About Enrique Rubio
Enrique Rubio is the founder & CEO of Hacking HR, a global learning community at the intersection of the future of work technology, business, and organizations with thousands of members from all over the world. He is also the co-founder of Cotopaxi, an artificial intelligence-based, a recruitment platform for Latin America. All in Spanish!
He came to the United States from Venezuela as a Fulbright Scholar. He is very interested in the digitization of the workplace and Human Resources, and the intersection of the future of work, technology and HR and is a recognized keynote speaker.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Enrique today to our interview series. I’m Paras Segal from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick intro of peopleHum - peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with automation and AI technologies.
We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.
Welcome, Enrique. We’re thrilled to have you.
Thank you Paras, It's an honor to be here. Thank you for inviting me.
You're welcome, Enrique.
So the first question I had for you Enrique was you did not start in HR. You were really an engineer before many years. And what changed your thoughts to come into this position today?
That's a great question. I think I love working with people and for people. Very often in technology, You end up just working with tech. Sometimes you miss working with other humans. But I just wanted to be in an area where whatever I was producing was for the benefit of the people. And I was working directly with them.
So I had a short stint in sales, in technology sales. And I enjoyed it. But that was not necessarily my thing and ultimately, I decided that HR was sort of the next step for me. And, I wanted to try it out and see how I felt working in HR and it ended up being great. So I've been in HR for a few years now.
"I think one of the greatest things about having a diverse background like myself, engineering, sales, and HR, is that there will always come the time when you have the ability to combine all that you have learned."
If you have done the same thing for a long period of time, you will not have that ability because if you're doing the same thing, the same vertical or the same silo sort of knowledge then it becomes more difficult for you to bring ideas from areas in which you have not been exposed to.
Whereas for people who have diverse backgrounds, I think you can always draw from the things that you have learned in the past to apply them in whatever challenge you're dealing with in the present.
And I think that's why being in HR is a passion of mine, but I always love the fact that I had a different background and I can always bring that background into play when necessary, which is basically every day.
Yeah, That's an interesting take. That's basically giving your different lenses to look at a problem because of the vast and different experiences.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And that's why whenever people ask me about HR and they ask me, what do you think HR needs to do, to stay relevant on delivering value. On what notes? I mean, I can say 1000 things, but I sort of encompass all of them in one thing, learn known HR Stuff.
"Because if we continue doing HR with HR capabilities, then we're making a big mistake. Because the world today that relies on HR, needs HR to do more than just HR."
So let me give you a few examples of that. If you think about HR 50 years ago, 30 years ago or 20 years ago, technology was not as impactful and as disruptive as is today. I mean, it's always been like that, but right now we see more technology, more disruption, a faster pace of change because of technology.
So HR now needs to understand what the implications of the mode in the workplace are. They also need to understand a little bit about digital transformation. They also need to understand agility. They need to understand about the same thinking. They also need to understand marketing and sales because HR is in the front line of the basis with c and whatnot.
So when we think about all these capabilities that we need to operate in this new reality of work. A lot of those skills are not the core of the HR function. So when people ask me what do you think HR needs to do? I tell them you have to learn known HR stuff. Because that way, you're gonna be able to draw knowledge, ideas, inspirations, content from areas that are not necessarily your main background. But when you put them together, they turn to something really, really powerful.
Awesome. That’s a great insight.
So the second question I had for you Enrique was like in this new reality off work, there are a lot of transactional tasks and you were touching on that, which the HRs have to go through. How does Hacking HR help in making that better?
That is a great question. There are a couple of things that I think are a part of the work that we're doing. One of them is, and this is my belief, which I think we are seeing today because of the Coronavirus. I believe that the problems that we're dealing with in the world right now are so complex, so overwhelming, so overreaching that it is impossible for any single organization in a single city or country to resolve those problems alone.
We need way more of each other. Just think about the coronavirus that we're dealing with right now. The problem started, the virus started in one city, one small town in China. And then it became a global problem because we live in a globalized world. And because it is a global problem now and it is a globalized world. We should have global approaches to global solutions and global collaboration to solve these kinds of problems.
