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HRx Radio – Executive Conversations: On Friday mornings, John Sumser interviews key executives from around the industry. The conversation covers what makes the executive tick and what makes their company great.

HRx Radio – Executive Conversations

Guest: Ian Bailie, Managing Director, myHRfuture at Insight222
Episode: 366
Air Date: May 15, 2020




Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation. Thank you for your understanding.

Full Transcript with timecode

John Sumser 0:13
Good morning and welcome to HR Examiner’s Executive Conversations. I’m your host, John Sumser and today we’re going to be talking with Ian Bailie, who is a Director of Insight222 where he runs the myHRfuture Academy. I’ve been following Ian’s career for years. He was the senior HR director at eight Cisco systems and was responsible for delivering and developing tools that enable the planning, attraction, and management of talent across the entire organization. I ran into him while I was doing some research for a company called Burning Glass, which was one of the early players in the large scale global skills analysis game. Ian, how are you? It’s great to have you here.

Ian Bailie 0:58
Hey, John. Yeah, no, it’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me. Yeah, really excited about the conversation.

John Sumser 1:03
Yeah. So why don’t you fill in the blanks? I gave my narrow view, why don’t you take a moment and really introduce yourself?

Ian Bailie 1:11
Yeah, sure. Thank you. So, yes, so I currently work for a company called Insight222. And there my primary role is, as you mentioned, running something that we’re calling myHRfuture, which I’m sure we’ll we’ll talk about more. Prior to that I did spend 10 years at Cisco. And then yeah, a lot of time working around HR technology and analytics there, and then ultimately getting involved in workforce planning and some talent management pieces as well. And then prior to that was an HR analyst, a couple of small companies and actually started my career as a researcher with DB, which has now been acquired by Gartner. And that’s really where I started getting interested in HR.

John Sumser 1:51
So what is Insight222? What does the company do?

Ian Bailie 1:55
Yeah, sure. So I think you had David Green on the on the show recently, Michael my colleague there as well. And so what we’re doing is our focus is really around people analytics and helping HR become more data driven. We’re a professional services firm. So we do some consulting, we have a networking program as well. We have advisory services that come with that. And then we do a lot around learning. Some of it used to be in person right now, obviously, none of it is in person. And a lot of it is online through the myHRfuture Academy. So we’re really partnering with HR organizations to help them really focus on people analytics, and to create data driven cultures across all of HR.

John Sumser 2:35
Okay, so your baby is the myHRfuture Academy. What’s the deal there?

Ian Bailie 2:41
It is. Yeah, so we started off with really wanting to provide, you know, setup with a blog and a YouTube channel and some other kind of sources like that where we wanted to get information out there really to, you know, thought leadership drive the conversation around the politics. And then when we were talking to All of our clients and really trying to understand how we could help them more it became clear that they were struggling with the topic of HR enablement. So really the broader HR population, how do we help HR as a whole, really upskill particularly around these skills like people analytics and becoming more digital. And so what we built is this academy it’s learning experience platform. So you know, it is more than just training. We have over 600 curated articles and YouTube videos and podcasts and publicly available materials like that in the platform as well. All of our training is very bite sized. It’s all kind of shrunk down to short little clips. And really what we’re doing is focusing across six key skills that based on our research, we found were the areas that HR professionals most wanted to grow their skills in. And so one is people analytics. Another is workforce planning. And the third is digital HR and HR technology. Fourth is design thinking and then the second set for content Voting and influencing and stakeholder management as well. And so we’re kind of blending some of those skills around just this new world that HR finds itself in where it has to manage so many more stakeholders has to get buy in and budget for, you know, digital projects for people, retic projects, things like that with some of those newer skills like politics and becoming more data driven, and the digital side of things to really help HR kind of move into the future. And so across that you start to touch on topics like employee experience, as well, you know, and how you can use design thinking practices to help there and so that’s where we’re going very deep, you know, focusing solely in those areas and providing this blend of training and other materials to help HR to learn on demand, you know, ultimately, as and when they have time and in these little bite sized chunks,

John Sumser 4:47
So do I subscribe to myHRfuture Academy? Do I take individual classes? How does that part of it work?

