19 October 2021

Workplace Stories Season 3, The Skills Odyssey: Opening Arguments

Dani Johnson
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

TL;DR

  • This is the introductory episode of our podcast: The Skills Odyssey, Season 3 of Workplace Stories.
  • In this episode, Stacia Garr and Dani Johnson of RedThread Research talk to Chris Pirie of the Learning Futures Group. They recap the last two seasons and give a preview of what’s to come in Season 3.
  • In this Season, we’ll hear how other organizations are quantifying and defining Skills that they need, and that will hopefully help you on your own Odyssey.
  • “We have some amazing stories lined up, but they may not be the perfect example of what this looks like in the end game—they almost certainly won’t be, but they will hopefully be signposts for those who come along afterwards on their own journey, on their own Odyssey, to understand Skills.”
  • The pandemic changed everything; a learning mindset is essential; this too is a journey.
  • How can we use Skills to drive real change? How can you get involved to start your own journey and join RedThread on theirs?
  • A special thanks to our sponsor, Workday, for its support of this season!

Listen

DETAILS

For ten tough years, the king of Ithaca tried to find his way back home from the war–and along the way, he had quite a few obstacles to face down. The good news is he got there in the end: and in a similar way, we think many HR practitioners out there also feel they are on a long journey, full of perils and set-backs and detours, but driven by a similar mission to get ‘home,’ when it comes to really making Skills a tractable thing for their organization’s own ‘Odyssey’ into the future. Hence the driving design principle for this, our third season of Workplace Stories, and the second dive we’ve taken into the wine-dark sea of Skills: that we can help our fellow voyagers by sharing the stories of adventurers, explorers and ambitious navigators just a few leagues ahead of us all in the water. To set sail, in this boat-side chat between Red Thread’s chief petty officers Stacia and Dani and our faithful Ship’s Carpenter Chris, we dip our figurative oars in the Mediterranean and set some possible destinations. Listen, at least Odysseus’ faithful dog Argos recognized him, even if no-one else did, when he finally got home; we are sure there’s a great pooch ready to jump on your lap when you make it, too. And her name’s Success.

Resources

  • We’d recommend, if you haven’t had a chance yet, to catch up with the first season on Skills, which we released February thru June 2021, entitled ‘The Skills Obsession:’ find it, along with relevant Show Notes and links, here—where you can also check out our intervening season on all things DEIB, too.
  • Find out more about our Workplace Stories podcast helpmate and facilitator Chris Pirie and his work here.

Webinar

As with all our seasons, there will be a culminating final live webinar where we will share our conclusions about the show’s findings: we will share details of that event soon as it is scheduled.

Partner

We're also thrilled to be partnering with Chris Pirie, CEO of Learning Futures Group and voice of the Learning Is the New Working podcast. Check them both out.

Season Sponsors

 

 

We are very grateful to our season sponsors for ‘The Skills Odyssey,’ Visier and Degreed. Visier is a recognized leader in people analytics and workforce planning; with Visier, organizations can answer questions that shape business strategy, provide the impetus for taking action, and drive better business outcomes through workforce optimization. Visier has 11,000 customers in 75 countries, including enterprises like Adobe, BASF, Electronic Arts, McKesson, and more; you can learn more about Visier at visier.com. Degreed is the upscaling platform that connects Learning to opportunities; they integrate everything people use to learn and build their careers, Skills, insights, LMSs, courses, videos, articles, and projects, and match everyone to growth opportunities that fit their unique Skills, roles and goals. Learn more about the Degreed platform at degreed.com, and thanks to both of our season sponsors.

Finally, if you like what you hear, please follow Workplace Stories by RedThread Research on your podcast hub of choice—and it wouldn't hurt to give us a 5-star review and share a favorite episode with a friend, as we start to tell more and more of the Workplace Stories that we think matter.

TRANSCRIPT

Five key quotes:

The way that we think about the podcast is it gives us a chance to seek out really great stories that align with what we hear and see as being relevant topics for folks. It also really gives us that chance to tell stories and to enable others to tell stories.

One theme that we've talked about all the way through these podcasts is the human side of things—the stories versus the data, the stories working with the data, and the data working with the stories, as a powerful combination.

How do you think about teaching Skills when the Skills you're gonna need in the future are ones that you don't even know what they are?

