Work's Not Working... Let's Fix It!

Stop Focusing on Job Credentials. Start Fitting Work to People: Josh Bersin

March 16, 2023 Sian Harrington Season 1 Episode 4
Work's Not Working... Let's Fix It!
Stop Focusing on Job Credentials. Start Fitting Work to People: Josh Bersin
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Companies today are failing at a record pace. In 1958 the average age of a company on the S&P500 stock index was 61. Today it is 18. It is predicted that within the next five years three-quarters of S&P500 companies will have disappeared.

Artificial intelligence and automation is everywhere. But, rather than automating us out of work, these technologies are taking the more repetitive bits away from our jobs. The result is that more and more jobs are becoming hybrid – they combine skillsets that never used to be included in the same job.  To keep up with the pace of automation we need to keep upskilling. 

Meanwhile, while we may be hearing about large scale layoffs in some companies, many organisations are struggling to fill roles. 

Global future-of-work thought leader Josh Bersin discusses:

• Why we should be talking about work, not jobs
• Why humans are the only appreciating assets in a business so just cutting staff is a false economy
• How companies are tearing up the traditional job descriptions and entry paths to work, such as degrees, and what they are doing instead
• What do we as workers need to do to keep our skills up to date?
• Where human resources fits into this debate

Josh Bersin founded corporate learning, talent management and HR research and advisory company Bersin & Associates in 2001, selling it to Deloitte in 2012. On retiring from Deloitte in 2018 he went on to launch the Josh Bersin Academy for HR and learning and professionals. In 2020 he brought together a team of analysts and advisors to form The Josh Bersin Company, which undertakes research and advises companies in areas such as HR technology, employee experience and diversity equity and inclusion. 

Josh is a prolific blogger with more than 860,000 followers on LinkedIn and frequently appears in top business publications. He recently published a book Irresistible: The Seven Secrets of the World’s Most Enduring Employee-Focused Organizations which is based on thousands of interviews with innovative leaders at the world’s best-run organizations, revealing the secrets of success of more than 5,000 companies he and his team have been researching.

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Josh Bersin [00:00:0] 
The history of the job description, and the job title and the job level, goes back to slavery, believe it or not. The first organizational structure, models and spans of control were done in the 16 and 1700s by the slave owners because they divided work into types of work.

And they said, let's get a whole bunch of people that can do this. A whole bunch of people can do this. The idea was the job was fixed but the person would be replaceable.

But it's actually the opposite. It's the person that brings value to the job. 

Every human being changes the job in a special way, so little by little in the last decade this idea of formally describing the job with all sorts of criteria for fit is becoming less and less useful. 

Siân Harrington [00:01:30] 
Hey everyone. Welcome to Work's Not Working, A show about forward thinking people, leaders, innovators, and academics, and how they think we can fix work to make it more meaningful, healthy, inclusive, and sustainable. Brought to you by The People Space.

 I'm Siân Harrington and on the show today, Josh Bersin on why we should stop focusing on job descriptions, credentials, and degrees, and start fitting work to our people. Companies today are failing at a record pace. In 1958, the average age of a company on the S&P 500 stock index was 61. Today it is 18. 

It's predicted that within the next five years, three-quarters of S&P 500 companies will have disappeared. Artificial intelligence and automation everywhere. But rather than automating us out of work, these technologies are taking the more repetitive bits away from our jobs. The result is that more and more jobs are becoming hybrid. 

They combined skillsets that never used to be included in the same job. So to keep up with the pace of automation, we need to keep up-skilling. Meanwhile, while we may be hearing about large-scale layoffs in some companies, many organizations are struggling to fill roles. 

So later on we'll discover that humans are the only appreciating assets in a business. So just cutting staff is a false economy. We'll see how companies are tearing up traditional job descriptions and entry paths to work and examine what they're doing instead. Plus we'll look at what we as workers need to do to keep our skills up to date. 

