About Ira Wolfe
Ira Wolfe is the president of Success Performance Solutions. He is a workplace futurist, candidate experience strategist, and an employee selection expert. He is a well renowned TedX speaker, author, and podcaster. Bringing with him a huge experience, his main interests also include HR trends, leadership skills, and hiring.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Ira Wolfe today to our interview series. I’m Sumitha Mariyam 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, Ira. We’re thrilled to have you.
It's my absolute pleasure to be here. I'm always excited about meeting new people and spreading the word around the world and so I really appreciate the opportunity. And congratulations on all your success as well, that's quite an achievement to be selected as one of the best in 2019. So hopefully, you can do it in 2020.
Yeah. Thank you for that. And let's move on to the interview.
So the first question Ira, I had for you is you had quite a journey, tell us a little bit about it. What was your vision as you started out?
Well, as many people say, they never thought, they didn't think that the first profession they had as a kid in school was, oh I want to be an HR. Actually, my journey started as a dentist. That was my career. So in fifth grade, don't ask me why I talked about this in my Ted talk. Somewhere in fifth grade, they said, what do you want to be? And I stood up and said, I want to be a dentist, and I guess I was too stubborn to give that up? So I actually did practice. I went to dental school, I practiced. I was in the public health service. I had my own private practice for 15 years.
But as I did mention in my Ted talk, I loved everything about dentistry, but I am an entrepreneur at heart. I loved the business. I loved working with people. We had a very big team. I actually brought in associates, so we had 17 people on our staff. We had lots of different personalities. And I enjoyed all of that part, but I probably didn't necessarily like the HR part of it, but as far as the people side of it is concerned, I really enjoyed it.
And I enjoyed running the business. So I sold that, hard to believe 25 years ago and started this business. My initial idea was to work with professional practices doctors, dentists, chiropractors, attorneys, accountants and help them run their business better. Because unlike me, they love their profession. They just hate running the business. But that was pretty hard. I mean, they weren't quite ready for that. It's 25 years later, and now they're more attuned to it. But we weren't there.
But I always loved the assessment part, which I know we'll talk about a little bit later. I love the diagnostics. I could have been a radiologist and diagnose the surgeries and diagnose problems and just not treat them. It was the treatment that was a little bit redundant. So, eventually, it took me a while to figure that out. And for the last 25 years, my business primarily has focused on the assessment part, pre-hiring, leadership development, helping people, helping companies identify the people that fit but also helping the people grow and identify what their strengths and vulnerabilities are.
But along the way, a marketer at heart and I wanted to know what the market was gonna be. Always anticipating things. I do a lot of writing. Down there were a lot of interviews, video, and audio, but I have always done a lot of writing. And so that the futurist part, the research that I've done is what established me as a futurist, whatever that is. What was mostly because I was interested in where the business was going. If you don't study the future, eventually you're caught.
As Warren Buffet had said, that once the tide rolls out, everybody standing on the beach nude and a lot of people found that recently, as the tide rolled out, there were a lot of people that had a lot of weakness, and a lot of organizations had weaknesses. So that's how I got here. It's not a, it wasn't a nice, even path. It wasn't a projection. It wasn't a goal. My goal was to be successful as a human being and as a parent, as an employer and as a spouse, and this just was part of the journey.
That's a wonderful journey and an amazing wish that you had. And while going through your profile,
We saw a very interesting title called a Googlization Officer, am I right? Can you help us understand this? Can you elaborate a little bit on that?
Yeah, it was. It was partly a little bit of fun. I mean, I founded my company ‘Success Performance Solutions’. Actually, the corporate name is probably very appropriate now, it's poised for the future company. So that had been incorporated. But we go by the brand name Success Performance solutions.
But along the way, I have written a number of books. I came up with Googlization in 2008 when I was writing Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization, and it was about the time when the Millennials were just starting to come into the workplace and we won't go into all the millennial stuff. But we talked about the five generations in the workplace and the millennials. Now we have Gen Z as well.
