Listen to LDS CEO Mimi Brooks in this episode of The RecruitingDaily podcast hosted by William Tincup, President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. In this episode, Mimi and William discuss topics surrounding “The Human Hub in the Future of Work.” You can listen to additional episodes of The RecruitingDaily podcast at RecruitingDaily.com or on any podcast platform.
Music: This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three-year-old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup: Let’s jump into this. William Tincup, and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Mimi around from Logical Design Solutions, where we talk about the human hub and the future of work, so the new future of work. That’s probably a bit assumptive, but the future of work. And Mimi’s going to take us into this concept. So I can’t wait to jump into it. Mimi, would you do the audience a favor and me a favor and introduce both yourself and Logical Design Solutions?
Mimi Brooks: William, it’s so nice to be with you. I’m Mimi Brooks, I’m the CEO of LDS, Logical Design Solutions. And we are a management consultancy that works with large organizations on their organizational transformation. So digital transformation that’s disrupting the marketplace that becomes organizational transformation inside the enterprise is where we focus. So in strategizing with them on how to think about building the organization of the future, and then ultimately designing their employee and worker experiences. So from strategy to experience design and program management, that’s where we fit. So I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you.
William Tincup: Well, you were busy before COVID and then… Just because the digital transformation has obviously been things we’ve been talking about for years, I’m not sure that we have actually done as much of it that we talked about, but we’ll put that aside for a moment, but we have talked about it, but obviously, when everyone goes remote on Thursday, things get bumped up to the board level, to the C-suite and things get reprioritized. So before we get into the topic, how did your business change, I mean, as a result of COVID?
Mimi Brooks: Yeah, it’s a great question. I was just talking to somebody about this the other day. I think the most substantive change for us was that we’ve always worked inside the enterprise with employees, and workers, partners. So B2B and B2E if you will. And I said that it was a pretty unsexy business for a long time, and really was [crosstalk 00: 03: 05]…
William Tincup: Just because of the plumbing, and the electrical, laying down some cement.
Mimi Brooks: Exactly. Exactly. It was the please the arguments for why employee experience should be prioritized as a poor idea with customer experience. So I really think that the biggest change was the recognition that people, including workers would now be a center of our operating models. And I think that there’s no disputing that now. And thank goodness, it’s been a long time coming for that lesson to be learned.
William Tincup: It really has. It’s similar, but different to the discussion around pay equity and diversity. It’s like we’ve been talking about these things for years. It’s taken a bunch of different social movements and unfortunately, some people to die for it to actually get action. And so I hate that so many people died, so many people suffered and are still suffering, quite frankly. It’s still going on. To get us to this place, however, I am glad that we are at this place because you don’t have to push the Boulder uphill. Now it’s a conversation amongst peers where it’s like, “Okay, how do we do this?” As opposed to, why are we doing this?
Mimi Brooks: Yeah, I think that’s right. And it connects back to what you said in terms of this, were we doing digital transformation? Were we doing enough of it? Because I think that COVID was the tipping point in the era of digital transformation that was already underway really for 10 years, William, before COVID hit. And it’s an unfortunate accelerator. Unfortunately, accelerators often can be in that genre as you suggest. And I think that it caused us extreme pause to realize that we had to lean into this issue of the changing nature of human work, honestly. And so it’s unfortunate but we had been sitting on the edge of this digital ad, the fringe, if you will.
William Tincup: No, it was going to happen. I mean, that’s the irony of COVID and how it’s hit the future of work is many of these things were going to happen anyhow.
Mimi Brooks: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
William Tincup: They might have taken 20 years for them to happen, but they were going to happen. It would just take us longer to get there. And so this did accelerate things. I had a guest on the other day, they were talking about the great resignation was really more the great reconsideration or reflection or people, all people, I mean, from leaders, all the way down the front line, everyone’s reflecting and reconsidering how they want to interact with work and work before… We talked a lot about work life balances, put the two and two little corners. And so how do we balance them out? And we learned work-life integration. How do we actually integrate these things in our own living room or in our kitchen or wherever with kids and cats coming into the screen while we’re on calls and things like that. So it’s been very, very fascinating. Talk to us a little bit about the human hub and the future of work. So tell us just conceptually, what are you thinking here?
