02 November 2021

Workplace Stories Season 3, The Skills Odyssey: Exploring the Build vs Buy Conundrum

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

TL;DR

  • This is the third episode of our podcast: The Skills Odyssey, Season 3 of Workplace Stories.
  • In this episode, Stacia Garr and Dani Johnson of RedThread Research and Chris Pirie from The Learning Futures Group talk to Mike Groesser, Squad Leader of the Learning Team at Fidelity Investments.
  • Mike gives insight on how Skills are nonlinear, how you progress through them and the difference between training and paying for Skills, how to create Skills, and how to approach the measurement of Skills.
  • “If we can crack the nut on paying for Skills, it makes the workforce much more flexible and it also opens doors for people who want to grow their career but don’t necessarily want to take a traditional career path.”
  • What works best for your company based on what value you want to add. The long-term goal drives what you do now. Skills push career progression.
  • Do we pay for Skills by hiring those who already have them? Or do we hire and then build a skill internally?
  • A special thanks to our sponsors, Visier and Degreed, for their support of this season!

Listen

DETAILS

Today’s guest, Mike Groesser, is not just a VP at his employer, Fidelity Investments. He’s also something called a Learning Squad Leader—terminology that may clue at least some of you that we’re dealing with an organization that’s embraced Agile pretty hard. But this isn’t a conversation about that interesting development methodology. It’s actually one (with many rewarding twists and turns) more about the main topic of the Season: Skills—and more specifically, what it looks like when you decide to pay people more if they can prove they’ve built Skills, what that looks like at ground level, and most intriguingly, if they build in a nonlinear fashion or not. Mike’s an excellent guest, deeply passionate but also very honest about what he’s seeing, definitely one for both the Skills thinker and the Skills practitioner: so, you.

Resources

  • In the episode, Mike says he is happy to make connections and drive the conversation through LinkedIn (as his commitments allow, obviously). Fidelity, his employer, is here. He also called out the work of workplace trend commentator Cal Newport; you might find the latter’s So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love worth a look.
  • We’d recommend, if you haven’t had a chance yet, to catch up with the first Workplace Stories 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:

I think if we can crack the nut on paying for Skills, it makes the workforce much more flexible and it also opens doors for people who want to grow their career, but don't necessarily want to take a traditional career path. If you're a person like me that likes to learn new things, and you want to just keep exploring, that's how you get rewarded for it. The pandemic was an accelerant on that [and] unveiled a lot of areas where we needed to grow more Skills; it’s also put a lot of pressure on the talent battle—a lot of people are switching and leaving jobs, there a lot of issues with work from home versus working in the office, so the ability to talk about and reward your people to attract and retain them is a big deal to try to figure out how to pay for Skills.

How do you know that someone is skilled at empathy? I think you have to look at something that they've done, like lead a cross-functional project. That's more of a skill when you start to get into these power Skills or flex Skills, core Skills, whatever you want to call them; I think it's less about saying they have influence Skills and more about, did they influence a senior team to get buy-in for a business case? That's a skill, because now I know I can take that person and they can either do that again, where they can influence to gain buy-in for a business case, or this is where the world really starts to get interesting, you start to look at adjacent Skills. If they were able to do that, what are some similar things that I could expect for them to do? What can I reasonably expect them to transfer that Skillset to do? So a car salesman should be pretty good at doing some other things as well, right? They've developed Skills to sell a car, they could probably sell some other types of things that are similar, or use those Skills in other ways.

A core skill for a number of years here is that everybody needs to know about AI. But what we really mean when we say that is that everyone needs to be conversational about AI. Not everybody needs to actually use it, but you need to be aware of it, you need to be thinking with that sort of digital mindset of how does this apply to the work that I'm doing so you could recognize opportunities, otherwise you might not recognize how something like AI could benefit the work that you're doing or what the implications are. If somebody else is doing it, if they are doing it, you don't recognize it.

We want to be the kind of place that people are fighting to come to; we want people to want to work here because they know that they're going to be valued and developed, and they're going to have opportunities to grow their Skills, and be rewarded for developing new Skills. I think that's the ultimate vision—that we inspire people to come to work every day and then they go and inspire our customers

This is where we live: culture and technology coming together to make a better place to work.

Chris Pirie:

Welcome, or welcome back, to Workplace Stories brought to you by RedThread Research, where we look for the ‘red thread’ 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, where we asked ourselves why so many organizations and leaders apparently 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 programs, 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 the 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 Skills strategy, and it will certainly be fun.

We are very grateful to our seasoned 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 Uber—you can learn more about Visier at visier.com. Degreed is the upskilling platform that connects learning to opportunities; they integrate everything people use to learn and build their careers, Skills, insights, LMS, courses, videos, articles in 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.

Dani Johnson

In this episode we talk to Mike Groesser, VP and Learning squad leader at Fidelity Investments; our conversation was particularly interesting because some of the ideas Mike shared with us were definitely not run of the mill. Mike started by talking about his very strange title, and how that jives with Fidelity's Use of Agile Principles—he also attributes some of their ability to move quickly on Skills to those Agile Principles. One of the most interesting aspects of Fidelity's Skills journey, and one of the main reasons that we wanted to talk to Mike, is Fidelity's mission to pay employees for the Skills they develop and the Skills that they demonstrate. Obviously, this has all kinds of challenges, and Mike was able to offer some insights into how that's working and what they still need to figure out. He also talked through their Skills technology decisions—why, even though they consider themselves a tech company with mad development Skills, they decided to purchase software instead. He outlines the challenges associated with developing this technology in house, but then he also outlines the challenges associated with using commercial Skills platforms. Finally, Mike talks a lot about Skills verification, which is a topic that we know a lot of organizations struggle with; he outlines the challenges he and his team have found in using things like manager and self-ratings, and gives some insights into what they're looking at to augment that data to make it more useful.

This was a really fun and enlightening discussion; it was so enlightening that we found ourselves going off script several times to ask additional questions to Mike which he handled with grace. We really, really enjoyed it, and we think you will too!