But Googlization was just kind of a fun term. It was an alliteration. I talked about geeks and geezers and was like, what was the third term? Was a technology geek, geezers and technology. And somewhere I came up with Googlization so it sort of stuck. I decided the book needed to be updated and so as I didn't want to write about four generations or the generations anymore.
They're so important, I don't want to make light of that. But there were bigger fish to fry and bigger problems in the world to deal with so I started to talk about how fast things were changing, and I changed the next book instead of being version 2.0, it excuses googlization. It became recruiting in the age of googlization.
And as part of that, it was sort of a corny way, a funny way to say, oh, actually, a couple of people started calling me the Google guy. I go to a conference and they go, you're the Google guy, and, I didn't want a trend, that's trademark infringement. I didn't want to take on Google, so I came up with Googlization and I checked it out, and that's been a term that's been out there, and I was one of the first that pointed. So I became Chief Googlization officer of my company and maybe I don't know if any other person in the world has that title. So far, that’s me.
"I go to a conference and they go, you're the Google guy, and, I didn't want a trend, that's trademark infringement. I didn't want to take on Google, so I came up with Googlization and I checked it out, and that's been a term that's been out there, and I was one of the first that pointed. So I became Chief Googlization officer of my company and maybe I don't know if any other person in the world has that title. So far, that’s me."
That's very interesting. And concentrating a little bit on performance assessments.
We hear that attitude eats aptitude for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What sort of assessment models really work in candidate selection and performance assessment?
Yeah, that's a great question. And I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it. As they said, my love has always been understanding things. And again, if I was in health care, I guess I'd be a radiologist. Somebody who diagnoses things but then I use multiple assessments. So my first exposure to that was probably like everybody else's in their career, any type of career development, either.
Using a DISC, the four behavioral styles, the D I S C or the Myers breaks, the NBTI, so basically behavior to try to understand who you are, where you were there, certainly educational assessments that I've been involved with to identify what career path, I thought I found that very helpful. If not, I wouldn't have been a dentist for sure, I would have probably pursued something else, but along the way, I also learned that there was one specific assessment that was the Holy Grail.
I know a lot of people think that they solved human behavior problems because they have one assessment. I started to combine those, and I learned that pretty early. When I started this business, I was introduced to a few additional ones. So I still use the DISC assessment. But we have a values assessment because one DISC talks about a D.I S C.
For those who aren't familiar with it, it talks about how I prefer to deal with problems, people, pace, and procedures. So it's the four Ps:
Means my energy is spent solving problems. Or do I? Where do I kind of back away? I'm not confrontational. Do I love interacting with other people? Or do I tend to love the sheltering in place in this lockdown?
Because I don't have to see people, I can send them an email. So there are people that are energized by interacting and not, but I won't go into all that detail. But I realized that wasn’t the whole picture, that didn't mean how smart he was. It didn't mean did I have a good attitude toward things? It didn't talk about what I valued. It didn't mean that I have the skills. So I started to combine a couple of tools.
So, we do offer behavioral tools. We offer the value of motivation tools. We notice if people are motivated by learning, by money, by power, by the community, by helping others, by a particular doctrine of the faith or a patriotism. And we talked about that. But I also use a lot of tools that are based on the Big Five personality factors.
If you're familiar with those, the acronym is called Ocean O C E A N, and O, it stands for openness. You tend to be open-minded, which is very critical. Very important these days. Do you tend to be open-minded? Do you tend to follow the rules or tend to bend rules, doesn't mean you're moral or immoral, that's how you look at rules and traditions? E is for an extraversion, which doesn't mean much of explanation.
Are you introverted and extroverted? A is agreeable. So if you tend to be more agreeable or more assertive and cooperative. And then, in the end, it is not emotional. It's self-control. How do you deal with stress? So that model has been used worldwide. It's well-validated. It happens to be non biased, impartial and there's a lot of studies that have been done that relate.
It doesn't mean people are highly skilled at doing that, but it does mean do they have that basic capability, another hard wiring? And then next, how does that project into the job? Most important also is how does it fit into the culture? So we do a lot of the tests or the assessments I do or get along with the other people just for logical reasoning, verbal reasoning, spatial reasoning, inductive reasoning.
