How Will You Shape the Future? Featuring Jason Averbook

Jason Averbook Is Recognized As One Of The Top Thought Leaders In HR, Workforce And Enterprise Technology.

Jason Averbook, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer,of LeapGen, TotalPicture interviewJason Averbook

Did you miss HR Tech World? You're in luck. An Encore Of Jason Averbook's Closing Keynote in San Francisco.

As Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Leapgen Jason Averbook is a leading analyst, thought leader, consultant and keynote speaker in the area of human resources, the Future of Work and the impact technology has on that future.

LeapGen was founded to help organizations around the world realize that the Future of Work is NOW and the time to leap our HR and workforce technologies to new heights is upon us.

Jason co-founded Knowledge Infusion LLC in 2005 until 2012 when the company was sold to Appirio and served as its Chief Executive Officer. He was responsible for the groundbreaking vision and strategy. He served as the Chief Business Innovation Officer at Appirio Inc where led Appirio's human capital management business.

He held the position of CEO of The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC) from 2014 through 2016 until recently leaving to focus on his next venture, LeapGen! Jason is the author of the book HR From Now To Next which is used in over 20 educational institutions around the world to teach HR and workforce technologies as well as being considered one of the top 5 thought leaders worldwide in the field.

Welcome to the continuation of the Future of Work Series. I'm your host Peter Clayton. Today I'm excited to welcome to the show for a special Leadership Channel Podcast the EmCee of the recent HR Tech World in San Francisco, Jason Averbook.

Jason has more than 20 years of experience in the HR and technology industry. He worked with industry leading companies around the world to help them transform their HR organizations into strategic partners. Prior to founding Knowledge Infusion, he served as Senior Director of PeopleSoft Global Product Marketing at PeopleSoft, where he was responsible for the marketing including packaging and positioning for PeopleSoft's flagship product line. Prior to PeopleSoft, he served as Director of Organizational Readiness at Ceridian Corporation, an HR and payroll outsourcing company.

"Interview Transcript"


AIRDATE: 7/20/2017
TRT: 34 Minutes


Jason: What disruption is saying is I'm going to reinvent my processes, reinvent how I think about workforce and people experience to match the way that people want to work today. That's really disruption. To me disruption equals reinvention plus technology. If disruption to an organization is just technology, more than likely it's not going to be disruption. It's going to disrupt but it's not going to be the kind of disruption that you want.

INTRO: Welcome to the continuation of the Future of Work Series from HR Tech World in San Francisco. I'm your host Peter Clayton. Today, I'm excited to welcome to the show for a special leadership channel edition, the MC of HR Tech World, Jason Averbook.

Welcome to TotalPicture, your podcast resource for innovation, talent acquisition, sourcing, employer branding, leadership, staffing, career strategy and the tools and technologies accelerating business and professional growth. We cover many of the most important recruiting, leadership and HR TA technology conferences and events throughout the year. Many opportunities are available to sponsor our award-winning content. To receive our media kit and schedule of free consultation, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . And now, enjoy my interview with Jason Averbook.

INTERVIEW: Peter: Jason, welcome to TotalPicture. You have a really interesting background as an author, an analyst, a thought leader, a keynote speaker and the consultant. I know you've served as the CEO for the Marcus Buckingham Company for a couple of years. I would guess most of the people who listen to this show know who you are but may not know your background that well. So why don't we start with you just giving us a little back story on who Jason is?

Jason: Wow, great question Peter. Once you get old; this is a long answer so I'll try and make it as short as possible. I'm sure like all of your listeners, I was raised to be in HR by my parents. Not. When I was 20 years old back in Minneapolis, ended up joining a company called Ceredian Corporation. I was approached by someone to say hey, can you implement payroll and I was like no, I don't know. I never done, never implemented payroll but maybe we can give it a try. Twenty-seven something years later, I'm still in this space of the HR workforce technology space.