Chris Pirie:

Well, welcome to Workplace Stories. It’s great to have you on the podcast. We're going to start with a few questions to help give context for people in terms of who you are, what you do, so can you tell us first off about Fidelity Investments? What's its mission, what's its purpose, what does it do in the world?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

Yeah, sure thing. So Fidelity Investments, it's a large multinational company. We primarily operate in financial services, but I think people would be surprised by all the areas that Fidelity operates. Just some quick stats to give scope is, we help over 38 million people feel more confident in their most important financial goals. We also manage employee benefit programs for over 22,000 businesses, and then we also support 13,500 financial institutions providing innovative investment and tech solutions to help them grow their businesses. So it's pretty broad. We’re based in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States, but we have 12 regional sites across the globe and more than 200 individual investor centers. What a lot of people don't know is Fidelity is still a privately held company, so we use an investor mindset to make sound judgments for the long-term, and that's a big thing that I've learned in my time at Fidelity is we have a very long-term view for our customers and our business. And the last thing I'll just say is, innovation has been part of our DNA from the start; one of the quotes we throw around from Edward Johnson II, who founded the company. He said, “Take intelligent risks rather than follow the crowd.” That continues to guide us as we pioneer in the world of investing.

Chris Pirie:

Interesting. And where are you, Mike, just out of interest; I used to go to Atlanta a lot and there’s a pretty big Fidelity Center in Atlanta when I was at Oracle, we used to go and do work there?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

Yeah, I'm located in the Raleigh-Durham area. So we have a big site here that has customer service roles, but also has a lot of technology here.

Chris Pirie:

Well, tell us about yourself, what's your work? You have an interesting job title, I know for a fact, you're going to have to explain that—it’s pretty cool! And how would you describe the work that you do?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

I'll have to explain it more as we talk. I'm focused on Skills, but my title is Squad Leader, and I'm a Squad Leader of the Learning Team. So specifically, I'm in our personal investing business unit, so think of that as our retail side. If you've had a managed account or a brokerage account trading platform that's where I sit, and I support folks who are in sort of corporate roles—so technology, marketing, user experience, design, those types of roles. My team, we support them from a learning perspective, whether that's platforms, programs, onboarding, anything like that, but I've had a little bit of a journey to this role, but that's my current role is leading that learning team.

Chris Pirie:

And ‘Squad Leader,’ you’ve got to explain that because that sounds a little bit military. I don't know quite what to make of that. Is it a, a squad, a team that comes together for a specific purpose or is there any meaning behind that?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

It's exactly it, but the origin of it is probably gonna be a little surprising. The best way to understand our Agile structure at Fidelity, what we use today, is actually look at Spotify. So if you look at Spotify. If you just search Spotify Agile structure on YouTube, you’ll find these videos about things called tribes and domains and squads, and that's how we organized ourselves. It was a long process, but Squad Leader is one of those, so Squad Leader means that I lead a team that does not directly report to me. So I have no direct reports; I have a cross-functional team who report to specific chapters, and those chapters are teams where they have expertise and they learn from each other and are coached by someone who actually understands their skill set rather than me, who might not know their specific skill set, but I lead the work. So it's probably the closest analogy to it from an Agile perspective is product-owner or product-manager—that’s the most similar role.

Chris Pirie:

It actually sounds like an awesome job.

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

Yeah, I love it—it’s great.

Chris Pirie:

And so your focus is to get some functional thing done rather than iron and manage people, but you get access to people in order to make that happen, presumably based on the Skills they bring?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

That's right. So in the business, so outside of learning, they're typically aligned to a product or a customer. So for example, there's a squad that does life events and how do we approach the life events for our customers; there are squads that are specific to our trading platform, and they're organized in different ways so that we align to the customer and what they need at a given time. So my customers in this sense are people who are in our home office, our corporate roles, and what they need to learn. That's my alignment.

Chris Pirie:

Got it. And how did you get into doing this kind of work? What was your career journey?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

Like a lot of people at Fidelity, I started in customer service. So in 2007, I started doing 401k planning. And so if you called about your 401k…

Chris Pirie:

We probably talked many times!

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

We probably did! But that was really important. And so in the theme of Skills, it taught me a lot of Skills, customer service being one huge one that I think everybody would benefit from having customer service Skills, but things like empathy, organizational Skills, keeping track of all the things that someone has asked for. So I started there, and had a lot of interesting people I supported. Probably the most interesting one for a while, I was the dedicated representative for a group of union reps from the UAW. So I learned a lot about that from their perspective, what it was like to try to help people with their benefits, especially retirees. So that was interesting. I left Fidelity for about a year and a half, and I took a job at Genworth Financial, which I specifically worked in the mortgage insurance division, so if you're keeping track of the timeline here, I made a course of bad decisions: we weren’t doing so hot in 2008, we were bleeding cash pretty fast when I was working at Genworth. But I learned a lot: so it was a small team. I owned end-to-end technology learning, and so I did a lot with Microsoft and other programs to help people. I developed my own Skills though, around facilitation, e-learning design. I picked up web design during that time, media, things like that. And then when I had the opportunity, I came back to Fidelity. I've always loved the culture here, and have loved the opportunities to grow. And I took a pretty traditional path through instructional design. So it started as sort of a baseline instructional designer went through different roles there, eventually became a manager, took a little side stint into a transformation team, which I can talk about a little bit more later, but that was a specific effort where we were trying to get learning out of the classroom: we wanted to give back as much physical space as we could. And how could we take a more blended approach? And so I was a big part of that team and then eventually became a manager again, and then ended up in this role as a Squad Leader.

Chris Pirie:

That was probably the most useful experiment to run, in retrospect. What’s the most challenging aspect of the work that you're doing today, Mike?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

Funnily enough—Skills! So I discovered this podcast on my own, just trying to answer this problem of Skills. And it was funny the tongue in cheek ‘Skills Obsession’ thing, I liked that approach that you all took, but I think in a few ways. So I think talent management has changed. Whether people understand that or not, it's one of those things again, where the train whizzed by, and I don't think a lot of people realized it yet. But the contract between employees and their employer has changed. It's not the same as it was; people don’t approach it. You could call that generational. You could just call that the way society has moved, no matter what age you are, but people expect different things from their employers and employers expect different things from their people. And one of them is the ability to change Skills really quickly: a lot of people want to gain Skills quickly and learn and grow, and if they're not growing, they're out. Likewise, a lot of companies want to say, you know, “Hey, I hired you to do this today, but I need to pivot you. And you were doing web design, I need you now to program mobile apps.” They want it, that kind of fungibility to be able to move people around. But there's a lot of problems that go along with that, and I know that's what you've been exploring. I think one of the biggest challenges that we've run into is just how do you validate Skills at scale? It's my favorite question to ask at a conference—I always ask it when someone's pontificating about Skills, I say, Hey, that's great. Now, how do you measure something like leadership Skills or influence Skills? How do you do that at scale? I just love to hear the answers, because that's a tough nut to crack.

