The future of work is now - Jason Averbook [Interview]

About Jason Averbook

Jason is a leading analyst, thought leader, and a consultant for more than 25 years in Human Capital Management, and co-founder and CEO of Leapgen, he is also the author of the book “The Ultimate Guide to a  Digital Workforce Experience –  Lead for a Purpose”. His current interests lie in expanding the employee experience at organizations of all sizes, the future of work, and the impact of technology on the future of organizations.

The future of work is now - Jason Averbook [Interview]

Aishwarya Jain

We have the pleasure of welcoming Jason Averbook today to our interview series. I’m Aishwarya Jain 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. 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, Jason and thank you so much for your time today.

So the first question I had for you, Jason was, what is the core philosophy of Leapgen according to you?


When we think about Leapgen, it was formed three years ago to help organizations truly think about the future of work. And one of the things that we’ve seen over the last three years is that the future of work is now. 

Every single day that a different part of that future of work that’s important to look at and what we try to do is we try to help organizations realize that it’s 2020 outside of work. 

What year is it inside of work? And many organizations, it’s 2020 outside, but inside it feels like 2000 in order to get things done and that causes a huge problem. This causes a huge, huge problem. So the core philosophy of Leapgen is how do we help organizations bridge that gap or close that chasm. 

It’s 2020 outside, but inside it feels like 2000 in order to get things done and that causes a huge problem.

The other component that’s important to understand about the name Leapgen, is that the leap component of Leapgen L-E-A-P stands for love, energy, audacity, and proof. 

So helping people love what they do and helping them educate them to love what they do to free energy, which they need the energy to do the audacious and then prove the value that they’re doing. So love, energy, audacity, proof, love what you do to generate energy, to do the audacious, and to continue to prove value. All the things that we need in today’s world in order to drive this profession forward towards the now of work”


Thanks, Jason, that’s wonderful to know,

We wanted to know about your thoughts on how the future of work will now change, given the current scenario of the Coronavirus.


I think about this every single hour of his day. This is what the whole world is thinking about, the way that I’ve been talking about it is that we’ve moved into a now of work scenario, whether we like it or not. 

We’ve been planning for the future of work. We’ve been planning for what this looks like, but guess what? You know, we’ve been forced into a now of work with people working from home with people looking for answers, with people unsure about what’s next, with employees not knowing if they’re gonna have a job with employees not knowing how to interact with their managers when all of a sudden they’re not in the same physical place as their managers. 

So these are all things that we’ve been working on for decades for the last two decades. But all of a sudden, we’ve been put into the position where the future of work has now become the now of work and organizations are scared to death. Both the organizations are scared and the employees are scared, and I have to say that they’re not as scared about the virus as they are scared about what it means to work. 

Once again, are they gonna have a job? What are the things that HR needs to do to be responsive and reactive to the situation at hand, which changes almost every day?

“One of the oldest professions in the world HR, we’re in a position now where the now of work requires us to move fast, and that’s a different pace and tempo for all of us to think through.”


So in your belief, why is creating the right employee experience so important for our employees of today? 


When you think about the experience, it’s all about feeling, and it’s all about how do I feel? How do I feel as an employee of an organization and you’re in a world where we as employees, care more about the attention and how people make us feel than we actually do about money or we actually feel about benefits at the time. 

“Now, right now, when we think about the experience, it’s important to understand that employee experiences are a core value. “

It’s a core value of every HR function, both in good times and in bad, because in good times I want to celebrate. I want to share. I want to be proud of the organization I work for, and I still do that today. 

But guess what? In times of crisis, the experience is probably more important because when we talk about things like moments that matter, Hey, you’re having a baby or hey, you’re changing your address. This is a moment that matters that I need to be able to communicate with you 24*7. You as an employee, I need to create an experience that gets you the ability to answer questions quickly because if I can’t answer your questions quickly. You get frustrated, I get frustrated. 