Having spent a long time at Ceredian Corporation developing their first Windows products; having spent a long time at PeopleSoft developing their client server product and transitioning it to the web when the internet first came out; leaving PeopleSoft to found my own firm Knowledge Infusion; selling that to one of the largest cloud services firms in the world, which was Aperio; going to work with Marcus on an amazing project and helping to take all his content and thought leadership and turning it into a piece of technology that later AVP purchased; and now I'm starting LeapGen. So it's a long, long history of working in the HR space trying to help HR payroll leaders understand the impact that technology can have on them based on where the world of technology is at any given point.

Peter: So in January of this year, you launched your new venture called LeapGen. Tell us about this company and what its purpose is.

Jason: So Peter, LeapGen - one of the things that I found between my time with Marcus and founding LeapGen was the world of technology, it's continued to evolve. In many cases, the world of HR hasn't. We have this amazing opportunity to really flip the focus of HR and workforce technology, and not being technology for us in HR but really being technology for the workforce. Technology for the workforce to help the workforce A, do their jobs better, but B, deliver them an experience that's tied to culture, that's tied to engagement. This isn't just HR for HR sake. This is helping people, helping the workforce do things to make their jobs better, more fulfilling and then B, helping HR actually use the data from the fact that people are engaged with these tools to actually make better business decisions.

So it's been a massive shift over the last 10 years. One of the things I found Peter was that CHROs CIOs, HR technology folks - I'll use that slang, needed more help than ever. They didn't have a strategy, they didn't have a defined mission as to what it was they were trying to do. That's really what LeapGen is designed to do is to help build that strategy and say based on what you're trying to do, what's the right technology and what's the right approach for you versus saying hey, here's the latest new technology. Go out and do it, and then hope that somehow it meets the needs. Usually what we found is it doesn't.

Peter: I think that's a great transition to talk about your closing keynote at HR Tech World in San Francisco. You spoke about the workforce experience and how it's changing, and a major thing being that consumerization of the employee experience. Can you spend some time expanding on this and explaining to the audience basically what your concepts are regarding this?

Jason: Yeah. The great thing Peter is not to take away from myself, is they're not my concepts. They're concepts that were all, we're all dealing with today. When I say we're dealing with is for the first time ever over the last three to four years, almost every single person in an organization has better technology in the palm of their hand or on their wrist than what we give them to use as a large enterprise. That being said, their expectations of what technology can go for them have changed forever. It used to be hey, technology is something I had to do because the company told me I had to do it. Now technology is something that's designed to make their lives better, to make their lives easier, to find things faster, whatever it is. We no longer live in a world where I make phone calls to find answers. I look online to find answers.

All of that being said, how we shop, how we order cars, how we order flowers, how we find our future spouses and partners, that's all online. That's consumerized. Yet in many cases we haven't consumerized what the experience is for people to work in a company. It's still fill out these forms. It's going to take 25 days to get you on boarded. It's going to take this number of signatures to get your pay increase. Oh, and by the way, we're only going to your performance review once a year when the rest of the world looks at you on a daily basis based on how many likes you get on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter. What I've found Peter is that in the world of consumerization, the outside world has surpassed, has surpassed the inside world of these companies. What that's doing is it's having employees screaming for the exit saying our processes are broken, our technology is old, we can't get anything done, which is showing up on glass door, another consumerized capability that I never had before. So all of a sudden say that's not a place you want to work. So HR leaders and IT leaders around the world are having to say guys, we focused a lot on the customer experience before this, but we better spend some time focusing on the people experience or the workforce experience.

Peter: And it's so interesting because Amazon has trained us very well. Netflix has trained us very well. You go on LinkedIn and LinkedIn probably knows more about most employees than their organizations know about them. So you're absolutely right. On a daily basis, we're all confronted with this amazing technology and then we go to work and it's like what just happened?

Jason: Right. We're back in the Flintstones. We're back in the Flintstones. If you think about your example that you Peter, that LinkedIn - I say this constantly. LinkedIn knows more about your employees than you do. In that case, your competition knows more about your employees than you do. If you're trying to make a business case for something and you have your CEO on one hand saying people are our most important asset. And then you have us on the other hand saying guess what; our competition knows more about our people than we do. That's a huge problem. It's a huge culture issue, A. And B, it's a huge problem in the concept of how am I going to keep and retain my best talent?

