November 10, 2021

Founders of 10x Management and Authors of “Game Changer: How to Be 10x in the Talent Economy”

Dana Safa

1Huddle Podcast Episode #63

On this Bring It In podcast episode, 1Huddle’s CEO and Founder Sam Caucci sat down with Michael Solomon and Rishon Blumberg, authors of Game Changer: How to Be 10x in the Talent Economy, which shows managers how to attract and retain top talent. Solomon and Blumberg are the founders of 10X Talent, whose mission is to find the best contract tech talent and match them with the world’s most amazing companies.

On this episode of Bring It In season two, Rishon and Michael sat down with Sam and discussed management, adaptability in the workforce, and the importance of mentorship.


Audio available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. 

TOP 7 HIGHLIGHTS

Below are some of the insights Solomon and Blumberg shared during our chat, edited for length and clarity. You can find more Bring It In podcast episodes here.

  • “The only thing we know about the future of jobs is that the jobs that are going to exist are not the jobs that people are currently trained for.”
  • “Culture is the number one most important thing HR leaders and CEOs can do in order to try to find, hire, and retain better people.”
  • “It’s a three part process of being 10 X; it’s being high IQ, high IQ and high AQ.”
  • “Culture is a top-down thing, it can’t start at the bottom.”
  • “One of the most important things is humility and being really comfortable with all your flaws and challenges and approaching them with curiosity.”
  • “When you start thinking about why people work, the why is equal to culture.” 
  • “Culture is the number one thing CEOs and talent leaders can do to retain and hire good people.”

FULL TRANSCRIPTION

Sam: Rishon, why don’t you start us off with giving a little background on why you all wrote the book Game Changer: How to Be 10x in the Talent Economy. 

Rishon: Yeah. So, first of all, thank you so much for having me on, me and my partner, Michael Solomon. And we wrote this book mainly because we were seeing a lot of things in the marketplace that we felt weren’t being addressed, both sort of structurally, and we’ve split the book up into two sectors. The first section is about what companies need to do to prepare for the talent economy, and the second part is really about what individuals need to do to sort of 10x themselves, make themselves holistically better. 

And so it was really about conveying a lot of the things that we were seeing happening in the marketplace that wasn’t really being addressed, or if they were being addressed, they were being addressed only in certain sectors. We felt like we had sort of a unique position, having worked with a variety of different types of talent over the last 25 years, to really identify some fundamental things that we were seeing.

And it seemed like a great medium within which to get this information out. Releasing a book in a pandemic, I wouldn’t necessarily advise it for somebody, but it really brought home in a lot of ways, a bunch of the things we were writing about in much more crystal clear ways I think that it might have if the pandemic had not occurred.

Sam: Michael, what’s been the most surprising thing since the book has been released? And like Rishon said, it’s been released during a pandemic and the world’s still changing pretty rapidly. What’s been most surprising for you? 

Michael: Something really rare happened, which is we got to look really smart because we made all these predictions that we expect to play out over this extended period of time and they really, the politician, Andrew Yang said it really well, we went through roughly 10 years of change in about 10 weeks as the entire world moved to remote work. In addition to sort of accelerating some of our predictions about remote work and some of the things about the future of work, unfortunately, I think this moment in time, and these changes are also accelerating the automation that we speak about in the book that’s going to eat a lot of jobs. Between artificial intelligence and automation, machines have the ability to do far, far more things than they did before and in the industrial and agricultural revolution, people predicted that all jobs will be eaten up. 

And everybody’s quick to say, ‘oh no, no, that those created more jobs. This is going to create more jobs. This will create different jobs.’ This is not going to create more jobs. And there are many people, I mean, I don’t know if everybody’s noticed this, but when you go to check out in a supermarket now, there’s fewer or in any retail store, there’s fewer and fewer humans that are doing that job. And if you play that out nationally or globally, it’s a lot of people. And we see this happening in fast food restaurants. We see it happening all over the place. So it’s really a moment that was coming and this is making it come a little faster. 

