HR and Hashtag Outrage – Which Trends Will Really Have Impact

Hosted by

Mervyn Dinnen

Analyst, Author, Commentator & Influencer

About this episode

HR Means Business 7: HR and Hashtag Outrage – Which Trends Will Really Have Impact

Host: Mervyn Dinnen

Guest: Allie Nawrat, HR Journalist with UNLEASH

In this episode Mervyn talks to Allie Nawrat, an award winning senior journalist who produces content that helps HR leaders to make the right decisions.

They discuss:

– With so many stories, opinions and research on digital channels how do you identify which ones are insightful and relevant to you

– Are ‘Quiet Quitting’ and ‘Bare Minimum Mondays’ real trends – what are HR managers actually seeing in their businesses

– ChatGPT and conversational AI – are they friends or foe for HR

– What’s the reality for HR around the debate on Remote, Flexible and Hybrid working

– What are likely to be the big HR trends during the rest of 2023


Thanks for listening! Remember to subscribe to all of the HR Happy Hour Media Network shows on your favorite podcast app!

Transcript follows:

Mervyn Dinnen 0:14
Welcome to the HR Means Business podcast on the HR Happy Hour Network. I’m your host, Mervyn Dinnen, and today I’m going to have a very interesting conversation with somebody whose job it is to is to help HR leaders make the right decisions. One of the things I’m most interested to explore over the course of the podcast series is something I referred to in the launch episode, which is the concept of HR in the era of digital hashtag outrage. Barely a week goes by without another hashtag from great resignation and quiet quitting through to rage applying and quite recently, bare minimum Monday. Not to mention the ongoing debate amount remote flexible and hybrid work. And it can be difficult for HR leaders and HR specialists to know what to believe, what is digital noise? And what is it insightful research, which can help them make decisions. So today, I’m going to be talking to the award winning senior journalist Allie Nawrat, who is with UNLEASH, and it’s her role to produce content to help HR leaders make the right decisions. So I can’t wait to hear her take on some of the topics of the day. Allie, would you like to introduce yourself? Welcome to the show.

Allie Nawrat 1:37
Thanks so much, Mervyn. Yeah, great to be on. And so yeah, so for people who don’t know UNLEASH, we are an HR and future of work media and events company. And I sit on the editorial team. So I mainly work on the media side. And as he said, award winning, we won kind of the WTW which is, you know, the new iteration of Willis Towers Watson, you know, the big insurer, and they have their awards every year. And this year, we are WTW HR and employee benefits publication of the year, which is incredibly exciting, given we’re only you know, just over two years old media sites. So really, really cool to see that the work we’re doing is, you know, paying dividends. It’s one could say I’m excited to talk about HR outrage.

Mervyn Dinnen 2:17
Okay. And I noticed you were highly commended as an employee experience and well being journalist of the year, so well done. Okay. HR and hashtag outrage. We’ll start at the beginning. So many stories, so much research, so many opinions popping up on on digital threads or in digital newsletters on LinkedIn, on Twitter. How do you sort out what’s insightful? What’s relevant and what is, I would say attention seeking sales bluster.

Allie Nawrat 2:51
I like that phrase is really, really hard. And we kind of have, we have, you know, on we use Microsoft Teams, and we do a lot of like, Oh, here’s another one and have a little joke about it and our editorial team. I think what I tried to do is just see what the experts you know, people like you people, like Trish McFarlane are kind of tweeting about talking about on LinkedIn, and seeing if you know, people do think it’s just bluster of there does seem to be some research underneath it, trying to see if there’s any study. Some of these are kind of based on tick tock trends, like bare minimum Monday, but quiet, when we did was quiet constrained, which we can talk a little bit more about later, that one was based on research. So I think some of the ones that are maybe a bit more research based, we usually leave in two more.

Mervyn Dinnen 3:37
Okay. I mean, there’s been a lot around quiet to, I suppose try to underline the fact that employees might be not quite downing tools, but kind of easing off kind of, they’re not happy with the way they’re being supported. Their employee experience as an experienced maybe isn’t as good as they want it to be in the organization. So they’re not quite downing tools and just not pushing themselves. What in particular, I suppose what do you think about that as a phenomenon, because it’s come up a few times, quite quitting, quite hiring quite constrained. Bare minimum Monday is a recent iteration. So you know, what do you think? And when you do talk to HR leaders, and HR specialists, what are they saying to you? Are they indicating that they notice these things? Or are they kind of hands up in the air saying, I don’t know what people are talking about?