The other thing that's really happened along those lines Peter is, and I see this every single day. I was on the phone with two clients earlier today where if you take a look at their candidate experience; when people go to the career site, it's beautiful. It's got people playing ping-pong, it's got people drinking beer, it's got dogs and cats in the office, it's got bring your parents and kids to work days. Yet, I go onto a company's intranet or portal and it's a link for them. It's a bunch of links that take me to a bunch of things called systems. On the outside, it looks like a great place to work. But then I get on the inside and it's like whoa; my whole concept of cultural continuance has been broken and I have to say is this really where I work? I kind of feel a little like I was bait and switched. Looked like a fun place to work but now my experience online, which is how people judge things, is not the way it looked on the outside. That's a huge point as to how do I retain people into the future.

Peter: Sure is. As you know, I think one of the favorite words in HR today is disruption. Right? How everything is just being disrupted, and a lot of this is back to your point about the consumerization of everything except where we're working.

Jason: And you know Peter, I love the term disruption and I hate the term disruption. So I guess you could say I have a love/hate relationship based on what I just said with disruption. The reason that I hate it - I'll start with that, is because a lot people think they're disrupting by going out and buying technology. That's not disruption. If anything, that's putting a layer of frosting on top of a moldy cake. Disruption is truly thinking about reinventing. In the world of HR, which is one of the, as I always say, one of the oldest professions in the world; maybe not called HR, but the concept of people working is old. It used to be called the personnel department and before that it was called the payroll department or vis-a-versa. By taking new technology and placing it on top of crap, that's not disruption. What's disruption is saying is I'm going to reinvent my processes, reinvent how I think about workforce and people experience to match the way that people want to work today. That's really disruption. To me disruption equals reinvention plus technology. If disruption to an organization is just technology, more than likely it's not going to be disruption. It's going to disrupt but it's not going to be the kind of disruption that you want.

Peter: Right. As you mentioned in your keynote, people in HR love data but are they measuring the right things?

Jason: Yeah. One of the things that we've done in HR forever is we focused on compliance. We've counted how many people have turned in their forms. How many people have taken this training class? How many people have we paid? That's all good data but that's data that's looking at us in HR in the mirror. It's basically saying are we doing our jobs? It's checking our box. Really the future of HR, which I'm going to say is the future of people intelligence and the future of workforce intelligence is really being able to say do I have the right people or do I need or do I get them and when do I need them? So really thinking about the concept of supply and demand, but of people and starting to be able to truly analyze where do I have the best people, where do I have most knowledge? If someone leaves the organization, what knowledge is walking out the door that I need to replace? I truly have a measure of my people and I'm one of those people that my time is running out. I've labeled myself as old twice now, which is probably not a good thing Peter.

I truly believe that in my lifetime, we'll measure people the same way we measure money, where we've got hey, I know how many cents, I know how many dollars, I know how many pounds, I know many sterling, whatever it is. I don't want to know how many people I have, I want to know the value of my people. I truly think some time in my lifetime, we're going to be able to put a value on a person and say hey, you company are worth X, you company are worth Y; not based on how much money you have in the bank, but based on your talent.

Peter: So during your keynote, I tweeted out one of your slides, which says "data is the new oil", which I love. Can you expand on that because I think that's exactly what you're talking about right now?

Jason: Peter, everything in our lives, whether it be how we're marketed to online or whether it be us watching sports and saying do I have the right team based on my payroll, based on how many night games or day games I'm playing following after Michael Lewis's money ball theory? Or whether it be Google maps and making sure that I'm following the right path based on traffic conditions. Or whether it be Alexa, who's actually a responding- A lot of people say Alexa, that's not data. That's all it is. It's data. Data through voice. It's not ones and zeros like it used to be. So our whole life, everything we're doing, is data. When I say data's the new capital or the new oil, new is kind of, it's not even that new anymore. It's new thinking for HR whereas the type of thing that I need to collect and understand is truly a deeper level of knowledge of my people.

