Chief Human Resources Officer & Industry influencer on why flexible working is the future

Chief Human Resources Officer & Industry influencer on why flexible working is the future

Industry: All industries
Interesting to: Employers

E2 S2 - Talk Roleshare Podcast
"Why is it even called flexible working anymore. It’s working."

- Jill Katz, HR influencer, transformation expert, and CHRO at AssembleHR

"What if you don’t..." empower, enable, and support your direct reports to work flexibly? This simple, yet powerful question is one Jill Katz, HR influencer, transformation expert, and CHRO at AssembleHR, will ask leaders as part of her work. Jill's passion and point of view on flexible working or, as she states, "it's simply 'working'," will inspire you and empower you to nurture your "also's" in life, should you want that.

Episode Transcript

Sophie Smallwood: Hey, this is Talk with Roleshare, I'm Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Dear line manager. What if you don't? What if you don't empower, enable and support your direct reports to work flexibly? This simple yet powerful question, what if you don't? Is a question Jill Katz, H.R. influencer, transformation expert and CHRO at Assemble H.R., will ask leaders as part of her work. This is one of many powerful questions and one-liners from Jill about the future of work. Here is Jill.

Jill Katz: I am a mother, and a wife, and a daughter, and a sister, and a friend, and a working mom, and a believer in so many things, and I'm also a people development expert. I spent 22 years leading human resources inside of some amazing organizations, and I had the good fortune of a career that I truly love and roles that I loved in companies that I loved and somehow I guess had the foresight of having what I call the portfolio career before it was cool.

Sophie Smallwood: Right. Yeah, absolutely.

Jill Katz: So when I was growing up in the work world, we were told by everybody that we should get one job and stick with that job in that company for as long as possible so that we could show loyalty and legacy in a company. So most of the people that I matriculated with stayed with companies for 10, 15, 20 years and that was fantastic. And for me, I was just so curious and so ambitious and I couldn't do it. And so I ended up having opportunities in startups and very historical companies. I worked in media and fashion and finance and retail, and in almost every industry I was in companies that were 2,3 people starting up in someone's attic, and I worked in companies as large as two hundred thousand people. So I've had the great fortune of doing all of that, and then about a year and a half ago, the one thing I realized was still on my bucket list that I had never done was entrepreneurship and owning and running my own company. So I decided to step off the proverbial cliff and pull that little red lever and jump. I started Assemble H.R. Consulting so that I could go back into the world using everything that I had learned and give back to companies focusing on the areas that I love the most.

Sophie Smallwood: And you're an influencer. I mean, you're very active with the media. You are a force to be reckoned with. A lot of people believe and respect your foresight when it comes to H.R. and the future of work, and that takes work. And how did you get to that point of really being seen as an H.R. influencer?

Jill Katz: And that's very nice. I appreciate that and I don't take it lightly. I think that these are words that we toss around a lot but the truth is, it's the future of our lives and that is so important. It's so serious. It's how we're going to live. It has to do with our families and our children and our parents. It is something I am incredibly passionate about, Sophie, as you know. And so I really just talked a lot about it. And I suppose I didn't stop talking about it. And I've been fortunate enough to have a broad network and spend a lot of time using social media to interact with people who also share the same passions that I do and post videos and content in order to share the message and allow other people who are having the same kinds of thoughts or questions to join in the conversation. And what I have found is that I'm not the only person who's thinking the things that I'm thinking in a lot of the cases. And I think that's kind of how it happened. And I'll tell you, it was never on purpose. It still is a surprise to me when people say to me, you're an influencer. It's not something that you get used to. I'm just a person who has strong beliefs and I do believe that it's important to talk about these things, otherwise they can get lost.