But first, let me tell you about Josh. Josh founded, corporate learning, talent management and HR research and advisory company bursts in associates in 2001. Selling it to Deloitte in 2012. On retiring from Deloitte in 2018, he went on to launch the Josh Bersin academy. In 2020, he brought together a team of analysts and advisors to form the Josh Bersin company. 

Which undertakes research and advisors companies in areas such as HR technology, employee experience, and diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Josh is a prolific poster with more than 860,000 followers on LinkedIn. And he frequently appears in top business publications. He recently published a book Irresistible, the seven secrets of the world's most enduring employee focused organizations, which is based on thousands of interviews with innovative leaders at the world's best run organizations. 

And in the book, he reveals the secrets of success of more than 5,000 companies. He and his team have been researching. So I started by asking him why work today is not fit for purpose. And why we need to take a people first approach going forward. 

Siân  [00:03:29] 
 So thank you so much for joining me today, Josh. I'm really looking forward to our conversation. And what we're going to focus on is work not jobs. Stop focusing on job descriptions, credentials, degrees, areas like that, and start fitting work to your people. It's a really interesting idea.

One of the things we've heard forever, as long as I've ever remembered, is that your people are your greatest asset, but you've got a new book out, Irresistible: the Seven Secrets of the World's Most Enduring Employee Focused Organizations. In it you argue in that that the traditional model of work isn't fit for purpose. 

One area you mentioned is this idea of job descriptions, credentials, degrees and the focus on that. Why do you think that's important and why do you think that we need to focus more on people than those? 

Josh [00:04:14]  
 This is a very common discussion now in companies. The history of the job, description, and the job title and the job level, goes back to slavery, believe it or not. The first organizational structure, models and spans of control were done in the 16 and 1700s by the slave owners because they divided work into types of work.

And they said, let's get a whole bunch of people that can do this. A whole bunch of people can do this. And there were lots of barriers between what are now called functional job families. And that was a scalable way to grow a product industrial oriented business. It worked in the railroads, worked in manufacturing, worked in the auto industry until really the maybe late 1990s/early 2000s, maybe before then, when all of a sudden scale wasn't the way to win the market.

It was innovation, it was new ideas. it was design thinking. It was getting close to your customers, and scale was getting in the way of that. So all of these rigid jobs where you would put a person into the job and then the person was replaceable. The idea was the job was fixed but the person would be replaceable.

But it's actually the opposite. It's the person that brings value to the job. Every human being changes the job in a special way, so little by little in the last decade this idea of formally describing the job with all sorts of criteria for fit is becoming less and less useful. 

What we now look for is skills. We look for culture. We look for learning agility. We look for fit with the team. And we look for people that have interest in the mission and purpose of our company because the job keeps changing. 

And, as I talk about in the book, and it's very true today, coming out of the pandemic, most employees are not doing only one thing. They have a job and they're doing some other things, and they're working on a project and they're helping somebody else do their job. And they're lending their skills to another person because they might be more skilled in one area than another. And a lot of those artifacts of how we select people, how we decide who to promote, how we put together job descriptions are being thrown away and being replaced by more intelligent skills-based technologies, managers who are managing in a more agile way, cross-functional teams, talent, marketplaces, all sorts of things to create organizational performance that's not dependent on this kind of marching line factory model of humans. Humans are not factory objects.

 Siân [00:06:44]
 Indeed. And how much of this is being driven by the employee themselves? Today I was seeing some more research on the number of people in America with side hustles. There's been this desire to be more empowered from an employee perspective. And then also there are other trends that are underpinning this, like automation.

What's underpinning and how much is driven by the employee and are employers being forced to look at this?

Josh  [00:07:07] 
 I think employees are voting with their decisions on where they want to work. And if the job is not flexible, if they don't have flexible on hours, they don't have flexibility on location, if they don't have flexibility on work style, if your boss tells you exactly how to do everything and won't let you do it your own way, most employees are not going to stay, not in this job market. 

