Larry McAlister, a strategic HR leader and author of 'The Power to Transform,' discusses the role of HR in navigating dynamic environments and driving transformation in organizations. He emphasizes the importance of simplicity, authenticity, and technology in talent strategies. Larry also explores the impact of artificial intelligence on job creation and elimination, as well as the skills needed for the future of HR.Β 

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πŸ“ŒTALKING POINTS

03:55 - The Evolution of HR in the Modern Workforce

08:02 - The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Organizations

19:16 - Understanding Employee Departures

20:33 - The Future of Human Resources

21:34 - The Power of Transformation: Larry's Book

30:56 - Larry's Journey and Advice for HR Professionals

β€πŸ”—CONNECT WITH LARRY

πŸ”—CONNECT WITH TOM

Tom Finn (00:01.31)

Welcome to the show my friend today. We are learning from Larry McAlister. Larry, welcome to the show.

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Larry McAlister (00:08.289)

Thank you for inviting me, Tom. Happy to be here and looking forward to chatting.

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Tom Finn (00:12.47)

Well, if you don't know Larry, let me take just a moment to introduce you to this very strategic and energetic senior leader. He's a three time head of HR. He's sought after as a thought leader in the HR space and was named to the top 50 Human Resource Professional Awards. That's done by OnConferences and that happened in January of 2021. He's also led HR and talent at five tech focused very fast growing organizations, including three Bay Area Fortune 500 companies. If that wasn't enough for you, he's written a book and he is the author of an Amazon bestseller, The Power to Transform. So let's just start with some of your background here. In HR, how do you navigate such dynamic changing environments as an HR professional?

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Larry McAlister (01:03.357)

Yeah, think of it how we came out of the pandemic, right? What is more dynamic than that? So working in a global company during a pandemic, you know, challenged us all. And at the beginning, it was a little bit easy, not for the COVID, but all companies shut down. So one big switch was pulled and we all tried to figure out what to do. Now, everyone's pulling the switch a different way. So every company is handling it differently and it's super complicated. So my core go-to talent strategy is make it a simple, and transparent as humanly possible. For many years, HR, finance made it more difficult, put forms and mandatory things, and made it as difficult as possible for the manager and the employee to really connect in an authentic, purpose-driven future way. So our goal is to rip everything out and put in things. Ripping out is everyone can do it. What you replace it with is what makes a difference. So having one... golden-threaded, communicated talent strategy that the whole company knows about, and you continue to talk about them. And why are we doing it this way? How does this help you as the individual and the business? And then bringing in technology to propel that strategy, making it much easier to have conversations and plan for the future and take care of yourself during these trying times. So simplicity, authenticity goes a long way during trying times like these.

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Tom Finn (02:27.626)

Yet, you know, it seems like such a simple answer, but I gotta remind, you're an HR guy. You're not supposed to say simple things. You're supposed to overcomplicate it and make me fill out forms. So it's refreshing to hear somebody say, let's make it easier on the employees. Why do you think HR has sort of gone down that compliance route for so long?

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Larry McAlister (02:34.076)

Right? Yeah, well, one compliance is safety in some way, but we've figured out compliance generally, right? We don't have to make it more difficult, mandatory trainings and filling out long forms. But remember, it used to be called personnel. People were widget makers. You could easily measure someone's productivity by how many widgets or cars they made. Now, humans are so much more, jobs and humans are so much more complex and complicated. You just can't widgetize it or put it in a box.

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So our job is to rip the top off of anything that slows us down and implement things like coaching, peer-to-peer coaching, thinking about your future in this company, even in a hybrid environment, thinking about the future. And you, I love the name of your podcast is Talent Empowerment. When I was at my last company, I changed my learning and development team from talent management to talent enablement. Because I think that's a big difference. We're not here to manage you.

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I'm not here to manage, I'm not here to babysit you. I'm here to enable you to have the best work you've ever done at this company in this very difficult time.

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Tom Finn (03:55.638)

Yeah, well, that's why you're on the show, Larry, because you and I think alike when it comes to some of this stuff. And that's the reason it's not called the Talent Management podcast, because that would likely be very boring. So when you think about HR, that was sort of then. And now how do you look at that sort of sphere of influence in the modern workforce today?

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Larry McAlister (04:06.664)

That's right. Totally.

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Larry McAlister (04:18.261)

So whether you, no matter where you are in an organization, you are in a transformation, no matter what company you work for. You're either having a new sales force, a new go-to-market strategy, you're acquiring, you're divesting, you're laying off, you're bringing in new technologies, you're going after new markets. All of that is transformation. So I think of it as the three T's. The talent strategy, you have to be a talent strategist, plus HR technology, you are a technologist. Don't wait for someone to bring technology to you.

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It won't happen. There is thousands, literally thousands of companies and billions of dollars invested in HR technology. We have caught up. We have caught up to all the other technologies in business. If you put those two together, propelling each other, that's how you drive transformation, which is behavior change for the better over a longer period of time.

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Tom Finn (05:09.342)

Yeah, for sure. So I got, I got talent and tech. Those were two out of three is transformation. The third one. Okay. Uh, I love it. I love it. So, transformation talent and technology is really the modern way forward for organizations. That's, that's the way you're thinking about it.