Sam: Yeah. And what about the last bunch of weeks, or I guess it’s maybe months now, where it feels like the conversation has swung from workers being our heroes on the frontline fighting through everything for us, doing the jobs to keep families together and the economy moving forward, to now being the ones that are being considered lazy on their couch, not willing to get up any more? I guess, when you hear that, whether it’s the daily news or in the paper, Rishon, how do you react to that? 

Rishon: I do think we’re at a very unique inflection point. Michael’s point about automation, that’s something that happens when there’s any type of economic downturn or change, you usually have companies investing heavily in automation. So what we’re seeing simultaneously is this investment in automation, but what the pandemic has done that’s very unique and also crunching 10 years worth of change into a very short period of time, is it’s given people insight into a variety of different ways that you can work and live.

You can work remotely, you can live where you work. You don’t have to suffer the same kinds of challenges that you suffered before the pandemic and people I think are truly re-evaluating what it is they want in work-life balance. I think we’re seeing this combination of automation in the marketplace, which is going to have a longer-term effect, but the short-term effect is a lot of people are re-evaluating what it is they do and why they do it and why they want to do it. So I think that’s really what we’re seeing, this crunch of people leaving this mass Exodus, I think they’re calling it the ‘mass resignation’ or something like that.

This has to do with a sort of reevaluating. What’s important to me, where’s the why in what I’m doing stuff. Do I want to have this job where I’m paid okay, but it’s kind of a nightmare, or do I want to do something that’s more meaningful and purposeful for me? What is it that I want? And I think that’ll shake out over the next 24 months probably and we’ll get back to more full employment, but right now we’re seeing this major shift. 

Michael: I’m just going to add one thing, which is, I think that many of the people that we’re talking about who were the frontline heroes here, as we got to the end of this, realized we’re at the bottom of the economic food chain, and yet now we’re putting our lives on the line to serve people who don’t necessarily have to be in this position, and I think there’s a general feeling among workers that this inequality has to sort of get shaken out. You can’t squeeze us on the money and make us have the worst jobs and put our lives at risk. And I’m curious to see where this all goes. 

Sam: Michael, if you’re a head of HR or head of talent, thinking about recruiting, onboarding, upskilling folks right now, what type of advice would you have for those folks out there? 

Michael: The market is tighter than, certainly in my lifetime, that I’ve ever seen. And if you are having a hard time finding people, you’re not alone, but don’t think if you look harder, you’re going to find them. There are a lot of people that are missing from the market, and that means that training becomes everything. And if you can hire well, find people who are the right culture,

and give them the tools to get them really trained and trained effectively, that’s as good as your choices are basically having a very extended search with an unfilled role, bringing somebody in you can train which takes time and you need to hire right when you do that, or bringing in freelancers, which is of course what we do, at least on the technology side. You can build with our people, even while you’re continuing your search. 

But to your point, or to what you do, I think training becomes the absolute crucial thing because the only thing we know about the future of jobs is that the jobs that are going to exist are not the jobs that people are currently trained for. That’s the one thing we have a lot of clarity about. 

Rishon: I just want to pick up on one thing, Michael, that you said, one word, which was culture. I think we talk about this in the book and we’ve sort of been talking about this for several years now, but when you start thinking about why people work and when people start to reevaluate, why they work, the why is equal to culture. What is it about a job, if you’re not going to get paid a lot of money and you’re doing something that maybe isn’t the best job in the world, but if you find a culture that works if your company’s culture is very positive, the people that work there are happy, you treat them well, you’re people-centric, you think about their needs and what it means to work for you as an organization, that really resonates with people. 

And I think that that’s something that companies really overlook a lot. It’s a lot about, what’s your background, what’s the right fit, what’s the role, what’s the money. But if you don’t have that culture, almost that word of mouth culture, where if you’re coming in for an interview at a company or a restaurant or whatever it is, a hospitality group, and you meet somebody who works there and you ask them, ‘Hey, what’s it like working there,’ you want that person to say to them, ‘this is honestly the best job I’ve ever had,’ because if you’re not having people say that to you, you’re going to lose out.

People just don’t want to work in places that are not fulfilling and don’t connect with the why of the work that they’re doing. So to me, culture is the number one most important thing that I think HR leaders and CEOs can do in order to try to find, hire, and retain better people.