So the employees are pushing employers to do this, but I think 50% of the driver is the business side where the CEO and the CFO and the CEO is saying, we're not moving fast enough. We're going from here to here, and you guys are stuck over here. And how do I get you over here? And the answer is not redesigning a whole big organization model. The answer is for individuals to move over there and work in a new way. And I see this all the time in our consulting constantly.

And one more thing that's driving it the pace of industry transformation has accelerated. There was an article, rather a survey, by the PWC folks of 2,000 CEOs. And of those 2,000 CEOs, nearly, I think it was 40% of them, said that they believe that their company, as it exists today, will not exist in 10 years. Things are changing that fast. And if you think you're going to make that change by just writing a bunch of new job descriptions and figuring out who to hire… this is just the realities of the economy and how quickly companies have to change.

Siân   [00:08:36]
 It is so interesting, isn't it? Big names that we grew up with are no longer there. You think of particularly huge companies as being the constant. But no, there's a lot of risk. 

Josh [00:08:47] 
 If you operate that way, then the company can adapt almost by itself. And you don't have to keep forcing change into a structure that is not designed to change. So in some sense, this is designing the company for change, designing the organization for change. And the individuals, most people love that!

They want to do work that interests them. They want to have multi variated careers. Also, people are living longer. They don't expect their career to end in 25 years. They're willing to try new things. There's a whole bunch of drivers for work to go in this direction. 

Siân  [00:09:20]
And what does it mean for me as a worker? At the same time as people wanting this, we also know that people find it hard to change. How do we as workers need to change ourselves and what do we need to have in place to be able to survive in this new world? 

Josh [00:09:38]  
 Well, I think there's two things for those of us as workers.
 One, we have to reflect and embrace the fact that our ability to learn is just as important as what we already know. And if we come to a job with a bunch of defined skills and we tell everybody, well, we know how to do this because I know how to do this because I've already done it before, so let me tell you how to do it, we're not going to necessarily succeed because we have to learn. 

And that means even if you're highly successful and even if you're not successful, the second when you take a new job, if you get a new job, if you get laid off or whatever, make sure you really dig in and ask the people in that company, what is this work really like? What are the expectations? How is success measured? Not what is the job description and what does it say I'm going to do? Because some of that stuff won't actually happen. How do the people interact with each other? What is considered to be a great performer? What does a great performer look like to you?

If you ask those kinds of questions, you'll get a pretty good sense of whether you fit into this role and whether it's going to be a good place for you to work, not just the job itself. Like software engineers are a great example. Everybody thinks, oh, we're short software engineers. Go find a software engineer. Well, a software engineer at Microsoft is not the same job as a software engineer at Twitter. Especially now. So you, as an employee, have the opportunity to investigate that before you just jump into something. 

Siân [00:11:03]
 Do you think that there's more responsibility then for us as people to think about our own learning and should we be doing things outside the workplace as well? 

Josh  [00:11:12] 
 I do. I think a lot of people don't know how to expand their skills. They don't necessarily know what they need to know. But one of the ways to do that is to talk to people who you admire. Talk to people who you've worked with, talk to your old boss at another company, talk to your friends, and develop a more expansive perspective on the related things that have helped them succeed that you maybe didn't realize.

 I've had the good fortune of having a lot of jobs. In my 40 or so years of work, I've had 20 jobs probably. I've done everything, sales, marketing, finance, customer service, technology stuff. And I'm always learning still even at this age.

And when I talk to somebody who I admire and they tell me something they're working on, I'm always thinking that's interesting. I should check that out. And that to me is the way to build a successful career for everybody. And that doesn't mean you have to aspire to become the CEO unless it's something that interests you.

But if you're not learning there's some research that shows that something like 50% of the skills people have today are worthless within three to four to five years because stuff keeps changing. 

 Siân  [00:12:23] 
 Yeah. I've seen that so much in my own in my own career. And I think it's quite daunting for a lot of people. And also there's other educational structures and various other things that don't always create that learning mindset. 

