Perhaps the only thing that is clear about the future is that it will involve a lot of uncertainty, disruption and change. As we’ve heard from all of my recent guests on the show, talent acquisition transformation is now happening in ways we could not have predicted 18 months ago.
So what can Talent Acquisition leaders do in 2022 to help their teams navigate an ever more volatile business landscape?
My guest this week is Ira Wolf. Ira is President of Success Performance Solutions and a well-known author, speaker and commentator on the changing world of work. In our conversation, Ira shares some valuable perspectives on what employers can do to support their employees to make the behavioural changes needed to be effective in our new never normal.
In the interview, we discuss:
• The perfect storm that has been brewing for years
• Why we are living on an exponential curve of change
• Complexity with no predictability
• Resistance to behavioural changes
• How can employers accelerate change to match the exponential landscape?
• Being comfortable being uncomfortable
• Abilities, character and environment
• The importance of company culture
• Grit and resilience
• Teaching people to unlearn
• How does talent acquisition need to change
• What increases the effectiveness of technology?
• What can we expect in 2022
Eightfold.ai (Ad) (0s):
Support for this podcast comes from Eightfold.ai. Eightfold.ai delivers the talent intelligence platform. The most effective way for companies to retain top performers, upscale and rescale the workforce, recruit top talent efficiently, and reach diversity goals. Eightfold.ai is deep learning artificial intelligence platform empowers enterprises to turn talent management into a competitive advantage.
Matt Alder (Introduction) (48s):
Hi, there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 399 of The Recruiting Feature Podcast. Perhaps the only thing that is clear about the future is that it will involve a lot of uncertainty, disruption, and change. As we’ve heard from all of my recent guests on the show, talent acquisition transformation is now happening in ways we could not have predicted 18 months ago. So, what can Talent Acquisition leaders do in 2022 to help their teams navigate an ever more volatile business landscape? My guest this week is Ira Wolfe. Ira is President of Success Performance Solutions and a well-known author, speaker and commentator on the changing world of work.
Matt Alder (Introduction) (1m 34s):
In our conversation, Ira shares some valuable perspectives on what employers can do to support their employees to make the behavioral changes needed to be effective in our new never normal.
Matt Alder (1m 48s):
Hi, Ira. And welcome to the podcast.
Ira Wolfe (1m 50s):
Hey, Matt. It’s great to be here. Thanks very much.
Matt Alder (1m 53s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Could you just introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
Ira Wolfe (1m 58s):
Yeah, my name is Ira Wolfe. Most many people know me by a number of different things. One is including being a millennial trapped in a baby boomer body. The body absolutely feels like the baby boomer, but the millennial maybe it should be even a Gen Z. So, I’m thinking like, I’m 20, 30 years old, and not the baby boomer that I am. But I have a company success performance solutions. We’re in our 26th year. And we work with companies, you know, helping them hire better.
Matt Alder (2m 27s):
I know that you are a regular commentator on the market. You’ve written books. You’re a keen observer of what is going on, and what might be going to happen next. Very, very disruptive, two years that we’ve been through, particularly when it comes to talent and recruiting in the bulk of 2021. Tell us about what you’re seeing in the market, and what you think’s really going on?
Ira Wolfe (2m 52s):
So, you know what, if we go back almost 21 years, and some of the listeners maybe have been around. We were experienced something similar. And I came up with this title, The Perfect Labor Storm. If anybody remembers the perfect storm was out there. And it was about the convergence of basically three systems that created unprecedented disruptions in the weather. And certainly, we’re seeing that on an more frequently and more intense basis today. So, we’re seeing this perfect labor storm, this convergence.
Ira Wolfe (3m 32s):
And people like to point fingers, oh, it’s those darn millennials and Gen Z. I don’t know why people are still talking about millennials because they’re 40 years old but people are. But people tend to deflect and they talk about all these different things, like, “Oh, it’s young people’s work attitude. Oh, it’s childcare. Oh, in the US it was unemployment benefits.” But you know, reality is there’s a lot of disruption going on. So, we have a pandemic going on. We have climate change going on. We have economic disruption going on. We have terrorism. There’s all these things, but it affects people’s mindset.
