On this episode of the Actionable Futurist® podcast, we spoke with Steve Cadigan who has been at the forefront of global talent strategy and company culture for the past 30 years.
He is most famous for scaling Linkedin from 400 to 4,000 in just 3 and a half years.
Steve also led the development of LinkedIn’s legendary company culture and was at the helm of the Talent function for its period of the highest growth and through their IPO.
He’s worked in 5 different industries and 3 different countries, and his focus today is to help leaders and organizations build winning talent solutions to compete in an increasingly complex digital economy.
Steve has just released his new book: “Workquake: Embracing the aftershocks of Covid-19 to create a better model of working”.
We had a fascinating discussion that I know you will enjoy and included topics such as
- Being more human in a digital world
- Who is getting the next phase of work right?
- How important is trust in organisations?
- How do we instil trust with a distributed workforce?
- Replacing those stolen coffee moments at work
- The more fluid world of work
- Building in social interaction with teams
- The rise of the third place
- The longer-term plan for home working
- Will we go back to 5 days in the office again?
- The professional workforce has tasted freedom
- Google’s response to remote working
- Advice for HR directors
- Employee alumni groups
- The one thing that stood out in researching the book
- Your digital first impression
- The rise of the gig worker
- Actionable tips for this week
More on Steve
Welcome to The Actionable Futurist® Podcast, a show all about the near term future with practical and actionable advice from a range of global experts to help you stay ahead of the curve. Every episode answers the question, what’s the future? with voices and opinions that need to be heard. Your host is international keynote speaker and Actionable Futurist®, Andrew Grill.
Andrew Grill 0:30
My guest today is Steve Cadigan, who has been at the forefront of global talent strategy and company culture for the last 30 years. He’s most famous for scaling LinkedIn from 400 to 4000 in just three and a half years, Steve also led the development of LinkedIn’s legendary company culture, and was at the helm of the talent function for its period of highest growth, and through their IPO. He’s worked in five different industries and three different countries, and his focus today is to help leaders and organisations build winning talent solutions to compete in an increasingly complex digital economy. He’s just released his new book “Workquake, embracing the aftershocks of COVID-19 to create a better model of working”. Welcome, Steve!
Steve Cadigan 1:11
Thanks for having me today Andrew, excited.
Andrew Grill 1:13
We had a pre-interview a week or so ago, and I’m so excited to have you on the show because I agree with 200% of what you say. But it’s rare that I get someone on, it’s been so heavily involved in LinkedIn, which is a network that many of my listeners will be using every day. Many people know that your LinkedIn first chief HR officer, but what drew you to LinkedIn in the first place and do you remember when you actually joined the platform?
Steve Cadigan 1:33
As a human resource executive, it made a lot of sense to me, when someone showed me hey, there’s this new tool. I’d been using a similar tool called Plaxo, I don’t know if you remember Plaxo, it was contact management, and when you would move from one company to another, it would allow you to not have to rebuild your address book, usually using some kind of outlook tool or some kind of mail clients. So I liked that, and I was at a point in my career where I was starting to meet more people, my network was growing, so it made sense as it was designed. and I didn’t join with any aspirations of hey, this is going to help my career prospects, it was more just helped me keep my contacts together.
Andrew Grill 2:11
I remember Plaxo well, and that was an age old problem that you know, who owns the contacts? And I think even a few years ago, people were saying, Well, no, I and your LinkedIn contacts or your Twitter contacts. And that’s just not the case. And we won’t get on to that. One final question on LinkedIn, people talk about gaming the LinkedIn algorithm, I’d argue that as a b2b platform, the way to get the best out of it is very different to other platforms. But what’s your advice for people wanting to get the most out of LinkedIn?
Steve Cadigan 2:34
It depends on what your objective is, if you were a B2B consumer, and you want to use it, I think the first thing is to recognise that what LinkedIn is probably trying to guard is a good user experience. So they yes, they want your business. But they also don’t want to pollute the stream. And what happened in the recruiting business, I think, and this, especially after I left the organisation, and in 2013, is that the biggest users of the recruiting platform were the biggest polluters, that people were not being thoughtful. This is not a place to go spam people, this is a place to have greater insight to have a better starting point in your interactions with with somebody or some other entity. If you want to alienate yourself on that platform, just use it without any thought. And just start sending mindless notes out to people, I received them every week, people saying, Hey, would you be interested in this data entry clerk job, I’m like, well, obviously, you haven’t looked at anything on my profile, or know how you found me.
Andrew Grill 3:32
I give a public service announcement all of my clients on the desktop version, when you go to connect with someone, it reminds you Hey, it’d be nice to leave a message as to why you’re connecting. The mobile doesn’t do it. I’ll often be at an event. Now we’re back in London, we’re actually able to go out to events. Now, I don’t carry business cards anymore. I like to connect straight away. But even if I’ve met them face to face, I’ll still say you know, Steve, it was great to meet you tonight at the networking event, I’d love to connect with you. Because like you I get hundreds of connection requests. And I want to remember who they were and why I should connect. It’s a bit like me throwing my business card at you and walking off. Why would you do that?
