Dana Safa Bernardino
On this Bring It In podcast episode, 1Huddle’s CEO and Founder Sam Caucci sat down with Tammy Browning, President of KellyOCG, who partners with some of the largest organizations in the world including many of the Fortune 500.
On this episode of Bring It In season three, Tammy sat down with Sam and discussed the Boss Loss, how employees crave flexibility, and why technology is so important in today’s workforce.
Audio available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.
Below are some of the insights Browning shared during our chat, edited for length and clarity. You can find more Bring It In podcast episodes here.
Sam: So Tammy, I guess, a great place to start would be, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and what brought you to Kelly?
Tammy: Yeah, sure. I am the president of KellyOCG, and it’s really an honor to be able to lead an MSP and RPO organization in today’s dynamic market. And what I do for Kelly and what’s under my remit is specifically, when you look at the recruitment process and outsourcing is leading an organization that hires hundreds and hundreds and thousands of people a year in full-time jobs directly for our clients where we are the outsource engine for anything related to human capital for full-time management.
And then on the MSP side, where we manage large scale manage service arrangements, we lead some of Fortune 100’s greatest human capital challenges across the globe. We operate in all four regions and have just over 1600 employees on any given day leading our programs and our teams and consulting clients on the best way to attack the labor market today in any way by which they want to procure a resource.
What brings me to Kelly is I am a veteran, a long-time employee. I’ve been at Kelly for just about 16ish years. Prior to that, I did actually leave and return and so I’m what we call here at Kelly, affectionately, a boomerang. And the reason that I left and returned was really to build another organization and have the opportunity to determine what it was like outside of corporate America and the Fortune 500 and go work for a privately held company for seven years.
So I’ve been in the business just shy of 24 years and have had a great career path. And Kelly has given me the ability to create my own destiny and my career. And not only have they given me that ability, but our noble purpose is to find work for people in ways that enrich their lives, and Kelly certainly has done that for me. And I’m grateful that they gave me a path, not only in a career, but an opportunity to return and take all the things that I learned and privately held space and bring it back into the corporate Fortune 500.
Sam: Very cool. What would be, given that as you boomeranged back, were there any new perspectives that you brought as you returned to KellyOCG?
Tammy: Yeah, it’s interesting. I did bring back a lot. So first, the beauty of Kelly is that while we’re a large organization and we’re 75 years old, we are very entrepreneurial in the way by which we operate. So I had a lot of autonomy here at Kelly as it was, but what I had learned working in a privately held company, you cannot learn that in a corporate fortune 500.
I had the opportunity to be very heavily involved in all ways by which the organization spent money, how they made money, the way they engaged external resources to help work get done. I was on the front lines of M&A and doing some significant work with some acquisitions that we had done that traditionally in a Fortune 500 or larger organization like Kelly, you would only touch fragments of that type of work, you would never really be responsible for the beginning and the end of how something looked, operated, and how you went to market with it.
So I feel like I came back much more well-rounded. I came back much more consultative in terms of how I approached the business. And I also came back with a little bit more grit than I had here in corporate America. It’s a little different when you realize that when you’re asking for money from an individual that they’re writing you a check out of their back pocket, you approach that strategy very differently than you do in corporate America.
Sam: I’d love to talk to you about what’s happening, I guess, today in the workforce. I’m sure you all have been busy amidst the great resignation. I just got an awesome report recently from you all talking about maybe a new finding around the boss loss. What’s happening out there?
Tammy: Yeah, it’s an interesting thing cuz when we looked at last spring and this great resignation, the term that was coined around early 2021, we all sort of wondered if it was going to really materialize the way that it was initially coming out in the marketplace, and the report that you’re referencing, which was our rework report, it’s a workforce agility report that does interview a thousand executives across 12 different countries. It hits 10 different industries, so you’re getting a really balanced view on what’s happening in the Fortune 100 and what’s on their mind. And their great resignation is in fact real, it is happening.
People are leaving more. The quit rates are going up as we’ve seen. When you look just generally across the board, you’re seeing organizations have a lot of instability, but interestingly enough, that workforce report that we just recently launched last month showed that only 19% of organizations feel today the impact of the great resignation, but are very concerned that there is much more to come. And what our report surfaced was actually this coined loss that you mentioned, which is “boss loss.” And it surfaced in that the question was how likely are you to stay in your job at an executive level, and 53% of them suggested that they were unhappy in their roles, and 72% said they plan on leaving their job in the next two years.
So when you think about the disruption that can happen in the workplace when 72% of executives, a thousand of them across 100 global organizations, think about how incredibly impactful that will be and how disruptive that will be.
So what’s happening is, why are people leaving? What’s causing it? And it’s really about the lack of flexibility. So years past you may see the question of what keeps people, how do you retain them, what are the ways that you attract and bring talent to the marketplace? And when you interviewed talent, the number one thing that would generally come back would be that they were most interested in exactly how much you were going to pay them, and they wanted to know exactly what the benefits were because they needed to know if they could fend for their family and take care of themselves and so on.