Focus. Can people be focused? Are they attentive to the details so we contest for software skills too so it depends? What your need is, if you were a client and called me up, the first thing I would ask you is what are you trying to fix? What you're trying to measure, is the problem they don't have this skill because they can't type or understand Word or Excel, or how to use a computer? Do they have a bad attitude? Do they not have the mental horsepower or they just don’t fit in the culture and which goes back to your attitude versus aptitude?
Most people that are hired, there are some that just don't have the skills. But most people that are hired don't work out because they don't fit somehow, they're either not motivated by the job, by the culture or they don't get along with people.
"Most people that are hired, there are some that just don't have the skills. But most people that are hired don't work out because they don't fit somehow, they're either not motivated by the job, by the culture or they don't get along with people."
So it's important to assess both but we assess everything from typing skills to leadership competencies. And we use a lot of different platforms. There's not, kind of the warning out there that despite a lot of publishers and a lot of companies say, is not one tool that covers it all.
That was a wonderful answer. You have connected a lot of dots and given us a clear idea of a lot of things that thank you so much. And from your experience, you computed more than two decades in this industry.
So how does human capital management change in terms of how we hire assets, measure, and reward the employees? We covered a little bit last time but diving board into it.
Yeah. A lot of technologies made things a lot different because 25 years ago, even 20 years ago, and they still cut some companies that do this for frontline employees, for the lower-level employees, it really wasn't affordable. I remember when I started the business. Basically, you're a software salesman.
You get a little, you get an originally I'm giving away the age. You get a five and 1/4 inch disk, literally. The floppy disk. It didn't hold a lot of information on there and then they went to the 3.5 inches. But we would literally sell that and put a little dongle in the back of the computer so they could access that.
And then we’d sell credits. But going through, now that everything's in the cloud, it basically made it very affordable for almost any company, even small. And we focus on the small, medium-size business market. We have a couple of large companies but are niches and that small, medium-sized because what used to only be affordable to the fortune in the large companies, in the global 500 companies, is now available to everybody.
The other thing that changed dramatically is for key positions, for leadership positions, they used to hire a psychologist, and the psychologist would interview the candidate. It was three or four hours of interviews. They would. They just write it up into a report, and four or five or six weeks later, they send the report over to the hiring managers.
It cost a lot of money. It took a lot of time, and so I think technology has been the one thing that shifted that because now, somewhere with guns on the assessment using, but between 10 and 30 or 40 minutes of time on the candidates. Time somebody goes in, you send the link, the candidate completes it, and the reports are immediately available.
There are some reports that are complicated, but the reports that we use are written for the hiring manager. They're not written for somebody who has a degree in psychology. They’re literally written for anybody to use without a whole lot of training. So I think that's the biggest thing. So there are a lot more companies using if they're still so last that isn't so.
There's still a lot of markets out there, but especially now, with so many people unemployed and coming back to work, companies are going to need a way to assess people, to vet people, to screen people a lot quicker because at least in the US, we have 30 million people that are unemployed.
Just two months ago, we had less than about four or five million people, so there's a 6-7% increase. All those people are going to start applying for jobs. How are you gonna vet them? How are you gonna know which ones are most qualified to bring back? So I think assessments will be around for a while.
Yeah, that's quite a challenge. And I think the way you explain how it is, the wholeness is quite interesting.
And what would you recommend? What are your recommendations on how should organizations approach building a standout culture so that they can give a superlative employee experience?
Yeah, that's a really important question. And doing that in just a few minutes is a bit challenging, but now is the perfect time to do it. I think, as we talked before. And I'm just paraphrasing. I don't remember his exact words. But as Warren Buffett said, when the tide went out, there were a lot of people exposed, a lot of people standing naked on the beach.
And that's happened to companies that were pretty fragile. Well, I'm sure many of the listeners are familiar with the Gallup Studies that have been done and global studies really showed that even before this employee engagement, actively engaged individuals in the U. S. was 30% which means 70% were either disengaged or somewhat engaged, so there was really a very small percentage.