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Larry McAlister (05:15.049)

The third, right? T plus T equals T. It's old school algebra.

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Larry McAlister (05:27.029)

Right? That's, I think HR is responsible for that in many ways. Cause you know, there's always a business transformation. The talent transformation has to tie up with that to speed it up. You can talk about and drive the new business model, but if the people aren't being caught up to it and changing the way they're approaching their jobs, you're slowing down or maybe failing the business transformation. So tying those two together is super important. You know, a lot of times you go to a big consultant,

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They'll focus a lot on the business one and dangle some ideas for the people one. That's why HR has to be forefront in being the people transformation experts.

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Tom Finn (06:08.202)

Yeah, I love the way you said that. I feel the same way. I feel like consulting practices tend to focus on the core processes or principles of the business, which is cool. I mean, that's been around a long time, but really talent is the driving force of success in today's economy. And it is not, it is not process and principles. It's really people.

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Larry McAlister (06:28.733)

It is, and empowering them and making them feel that they have a future here and a very clear way of what their job does, what their effort does, to drive success in the business. I mean, isn't that the perfect two wheels on the bicycle? The business is doing great and I'm doing great, faster, faster? I mean, that's an unbeatable proposition.

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Tom Finn (06:50.167)

And what percentage of leaders do you think recognize and actually act on creating change in this space?

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Larry McAlister (06:58.485)

So I think trying to do some change is probably pretty common, which is I have a little piece of a problem I want to solve. Let's do some change management, which is telling people how to do it over a short period of time. You have to enable an entire approach to what we're going to do differently. And I'm saying people I talk to are very much caught in.

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a rut of, let me just get from A to B, let me focus on retention, let me focus on hiring, which you always will do. But how are we leapfrogging our thoughts and technology to make that easier, better, and almost an afterthought, because we know it so well. Like there's technology now, you don't have to go run a report, there's no more ask and answer. You just type in, who's gonna turn over my company, and it tells you. I mean, right? All this stuff about turnover, we've been talking about it for years.

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There are so many more dynamic ways to look at it and understand it than there's ever been before. So you are a technologist.

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Tom Finn (08:02.042)

Yeah, for sure. So let's talk about the latest and greatest in tech spaces. These two letters that seem to come up all the time starts with an A and ends with an I. What is your take on artificial intelligence and its role in organizations?

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Larry McAlister (08:13.526)

Hahaha!

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Larry McAlister (08:20.417)

So AI is what we've had for a while, right? So there's tools inside of your systems that can think faster for you and get you to answer faster. Where we are now is generative AI, which is the fastest, most impactful technology we've had in our lifetimes. I was talking at a conference and someone said, since fire, that's how big a change it is, since the advent of fire. So this is the first time in our life as a normal person on planet earth.

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that you are literally collaborating with a machine. You are literally collaborating with a machine. So we're in the golden age of HR technology and generative AI is at the forefront. And our job is to get a better understanding of what that is and how it can help us. Like I said, one tool is that, right? You just say, who's gonna turn over why, what can I do about it? Instantly, instantly, instantly. Or, hey, I need to build a quick deck to communicate to my team on these three things.

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By the time the tech should get up and get a cup of coffee, that deck is built. So our jobs are all gonna change, some are gonna go away. Our real job now is to be tech augmented leaders. That's the future of where organizations and leaders and everyone needs to think of how they are. You're a little bit like a cyborg. You know, our heart and our soul and our creativity is always gonna be in demand, always. That's never gonna be replaced.

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even though the writers went on strike because they're worried about AI writing script for them. But that's always going to be in demand. What we need to do is think about how do I harness all of these tools to help me use that human power faster, get out of the boring stuff of our job, and open our minds to using these tools to solve bigger problems faster with your mind and your teams really delivering them.

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Tom Finn (10:14.53)

Yeah, look, I've always looked at technology as something that gets the mundane stuff off the desk, right? And I'm not sure generative AI is any different in terms of getting some mundane stuff off my desk. Like Larry didn't want to do, you know, three hours of working on a PowerPoint deck. There was no value in your three hours. Yeah, spending sitting there on a PowerPoint deck, like that didn't create any value for your company or for you. But you had to do it because you need to communicate effectively and you need to be able to send it to people and present.

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Larry McAlister (10:29.845)

Right, right, cause I'm bad at it, right?

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Tom Finn (10:44.17)

right? But that wasn't where the thought process came. What you really needed was it done for you, make a few tweaks, you know, make it make sense to you and your audience, and then go deliver it.

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Larry McAlister (10:44.725)

Right?

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Larry McAlister (10:53.077)

Right, right. And your brain is still in there. You're still editing that or tweaking it or using the tool to do something different. But it cuts time out of the things that you don't want to waste on. Even for me, I use this tool that evaluates me while I'm on Zoom and says, you're talking too fast. You're saying, ah, too many times. You're saying a monologue. You're interrupting women. And.

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then at the end it gives you feedback. So all these kinds of tools surrounding you, like am I, hopefully I just said like. So hopefully I'm not saying like as much on these podcasts because I'm learning what this tool helping me real time.