Steve Cadigan 4:03
There is a feature on the mobile device, I think. But it’s not intuitive for you to be able to add a little context to it because I agree with you. I really also welcome and accept more invitations when someone has put a little thought into it versus just to reach out but I’ve been as guilty as the next person just sending something connection request because I know I’m going to meet the person shortly, and I don’t include an introduction just out of expediency sometimes.
Andrew Grill 4:26
The Future of Work. You talk a lot about the future work both in your book and your public speaking as well. I’m also asked what the future of work is. In your book, you say it’s about being more human. Is that possible in an increasingly digital and detached world?
Steve Cadigan 4:40
I think it has to be Andrew, it really does. The big inspiration for me to write this book was fatigue of all the fear rhetoric I was seeing from companies, from the media and from schools. You know, half the jobs tomorrow don’t even exist today. And I think that that rhetoric Whilst I understand where it’s coming from, because people believe that they need technology to be competitive, but if you want to build a compelling career, I think it’s your human attributes that are going to distinguish you. Because hard skills can be taught things like communication, building loyalty, trust, influence, leadership, teamwork, in agility, and adaptability. Those are fundamentally human traits. And that’s why I believe, if you want to distinguish yourself in the future, as a company or as a professional, those are the skills that you should be doubling down on, of course, you need to be mindful of new technology. But I think we’ve lost a little bit of the plot here, Andrew, in that I think people when they’re facing a concern, immediately, default to well, we must be a technology purchase that we need to make for us to be more competitive versus well, maybe there’s a communication breakdown, maybe there’s a misunderstanding, maybe there’s a strategic decision that needs to be made versus investing in more technology.
Andrew Grill 5:55
So you deal with a lot of different companies, and you must see a lot of good and bad practices, who’s getting the next phase of work, right?
Steve Cadigan 6:01
The ones who are getting it right, are the ones who are willing to experiment right now. And we’re still in the frontier because the ground isn’t firm. So when the ground is in firm, organisations that are used to making final decisions are very uncomfortable, because they can’t see the future. And this is part of the tension, I think that we’re facing right now is, we’re used to a decision making and leadership model that says we need to make decisions based on the goal of trying to have consistent, reliable outcomes. And right now we’re in a domain where so many things are unknown. So we almost have to build for instability. And the organisations I’m seeing into that are starting to figure it out are the ones will technology generally is earlier up the adoption curve, because they’re used to iterating, which is software development, a B testing, they’re easily migrating that over and how they think of people strategies. organisations that are not heavily technology focused are not usually in the realm of having comfort level with evolving their culture and their business structures. And so they’re struggling, those are the ones who are calling me right now they’ve got the deer in the headlights, if you will, just not sure how to handle this consistently evolving. It’s like this swimming in the ocean for the first time, you’ve only been swimming in a pool, there’s Undertows, you don’t you can’t even see and they’re pulling you different ways. And you have to learn a different way of navigating that water.
Andrew Grill 7:19
I was listening to one of your podcasts in researching you for this podcast today. And I love to quote with your interviewer. The only legal performance enhancing drug is trust. How important is trust going forward, when as you say the ground is now very unfair?
Steve Cadigan 7:33
Well, it’s always been phenomenally important. And it’s going to be even more important. I mean, as you know, and you you’re a student of this, the two biggest dimensions that all the research shows that organisations need to focus on if they want high performing teams, or psychological safety and trust. And I think and I really believe this, that our organisational history, historical practice of measuring engagement, employee engagement, trust has always been a part of it. But I think that trust should be the main thing that we take a look at right now. Because when things are moving fast, when there’s so many unknowns, the thing that you need an organisation to do is build trust and how you do that, you know, transparent decision making, and lots of communication and lots of feedback collection is super important. So it’s only going to get more important, as we have too many things to defocus us and distract us and make us fearful today.
Andrew Grill 8:23
Trust goes both ways. So now that we’re more distributed, we’re working from home, I’d imagine a lot of HR directors, a lot of managers are saying I’m not sure if my team are being productive. I’ll give you an example two of my friends who shall remain nameless, they now adopt a thing called a mouse Wigler. It’s a USB stick. And it basically simulates the mouse moving every 30 seconds or so. This means that their instant messenger terminal basically stays active and it’s always green. And I know that these people have said I just need to have a nap. But I’ve got to put my mouse wiggling because my boss will then think I’m skiving off, we’re actually dealing with a mental health issue or giving myself a break. So how do we instil trust when we can’t see the people that are working for us?
Steve Cadigan 9:02
I think both parties, as you said, are part of this relationship. And both parties need to be more intentional today, around communicating, exchanging feedback. If we’ve learned anything during the pandemic, it’s that we’ve become more aware of the personal lives of our co workers. And I think that’s a that’s hopefully a good thing long term that we appreciate the circumstances and how they contribute to someone’s productivity. And I’m hoping that closer relationship that that we’ve built during the pandemic, we’ve all had this shared experience and it continues that will lead to greater communication and greater trust. But listen, if someone’s working in an organisation is the two folks that you allude to that believes that if you are active is the only indicator of your productivity. I think that would make me pause and stand back and say, Am I really in the right organisation? If me having to wiggle my mouse is important for me to keep my job.