Sam: Rishon, if you could take that even down a level on culture, because we’re hearing culture a lot right now as a point of why people are resigning, voluntarily leaving. There was a recent Boston Consulting Group report that said two in three restaurant workers have left, one and three aren’t coming back. Maybe to Michael’s point around workers that are just maybe hidden in the workforce, but to you, what would be some tactical steps that companies can take right now around making culture a core strength to their talent strategy that maybe they haven’t done so well at so far?

Rishon: Well, I do think that a lot of this has to do, first of all, it’s a top-down philosophy. It can’t really start at the bottom and work its way up. So I think that a lot of senior management, and again, this really could be applied to virtually any kind of business from a mom and pop deli, whoever is at the top really has to take a long, hard look at who they are and what they reflect out to the people that work for them.

If you have a shift-based workforce, people have to be there for certain shifts. Okay. That’s a given, but occasionally people have to miss a shift; family issues, doctor, what have you. How you deal with that as an organization is a part of your culture. If you are berating somebody, yelling at them, firing them, whatever the case may be, if you don’t have a system in place to deal with those natural human things that arise, you’re going to have problems and friction. So I think at the very top of it, it’s really looking in the mirror and seeing who you are as a leader and as an organization and is it people first? If you can honestly say you treat people well, there may not be a lot of work that you need to do, but my guess is that most organizations don’t treat people that well.

Michael: And by the way, if you treat people well and you don’t have a way of communicating that to candidates in your interview and onboarding process, you’re not getting the benefit of treating them well, which is you should treat them well because that’s the right thing to do. But if you want it to be a great recruiting tool, you have to have certain ways to communicate it.

It’s amazing. One of the things that we do is we have this company where we help senior tech professionals negotiate W2 offers. We’re not out looking for the offers, we’re just helping them negotiate. And when we get into those negotiations and those transactions, it’s very interesting. Sometimes we’ll find that a company has a really amazing equity plan, the way they’ve structured it, but they almost never say ‘we have a great equity plan, let me tell you about it.’ They’re just saying ‘here’s what the equity plan is.’ They’re like they’re doing the good thing, they’re just not getting the benefit of it. 

Sam: Yeah. I mean, it’s like not looking at their job to act. I’m a sports guy, so recruiting in sports is a very proactive motion. We want you on the team, right? Maybe that is missing in the process. 

Michael: Well, that’s why we call the book talent economy specifically. Right? If you think of your employees as talent, the way that you in sports would think of recruiting talent, it’s a whole different mindset. An employee is a very different thing than talent. But in reality, they’re the exact same thing. The people that work at your company make your company hum, if they’re not talent, I don’t know what it is.

But I don’t think that people usually think of them as talent. So just that one perspective shift, I think can make a huge difference. 

Sam: Sure. And Michael, I’m intrigued by your business collectively with freelance tech professionals. I would imagine that in this moment where so many industries are hiring in this labor shift, I would imagine that there’s a lot of interesting things happening around the way talent thinks of their time and maybe moving more to freelance. Is that fair to say? 

Michael: I think that top talent is voluntarily moving to freelance because they know that they have enough opportunity that they’ll have work when they want it, and they can optimize their life and their lifestyle as freelancers. So that’s a positive thing. That’s the people we represent. 

Unfortunately, I think the rest of the gig economy is not people who have said, ‘oh, I want to go do this, this will be nice.’ Of course there’s some of those, but it’s more the rest area, the rest stop on the highway between the employed world that we’ve lived in for the last hundred years to the underemployed world that we’re heading to.

And I think that these are people who couldn’t find another place in the economy, and this was a great safety net for them. Granted, it sounds like from what I read, they have to do two or three jobs to sort of pitch together a meager existence. But I think that it’s not all by choice, whereas at the top of the knowledge economy that we focus on the talent economy, those people are doing it by choice. I think there’s a lot of people in the gig economy who are not.