Mimi Brooks: Well, I think that, to your point, it’s a bit of a concept to try to give a name to the idea of what does it mean to put workers in the middle? So it’s a long statement to say, well, we should all agree that we’ve been in the era of digital transformation and now our organizations need to move. And all of those things are true. But if I say we need to build a human hub, I think it makes people stop and listen, and to almost imagine the idea of that. And so what we’re trying to say there is in our new organization structures where people are necessarily in the center, we’re not there because we’re gracious and generous. Right?
William Tincup: Right.
Mimi Brooks: That’s not the issue.
William Tincup: This isn’t philanthropic.
Mimi Brooks: That’s right. It isn’t philanthropic. There’s real business reasons for that to absolutely be the case. And so then we imagine the purpose of human work in our new organizations and we realize that it really is going to be people as the differential as technology does take its let’s say rightful place in routine work. So as we push that routine redundant work to machines, we add more capabilities in the age of algorithms, if you will, then we’re going to rely on the differential as being the creativity and capability of our human workforce. And so when we say we need to build a human hub, we mean we need to build a capability for people designed for people in our business ecosystems, that enables people to do the jobs of the future, that pulls them into those human only roles that we desperately need them to do.
So that’s what we mean when we start describing the solution, the idea, if you will, of a human hub. It’s a bit of an antithesis of where we are today, right?
William Tincup: Right.
Mimi Brooks: Just look at it today. People typically are barely in the driving seat. And most tools, and knowledge, and people, and networks that they need to find, they need to do a lot of work on their own to navigate such a system because the system is really not in place. It’s not in place.
William Tincup: Well, it’s many things. So like you and I both have heard CEOs for years say people are our most important assets and it’s like fingers on chalkboards. Now it’s like just hearing that on… Because cringeworthy. But we never really put time, money, and effort behind actually making people our most important assets. And what you’re talking about is, okay, it isn’t just workflow. It isn’t just tools and-
Mimi Brooks: That’s right.
William Tincup: Technology. It isn’t just the recruiting and training and developing people. It’s a mindset. We’ve actually got to change our way of thinking because you can change all the workflows. You can change some of the technology. You can hire different people. You can do those things. But if you don’t change your mindset, you’re just going to fall back into some of those comfortable things that we’ve done for years. So how does one get started? Because you deal with companies all over the strata and all over in different parts of the journey. So some of them that have taken on this idea, maybe a bit more aggressively and some that are a little slow to adopt, once they get it. So let’s just you don’t push the Boulder up the hill, they get it and they’re like, “Okay, Mimi, you have us. We were reluctant. We didn’t believe you. We believe you now. We’re ready to get started.”
Mimi Brooks: Yeah. It’s ironically true. It’s a little sad, but true. Yeah.
William Tincup: Yeah. Well, okay. But now what? What’s the playbook? What do you and your team help…? How do you help them through this process?
Mimi Brooks: Well, I like what you said because I always said it myself in response to the question about rolling the Boulder up the hill because it really doesn’t work. Right?
William Tincup: No.
Mimi Brooks: And we found that in the first phase of digital transformation, honestly, we bought all the technology. We bought it, Cloud, social-
William Tincup: It’s going to solve all of our problems.
Mimi Brooks: And some people are going to become a digital organization because we bought all the technology. We could buy our way into that organizational construct, which of course, we realized, look, they weren’t bad investments. We needed them anyways but they didn’t create the foundational change and it didn’t thwart off the digital giants and their continued gobbling up of market share. So it needs to come from the top down. And that is what we say. So we’re glad that we’re all in agreement in terms of organizational transformation is the key here. We need to build a new structure and here’s how we do it. The first thing we do is we align it to the purpose of the organization. It really does start at the top. What’s the purpose of the organization because at the end of the day, that’s why people are going to come and stay. I’ll make it a recruiting issue. That’s why people are going to come because their purpose nested in your purpose.
William Tincup: That’s right.