Let me give you another example of that climate change. You know, it doesn't matter if India is doing something for climate change and the United States isn’t doing anything. Or it doesn't matter if a small Country is turning things around when the rest of the world isn’t doing anything because it's a global problem. This is not a problem that is confined to a specific region.
So because of the nature of the problems and the scope of the challenges and problems that we're dealing with right now are so complex and overwhelming and large in their scope, we need more of a global community to resolve those problems, we need to bring people together.
So the first premise of the work that we're doing with hacking HR is bringing people together, is bringing them together in communities because the problems that we have in the workplace are also common.
They have different sorts of flavors, depending on where you are. But when you think about them in your engagement, employee experience, and the way we treat our candidates, culture, coaching, the impact of technology in the workplace, reskilling the workforce, all of those things are very common across the world.
"So we need to bring people together as a global community to see how they are doing to solve these challenges, learn from them, and collaborate with them."
So the first premise or foundation of the Hacking HR movement is to build community, to bring people, and build community. The second element is that even if we bring them together in a community and we don't know anything about technology, then we’re not really doing much right because we could be together, but not being able to learn because we don't know about something.
So the second element of our communities that we are exposing them to do all things that are important at the intersection future of work, technology, organizations, people, innovation. This is fundamental.
So for us, it is. Let's bring people together to learn from each other, to collaborate with each other, to challenge each other to support each other, but also as we're bringing them together, let's make sure that we're providing all the learning opportunities for them to know about things that are relevant and important and critical to understanding at the intersection of future of work, technology, organizations, people, and innovation.
So that's what we're doing with Hacking HR and that's I hope what is making a difference in the part of the community that we are serving right now.
Yeah, that's pretty different and a unique take at it. Wonderful, It’s great to hear that.
Yeah, I think that HR has traditionally been very inward if you will. It's being all for their own company, for what they do and they don't necessarily look at what's happening out there. I think things have started changing right now, especially because of technology and especially these days, that people are being exposed to larger networks because they are connected online, which is something that we started doing two years ago.
I mean, so we were already ahead of this curve by bringing people together online. I think that now we have a great opportunity to bring HR people together, being in a global community to help them understand all that's happening. Have them make sense of all that's going on, sort of opening their minds about different ways to do things and to solve some of these complex problems. So I think that's a critical piece of what we're doing.
Exactly. Exactly. Got it.
So the next question I had for you, Enrique was, What kind of technology do you think can help HR departments in their work? Are there some specific features that the HR needs today?
You know, I think there's so much technology out there right now and...
"I always recommend and advice people, who come to me before getting into the technology world to rethink the HR processes that they have in place, and always the first step in this process is how can we really find redesign or re-engineer our HR processes before bringing technology?"
This is really important because the alternative to that is to have a process and add layers of technology. And when you add a layer of technology, you're gonna realize that the technology that you're bringing have some specific features and then it doesn't have all the features that you need, and then you're gonna need to add another layer of the process to that in order to make it, functional for your organization.
So unless you're able to really find your HR processes, so step back before getting into the technology and applications. Step back and think about whether you're HR processes make sense at all or not. Then eliminating waste and obstacles that prevent people from doing what they have to do in the workplace. And reaching or at least their potentials at work.
So before getting into the technology application, you gotta step back. You rethink about your process, You have to redesign them and redefine them. If that makes sense, you have to eliminate waste. You have to simplify and streamline everything that can be streamlined. And only then you think about technology.
So when you're ready to do that, you're gonna find that there's a technology for everything. For example, you think about remote work. One of the simplest things that we're talking about these days, how many companies were unprepared to let their people work from home.
I'm gonna tell you how you can test that out. Go to Amazon right now. or to whatever platform you are used to buying online and try to buy a webcam, try to buy a laptop, try to buy a microphone. It's all sold out, always sold out. Why is this sold out? Because we never prepared for something like this.
So you asked me about technology and I'm telling you, it can go for something as complex as artificial intelligence on machine learning or Blockchain or it can be something as simple as giving your people a webcam so that they can work from home or tell a word from whatever they are.
But then you know the important thing here is what technology are you gonna use? The important thing here is how you are stepping back, redefining your processes, and then thinking. What technology can help me optimize or implement this process that I already optimized?