Allie Nawrat 4:34
Yeah, we don’t. I was thinking about this, the head of our chat, and we talk a lot about the great resignation. But I think the quiet quitting is obviously harder to pinpoint. It’s harder to kind of see that happening. And I think that’s the lesson of it is that I think HR leaders need to try and nip it in the bud if the idea of quiet quitting is that people are doing less and less because they’re disengaging. That is an issue which kind of goes back to the employee expense. variance stuff, you know, having an engaged workforce is kind of what we’re all aiming for engaged, productive, happy, you know, you know, wanting to be at work, not kind of disengaging and kind of looking for new opportunities, I think I find quite firing quite a scary one, because it’s kind of the opposite of that. It’s basically letting people quite quit, and just kind of waiting for them to resign. And part of that a little bit like hiring people is very expensive. Surely you want to try and retain the people that you’ve already got, you’ve already invested all this time, money into kind of developing them giving them a job, you know, they’re integrated into your culture. And it seems a little bit a little bit of a strange that one worries me more, I think that’s something HR should not be doing or should not be encouraging managers to do.

Mervyn Dinnen 5:48
And do you get the impression that the people you speak to an HR are maybe doing it, because it’s the self fulfilling prophecy? Almost, if they read enough about kind of, you know, quiet firing, then it’s something that people begin to do. Possibly managers, you know, without even realizing it.

Allie Nawrat 6:10
I think there’s definitely a case of people doing it without realizing it. I would say that, I think it’s more as you said, I think it’s more of a manager problem. It’s more something managers are doing, I’m sure, it’s not something that HR obviously would advocate for, I think, but maybe there’s an action that HR needs to take with managers to being like, if you’re seeing these kinds of behaviors, you know, maybe have more one to ones with your people, you know, talk to them about what they need? Do they need more support? Do they need more learning and development? Are they did they have personal struggles going on in their personal lives that, you know, you could help them with or talk to them about or treat them more like humans, rather than just kind of worker bees that just are just, you know, working? They are a holistic human being with, you know, multiple struggles or challenges in their in their general life? So I think I would say it’s more on the managers, there’s a lot about, kind of, we write a lot about kind of how managers are the key to retention. And a lot of the reason why people are leaving is because they don’t necessarily have the right relationship with their manager. So I think this is where HR needs to lean into maybe upskilling managers around that kind of stuff.

Mervyn Dinnen 7:17
Yes, no, no, I agree with you on that. One. I think that it’s, you know, a lot of the presentations that I do particularly around things like employee experience, candidate experience, it’s important to actually get managers on side with that, to understand kind of, you know, what, what, what goes into that and how they can impact it. One of the things that we there’s a couple of these trends that you and I have been interacting with over social media this year, and one is bare minimum Monday. And I know that you wrote recently that you think you’ve got behind this, now you’ve spoken to enough people. So what, what did you find out and what is bare minimum Monday.

Allie Nawrat 8:03
So it’s a Tik Tok trend. And it’s basically the idea that having a slow start to on Monday is basically the idea of it, maybe prioritizing self care. So the lady on Tik Tok, she does it, it’s good. It’s very good video, it’s very well produced. It’s quite interesting. But a lot of people have kind of used it as kind of slacking off on Monday, whereas I don’t necessarily think that’s necessarily what she was implying. But basically, when I first saw it, I rolled I was like, This is stupid. As I said, we put it in this chat that we have, and we were all kind of like her. Yeah, whatever. Just another trend, just another, you know, attention seeking sales bluster, as you said, but I think I then kind of thought I was chatting to our social media manager, and she was kind of saying, you know, maybe, maybe this is one to think more about, she’s kind of been seeing some stuff, about, you know, how you know, the ebbs and flows of productivity and how it obviously isn’t linear. And I thought, Well, might as well ask, then we’ve asked my HR community who, let’s see what they say. And actually, I think they got a pretty decent consensus, which was kind of this isn’t necessarily a problem. It could just be that some people are more, you know, it doesn’t really matter if people 100% productive all day Monday, so long as like, by the end of the week, or by the end of the month, they’ve like achieved the work. They were supposed to real productive at different times of the day.