There was this sort of firestorm of conversation around Skills: nine months ago, maybe even as much as a year ago, they were just, everything was Skills, Skills, Skills. We talked to lots and lots of vendors and every single vendor that I talked to, suddenly it was a Skills platform, whether or not they changed any functionality, they were now a Skills platform!

Skills is something that takes time, it takes investment, it takes a lot of work, and I think that's an important thing to notice as we go into this: we have some amazing stories lined up, but they may not be the perfect example of what this looks like in the end game—they almost certainly won't be, but they will hopefully be signposts for those who come along afterwards on their own journey, on their own Odyssey, to understand Skills.

Chris Pirie:

Welcome, or welcome back, to Workplace Stories, brought to you by RedThread Research, where we look for the ‘RedThread’ that connects humans, ideas, stories, and data helping define the near future of people in work practices. The podcast is hosted by RedThread co-founders Stacia Garr and Dani Johnson, with a little bit of help from myself, Chris Pirie of The Learning Futures Group: we’re excited to welcome you to our third podcast season, which we call The Skills Odyssey.

Our first podcast season focused on what we call The Skills Obsession, and we asked ourselves why so many organizations and leaders are currently focused on all things ‘Skills.’ We learned that the shift to Skills-based practices was something of a journey—an Odyssey, if you like—and we decided in this season to go deeper and find more examples of program strategies and experiments.

We’ll be talking to leaders who are starting to run experiments and programs using the Skills concept to rework how we think about all aspects of talent management. We hope to learn why they've embarked on th e journey, how they're progressing, and what they hope to accomplish. We’ll seek to find out the approaches they're taking, the challenges they're encountering, and the successes or potential successes that they're having—and we'll definitely meet some amazing talent leaders along the way, so listen in: it might just help you think through your own skill strategy, and it will certainly be fun.

We are very grateful to our season sponsors, Visier and Degreed. Visier is a recognized leader in people analytics and workforce planning; with Visier, organizations can answer questions that shape business strategy, provide the impetus for taking action, and drive better business outcomes through workforce optimization. Visier has 11,000 customers in 75 countries, including enterprises like Adobe, BASF, Electronic Arts, McKesson, and more; you can learn more about Visier at visier.com. Degreed is the upscaling platform that connects Learning to opportunities; they integrate everything people use to learn and build their careers, Skills, insights, LMSs, courses, videos, articles, and projects, and match everyone to growth opportunities that fit their unique Skills, roles and goals. Learn more about the degree platform at degreed.com, and thanks to both of our season sponsors.

In this episode, I talk to Dani Johnson and Stacia Garr about our hopes, aspirations, and where you can get tickets for this season three, The Skills Odyssey.

Chris Pirie:

Our third season of Workplace Stories! Welcome, Dani and Stacia.

[Dani Johnson and Stacia Garr: Thank you/Thanks Chris.]

Chris Pirie:

I take it you're enjoying the whole podcasting thing, because if you're assigning up for a third season, it's got to work in the context of your extremely busy schedules and your crazy workloads! So I just want to start by refreshing us on how podcasting fits into the overall agenda for the RedThread research team, or the ‘Thread Heads’ as I like to call you. 🙂

Stacia Garr:

Yeah, so the way that we think about the podcast is a couple of things: one is, it gives us a chance to seek out really great stories that align with what we hear and see as being relevant topics for folks, and also to give us a sense of what really great people are working on and thinking about, and the types of things that they're grappling in a much more detailed fashion than we might get just to a quick conversation. And then it also allows us to share it, versus it just being an interview with Dani and me, because in an interview we often get so many amazing insights, but we can't get all of that into a report or some other way that we tend to produce content, so it really gives us that chance to tell stories and to enable others to tell stories.

Dani Johnson:

I was just going to say, I also think it brings a level of emotion to our career path. HR is full of bleeding hearts, and we know that, and that's one of the reasons that we love it, it is the human nature of business and giving opportunities to tell those stories and connect with people that are doing the same work is valuable to us.

Chris Pirie:

One theme that we've talked about all the way through these podcasts is the human side of things—the stories versus the data, and the stories working with the data and the data working with the stories as sort of a powerful combination. We've had some amazing people on the podcast so far; I know I've got my favorites—I’ll hold them for a minute—but were there conversations that kind of really blew your mind in the three seasons we've done so far?