So I'm always very careful with the technology that I recommend because I tell people to talk to me about your processes first, and then we're gonna talk about technology and again I just gave you a simple example of remote work.
Right now, many companies were unprepared to let their people work from home because now we're forced to do that because of the Coronavirus and they were unprepared not only in their processes. But in the most simple technology, which is just having a webcam on having a laptop to be able to work from home.
So what's funny is that we've been talking about the impact of Blockchain and artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and 3D printing when we don't even have a webcam. So I mean, I know we have to talk about that but let's step back a little bit and go to the simple things that we need at work to operate in the most basic of the things that we have to do. And then we continue to think about the most complex things.
Exactly. Exactly. You're actually really right. Technology in these cases is just enabler. What you need is the right framework to work in an organization like the company or department, and then technology just becomes an enabler.
Absolutely. Technology is an enabler and one thing that scares me a little bit, although I think now it’s gonna be worth thinking about that. If you had asked me three months ago before the Coronavirus became this massive problem, this pandemic. If you ask me three months ago what I thought about one of the biggest challenges for the world in the upcoming decades or even years, I would have said climate change of technology, those would be my answers.
Of course, right now there is no way I would have said that because, well, technology is having a deep impact on the workplace. It has the potential of replacing people at a rate that it's faster than the new jobs that we can create or at a rate that is faster than the up-skilling or re-skilling of the workforce.
"Technology is having a deep impact on the workplace. It has the potential of replacing people at a rate that it's faster than the new jobs that we can create."
So I would have said technology and climate changes are two of the main challenges and main concerns that I had. Of course, Coronavirus happened and one of the things that I am thinking is going to happen is I'm hoping that we rethink the role of technology to help us, run its mother processes in the organizations but never, never replacing the importance of the human.
"I'm hoping that we rethink the role of technology to help us, run its mother processes in the organizations but never, never replacing the importance of the human."
Because right now, here in the United States, we're seeing the pain of having massive unemployment. There are 22 million people that have filed for unemployment benefits over the past three or four weeks.
So imagine the impact of technology if we just released some kind of technology that can replace people at that kind of rate. I think we're seeing the consequences of just something without having any contingency plans to help people, through the transition from where we are today to sort of a different kind of reality.
So that's why I'm hoping that we rethink the impact of the technology going forward.
The next question I had for you Enrique was, you bring together thousands of speakers to your event from around the world. What are some of your key learnings on some of these events?
Things are changing. I think that's the main learning. Everybody knows everybody agrees that things are changing and we can't remain the same And I have had a lot of conversations with people from all over the world and I have said that some of the main skills that we need today are our capacity to have mental flexibility, to learn, and to change. And what that means is that sometimes we're going to need to leave some things that we believe behind because they're not true anymore.
For example, there are people who don't believe that the Coronavirus is a real thing, which is ridiculous, by the way, when there are people who don't believe in that because, well, they happen to have read one tweet from somebody or one headline of one media outlet, which didn't even read the article, just read the news, that headline. And they think they become experts in that one topic on.
So I think we are going to enter into a stage in life in which it will become more and more important for us to be able to have mental flexibility, to learn and to change on, to leave this behind. So that's one thing that I have learned from all the conversations that I've had with all the speakers and all events that have done.
The second thing, which is a combination of two things that I believe are critical for leaders today, is that they have to believe the unbelievable and they have to be able to see their invisible.
"Two things that I believe are critical for leaders today, is that they have to believe the unbelievable and they have to be able to see their invisible."
And let me explain what the means, very often, we have a short term sort of thinking, right? We want short term results. We want short term actions. We want everything in the short term. And if we don't see, on the horizon when you know when we don't see the things that we want to see, then we don't believe that they exist.
What happens is that leaders today will need to see things that may be invisible to themselves or to others. How can they do that? They will have to rely on other teams. They will have to read and understand and get in touch with areas of knowledge that are not necessarily their own areas of expertise, like for example, I was saying before in HR if somebody in HR is unable to see the implication of technology for HR and for the workplace that is invisible to them. But if they're not able to see that, they will have a harder time catching up later than if they were able to see what today is invisible to them.
So that's one thing that I tell leaders that is critical.
"And when I say believe in the unbelievable, what I mean is that sometimes the truth and the facts are right in front of you. But those facts may contradict what you think and what you believe."