Josh [00:12:38] 
 If I think about the book and all the things in there, the biggest lesson in that to me is what I call the unquenchable spirit of the human being.

Every person who listens to this podcast can do more, can adapt, can change, can learn if they're willing to try and if they're in an environment that supports it. So our job as managers and leaders is to create an environment where people can do that. And then individuals have to take it upon themselves to take a little bit of a risk and do something new and try it and learn about it and accept the fact you're not going to be perfect, but over time you will get better at it. That's the only way for this irresistible organization model to work. . 

Siân  [00:13:22] 
 Absolutely. And yeah, you need a bit of courage but if you don't try, you just you don't know do you? So looking at it from the organization's perspective, if we come back to this idea of work rather than jobs, how does that play out in reality?

What can organizations put in place in order to do that? Because I think we've seen some really interesting initiatives in the last year or so, but it's not as easy as it might sound. 

Josh [00:13:44]
 Yeah I'll mention two very big areas that are important. 
 One is in recruiting. It used to be if you had a job title description, you would look for somebody who has done that job. Let me find somebody who's done this, who's been successful at it and we will slot them into this slot, like a puzzle piece, and click them in there and everything will work. And of course, there are two problems with that. 

Number one, that person's impossible to find because everybody else wants to hire that person too, or they're very expensive or whatever.

Number two: your culture, your team, your project, your initiatives are based on who you are. And maybe what you need is somebody who has the skills to do that job and has done something like that before and will bring new ideas to that job. So this purple squirrel idea that, there's a perfect candidate out there who's done this before, and if that person comes in, we're going to be saved. It just doesn't go that way. So that's a big part of it, is recruiting, expand your aperture on recruiting. 
 The second is internal mobility. A lot of the reason these job silos exist it's really historic, but there's cultural silos between jobs and groups and if you don't have a reward system and an internal mobility culture and you don't tell stories about people who have helped other people work on projects or worked on cross-functional things or moved around the company, people think they need to stay in there, put their blinders on and just do their work and, crank stuff out. 

That may be fine, but that will get in the way of your ability to be more agile and move people into new roles. There's an interesting quote from WL Gore that I think is in this area. Their talent strategy is managers manage projects; people manage themselves. That's kind of an enlightened view of how an organization works. And eventually, if you go down this path, that's where you end up. You end up in a process where eventually the managers are not telling everybody what to do. They're managing the work. And then the individuals are deciding with their peers, where they fit and where they can add value and where they can help. 

So I think more and more companies are beginning to look like and feel like professional services companies in many ways because so much of what we do is human value add work, including this chatbot ChatGPT that just eliminates more routine. creating more agile human value add. So, those are two things that, that will often get in the way of this more agile model of working. 

Siân [00:16:15] 
 And do you think we would get to the stage where we're effectively ditching job descriptions? Can we get to that? 

Josh [00:16:22] 
  I'll tell you a symptom of that is more and more companies are now saying don't apply for a job. Just tell us who you are and what you do, and what your background is, and we'll fit you into a job. So we want to look at your background and your interests and your credentials and other things, and then we will let you know where we think you fit, which I don't think is such a bad idea.

Now you have to get them in, you have to show them something that they're interested in to get them started. But those kinds of approaches are, are more powerful than I think a lot of people realize. 

 Siân [00:16:55] 
 Yeah. And that comes back to that idea of looking outside the traditional places you have looked for many years, such as people who have had to have their 2:1 or whatever from university.

Josh [00:17:04]  
Here's another example that I thought was really fascinating. So there's a very big company in the Midwest. I won't mention their name because I think they want to keep private, but it's the largest provider of clinical. software for medical providers in the United States.

So they're a very well-known company. They're in the Midwest. They're hiring just tons and tons of people. They're hiring consultants, salespeople, software engineers, marketing people et cetera. And what they decided to do is, because they're hiring so many people, is instead of hiring based on open job positions, they basically have seven job families.