Mimi Brooks: I feel like I can do some good here. I feel like my work’s going to matter here. So the first thing we need to do is we need to imagine a platform that’s aligned to our purpose. And that’s why it changes from company to company, William. I mean, that’s why it isn’t out of the box because the purpose is different, our priorities are different. And the second thing we do is we say, the basis of such an experience is people culture and new work design. So purpose is the north star. People culture and new work design is the basis for the human hub. It’s what we’re going to build in order to support people in the context of work.
And the last dimension, that’s really the hardest one, William, is interesting is we can’t approach it by fixing pain points associated with the current state. We need to design for the future state. Because you can get everybody on one and two, purpose driven, got it, people culture, new work design, totally agree. And then when people’s jump to do the how, they want to jump in and fix the current model. And pain points are one aspect of what we look at, but the bigger aspect is where does the organization need to in five years and how do we build capability to get the organization there? So it must be future state oriented and that’s what’s difficult about it.
William Tincup: So the word transformation, when I think of transformation, for whatever reason, because of my eighth grade brain, I think of butterfly and caterpillar. So from one to another and so transformation. But the way that you’re conceptualizing it, the way that you do it, it’s not just one to another. It’s continuous. And I wonder if, for whatever reason, if this is why people for the last decade haven’t taken on digital transformation in a way that we’ve wanted them to because you’re right, they’ve tried to mandate their way through this and that’s never going to work. And I wonder if transformation is just too much ambiguity or maybe it’s just too hard a complex for them to get their hands around. When you give a sales goal, you either hit it or you don’t. It’s really easy. It sets a bit. What a marketing goal, very easy, 20,000 net new leads, that’s an easy deal. But something that’s going to be continuous and something that’s got a lot of ambiguity around it, I wonder if that might be some of the challenge in just getting people’s minds around, okay, this never stops.
Mimi Brooks: Yeah. I think you’re making… It’s really a profound point. I think digital transformation, I’ll put both words on the table, it was a really ineffective label. It’s really bad.
William Tincup: Thank you.
Mimi Brooks: It didn’t help us. Right?
William Tincup: No.
Mimi Brooks: Because just look at the two pieces, digital to the let’s buy the digital tools and therefore we’ll be digital. So that didn’t help us. We would’ve been better off if we had said something about reimagining the organization, correcting, something like that. So digital took us down the wrong path and then transformation was too close to change to the idea of change. And so people applied the old model of change, change at the end, change as the last mile, change once we’re done, we never have to do it again to your point. So the whole context of digital transformation didn’t serve us well. And then to your earlier point, this idea of like we look at something and change is gradual and gradual and gradual, and then it tips, but when it tipped, it tipped with digital transformation as the holy grail. You see what I mean? And then everybody got into their different definitions of it. So it hasn’t served us well.
William Tincup: Yes. Whoever came up with that word, we need to go back and talk to that person.
Mimi Brooks: I know it wasn’t good. And for 10 years, we take…
William Tincup: Oh, I know every HR conference I’ve been to in the last decade, there’s been a session on digital transformation. And I studied.
Mimi Brooks: Just so you know, we run them. I still run them. I still get asked to speak on the topic, and unfortunately, you have to go in and say, “Let me tell you what it is and what it is.” And it’s like how you open all of your talks. So yeah, it didn’t serve us well but you know what? Here’s the problem, William, is that if we called it what it really is, people don’t really have the appetite to pursue it.
William Tincup: That’s right.
Mimi Brooks: What’s the purpose of human work in the next industrial revolution? Sorry, that’s the discussion.
William Tincup: That’s right.
Mimi Brooks: And I could try to dumb that down if you need me to, but that’s the discussion.
William Tincup: Yeah. And it’s a big discussion. By the way, there’s a lot of moving and a lot of ambiguity but what’s really interesting because of COVID and also because of people reflecting on how they want to work in the future, you see companies that historically never had a problem with candidate flow. So let’s take a like Taco Bell.
Mimi Brooks: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
William Tincup: I know a bunch of folks at Yum and Taco Bell, in particular, they’ve never had a problem with candidate flow. They just have more candidates than they have jobs. That’s just historically has been the case and they are not there. They are not at that place. Now they’ll have candidate flow, but they don’t have enough candidate flow to fill the jobs. They’re now moving into a model that you can start today and get paid today. Just think of that.