Ira Wolfe (4m 14s):
We also have skill gaps in the US, where, you know, a large portion of my audience is. We have a lack of childcare. We have problems with health care. All these things basically wean off people from the workforce. Some are not capable of working, some have other responsibilities. And there is just a, it all converged. And for those who think that the pandemic caused this, it didn’t. It just pulled back a curtain on a failing, hiring, or failing workforce infrastructure that has been building or crumbling, whichever way you want to look at it, for decades.
Ira Wolfe (4m 60s):
And, you know, 2021 expose that, and 2022 and 2023 by all indications is going to, you know, it really even reveal more weaknesses in how people hired in, and how we trained and educated and developed workforce for current day challenges.
Matt Alder (5m 24s):
I think that’s such an interesting perspective and one that I totally agree with, because it’s very much come up time and time again on the podcast. And also, in some of the other work that I’m doing the research that I’ve been doing, it is really clear that the pandemic has just speeded up trends and things that were happening anyway and brought them into a head. I suppose that leaves us in an interesting position because certainly a lot of the conversation around things like the skill shortages, or the way that work is changing have been very much positioned in the short-term kind of emergency context. So, we just have to get through the next few months.
Matt Alder (6m 5s):
We just need a plan to take us through to the other side. But and also the longer that this goes on, it’s very clear that we’re not going back to some pretend normal that used to exist. And these are all long-term challenges that people have to deal with. What’s your perspective in terms of what our new normal might look like? Or how this might pan out? And particularly in terms of how employers need to think about this and react to it?
Ira Wolfe (6m 32s):
That’s a great question. I love talking about an app because that was the genesis of my book, Recruiting in the Age of Googlization. And it’s with which that book, by the way started after my TED Talk, which was about Making Change Work for You, because of, you know, I think about change all the time. And that was about VUCA. For those who aren’t familiar with the term VUCA. It was a military phrase. That’s been developed and now adopted by business. And it stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous is the acronym VUCA, V-U-C-A. And I don’t think, I think 2020… and I don’t think there was a better description. He used to say 2020, and people would probably equate it with VUCA.
Ira Wolfe (7m 18s):
But that also was not a one-time event. It wasn’t like the pandemic and we’re going to cure the COVID. And the idea of going back to normal doesn’t exist. In fact, normal is our own perspective. Normal means we don’t want to change. It, we’re addicted to change. A human beings are addicted to change. There was a great Harvard Business Review article just a few months ago, and it talked about, how the human brain is not wired for this level of uncertainty? And so, the challenge is, is that we want to go back to the way, our way it was. But for some people that normal wasn’t very good. You know, if you were making a lot of money, had a great job, you’re happy you were satisfied, you’re engaged, everything was going well, certainly you want to go back to that.
Ira Wolfe (8m 4s):
But the majority of people weren’t in that state. And if you look at even the level of work engagement, you know, we want to go back to normal. Well, normal was where less than 30% of all people, all workers were globally, were engaged. Is that the normal we want to go back to? That 70% of people are disengaged? So, it’s sort of crazy to go back to that. But I have these three, what I call the three Immutable Laws of The Future. And the first is, is that we’re now living on an exponential curve, and things are going to change more faster, more frequently a scope. You know, in the US just the other day, we you know, just over the weekend, we had these massive tornadoes.
Ira Wolfe (8m 47s):
You know, unprecedented through the Midwest. And it basically in the winter, which never happened, which typically doesn’t happen more severe at night. You know, a lot of death, a lot of destruction. And climate change, you know, think whether that’s related to climate change or not. I mean, we’re having these events and the year before we had wildfires. And you know, we got rising sea levels. So, there’s all this stuff that’s continuing to happen, and it’s happening more frequently. So, number one, we live on an exponential curve. And the best way I can describe exponential to people is that on the current rate of change, if you took all the events that happened over 12 months worldwide, no matter where you live, all the events that happened in 2020.
Ira Wolfe (9m 32s):
In 20 years, based on an expert on the anticipated rate of change, all those events would happen within three months. So, for you know, the dizzying pace and how we felt last year with the living in, you know, what I call “the never normal”. The rate of change was going to be going from 12 months to three months. But if that continues by 2060, so 40 years from now, so if you’re 30 years old, when you’re 70, the rate of change is going to happen every 11 days. So that’s a reality, you know whether it’s going to happen universally or whether it’s going to be some things that change faster and some slower, but we’re going to be living on this curve.