Ian Bailie 4:56
Yes, great question. So so you would subscribe. So basically, we alert to individuals, you know, you can just go on the website and sign up and buy a monthly or an annual subscription. And then we sell it to large enterprises where we, you know, we’re deploying it to entire HR functions as well. And you know, it is a little bit like the Netflix or the Spotify model where you basically have access to absolutely everything. We provide some structured guidance in terms of the types of content we think you might want to get started with, you know, we structure it as to what’s more foundational, what’s more intermediate, what’s more advanced, but ultimately, people can spend as much time or as little time as they have, you know, on it each week. And the platform will also provide recommendations to you as well. So when you first log in, it asks you what are the types of areas that you want to learn more about, and it will then curate your experience based on that it will provide you a feed of content that is personalized to you as an individual. And then obviously the more that you do in the platform, the more it will start to kind of learn on your activity and potentially your your colleagues, things like that, as So yeah, that’s the way that we’ve designed. It is really a subscription model where you can go in and just get started.

John Sumser 6:07
So do you have some sort of a credentialing program? I assume that’s gonna be in the roadmap if you don’t have it yet?

Ian Bailie 6:13
Yeah, we do. We’ve partnered initially with a company called Credly that does digital certification and badging. And so that’s a way that we’re recognizing people’s achievements in the platform at the moment, they can share those badges, you know, on LinkedIn or other social media platforms. And then yeah, we are looking more formally as well as to how we can align it to educational institutions and you know, more formal credentialing as well.

John Sumser 6:37
But most get pretty interesting when you have a large enterprise client to be able to sharpen and understand the levels of sophistication based on how people are interacting with the system is better focused also for the future to be able to help the department itself understand what upskilling means.

Ian Bailie 6:56
Yeah, so there’s a couple of aspects to that. I guess. One is we’re working on a number of different ways of assessing people up from, you know, not just assessing them in terms of, you know, maybe the skills they have or don’t have, but also around what areas they, you know, aspirationally want to learn about and how we can provide intelligence on that, and then continue to monitor and track fat and help the individual ultimately then find the best content. And then I think it’s really interesting, being able to look across the different types of materials we have in the platform as well, because I think one thing that we found with our research was, obviously we’re not the only ones to have found this is just how the way that people learn has has changed so much in recent years, and the way that they want to learn has changed so much and so sure, people will still want to take training, but they also learn by watching a YouTube video or learn by listening to a podcast, something like this, right? They learn by reading articles. We all learn in so many different ways now, and I think the most important part of that Is the we really adopt this kind of mindset of continuous learning. And so what we’ve tried to do with the platform is to provide an environment that were really facilitating that, right, you can dip in every day, and you’ll find new content getting added all the time. Or you could just come in a couple of times a month and you know, spend a longer period of time in there. But by doing that, we are also able to then see, as you said, across, you know, large organizations that some people might be spending a lot more time reading articles and listening to podcasts than they are actually taking training courses. Other people might just be devouring the training, you know, working their way through that and really depends on the individual. Right? It depends on on what you want to learn about. It depends on your skill level, and ultimately depends on what questions you’re trying to answer. And so I think that’s one of the great things as well as we have a search function in the platform as well. So if something lands on my desk on a Monday morning, and the chro has asked me to suddenly create a continuous listening program, well, I can go into the platform and I think concern, continuous listening, and I can find a whole host of content in there, that’s immediately going to help me figure out what it is I do. And so that’s what we’re seeing happening is people are using it in many different ways. And the platform is structured to enable that to be the case.

John Sumser 9:15
So you must be at the forefront of this next idea, which is, if people use the platform in many different ways, the idea that you could express accomplishment of a standard body of knowledge seems old fashioned. And so when you have a bunch of learners who are learning in ways that are specific to the challenges that they face, the question of how you credential them gets very interesting, because credentialing assumes sort of the opposite. How do you think about that?

Ian Bailie 9:45
Yeah, that’s a great question, John. So I, you know, I won’t claim that we figured this one out fully, but it’s something that I think about a lot because I think people are driven often by a desire to get those credentials. And I think historically, it’s been programmed into us, you know, with the way that our education system works, you know, attaining a degree and moving through the education system in that way. And that by showing that we have a certificate or a credential, that then means we can get a job or you know, we are proficient at something. And I think that is absolutely changing, right. I think the way that we all think about the capabilities that we have, and the way that we acquire knowledge now has changed, but actually the ways that we can demonstrate that and prove that have not really and so our first kind of foray into that is these badges, which are, you know, certainly quite short bursts of learning will get you one of these badges. And so you can demonstrate that you have gone through certain amount of material, right, you’ve acquired knowledge, and you’ve demonstrated that you’ve learnt that knowledge by some short kind of assessments, and therefore you have a question. to show for it right. But actually, there’s so much more to then applying that learning, right? To really cement that learning, you need to apply it on the job, you need to then have multiple experiences that will then, you know, take you further from that point of view. And I think that’s the piece that, you know, we need to look at next, which is really how do we assess, you know, whether someone has truly moved forward in their goals? You know, and how do we continually measure that and enable people to demonstrate that and I think that’s a problem way beyond just what we’re doing. Right. I think that’s a problem that a lot of organizations are looking at at the moment. And, you know, we talk to a lot of our clients about this, and I know everyone’s kind of thinking about it, but I haven’t seen anyone with a perfect solution for it yet.