So then it becomes really hard for you to accept them because you are so entrenched in the way you see the world that you're like, Oh, that's not true. I mean, maybe like you like some political leader. And then you find out that the fact is that the political leader has been lying or has been misusing funds, public funds or whatever it is, But you are so entrenched, your position about something that you don't want to see those facts.
Therefore you don't believe the unbelievable and this is very true for the workplace because in the workplace, very often the corporate leaders are so entrenched in the cash flow, meaning in what next morning, today that they're unable to see or believe that there may be disruptors out there challenging their business models on possibly pulling them out of business.
Let me give you one example of that. There is Kodak, The photography company. 34 years ago, this guy's on 90% of the film photography market. So they were the kings of photography, and I remember talking to Steven Sasson was the guy where who invented the digital camera, and he told me we were just fourteen and we went to the executive leaders of the company, and we told them we created this technology and We believe it has the potential to disrupt film photography, and he told me, the leaders of the company said, We're gonna give you a little bit of money to continue developing that technology. But we think that film photography will never be replaced.
What happened into 2012, they filed for bankruptcy, and now who does film photography anymore? Maybe some photographers that like that kind of technology? But nobody does that anymore because we have digital photography.
So they didn't see the invisible, and they didn't believe the unbelievable and to me, part of the learning from all this conversation is that if we're not able to let things go, if we're not able to believe the facts that we have in front of us on change and learn accordingly, then we're gonna be in deep trouble.
"If we're not able to let things go, if we're not able to believe the facts that we have in front of us on change and learn accordingly, then we're gonna be in deep trouble."
Another example of that is climate change, by the way, it seems that these things don't have anything to do with the HR. But we have a lot to do with HR. Let me give you one example. Bangladesh, half of Bangladesh will be underwater in the next 20 years. We're talking about a country of almost 200 million people. So millions of people will be displaced from their geographical regions. Where are they going to go? They're gonna go to India. They're gonna go to Malaysia and Singapore. Australia. And many leaders still believe that climate change is not a thing.
So if they don't believe that it is a thing because the facts are there, they won't be able to prepare accordingly and the problem. When it explodes, it will explode in their face and We're all going to suffer because of the lack of preparedness of our leaders.
So part of what I'm learning out of this experience is we must be able to have the mental flexibility to learn and change, especially when we are confronted by the facts and we need to be able to see the invisible. We will be able to see the unbelievable even when those stains contradict the way we see the world or the things that we have traditionally believed.
Enrique, that was a really great insight. Thank you so much.
There’s another HR-related data, pointing to that. There's research that shows that between 50 and 80% of employees do not trust HR. Which is really painful. It's very, very painful, but there are HR leaders who do not believe that those numbers are true. I believe that they're true. They are painful. They break my heart And I got to say you know, they bring tears to my eyes because I work really hard for HR to be better And it hurts that people do not trust HR and I can’t understand why.
So what is the best thing that I can do? Deny the facts? I mean, I can’t deny them. I can’t put them under the rock and continue operating in a way I'm operating and then, having even more people not trusting the work that I'm doing and continue making the same mistakes.
Alternatively, I can say, you know what? That data is breaking my heart. It is very painful to see and it's hurtful. But I'm gonna change the ways in which I am operating. I'm gonna do things differently. I'm gonna understand. Why is it that they don't trust the work that I'm doing? I'm once they understand, I'm gonna be able to change. Does that make sense?
So if HR leaders were able to see this data and believe, even if it was unbelievable for them, even if it contradicts what they feel or you know what they think. Then they will be able to be more prepared and act according.
So That's all I'm saying here and that's part of the learning that I have collected over two years and half years of doing this work with Hacking HR.
The next question I had to you, Enrique was like with the increase in the millennial workforce, the gig economy is rising and We have seen that contract workers now are there for many roles. How will you explain leveraging technology to keep the gig workers engaged and involved?
Well, right now, we're going through the most important, most extraordinary, and unique social global experiment that we have ever gone through in the history of humanity. If you think about all the things that have happened before, humanity, worse other viruses, the Spanish flu, swine, flu, Ebola, that affected a few countries that didn't affect the entire world.