Work is already grinding to a halt. It’s gonna grind to an even bigger halt. We’ve been focusing on employee experience during great times. Employee experience during hard times is even more important. And I have to tell you that we’re ill-prepared to be able to do that as an industry as of today. 


Absolutely. I think, one of the important things is to actually be together in it and to understand how you cope with this together, which is a really big deal right now.


Unfortunately, people think of employee experience as a nice user interface, you know, a nice piece of technology, and it’s so much bigger than that. Like, I want to check in with every one of my employees every hour and see how they’re doing. You know, I want to be able to take their pulse or take their temperature. Hey, how are you doing today? How are you feeling today? Are you gonna be able to bring yourself to work? 

You know, I want to be able to push content to them about how to keep their families safe or now, you know, in the United States, where basically school is gone for kids, for probably 2 to 3 months, every place, every single home people are working and their kids are in the next room. 

Not really understanding what this means. How can I push content to people to help them deal with that? And I mean, that’s all part of employee experience. It’s so much bigger than just “Hey, here’s a nice portal with the ability to answer some questions.”


This is a really great explanation.

What are the things that need to be done by organizations to create a good employee experience?


I believe that my answers will tie to all situations.

The first thing is that we have to think about designing the experience for the employees and for the manager. It means I can’t take a bunch of HR stuff and just push it out to people and hope that magically, they’re gonna use it. Because they don’t know how to speak our language. 

The standard words that are in a core HR  human capital management system mean nothing to an employee. So when I think about creating an experience, I have to put it in the language and the design for the person that’s interacting first. Okay, we have a lot to learn in HR as the function has shifted from business to business function to business to consumer function. 

“We haven’t done a great job of shifting how we actually think about what we deployed to people from an experience standpoint.  And so the first thing is design for them. “

The second thing is, it has to be more than transactions. What captivates us and what gets us addicted to experience is interaction. 

I could sit and talk to you all night, but guess what? I couldn’t do that if I was just reading, you know, watching your face, watching you nod, watching your eyes as I talk to you. That’s interaction. It keeps me engaged. If I was just doing this via audio, I’d be a quarter of the percentage engaged. So thinking about that and thinking about how do I  don’t just create transactions, the formula that I like to use is:

Transaction plus interaction equals experience. “

Okay, if we’re just transacting if I was just typing to you, that’s just part of it. The interaction and the trust that I get from looking into your eyes in a situation like this with video, that’s what ties to experience and then the third thing and I think this is so important and we’re so not good at it. 

The second is that experience changes by the day. So I need to be looking at a whole new world of analytics and measures that tell me that. 32 people searched today for something that they couldn’t find the answer to. What do I do? Today or tomorrow, I fix it. 

I don’t wait till the next release. I don’t wait till the next upgrade. I fix it now, so the experience is something that’s not a one-time thing, and I roll it out when I’m done with it till the next version or the next project. Experience is always on. It has to be always on because our employees and managers are “always-on”.

So if we don’t think about that, what we’re doing is we set ourselves up for failure and we don’t continue to innovate. The way that I like to talk about it is we have to treat the experience like a pet. Not like a rock. You know, I have a rock. It can sit there. It can sit there for two years without being touched, but when I think about the experience, I have to walk it every day. 

I have to water it every day. I have to take it out every day. I have to pet it every day and make it feel good. It. And guess what? HR organizations don’t have the operating model in a lot of cases to think that way.”

Experience is something that’s not a one-time thing


Beautiful examples and interesting takes.

So can you talk to us about the difference, with respect to the future of work, and the now of work?


“We’ve been talking about the future of work forever, and we can keep talking about the future of work and there’s future of work summits and there’s future of work forums. I have a book that is called  “guiding the future of work”. So we’ve been talking about it forever. The thing that’s most important to understand about the now of work is that it is now. The future is now. 