Today, the number one question that’s asked is, is there flexibility in my job? And not hybrid, they want flexibility. Hybrid is a completely different model. They don’t just wanna take Fridays off or work from home on Fridays. They actually want to work now. So they not only wanna tell you exactly how much they wanna make, they also wanna know exactly what the benefits are, but more importantly, they wanna know, can I work when I wanna work, how I wanna work and you pay me what I want and I have the flexibility. So that’s what’s happening in the world of work today, is the talent is calling the shots in a big way, and we’re seeing it all across the board.
Sam: From an adjustment perspective, as if I was a talent leader in an organization, mid-size large enterprise, at either range I’m hearing data like that and I’m thinking that there’s probably a camp who hear it and don’t believe it, and then there’s a camp who hear it and are okay, what do I need to do to fix it? What are some of the recommendations that maybe you found, Tammy, that folks can put into play right away as leaders in order to respond to those types of startling numbers? I mean, one in two or three and four managers leaving, that’s a major impact to leadership and coaching and mentorship structures inside of the workforce.
Tammy: Yeah, I think first when you consider many organizations like to rely heavily on their brand for talent attraction. So their go-to market strategy is either a big brand or a well-known brand or something that people know it’s a household name. And they could rely on that for many years because people wanted to work for organizations that were well-recognized. That doesn’t matter so much anymore. People want to work for organizations where they connect to the work.
They wanna be able to feel like the work that they’re doing is impacting something, someone, or some opportunity for their long-term career. So the first thing that every organization really needs to do is go back and look at their value propositions for why talent wants to work for their organization, and they need to remove this notion of, ‘because we’re a big brand and everybody wants to work for us.’
What they need to look at is what are we offering the talent from, not just flexibility, because that’s an expectation as we’ve already talked about, but they also now wanna know what are you providing me in terms of career development? What training are you giving me? Are you helping me develop my career path for the future? Are you giving me work products and opportunities for me to have more exposure to other opportunities within the customer base?
So meaning are you getting opportunities to work on projects. They wanna know what they’re going to do in the world of work, what work is going to be impacted, and how they can impact it. So the employee value proposition is really important. That’s number one. Number two is, I also think talent today and what we’re hearing is they wanna know, what am I getting when I start? What does my tech package look like? Am I getting monitors? Computers? Think about the basic fundamental things that people need now to work in an environment that we’re in today, which is mostly remote still in many cases. And in many cases, people wanna work remote for the rest of their careers now that they’ve had this exposure. They wanna know what are you giving me? When I show up to work, how am I gonna align with you? How am I gonna know who you are? What technology do I have? What infrastructure are you going to give me? What ways are you gonna align me culturally to your company so I know who you are? How are you gonna lead me remotely?
So all organizations really need to think about that tech enablement and what they’re offering people on day one so that they can assimilate and feel comfortable in their roles.
Sam: On the training front, you mentioned training, are you seeing anything specific around organizations that are maybe adapting or changing at this moment, what type of technologies they’re using to continuously upskill, or we’ve heard a lot in conversations with folks talking about it’s not about onboarding anymore, it’s about continuous lifelong development. It feels like while that’s maybe a topic of conversation, it feels like a lot of companies maybe are saying it, but not always pulling the trigger on the investment needed from an infrastructure perspective to keep their people connected. I guess when you hear that, what do you think around technology and training and development right now?
Tammy: Yeah, let me take technology first. When you start in an organization today, consider the workforce report that we’ve talked about already. There is an entire section on tech enablement and what it means, and the Vanguard organizations, these are organizations that are further ahead than the other organizations, non Vanguards. So meaning they’re using their resources effectively. 83% of the Vanguards are redesigning and completely blowing up what used to be the employee experience. You’re spot on. Onboarding is still important, cuz let’s face it, an employee starts to engage the second that you give them the job offer. And if your onboarding process is clunky, the first impression is not great. So let’s not forget that that’s still very important, but what they’re also saying is they want much more ability to have an experience for that employee onboarding way better than they’ve ever had before.
So that’s getting them the technologies that they need from day one. 40% of firms overall are adopting a data strategy or a tech strategy to be able to give talent more information about their work productivity, how they’re performing in their job, how that they’re connecting to work. They’re giving much more visibility into not just how they perform and how their work performs, but how the company is using tools and resources to make their jobs easier. Many years ago this notion of the digital transformation would come into play and talent would be not needed anymore because, I don’t know, robots or something were gonna take over.
The fact of the matter is the talent actually is far more productive when they have AI embedded in their jobs. When they have the ability to look at data and to look at other things. So those things are now expectations going into the future. No organization is going to be successful without giving talent the ability to see and feel that they’re doing their job through tech enablement. Managing people today and spreadsheets and everything else is just really gonna be a thing of the past.
From a training perspective, how you train people to use that technology is very important. What we find is that many organizations acquire technology. A lot of money is spent in technology to make employees more productive in their role. But what we also find is the adoption and the usage of that technology is generally in the 12% range.
So it’s a lot of money going out for about a 12% return. The math doesn’t make sense there. So the only way you can get better in your technology strategy is to also have a solid change management and training strategy. So your teams have to understand why the technology is being used, how to better use it, how to better engage with it, how to use technology to be more efficient in their role so that they can get more work done and not feel bogged down by manual workarounds that often slow people down and cause a significant amount of rework. So change management has to be peppered throughout and change management requires a significant amount of communication and training at the tactical levels.