Dani Johnson:

The one that was probably most impactful for me was Kate Shaw—she’s a learning leader at Airbnb. The focus of Airbnb on this idea of Belonging and how they wrap all of their people practices around this idea of Belonging, I thought it was very, very impactful; I damn near cried twice during that interview—it was, it was really, really good.

Chris Pirie:

Yeah, Kate is a really thoughtful, creative person and so this was part of our Diversity/DEIB, season—an extraordinary company that really makes inclusion as a core part of the mission statement, and so that was a really, really interesting one. Stacia, any standout ones that you would recommend people to go back and listen to if they're new to us?

Stacia Garr:

Yeah. I would go back to—from our first season, Is Purpose Working?—and the stories told by the folks at EY. I think it was a really powerful example of how you take this concept of purpose, individual purpose, and they called it a ‘nested purpose,’ putting in this nest, this connection, to your manager and then ultimately to your organization. And they had very practical examples of how to do that and how to bring purpose to life, and they have an office dedicated to purpose that’s run from their chief learning officer internally, so it's connected to all of their learning practices, and then they're also offering that to clients so it's not just that they're doing this work for their own organization, but they're extending it. And I just thought it was an amazing example of how you take something that seems really squishy and hard to get your hands around, and turn it into an actual thing.

Chris Pirie:

Yeah, really a great episode. I also liked Matthew Daniel—I think it was in the same season as well—from Guild Education, a really extraordinary company that's doing amazing things, and really playing in the space between corporate learning and universities and schools and credentials, and this guy was super passionate about what he did. I think there's been several conversations where people have really touched a nerve when they tell the story about why they're motivated to do what they do; he talked about sort of multi-generational impact when you give people solid education and good opportunities, I thought that was a very memorable one as well. Also, Rachel Fichter, I think, was amazingly thoughtful from S&P Global—just somebody who's really thinking through how to work on the Diversity issue in real time, with real honesty and transparency; I thought that was an amazing conversation, too.

Stacia Garr:

I would also add to that list, the, our collective friend, Lisa Kay Solomon—her episode, which kicked off our previous Skills season that really, I think, set the stage about how do you think about teaching Skills and particularly, she's at Stanford University, how do you think about teaching Skills when the Skills you're gonna need in the future are ones that you don't even know what they are? She just had an incredibly eloquent way of talking through that conundrum, and using Design Thinking to help illustrate some of the things we should all be considering when it comes to Skills.

Chris Pirie:

Yeah, brilliant. Maybe I should just ask at this point, these are extraordinary times—the changes around the workplace, just extraordinary; I'm in the UK right now, and there is a huge talent shortage here. Everybody’s talking about where they're going to get the Skills needed to get us through Christmas. Everybody’s rethinking their own personal approach to work and how to do it. I wondered how you two guys are doing; you're just three years into starting your business, really tumultuous years, and yet your business is at the focus of all this change and all the thinking that's gone on around the future of work. How are you both doing?

Dani Johnson:

We're doing pretty well. I mean, it's been a big change for us, both professionally and personally, and it's changed the way that we've thought about things. We’re a small company, but this idea of Skills is hitting us just it's hitting everyone else, and the idea of the Skills shortage is hitting us just like it's hitting everyone else.

Chris Pirie:

What do you mean?

Dani Johnson:

It's hard to find people to do the things that you need them to do. Sometimes, it's even hard for us to explain the Skills that we need when we're going out to look for people. I don't want to say that we're being selfish in doing this particular season, but we are very interested to hear how other organizations are figuring out how to quantify and define those Skills that they need, because I think it will help us solve some of our own internal challenges.

Stacia Garr:

I would add that when we think about the skillset that we need to do our jobs, you know you compare it to when we started the business or shortly, even before, I think Dani and I have personally been on a very rapid up-skilling! There’s so many things that I didn't know, I was gonna need to know how to do or to know about that through this whole journey have acquired that knowledge and Skills. That's itself been kind of an interesting journey. And when I think about how does that translate to what we do at RedThread, if you think about just a year ago, when we were very first dreaming of doing this podcast, Chris, we had a certain set of things that we as a business did, and that was kind of what we did. And then we look back across what we did this year: we got asked because of that incredible demand of being at the center of all these things that are happening with our global economy, we got asked to do a lot of things that we didn't do before, and we are now doing several of them. And it's been an interesting way to think about what our true knowledge and competency and Skills are as a firm, and how we can meet the needs of our clients. I think that has been a powerful and interesting journey this year.