And what they say is, do you want to work in IT? Do you want to work in engineering? Do you want to work in consulting? Do you want to work in customer service? Do you want to work in clinical care? Do you want to work in finance and operations? And they hire people into the broad job family, and they join the company without a job. They don't have a specific job yet. They join the company and for the first two weeks all they do is get onboarded and introduced to what the company. How the company operates, who the people are, and then after that two weeks of onboarding, then they get turned over to the functional lead of one of those seven functions, and those teams work with that person to put them in the right job.

The idea being that until we really get to know this person, we're not going to tell you exactly what job you're going to be in. We'll tell you broadly the kind of work you're going to do, but we want you to get to know us and us to get to know you. , and this is a really successful company. I mean, They are killing it in their market, and I don't think the competitors quite understand what they're doing and why they're so successful.

 Siân [00:18:40]
 That extraordinary, isn't it? It's a real ripping up of that old model and approach. And one to watch very closely, I think. And again, not easy to replicate. They have got themselves a real advantage. 

What role does technology play in this because obviously there's a lot of talk about using AI in recruiting processes. So how does that fit with this? Because if you are moving away from the traditional things you program in,  like the resume and various educational qualifications or whatever, on the one hand, as we just said, that could be helping by removing those to get your more diverse people. But we've also got that trend towards using more automation. So how do you see those fitting together? 

Josh [00:19:20]  
 Well , there's a massive amount of technology going on now that is helping on this. You know, when you post a job description on LinkedIn or Indeed or any other application tracking system you have, including Eightfold, Beamery, a lot of these advanced systems, they don't just say, you know, VP of sales, let's look for other people that have been VP of sales.

I mean, they do that but then they look at what are the job histories?  What are the companies that this person worked in that are related to your company? What are the industries that this company worked in that are related to your industry? Do they have an educational background that would be similar to somebody in sales? Even to the degree that these tools can tell you what skills this person has, even if they haven't taken a test. 

 So one of the companies we work with a lot is Eightfold. Eightfold happens to be an AI recruiting oriented technology. And Eightfold can tell you if you're looking for an engineer, say, because you worked in this company, in this project at this date, they know what kinds of technologies you were exposed to and therefore what kinds of skills you are likely to have.

They're pretty sophisticated tools now. You don't see all this stuff when you get a match but they're providing recommendations, sourced talent candidates and matches in much more intelligent ways than just looking for the job description and the educational background. So, in recruiting, this is very advanced. I mean, it's the one of the most advanced areas. 
 The other part of tech that's really doing the same thing is internal mobility. These talent marketplace systems, they do exactly the same thing for an internal hire. So if I'm, you know, a project manager, I'm trying to find somebody to do some kind of design work and I don't have somebody on the team they can go around inside the company and find people that have these kinds of skills or guests and say, Hey, why don't you talk to Joe or Sally? These people seem to be a good fit. So there's a lot of technology being applied to this. . 

Siân [00:21:15] 
 There seems a bit of a conflict there. To one extent if you are basing decisions on the histories and education and the like, then you are going to get that same bias perhaps. But on the other hand, the skills matching, the seeing skills that you may not have, you know that's a completely different thing. So it's an interesting combination.

Josh [00:21:33]
 Well, I'll give you another piece of data that, that will sort of blow your mind. And I thought this was shocking. I don’t know if other people feel the same way.

During the last two years when there's been massive amounts of job, you know, quitting and people moving from place to place, changing jobs in the United States, roughly 30, 35% of workers changed jobs in the last year, which is just ridiculously high. 45% of those job changes. The individual changed industries.

Now, when I was young, nobody changed industries. When you picked an industry, you were in it for the rest of your life. That was normal. Well now they do because you can determine what somebody's raw skills are, independent of the industry experience. So it goes back to this whole idea of saying, let's find somebody that's done this exact job before and then realizing I can't find that person. So, you know, I think this is just happening. I think it's partly by no choice. I mean, there's so much shortage of talent right now. If you don't look for people based on skills and other attributes, you're not going to find the right person. 