So when I put in place technology, I'm not putting in technology to be a payroll system and maybe collect a little data on people. I'm putting in technology to understand my people intimately and then support payroll. If I understand my people intimately and how they perform and how engaged they are and what they want to be when they grow up, I can make a ton of decisions that otherwise I'm blind to making. So to me when I say data's the new oil or data's the new capital, that's all tied to not those with the biggest data win, but those with the best data win. Those that have data, that truly get it out to people and those people understand it and can make decisions on it, those are going to be the employers of the future.

Peter: Something else you touched on is our addiction to our smart phones. Just to give our listeners a couple of data points here, 68% of phone users say they check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up; 87% always have their smart phone at their side day and night. And on an average, people check their phones 150 times per day and spend 177 minutes using them. If that's not addiction, I don't know what is.

Jason: You know Peter, my point, I'm trying to help organizations move from adoption to addiction is it's a little bit of, it's a tag line that I use to try to get people to wake up a little. Eventually this isn't going to be phones Peter. This is just going to be embedded into our brains through either something implanted into us or through our headphones that we're wearing as we do a call like this. I'm not going to be checking anything. It's going to come to me. When we think through that, when we think through that, the concept is, is that anything that we use, that we get "addicted" to, it's providing us some personalized value. When I say personalized value, I mean value to me, not just general value that I have to sort through. When I say our goal in people technology is to move from adoption to addiction, it's truly trying to say that we in people technology have to get off our behinds and not just throw a bunch of stuff out there and hope that something sticks. But truly understanding what our people are, what content they need, and then making sure that I deliver that to them in a way where they get personalized value. If they get personalized value, they're going to keep coming back.

I can use that same ID to drip culture information, to drip engagement information, to drip why this is a great place to work, to drip my employee value proposition, whatever it is through that same ID. But if I don't have that and I've got a sign in the bathroom and I've got sign on the billboard and I've got a mouse pad and I've got screen saver and it all looks different and all says different things, not only am I not addicted, I'm distracted. That's the opposite of addiction in this case. If I'm distracted, most likely what I do is I abandon and I don't do any of it. I think I see our key role as how do I move people from just adopting it to truly being addicted to it and driving it forward to say now that I'm addicted, value, value, value, value, value.

Peter: To kind of follow up on that, a trend in HR I'm seeing is the focus on learning platforms and new tools for allowing employees to customize and personalize their skills and training based on their interests. Is this something that you're seeing as well with your clients?

Jason: It's insane. It's truly insane. The reason I say it's insane is with the focus on personalization Peter, what's happened is I'm not sending emails to people with an article that I like. I'm not attaching and downloading PDFs and then having 19 versions of the same thing all over the place. I'm finding a piece of content and making sure that that content is curated. Curated and delivered to people when they need it or via a search capability on their side, just like I'm doing with Google, when I'm Googling something. Google turned in from the noun to the verb really quickly where learning is right now the same thing. I want to make sure that knowledge is available to my people based on when they need it, based on their job, based on their region, based on whatever they are. I have a hard, I stuttered there because I have a hard time calling it learning.

We're saying that these are the new learning platforms. I think they're nothing more than knowledge platforms. If knowledge management didn't have a such a bad rap because it's failed in the past, I'd truly say that's what we're talking about here is knowledge management. Saying I need to make sure that people have the knowledge when they need the knowledge. It's out there in freeform. I'm subscribing to it and it's no longer a learning or training department's job to make sure that they push it out to people. Their job is to make sure that there's this amazing ocean of knowledge that's available. Once again, it's available for others to create, co-create, add to so that any worker when they need knowledge, it's there. It can be found whether they pull it or whether it's pushed to them based on job, based on customer they're working on, whatever the "personalization" characteristics are. Not only am I seeing it, I'm implementing it, I'm working with organizations to implement it. I think it's one of the - it's a massive shift from compliant based learning to on-demand based knowledge.

Peter: And something else that is very close to that that I'm seeing as well this year is the digitization of the workforce where people are talking more about skills than they are about job titles for instance. Is this something that you're seeing as well?