Chris Pirie:

Good; a learning mindset is pretty essential these days—anything you knew before may or may not be relevant in the future. Likely not! You’ve been growing the team, I think that’s a great sign: what kind of people have you been bringing on, anyone you can share with us?

Dani Johnson:

Yeah, I mean, I think when Stacia and I started, we had this dream that this was going to be a lifestyle business, which lasted approximately two weeks, until we realized that the effort that it takes to get something like this up and off the ground. Initially we focused on what we do: the Skills necessary for really solid, good research. We're still looking for those Skills, but we found ourselves, especially in the last six months, looking for people that can help us run the membership business and that know a lot more about marketing than we do, and partnerships with people like you, Chris, that can help us leverage your Skills to put podcasts out and things like that. So it's varied; I mean, we're a small business, but small businesses need the same Skills as big businesses do in order to be effective. And that's what we've been looking for. We recently hired a woman named Leila Berkeley who's running our membership business now, and she's done a fantastic job of helping us understand what we don't know and going after that knowledge and figuring it out and helping us put systems and processes and make some of those tough decisions.

Chris Pirie:

Well, there's no reason why we shouldn't talk about the business model and come back to membership later; I think it’s perfectly legitimate to explain to people why membership is a really great idea. What’s your take on this, Stacia?

Stacia Garr:

I was just going to say, we've also hired somebody to lead marketing as well. Nitika Gupta and that has been, I think for both Dani and I, because she, well, mostly Dani, has done the marketing work for us in the past, and it's remarkable: yes, we have had a growth mindset, and we have worked on various areas that were not necessarily our strengths, but being able to start to bring in real professionals who have done this for years and years at other places, one, it gives us a renewed appreciation. I think we have that appreciation, but a renewed appreciation for that professionalism and capability, but then also it will help us grow the business and grow the membership. By growing the membership, we're able to do more research, unbiased, high-quality research for folks, which has a positive impact. So it feels like we're taking some steps that are hopefully, as RedThread in our own purpose of creating that high quality unbiased research, will allow us to expand and to reach more folks.

Chris Pirie:

I love it. Let’s talk a little bit about the big picture and then we'll drill in on the season that we have ahead of us, which is exciting: what’s on the research agenda at the moment—I’m sure the phone is ringing off the hook on a number of different things, but where is your attention at the moment?

Dani Johnson:

Yeah, this is another big discussion that Stacia and I had, kind of in the middle of the summer: there are so many things that are happening right now that are interesting to us that it's been just hard to draw a box around the things that we're going to do and the things that we're not going to do. We are still very strong in DEIB and continue to do specific things in DEIB—Stacia right now is working on DEIB analytics as well as DEIB and Skills, which dovetails a little bit with this season as well. We're focusing on analytics still, where we have a very strong focus on learning as we always have and are doing three studies right now on learning, including one on coaching that we're particularly excited about because it's such an old but fresh topic for so many organizations. Then all of this is kind of in the context of, “Dang, the world has changed in the last year, quite a bit.” And the way that we thought we were going to come back, we didn't come back the way that we were before, so we need to think through things like, what does remote work look like and what does a flexible schedule look like and how do we handle the DEIB issues associated with that, what does hybrid look like? And all of these things are putting sort of a different lens on some of the topics that we were already very, very interested in.

Chris Pirie:

And it's moving so fast. I mean, some companies make like big statements: you don't have to come back to the office until such and such a date. And then as we get closer to that, it's like, well, maybe not so much. It feels like that old metaphor of the engine, the airplane being rebuilt in flight. Nobody's clear on how this goes forward.