Siân [00:22:36]  
 Yeah. That's a really interesting point. So let's look at HR and its role in this. We are talking about systems that for a long, long time have been the basis of the wider HR approach. Is HR being adaptable enough here for the adaptive organization? Or is it a barrier? What are you finding in your experience?

Josh [00:22:55]  
 In some companies, yes. We talk to lots and lots of companies. We tend to talk to a little bit more sophisticated companies. I think the HR profession is catching on pretty quickly. And sometimes it's because of a diversity metric. Sometimes it's because it's impossible to hire people and the time to hire is too long and nobody will wait anymore. And they're realizing that if we don't open up our aperture, we're not going to, we're not going to hit the numbers. 

Sometimes it's turnover where a lot of people are leaving the company and the HR [rofessionals or maybe the employee experience people are interviewing them and realizing, you know, if we don't give these people more flexible job opportunities, they're not going to stay.

So I think most HR professionals are very sensitive to the talent problems that their company has. And they're beginning to see that the traditional approaches of slotting people into these old job descriptions based on their college degree, isn't working anymore. So they're just trying new things, so I don't have any lack of interest in these topics. I don't think everybody knows how to institutionalize this. 
 There's a lot of unknowns. How? What do you do about pay? So let's suppose you've got somebody who is hired into this job at this level with this pay, and the pay is based on the job, which is benchmarked against a similar job, and then all of a sudden they get a new project over here, they're in a different job family. This job family has paid more money. Now they're working with people that are at a higher salary. Do you give them a raise? I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. I mean, there's all sorts of things like this that, that really haven't quite been figured out yet. 

And then another big part of this for HR is training. So if we find out that you are a statistical guru and you're working in the finance department and you really know the numbers and you're really good with data and you're really good with analysis, and then we want to move you into marketing analytics or data science in the IT department we need to teach you some new things.

Do we have the tools to do that? Do we have the curriculum? Do we have a capability academy to move people around? You know it, it isn't enough to just say, we're going to move people around. You have to facilitate that movement and help them succeed in this new role. So L&D strategies are still needed under the covers of all this.

But I think HR people are into this once they understand what's going on and they see the big picture. And that's what the book is about, by the way. The book is is showing you that this is not impossible to do. There's just so many examples in there that you can learn from.

Siân [00:25:22]
 I'm going to put you on the spot here, but if there's one thing that they need to do to change themselves or to change the way they work that would help their organization become irresistible, what would it be?  I know it's more than one, but the first most important thing. 

Josh [00:25:37]  
There's two things that come up. This even comes up in our company. 
 Number one is have honest conversations with people about what they're successful and not successful because a lot of people have the opposite of imposter syndrome. They think they're better than they are at something, which is the inverse of imposter syndrome. And then they're not being arrogant. They just don't know. They just think, and so that conversation has to happen. So people are very honest about their skills and their strengths and weaknesses. That to me is number one. 
 And then number two is to stitch together the different parts of HR. So these decisions on how to operate are made more holistically. I think a lot of the problems we're now seeing with layoffs and companies saying, why didn't we see this recession coming? Now we have too many people. Now we have a productivity problem. That's not a new topic. A lot of people in the organization were seeing that already.

And so what I think HR functions and organizations have to do is talk to each other. So these little problems that are coming up get discussed across all the domains of HR and these HR domains work together. We call this systemic HR. We're doing a lot of work on this right now to show how these different pieces come together because even if you're going to give somebody a traditional promotion in the same job they're in does that affect pay equity? Are there DEI issues? Are there other people that might have wanted to be a candidate for that job who now feel that they've been left out, etc. These things are all related. 

 Siân [00:27:09]  
 I wonder if there is a word for the opposite of imposter syndrome?