Mimi Brooks: Oh, that’s interesting.
William Tincup: They’re not thinking about a funnel and an interview process and all these steps and all this stuff. No. You want to work? Fantastic. You can work today. You can get paid today. Fantastic. You want to show up tomorrow? Fantastic. Because that’s where they’re at. And again, emotionally or intellectually, they wouldn’t have been at that place if it weren’t for COVID and it weren’t for people reflecting on how they want to do work differently. But I want to get back to a point that you made with the CEOs and the top down, because I am totally onboard with that. In fact, 100 years ago, I used to do salesforce.com implementations.
Mimi Brooks: Oh, mm-hmm (affirmative).
William Tincup: And back then, when we got called in to do the bid, if the CEO and a C-suite wasn’t bought in, it was paid for obviously by them but it was really pushed to the sales team, it didn’t work. If the CEO and the CFO and all of the folks were in Salesforce, it would work. I could nail an implementation just based on whether or not the C-suite was going to actually log into the application.
Mimi Brooks: Yeah. That makes sense to me. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
William Tincup: So with what you’re dealing with, again, the human hub, you’re going to move people to people-centric work. You’re going to put people in the center of the business. You’re going to build workflow around them. You’re going to build the outcomes around them. You’re going to build everything, technology around them. I love the way you carved out the things that can be automated, let them be automated.
Mimi Brooks: That’s right. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
William Tincup: Let humans be. How do you get the C-suite? Again, easier today than it was two years ago. Got that. But still, you’re dealing with folks that have to make a major investment. They have to make an investment, but they have to make a mindset shift. And I think that might be harder than the investment with some folks because of the way that they’ve worked up until now. What’s your conversation with the C-suite like or even the board? What’s it like these days?
Mimi Brooks: So what I would say is in a very refreshing way, there’s never been a time in recent years that I can think of where there’s been such alignment at the most senior level, in terms of the why because it’s right up against the marketplace business model. I mean, it is exactly what CEOs care about. So you’re not trying to say, “Hey, what about this issue of workers being around in the future?” You know what I mean?
William Tincup: Yeah.
Mimi Brooks: Oh, I haven’t thought about that. I mean, they’re on the issue and they appreciate, and I think it makes sense to them that we can connect the dots very directly from their marketplace strategy to the capabilities of the organization. That’s a win. That’s a conversation that you can have all day with the senior executive team. They know they’ve got shortcomings and readiness issues relative to organizational capability. So it’s good. So the why is there. What is the problem is the what, when. It’s the, what, when problem because how do we get there? What’s the first step? What’s the second step? And what makes the what, when difficult is that the CEO now is given their blessing to the project, right, William?
They’re there. They’re like, “Go. Go, we step in to go.” And now we’ve got to create a cross organizational team of stakeholders in companies that are designed still to make all decisions vertically. So the company’s structure and decision-making process below the CEO is naturally vertical and siloed, and yet the solution that we’re trying to implement is naturally a horizontal solution. You see it. It’s an anti-pattern to the way that decisions get made today, which creates a bottleneck of consensus around what, when. Does that make sense?
William Tincup: Oh, 100%. And also, you’re dealing with this… You’re in the trenches, so you know this better than I do. But when I was consulting, what I loved about consulting is there was a beginning kickoff, a middle, some type of checkpoint, and an end. And as a consultant, you could walk away. The best part about being a consultant is you give them whatever they needed the outcome and then you walk away. This isn’t that. This doesn’t feel like that, at least.
Mimi Brooks: It’s not that, unfortunately, because it was fun when you could walk away. I can’t remember that last time because you know what it’s now, William, is it’s the exact opposite. It’s this transference of the challenge to you now. So now I can go to sleep because I know you’re going to not sleep.
William Tincup: Right. So it’s something that’s going to continue and it is going to change. And as we learn more about the organization and how… Because the people are going to change too.
Mimi Brooks: That’s right.
William Tincup: So that’s a B2C customer marketing Axiom of the very moment that you understand your customers at the very moment they change. And so this is true of workers as well. So the moment we finally figure them out, they’ll also change. And so the organization will have to be agile enough to fit around whatever that change is. Again, I don’t know what it’ll be, but… So like the consulting model, your consulting model, the way that you work with your clients, that’s probably changed and will change in the future as well.