Ira Wolfe (10m 15s):
The second part is we’re also living in a much more complex world. We’re living in an age of complexity. So, where things used to be pretty simple, if you did A, be happened, or even complicated, which means it was predictable. Complicated life was, it might have been more confusing, might have taken more work, harder work for us to figure things out. But basically, you know, you can, if something broke, you can replace a part. You just have to know how things work. Complex means that there is no predictability with complexity. There are patterns and there’s trends. But there’s also ambiguity, because we don’t know exactly what’s gonna happen, when it’s gonna happen?
Ira Wolfe (10m 58s):
Or even if we know what exactly is going to happen. We don’t know when, or how, or what the intensity is. And we don’t know if it will be universal. So, we have the, we’re living on this exponential curve. And we also are living in an age of complexity. And the third law is that humans suck had change. We’re just not very good at it. And I mentioned that earlier. And that’s science will tell you for, hopefully, for the people who believe in science these days. Science tells us, we’re just not very good at change. Which means that we have to not only change what we do, but we have to change how we do it. And we don’t like to do that. We like to have a quick fix.
Ira Wolfe (11m 41s):
A new piece of technology, a new technique, a new tool, or let’s get rid of that one person, and we’ll bring somebody else in. But we, none of us want to change our behaviors. And that’s worrisome. And that’s going to continue. So, you know, what’s ahead in 2022, 23, and every year after that? Faster change, more complexity. And the only thing that we could modify is, how we respond and react to change?
Matt Alder (12m 11s):
And obviously, adaptability and behavior changes something that that you focus on a lot. What would your advice be to employers listening in terms of how they can make change happen quicker within their organization’s to be better placed to react to all the uncertainty that is, as you say, is only going to continue and accelerate in pace?
Ira Wolfe (12m 35s):
So, over the last few years, and again, I’ve got to get credit to the people who do all the research on this. I’m just the voice, I’m the messenger. But I’m passionate about it. And even when I wrote my book, the first half of it, was actually going to be a book about change. The original title was When The Shift, and I’ll say this slowly, When The Shift Hits Your Plan. And that was going to continue. And the first half, you know, actually, it could have been a standalone book about 150 pages was just about change what the future of work was going to be. And then I decided, you know, let me put it into context, especially since I was working with a lot of HR, and a lot of small businesses still do.
Ira Wolfe (13m 17s):
Number one, is how what the world was going to look at? And then two, is how recruitment was going to change? So, we can talk about that. But ultimately, what I realized is that we can come up with all the methodologies, and the tools, and technologies and make all the changes that we want. But if we don’t change people’s behavior and mindset. So, I’ve started to work with some organizations and do some research that we’re looking at, how do we help people become better at being comfortable, being uncomfortable? That is probably the easiest way to explain it. And there was one organization, actually based in the UK, called, well, their proper name is
Ira Wolfe (14m 1s):
Or we have an assessment called the AQai, which is Adaptability Quotient. And it identified 15 dimensions. Now, we don’t have enough time to go into all 15. But they were broken into what they call the ACE model, which was Abilities, Character, and Environment. And, I’m going to spend a little bit of time on the abilities because those are the one thing that we as individuals can change. And that companies can help people develop just like they would if it was a programming skill, or a typing skill, or an excel skill. These are skills that people can learn. Characters are personality and we’re not looking to change personality.
Ira Wolfe (14m 42s):
But we like everything else and especially with all the talk about emotional intelligence and self-awareness, we need to just understand who we are, how we are, how do each of us respond to change either positively or negatively? And but ultimately, the third is the E on the ACE model stands for environment. And company culture is incredibly important in helping make this happen. So, for everybody that’s listening out there, if you’re a leader in an organization, a manager, a supervisor, you have to create an environment that is conducive to then encourages that embraces change.