And those statistics were that surveys pretty indicated where things were worldwide. So as the tide rolled out, it really exposed all the vulnerabilities and now working remotely. What's people's loyalty? How engaged do they feel? That's all about culture. I mean that and it is very difficult. The future is, think companies that have a strong coach that has been pretty transparent and authentic and contacting their employees and concerned about their voice.
Obviously, companies have had to lay off people to terminate, furlough people to shut down in order to save their business. No one is going to be happy with that. But the way it's handled, there are people that got a text message or where they got an email. There are other companies that have thousands of people, and they've had their hiring managers contacting their employees, even their furloughed employees to make sure, is there anything they can do to help them?
They've created a resource whether it was, hey, we identified local food banks that you're available for. Here's grants or loans. They've been their advocate. That's gonna go a long way. A lot of companies when this will be over at some point, it's not gonna be short, and it's not gonna be quick.
But when it's over, the companies who truly had a good sound culture based on values, they cared about their employees, they cared about the community they lived and worked in, they cared about their suppliers and their vendors. They treated everybody fairly. That's gonna be a survivor.
So if there's a silver lining within this pandemic, I think that it's gonna really look even more focused on company culture and employees. Both candidate experience and employee experience is gonna be positive there because that's only where you're gonna be able to survive. People will work for anybody for a little bit, obviously going to need a paycheque. But after that, it's gonna be very difficult. So my words, now is the time to focus on your culture.
Yeah, that's wonderful. And I think that's very right. All aspects of business are into place. I mean the customers, the employees, the organization, the values and identity has too much for all of them to stay strong, especially at the time like this. So thank you so much for that answer. That was wonderful.
And how would you advise smaller companies who are struggling to build a talent brand to focus on building one so that they attract the right talent?
Yeah, again, another important topic, especially now, I mean, I think people are breathing a sigh of relief, I know, especially in the US, where the unemployment rate was about 3.5% just a few weeks ago for skilled labor, for the talent that people needed. In many places it was well under 2%, 1.5%, so it was difficult for small, medium-sized businesses. It's actually easier than large company brands because a lot of small businesses didn't focus on that before. The employment ran the talent brand, the people.
I believe we're gonna want to work for smaller businesses rather than large corporations again. Because it's a lot easier even to do social distancing in a small company, a little bit more innovative, entrepreneurial than corporate. I am again and I know you know anyone who lives in any of these cities, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas. I mean, any of the cities are really struggling with how did they even get people up in elevators?
You have a 50 story building where you do safe distancing in an elevator. So in a small company, you don't worry about that unless you're small. The company was in one of those buildings, but it would be much easier to relocate that small business. So from branding, first things I would say is, what is incredibly important is that you have a message out there. Simply stating it's small business and don't undermine your small business. I think this is the biggest mistake.
Small businesses tend to sometimes use small businesses as an excuse. And they start out by saying, Well, you know, we're small. We can't pay you as much as a big company. You're gonna have to work harder and we don't have all the resources. They tell all the reasons that they give somebody all the reasons not to work there. But small companies have a huge opportunity there. They're a little bit nimbler, they’re more agile. There's a more personal relationship.
"Small businesses tend to sometimes use small businesses as an excuse. And they start out by saying, Well, you know, we're small. We can't pay you as much as a big company. You're gonna have to work harder and we don't have all the resources. They tell all the reasons that they give somebody all the reasons not to work there. But small companies have a huge opportunity there. They're a little bit nimbler, they’re more agile. There's a more personal relationship."
Smaller companies other than restaurants certainly didn't have as much of an issue sending people home and working remote whereas a lot of large companies did because people relied on the company to provide all the infrastructure, all the direction where people in smaller companies were a little bit independent. So I think it's easier than most small business owners think, but there's a real opportunity out there to start building your brand to start working with the people that you have, what you know, why?
Why would somebody want to work for you? Not only now, but in the very near future. And I gotta tell you by doing that. We've been in a shelter in place. I think this is our seventh week, maybe our eighth week. I fully expected if you and I had this conversation eight weeks ago, seven weeks ago, and said, What do you think's gonna happen? I would have honestly told you that I think my business would be down 50%. 60%. I think people would just freeze hiring. I've got to tell you, over the last eight weeks, we had a few companies, a few restaurants, a few hotels.