Rishon:  The only thing I want to add to that is we don’t necessarily advocate a world where everybody’s freelance, that’s not our mantra or our mission. I would say if we had to boil down our mission, it’s a “rent fast, hire slow” concept, where we provide an opportunity for companies to get rapid access to high-quality talent while they find if they need that W2 resource.

But what we talk about in the book and we talk about a lot is a blended workforce of companies being prepared and understanding how to work with the W2 resources that really should be core and W2 full time and the freelance workforce, so that you can blend those things together. And that’s really the company of the future, is the one that can blend those things and manage those things effectively. 

Sam: And that jumped out to me most of the book is really thinking, you’re so wired as a manager or director or a C-level executive to think about your business being composed of workers whose time is totally dedicated to your business. To what you’re talking about, which is true, shifting to a world where it’s going to be even harder. It takes more intention and more out of the organization to be able to keep everybody connected to the culture of mission, vision, core values. When some folks are here, 50 hours a week and some are here just a few. 

Rishon: Well intentionality, actually, if there was a buzz word I could use for the pandemic and management, intentionality would be that word. And that’s the idea that you can’t really just rely on water cooler moments where you’re in the office and you see somebody and you’re like, ‘oh, I remember I wanted to talk to them about whatever it is I wanted to talk to them about.’ Managers have to be much more intentional with the way they structure stuff, not only because they’re not together, but because they are probably handling a mix of people who are full-time employees of an organization, and maybe understand the culture better, and people who are tactical contract talent that are coming in to solve a specific problem. 

So if you’re not intentional, A) you lose the connection with the culture. In our office, for example, we have at least one, if not three different meetings during a given week that are just touching base, it’s not an agenda meeting. It’s a, how are you doing, what’s going on? What have you been up to? What are your plans? It’s intentionally creating those moments. Otherwise, we’re just a couple of boxes on a screen and it’s really, really weird. 

Sam: It’s not just a Slack message, right? 

Michael: Yeah. We have enough slack messages like that. There’s no shortage of those. And in addition to the online stuff that Rishon just mentioned, we’re now starting to use sort of realizing that the ways to get people together and the ways to get engaged as a group is to go do activities.

So we’re going to, one of our clients is doing something for the Springsteen Organization, so we’re going to this Springsteen exhibit, and then we’re going to go rent a movie theater and we’re starting to realize that the ways to retain the cohesiveness are going to happen in different ways than they used to.

Sam: I have a four-year-old daughter and on top of her being absolutely chaotic and happy she’s in school now, these times had me thinking a lot more about who are the people that are going to manage and lead her when she gets into the workforce? So, a question maybe for you, Michael, for the folks you work with as your clients, and for the folks out there that are thinking about their own careers, what advice do you have to be 10X?

Michael: That’s a great question. It all comes down to that. I’m still working on it myself, but I think that one of the most important things is humility and being really comfortable with all of your flaws and all of your challenges and approaching them with curiosity and seeing them as opportunities.

There’s a flip side to that, that the 10Xer is this sort of person who really recognizes those things and is comfortable with that and that’s how they keep getting better because they keep finding what needs improvement. The flip side are the people who, nothing is ever their fault and they are very quick to point the blame thrower at everybody. And then when you have somebody like that in your organization, you’ve got to duck and cover because you never know when you’re about to be blamed for something you didn’t necessarily have anything to do with. 

So I think that the first thing I would say about becoming 10X is getting really comfortable with your weaknesses, feedback, encouraging people to give you that information, and just the idea that every time you get that you’ve got the opportunity to improve. The next thing I would say, and this is directly related to that, is working on your EQ as well as your skills. You can be the best at whatever you do, and if you don’t know how to communicate the work that you’ve done or how to play well with others, you’re very likely not going to succeed in your career, and most importantly, you’re not going to have a lot of work friends around you. So I think that that’s a big opportunity to work on and to think about.

And that has to do with how you treat the other people in the organization. If you’re a manager and you have people underneath you, understanding how to give them the feedback in a way that they’re going to be able to hear it, because this is going to make you a better manager, it’s going to make them better team members and you’re being judged on their work.