Ira Wolfe (15m 23s):
And how you do that? Well, you can measure this. Do the employees feel like they have your back, which is company support? To the people that they work with, do the people feel that they have their back? And this isn’t anything that’s new. This is, you know, engagement and employee satisfaction. You know, what’s the, you know, we’re talking a lot about employee experience now. So, does the employee feel that the company has their back? Do they feel that the team has their back? Is their emotional health, which is psychological safety? Do they feel it’s safe to talk about their vulnerabilities to be authentic, to be transparent, to share what their concerns are, to be able to make a mistake not be perfect every time?
Ira Wolfe (16m 10s):
Which because without mistakes, you don’t have innovation, nor do you have growth. So, it measures company’s support team, support emotional health. Do you have the right policies and procedures and things in place, that’s work environment? And then finally is, you know, being more attentive to the stress involved with jobs, and there’s some jobs that are more stressful than others, but some are off the charts. And there’s, you know, we’re experiencing the highest rate of burnout and mental illness. In many countries, many developed countries, that I know in the UK and the US, we write about it all the time, and it’s a big concern. So, companies leaders need to really take pay more attention to the environment and there’s ways that you can now measure that just beyond the broad employee engagement, employee experience survey.
Ira Wolfe (16m 59s):
But on the individual side, they identified five skills. And two of them, you’re everybody’s probably familiar with. One is grit, one is resilience. So, grit is that old, keep your head down. You know, if your work harder, just focus, just stick with it, good things will happen. And that’s true if we live in a linear world where nothing changes where the environment never changes. But when things are constantly changing, if you keep your head down, you may end up in the place you were intended, but it may not be a good place because everybody else shifted direction. Resilience is the ability to bounce back. We’re going to need that as well. Regardless, we’re still going to need grit, we’re going to need resilience.
Ira Wolfe (17m 43s):
But if we keep bouncing back, we also need to bounce back faster because things are changing faster. And we don’t have that luxury of months or years sometimes to rebound. The problem with both of those, they just keep us heading in the same direction. And you know, it’s attributed to many people. But if you keep doing the same thing over and over and over again, and expect a different result, that was the definition of insanity. And I know that’s bastardized a bit, but that’s true. So, they identified three other abilities. One of them is growth mindset. Many people might be familiar with that.
Ira Wolfe (18m 23s):
It’s the ability to… it’s continuous learning, having an open mind, being willing to accept mistakes. Not just say, you know, nobody’s perfect, but to learn from those mistakes. So, it goes beyond just living with a life of, “Well, everybody makes mistakes. Nobody can’t be perfect.” That’s true, but you need to learn from them. And the other value that gets overlooked with growth mindset is hope. If we don’t have hope, if we don’t think that the world can be a better place by even small changes every day, then people aren’t going to change and then it just becomes a dystopian, you know, people are just living in despair.
Ira Wolfe (19m 3s):
So, growth mindset, we need to help people get out of that compared to a fixed mindset. We need to help people unlearn too. And that’s, this is the biggest thing that’s been, you know, research is showing, is we talk about teaching people new skills, upskilling, rescaling, or even just the young kids or the adolescents and young adults, better education, more education. But the problem is, is that a lot of things that have been taught, especially if you’re a baby boomer like me, no longer true. They’re no longer effective. And we need to learn and we need to unlearn. So, we need to teach people how to unlearn, how to become better at giving things up.
Ira Wolfe (19m 48s):
And not feeling like they’re quitting at, you know, in order to succeed. And the final one is really a challenge because it’s mental flexibility. And mental flexibility is the ability to make sense of what’s going on. So, we have so much misinformation. We have so much ambiguity. There’s so much advice out there. And we’re not, you know, we’re we haven’t been very good at it. We wanted to be spoon fed, we wanted to be told what to do. And so how do you help people? How do you help people respond and react better? So, one is grit and resilience. And I don’t want to take those off the table because some people need help with those.
Ira Wolfe (20m 30s):
But we want to really get to the next level. We need to improve mental flexibility, growth mindset, and unlearning. You can do that on an individual basis. But from an organization, you also have to create an organization that allows that which was where we started with talking about the environment. So, we look at the ACE model. We’re not again, we’re not looking to change the C, which is people’s character and personality, but help, hopefully, they understand that. I’m spending a lot of time helping companies help their employees not only from a from a pre-employment side, but from a development side.
Ira Wolfe (21m 10s):
How do you help them build their adapt abilities?