Andrew Grill 9:52
I know people asking you know, what is the future of business? Is it being in the office working from home hybrid, what’s your view but also importantly, having replaced Place those stolen coffee moments when we run into someone at work. How do we do that when we remote? That’s the one thing people tell me that’s missing and they want back.
Steve Cadigan 10:08
If we have to first step back and say we just been presented with the greatest opportunity of our lifetimes, to rebuild the way we used to do stuff, and just pause for a second and say maybe the way we were, maybe the way a business happened we work happened wasn’t as optimal as it could be. And what ways can we leverage working more remotely now until we have more clarity? Such as how can we eliminate bias? How can we grow diversity of input? Most organisations I’ve ever worked in always had somebody who wasn’t in the room, maybe an executive in another region or another time zone, and they always felt disconnected. And now they’re on equal footing with their teammates. To answer your question more specifically, when you say, Hey, where are those informal moments happening? I totally agree with your concern there because as a human resource person, I’ve found that the moments of greatest candour in any relationship in any organisation are always the informal ones. What we have in this work from home this black screen reality is we have most of the encounters are planned. Those listeners who have children will know the best conversations you have with a teenager, not when you say let’s sit down and have a talk, it’s when you’re driving them somewhere or you’re in the car and you’re not planning to talk about something and something surfaces that wouldn’t have come out in a more formal setting. And so that’s one of the reasons why I suggest while we’re navigating this complex new frontier of work is try to build in informal moments tried to build in downtime to try to build in fun and light hearted exchanges with people in some unpredictable as well. I know companies doing things like coffee, roulette, just spin a wheel and two names come up. And those people have to have a virtual coffee or virtual lunch or virtual conversation. organisations that are putting department versus Department online gaming competitions together, we have to recognise is a hard time for everybody. And so trying to build that in. This is the number one question I received from all my clients, what should we do? Stay at home? And I say I can’t tell you the answer, because I’m not in your culture. But I do know the pathway there is to ask your employees and to test things out in a try it and not as a whole company, but different departments and get feedback. And where you’re probably going to land is some complex patchwork of different circumstances for different jobs, different people in different departments. And let’s measure our success on is the company thriving and have to create examples to share with the listeners today of conversations I’ve literally had last week with clients and it went something like this, I would ask What’s your biggest concern right now? And they would say, well, we can’t hire and retain the best people. They’re leaving faster. And I said, Hey, how’s your business done during COVID? They said, it’s exploded, we’ve done phenomenal. We’ve grown market share sales are up. And I said, I want you to put those two statements together, you have a more fluid workforce, and yet you are thriving. Maybe we should be starting to look at wow, maybe we’re overvalued people staying here a long time and we undervalued new people, new ideas, new energy, new ways of solving problems. And we are entering a much more fluid world of work. We are seeing resignations of all time highs, we’re seeing people changing career paths at all time highs we just saw last weekend, nine states was boarded 2 million people retired prior to what the estimate was of their retirement date. So we’ve got people making very big life changing decisions, and it’s not likely to change for a while. So I think it behoves us as leaders in organisations to at least consider this is the new reality we need to prepare to create value within and find ways of unlocking magic in a place where people may not be staying as long as they used to. We all agree people are probably not going to stay a company’s longer in the future. So let’s build to anticipate that versus try to fight that inevitability.
Andrew Grill 13:37
Couple of things to unpack there, I want to go back to the comment you made before about the new way of working experimentation, I talk a lot about disruption. And my favourite phrase is disrupt yourself before you’re disrupted. Now as a Futurist that was asked, actually, six weeks before the pandemic, what will the next 10 years look like? I remember being on stage and invented London front of a bunch of lawyers and their clients, I said that we’ll probably have more remote working and people be more flexible. And lo and behold, that all happened. I’m very fortunate that the group of friends I have here in London have a range of very interesting jobs include the mouse wiggling people, and one of them works for a rather large consulting firm. And she said, we’ve actually had to plan these serendipitous moments, she said that she will now go into the office. Some she’ll tell everyone going in on Wednesday and Thursday. And she’ll kind of clear a diary because what happens is you bump into people. And if you’ve got planned meetings with external people, then it just doesn’t work. So you almost have to engineer that and allow it to flow. And apparently what works well, and I’m interested in your feedback and your part of the world they organise to have these days in the office and then do something social afterwards at a pub or a restaurant because people crave that social interaction. Are you seeing the same thing where you are?