So start it out by sort of looking up and saying, Hey, I want feedback to come to me, but then you have to share that with your colleagues and your subordinates so that they can continue to improve both for their own careers and to make you look good. And if you’re not working with people who are millennials and gen Z, if you’re working with them and you’re not making it clear that you have an eye on their career and where they’re going, they’re looking for something else. They have to know you see some future for them to stick around.

I’m in the middle of helping somebody with a negotiation today, and one of the things is, he’s not even in the job yet and wants to know what’s my opportunity to move up to the company, which I encourage. It’s not like I think that’s an inappropriate question. It’s a great question. But if that’s not just on day one, that’s every day, they’re wondering, when am I getting my next promotion? How am I going to do this? 

Rish, you want to add to how to be 10 X-ers? 

Rishon: Yeah. I mean, one of the things you didn’t really cover there, which I think is central, is mentorship. You need to find somebody, especially somebody who’s just starting out today, you need to find somebody in your life who can mentor you in a variety of things. It’s not necessarily mentoring you in a specific skill. It’s mentoring you in a strategy of how you approach certain things. You know, working in an office, certainly, a big office can be very political. You’ve got people next to you. You got people above you, below you. How do you negotiate those things and navigate those things? So having a mentor who can help you understand the EQ part of it that Michael talked about. 

We talk a lot about a 10 Xer being equal parts, IQ and EQ. I’ve recently learned of this new AQ, adaptability quotient, which I think is super important because as Michael pointed out, the future skills are not known. The flexibility to learn those skills and adapt to those skills is crucial. So I think that it’s a three-part process of being 10 X; it’s being high IQ, high IQ, and high AQ. So a mentor really helps with a lot of those things. IQ is something that you’re sort of born with a certain level of capacity and capability, but if you’re a constant learner and constantly curious, you can build a body of knowledge. You can absolutely work on your EQ and you can absolutely work on your AQ. And I think mentors can help you with both AQ and EQ, because they’ve had experience with adapting to certain situations. 

In the book we call it like a third party effector of skin in the game. Basically somebody who cares about your future has a vested interest in seeing you do well and can help you get from point A to point B. 

Sam: Yeah, I thought that was a great part of the book on the mentorship front. And I think that the concept of the ability to adapt quickly, especially as companies become more like tech startups in many ways and are iterating, and especially if you saw, I think you saw this through COVID right? The companies that were able to adapt quickly and what that looked like. 

Rishon: Absolutely. 

Sam: Rishon, last question for you. This is my favorite one. Michael, you’re up first. What’s your hope for the future?

Michael: I hope for the future of work is in line with my hope for the future of humanity, which is that we can figure out a way to… I’m a capitalist, I don’t want to be confused, I don’t want to confuse the issue… but that we can figure out a way to flatten things out a little bit from the standpoint of how much and how hard people have to work versus their compensation, because I don’t see a sustainable future if you keep as many people at the bottom end of the economy as they are. I just don’t see that lasting there. 

And what we’re seeing now is people are pretty tired and fed up with it and they’re quitting jobs and they’re protesting in the streets for things that they weren’t protesting for a few years ago. And I think you just see the gyrations of change that needs to come and we’ll get there. 

Rishon: Yeah. I, again, I’m also a capitalist, but I think that the idea of a socialist safety net or a social safety net, socialist is such a buzzwordy bad buzz word, but I do think that the idea of a social safety net helps ensure that the most vulnerable part of our society has a basic, decent living experience I think is going to be key. This has to do more with automation displacing people and maybe not having real employment opportunities, a) how do you stay economically solvent, and b) what do you do with your time if you have all this time?

So I think that as a society, global society, we have to figure out how we want to deal with this. Capitalism doesn’t necessarily work so well, and democracy has some issues there as well, but, to sort of sum it up, I’d like to see the future of work be more human-centric and find a way to balance the economic advancement that we all want and that capitalism that we all want with the way that we take care of society and humanity as a whole. 

Sam: It’s a great book. Great conversation, gentlemen. Thank you. 

Rishon: Thank you.

Topics Discussed: Automation, Training, Talent, Future of Work, Workforce, Jobs, Culture, Tech, Innovation, Adaptability

Dana Safa, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle

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