Josh [00:27:14]  
 And I don't think it's arrogance. I think it's that people, including me, I'm sure I'm the same way, they do something for a long time and they think they're really good at it, and then all of a sudden something comes along and they think maybe I'm not as good as this as I thought I was, and those conversations are learning experiences and that has to happen. 

Siân [00:27:30]  
It reminds me of the old performance review. Nobody likes just being told that they're average or they're doing their job just as we expect them to do. Everyone expects to be better than the fact you are employing them to do something that they're doing really well! So this is a strange old thing. 
 So what do you think, in terms of the wider organization, i they don't start looking at work in this way, if they don't shift the way that their mindset and the way they operate to a wider definition of how you get people in and moving away from this jobs idea into the wider work idea. What do you think will happen to them? 

Josh [00:28:07]  
've got a lot of examples in the book. You can look at GE, you can look at Nokia, you can look at Yahoo. You can look at all sorts of companies that were pioneers, leaders, high growth, high profitability companies, and something happened and they just fell off the wheels. They just fell apart. And that is for lack of adaptability. 
A lot of them saw the signals, but they couldn't move fast enough. And my experience in business is you usually know when you're going to be disrupted with plenty of time, but you don't know what to do about it. And so you talk about it, you ignore it, you think about it, you raise your prices. You do something else to try to protect yourself from the new entrant. But if you don't learn what they're doing and adapt to whatever's new technology, new industry change, whatever it. You get left behind. 
So, I think every company that falls off the S&P500 or falls out of favour with the stock market or whatever, under the covers there's a lot of this going on. There's a lot of lack of mobility, lack of agility, lack of adaptability, lack of learning. 
Microsoft, when Satya Nadella came into Microsoft, the one big thing he said was, we are not a learning company. We need to learn how to learn. Under Balmer and Gates Microsoft was a very arrogant company and it worked fine for a while until they missed a couple things. They missed the internet; they missed the search engine business. They missed mobile computing. they suffered a lot of misses and still did fine. 
And then Satya Nadella comes in and goes, we're not going to do that again. We're going to listen and we're going to learn. And now they're, the most successful tech company on the planet is best I can tell. There's stories everywhere on how companies you. don't do this. . 

Siân [00:29:55]  
 And in terms of the book, Irresistible, you're looking at the seven areas that these enduring organizations have in common, We've obviously concentrated on one particular here. But from an organization's perspective – a CEO or an HR leader – what are the first three steps they can take on the journey to becoming more irresistible? So overall what three things could they do tomorrow or start doing tomorrow? 

Josh [00:30:18]  
I think something that goes without saying, but I think it has to be reminded, is the CEO and the top leaders have to define the mission and purpose in the company as something other than making a profit and growing the revenue. Because that is in some sense the underpinnings of a lot of these decisions about people. So that's number one. 
 Number two is reflect on the fact that the people, the skills, the management, the leadership, the culture are basically capital. They're not expenses. You can't just say, we're spending too much on people, so we're going to cut them. We're going to let a bunch of people go and then we'll make more money. Those are capital decisions.
 And I make the point a lot: People are the only appreciating asset in a company. Everything else depreciates except people. And so if you have this attitude that we can always pay people a little bit less, we can always get rid of people that we don't like. We can have turnover, we can outsource this, we can outsource that. You're going to always have these problems of not getting people engaged. 
 The third is probably, if you read the seven things in the book, the fundamental part of them has to do with management and how are we rewarding managers, what are the behaviours you expect out of leaders? How are you deciding what a good manager looks like? Is it somebody who hits the numbers? Is it somebody who develops people? Is it somebody who works across the organization in a collaborative way? Is it someone who's creative and innovative or not? I think, maybe that's the third big one, for the CEO and the CFO and the people at the very top to have a good conversation about what does great leadership behaviour look like here based on our business strategy and our mission. And therefore you guys in HR make sure we're doing this and then we're building leadership in this way. And you guys can worry about the mobility and the hiring and stuff underneath that.