Stacia Garr:

No. We’re also doing a study on performance management right now. We just finished data collection on that, and we're doing our best to turn that around as quickly as possible, because as you know, Chris, people will be coming into an end of year review period or, at the beginning of next year. And so, back to Dani's point around hybrid work and the DEIB implications: if you think about it, there are all sorts of biases that we all have, and they are exacerbated in many ways when we don't sit next to someone in the office. We are doing quite a bit of work to understand how are people thinking about redesigning performance? And because I feel like for a long time, last year, 2020, everyone was just like, we're just not going to go there because we don't have the mental time, things are changing so quickly, et cetera, but now it's like we can only be in this kind of performance purgatory for so long. And so now we're just seeing a lot more energy around this topic, and we're doing our best to try to get something out as quickly as we can to be helpful to folks.

Chris Pirie:

Well, one concept, or set of concepts, that runs and connect all these, whether it's performance or recruiting or DEIB, is this notion of Skills. And our first season together, under this podcast brand at least, was called The Skills Obsession. Can you, Dani, refresh our minds a little bit on how you identified The Skills Obsession and what was going on and what we were sort of looking for there?

Dani Johnson:

Yeah. I mean, we've been talking about Skills for a really long time. And I think this is one of those cases where the vendors let off, so organizations weren't talking about it until vendors were like, Hey, wait, we have some data that can help us identify Skills that can do some amazing things if we pay attention to them in the right way—we saw that quite a bit in Learning and quite a bit in analytics as well. When the pandemic hit, it was like the perfect storm because the vendors were just slightly ahead of the organizations and the organizations were like, wait, we have all these workers that no longer can do their job in this way; we need to figure out how they can do them in this way,and some of these discussions on Skills give them the opportunity to think more deeply about how they organize work and what they're doing with the people that they have, and how little they know about the Skills that exist in the organization. And there was this sort of firestorm of conversation around Skills: nine months ago, maybe even as much as a year ago, they were just, everything was Skills, Skills, Skills. We talked to lots and lots of vendors and every single vendor that I talked to, all of a sudden it was a Skills platform, whether or not they changed any functionality, they were now a Skills platforms. And so, and we've had many phone calls. I've had many phone calls with CLOs that would just call me and be like, we're so far behind I don't even know what, how should I be thinking about Skills, I can't catch up with some of these things that I'm hearing. And so starting to understand what that obsession is, and why it's there and the reason behind it was there, the purpose of that first season and why we thought it was so important to address.

Chris Pirie:

Great season, too, and then so as we started to think through what we wanted to do in this next set of conversations, we wanted to pick up the rein on Skills again, but with a slightly different focus, right?

Dani Johnson:

Yeah for this season, we actually want practicality. So the first one was much more geared toward why we're worrying about this: in this one, we want to find people who are practically addressing this in their organizations.

Chris Pirie:

Yeah, I think that's really interesting, so like how organizations are identifying, quantifying, and communicating around this concept of Skills?

Stacia Garr:

I think the important thing to note is we're purposely calling it The Skills Odyssey, which implies–

Chris Pirie:

We’re going to Greece!

Stacia Garr:

Well, if only, right? But it implies that this too is a journey, and we may very well be at the beginning of it, and we'll talk to a lot of folks who are as far along as we can find on their own Odyssey. But it is something that takes time, it takes investment, it takes a lot of work, and I think that's an important thing to notice as we go into this: we have some amazing stories lined up, but they may not be the perfect example of what this looks like in the end game—they almost certainly won't be, but they will hopefully be signposts for those who come along afterwards on their own journey, on their own Odyssey, to understand Skills.

Dni Johnson:

I think Stacia just made an important point—there is no perfect. I think that's one thing that we've learned in talking to these organizations. This is another area, surprisingly, where you can't cheat off your neighbor. What works in one organization is not going to work in another. And so when we think about Odyssey, it's a sort of a personal journey and we don't know where it's going to end up and we don't know what we're going to face, and every single organization has to go through it.

Chris Pirie:

But there's something appealing about Skills as the kind of objects around which we can reprogram work. I think if you can distill things down to essential sets of Skills, lots of artefacts that we've had before like job descriptions and maybe even the mechanism for exchanging value for our labor itself can change if we can define what Skills are, and we can learn how to manage and write code around those Skills, and I mean that in inverted commas, to get the work done, that we need to get done to develop ourselves in the way that we want to develop ourselves in the future. So it's quite a fundamental shift, isn't it?