Stacia Garr:

Mike, we had promised not to ask any gotcha questions, but since you've put that one in there… But let’s start maybe a little bit softer than that and talk about Skills, and as you've mentioned, this whole season is, is another one on Skills, The Skills Odyssey, and we're talking to people who are just starting to figure it out and experiment with it. So, can you tell us how you define Skills?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

I take a pretty simple approach to Skills: I go back to just sort of the generic definition you would see in a dictionary, which is just the ability to do something. But I do think that's important, and I don't like to get into really theoretical debates about what's a skill versus a competency versus all the other things, although I think some of it's important, but what's important is how it affects your conversation with the stakeholders or business leaders that you're working with. So the reason I say that: the ability to do something is because that's what they care about. So the leaders that I support, all they care about is can Person A do Task Z, you know, whatever it is, can they do that thing? They don't care how you're defining it, they don't care what labels you put on it. They just want to know, can I look at this person having developed an app for iOS, right?

I think what's important to nuance out of that is it's not a subject area. So I hear a lot of people say, well, the skill they're looking to develop is communication. I'm sorry, but that actually just doesn't make sense. What kind of communication? What are they doing? That's a subject, just the same way as biology is a subject in school; you can't say I have the skill of biology. It doesn't make any sense. I think that's the biggest mistake I see people make is they categorize Skills the same way they would knowledge areas, but think it's applying something specific that you were doing to a task. However, that looks and tasks could be pretty broadly defined. That's my thought; the other thing I would just throw in there that we can explore later is Skills to me are non-linear, and I'll get into that, but it's, it's not this kind of thing that it's like, I can define a skill with foundational and then more advanced, and it has these really evenly-spaced progressions between them—I don't think that's true. I think Skills are nonlinear in how you progress through them.

Chris Pirie:

What leads you to that conclusion?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

A lot of things. So a lot of the work that we have done with Skills shows me that there is an initial pop when you start learning a skill. So for example, me personally, I recognize that a lot of the business partners that are supporting were involved in AI in various ways. I had no idea what they were talking about. I thought I kind of did, but when they'd use terms like NLP and machine learning, I thought I knew, but I wasn't quite sure. So I went and I actually enrolled in a certificate program; I said, I need to build my Skills in this area. What I learned was that in that first month, my Skills accelerated incredibly quickly—I really jumped quickly, and all of a sudden understood things that I didn't before, and I was able to do some basic things that really set me apart from people who have no foundational knowledge. That acceleration continued some, but started to level off; by the end of the program, I sort of hit that peak where I recognized, I don't know what I'm doing anymore. I know way more than I did back then, I have Skills that allow me to do a few specific things, but now I recognize that I need more, nonlinear jumps to gain more specific Skills in this domain area. I mean, I think that's the part we miss sometimes is we like to say, Hey, machine learning is a skill. Well, there's all sorts of little nuances to something like machine learning, and somebody needs to get that foundational skill first. That's a big jump. And then there's all sorts of areas you could jump from there.

Chris Pirie:

You think those nonlinear jumps are about experience and practice?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

Absolutely, yeah. You get that first jump just by understanding, by coming to understand the implications, the purpose behind something, what business needs does it fill? And you start to understand where it could be applied, and then to your point, you've got to actually apply it. If you don't apply it, then it stagnates out. And you're for sure going to level—I could read all the articles I want all day long about AI and I'm never going to hit past that ceiling. I'm never really going to grow until I actually start to implement it.

Chris Pirie:

What else I like about your task mindset around this is that things become a little bit more measurable then, right? If it's about the ability to build an app, an iOS app, then you either can, or you can’t, and you can demonstrate it quite easily.

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

Demonstrate, and I think another big part of that is it is can be observed. So a big piece of how do we validate Skills at scale is how do you observe Skills at scale? How can I look at somebody and say, yes, they have that skill, and how can I have enough people look and validate that skill that other people start to believe it? If it's not observable, and it's just, I have to take someone's word for it, that pretty clearly explains the problem that we have. I think all of us have probably looked at resumes before and someone's resume looks really impressive; they can say all the right things, you feel like they've got the skill. Maybe they even did a work sample. I've had that happen or it looked great. They got the job and they were terrible—they didn't have any skill at all. It was a total smoke and mirrors thing, or maybe they thought they were really confident that they had the skill, but I just had no way of observing it until they got on the job. That's a huge problem. If you could validate it in the front end, that’s gold.

Dani Johnson:

Can I ask another question, Mike? And this is also not, we didn't talk about this one, but I'm curious about your opinion on this. We've talked to some leaders that are much more interested in finding the folks that can learn those Skills, and then we've talked to some that are more interested in people that have those Skills, that have the demonstrated demonstrable skill. Where do you kind of fall on?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

I think both, which I'm going to take the easy road out on that one, but I'll say why. I do think there's a huge need to look at people who have the muscles built for learning quickly. Now I say that very intentionally, if you're familiar with the growth mindset and you've read that book or the research or things like that. I think one of the things a lot of people miss is the way they define a growth mindset is actually an anti-growth mindset. So a lot of people will say that person has a growth mindset, or they don’t: the whole point of a growth mindset is it's something you've developed and it's something you maintain. So you can't say that someone has or doesn't have it, you have to say that they're, they're lower on the spectrum of it right now, but they could grow—they could grow in their capacity to have a growth mindset. So that's just a total aside, but I mean that there are some people who I've interviewed in the past—I have specific interview questions that I'll ask people to try to get to where they are on the growth mindset journey. If they blame people a lot, so I'll ask about failure, tell me a time you failed, and why do you think that happened if they blame anybody else, I know they're low on that scale. The only answer I'm looking for is, you know, I really screwed that thing up—I don't care what it was. I don't care how bad they screwed up, I just want to hear that I screwed it up and here's what I did to fix it. That shows where they're at, right? So that starts to show me some of that intangible, are they in a growth mindset? I think also you can see that just from observing their history, what have they done? Have they taken risks, have they made mistakes, have they learned—that starts to show you that end of it.