Sophie Smallwood: I think part of it, too, is authenticity. Right? So you're living it in essence. So you have lived a portfolio career, which is in essence, in line with the future of work we're talking about. The gig economy, growth and freelance work contractors, et cetera. And I'm obviously looking to push this idea of shared roles, which has been around for a long time, but so that people can also, pursue portfolio careers, so you're living it, you've been doing it. The other thing, too, is you have passion, right? So that seeps through. And then also what I think you said, which I want to point out is, you're joining up, you're having conversations with people, you've aligned with other individuals who believe the same. So there's always strength in numbers. So I'm seeing a little bit of a formula there, which I think you've done quite well, and I want to pick at your knowledge to see how we can perhaps continue to influence people when it comes to the future of work, and I love this concept of the future of work is really the future of our lives. That's a great way to think about it. Let me ask you, when it comes to this concept of shared roles, we reached out to you and told you a little bit about what we're doing. What was it about this concept that sort of piqued your interest?

Jill Katz: I think we are all reading the same things and seeing the same tag lines. But at the end of the day, the world is changing and we are finally at a place where we are allowed to openly value our lives and make our personal lives the premium. The fact of the matter and a lot of what I talk about is there isn't anyone I've met yet that doesn't have other things going on. We all have people that we love. We all have legitimate stressors. We all have outside interests, hobbies, curiosities. There's other things going on. And there was a day that you were supposed to, quote, 'leave it at the door' and go in and do a job. But because of all the amazing things that are happening around us, including technology, it's just not necessary anymore. You don't have to. And so as soon as these options open up, as soon as you don't have to anymore, there really isn't a need. And you now see more and more people, and I'm a great example, saying 'wait, hold on a second here. I did one thing for 22 years, I woke up every morning and I got onto a train or a bus or I got in my car and I drove however far and I showed up on time to sit in the same place. But wait a second. There are other people everywhere who aren't doing that anymore. And I also want to do something else'. And the word also is such a powerful word. I also want to start another different business. I also want to be at my son's basketball game. I also want to exercise in the middle of the day. I also want to, who knows what. And there isn't a reason why you shouldn't be able to do that. And so I think that we are starting to see the power of options and more and more people doing it, more and more people talking out loud about it makes this really a wave that is going to be, I think, one hundred thousand foot wave that you have caught on to with Roleshare. And I personally remember the first time I wanted a flexible work arrangement, and they thought I was crazy.

Sophie Smallwood: I can imagine.

Jill Katz: They thought I was nuts. And this was thirteen years ago, and yet the way I felt about it, it seemed perfectly right to me. And I was very passionate about it. And at that time I was a black sheep. So today I imagine that the interest and desire is ten fold and it's not strange. It's appropriate.

Sophie Smallwood: I love this concept of also. It's so true. But another thing you said, which really struck a chord, is that we all have an also. Right, we all have and also and it's agnostic, it's gender-neutral, it's reason neutral. And I think one of the challenges when it comes to flexible working today is that there is a persona attached to it. And we typically think of a working mother and that is a true, relevant use case. A lot of working moms do have this need. However, in order to make this a mass appeal, this all needs to be a greater persona. We need to be able to enlist men to do this more comfortably. We need men to advocate for it. I recently interviewed two gentlemen who are sharing a very senior role at an insurance company, and they've been doing it for about two years. But there's, I think, a lot of pressure. And there was some judgment around the perception of men working flexibly.

Jill Katz: There's no question, we have spent so much time fighting for women. And of course, I am always going to be fighting for women because I think what women have to do just by way of going through maternity leave and giving birth and all of the things that we do and only we can do, but at the same time, in a world where you're starting to see more families that are single-parent families or 2 father families, 2 mother families, you see parents getting older, you see people having to care for elderly parents, you see people caring for other people's siblings, close friends. This is absolutely gender agnostic. The mom piece is an important piece and it is simply, in my mind, one component.

Sophie Smallwood: Exactly right. So there's no question about it that people would want this if it was readily available and also, in essence, acceptable within the company cultures that they're a part of and I think company culture is a big part of it. Right. So we know that typically people who share roles, in particular, have a deep need for it. There's a real reason behind why they want that. There also is a real also, they also have an equal aspiration and a desire to continue to grow their career and have fulfilling roles immersed within certain companies. Now, when we look at the fortune, one hundred top companies, for example, and we look and dissect their perks, about 40 percent of them offer shared roles as an official perk. However, if you look at numbers, it's about 2 to 3 percent adoption. So even if a company offers that as a perk or they say they do, adoption still seems to be very low. There seems to be some blockers around basically scaling this inside of companies, and I'd love to get your take on what you think those blockers might be and how we might be able to address them. I think one I'll start with is finding people, just finding a match, which is something that we are looking to solve. So helping individuals looking to share a role, find a match. But then there's this problem in this blocker around perception, both from the team, the line manager and the company itself. Do you have any thoughts on how we could potentially scale this type of flexible working inside of companies?