Dani Johnson:

It is, and it's an untested one, and that's what I think makes it the most interesting. Everyone has a lot of hope that this is going to work the way that we think it's going to work. I personally think the really good step in the right direction, but it's untested, so that's why the proof or people that are actually doing something is really important to this season.

Chris Pirie:

So we're definitely searching for experiments and we're searching for, if not proofs, then at least learnings and so on and so forth. Hey, one other sort of sign that Skills is a thing in the world is what's going on in the venture capital space. I think since we last got together—in person, anyway—I went to the ASU GSV conference and there's just an extraordinary frenzy around that. A lot of companies in this, especially in the learning technology space, have had a really great year because of the shift to digital and learning. What did I see? 170% growth to $13 billion in global venture capital investments in the overall learning space, a big chunk of which is workplace learning. We've seen a lot of M&A activity, we saw edX going private. I mean, it's just an extraordinary frenzy of activity that, again, you can say, this is all around people figuring out how Skills is going to work in the new world. Any observations or thoughts on that? How much of your work has been driven by M&A and that kind of activity?

Dani Johnson:

It's almost hard to stay on top of it. In the olden days of two years ago, we used to write a piece on any big acquisition that happened within our space, and it’s impossible to do that now, we have to be much more choosy about that. So we're seeing a lot of it; to me, it speaks to the need for those, those types of technologies. One thing that HR has never been very good at and specifically learning is data. And in order to make the Skills equation work, you kind of need data, need to understand—you need the data. And so it doesn't surprise me at all that all these people are jumping in, because we finally have enough knowledge about how to create those kinds of tools that they can actually be useful to organizations.

Chris Pirie:

Yeah, I like that a lot.

Stacia Garr:

You know I think it's a good point that there, there is a need and there is a growth opportunity, but we're also just kind of a weird place in the financial system, right? Like there, there aren't a lot of places for this money to go, to make a positive return. When you think about the printing of money that the Fed’s done, I mean, there's like there's a whole other economics discussion that we could have around this. But I think that this appears to be an attractive place for investors; they are putting a lot of money into our space, which is creating its own kind of dynamics that we didn't have, certainly not five years ago, I mean, we've been kind of riding this for awhile. But I think that the upside of that for our space is that it is that money is creating opportunities for experimentation that maybe were not there before, and so in that way, it's going to potentially accelerate what we're doing and seeing here that we haven't seen in many years. So I think that's a positive thing, but it wouldn't necessarily entirely ascribe it to the fact that people now suddenly believe in our space—as much as I wish it were the case!

Chris Pirie:

Yeah, true. Venture capital in general is going up and there's a lot of money washing around the system looking for a return, and that’s totally understood, but I do think a level of excitement, not just in VC, but actually in the revenues and the reach that these companies are having is quite extraordinary as well. I think that the GSV Ed Tech 150 now serves 3 billion people and generate $20 billion in revenue. So that's real; I don't think we're going to be running out of things to talk about anytime soon.

Stacia Garr:

No, definitely.

Chris Pirie:

Let's talk about Season three, then. We’re on our Odyssey, and we want people who are running experiments. Can we talk about people that we're planning to talk to? I know we have a long list that we want to talk to. We can’t always make it happen, but are there any names we can share at this point?

Stacia Garr:

We're going to kick off the season with Heather Whiteman, who used to be at GE Digital, but is now teaching at my alma mater, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley (Go Bears!). And she’s doing some people analytics lecturing for them, but then she's also just taken on this super cool new job at the University of Washington, which I'm sure she'll talk to us about, and I don't have the exact title in front of me but it's something along the line of ‘people analytics for a more just world and society,’ and that's just fascinating. She actually did her PhD focused on this concept of capabilities and Skills, so she's going to bring both an academic perspective as well as the practitioner perspective. So we're super excited to have her on this season.

Chris Pirie:

She's also a fellow Future Workplace Fellow like myself, and she and I did some teaching in parallel last year, the Future Workplace, so I'm really looking forward to that one too. Super smart lady.

Stacia Garr:

Yeah. And actually she just got a Fulbright, so she's just killing it.

Chris Pirie:

Dani, anyone you're looking forward to talking to?