Matt Alder (21m 20s):
Just to focus on one very specific area, Recruiting and Talent Acquisition, lots of change has been forced upon a lot of the people who are listening to the podcast and in the last 12 months because of circumstances. How do you think talent acquisition needs to adapt for the long term? What do you think recruiting looks like moving forward?
Ira Wolfe (21m 39s):
Yeah, I’m so glad you asked that because it’s a great time, and it brings it brings it home. We talk about what needs to change. And usually if you say, what do you need to do differently? Or what are you doing differently in 2022? And most of my clients or most of the people I talked to, when I speak, tend to talk about technology. Well, we’re looking at a different ATS, or we’re adding more people, or we’re doing this. But nobody talks about the change in behavior. Everybody looks at doing something and expect that something to make a difference. You know, we’re experiencing globally. And but in the US, we’re having record numbers of people quit their jobs and change jobs.
Ira Wolfe (22m 24s):
We can talk about bonuses, we can talk about paying people more, we can talk about things that we do. But ultimately, in order to keep people in place, we need to change management, we need to change the behavior and mindset. We talked about diversity and inclusion to create or creating a better employment brand. And maybe one way to do that is having more diversity inclusion, maybe it’s having equity. Whatever we do, is requiring us to not just do things by technology, change a strategy, buy a company, whatever it is, is in order to integrate those, in order to make those things happen, everybody has to change their mindset and their behaviors.
Ira Wolfe (23m 11s):
You know, otherwise, we’re like, well, we have technology, and we keep doing the things that we’re way we do. Yeah, you can do it faster. And maybe you can do it better. But the reality is, is that if you have bad practices, or ineffective practices in place, and you use more technology, you just fail faster. And again, and the hardest thing it is it drives me crazy. It’s the most frustrating part of everything they do that people just think that, “Well, we’re investing in this new technology.” And I’m a geek.
Ira Wolfe (23m 50s):
I mean, I love technology. I use it. But the technology requires people to change their behaviors in order to use it effectively. So that they’re using it, they’re automating what can be automated, so they can spend more time being a better human being having better interactions, having more interactions. And that’s, I just don’t see that being done. And that’s the part that terrifies me about where companies are headed. There are some companies that are doing it right. But the majority are just looking for, you know, that they want an aspirin and you know, and a band aid, and hopefully it goes away, tomorrow.
Matt Alder (24m 28s):
Yeah, I mean, I think that is still a massive issue when it comes to particularly recruiting technology that people are looking for that silver bullet to solve their problems and not necessarily thinking about everything round. I mean, it is from what I see it is getting better by is still a massive, massive issue.
Ira Wolfe (24m 45s):
Yeah, I work with — and, you know, again, when you’re working with large organizations, the enterprise organizations, you know, 10s of 1000s of people are that doesn’t have to be that. It could be just 1000s of people. Then they tend to, you know, that group, which is a lot of the people who gets surveyed, seems to be making the changes. I work with primarily –now, I do work with a few large companies, but I also work primarily mostly with small, medium sized businesses, and they’re really struggling. They’re struggling day to day. They’re struggling to make this over. And you would think, you know, because smaller companies are a little bit more nimble.
Ira Wolfe (25m 26s):
You know, you don’t have to turn around the battleship on a dime. They can do it pretty quickly. But sometimes they don’t have the resources and the manpower to do it. But you know, every organization is going to have to figure this out and do it pretty quickly. Because you know, going back, I mean, the exponential is not going away. I mean, it never has in the history of mankind, because that’s also progress. And that just brings up a point that. That I know people, there’s probably a few people out there that go technology is the problem, you know, millennials a problem, Gen Z is the problem. But when they look at 2020, it’s that we can’t wait to get back to, you started out this way.
Ira Wolfe (26m 7s):
We can’t get wait to get back to normal, let’s get back to the office. But if we roll the clock back, let’s say 10 years, not, which isn’t that long. So, we go back to 2020 or 2010 – 2011. And imagine the pandemic occurring then. What the world would have been like? And there are so many people talking about Zoom fatigue and working remote. Well, that was an asset. That’s saved probably millions of lives and hospitalizations. It could have been so much work.