Jason: Yeah Peter. Every job - I've written on this in the past. Every single year what we're doing is we continue to break down - I call this the disintegration of job code. We're really breaking down job. The days of hiring one person to do one job are almost gone. Job is breaking down into task. Task is breaking down into gig. Based on what I need to get done, when I need to get something done, I'm finding people to do it. Now, I don't care as much as I used to about the employment relationship. By the way, the old world, which is still very prevalent, is if I need to get something done, what do I do? I open a rack. I'm going to hire a full person into full time job. Most of us realize that's a very inefficient way of working because I'm (A) almost wasting a headcount on one full job, but also, I'm wasting a person because people have more than one capability that I'm not leveraging by only measuring their job.

When I break down job into task, all of a sudden, I start to say what's more important is what they're capabilities are. I'm purposely not using the other 'C' word, which is competency. I'm basically saying what are my capabilities, what are my experiences and what are my skills as you said and then how do I make sure that I can use those whether it be in my job or whether it be when that skill or capability is needed somewhere in the organization? Once again, this another layer of knowledge management, old world knowledge management that didn't work. Now that we have the capability to have these pieces of technology attached to us, all of a sudden, I'm going to see this work into the future. It's already working now, but it will continue to work and be more prevalent as we move forward.

Peter: Just to take that one step further; talking about the gig and the gig economy and the fact what that companies now are looking at project based things that they need to get done. That can be a very diverse group of people who are assigned to make that happen. It can also be a group of people who are dispersed all over the world. They don't have to be in the same location in many instances and many circumstances, right?

Jason: Yeah, I mean Peter, the whole concept of the war for talent; it's an overused cliché but if it is a cliché that makes any sense to anyone, we're fighting the war with completely the wrong weapon. The weapon of job rack; that's now the weapon. The weapon is how do I make sure that I have the ability to agilely, in the most agile manner, find talent and leverage talent. I don't care if that talent is moms, dads, if they're pregnant, if they're not pregnant, if they're in Africa, if they're in California, if we actually leverage the talent that we have in the world and break down the walls that we've set up to artificially separate it, there's not going to be a war for talent. We're going to find more than we need and we're going to move faster as organizations.

If we continue to fight the war of talent with the job rack and keep thinking in place like they have to be in this location; we're going to fly them in. We're not going to use video interviewing and we're not going to use technology to deal with the remote worker and we're not going to deal with moms who can only work five hours a day. I'm missing out on some amazing talent. In the world of talent and skills, those once again, with the best win. If I'm not using these weapons of skill, task, gig, my competition is and I'm going not get the same grade of talent as they are, which means my business will be suffering from it.

Peter: Alright, let's take that one step further and talk about another buzz word bingo, which is diversity, which is a topic that you brought up in your keynote. How do we stand in 2017 on this whole issue and topic around diversity within organizations?

Jason: One of the things that's really important to me about diversity is we've once again shifted the lens of diversity from looking at compliance to dealing with differences in views and thoughts. If we think about what does it take - if I get a group of eight people together and I want to innovate, which every company, their winning formula today is innovation. Whether I'm running a store and trying to figure out how to get more business or how to get things done more efficiently, or I'm running a hospital and trying to think about how to incorporate new patient procedures, innovation is the key to success. Now, in order to innovate, I have to have diverse thoughts. When I say diversity, we've gone from counting how many males and females to counting how many whites and non-whites, to counting how many people are full time versus part time, to looking at differences in views, differences in thoughts, differences in age, differences in whether or not I'm technology literate or not. That's true diversity.

My view on diversity is, is 2017 is a watershed moment to shift from counting of people to thinking about how do I actually get different groups and different viewpoints together to make innovation happen. I think that HR has gone from being diversity police to being diversity enablers, which drive business outcomes, which is "innovation". I think that going forward, you're going to see people say what I'm going to be counting is whether or not I have a diverse group of people together to take an idea forward versus doing it for some sort of board report that says hey, I've met my "quota".

Peter: I would like to briefly revisit HR Tech World and get from you what some of your highlights were out at Ft. Mason.