Dani Johnson:

Yeah, I mean all of them, but one that sticks out is Tim Dickinson: he’s a Global Head of Learning Systems and Innovation at Novartis, and they’re doing some really interesting work. I think you and I were talking a little bit before about their focus on curiosity for learning, but one of the things that they're doing for Skills is they've actually put in place a task force to figure this thing out, so instead of just ideally watching what's happening or, or hoping things happen, they've got a task force in place to figure this out. We're really interested to understand their early learnings and the impetus behind the task force and all of that stuff.

Chris Pirie:

Yeah, a really progressive group. I had Simon Brown, its Chief Learning Officer, on my other podcast and, as you say, they've made sort of curiosity, their primary meme and they're running some really interesting experiments there and really doing it at scale as well, so that should be great. That's two really specific people that we can talk about; I know we have a whole raft of people that we want to talk to and we're in the process of pulling together in real time. Is there anything, Stacia, you can say kind of generally about the kind of people that we want to talk to, because frankly Skills touches a lot of different roles and functions within any organization?

Stacia Garr:

Like with the first Skills podcast season, we are trying to bring together the analytics folks and the learning and talent and other folks, and talk about what the different roles and responsibilities are around Skills. So we have a couple of people analytics leaders that are on the list that we're hoping to talk to, who will share with us quite a bit around how they're thinking about the quantification element, how they're thinking about just like some of the data components, one skill, one thing in this part of the organization, we call it something else, how do we rationalize some of those differences and how do we think about them? So we will have analytics folks who talk about that on the show this season.

Chris Pirie:

Cool. Dani, one really practical example, some work that you did around L&D Skills for the future. I know you published something on that recently and anything there that you can whet our appetite with?

Dani Johnson:

We absolutely are, and just a little plug: that’s an ongoing study, so we've done a lit review this far and a roundtable. We'll be doing another roundtable and putting out some final research on what the Skills look like for L&D. We're hoping that that serves the industry in a couple of ways; the first one is to identify those Skills, but secondly, L&D does play a pretty critical role in changing the mindset of the organization from courses to developing Skills. And we're hoping that through that research, we can also sort of help them gain an understanding of how we need to do this in the future, rather than the way that we're doing it now.

Chris Pirie:

I'm really excited for this too. I know that you and I talked about doing a workshop around this as well next year, and really helping L&D teams get positioned. There's so much work that they have to do. There’s so much opportunity to sort of change the game and go to the next level and how you do great corporate learning. I think this is a really interesting study, and it might be an example of how we can use Skills to drive real change. Let's talk about the podcast; how can people support the podcast, engage with the podcast—call to action?

Stacia Garr:

There are a few ways. First is, obviously, what you're doing right now—listening—but then immediately after, sharing it with folks. So help others; if you find a great episode, someone that you really changed your thinking, go ahead and share that with others. We also encourage you to rate the podcast, because through ratings that helps us get greater reach and also helps all the people know what it is that we do. We can tell them what we do as much as we want to, but it's our listeners sharing our story and what we're doing that really helps the podcast.

Chris Pirie:

There's a couple of things that I would say: we’ve always put a lot of effort into creating a really rich set of resources. It's great to listen in the car or on your morning Peloton or whenever you listen to your podcast, but there's a really great set of resources on the RedThread research/podcast site, where you can find full transcripts of everything, we highlight the really interesting bits that we like. We have all the links to the books and topics that we talk about in any given conversation. So I would really encourage people to go to www.redthreadresearch.com/podcasts, where you can find all the resources from each of the seasons. They're nicely laid out; we’ve really put a lot of effort into that. And then whichever platform you listen to podcasts on—Apple, Spotify, iTunes, or Spreaker, Stitcher, whichever podcasts you like—if you don't see our podcast on that platform, let us know and we can fix that, but you probably will, and it's really great if you could just go and give us some kind of review, because as Stacia says, it helps people find us and helps us get the word out.

Stacia Garr:

And I would also add for every season we do an end of season wrap-up Webinar. And by attending that, one, hopefully it'll give you a chance to answer any questions that you have live, but it also just signals to us as well as to the sponsors that you found some value in this session or in this podcast season, and so we encourage folks to join that and get your questions answered.

Chris Pirie:

Yeah, we have a great set of sponsors or we have had a great set of sponsors so far, they get very engaged, they listen, they join in, they do their own kind of meta-content around the podcast, which is really great. So please support them as well; that’s also helpful.