The other side of that question though, why I said both is there are definitely times where I just need the person who has the skill. So if I'm trying to crank out a new mobile app—I just keep going back to this example, but I think it's tangible for most people to understand—I don't want to wait 12 months for someone to learn how to make a mobile app. I need someone who can actually do it today. So I think there's both cases. We actually have programs, we have a specific program called the Emerging Leader Program where we recruit people from Liberal Arts programs to develop them into future leaders: that’s an example of the growth mindset. We want people with elastic thinking, and we pull them in and train them to be the next leaders. That's not who we're going to recruit, though, for our really specific tech jobs, if that makes sense.

Dani Johnson:

That makes a ton of sense. Also, can we get a copy of your interview questions?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

I've stolen them from many people over the years!

Chris Pirie:

It's sort of interesting. It's like a growth mindset is kind of like a meta-skill in a way—it’s sort of on a different plane. Stacia, back to you. We definitely got way off track there, but it was an interesting conversation.

Stacia Garr:

No, I love it, love it. You’ve given lots of reasons, I think Mike, for why Skills are valuable, but can you talk to us about why specifically Fidelity is focusing on them right now, and what brought that up?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

So one of them was when I mentioned the Agile transformation that we did, we did that in 2017. And that was really a nod to, especially in our personal investing where we sort of started that work. I like to say—not everyone likes this, some people do—but Fidelity really is a tech company and that's sort of the brand that we're working with. Obviously we have a lot of folks in asset management who would disagree with me on that and say, Hey, we're pretty darn good asset managers too, which I get that, but they're also embracing technology in big ways. But we operate a lot like a tech company now, which is good. But we did not have all the Skills required for that, and we didn't have all the experience of how to run a tech company. How do you compete with Google or an Apple or a Facebook? That's what we want to do, and we want to be on that same plane competing for the same talent. And I think, you know where I am in Raleigh-Durham, we just announced we're hiring 1500 people, Apple just announced they're hiring 2000, Google just announced they're hiring a thousand. When people talk about a war for talent, I kind of hate that language, but it's the way it feels—it really does feel that way. And so if you're going to compete at that level, you've got to know what you're competing for. And you've got to understand that sometimes you're just going to lose, and there are certain Skills that are going to be too difficult to hire or too expensive, and maybe you don't want to put forward that much. I can't compete necessarily with a startup that's just bleeding cash. So maybe you don't want to buy that skill and you want to build it internally, that’s a huge piece that we're talking about all the time: making smart decisions about where we want to intentionally build a skill rather than trying to buy it from outside.

Chris Pirie:

So a growth mindset becomes a critical asset, right? The raw material for your business.

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

Absolutely.

Stacia Garr:

So that ties in nicely. I think the next question we had was around this concept of paying for Skills. And that has been, we call it kind of a pipe dream for some organizations, but you all have actually decided to turn that into a reality. So can you talk to us about why you decided to focus on this, and how the pandemic has potentially affected that?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

So back in 2017, when we started that Agile transformation is when we first really started to talk about pay for Skills and our president of personal investing, Kathy Murphy, some of you may have seen her, she does a lot of the interviews and she's a really visionary leader. I've had the privilege of working with her over the last 10 years. She's actually leaving at the end of the year, which is hard for us to stomach right now, but she was the one who really started talking about it. And I'll admit, a lot of people said, you're crazy, you can't pay for Skills. Here's the seven reasons, right? People just game the system. They're just going to figure out how they prove they have a skill, and they're just going to take seven courses and say, they're good. So credit to her, she kept pushing it and kept saying, no, no, I want to pay for Skills, figure it out, let’s figure out how we're going to do it. And I think the spirit behind it is really what we were just talking about. Actually there's a book by Cal Newport, I'm going to forget the name of it right now, but it's about growing your career, and one of the things he talks about in there is career capital. I think that's actually a good analogy for what she's talking about, which is that there are certain things that you can develop, certain things you can bring to your job that have value because they add value in the work that you're doing, and they're rare. So the more rare they are, the more valuable they become, right? So when people say I deserve to be paid more, well, what are the valuable Skills that you're bringing forward? If we're talking about certain Skills are more valuable than others, it does kind of make logical sense that maybe we should be compensating people who have those more valuable Skills. That could look like we just define our jobs differently. That could be, Hey, we want to be more flexible with that, and we say, you're a director and you have X, Y, Z skills, so that makes you more valuable. I think if we can crack the nut on paying for Skills, it makes the workforce much more flexible and it also opens doors for people who want to grow their career, but don't necessarily want to take a traditional career path. If you're a person like me that likes to learn new things, and you want to just keep exploring, that's how you get rewarded for it. So I think there's a lot of problems there with that, that we can talk through of how you do it, but the pandemic, like everything else, was an accelerant on that. So obviously, that unveiled a lot of areas where we needed to grow more Skills, it’s also put a lot of pressure on the, the talent battles that we've been talking about—a lot of people switching jobs, a lot of people leaving jobs, a lot of issues with work from home versus working in the office. So the ability to talk about and reward your people to attract and retain them, it's a big deal to try to figure out how to pay for Skills.

