know what’s going on. So if you’re talking about, we’re going to hire on skills, or we’re going to offer people the opportunity to take jobs based on skill matching, look at where that’s working in the marketplace, look at what other companies are doing. Because all of us in the marketplace are now going and looking at skills as opposed to do you have the degree mean, one of my favorites is I love this name, tear the paper ceiling. And what tear the paper ceiling says is, there are lots of jobs out there that you don’t need a degree for. And so let’s look at people that have the skills and make the skill matching, and maybe even do some upskilling and a pre hire situation to get people the right people into those jobs. But I love the fact that we’re now opening the marketplace up to looking at skills. And the one thing it does do well meant does many things. But the one thing I like about it is it opens up opportunities to underserved populations and diverse populations that wouldn’t have been considered for those jobs. Absolutely. And one thing I read this this morning, and you know how to read some things, and it gets me going.

Jennifer Dole 06:52
I appreciate that about you.

Pamela Stroko 06:55
Even with AI. And this was very distressing, even with AI and all the things we can learn about a candidate that minority candidates are seriously under, under tapped in this market, that even with all the ways that we can do skill matching, and all the ways we can look at what people bring to a role that they are under tapped under serviced under accessed in this market, and you want to solve the talent problem. Think about that.

Jennifer Dole 07:34
And I’m very hopeful that technology can bring more visibility, yes, underrepresented groups, yeah. And give them that nudge that they need to apply for jobs may not, you know, feel 100% of a match too.

Pamela Stroko 07:54
Yeah, and you know, here’s the other thing, and I’m glad you mentioned that 100% match, we all can look at a list on paper. And we can say these are the skills that are needed to do this work. Oftentimes, it’s not just about filling the job anymore, it’s like, here’s the work, we have to get done. So what’s going to deliver that work and you’re, you’re kind of applying to a body of work. And we can look at that list. And we can look at somebody else’s or someone’s match up here, the capabilities I bring you this are the experiences I bring to this here, the things I learned from that. And we all know a list is a list until you take all of that off the screen and off paper and have a real conversation and talk about how people learn those things, and how they can apply those things. You really haven’t, you haven’t really maximize your ability to look at skills, because you still have to have the conversation, you still have to look at how would somebody thinks through this? How would somebody apply this? And that’s where I think is, as technology evolves, we’re gonna get more information that will be helpful to us in the hiring process. I hope so.

Jennifer Dole 09:07
And you know, to kind of loop back into the theme of today’s podcast is that HR leader as a curator of the culture, there’s so much for them to be aware of right, externally internally. But let’s dive into a little bit of that internal view now and how do they curate the culture? What do you mean by that?

Pamela Stroko 09:33
Well, let me tell you why I selected the word curate because that was a very careful selection. So I actually looked it up in the dictionary to make sure that that what I thought about was really matching what was out there and it was, you know, yay. And curate me selected, organized and presented using professional or expert knowledge carefully chosen. To me, that’s a that could be the job description for every HR leader in the country in the world right now that your job is to select and organize what’s happening using professional and expert knowledge and to carefully choose the right things. And the reason I say carefully is because you can’t do everything all at once, and maybe there are people out there that can, I’ve never met one, you can’t do everything. So you have to select, what are we going to focus on? You know, if we have talent gaps, let’s take a look. And let’s focus on candidate experience. Let’s focus on talent acquisition, let’s look at, let’s look at skills, let’s look at how we move people in the organization. Let’s look at internal talent marketplace, each one of those things is a very big thing to do, or a very big thing to implement and has to be in it has to be connected to the right technology solution to have them work well. And so you know, that’s one thing. And then you look at well, another thing people have to curate is leadership and leadership experiences, and what happens when people join our company? And what kind of experience do we want them to have? And how do leaders interact with the people that we hire and, you know, we are still struggling, I think, to develop leaders that can work in flexible ways. People that can lead teams and a hybrid work environment, people that can lead people that have remote working people that can lead, remote hybrid and in person all at the same meeting all at the same time. Can man feel included and make everyone feel included and create great career experiences for those people, because still, even as late as last week, the articles are saying people that work remotely or people that work hybrid still feel they don’t have an equal shot at promotion, they don’t get noticed as often they have difficulty with access. So I’m like, Okay, let’s fix that, let’s let’s, let’s develop leaders that can work across a landscape of ways of working, because unless you can do that, you’re not going to be able to have an agile organization. And, and I think that that’ll be challenging.

Jennifer Dole 12:43
And I think that there’s the opportunity for technology to play a role there. To pick up on signals that you don’t get face to face anymore. And surface that data?