John Sumser 11:44
Yeah, I don’t think there is one. Yeah, that’s nice to know that you working the HR side of it. So the next question is, you’ll have to bear with me because it’s a more complicated question. And it’s something like the operation is called myHRfuture Academy, but as you listen to the six areas that you cover, none of them strike me as traditional HR. And so there is this difference in the HR practitioner that you’re aiming to train and the historical HR practitioner and this new person worries about data and digital literacy and employee experience and mining variations in survey responses for insight. How do you leave all of that together? And how do you relate it to the sort of more conventional version of HR, which is something like a cross between the policeman and the counselor?

Ian Bailie 12:41
Yeah, so I mean, that and that is why we have that nice word future in myHRfuture to kind of show that we are focusing on those more forward thinking skills about the future of HR. And I think, I think there’s a couple of things with this. You know, for a start, we don’t need everyone in HR to accommodate to sign Right, that is not the case. But there is a level of knowledge around data and statistics. And you know, being able to really interpret data, translate it into insights and have a data driven conversation with a leader that is absolutely critical for the future of HR, because we need to become more evidence based as a function. And we absolutely need to be capable to have those types of conversations with the business and with leaders. And then I think there’s also just a general digital kind of savviness that is needed, which again, as you said, historically has not been needed. And that really comes down to not just HR being more digital. And you know, I know you follow all of this incredibly closely, but the explosion of HR technology tools and you know, the the impact of all of that on on everyone in terms of the number of vendors they’re now having to speak to and those types of things, and what works and what doesn’t and what does have AI and what does I know All those wonderful things we won’t necessarily get into right now. But I think that is definitely an area that HR needs to deal with, and will continue to need to become more knowledgeable about. And then I think the expectations of the employee and of the manager from an experience perspective, right, and how actually everything that we’re doing needs to be more user centric. And we need to build really journeys, you know, and processes and all those great things when we think about the topic of employee experience. So I think all of those things are changing and shifting, like the world is moving forward, employees are moving forward, you know, the consumer expectations and how they influence expectations at work, all of those topics that people speak about consistently. You know, that is real life and HR needs to evolve to, but HR also needs to understand the digital impact to the business, you know, the impact that we’re seeing from our kind of future of work perspective, from the way that every business is needing to adapt and evolve so much more quickly than they used to as well and how HR can support with that. And so all of these things are happening. And at the moment, they’re kind of happening to HR. And I think the more HR can get in front of it, and HR professionals can build their knowledge in some of these areas, the more impactful we can be as a function, and the more impactful we can really be with helping the business be successful, which is ultimately what our purpose should be, you know. And so I think that’s, that’s what’s going on. I think alongside that, though, whilst we’re building content that is really foundational for HR professionals to upskill in those areas, as I said, we don’t expect you know, all of HR to become, you know, a super statistician or data scientists. And so what we’re also then doing is building specialist content for those specialists functions within HR, right. So for the people analytics team, for the digital team for the employee experience team, and to enable them to move up the knowledge stack and become more intermediate and advanced in their skill set. And we’ll keep building really cutting edge kind of content from that point of view as well. So we’re trying to build content that fits where your HR business partner needs to be your broader HR professional, but then also really specialist content for those deep subject matter experts as well.

John Sumser 16:16
So let me take, you you sort of hinted at this, the pandemic has caused some fairly abrupt change. And you can imagine many things got broken as we moved into whatever this period is we’re in now. And there are many, many questions that we don’t even know how to ask yet. And so you’ve got this emerging analytical function inside of HR that has to figure out the answers to things like why do my video meetings make me so tired? How do we answer the increasing formality of our business relationships because you have to schedule everything when you’re remote? And how do you find ways to improve The quality of the spontaneity in the system when everything about remote work, interrupt spontaneity. How do you suppose the profession is going to start to mine and prioritize this brand new set of questions?