Right now, the Coronavirus is putting us in a place of global experimentation and one of those places or one of those areas of Global experimentation is massive remote work, massive levels of remote work because right now all of the people that are in the knowledge or creative economy, not necessarily do that work in production or manufacturing like in the assembly lines or factories.
But those that work in the knowledge or creative economy are working from home. A lot of them will be laid off or furloughed. A lot of them will lose their jobs. Maybe they will become gig workers. But most people who will keep their jobs would continue to work from home.
So we're now going through a massive exercise of experimentation in which we're utilizing technology. Like zoom or any other video conferencing platforms. We are trying to build engagement. We're trying to build a corporate culture. We're trying to operate just being remote and even though I think that there are many technologies that can help us do that and video conferences are one of them. I think that right now we are learning so much on how to do it well and how to do it, at a pace and in a way that makes sense.
So, for example, five weeks ago. I don't know how and when this interview will be posted, but, we are almost at the end of April. Five or six weeks ago when all this thing exploded at the beginning of March. So actually, more than six weeks ago when people were massively sent to work from home. It was shocking because nobody knew how to operate working from home. People didn't have the technology. They didn't even have space in their houses to work. Imagine If you have three kids or a dog and a cat or, your parents, whatever it is, they did not know how to do that.
I think now we're in a place where we learn how to do it, but we're being exposed to an overwhelming amount of online stuff like video conferences everywhere and events online. Something in that part of this experiment we're going through right now is that people are learning how to work from home. Companies are learning how to engage with people that are working from home. And we're also learning what the right measure and what the limits are for people to do this work.
I think that now because people are overconnected all the time. The line between life and work. We always talk about work-life balance or work-life integration. The life between life and work has become so blurred right now because people are connected all the time. You know, like all the time, even on the weekends. You know, that's like a Zoom call for yoga and a zoom call for a workout or whatnot.
So I think we're gonna get to the point where we are very comfortable using technology for remote and gig worker workers. Like, right now, I think we became more comfortable. But we also have to leverage metrics to know what the right measure of connectivity is on. I'm gonna say how to force people to be disconnected. I think now companies, I think in the future they will not force you to come to work or to work a certain amount of hours. They would force you to take time off because they will know that the more connected you are every day of the week, the less productive you're gonna be.
"In the future, companies would force you to take time off because they'll know that the more connected you are every day of the week, the less productive you're gonna be."
Because you will be so overwhelmed by all that's happening. It would become something more of a liability to them rather than a new opportunity if you will. So I think right now we're going through this experiment and technology that is available right now is happiness. Due to this remote work and gig work. But it's also we're learning out of it a lot.
Got it, got it.
So the next question and we did touch up about it in bits and pieces. But if you would look at it and see the recent outbreak of coronavirus, how do you think our way of life and work will change once we come out of this crisis? And hopefully we do come off it soon.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I pray for that to happen. I think everything has already changed. I think nothing would be the same and people are operating in a different way and I know people like, for example, I love working from outside of an office. I don't like to work in an office, but know people like to work from an office and when they go back to work from an office, whenever that is, they will be able to appreciate their co-workers better.
Not that they didn't appreciate them before. It's that that we took everything for granted before. If you and I were working next to each other, I took your presence for granted. You know, you were there all the time. And now I don't have you. I cannot shake your hand, hug you. I cannot talk to you. I cannot go for coffee with you.
So I think our mindsets are changing in the way we value the things that we normally would have taken for granted, like being next to each other. But at the same time, the people who like to work from home or work from anywhere that they know where they want to be, they would have a stronger case to say.
We kept the organization alive and operating through this crisis while we were working from home and taking care of the family. So you can't tell me that the only way it works when we get out of this crisis is by going back to an office.
"We kept the organization alive operating through this crisis while we were working from home and taking care of the family. So you can't tell me that the only way it works when we get out of this crisis is by going back to an office."
You can't tell me that because that doesn’t make sense, because we’ve already proved it to you that we could operate on that. We could do well by working from home or from whatever it is. So that's another change. I think the way leaders approach their relationship with their people would be different, too. And one of the main things that I am seeing right now that I am very pleased to see and it's part of the gift, or the silver lining of all this horrible tragedy that we're going through is how much more human our leaders have become.