Steve Cadigan 14:40
Yeah, Andrew is really fascinating is starting to hit my radar that people are saying we’re going back to the office, but we don’t want to meet when we’re in the office. We’re planning to not meet. We’ll just counter to what we thought we were going to do. The other thing that some data has come out in the last few weeks Gallup has been doing these engagement surveys and they’re seeing that people who are Been working from home for an extended period now who weren’t doing it before, are more engaged with their company. Now think about that for a second, I’m less physically present within the environment of my company, I’m less leveraging the perks and the benefits of whether it’s, you know, the the lunch room, or the free snacks or whatever fancy, beautiful buildings unless benefiting from that in more in my own home and domain. And I’m more engaged in my company. And I find this really interesting. And I think that’s worthy of more exploration, because my intuition tells me that the taste of freedom and independence and autonomy is so powerful for a lot of people and allowing them to manage their lives. Hopefully, with not having a mouse Wigler where they can choose to shop when the stores aren’t busy, they can choose a hair appointment, or picking up supplies when the store doesn’t have a tonne of people fighting in the aisles on the weekend. So this is I think people’s sentiment is changing because of that. And that’s forcing I think organisations to rethink how all this is playing out, which is super fascinating, but also very scary if you’re not used to creating value in your organisation in a very mixed set of circumstances for your workers.
Andrew Grill 16:08
Well, anecdotally, my friends that work in the city or the West End, or in Canary Wharf, which is sometimes an hour or two hours away, they were spending one and a half to three hours a day travelling, they’ve got that back and they’re actually working longer hours and they’re happy that they’re not having to dress to impress, go into the office from eight o’clock meeting. Let me run one of my hypotheses by you because you’re the expert here and I’m just the part time Futurist Howard Schultz years ago coined the expression the third place, he wanted Starbucks to become the third place, he wanted people to come in there, and you’ve done and I’ve done it as a freelancer as a digital nomad and sit down and work there. I’m wondering if there is a third place, you said that people that are working from home feel like they’re more engaged. I know, again, anecdotally, couples that are saying, you’ve taken over my dining room table honey, for last 18 months, I’d like it back. You don’t want to go back all the way into the office, which is a two hour trek every day. But is there some way local, it may not be a we work or Regis it might be a specialised library that’s had some extra desks put in or some sort of area where they’ve actually accommodated this in the suburbs. I know anecdotally, if you run a sandwich shop in the suburbs of central London, you’re doing quite well, because that’s where people are now working and living and the sandwich shops, unfortunately, in the centre of London are not doing so well. So this notion of a third place, it’s in between home and in between work, maybe get people that live near me in my organisation to meet there. Do you think that would work because it takes you away from busying up your space at home and annoying your spouse your other half? But you don’t have to go all around the office? Is that a happy medium? Maybe?
Steve Cadigan 17:34
I think it is I think your instincts are right, we’re seeing many people who are pulling their staffs talking about work from home asking them would you rather work in your home? Or does work from home some other place that you determine does that appeal to you? And the answer is absolutely it does. And so I think what I’m starting to see is an actually there’s three companies that crossed my radar in the last six months, Andrew that are building software to allow employees to visualise where their colleagues are working on particular days in particular times. So I’m going to be in this neighbourhood for these hours in this place, and to be able to sort of geotag their colleagues if they want to, they want to make themselves aware. But absolutely, whether it is a some sort of hybrid share workspace and these things are popping up or it’s a cafe coffees, usually at the root of whatever places people are choosing. And it’s funny, you should mention Starbucks, because we worked a product with Starbucks, it was in beta. And we couldn’t agree they’re notoriously challenging to negotiate with as IBM used to be in the old days. But we said, hey, we’re gonna create this thing that basically says anyone else who’s in the Starbucks, if they agree, they can share who their profile is. So people could in theory network, they were not willing to pay the price that we thought that product was worth. And he’s like, what should be free? It is a feature now that you can turn on if you’re at a conference and say, I am so and so and I’m here at the conference. And so other people can say, Oh, wow, I’m there, too. I didn’t know that you were there. So they’re technologies, what I’m trying to say is going to enable maybe some of those informal connections or network growth moments in places where people aren’t familiar with who they’re working around, which could be interesting, right? Like you go over to shortage, and there’s a bunch of share workspaces. And I’m looking for a co founder, or I need an idea for a new product. And there’s a bunch of product people here sitting next to me, that’s going to absolutely happen. And here’s what the long term play on. It looks like. In California, where I have close visibility and close interest in the real estate market. Home sales went crazy. And at first, during the pandemic, I thought that’s not making any sense in a period of stress, you’d want to guard your money. I was facing the same thing. I’m sitting here in the middle of my living room right now in my home and the kids were having a sort of sneak by to get to the kitchen. It’s not optimal right now to do this. But what was happening was everyone was buying a home with another room to work. I even called my accountant said, Hey, listen, I’m a speaker. I know I’ve written off my tax deduction for my square foot in my office, but I’m gonna need a bigger space because I need a studio now. And if I do that and write off more, can I afford a bigger house? What’s the new tax code and she told me right away You will not believe how many people are upgrading the size of their home because they need another room. And that’s not even including for schooling, or for other kids. It’s just the workspace and other room. Isn’t that fascinating.