Pamela Stroko 12:58
I think that’s true, and, and look. So that you know, so much is going on in the market, about where people work, how they work, where they live? Are we calling them back? If in the pandemic, they move, should we make the move, but all of that stuff? And it’s like, it’s not about moving people in creating seats in different places? It’s actually saying if that’s the reality that we have people in all these different situations, how do we take advantage of what technology can do to help us create the best experience possible for every single person? And that should be the question, when you hire someone? The question that the manager has to ask themselves is what do I need to do to create the best possible work experience for this person? And how do we become more human more connected, more agile than dealing with each other? And I think that’s, that’s where this is going. And I and I want to, I want to comment on one thing, too, when you talk about how do you curate something? And where do you start with that? I think it all begins with authenticity. I think the first question my new look at all of the things that are out there as Who are we now and who and what do we want to become? And that’s not necessarily for every organization. Oh, this is popular. Now. Let’s do this. No, who are you? And what do you need to become? Because we’ve all seen Oh, go on please.

Jennifer Dole 14:36
I was just thinking about that, like so often in the world where we’re servicing our customers. We want to understand what they want. We want their sentiment and we need to extend that same lens, that same opportunity to share to employees. Share your aspirations with us. Yes, yeah. If you want to become let us be on that journey with you. And I, we see that starting to happen more.

Pamela Stroko 15:08
We do. And by the way, I think that’s incredibly exciting. You know, years ago, a few years back, Al Adamson and I, Al runs people analytics and the future of work. And we used to work together a gap many, many moons ago. And we did a paper together. And it was all about how do you create a talent magnet organization? And we asked, we interviewed a lot of people did a lot of research. And we asked people, what is it that you do that makes your place a compelling place to work where people want to join, where people want to stay, and it all filtered through to values. And we found and we asked people to tell us what their values were. And then we asked for their top five. And so their top five were that trust in character. So think about a value is a filter for everything that you do. So their top five, where we don’t do anything that doesn’t start with trust and character, that we have values that drive engagement that support engagement that deliver engagement, energy is a value. And by the way, a lot of people don’t talk about energy. But energy is a value and you can human energy, human energy, you can walk into an organization and trust me, you can see energy, it’s palpable, you feel it, you see it. And some organizations are Tigger, and some organizations aren’t your and you can hear it is you can see it. And then then value number four was focused on good priorities, organizations that are really successful, building compelling cultures, where people are just passionate about working there have great focus and priority of what to say no to exactly. And that, and that’s a big thing. You know, you can’t do everything all at once. And then creativity and innovation had rounded out the top five. And so when we talk about how do you curate something, you have to have some filters to say, well, we can do a lot of things, but what’s important to us, and what is authentically what this organization is trying to become? And how are we going to build that. And so having these values that become these filters, I think are critically important to making choices. If you believe every single person in your organization should have an amazing career, then step back from that and say, Well, what do we need to do that? What kind of technology is going to help us do that? What kind of technology is going to help our people go from applying for a job? To looking at the skills they need to get the work done? How is that going to work? And how do we need to support them, and what kind of technology is going to let them get involved in their own career planning and their own skill building. And so I think these things are so important to make sure that when you start out on this culture journey, that you understand your own authenticity, and it never works to become somebody else’s, you know, even if it’s popular, it never works to become somebody else’s. And, and the way that you know that I’m right when I say that is, you remember over the years, and every year we have a different theme. We’ve had the year the manager, the year the employee, the year of employee experience, the year of data. Now we have the year of AI, or the many years of ai, ai 1.0. And we had the year of leadership development, we had pandemic in the year of wellness and all this and some organizations actually hop from topic to topic, the way you do this while with the way you curate well to say, authentically, what are we trying to become and how do we get there? And it doesn’t matter what 100 Things are out there. How do we get there and pick the strands pull the strands through that are going to help you win going forward?

Jennifer Dole 19:28
I think that is that that is it. And there’s no such thing as copy paste.

Pamela Stroko 19:34
No. Do you need to be that I’m gonna I’m gonna call you on that there’s no such thing as copy paste.

Jennifer Dole 19:42
So well Pamela, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your thoughts on curating culture. There’s so much for HR leaders to do right now to help build their strategy ready workforce. Um, You know, we broke it down into just a few things that, you know, know the external know the internal Be authentic filter through values.

Pamela Stroko 20:11
That’s a great starting point. And we are not finished with this conversation. We’re not much. Thank you. Yeah, the one thing I do want to mention is I, I started, I wrote an article on this is kind of like article number one out of maybe a series of three or four. And so when the articles finish when we post this, we’ll post the article as it becomes available so people can take a look at, you know, some of the recommendations, but I’d love to share that with our audience. Yes, we will do that. All right.

Jennifer Dole 20:45
Thank you for your time today.

Pamela Stroko 20:47
Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you so much.

Jennifer Dole 20:49
Thank you to all our listeners for joining us.

Pamela Stroko 20:51
Thanks, everybody. Bye.

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