You know, I was talking to an HR leader recently and she told me that her CEO was connecting to the company calls from the bathroom because that was the only place in his house where he was away from his kids and the pets and the only way where there was some kind of peace. where he was doing the calls.
So this leader used a virtual background so that people didn't know that he was in the bathroom and the CHRO told him, Don't use a virtual background. I want you to show yourself as you are because when people see that you're connecting from the bathroom, they will laugh about that. But you will explain what's going on. You would tell them, You know what? if I'm not here, my kids will be running around all the time and it will be interrupting the call. This is the only place that I have.
So that leader has by far become way more human than he was before because he's showing himself as he is authentically and genuinely. So I think that the New World race on the new normalcy that we are going to have for this is one in which we will be allowed and hoping that this is true for the long term would be allowed to be more human.
I've been saying that one of the things I am hoping is that I mean, we are in a very dark tunnel right now. We're going through a lot of darkness in the world right now because of all that's happening with the coronavirus. People always say, You know, I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I say...
Yes, I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel but I don't want that light to be the same light that we left behind because the light that we left behind was not working for everybody.
"I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel but I don't want that light to be the same light that we left behind because the light that we left behind was not working for everybody."
You know one example of that. Yes, we don't have a safety net for small to medium-size organizations that employ the majority of employees in the world, there's no safety net for them. I mean, you decide to invest in the morning and you create a company. You hire 5 people and then, in a couple of years from now, there's a downturn in the economy and you're suffering. You already put your money on it, and there's no safety net to protect you and protect the people that are working with you. Whereas there's always a safety net for the largest corporations which isn’t necessarily fair.
We have to create a safety net for small to medium size organizations. We have to create a safety net where people even if they lose their jobs, get access to health care. We have to create a safety net where people are treated, with humanity and respect and love, with care and understanding.
You know, in the past, people were, it doesn't mean it just doesn't happen right now. But they're companies that when they have to lay off somebody because of what's happening today, they do it with love. You know, they explain what's going on. This is a hard thing to tell somebody, you know, like, you know what? We have to let you go because we don't have any more money to pay you.
But if you do that and then you're giving your CEO a bonus or a raise, then people don't believe that this is the truth. So that's the light that I want to be different in the future. So I think when you ask me the question about what's gonna be different, I think everything is going to be different and everything should be different. And if it's not different and if it's the same as it was before then all this suffering on all the pain that we went through was in vain.
Completely agreed. It has to change.
So the last question I have for you Enrique is like are there any other important soundbites that you would like to leave for our viewers?
I want to go back to learn and change, embrace, flexibility, a mindset, learn change.Things are changing all the time. We should not remain the same and we can't remain the same.
No matter how slow things seem to be moving around us, no matter how stagnant they seem to be. Sometimes no matter how the sameness we see around us, things are changing pretty quickly. We have the alternative to either change and learn and become more continue to become more relevant and attune to the times that we're living in or alternatively, we have the option to say, You know, everything is okay, You know, they will remain the same, 80% of the people, it's a lie that they don't trust the HR.
I think if we choose that path, we are going to be making ourselves and our organizations a big disservice because we are going to be avoiding the necessary steps for us to get ready for the times in which we're living in and going back to the pandemic, another pandemic will happen. Neither you or I or probably nobody else knows what this is gonna happen.
In 2015 President Obama here in the United States, said this was like right after the Ebola crisis. He said another pandemic will happen and it probably will happen in the next 5 to 10 years. It happened five years after he said that 2020. So maybe the next pandemic would happen in the next two years. In the next five years. Are we going to say that these things are not true? Are we going to say that the Coronavirus is not a thing? I mean, we're gonna be making ourselves a big disservice because then we won’t be preparing for the next thing. So once again, it is all about learning and changing because the world is changing and it ought to be in a different place from the place where we are today.
Wonderful, Wonderful. It was a pleasure talking to you Enrique. I really appreciate your time and sharing your views with us. It's for sure has been an enriching and learning experience for me personally and will surely be for our viewers too. Let's keep in touch and have a safe and healthy time ahead of you. Thank you so much for your time, Enrique.
Thank you so much Paras.