Allie Nawrat 9:23
I personally am kind of better, like 10 Till lunchtime. And then after that, I kind of lose a little bit of momentum. But sometimes after lunch, it picks up it kind of depends on the day, it depends on all sorts of factors. But anyway, so I talked to the to that some of these new vendors and experts and they kind of just basically said that what they were worried about with HR ignoring it and just eye rolling and seeing that it’s just as another trend to not worry about is it could kind of be masking some of these issues with burnout and well being because I know Gartner did some research that said 2022 was the worst year on record for stress and burn out. 2023 is not looking much better. And I think that’s kind of a layover from COVID, isn’t it where, you know, it was a lot of people, overworking and struggling to create boundaries. So I think it’s kind of it might not be a problem, it might just be that some people take a slow start to a Monday then have a really productive Tuesday. But I think it’s kind of it’s one to kind of just keep an eye on is what I would say a little bit like quiet quizzing, kind of see if it’s happening, it might not be but if it is, don’t ignore it, or overlook it.

Mervyn Dinnen 10:32
It’s about having conversations as well, I suppose for managers. In one of the previous podcast in this series, I was chatting to somebody about some research around mental health and the fact that a lot of people, if they’re struggling with their mental health, when they phone in, they won’t give that as the reason. So they’ll either make an excuse for why they don’t want to come into work, or they will just show up to work, but maybe when they shouldn’t. So it’s interesting how all of this overlaps as well, particularly, I suppose, as you say, it’s been identified as happening on a Monday, the beginning of the week, and maybe there is an overlap here. Probably the most talked about phenomenon or topic of 2023 so far is conversational AI, primarily through chat to GPT. Now, I know that you’ve researched and written about its impact and uses for HR. So I suppose the Firstly, to people listening who are not 100% Sure, what is it? And then what what did you find?

Allie Nawrat 11:42
So it’s quite a hard thing to explain. But it’s basically a very clever Chatbot. So it’s based on kind of these generational AI foundational models. So it kind of uses all the information on the internet, and then creates a very human like response. So unlike a chatbot, which can be we’ve all use chat bots, you know, for customer service, they can be very bucketing, you feel like you’re kind of talking to yourself, This is a lot more like having a conversation, you can ask it, you know, quite quite interesting questions and get it to come up with some fun stuff. I know, I have some friends that used it over Christmas to write a Shakespearean play in the theme of like, Pirate or something. And so that’s quite a fun, a fun use of it. So what we thought so we’ve been using it and unleashed a kind of some content generation and, you know, using it in social to see a bit writes better social media posts than we can and things like that. Turns out, it doesn’t. But it’s quite a good place to start if you’re struggling with content creation. So we kind of thought, well, let’s see. Let me let me ask the experts. Again, a bit like bare minimum Monday, this is happening, let me see what the experts say. And as this guy from Gartner basically told me that he thinks this is, you know, the content side also works for HR, but obviously, ATS other kinds of tech like that can do that already. It can help you with the kind of writing job descriptions or writing a job. What’s it called, like a job contract, something like that. But actually, in terms of HR using it as as sorry, organizations using it as a chatbot within their own company, to automate some of those HR kind of repetitive questions, it would need to be integrated into existing vendor tools. At the moment. It’s obviously an open source platform. If you were going to get employees, we’re going to be able to use it to get information out, you’d have to input so much sensitive employee data. So obviously a breach of all kinds of regulations. So yeah, so it’s interesting. So basically, the takeaway is that HR vendors need to step up, I’m seeing that already doing it. I know HireEZ is kind of has announced they’re working on something, they’ve kind of launched a GPT three, which is the model that underlies ChatGPT kind of integrating that. And I’m sure there’s some other HR tech companies. So the takeaway for HR is to talk to your vendors about what they’re doing, and find out if and kind of tell them that you’re interested to learn more, and maybe they’ll innovate.