Andrew Grill 20:11
The BBC did an animation about what life would be like this is probably more than 12 months ago, and one of the last things was people will move out of cities. And I can stay that closely. And you’re anecdotally conferring with what I’m seeing even my friends up the road, they’re away at the moment, I’ve got the keys, and they’re showing their home because they need to move they need to move somewhere space, we are on a different path. Do you think people go back to the way they’re going to go back to what they were doing? Or is this going to be a quantum shift that people are going to move out of cities? They’re going to get more space? Will we go back to five days a week? Or is this last forever? What’s your view? It’s a very controversial discussion. And I’m sure HR directors and CEOs around the world are pulling their hair out about what is going to happen, will this be a fad? Or is it going to stick?
Steve Cadigan 20:53
I think we’re going to land in the next few years with a much more diverse landscape than we’re used to. I absolutely think people, some organisations and we’re already seeing it now or want to revert back to what they know what they’re comfortable with what they’re confident they can produce value within. I think when you have a leadership teams who are very concerned around network security, privacy, there’s a level of discomfort or if there’s a lot on the line, that we’re managing billions of dollars of money, I need to feel a higher level of comfort, I want everyone within the walls of our space, and then they’re going to be early adopters, and people willing to try new things. One fundamental truth that will not change. And then some people say the genies out of the bottle is the workforce, the professional workforce has tasted freedom and independence. And they are Whoa, to release that. And that’s a beautiful thing. But at the same time, many leaders have raised their comfort level that I can deliver value, and I can manage and I can see performance remotely. And so now I’ve got a bigger talent pool to be able to address in theory. And now my only challenge is with a more distributed talent pool. can I manage over time zones and cultures and maybe new national cultures or subcultures? Can I do that effectively at scale, and the new technologies and new systems and new protocols are being built to facilitate realising that, you know, shame on us, if we don’t at least come out and build something better. I do think we’re still gonna see lots of messiness. I mean, it is going to be messy. I was on a panel a few weeks ago around the future of training and leadership training. And people said, well, we have aI now we have all these new tools. And I said, Yes, we’re not all agreeing on what the future leader looks like. We’re not all having the luxury of time to invest in developing people, because we’re trying to survive as companies, because all of our workers are seeing work different human behaviour us will tell you, when under threat, what we revert to is what we know. And what we know is the old way, and we’re not confident yet that we can create value long term sustainably in this new weird way. So it’s going to take some time, and I’ve been around people trying to change my whole life, just like you have. We are slow adopters, we are are very, very cautious as a species, and that’s about our survival instincts, probably.
Andrew Grill 22:58
Some very public examples of that wants you back in the office. If you’re happy to go to a restaurant, you should come back to the office. And the reasons that you say is he’s got a lot of things to manage, and he likes ability. But another example recently, Google have basically said, if you move away, we’re going to pay you less, but we’re being transparent about that. But you actually told me a story that had to do with bus stops.
Steve Cadigan 23:18
This is really interesting and been a lot of stories that have come out recently around how do we address this new remote Workforce Compensation challenge. And as you pointed out, Google had taken a position which some people were very frustrated with, because Google is a market setter, in a way in a lot of people benchmark their practices against what if Google’s such a brilliant company and all their people practices must be amazing, which is such a untruth. But anyways, a lot of people follow them. And so the story that I was sharing with you was back in the boondocks times of the.com era 99 2000. And then later 2009 1011, when I was at the talent helmet, LinkedIn, Google started to be very prolific around bringing talent from San Francisco to Silicon Valley on buses, and where they set their bus stops up drove up the market prices of the real estate in proximity to walking distance from those bus stops, so much so that it created this big gap between real estate in areas that weren’t close to the bus stops versus areas that were close to the bus stops and led to protests, landlords throwing bricks at Google buses, and it was really impactful. And I don’t know to what extent we have workers who are distributing like this that could change local economies. But if you have a lot of remote workers in a small town, and they’re getting paid in New York City, London, San Francisco wage, and they can afford to make the local economics look silly, because they’ve got much more disposable income at scale. That could be a problem in theory. We’ll see what happens. I know several towns right now that are facing this challenge where their beautiful communities, wealthy people can easily afford to work there. Wealthy people, in some cases realise they really like to work there. And now the local fire workers, waiters and waitresses, school teachers cannot afford to live in those places. And that’s a big problem and everyone says yes, we want living housing but just not next to where I live. And so it doesn’t become a reality, we’re going to have some downstream effects that we still aren’t sure of yet you have this notion of our cities going to be empty or not, we don’t know, a lot of the stuffs playing out right before our eyes.
Andrew Grill 25:14
One point you made when we spoke was the Google’s actually doing the right thing. It’s looking beyond being able to attract the best talent and pay them a lot of money. They’re actually giving back they want to normalise this, they realise that having these aberrations around bus stops is the wrong thing for a company to do. Apple recently said they’re going to try and experiment to have their retail workers work some of the week in the store, then do some of the back office tasks from home, you’ve got the fangs, the Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, they have so much power, is it their responsibility, In Google’s case, in Apple’s case, to set the agenda and try these things, because they can probably better than others afford to fail?