Ira Wolfe (26m 49s):
That worse, if we 10 years ago had this pandemic, then the choices would have been not to let in… and again, I know the US numbers based but I know UK and you know, most developed countries were very similar, is that in the US 30 million people lost their job on a temporary basis. And, but there were still 110 million people working every day, because they could work remote. Without technology, we wouldn’t have been able to do that. And so, people would have either just been out of work or what a how to show up in their workplace and be exposed. And that would have been, I mean, that would have been much more tragic than it already is. We already have them.
Ira Wolfe (27m 28s):
Even doing it somewhat okay. We had, you know, 800… more than 800,000 people. It’s probably going to be well over a million before. And I won’t say it’s all over but before we get it under control. So that’s the one — you know, so that’s huge. We also wouldn’t have had a vaccine. You know, and I know, again, I’m just saying, as much as we complain about technology, technology saved us. Because traditionally, it took, you know, almost 10 years to develop a vaccination for something. And we in less than a year mRNA, which is how Pfizer, Moderna, and variations of some of the other ones that were developed was only done through technology, the use of technology.
Ira Wolfe (28m 16s):
So, you know, technology helps when it’s used properly. And but it requires a different mindset. And I don’t get it when people are just bashing all the technology. And I can’t wait to go back to all this in person. And we do need in person. We’re human beings, we need personal contact. But we need to learn how to rely on technology when we need it because there’s a whole lot of benefits that come from that. And if we can free up some of our time through technology and live healthier lives, and actually one is live because there are vaccines but live longer higher quality lives, then, you know, we have more time to interact with other people and do that well.
Matt Alder (28m 59s):
That leads me on nicely to my final question. I’m not gonna ask you to predict what’s going to happen next year, because that would seem slightly crazy in the context of what we’ve been talking about. But would you hope to see happen in 2022? If we were talking again, in a year’s time, how would you have liked the year to panned out?
Ira Wolfe (29m 17s):
Yeah, I love that question. Because my answer, I’ll give you the short answer to the first part is, is what do I think’s going to happen? And it’s a little bit of a pun on my book, When The Shift Hits Your Plan. And it’s about — I think it’s going to be, a shift show. It’s not gonna say that slowly. We’re just going to see continued shift and people are going to be struggling and, you know, we’re talking with an economist on my podcast this week, and every indication is that, that it’s going to be a much more difficult struggle to keep people, to find people, to grow, innovate. But if you do things right, if you make the changes and you start working on it, the bar is so low in kind of talent acquisition and talent retention.
Ira Wolfe (30m 12s):
That you don’t have to be perfect, but if you’re better than you were and you’re doing the right things, and you’re headed in the right direction, and you’re recognizing that it is going to be much more challenging, and it’s not going to pass, then those companies I think are going to have great years. I think they’re going to start to, it’s ever going to be easy to find the all the people you want and keep everybody that you want. But it’s going to get better. And so, there’s a long way around. The other part of the question is, what do I think’s going to happen? You know, what would I like to see happen? And what I’d like to see happen is that more companies recognize that the world is going to be different.
Ira Wolfe (30m 54s):
And most importantly, they help the workers, they help their employees respond and react because that’s going to be invaluable. If you learn how to respond and react in change and have more grit, more resilience, have a more open mindset on willingness to unlearn. Those are life skills. And that not only helps you have better employees, and be able to attract and retain people, but they’re going to have more loyalty, and they’re going to feel better about themselves. I mean, if we don’t have — people or I mean, the amount of skepticism, pessimism, despair, that people are feeling is really tragic.
Ira Wolfe (31m 36s):
And if you can give people a little ray of hope that’s worth, that that’s the biggest pay, you know, that’s the best compensation and benefit you can possibly give. So, companies have to figure out how to become better at that. So, at the end of next year, that’s my wish, that companies recognize that people are, you know, that their workers are human beings, and they need help. And one way to help them is help them become more comfortable and being uncomfortable.
Matt Alder (32m 3s):
Ira, thank you very much for talking to me.
Ira Wolfe (32m 6s):
Thank you very much, Matt. It’s a pleasure. And Happy New Year.
Matt Alder (32m 12s):
My thanks to Ira Wolfe. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show.
Matt Alder (33m 4s):
Thanks so much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.