Mervyn Dinnen 14:10
Did you see any? Or have you heard of any HR people almost using it for kind of, you know, how should I approach this? How should I do a performance review? How should I, you know, I have low morale in my team, how can I improve it? Do you see it yet being used specifically like that as a tool to I suppose help managers manage? Or is that something down the line?

Allie Nawrat 14:37
I think that definitely could be used like that. Already. The problem is, of course, is that what it comes out with is usually quite generic. So it’s very, it’s not really it won’t give you anything innovative to do. So if you typed in, you know, how do I improve morale in my team? You could probably find more and more useful resources on the internet already. About that. Like I Don’t think it’s, I mean, there’s obviously quicker. I think that’s the benefit of it. But it wouldn’t tell you the source, it wouldn’t tell you wouldn’t know how reliable the source was. So you wouldn’t know it was like based on research of 5000 HR leaders or something like that, which is what you know, the coverage we do, or, you know, vendors produce a lot of content like that don’t know, which is kind of like how to do ie x better or something like that. So I’m not sure I think the negatives I see with it is that I don’t think people understand that it’s based on the whole internet. So obviously, if based on what people are writing on social media opinions, it’s not fact like what it brings out is not necessarily factual. And I think there’s a lot of biases in it, which is something we’re going to try and explore in future pieces. I want to kind of look at the biases, and if that’s any, because AI has this problem in general, but whether or not we’re catching up to it’s kind of worse, because it’s from a bigger just set of data. So yeah, it’s definitely fun to play around with, I think, is where it’s at at the moment, I’m not sure. Like, actually, I did use it to write a PDP. And it was just, it didn’t really do anything. It just, it was too it was very generic. I’m not sure it helped. It told me what not to do. It’s probably more. Don’t do that.

Mervyn Dinnen 16:21
I suppose it’s quite good for pointers. So if it was kind of if you went into it and said, you know, what skills to talent acquisition leaders need in 2023? It will give you some fairly, I suppose, a generic listing, but actually, it’s kind of it might be a conversation opener, in that, yes, I know, those are the skills I need. But now thinking about it, do I really have them? How can I improve them? Does everybody around me have them? So? Possibly, it’s your right relying on it too much, might be a problem, because you can’t as yet we don’t know. You don’t always know the accuracy of the source. I suppose over the last two or three years, the biggest topic has been around remote flexible, hybrid, a synchronous working. The digital narrative around this is strong, mainly because analysts influencers writers, journalists, content creators, those are the kinds of people who can all work flexibly, they could all work from home, they can all work from wherever. What are you hearing from HR professionals you speak to obviously, you know, we know that something like almost 60% of jobs in the UK economy can’t be done remotely, because it’s healthcare, it is utilities, it’s driving, it’s that kind of thing. And I’ve seen a number of senior HR leaders from those kinds of sectors saying, you know, will people stop banging on about remote flexible working? Because it’s, it’s a minority thing? What are you hearing? Because obviously, I suppose for HR, it’s something that they can do and embrace, even if maybe someday people can’t?

Allie Nawrat 18:05
I think, yeah, it’s a good point. I also agree, we have definitely got very stuck in, you know, white collar workers who used to go to the office can now work from home, but what about the kind of majority of the workforce that can’t? So I actually find those interviews a lot more interesting. And also, especially when there’s companies like I interviewed BT recently, and they’ve got, you know, a split. So they have people who are innovating BT products, you know, techie people in the office, and then they’ve got the people out in the field, you know, whatever the word is people’s Wi Fi, or the word cables, installing people’s Wi Fi. But I actually, the kind of best conversation I think I’ve had about it, which was for our conference in Las Vegas last year, UNLEASH America was with Tyson Foods CHRO. And she was basically saying because most of their employees obviously work more in factory side or you know, deliveries and things like that. And she was kind of saying they’re using technology in a very innovative in an innovative way. But they’re also looking at kind of shift patterns. And how flexibility I think is important to remember, isn’t just working from an office or working from home, it can be about hours, and kind of job sharing and trying to find ways for people to just I think it’s almost the opposite. I think for people who work in frontline, they’ve always worked, they usually work more shifts, so maybe you can bring stability to their lives. So you set them in a more shift pattern that fits around their lives. Whereas almost those of us who work from home is almost kind of an opposite of that. I also interviewed the head of talent acquisition at Deutsche Bahn and she said a similar thing. They’re trying to figure out how to kind of give the flexibility to everyone no matter what that looks like. It isn’t working from home versus in the office. It’s more flex ability and kind of vague people’s preferences going back to the personalization and all that kind of thing, but very interesting.