Steve Cadigan 25:49
I can argue this both ways. Honestly, I think that first and foremost, they need to do what they think is in the best interest of their company. And that is not only just a profit, but it’s doing things right for your staff and their families. But if you’re in the b2c universe, like Apple is dramatically, there’s going to be backlash if the consumer doesn’t feel like the employees were handled fairly or properly. And also, I think there’s some backlash around is that a best practice? That seems reasonable and fair? The opportunity right now is do we have a new landscape of remote compensation? Yes, we do. How are companies handling it, and they’re lining up basically two camps. One is we’re going to adjust the local market. The other is if you move away, we’re going to red circle you you’re probably not going to have a salary increase there, which is leading to another argument, which is, well, you’re saving money because I’m not in your building, you’re not serving me food, your real estate costs are going way down. Why are you changing my pay, because my value is my value, and it should be universal, which is a whole other argument that I could get on both sides of.
Andrew Grill 26:46
So who’s right, and who is advising the talent leaders of the future about what they should do. I mean, this is just as we all were sent home almost overnight, and there was no rulebook about how to manage and get work done in distributed way. And we’re learning how to do that. And even 12 months later, I haven’t seen great examples of training people how to do that. But who was advising these HR directors?
Steve Cadigan 27:05
My advice is, and this is something I feel very passionate around, especially when you’re in an era where there’s a lot of uncertainty and you’re having to make decisions in domains you haven’t made decisions in before. How you make the decision is sometimes more important than what the decision is. If you go to the mountaintops and you don’t gather input, and you just say here’s the way it is without testing without marketing without trying to pulse your environment. I think that’s a failed strategy. I think engaging and asking for views and taking input and then making the decision and saying here’s why we did it and why we think it’s in your in the company’s best interests. It’s the how that’s almost more important now than the what it’s times like this difficult times when we see what leaders are made of, it’s a great time to build loyalty. So we’ve seen some companies that laid staff off and I’ll use bird as an example scooter Company in Santa Monica, California, when the pandemic hit, they couldn’t afford to keep a lot of their workers on payroll because no one’s using scooters, it was actually forbidden. And so they had to let a bunch of people go, so they put together this anonymous zoom call with a recorded message from a lawyer. That was like someone said it was like a black mirror episode. It was just the worst case study of the worst way to communicate a staff reduction. And on the other side of the spectrum, you have Airbnb, where the CEO is crying, he repurchases the whole recruiting team to be an outplacement team. The whole company gets behind trying to find jobs for the people. They’re letting go. And they do this staff reduction. So well, it makes the people they let go more loyal to Airbnb. And so those two extremes that we’re getting to see right now, two decisions were the same one gotta let people go how they did, it was phenomenal. When people start to travel more, the former employees came running back, not bitter. And I guarantee you a bird people were running the other way when the jobs start opening up. That’s what your choices are right now. Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan says you’re not hustling unless you’re in the office. That’s what we’re making. Now. What I appreciated about his approach was there was no wishy washy in that state, it is very clear. This is who we are where you’re gonna run into trouble with your leaders, and this is for the HR listeners here is when you’re not … Oh, yeah, we’ll get back to you. We’re thinking about it. You better be a little bit more explicit around that. When’s the decision? What are the factors you’re coming in? Because if you’re wishy washy, people are gonna think that you’re not really capable.
Andrew Grill 29:20
To the Bird and the Airbnb example, you touched on something I want to cover, that’s an Alumni. COVID aside, you were talking in your book, and you talk generally about the fact that people don’t stay at companies as long as they do anymore. I think the average is sort of two or three years, depending on the age group. So if you’re shooting that people going to leave, how should you manage that? And in a time of COVID, when you have to let people go, how important is an alumni? Talk to me about where Alumni’s work and why everyone should have one.
Steve Cadigan 29:44
It’s a really important concept and just follow the logic train here. We are in the more fluid world of work than we’ve ever seen. And by that, I mean more people are leaving companies faster than ever before, and nobody thinks that’s that’s going to change. Therefore, you’re going to have more former employees than you’ve ever had and what I tried to point out my book and I give lots of examples of industries, businesses that are undertaking this. And I LinkedIn is one of them, where they’re implementing a different view of their talent pool, which is I don’t just care about my employees, I care about my former employees, in addition to my employees, and I see my former employees as a network worthy of adding value to my universe, referring people for me to hire referring deals, to me referring opportunities, becoming advisors, if I want to get their opinion on some new product or some new marketing. Now, the IP lawyers are probably pulling their hair out when I say things like that, oh, no, yeah, we can’t stand the risk of losing our intellectual property out the door, I would say that is such an untapped opportunity for most organisations in the future is use your alumni curate it, nurture it, make it part of your community. And then it becomes something more meaningful than I only care about you and you work here moving to I care about you for your whole career sort of takes the pressure out of that situation, let’s not have a Srei that you’re going to wink wink, commit to me to stay here long time. And I’m going to wink wink, commit to employ you for a long time. Let’s both agree, this may be a short relationship. But why don’t we get into it together for the long term and help each other out for the remainder of our working lives. And that’s something far more aspirational, I think, and it takes the pressure out of situation. And it’s a much more honest conversation. How many organisations do I see doing this? Not very many. And this is a big pivot because we’re used to seeing a resignation almost like a divorce what you don’t like me anymore? It’s like, is it me this very emotional, and I think we have to be smarter and more mature about this. And I get two to three emails a month, invitations from LinkedIn to join something that the community is working on. And I feel like I still care about that organisation. As a result, in some organisations are pretty good at it. the consulting industry has a lot of, you know, here’s all the job openings, or here’s what’s going on with the people that used to be at Ernst and Young or Deloitte or so forth.