Jill Katz: The things that come to my mind are trust, managers, and communication. And managers falls into all of it and I'm going to go backwards. So when you say that 40 percent of companies are offering but adoption rate is low, the first question I have is there's a difference between offering something and communicating it.

Sophie Smallwood: Right. That's a good point.

Jill Katz: And I think that a lot of companies actually, if you investigate fully, many companies offer many benefits, but sometimes it's just so that they can get the credit for offering the benefit, not so that it's taken up on many times. And so part of what's really important is to understand what is actually communicated and how the company is going about communicating it. So do they really believe in this? If we offer role sharing in our company, are we going out of our way to ensure that everybody in our company knows that this is an option? Are we also being strategic about looking at the talent inside of the organization to determine who might be interested in taking the company up on this kind of offer and even further thinking about who might be on a talent risk list because they have an also that could get in the way. So that's the first thing I think of. And then the next thing I think about is trust and trust in terms of role sharing, I think works in a lot of ways. The first is my manager needs to trust me and also needs to trust the person that I share a role with, that we are both going to work very seamlessly together to get the job done. The next is I need to trust my role share partner and my role share partner needs to trust me. And that's really hard. And to me that might be the biggest challenge, the hardest part of this particular concept, which is, I'm going to turn my work or my projects or my clients or whatever the role is over to another person. And I might not be part of picking that person. I might not even really know that person very well, depending on how the process works. And so I think maybe one of the biggest challenges is, I'm ultimately going to be graded, measured against performance in a job that I share with a person whose performance I cannot, impact, or control. And then the third, again, is managers. And this is something that I would list for any topic, on any job, on any past. And the manager piece, of course, touches communication. It touches trust. And the manager, of course, in my mind is the linchpin to the success in any role.

Sophie Smallwood: Absolutely.

Jill Katz: The manager is the person who's going to maximize the situation or not. The manager is the person that's going to support this or not. The manager is the one who's going to help us make it work or make it harder. The manager is going to be the enabler and the supporter and the empowerer and the sponsor or the manager is going to be the one that is irritated by this and is going to make it more challenging and is going to create stress. And so in a situation that has added complexity like a role share, the manager that is involved is such a critical piece.

Sophie Smallwood: Right. You either win or you lose there. It's an interesting point. It's completely valid. So let me ask you a hypothetical question. High level. Say next week you have a project and the project is that you're going to be working with, it's a mid-sized company, to help them introduce the concept of sharing roles. What would be top of mind for you as far as how to, in essence, address these three points here that you mentioned?

Jill Katz: Well, again, I would be talking less about the tactics and more about the future of our lives and more about what it is that the company wants to get done and what kind of talent the company wants to have to get that work done. And then I would look at that talent pool and I would say, what percentage of that talent pool do we see as people that are going to continue to want to be in the workforce going forward, 100 percent of the time, 9 to 5.

Sophie Smallwood: Right.

Jill Katz: Because you'd need to solve the problem backward in my mind. If the answer isn't 100 percent, then you need to start having options.

Sophie Smallwood: Absolutely.

Jill Katz: Why is it even called flexible working anymore? Why isn't it just called working?

Sophie Smallwood: Right.

Jill Katz: It's working.

Sophie Smallwood: It's working. I love that. And that was Jill Katz, H.R . influencer. So many powerful statements, 'the future of work is the future of our lives', 'we all have an also'. It's all so true. She also hit it smack on the head when she talked about line managers as enablers or disablers. So next time you interview for a job, remember, you're interviewing the manager as much as he or she is interviewing you. And for forward-thinking companies, please pick your managers wisely. That is, if you want to appeal to the growing expectations of today and tomorrow's talent pool. I'm Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Thanks for listening and join us for the next episode of Talk with Roleshare.

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