It might be worth saying this season's sponsors are Degreed and Visier. So we have two sponsors this season which is a first for us and exciting, but they're also not just discreet, they’re collaborating. Can you talk a little bit about that and why that's interesting, Dani?

Dani Johnson:

I actually think this is really interesting, particularly for this topic, because Degreed sort of represents L&D and sort of the HR side of businesses, and Visier represents the analytics side of business, so the fact that they're partnering together to get this information out about Skills tells us a little bit about how they're thinking about it, but also maybe how the rest of the organizations should think about it. It's not an L&D responsibility, it’s not an analytics responsibility, it’s everybody's responsibility to figure this out together.

Chris Pirie:

Got it. I think I'd just like to say that when we have sponsors for the podcast season, maybe explain a little bit about how that works. Those sponsors don't really have any sort of editorial control—that’s us, right? And we decide what, what we talk about, we decide who comes on. We do sometimes have sponsors suggest people either from their own organization or from one of their customers, and that's sort of part of the overall package. But the sponsors are doing great work in helping us share these stories, and so please look out for them.

So the podcast is sponsored, but the research is not. True statement?

[Everyone agrees]

And that’s obviously a great thing to keep your research pure and unbiased and so on and so forth. Can you talk about how people can get involved with RedThread outside of the context of the podcast? So if people want to be involved in that research or consume research, what are the ways that people can connect with RedThread?

Stacia Garr:

There are a few things. First, check us out at our website, www.redthreadresearch.com, and there we would encourage you to go ahead and sign up for our newsletter because that's how we keep everybody up to date with what's happening on a weekly basis, so we put in there, our events, our latest research, et cetera. You can also get a chance, there, to see when, how to interact with the research. So we are always conducting interviews or putting on roundtables that are related to topics that we're researching, and you can see kind of our call to action for those within the newsletter. Then we obviously encourage folks to sign up for the research membership; one of the ways that we are able to create high-quality, unbiased content is through the revenue that the membership generates, and that allows us to really kind of share insights with you who join and to allow you to kind of learn with us. One of the things that we do differently at RedThread is we have an approach of ‘researching out loud,’ where people are brought along the journey and we're sharing information just as soon as we can, and research members get the opportunity to come along on the journey with us. Hopefully, that allows you to evolve your thinking and to get insights into your own work practice much faster than at some of the other research organizations.

Chris Pirie:

And do I subscribe as an individual, or can I subscribe to my organization?

Stacia Garr:

All of the above—folks seem to come on as individuals. If you really want it for your organization so you can share the RedThread research amongst your team, then you can certainly join as a team or an enterprise membership.

Chris Pirie:

Great. Well, I love the community that you guys are fostering around these important topics, and I love to see two women founders being successful and growing their business. That's awesome to see, so please keep doing the good work and thanks for the collaboration!

Stacia Garr and Dani Johnson:

[Thank you for the collaboration and partnership]

Chris Pirie:

Thanks for listening to Workplace Stories; it’s a podcast brought to you by RedThread Research. If you'd like to stay updated on our research and insights into people practices, including our latest studies on the Skills and analytics that organizations need to foster a more inclusive workplace, simply sign up for our weekly newsletter at redthreadresearch.com; you’ll hear about our latest research and find all the ways that you can participate in our round table discussions, Q&A calls and surveys, right from your inbox. It’s a great way to share your opinions about everything from DEIB to people analytics, from learning and Skills to performance management and leadership, and also meet and exchange ideas with your peers in the industry.

As always thanks so much to our guests, to our sponsors—and to you, our listeners.

Written by

Dani Johnson

Dani is Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research. She has spent the majority of her career writing about, conducting research in, and consulting on human capital practices and technology. Her ideas can be found in publications such as Wall Street Journal, CLO Magazine, HR Magazine, and Employment Relations. Dani holds an MBA and an MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering from BYU.

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

Stacia is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research and focuses on employee engagement/experience, leadership, DE&I, people analytics, and HR technology. A frequent speaker and writer, her work has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as well as in numerous HR trade publications. She has been listed as a Top 100 influencer in HR Technology and in D&I. Stacia has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

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