The workforce in transition: What you need to know

A conversation with Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president & CEO, SHRM

In this episode of the Work in Progress podcast, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management—better known as SHRM—sits down with me at the ASU+GSV Summit 2021 to discuss upheaval in the workforce, the questions hiring managers and employers want answered now, and the issue that makes him want to climb onto his soap box.

An Unprecedented Period of Adjustment

“We’re in the middle of a level of transition that we’ve never seen in such a short period of time in the workforce. There’s a paradigm shift from the resume and the degree being a proxy for smart and capable and having the skills, to a different world where maybe (qualification for a job) doesn’t show up in a bachelor’s degree or a person with a graduate education, it just shows up.

“Hiring managers are trying to keep up with it, and it’s tough. That’s the only way I can describe it.” Taylor says hiring managers are relying heavily on feedback from the people who are actually interviewing for a job.

“I want to know who’s showing up (and) how are they describing themselves and their skills and qualities and characteristics. I don’t mean to dance around it, but it is really difficult. I’ve been at this work now 25 years in human resources, and let me tell you, even I’m a little flummoxed at times.”

Tell Me Your Story

According to Taylor, that means hiring managers now want job seekers to not only describe your technical competency, they want you tell them who you are, what you’ve done, and what kind of results you’ve gotten in the workplace. And you can’t get all this simply from a resume, he adds.

“The most important thing you’ve got to do is to become a storyteller, even if you’re not great at it. Think about it. We don’t allow people to say to us, ‘I’m not good at this, so trust me.’ You’ve got to get good at it,” says Taylor.

“(You’ve) got to be able to convince me that, ‘I’m agile, I’m flexible. I’m a lifelong learner.’ Anyone can put those three words, those phrases on a resume, but if you give me a story, you tell me how you’re agile, you tell me how you have been flexible, give me examples at its core, storytelling is going to get you the job.”

Taylor acknowledges that it could be difficult for some people to become a storyteller, but he emphasizes that in this new work environment it is crucial.

“They’ve got to commit themselves to it. I wish I could tell you there’s a magic way to do it, but long gone are the days when a degree that you got 20 years ago matters to us. It doesn’t. Because the world changes too much in a 20 year period. Heck, it changes a lot in a five year period. So more and more, you’ve got to be able to evidence that you can change with the times, because the one thing we know that’s constant is change.”

Ageism in the Workplace

This brings us to the question of the midcareer worker who might have lost their job and are now trying to find their way back into the workforce.

“We openly discriminate against people in the workplace based on age,” states Taylor. “It drives me nuts. It is personally—when I get on my soap box—it’s that point.”

“Ageism in the workplace is one of the biggest, most tragic forms of discrimination in the workplace. We have to address that head on and sensitize people to the fact that—if you keep waking up—one day you too will be 50, and therefore you have to, 25-year-old, understand that this is in your best interest to change the narrative and the way that people think about it.”

Taylor goes on to say it is up to CEOs, like himself, to establish that diversity, equity, and inclusion isn’t just about race, gender, or national origin, it includes age. “We ‘ve got to broaden the definition so that it encompasses everyone. Opportunity for all. It starts with the CEO and boards, we’ve got to say, diversity is not a program and an initiative, it’s the way we do business here.”

The conversation was insightful and engaging, and I encourage you to download the podcast here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

RESET: A Leader’s Guide to Work in the Age of Upheaval

Taylor has spent more than 25 years working in the human resources industry. He’s seen a lot of changes in how employers find, develop, and engage talent. That experience, combined with 70 years of original research from SHRM, form the basis for Taylor’s new book, RESET: A Leader’s Guide to Work in An Age of Upheaval.

According to SHRM, the book delivers “practical strategies for finding, retaining and training employees and introduces dynamic tools to sustain success in our radically-changed business environment.”

The book is being released on September 7.

Episode 199: Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president & CEO, SHRM
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

Download the transcript for this podcast here.
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