Mervyn Dinnen 20:10
I agree that I think we spend far too much time on the location, as opposed to the opportunities it offers with about flexibility. People have got caring responsibilities, child care, that kind of thing. And enabling people maybe to to participate in the workforce in a way they weren’t able to before. So I think there’s a long way to go. I’ve had a couple of chats on it in this podcast series already. And it’s always fascinating, because it’s kind of, there’s a lot to it. And, you know, the, I suppose the other bit is about connection as well. So I don’t know if that came up in any of your research, but the maintaining connection with, you know, team members, you know, other employees, managers to their teams, and vice vice versa. It seems to be something that again, we’re still kind of working through. I mean, looking ahead, obviously, you’re involved with an organization that puts on two fairly major events the year what, what do you see or what is your research and your conversations flagging up as some of the trends and topics that are impacting HR, kind of, I suppose, coming down the track. So as we go through the year, you know, what if some of the themes coming up that that you need to turn attention to that maybe you might be covering in future sessions and things?

Allie Nawrat 21:39
And so I think, obviously, we’ve mentioned it a lot, but the chat GPT, the generative AI, that kind of side, but also the metaverse with technology. And I think it comes back to what you were just saying about connection. So I had the opportunity to go to metta and you know, do you know, quest Pro and see what it was all like and be in the metaverse and I was always a bit of a skeptic, I’m not gonna lie. And it kind of I kind of got it a little bit more I understood that it’s, I can see how it builds connection more than just like a zoom call like this is a little bit because you can kind of high five people and you feel like you’ve High Five them and isn’t just all very odd. But I think some of that stuff is definitely coming through. I don’t think that’s going to be a 2023 thing, but I think maybe it kind of 2030 but we’ve got a futurist called Morris Conte speaking at UNLEASH America, and he’s going to do a keynote and he’s going to dive into kind of the AI VR Metaverse stuff a lot more, which should be really interesting to kind of see his take on, you know, maybe Maybe he thinks this sooner than 2030. That’s my very kind of conservative estimate. I don’t know what you think about that, Mervyn, what do you think about the mess faster?

Mervyn Dinnen 22:48
Um, I think it’s gonna have a huge impact. Again, I think it’s one of those things that will kind of free creep up. As opposed to it again, you know, there’s so many facets to the world work. And you know, that different kinds of HR depending on the organization’s what it does, that it’s difficult to come up with a one size fits all narrative. So I think it will be it will unfold itself over the coming years, as you say, and there are some, some very technology enabled organizations that will be very quick to to embrace it. Others that may be need to be slower. And then you’ve got, I suppose situation around inclusivity and, and skills and are we going to be almost leaving people behind? You know, excluding people, shall we say, from participating? So I think there’s there’s a long way to go. And I think there’s a lot to sort out. But no doubt you will be reporting on this. As it went up, why don’t you let people know how they can contact you and connect with you.

Allie Nawrat 24:03
Yeah, so I have as I was explaining to nab in before, I’m in a kind of nickname versus full name, irritating paradigm at the moment. So yeah, please get in touch. So on Twitter, I’m AllieRN13. And on LinkedIn, Alexandra Nawrat. So yeah, please reach out at UNLEASH. I’m sure we’ll link it all up. But I wish to read more stuff. Very simple. But yeah, we’ve been reporting on the matter best, but I’m kind of looking forward to doing some more of it. Particularly if I get to go and hang out with Metro and try it myself. Always fun, always fun to get out the office or get out of my bedroom. One of the two.

Mervyn Dinnen 24:44
It sounds exciting. Listen, it’s been great talk ally. And hopefully I’ll be seeing you soon at the UNLEASH event. And thank you for listening.

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