Andrew Grill 31:52
I just want to finish on some learnings from the book. What was the most surprising thing that you saw? You started writing it in 2019, when we didn’t know there’d be a pandemic, and you kind of finished it during that? What’s the one thing that stood out for you?
Steve Cadigan 32:04
Probably the one thing was my fear when the pandemic hit, that a lot of the work that I was doing might not have any relevance, I was really worried very quickly realised that everything that I had been seeing and forecasting was only being accelerated in the pandemic, and everything was relevant, such as concepts like I think in the future, we’re going to hire more on what you don’t know yet, but you can learn than what you know, I know my business is going to change, I know the skills I need are going to change. And the more I know you can change, the more valuable you’re going to become to me, if you’re only a narrow expert, and you’re not easily capable of learning new things, you’re not as valuable to me. And this is what I’m talking about human skills. The most important skill right now is the ability to learn and that became more and more clear to me Andrew, as I wrote the book, I’ve always said, Oh, let be a lifelong learner, have a growth mindset, be curious. But truly, when I started to see my recruiting friends, and hiring managers start to look at candidates in the new light, I guess, what you know, is important, but it’s more important to me to see the trail of how fast you learn these things than what you actually did. And so that is really an interesting trend that I think is going to impact how people are viewing town in the future, and that kind of surprised me. I mean, I sort of knew it, but not to the level that has become really clear to me.
Andrew Grill 33:20
So I’m going to squeeze another one of my hypotheses in here. I talk a lot about digital first impression.,nd I actually give almost a masterclass on LinkedIn about what it says to you, because at the moment, and McKinsey did a report saying that b2b buyers actually like being sold to remotely and this is likely to continue. And if we agree with that, probably the first interaction you’re going to have with someone new is going to be online. Your Digital First impressions are important, but your digital footprint shows what you’ve done. And if you look at my career, your career, we’ve done different things we’ve pivoted, so probably we can learn again, how important is that digital first impression and your digital footprint?
Steve Cadigan 33:51
I think it’s increasingly important. Just look at how tick tock has exploded. And what is that it started off as a 32nd video, and people just can’t put it down. And I think that’s really important. We saw viral growth with network connection requests in the early days of LinkedIn when someone just had a photo. And that just that elevated their digital footprint a little bit more, there’s a little bit more texture, and someone was much more likely to receive invitations when they had a photo than when they didn’t, but it’s still a new frontier. Andrew, I mean, we’re still such at the early phases of what does this all mean, we have access to more information than we could possibly digest. I think what I’m hopeful for is the increasing number of ways that we can express ourselves more completely when we’re applying for an organisation and we know more about an organization’s fit for us cultural compatibility and so forth, that I’m hopeful we’re going to have more intelligent combinations of people and employers and also people being able to find independent ways of earning a living, which is definitely growing. The number of startups that have been filed for in during the pandemic is greater than it’s ever been. So I’m hopeful that’s going to lead to some good outcomes. But again, I think your hunch is right there and you’re seeing A lot of what I’m seeing.
Andrew Grill 35:01
The other thing I’m seeing is the rise of the gig work. And we’re not just talking about the pizza delivery driver or the Uber driver. It’s the executive gig worker, you and I have been independent consultants for years. And we have a new client almost every week, do you think with people reevaluating their career revealing Now the purpose before the pandemic, I was noodling an idea where you might be a CFO, and you’re very experienced CFO, you’ve got to top of your career, but you only want to work three days a week at this company two days at another, and you might volunteer once a month somewhere else. And so there have to be situations where you can manage that, do you think we’re gonna see the rise of the executive gig worker?
Steve Cadigan 35:32
I think we will. But I don’t think it’s going to be as fast as we would like, or as we need. In the United States, where I spend most of my time we have a healthcare system. And we have in finance in general, the way that they forecast is headcount driven. It’s not, you know, Labour dollars driven. It’s headcount driven. And so we’ve got all this inertia and all these frameworks that we’ve used that sort of inhibit that. In California, this past year, we passed a bill called Proposition 22, which created a new hybrid worker, which is essentially the gig companies trying to work around having to foot the full medical bill of someone being considered an employee. And so DoorDash, Uber, Lyft, and Instacart poured in over $220 million to get this thing passed, it did pass, but their platform was people want their independence, you know, we should be able to do this, it passed. And then a local district court just struck it down saying it’s unconstitutional a few weeks ago. So we’re in a new frontier now. And I think a lot of the framework around retirement and all these other things, getting a mortgage doesn’t support the gig work. So I don’t think we’re gonna see as much of an explosion, sure, if you’re later in your career, and you’re financially independent, and you can do these things fine. But the people who really need to make this work, a lot of the frameworks, taxation loans, mortgages are not built to support gig at scale. And so that’s going to block it in the US. Like I said, healthcare is a huge block.