Ian Bailie 17:15
Yeah, and I think it’s, it’s just incredible how quickly everyone is having to adapt right now. And I think what’s incredible is how quickly everyone is adapting. And we’ve seen, you know, HR departments or organizations, right, take programs that might have they were planning to take two years to do something or the rollout of this technology. And they’ve deployed it in two weeks. And so I think it’s really pushed a lot of change onto people. And obviously, we’ve seen that from a remote working perspective as well. With that we have seen certainly, you know, a lot of the people analytics leaders and teams that we’ve spoken to, we have seen people analytics come to the forefront, which is fantastic and the power of the insights that that team can provide combining external data sets. You know, we were talking about the john hopkins day. database and marrying that up to internal data and getting that in front of the CEO in a kind of real time basis. You know, I think that’s incredible how quickly teams have worked on that and provided those types of dashboards. And I think that’s the the firefighting mode that everyone’s in right now. And then I think, as we hopefully start to see things settle a little bit, and we understand what the new normal is going to be. I think something we’re all coming to terms with is the normal that we used to know about is probably a very long way off and potentially never coming back in some aspects. But as things settle down a little bit, which hopefully they will do, I think you’re absolutely right, there is now going to be a whole new data set that people will be looking at. And you know, it might be about the impact of remote working, it might be the impact of remote meetings. It could be, you know, any number of different data sets that are emerging as a result, some of them from internal tools, some of them from external databases as well. And I think it’s really going to be an opportunity for the people in 16 member board or HR to really figure out how they then can add value, again, sort of that, you know, what are going to be the priorities as a result? And how can they help the organization? I think it’s a massive opportunity as we come out of this, I think, you know, obviously, the crisis is impacting absolutely everyone in a terrible way. But I do think that one of the bittersweet aspects to it will be just the power of some of those insights as we come out and how hopefully areas like people analytics can continue to shine beyond just this immediate firefighting mode.

John Sumser 19:32
It’s going to be a recruiting transition. So there are other academies emerging. I think there’s some sort of gap in the profession that people are moving in to fill. What makes you guys different?

Ian Bailie 19:44
Yeah, I think we’ve touched on it a little bit, but in my view, it is the fact that we are going really deep on those six skills that I mentioned that we see to be the skills of the future for HR and we are really making sure that we are able to provide content there for the whole HR organization, but that also for specialist teams. And we kind of started off with the why and the walks, you know, what is the politics? Why is it important? What is design thinking? Why is it applicable for HR, but we’re really getting into the how now. And a lot of the content we’re building out is very practical and tactical. And it’s how you get your job done. And based on all of the different focus groups we’ve done, and the research, that’s the content that I think has really been missing, and that she continues to be missing. And it’s what people want, they want help to get their job done. And it’s kind of how we’re learning across everything else. Now, you know, you want to figure something out, you probably Google it and watch a YouTube video and you learn something and then you go and apply it. And that’s really the process that we’re trying to apply as well. And so I think that’s one one area, you know, the fact that we’re going deep, the fact that we’re really hitting on that those practical tools, I think the fact that we are making this a very personalized experience as well, I think is really important. I think the day is a one size fits all training are gone, or at least should be gone. And we need to be able to create a much more personalized experience for people. And so that’s absolutely what we’re trying to do there. And I think, you know, really the way that we’re doing this with the blended approach of articles and podcasts and things like that, as well is quite unique. You know, the, the fact that we have such a large collection now of great content really helps you navigate the, you know, 10 different newsletters that you receive, or the tons of stuff you see on your Twitter feed or your LinkedIn feed to have that all in one place and easy to find and searchable. I think it’s pretty unique as well.

John Sumser 21:42
That’s great. You know, it does my heart good to know that you guys are doing this because you and David and I assume there’s a larger team are at the forefront of this emerging discipline and it’s nice to see that you’ve decided to make teaching people about the new discipline the heart of your work. So I really think this is a good thing you guys are doing. I’m an organization and I want to learn more, what do I do?

Ian Bailie 22:11
Yeah, so quite simply go to and you can learn more about everything that we’re doing there. There’s a lot of great content there. Highly recommend you subscribe to David Greene’s podcast and his newsletter as well. Yeah, come find us there and you can find my contact details there as well. Or obviously, Ian Bailie on LinkedIn. I’m pretty easy to find on there too. Hopefully.

John Sumser 22:32
Okay, well, thanks for doing this Ian. This was a great conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Ian Bailie 22:38
No absolutely. Thanks so much for having me John. I really enjoyed it.

John Sumser 22:42
You’ve been listening to HR Examiner’s Executive Conversations. We’ve been talking with Ian Bailie, who is a director at Insight222, managing the myHRfuture Academy. You can find out more by going to Alrighty, thanks again and thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you back here next week. Thanks Ian.

Ian Bailie 23:03
Thanks, John.

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