Chris Pirie:

What might it look like, Mike, if somebody paid for Skills? What would be different from an existing system?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

I think a good example just to start with is software engineers. It’s a really broad category, and sometimes companies have a model where if you're a software engineer, this is your pay band. And maybe it varies by 10,000 or something like that, based on your years of experience, but the thing is a lot of it depends on your years of experience—might depend on the location where you sit, things like that. So if you grow in your career and you're doing more valuable work, let's say you're contributing to a product that's really turning out great results, might you end up getting a little bit of a bonus because of the outcomes of your team? Sure, that could happen, that’s part of the compensation structure, but there's just not a lot of opportunity for you to say, I have different Skills as a software engineer than the person sitting over there who's doing much different work than I am, and we're getting paid the same or maybe that person is getting paid more because they live in the Northeast and they've been here for 10 years. So what I think it looks like—and this is sort of the vision that we're working towards—how do you get there is, if there are certain ways that we can validate it—so there's some marker that says, yes, you have this skill and you are applying it to your work—it has value, so we're going to pay you more, whether that's bonuses or that's an increase in your compensation. I would say the only place where I've really seen this done in practice, in our world at least, is when I worked on a project years ago where we were trying to make our phone centers Skills-focused. And so it's funny that it was customer service actually, in this case I was working with, but there was technology we were using to route calls to someone who had the skill to help with that call. So when the customer would call in, the automated system would ask and say, what are you trying to do today? Let's say, I'm trying to place a mutual fund trade, the AI would then route that person to somebody who has a mutual fund skill. So we had these little bundles of Skills, and so when someone demonstrated that they could handle that type of call, we called that a skill. So as you moved up those ranks and collected more of those Skills, you did get paid more—it wasn't a lot, but you did get paid more as one of those people. It does create problems from a staffing perspective and that's something that we've struggled with, but I think in the right area, you could apply that and it could actually be a really rewarding thing for people. Don’t know if that helps.

Stacia Garr:

Can I ask a couple of follow-on questions through that? So first is: when you're thinking about paying differently for Skills, is that different compensation rate based on market rate or is it based on the value to your own organization to something else?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

I think that's probably a question we haven't answered yet, but I would say it's gotta be a mix of both, right? There are locations where people demand the higher salary, San Francisco, as an example, Austin, you're not going to be able to pay someone the same for a skill who's there. But a lot of times, the reason those people cost more (I hate to talk about people this way), but the reason they can demand higher compensation is because they have Skills that are rare and valuable, and they just happen to live in those areas, because that's where those Skills are being developed. But I do think some of it has some variability based on where you live, although I think the pandemic has probably challenged that a little bit because for some jobs you really could work from anywhere and other ones you can’t.

Dani Johnson:

I love this example, and I love this idea. We talked to an organization, a healthcare organization that is doing something very similar; they’re paying for specific Skills for healthcare workers and the way that they're doing it is they're tapping into the medical coding system to say, Hey, you've got the skill. And so, so I'm wondering, like in your case, or in cases that you've seen, where are you getting the data that sort of defines Skills? I mean, those are two very specific examples that we know we can tap into the systems that exist: how are you all doing it?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

One of the ways that we're doing it is as a traditional approach, that's just long overdue, which is getting better about our job descriptions and definitions and the Skills aligned to those. So that's a big body of work that that I've worked on personally for the last two years, and we're continuing to do, which is just, let's make sure we can actually say, if someone is in this job, what is that job and what are the Skills required for it and at what level? So not just what Skills, but at what level, like what are they doing in that role?

So I think that's one big piece of it. And then the other, probably similar to the healthcare system, we can track, in certain situations, what are you actually doing. So for example, in the customer service world, we have more data than we know what to do with as far as what they're doing. I'd say the same in tech; using the right software, the right technology, we know what kind of code commits people are doing. We know what languages they're using, we know how fast they're applying those, what's the error rate—those are all kinds of things that you could track, which would then demonstrate, you know, where they operate and what kind of Skills they are using.

Stacia Garr:

In that example, if you kind of zoom out, there is an assumption that the Skills that you're trying to track or look into are definable from a code or from something that you can very clearly observe. As you think about other Skills. I think one of our other guests called them power Skills that are a little bit less observable. You know, you don't check in code on, you know, your empathy or, or whatever. But how are you all kind of thinking about those other Skills, which we are absolutely critical to people's effectiveness?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

The best way—and I don't know that we have the full answer here, this is something that we're still figuring out along with everybody else—but where I've come to stand on it is, it's in those cases, it's really the combination of certain Skills towards an outcome. And you got to look at that outcome, this is where it gets into experiential, and how do we give people application opportunities? You start to dip into the talent marketplace ideas of how to give people experiences, things like that. But as an example of that, so you mentioned empathy, like how do you know that someone is skilled at empathy? I think you have to look at something that they've done, like lead a cross-functional project. So that's more of a skill when you start to get into these power Skills or flex Skills, core Skills, whatever you want to call them; I think it's less about saying they have influence Skills and more about, did they influence a senior team to get buy-in for a business case? That's a skill, because now I know I can take that person and they can either do that again, where they can influence to gain buy-in for a business case, or this is where the world really starts to get interesting, you start to look at adjacent Skills. If they were able to do that, what are some similar things that I could expect for them to do? What can I reasonably expect them to transfer that Skillset to do? So a car salesman should be pretty good at doing some other things as well, right? They've developed Skills to sell a car, they could probably sell some other types of things that are similar, or use those Skills in other ways. So that's how I think of it. I think empathy in that case becomes evident through the bigger skill that they applied to the bundle of Skills, not on its own.

Chris Pirie:

Yeah. I like it, and I think it comes back to the output: the point of trying to have managers with better empathy is that they get better performance out of a diverse workforce or something. And so sort of going back to the output, I think I like it a lot.

Stacia Garr:

So let's talk a little bit about how you all are doing this, which groups are involved in this overall effort at Fidelity?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

It's definitely a team effort. So there are people from our talent team in HR, our learning teams, but I would also say the business themselves as well. So technology being a huge one of those because they have a huge need for it, so they've been very involved; we’ve got strategy and planning teams and our technology business who are actively working with us to try to develop this, but it's really a partnership across different domains to understand what's useful, how do we talk about this and where are the needs? Because sometimes it's hard to see where the needs are.

Stacia Garr:

I know you mentioned tech, but are you also working specifically with people analytics as well?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

I would bucket them in the tent and the talent bucket, but yeah, absolutely people analytics, workforce planning. Because for every time you talk about let's help our employees to figure out where they want to go, what Skills they want, so we need to generate data or help them with that. There's also the other side of it. We have a business to run, and our workforce analytics team wants to look at that and say, how can we do better workforce planning with that same data? So there is a, there's two sides of the coin, always.