So oftentimes we throw out from an HR or from a talent acquisition or from a hiring manager perspective manuals to go read. The fact of the matter is people need tangible training. They need to be able to have some instructor led or some self courseware that shows them how to use this technology so that they can become far stronger in their roles.
Sam: You can’t just hope they figure it out, huh?
Sam: That’s not a strategy. That’s not Kelly approved.
Tammy: That is not a Kelly approved strategy, and unfortunately that’s what many companies do. They just throw it out there and say, ‘oh look, go use it,’ and they don’t. As I said, about 12% adoption, if you’re lucky.
Sam: Well, we call that ‘on-the-job training,’ since it sounds fancier. OJT, figure it out. I wanna ask you about another thing that I think is bubbling up, even given the moment you’re looking at what’s happening at Starbucks and you’re looking at what’s happening and maybe some of the large brands you talked about.
Today it’s believed that one in two jobs in America are bad jobs. Workers have a wage that’s considered low, that a $400 unexpected parking ticket bill could put them into poverty. This overwhelming percentage of Americans, it’s also a global problem, but the American workforce that is low wage, they also traditionally don’t get access to the same technology training tools, toys, mentorship, and so on. Is there anything that you’re seeing or Kelly is looking at or making recommendations on or talking about in this area of the large, low wage workforce, and with so many companies that are in the service sector whose workforces are primarily made up of this group, I see things that you all talk about, like engagement and connection and deskless worker. There’s gotta be so many insights that you all have for talent leaders who are working with this population.
Tammy: Yes. And in fact, you didn’t mention that those jobs often have no flexibility in them either. So in addition to everything you mentioned, they’re definitely essential workers and cannot have flexibility. They’re tied to whatever it is they’re doing as particularly if they’re in a manufacturing or some type of environment like service, or even just think of those anywhere in restaurant business or in hotel or hospitality or any of that, that is required to be in person always and requires very little flexibility. And they’re, unfortunately, the least paid, as you’ve alluded to. We have seen a wage inflation of anywhere between eight and 12% in that category of worker. So that under $25 an hour, we’ve seen wages go up there. The problem is that we’ve also seen inflation go up and as you probably well know, gas prices are tipping over $6 a gallon in most parts of the US.
And so when you see that, it makes it very difficult for what does appear to be a significant wage increase. It’s absorbed very quickly the second they put money in their gas tank, or they have to go to the grocery store and buy for their families. So it is truly a concern long term for us. We are looking at a lot of data around how we look at this workforce and this population and keep them moving through their career and frankly, up the career ladder so that they can have more meaningful work that connects them to higher pay.
That said, we also are seeing an opportunity in this space to really look at underrepresented talent. So this is talent that maybe we would normally, across the world, overlook because maybe they didn’t fit the mold of whatever policy corporations potentially have in place today. So think about maybe somebody that has a minor criminal offense, was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they’re immediately washed out of some type of AI recruiting algorithm because they have the blemish on their background.
The fact of the matter is there are some people that are great workers, that if we bring them to the table and we identify underrepresented talent, they will be loyal to companies for a very long time. And they will stay with you for a long time and they will learn more, and in fact, it helps when you consider one of the number one questions we’re asked in my MSP practice is, ‘how can you help me with diversity, equity and inclusion?’ And if you consider that a lot of underrepresented talent is in fact in inner cities or they’re underrepresented for varying reasons, it does help with the inclusion strategies that organizations are trying to drive today.
So for me, I struggle. I don’t think there’s a crystal ball to say, ‘how are we gonna solve this long term?’ But we are seeing companies rise to the occasion and really take this and say, ‘we have to pay more money to people.’ So we are seeing them absolutely increase wages across the board. There’s very few that have not increased wages in the last 18 months when we see that under $25 hour range.
Sam: Sure, Tammy, this has been great. I have one final question for you: much of what you’re talking about and you all do are at the front lines on KellyOCG is around the future of work. We like to ask as a last question for the pod, what is your hope for the future of work?
Tammy: Yeah. So to me, a utopia state from a future of work perspective is that we remove the labels that we put on people in terms of how they wanna work. So for me, it’s what work needs to be done and what is the talent that we need to get it done, and we need to remove, ‘it’s a full-time employee. It’s a temporary employee. It’s an independent contractor.’ All of these labels that we put out here have made it very difficult for hiring managers, the people that need the talent, to actually engage the talent. We’ve put way too much bureaucracy in the hiring process for organizations, and we need to just remove all those barriers to entry for the talent that really do wanna come to work, but they don’t wanna work for a company that’s gonna put them in some box or give them some sort of label and treat them differently because of the way that they’re engaged. So for me, utopia is, let’s remove some of those labels that we put on people.
Sam: I love it. Tammy, thank you for taking time.
Tammy: Yeah. Great to be here. Thanks Sam.
Topics Discussed: Future of Work, The Great Resignation, Boss Loss, Leadership
Dana Safa Bernardino, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle
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