In this interview, we speak to Edie Goldberg on restoring engagement and productivity to record levels in our teams and companies. Edie is a nationally recognized expert in both talent management and the future of work with two decades of experience partnering with clients in diverse industries- from Fortune 100 companies to startups. As the founder of E. L. Goldberg and Associates, Edie has designed HR processes and programs for clients to optimize talent management.
Previously, she worked as a global thought leader in the Human Capital Practice at Towers Perrin. Moreover, Edie serves as board chair for the SHRM Foundation and on the board of advisors for three HR tech companies.
This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.
Tell us something your coworkers may not know about you.
I am a certified specialist of wine. My passion for wine began early as my father collected it and I even met my husband through a French wine group. During the pandemic, I decided to dive deeper into this passion through listening to podcasts and watching videos. I pursued a certification in wine, and when I retire from my consulting practice, I now have other career options!
What factors are contributing to plummeting productivity?
During the early pandemic period, there was a huge spike in productivity due to the increased time spent working from home, but it has since dropped down due to people experiencing stress and burnout. Additionally, productivity is hindered as companies struggle to access the talent and specific skills they need to execute their business strategy. Furthermore, technology has yet to be fully utilized to transform how we work. We tend to use technology to automate existing processes rather than thinking about how to completely change the process using available technology to increase productivity. More innovation in how we work is needed to make significant productivity gains.
In your book, The Inside Gig, you discuss the concept of internal talent mobility as a potential solution to lack of productivity. Could you explain what internal talent mobility means, and why you believe it to be such an effective solution?
Historically, internal talent mobility involved moving someone to a completely different job for the purpose of learning or providing a new career experience. Now, when we think about internal talent mobility, it's important to view it in a more flexible way. In my book, The Inside Gig, I discuss the idea of making room for projects outside of employees' daily job responsibilities as a way to gain new experiences and growth opportunities. This may involve exposure to new technologies and experiences, and may even lead to opportunities for exploring new career paths.
I believe that internal talent mobility has the potential to change how we work in a revolutionary way. Rather than confining employees' capabilities to their job descriptions, we should allow them to truly harness their skills, experiences, passions, and interests. This approach unlocks a significant amount of productivity within organizations, as people feel empowered when working on projects they're passionate about. It also allows individuals to select projects where they can add value using their expertise. Ultimately, by allowing people the freedom to choose projects they're interested in, we can unleash previously untapped talent and increase overall productivity.
How can technology support this idea of internal talent mobility?
It is an exciting time as we have access to new technologies. Having consulted with organizations for many years on career management, I've found that the challenge has been managers knowing only about opportunities available on their team, or at best, within their department or functional area. However, with technologies such as artificial intelligence, we can now rapidly and accurately match employee skills and interests to available work across the business. This has revolutionized the way we can connect people to opportunities.
Earlier, we were discussing the challenge of keeping up with changing skill sets in the workplace. However, by leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence, we can identify what we call skill adjacencies. This allows us to understand which skills are easily learnable, allowing us to move people into new roles that build the capabilities needed to execute business strategies. Furthermore, we can use these technologies to move talent to areas of greatest need within a company.
The pandemic brought this need into sharp focus, as demonstrated through the example of MasterCard. When they needed to staff five projects quickly, they requested 50 volunteers and were overwhelmed with 430 responses. However, they were unsure which skills each volunteer possessed. This situation accelerated their need to acquire a technology that would help them to match people, based on their skills, to the opportunities available, moving them to projects of greater importance to the company. This agility is the promise and possibility of true internal talent mobility.
What HR trends are you most excited about right now?
One of the companies I advise, Engagedly, is using an AI system they’ve named Marissa to help managers write better performance feedback. This Artificial Intelligence system assists in creating conversations that managers usually find difficult to initiate and provides a starting point for managers to work from. If we can gather information, we can write the content from there.
Artificial Intelligence can provide nudges to change behavior, such as reminding managers to meet with their employees or check in with someone before a meeting. We observe many behavioral nudging technologies that act as reminders for managers to take specific actions. This is the first of three areas where I’m seeing HR tech to be really powerful.
Another area of innovation in HR tech is information tools, such as ChatGPT, or other technologies that help consolidate information and make it easier to access. For instance, I recently spoke with an entrepreneur who needed to help their team access laws from 50 different states. This can be a complex task for an individual to do, but technology can make it much faster and easier to find the necessary information.
The third area is personalization. Although personalization has been discussed in HR for several decades, contemporary technologies allow us to achieve more. This is particularly true from the perspective of employee experience, as modern tools enable employees to have greater control over what they want and what matters to them.
You’re on the board of the SHRM Foundation. How does that organization help bridge the talent gap through its reach?
I am excited about the work that the SHRM foundation is doing. We are addressing important issues like the talent gap, workplace mental health and wellness, and growing and diversifying the HR profession through grants and scholarships. One crucial area we focus on is widening pathways to talent. We offer programs to help HR professionals gain more access to talent, particularly those who are veterans, have disabilities, are older workers, or were previously incarcerated. Unfortunately, many people who were previously incarcerated struggle to find employment due to their criminal records. However, it's unfair to judge someone solely on their past mistakes. Therefore, it's essential to provide these individuals with opportunities to gain meaningful employment, which can significantly reduce recidivism rates. With a tight talent market, it's necessary to help HR professionals understand how to broaden their aperture to talent to hire and retain excellent employees.
The last area we focus on is skills-based hiring. To deal with the influx of resumes, organizations often screen out candidates without college degrees -- which can be disadvantageous when faced with a tight labor market. People can gain specific certifications and credentials to qualify for jobs, that require expertise in systems like Cisco Systems or Salesforce, or attend bootcamps to learn data analytics and artificial intelligence – even if they are not able to access a college degree due to financial means.
The Foundation is researching and supporting ways to help HR professionals understand how to best hire for skills, instead of relying on outdated methods which may filter out capable individuals. Digital badges and digital credentialing have become popular; but there needs to be a way for HR professionals to determine what credentials are reliable, as not all courses or classes necessarily ensure that someone can do the job successfully.
What’s one commonly held HR belief that you disagree with?
One area where I focus heavily is performance management. There's a common belief that we must have a strong pay for performance system. Historically, this may have been accurate when the majority of workers were in factories and resources were plentiful, allowing us to differentiate significantly between workers. However, in today's workplace, the majority of people are knowledge workers whose work is more difficult to evaluate. From my experience, most people are intrinsically motivated to do their job well. Pay is not the motivating factor. Therefore, pay for performance programs and performance management systems become ways to decide compensation, rather than managing performance itself. To establish and improve organizational performance, actions such as coaching, development, feedback, removing barriers for success, and setting specific goals aligned with the organization's objectives are more effective than rating and measuring employees. Hence, I propose a new model called "performance enablement" instead of performance management. Our over-reliance on pay for performance philosophy, which lacks empirical support, is inappropriate for knowledge workers or even for most people because everyone aims to have a positive impact, do good work and contribute. I believe we must seriously reexamine this approach and consider changing our mindset about how we “manage” performance.
About E. L. Goldberg & Associates:
E.L. Goldberg & Associates helps companies design talent management strategies, processes and tools that enable organizations to attract, retain, and engage employees to outperform their competitors.