Chris Pirie:

Before we move on, though. I just want to circle back around to this shift to an Agile methodology. Does that help with Skills? Is there anything that came from that shift that was helpful or contributory to rethinking how people are compensated and jobs are defined?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

I think so. There's challenges with it. There are things like career growth, as an example: we found people, their sentiment with that dipped a little bit when we moved to Agile and I could talk a little bit about why I think that happened. But I think the main benefits that come from it, I'm a believer in Agile, I'm not one of those people who's like completely sold on scrum and I'm wearing the t-shirt and the whole thing, but what I like about Agile is iterative, so that mindset of we need to take iterative approaches. We need to experiment, test and learn. That's something we were doing in pockets, but when we moved to Agile that standardized it and said, all of you are going to do this now, we’re all going to experiment. We're going to have a backlog. We're going to plan together and we're going to experiment and learn as we go, we’re going to test with our users more often—those are all huge benefits of Agile that lead to real business results, they lead to much faster product development, much faster releases, all that kind of stuff. We've seen that time and time again.

I think that's one big area, but I think also organizationally it standardizes the structure a little bit. So now when we move specifically into our Agile model, it looks the same. So the squads might be doing very different things, but there's always a squad leader, there’s always a scrum master, there’s always chapter leaders and chapter members. So it makes it easier to move. Now I work in one squad and I perform a specific function; if I can transfer those Skills, the dynamic, the tools that we're going to use to do project management, the language we're going to use, it's the same—I can move to a completely different part of the business and work there. So I think that's a huge reason we've actually pushed our Agile transformation to the rest of Fidelity. In some ways we're kind of like a holding company with several businesses underneath it. A big challenge we've always had is how do we help people move from where they sit to another part of the business, and really spread that wealth. This is one way you do it. You have a common operating structure that people are able to navigate.

Dani Johnson:

Yeah. Had never thought of that.

Chris Pirie:

Fascinating—yeah, really interesting.

Dani Johnson:

Let's talk about tech: talk to us a little bit about the technology that you're using for your efforts and why you decided to go the way that you did.

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

We, traditionally, had always taken a build-first approach. So we very much liked to customize—we have the technology talent internally, and so we would build, so we actually started our Skills journey by building a Skills, a couple of Skills tools, one of them was for assessment and other one was for learning and things like that. Quickly found out that those are unsustainable—they are very expensive to maintain from a headcount perspective, from a server space perspective, all that kind of stuff. They struggled with reliability, so keeping it up, sometimes the site would go down because the engineer who was working on it took a day off and wasn't there. So, you know, you have things like that that just weren't sustainable. So we started to look at technology. One of them we looked at was a cohort style platform, actually called Brightspace if anyone's heard of it, that we were using already for customer service training, and we tried to use that for Skills: to their credit, they worked with us a lot on trying to make that happen. And we did what we could with trying to make it work, but in the end, one of the things we struggled with was we needed a platform that was searchable and open. So what we started to look for was an open architecture of how we could make it so that people could explore Skills on their own, and not have to be enrolled in something. And so at the time, it just wasn't there, and so that's where we landed with two different tools, I talked about it before in a previous presentation, but we landed with Fuel50 as a career planning tool to help people see what Skills are required for their role, and Degreed as a learning experience platform that fits with it so that once I realize where my skill gaps are and something I want to develop, I could quickly go to the learning platform and find whether it's curated or searchable, just content and experiences to help me grow that skill. So that's the kind of combination we came up with. That was actually a huge project that I led in 2020 was to discover what was the right approach there that we wanted to take to replace our home-built tool.

Dani Johnson:

So you've talked about some of the challenges with the home-built tool; we know that there are probably challenges associated with using an external tool as well. What kind of challenges are you running into?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

One of the big ones is the ability to customize. So that's something you give up, right? I just described our Agile structure: most vendors aren't really thinking that way yet. So they kind of have a traditional way of thinking about it, so one of the common requests I get is, Hey, I can see the Skills for my direct reports, I want to see my whole organization. That's one type. Another one is a person like me as a Squad Leader, pretty valuable for me to be able to see the Skills information for the people in my squad—I typically can't see it, because I'm not their manager. And so how do you enable something like that? And I know that's something that people are working on. Another one is just reporting. I think a lot of the vendors that we've worked with or talked to still have a ways to go and understand how a company like ours wants to use data—probably not surprising that an investment company really wants to get granular with the data, and run a lot of reports. So being able to provide both aggregate and individualized data in an automated way. So APIs, things like that, have been a struggle.

Dani Johnson:

Are you finding workarounds or are you sort of in a holding pattern?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

A lot of times we have to just pull in flat files to work with the vendor of, Hey, just send us the full download from your database and we'll deal with it on our side. So that's one way that we work with it, and we automate it on our end through a, you know, something like an FTP server—we’ll pull it in on a cycle, that kind of thing. So we've found workarounds; they’re not always reliable, so we're always working with the vendors to say, can we do APIs, can we work with you on building an API? That type of thing. Another one is this is sort of still just in the works, but maybe, in the end we do want all the data on our side and so, you know, we've looked into an HR data lake, does it make more sense to pull all the information into our own data lake and then we'll process it from there and standardize it. Because in the end, every vendor has a different style to have to deal with data, so we're going to have to do some clean up anyways.

Dani Johnson:

Yeah. And I'm assuming you're also hooking into your HRAS and just basic data like that. Who's the system of record? How are you determining that?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

That's an important distinction that we've had to make over time. Some of these tools in order to get at Skills are more about exploration than just, how do you feel about your Skills today? Where do you think they stand? We don't necessarily want that to be part of their permanent record all the time, because maybe they're not sure, and if it feels too permanent, they might not tell us, right—they might not tell us about a skill that they're not confident about. So Fuel50 Degreed, those kind of tools, we tend to think of those more as you're exploring, you're looking at, you're trying to evaluate. The system of record that we use is Workday, so that's where you would create your official talent profile and publish out. This is what I want the HR team to see if they're doing a talent review of that type.

Dani Johnson:

I like that idea. And I think you're right there, probably several things that people just need to explore without it being part of any sort of permanent record.

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

A little safety sometimes.