We can’t keep kicking the can on this and saying, Hey, guess what? We’re going to get to it someday because we live in a moment where the future is right now and it’s fascinating to me, one of the things that we’ve been doing for a long time, as we’ve been talking about, how do we prepare the workforce for the workplace? And I think it’s backward. I think we have to say, 

How do we prepare the workplace for the workforce? And that difference is why the time is now, with budgets frozen and people not sure what’s happening with Coronavirus, you know when I say now, like the now of work, the now of work isn’t bright at the moment and I might not have budgets and my priorities might be changing because I’m on crisis response. But guess what that’s not gonna last forever. This has to be our wake up call. This has to be our rallying cry to stop thinking about the future of work and start thinking about the now of work.

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And I don’t want to make this a fault issue, but we haven’t worked fast enough. I mean, if you think about our ability to buy things online, our ability to interact with people wherever they are. I’ve watched my kids. I’ve watched my family buy things online. I’ve watched my family do their schoolwork online. I’ve watched my family interact with other members around the world, But at work, we can’t do that stuff. 

We’re struggling because we didn’t train managers to work remotely. We didn’t think about, how do I measure how people are feeling remotely? I didn’t have the right mechanisms in place to allow people to work from home. Like we were late. We missed it. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re casting blame on anything. This is an example of that chasm.

This is an example of 2020 outside of work. What years is it inside? At a moment that we needed it, we weren’t ready. So, as we recover from this, which we all will, How do we turn this into a rallying cry? Like I said for the now of work, in order to make sure that we never get caught off guard like this globally again.


What are your thoughts on the importance of data on analytics on HR platforms today.


“Data is the lifeblood of what makes people function work. Period. End of story. Now there’s lots of types of data and there’s lots of ways data is used. And I’ll tell you that a lot of organizations don’t realize the power of data. Let me give you an example. There are organizations around the world right now who are having to deal with layoffs.

They’re having to deal with layoffs in the middle of this economy or furloughs. But guess what? Because they don’t have good data, they’re making talent decisions that are not the right talent decisions. 

They’re not focusing on people that have the highest potential. They’re not focusing on balancing salaries in the right kind of way. They’re not focusing on whether these people are really the most engaged people that we have? And then over on the HR side, I’ve got a bunch of data. I’ve got a lot of this data that I’m talking about. I’m not presenting it to the leadership of a business in a way where it’s telling a story in a way, works providing insight and action. I can’t just give data without an action. 

Okay, Insight without action is nothing. If I say Hey, this is what’s going on. And they don’t know what to do with it. It’s hard. So, you know, I always think about this concept of it, from a data standpoint. I can’t ask if I’m not ready to act. And I think that’s really, really important. 

So, you know, tied to data. Do I think it’s important? Yes. Do I think we’re good at HR collecting data? Yes.

Do I think we’re good at actually telling stories about that data? No.

Do I think we use that data in the right ways. No, I think we use it to look at ourselves in the mirror instead of looking in through a window and telling the business. Here is the impact on the value of our people. And I think once again these moments like the one we’re in right now is really, really, really important.


Absolutely, you’re right. We must be ready to act now. 



Just giving me data, the more that I produce data, and the more that I distribute it and people don’t do anything with it, the more it devalues the work that I’m doing. And guess what? The data also has to be trusted because in a lot of organizations, people don’t trust it or it’s not presented in a language that they speak okay, that’s another big component of it.

So data is awesome. Data is the capital that drives businesses, and since people that is the number one spanned in organizations, I have to have good data on it. But it’s not about payroll dollars. It’s not about how much I spend on people. It’s how much those people mean to me and the value those people have to the business. Once again organizations, like I said, I’m gonna make bad decisions about people. It’s gonna cost them both in the short term as well as long term.

I’m gonna make bad decisions about people. It’s gonna cost them both in the short term as well as long term.”


How do you think, artificial intelligence shapes the way we create workplace experiences?


Artificial Intelligence will augment how people work. Artificial intelligence isn’t a magic answer. And you know, there are people that think that once we’ve got that or set there’s a whole body of work that has to happen in every organization that says that answers this question. How do we want people and machines to work together? 