Andrew Grill 36:53
What’s interesting in the UK, so Uber have had numerous run ins with the authorities around licencing. Everything else in every part of the world, they’ve pushed back on calling people employees, and they’ve pivoted so massively, they are now full page ads in the newspapers and on the tube stations and on bus shelters saying if you work for Uber, you can have paid time off, if you work for Uber, you can actually get pregnancy cover and all those sort of things. So they’re now using this as an acquisition tool, which is kind of naughty, because they spent so long pushing back now they’re going, Hey, we’re a call employer, and we’re giving you all the benefits that you should have had, because we’ve been told to so I’m wondering whether it’s just been smoke and mirrors and they’ve held off for as long as they can to not do this. And eventually, yes, you actually own employee and you you should have benefits. So I’m wondering where they’re gonna say, Hey, what happened in the UK, we want to bring it over here.
Steve Cadigan 37:37
If you are using Uber as an example, there is a long history of transgressions in that organisation that make me as a student of business, not respect their history, I think they’re on a good trajectory. And I’m happy they did a reset with the whole leadership team, and even some board of directors that needed to be switched out. I like a little bit of their rebelliousness that, you know, some of these things are ridiculous rules. And yes, we’re gonna break them. And it challenges the rule some cases in a good way, in some cases, not a good way. I mean, the way the whole taxi system worked in the UK was, you know, high accreditation, lots of certifications needed. And for someone to just come in and have the government allow that didn’t seem fair at all. But it is interesting how it’s going to play out facing a lot of the regulatory hurdles that vary country to country,
Andrew Grill 38:19
We didn’t get onto digital disruption, which is a pet project of mine, but I’ll give you an example in the taxi. I’ve lived in the UK for 15 years. So I’ve lived here pre Uber. And you’re right, the UK system is very regulated, there’s a thing called the knowledge that takes three years for drivers to learn all the routes, whereas an Uber driver uses the GPS, but I gotta tell you, no one carries cash anymore. And even 10 years ago, I didn’t carry a lot of cash on me, I would try and hail three different cabs and they’d say, Do you take credit card? No, sorry, golf and they drive off? What Uber did was it made every single taxi in London have to accept credit. In a pandemic. I just don’t carry cash. That’s right disruption, but it happens slowly. As this is the actionable Futurist podcast. Can you give us some actionable tips for today, tomorrow and next week that my listeners can actually act on now,
Steve Cadigan 39:01
The best thing that I would suggest everyone action on right now is recognise that we are in a new realm when it comes to work that What is guaranteed is that you are more valuable. The more you invest in yourself, take advantage of all the unbelievable amount of free learning take advantage of this opportunity to seek new ways of interacting with people new ways of growing your network, build in the informal moments, if you can into your schedule and appreciate that those are sometimes a downtime for me is the times of best thought creativity, not just a busy work filling in there and keep your eyes open all the time. I think that there are no promises today and it is very healthy for you to always have your eyes open for new opportunities. I have a whole chapter in the book on this one around just we’re all entrepreneurs. We really are in this economy and I think reshaping how we look at it. We need to take advantage of this time to rebuild something better.
Andrew Grill 39:53
Now you mentioned the book. It is an amazing book. It’s a great read. It’s only $1 or 77 pence, you are giving it away! If you don’t go on to Amazon now and buy it, you’re wasting your time. So how can people get the book and how can people find out more about you and your work?
Steve Cadigan 40:06
Anywhere books are sold you can find my book we have it on Kindle on special right now, which you mentioned on Amazon, all places, bookstores, other book outlets, Goodreads etc. If you want to go to Steve cattigan Calm you can go direct to my website and my publishers got a link there you can buy direct from amplify if you want to work quake. I’m super excited about it. And thank you for your support. Again, Stevecadigan.com. If you want more information on me, but I really would love for you to pick up a copy. That’d be great.
Andrew Grill 40:33
Workquake is the book. It’s a great read, go and buy it now. Steve, thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to speaking to you in a few months to see how things are progressed.
Steve Cadigan 40:41
Fantastic. Thanks for having me, Andrew.
Thank you for listening to The Actionable Futurist® Podcast. You can find all of our previous shows at actionablefuturist.com. and if you like what you’ve heard on this show, please consider subscribing via your favourite podcast app, so you never miss an episode. You can find out more about Andrew and how he helps corporates navigate a disruptive digital world with keynote speeches and C-suite workshops delivered in person or virtually at actionable futurist.com. Until next time, this has been The Actionable Futurist® Podcast.