Dani Johnson:

Yeah, a little safety. Let's talk about analytics, and I'm really interested in this for a couple of reasons. First of all, you're the first organization that we've talked to that is paying for Skills. So analytics becomes pretty important. And the second thing is you talked about Skills being non-linear. So we're super-interested in how you're approaching the measurement of Skills.

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

And this has been one that evolves over time, right? So we like most people started with self-assessments layered in things like manager validation. I'd say a couple of things that we learned from that: one, self-assessment really only tells us how people feel about their Skills. It doesn't really tell you what Skills they actually have, it tells you what they feel like they have, which can be helpful. I heard one person describe it as it helps you quantify the size—are we dealing with a puddle of skill? Do we have a pool? Do we have a lake of Skills here? When we talk about that specific skill, how much of it might we have? And so that is useful if you're just kind of scanning for, does anybody in this company know iOS—a self-assessment can be a good way to get it that.

Manager validation has not worked well for us. I'd say most of the time managers are very busy and they don't always understand the specifics of Skills that their employees have. So they'll look and just basically validate by saying, ‘yes, I agree’ down the line with whatever Skills the employee put themselves, so it doesn't really help. The problem that we run into there then is we don't have great data from a self-assessment standpoint, other than just knowing what Skills might be out there. I also have personally observed—if you've ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect, that's a psychology term where people who just learned a new skill, the basics of it, think that they have all the expertise all of a sudden—you think of a ‘U’, it kind of goes down to this disillusionment point as they gain expertise, and they realize that I don't know what I'm talking about. And then finally, the real, real experts start to recognize it. I saw that specifically; we did a massive self-assessment in technology, and there were some Skills where we had people who were brand new, like two to three years of experience, and they were rating themselves as experts. And then we had this trough, where our principal level engineers were saying that they were not experts. And then we had, sort of in your Fellow level, we had people who actually said they were experts and they probably were. So you could actually see the U-shape in the data, and it was interesting to see that. So one of the things that we've done, there's a couple of different vendors who were exploring this. So Pluralsight is one of them. I know Udemy and Coursera both are also doing some experiments and I've talked with them about this too: validated skill assessment. So can we do some sort of quiz that lets you answer questions, and from that adaptive assessment, we can get a sense of where you might be. So it's not perfect, because you're not actually demonstrating the skill with real code in most cases, but that's one way we're validating it to see, ‘Hey, against the industry, if our people answer questions, where do they really sit?’ and that can help us kind of validate where those Skills are at.

And then I'd say the next level that we're working on is more of that observational element—so how do we create that kind of gig marketplace/talent marketplace, where then I can do a project with someone at the end of that project, the person can bestow expertise upon me. I think that's the key thing is it needs to be validated by someone; this would go down a rabbit trail, but we can see if we want to talk about it. I think we have some things to learn there from blockchain. If you've done much digging into blockchain and cryptocurrency and things like that, one of the big concepts from that is this concept of consensus. So in the world of Bitcoin, consensus is important, because it's validating that the blockchain is accurate and that nobody's modified it. I think a similar process we could figure out over time, where if enough experts are pointing at that individual and say, yes, I have seen or observed this—it doesn't necessarily have to be them filling out a specific form, we might be able to calculate that based on some other way that they validated the person's performance on the project, that kind of thing—but I think there's something there that we could develop consensus mechanisms that are then automating the process of bestowing expertise on somebody.

Chris Pirie:

And weighted to some extent by the people who are passing judgment, right? A little bit like your kind of LinkedIn endorsements.

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

That's right. It's going that direction. I think there's room to grow there too, with someone who's really an expert bestowing that expertise should carry more weight than someone who doesn't know what they're talking about.

Dani Johnson:

I like this idea of consensus. It's almost like, because most of the tools that we've seen use a scale—this person is like a novice or this person is an expert, what do you think? You know, working with them. And I love the idea of maybe using volume, the idea of volume instead, this many people say you're an expert in this area. Many people say that you're—I actually really love that idea.

I want to go back to the first area that you talked about, the assessment. And you used the word adaptive, so I'm going to dig in a little bit on that; so are you talking about maybe like the GMAT, and you take the GMAT and as you're going through, the better you answer the question, the harder the questions are?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

It does that. So Pluralsight Skill IQ is probably the one I know the most about, and you should probably bring them on to talk about it, but the way it works is they start you at a certain level and then if you get that question right, it asks you a more difficult question. If you get it wrong, it asks you one that's a little bit easier. So then by the time you've answered 25, whatever number of questions, there's a pretty high confidence level that you're at the right space of difficulty level. Then it's going to compare that against all the people who have taken that exam before you, and then that's how it puts it on a scale, so they have kind of a five-point scale that they use to place you in from a proficiency standpoint.

Dani Johnson:

I love the way when you define Skills, you define it very simply—this person can do this thing. And I love the way that kind of the two areas you are using to speak to that. Do you have the knowledge associated with that? And can I ask you, how do you can apply that knowledge?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

You really need to have both. It’s important not to underestimate knowledge ‘cause that's a lot of, so for example, when we talk a lot about core Skills here, depending on what our multi-year strategy is, there's been different things. So AI, probably not surprising, has been a core skill for a number of years that everybody needs to know AI: what we really mean when we say that is that everyone needs to be conversational about AI. Not everybody needs to actually use it, but you need to be aware of it, you need to be thinking with that sort of digital mindset of how does this apply to the work that I'm doing so you could recognize opportunities, otherwise you might not recognize how something like AI could benefit the work that you're doing or what the implications are; If somebody else is doing it, if the competitors are doing it and you don't recognize it, that could be a problem too!

Stacia Johnson:

So you've been doing this for a while. What sorts of results have you experienced so far?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

Yeah, I think we've gotten mixed results from different places. And I think the most important piece is that we've been learning along the way. So I talked about that earlier that one of the things I value most about Agile is a lot of it is just about the journey, not to make it sound like it's squishy like that, but a lot of it is what can you learn and how can you adapt as you go? So I think we've learned that a ‘buy’ strategy for us works much better than a ‘build’ when it comes to the platforms that we want to use; we want consumer-grade platforms that help associates see how they can use it for their own career development, it feels like a career development experience, it feels for them, it doesn't feel like a top-down, we're doing this to you.