Frankly, I’m quite frustrated. AI is not gonna replace people. AI is gonna help people do their jobs better, and AI’s gonna help the HR function become more empathetic and more human, so I always think about it in this way, and I’ll use this example really quickly. Hands, heads, and hearts.  So I can start to replace the hands work. 

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Okay, that’s what AI’s great at right now. It’s really good at replacing some of the transactional hands work, and it’s starting. It’s starting to help me with the head work. It’s starting to produce information that I can then use my brain to understand what it’s saying. But AI is not good at heart work, AI’s not empathetic to the fact that, 

I don’t have enough food to feed my family, or I have a lot of death in the family or I’ve been sick for three weeks, and I don’t know what I’m gonna do. AI is not the answer to that, so I hope that makes sense. I truly think that in creating the experience, the ultimate employee experience, we have to think about how we blend hands, heads and hearts together and push AI onto the right things, which is the hands work so that we can spend more time on what humans are great at, which is the hearts work.

AI is gonna help people do their jobs better


Absolutely, That is a wonderful answer.

Well, that brings me to the last question that I have for today. Jason, what is your vision for human capital management systems of tomorrow?


So, you know my vision of human capital management systems has changed over the last decade drastically because of the outside world. So, you know, originally we just wanted to make sure we had data, you know, as HR people, we just wanted to make sure we had good data and hopefully we could use it for something. And what happened over time, as we realized the only way to get good data was to involve people. 

“We need to make sure that people are using tools, they’re engaged in journeys to create the data that I need to make decisions. So when we think what that means to the future, the future is we stop designing processes for HR people. We start designing journeys for employees and managers.”

We stopped thinking about what’s the impact on a jar of putting this system in place to thinking about what’s the impact on how’s it making my people feel to create an experience for them to drive their engagement at work?

Okay, we stop thinking about the fact that I’m gonna run a report and you know, email it off to someone versus I’m going to be able to proactively and predictively have data pushed to people to help them do their jobs. I’m not gonna have call centers. I’m gonna have experience centers that drive people to be more engaged, and the transactional questions they have are gonna be answered by tools like AI and machine learning. I’m not going to think about the services that I provide HR.

I’m gonna think about experiences that I provide to the workforce. The Core HCM solution is going to be the foundation. It’s going to be the heart of this. How we then take the data from that heart and push it out to people and make sure that it’s an experience. What we’re worried about is are they addicted to it? We’re shifting from adoption to addiction. And if they’re addicted to it, they’re going to go to it for everything. Just like we got our phones for everything. 

They’re gonna go to this place. It’s gonna make them a better employee. And drive better results for the business. So I truly think the future human capital management system is really about employee relationships. We probably end up shifting the name sometimes from Human capital Management to employer relationship management.

Because what I really want to do is I want to manage the relationship between my workforce employees, contractors, give workers, et cetera, and me. Just like I managed the relationship with my customers. Why is it that you know customer relationship management is called C. R M, not customer capital management? But Human Capital Management called HCM the relationship, the attention, the engagement, the value of that person to the organization has to be exposed more. And I truly think that’s the future of work. HR or people systems, workforce solutions, or what we like to call the digital workplace where that’s headed. 


That’s a beautiful answer. Jason and you were right you know, it’s not just data in data out, but it’s about crafting the entire experience right and to free people for much better tasks, for higher-order thinking, right? 


And let’s not even fool around with the transaction strategies anymore. I mean, we’ve been talking about that forever. I’m older than you. So we’ve been talking about it forever. Let’s focus on humans. Let’s go away from the transactional to focus on How do I drive people to do their best work to be their best at work and to make sure that work is the best experience that it can be for them.

Let’s not even fool around with the transactions strategies anymore

It was an absolute pleasure for us to have this conversation with him. A visionary, who has solid takes on all things sensitive and not. We were extremely honored to have him. The ideas he gave us, will help all of us create a better workplace. And as he said, let’s respond to this wake-up call. Let’s rise like a phoenix from the ashes, and realize the future is now!