Jason: Oh wow, Peter. Every event I go to, no matter what event it is, there's amazing - I'm a sponge Peter. You ask me about myself; I mean if anything, I'm a sponge. I love to listen. Everything from Gary Vaynerchuk's opening keynote, which is guys, CFOs, they have to care about this stuff. CFOs - finance might be their title. Do they care about HR? Oh my gosh, 80% of peoples' total expense in most organizations is people. To say a CFO doesn't care about people, that's bull. What oftentimes CFOs don't care about is how I in HR track my people. Everything from that comment to thinking through, Peter from Prezi talking about innovation and how do I break the world of PowerPoint into something that's more innovative to people talking about new ways to recruit and breaking the performance management barrier. Or David Green from IBM talking about how do I not just look at myself in the mirror when it comes to HR analytics, but to really think about how to tie it back to business results. Those are four main highlights for me.

I walked away like guys, if this isn't an exciting time to be in the space of HR or workforce technology, I don't know what it's called to be excited anymore. We live in a world where we've come from developing technology for the HR department like I said earlier, to developing technology for the entire workforce. We, we in HR technology finally have center stage. We finally have center stage where we're not the back-office function. We're the main intravenous into people as to how they get information. I walked away blown away and more excited about the future of the profession than ever. My goal at that conference was to try to instill some of that into the audience where they walked away and didn't go back to their office saying hey, our job is to do payroll. While that's really, really important, we have a much, much, much greater cause on our hands, which is how do drive the future of the work?

Peter: I think you did a fantastic job as MC out in San Francisco. I really appreciate your time today, Jason. There's just one last thing I would like you to share with the audience and that's the derivation of Leap. Where did the name Leap come from and what does it mean?

Jason: Thanks for asking that question. I had an amazing opportunity about 15 years ago to read a book by a gentleman named Steve Farber. Steve became a hero of mine and now a friend of mine. He wrote a book called the Radical Leap. In the book "Radical Leap", what leap stands for in his definition is L, love; E, energy; A, audacity; and P, proof. So I read that book and I was like I don't know if you ever have these moments Peter where you read something and you're like oh my gosh. This is talking to me. I read that and I was like wow, this defines who I am. I love what I do. If I love what I do, it gives me an amazing amount of energy. There have been times I haven't loved what I'm been doing and it sucked the energy out of me. If I have energy, I can do the audacious things. I can do amazing things. If I don't have energy, you know it's really hard to do anything audacious.

Audacious; the concept of audacious is if I do something audacious, I have to proof that I can do it. I did it. And then go back and continue to do it over time. To me that word Leap, love what you do, which gives you energy to do the audacious and to prove value to people, that's where LeapGen came from. The Gen is we are their next generation now? We in the HR and workforce technology space, this is our next generation and together if we think about Leap, combine it with Gen, that's where LeapGen comes from.

Peter: Well again Jason, thank you so much for taking time to speak with me today here on TotalPicture. I think this has been a terrific conversation. I look forward to seeing you. Are you going to be Amsterdam?

Jason: I will be in Amsterdam.

Peter: Awesome.

Jason: We better talk before that.

Peter: We better, yes.

Jason: Let's make sure we do.

Peter: Okay. Thank you again and enjoy the rest of the summer.

Jason: Thanks Peter. Talk to soon.

Peter: That's our show. Your comments are welcome on Jason's show page in the leadership channel of While there, please sign up for our free newsletter. You can subscribe to our show on iTunes, Google Play or Sound Cloud. Enjoy the conversation on TotalPicture Radio's Facebook group. You'll find me on Twitter @Peter Clayton, @TotalPicture and @JobsinPods. Follow Jason @jasonaverbook. TotalPicture is your podcast resource for talent acquisition, sourcing, employer branding, leadership, staffing, L&D, career strategy, innovation and the tools and technologies accelerating business and personal growth. Opportunities to sponsor our podcast are available. Receive our media kit and schedule a free consultation. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . This is Peter Clayton. Thank you for tuning in. See you next time.

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