They weren't big users of our assessments. But over the last time, we've had a continuation. I can monitor how many tests are being given and we have distribution companies, manufacturing companies. We have some health care facilities, not hospitals with skilled nursing. We have call centers.
There are a couple of small retailers that are very entrepreneurial. They're all continuing to hire people and test people. And the thing that shocked me the most is that I'm getting as many if not more leads now from companies that I did two months ago. And we were growing and busy.
So there are people that are hiring. There are companies that are hiring, there are companies that are growing, and every single one of the ones that has called me has been a small company. And so I would encourage you. Now is the time to think about what your brand is. Clean up your message just because you have a job. Well, you won't get people to apply, but really focus on that culture, which we talked about a few minutes ago.
Talk about your brand. Why would people want to work there? I have a lot of courses and a lot of videos out there if you go to YouTube. Just search for my name. You see a lot of information out there, not a lot of speaking of conferences. And then we always publicized it? But I talk about this a lot about how a small company cannot really brand themselves, but how they can make their hiring process but better and automate it.
And it's not always. In fact, in most of my talks about recruiting in the age of googlization, assessments aren't part of that conversation, assessments will help your hiring process. But most companies are struggling because they don't have good recruitment marketing. They haven't thought about that. Recruitment is marketing. And how do you leverage technology and you can compete with the biggest companies of all and it's exciting, something you'll love to hear from people. And a lot of that I wrote about in my book as well.
That's a very interesting one. I like how you have covered a lot of things, from small businesses trying to make excuses for how we can make this time more productive. It will. If you're a small leader with a business, however, it's the time to build up and not so please be behind, that's a beautiful message that you can go to all of us.
And just to kind of wrap up the interview, if you have any important soundbites that you would like to be our audience with?
Yeah, one is if anybody has any questions, I provide a ton of information for free. There are a couple of easy ways. One is you can just go to my website and contact me, but I created a community online. It's called sticking with the theme of Googlization, it's called googlization nation. It is a free community, so you can go to googlizationnation.com. And all we need is an email, that's about it.
A name, first name, and an email. And each week or more often I send out updates. So, like for this week, tomorrow I'm doing a lifestream of a video, with Perry Marshall. He's one of the top business strategists in the world. We're gonna be talking about, you have something called a slingshot theory. A slingshot recovery that how do you come out of this with the growth mindset?
How do you see is the opportunity He introduced me to a new term. It's a Greek word. It's called Kairos. And there are two measurements of time. There was the chronological one, which is what date it is. And where we fit and Kairos is the time for opportunity. I love that it's a time for opportunity. And now is the time for opportunity. So within that, we're gonna be talking about that on Wednesday.
I've got a podcast, which is also now called Geeks and Googlization. We interviewed experts just like you are. About what's happening on Thursday, I'm talking with Dr Chuck Coker. We're talking about trust. He actually has a new assessment out there how to measure. Do people trust you? Looks at transparency and relatability and other factors. Then we got a panel in the afternoon with three experts that we're doing a live stream and all those air free and the panel is about what work’s gonna look like going forward.
So that's just this week alone, plus articles. So those you created probably track it as a Googlization nation. And if you actually do it, join dot Googlization Nation, my new book, the second edition of my book, Recruiting in the age of Googlization, I'm giving it away for free and you can go up to that, so those are probably the two best ways of keeping up with things. We've got a lot of other free resources and interviews. I do what? I post them online. YouTube. Again. I'm doing a lot of videos. And you can connect with me on linkedIn.
Yes, Absolutely. Thank you so much for all that information. I'm sure the audience, they're going to have a productive time going through all of that. Thank you so much. Ira. I had a wonderful day when the last 30 minutes were so good for me, so enriching to me. And I'm sure it will be for the audience also. Thank you for your time and energy. Stay safe. Thank you very much.
I appreciate it. Stay safe.