So those are three things that I would say are essential  at the C-level. 

Siân [00:32:20]  
 Great points there, Josh  and I love the appreciative bit of people. It's a great way of thinking about it. So, finally you personally, how have you changed your approach to work, given everything that we've discussed here today and that you've discovered during your illustrious career looking at organizations?

Josh [00:32:37]  
 After writing the book and doing all this research and having my own personal experiences, I have slowed down. I do a lot more listening. I used to be very into telling everybody what I thought we should do all the time. Maybe it's because I'm older. 
 I do realize that oftentimes in our company, fit is just as important as skillset. A high performing individual contributor who has all the perfect skills but doesn't fit, is not a good hire for us. And we've been extremely successful. We're very profitable, we're growing very fast.  It's because we just have hired those kinds of people. So that's something else I've learned.

And the third thing I've learned is this whole idea of systems thinking. And this is part of my job as an analyst but I am always thinking about the whole company in our company, at least as a system. And if there's something going on over here that's not working, it's not just that person's fault or maybe that manager's fault, it has to do with other things that might be going on that are contributing to it. Feedback that's not taking place. Metrics that aren't clear. Education training, that's not clear. So I'm becoming more and more of a systems thinker every day. 
 As part of my job, and I think that's true as an analyst, I study the economy. I study all these issues of why young people feel disengaged at work, the income inequality things that are going on. All of these are related, and I think for anybody who's in HR and anybody who's in any management or leadership role, you need to do the same thing. So you see that the whole system and you don't keep focusing on the one person or the one thing that might be not optimized at the time.

So, those are the things that you know. And the other thing, Siân,  I am such a huge fan of the HR professionals that I work with. These are very complex, difficult jobs. this idea of having a seat at the table, you don't only have a seat at the table, you're expected to know how to do all this stuff.

And I think the HR professionals that I work with are some of the most passionate, fast learning creative people in business. And I think it's been interesting to watch the human resources profession in the last five or six years just grow up to be this really important domain of the economy.

And that's been another thing that's been great for me is just to be part of this. 

Siân [00:34:55]
 Totally. And we all know how dealing with people is hard and these people, that is their role and they have to bring something probably more complex in a lot of ways than many other C-suite jobs in my opinion. So yeah, thank you for that. And I think we're all getting old. So, it's nice to try and slow down a bit, isn't it? 

 Josh [00:35:15]  
 Well, you don't have any joints when you get older. You just can't go at that pace anymore!

Siân [00:35:19]  
 Also I think there's something about looking after yourself more anyway that's coming through that perhaps people of a certain generation, we've been on full on, pistons going the whole time for 30, 40 years. And it’s not good for anyone really. 
 So thank you so much. We could talk for ages because I always love talking to you and finding out what your latest thinking is.  So the book's great. It's definitely worth people picking up. Really nice and clear and concise with some good lessons in it. And I really appreciate you giving me your time today, so thank you very much. 

Josh [00:35:51]  
 You bet. Thank you, Siân.
  Siân [00:36:00]  

That was Josh Bersin on why we need to start fitting work to our people. By the way Josh told me he fell into becoming an analyst by accident after being laid off from a tech company back in 2000. He realized he always liked to write. And as there were no jobs at the time he got a contract to do a research study on online learning. 

He soon realized this was something he was good at. Well, the tech company's loss and our gain, I would say. 
 I love how Josh Bersin is helping firms to put people at the heart of the organization. As best-selling author, Adam Grant says, Josh's book Irresistible is a roadmap for creating more humane workplaces. And we all want that. 

Anyway for now. Thanks so much for listening to the show this week. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And follow me on LinkedIn at Siân Harrington, The People Space. And if you want more insights and resources on the future of work, check out This episode was produced by Nigel Pritchard and you've been listening to Work's Not Working... Let's Fix It.