That's an important learning and something that we were able to do, and so adoption would be one result: our previous Skills attempts, we had very, very low adoption, like 10% or less. Now with the way we do Skills wrapped in a career, I see around 50%. So that's not perfect, we want to get higher—but that's not bad to have 50% of people engaged with thinking about their career and evaluating their Skills. Another area we've looked at results is capability-wise, can it inform things that we need to know? So I'd say some early wins are, we did start to look at some specific skillsets like iOS developers or full stack engineers, things like that. Do we have enough data in the system to tell us who those people are? Where do they sit? What regions are they in? And we did use that data, so that's something we used. And we talked with our talent acquisition teams about, especially from a D&I perspective, where we could go next to get people from different markets in different regions to supplement that. So it has been useful. So I think sometimes we're too hard on ourselves in the talent and learning space when it comes to results and data; a lot of times we're trying to get to that, like Kirkpatrick Shangri-La either. We're trying to get to the ROI piece, which I think you can get there in some cases. But in a lot of cases, the value that you're adding is really the capabilities that you're enabling, and I think that's what we're trying to get to here is can we talk about Skills in an intelligent way that we feel confident about? Partially, I think we're getting there. Can we help inform workforce analytics, workforce planning? Yeah, I think we're getting closer to that. Have we enabled for people to be able to understand how Skills apply to their career progression? Big check, yes. I think so. Has that resulted in engagement survey increases around Skills, development, and career at Fidelity? A hundred percent. Yes, we’ve seen that bump go up. So I think there are things like that, that the most important thing to me is what's it enabling, like what we are able to do today that we weren't able to do yesterday?

Chris Pirie:

What's next? What's the vision, or maybe the next phase of, the vision that you're sort of aspiring to as an organization?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

I think the big vision is to really use what we're doing here with Skills and pay for Skills and all those kinds of things to become a talent destination. So we want to be the kind of place that people are fighting to come to; we want people to want to work here because they know that they're going to be valued and developed, and they're going to have opportunities to grow their Skills, and be rewarded for developing new Skills. I think that's the ultimate vision: that we inspire people to come to work every day and then they go and inspire our customers or build inspirational projects, that kind of thing.

So I think that's one big thing now, how do we get there? I think it's part of what you're asking. There's a lot, right. I think validation is probably the biggest piece that we still have to solve. How do we do that? I think the marketplace idea is another big area we still need to explore of how do we truly enable that … we could probably do a whole another podcast on marketplaces.

Dani Johnson:

Oh, we will.

Mike Groesser, fidelity Investments:

My side note on that just for now is we've done a number of experiments with them trying to figure out why aren't people participating, or why is that type of person participating in that one doesn’t? The biggest thing I've walked away with is beyond technology. That's actually kind of the second step. And we tried to lead with the technology. The first step is defining the business rules—who can participate, how often, do they get rewarded for it? Do they not? What's the benefit to the manager? Why would a manager want to participate in this? And those business rules kind of start to develop a culture, and that culture may or may not exist in certain pockets of the organization where people are open to a talent marketplace or not. And then there's also all sorts of legal challenges with it too. Can you have someone in this country working on a project in that country, what are the tax implications? So there's just a ton that you'd have to solve, and that's why I say you should do a whole podcast on that, but I think that is a big piece of what's next is if we don't enable people to move more freely and enable the business to pivot more freely so that they can say, ‘Hey, let's align more people to the highest value work’ then what are we doing? Why are we doing it? We've got to benefit both groups.

Chris Pirie:

This is where we live—culture and technology coming together to make a better place to work. We are almost out of time, and I want to wrap this up and I want to give you a chance to answer the last couple of questions for us. First of all, are there any organizations out there, Mike, that you really admire that you look to or you benchmark against?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

Like I said before, we consider ourselves a technology company that happens to work in financial services, among other things—like I said, we also have some strictly financial pieces, but we do, we look at a lot of our top competitors from a tech perspective. I have a lot of respect for things that Apple has done and Google, Microsoft when it comes to a growth mindset perspective. There's others in the financial industry who are doing some interesting things; I've had peer conversations with USAA and companies like that, who are doing really interesting things and taking steps in that direction. There's also some of the vendors that I mentioned that I think are doing really interesting work, and have become really great partners in this. So I mentioned Pluralsight and Udemy and Coursera; they’re all thinking this way. They really are, they're trying to help us validate and measure Skills and, and talk about it more freely. So yeah, I think there's a lot of people trying to do the same thing. And it's really just more about all of us talking and making sure that we share.

Chris Pirie:

Couldn't agree more. So how can people connect with you? Are you okay with people connecting with you? I’m sure you got some amazing insights to share.

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

I'm happy to connect. So the best way is through LinkedIn, just reaching out to me through there. You can find my name in the Show Notes, that’s a little difficult to spell sometimes, but that's probably the best way to connect with me.

Chris Pirie:

And then we ask a question of everyone on the podcast, and that is why do you do the work that you do? Was there somebody or some experience that inspired you to spend your precious working hours focused on Skills?

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

I've had to answer that question before in job interviews. And I think the real answer for me, it's going to sound sappy, is I really do care about people. So for me, watching people grow and develop and succeed and have opportunities that they wouldn't normally have in all the different areas that could happen. That's what motivates me—that’s sort of my core motivation is how can I help people grow and develop. I think the other piece of it though is I love a thorny problem; I love something that there's not a clear answer to—I’ve always told people, don't put me over some function that's operating really well and just tell me to manage it. I'm not going to be happy and you're not going to be happy, because I'm not going to be great at it, there’s people who are great at that skillset. For me, I do best in areas where it's dark, we don't have all the answers, there's things that are broken. And this is one of those spaces, and so the more I dug into it, the more I saw that things aren't working, the more that I saw the huge opportunity that we have around Skills and development.

Chris Pirie:

Well Mike, I think it’s safe to say, I think you've got the job—when can you start? No, thanks so much for your time; great set of insights; thanks for sharing the progress you've made, and the learnings that you've had along the way.

Mike Groesser, Fidelity Investments:

Thanks for having me; it was great.

[Dani & Stacia]

Thank you, Mike. Thanks, Mike.

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, then 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 roundtable 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 you can 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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