Mimi Brooks: That’s right. That’s right. And William, the language that I use to that to describe this whole phenomena that you’re describing is it’s a strategy of adaptability. That’s what it is. When we’re talking about a human hub, because we’re not saying it’s a hub in a box. It’s not a hub today and you can have it forever more. It’s not a thing, an immovable thing. The human hub, if we do this correctly is by its nature building organizational adaptability, just like the role of people in the future state is how will humans adapt through this very disruptive change that is still more ahead of us than behind us. So if you boil it all down, it’s a strategy of adaptability.
William Tincup: I love that.
Mimi Brooks: That is the most common idea.
William Tincup: I love that because you’re constantly going to be teaching everyone. So this is top to bottom about adaptability. And there’s probably some adaptability’s code for agility, but you’re also building in some resilience to where people they can deal with and consume ambiguity, the unknown. And that’s okay. But I love the idea that you’re teaching and making a core value. Even if it isn’t a core value of their business, this is going to be a core value and something core that they all understand because the faster they understand and get on board with adaptability, the more that they will then be able to deal with the inevitable adaptability that will come, that they have to either adapt or die. Right?
Mimi Brooks: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And so then when you say, so what survives through this, William? So if it’s not the thing that survives, what really survives goes back to this concept that you brought up in the beginning, which is mindsets. So what are enduring are ideas that leaders role in the future is to model the future for people. Show me what good looks like. That’s a resilient idea that I can… I’m not leading from the top. I’m leading from behind. I’m enabling autonomous teams and I’m modeling the future for them so that they can imagine what good looks like, what’s sustainable for employees, that employees see their work aligned to that new value creation of the business. They have to do that, right, William? They need to do that.
William Tincup: You said it earlier, to attract the talent, people want to feel valued. And so they also want to feel like the work is not just that they’re value, but they’re doing valuable work and that the business recognizes that.
Mimi Brooks: That’s good.
William Tincup: And that’s kind of new. I mean, I’m sure it’s not absolutely new, but if you talk to anyone looking for a job today, they’re very picky. They’re looking at job descriptions differently than we did two years ago.
Mimi Brooks: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
William Tincup: They’re looking at career pages differently. And if they don’t see some of that language, they’re just not going to try and change it. They’ll just move on to the next place that gets it, “gets it.” And so there’s companies out there that are just losing talent because they’re not applying because they haven’t communicated their vision around how they’re building this business and what they’ve learned. I think there’s a wonderful opportunity for companies to go, “Hey, here’s what we’ve learned. Here’s what we’re learning. Here’s how our business is changing.” And it’s not just the outputs of our business. We’re fundamentally changing our business. We need people and we want you to come and help us. We would value you to be here, which is a different message. Historically, when we’ve interviewed people in the past, we’ve interviewed from a position of power and it comes from a place of, it’s a privilege to work here.
Whereas the talent is saying, it’s a privilege for me to be here. And that is completely rocked the talent acquisition and the HR world because we’re not ready for that. We weren’t ready for that. We’re definitely not ready for that. But Mimi, I could talk to you all day, all day long but you’ve got clients and stuff you got to go talk and do some of those good work. Let’s check in the new year and see what all you’re learning because, give you another three months, six months into this and you’re going to learn some new things and have some great stories.
Mimi Brooks: I’d love to do that. William, thank you so much. I really enjoyed this. It was fun to meet you, and thanks for having me on.
William Tincup: Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.
Music: You’ve been listening to the Recruiting Live podcast by RecruitingDaily. Check out the latest industry podcast, webinars, articles, and news at recruitingdaily.com.
Logical Design Solutions (LDS) is a digital strategy and design consultancy to global enterprises. We create experiences that transform business and help people work successfully in the new digital organization. Clients come to LDS because of our reputation for intellectual rigor, our foundation in visionary experience strategy, and our commitment to enabling digital transformation inside the enterprise. Learn More about how LDS has dramatically improved the way that some of the largest corporations in the world do business.