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Tom Finn (11:32.958)

Yeah, I've used that as well. And it's not that fun. You start to realize how many mistakes you make on zoom and how you really need to clean up your act. You're going to get a lot of red marks around the word like Larry and your report after this. Um, you're.

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Larry McAlister (11:44.807)

I know. I always do, I always do. And the tip they give you is, if you're putting filler words in, you're talking too fast and your brain is getting ahead of your mouth. So slow down so you don't have to fill in a word. That's the tip that I'm working on.

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Tom Finn (12:02.638)

Yeah. So what do you see in AI specifically in terms of job creation or job elimination?

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Larry McAlister (12:11.253)

So there will be some jobs that are eliminated that are primarily rote jobs. There are things that can just be done with large language models that you won't have to do anymore. So the idea is, and I've seen this said in different ways, most people won't have a tool replace your job, but the people who are taking advantage of these tools, augmenting their jobs, will take your job. People will leapfrog your skill set.

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This is the most important skill set to learn about. But so I just talked about instant data, instant analytics. That changes the entire analytics department of your company. For them, they don't have to worry about these nickel and dime, make me a dashboard or run me a report. They could think about long-term future analytic planning. Their brains move up three times and get out of the basics of analytics because any manager can have it instantly within seconds.

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Like I was talking about, people who can, tools that can take your new sales process, your new go-to-market process, break it down into bite-sized trainings and deliver to your senior salespeople in a way or your junior salespeople in a way. So they never have to be in a training. They never have to be in a class. They never have to be away from the customer. So that changes the sales enablement in the L&D department in an entirely different way. Let's focus on making sure the go-to-market process is fantastic because we don't have to worry about the training of it. Right? That takes that whole thing off of your plate. So I think how our jobs are gonna be affected is immense.

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Tom Finn (13:50.154)

Yeah, I tend to agree and I see it as a positive for the little bit that I've dabbled in using some of the really outskirts of what's available to us. It just makes my life a little faster. And I'm able to get through my own processes quicker, which gives me more time to be thinking about what I need to be doing.

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Larry McAlister (14:04.449)

Oh, 100%.

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Larry McAlister (14:15.073)

One of the concepts in the book is going from zero to one is the hardest thing. Having blank sheet of paper or a blank deck or blank transformation, going from zero to one is the hardest thing. Generative AI gets you from zero to 0.75 like that. You have to get it to the one. But just having a, I don't have an idea of how I'm gonna do this. Let me just ask ChatGPT as the most basic of all the AIs. About generative AI.

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just get you from zero to one. So the other day I was looking at my history of chat GPT. I have one thing, help me define more clearly the five ways I'm gonna approach this new customer. And then underneath that is, give me the five best recipes for leftover turkey. So it's just like, I'm collaborating, I'm collaborating with my tools to have better leftover turkey.

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Tom Finn (15:09.174)

Well, I think that's what we all should be doing, right? I mean, we should be using it in business. We can use it in personal life. We can use it to communicate with others. And I think if we do it right, it really promotes the best version of you, right? The best side of you that maybe you're a little down that day or you've had a rough conversation with someone or we're just a little tired, whatever it might be. And… And if you use chat GPT in its simplest form, that can give you a much better email to your boss, for example, right? Or to your board or to an old friend or write your Christmas card, whatever it is.

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Larry McAlister (15:39.242)

Right. Right. Yeah, yeah. And it just gets you a, like, at the basic, it breaks writer's block. At the basic level, it breaks writer's block on anything or some idea of getting a list or creativity or both. You're starting to see even LinkedIn says, you want the AI tool to help you reply to this? So it's going to be everywhere. It's going to be everywhere. So our job is to understand it. I have people who got laid off as recruiters.

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The first thing they did is take classes on how to write prompts and how to understand general AI prompting. Cause they know as a recruiter, they know I'm gonna have to learn this. I have to understand the basics of what this is. I don't understand all the science, but I have to understand the basic of how these tools work. And that's why this tech augmented leadership, you're gonna have to have things like humility and technical acuity. Like those are the two kinds of things at the core of an augmented leader.

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Tom Finn (16:40.102)

Yeah, I love I love the way you said humility and technology. Because I always feel like leadership, the higher you go up, the more humble you need to be. You feel the same way?

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Larry McAlister (16:52.557)

I do, because you know less and less about more and more, because you're very focused at the highest level, the board or the CEO staff or the big, big things. And 20 clicks down is where the reality is happening. And so you start to get out of touch. Now, the power of some of these tools that we were talking about is, I brought in eight different platforms in my last company, but we still couldn't get them to talk to each other.

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Now, with this analytics tool I was talking about, it dips into all of those things and gives you the most powerful voice of the employee that we've ever had. You dip into coaching platform, talent mobility platform, your Pulse survey. All of those are giving you different pieces of data. Now, General Big Eye could put that together and predict things for you and tell the CEO staff what's really going on all across the organization. Where in the past, we were generally looking at why people left and what the Pulse survey said.

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We are 100x more powerful now because we can tie all these things together.

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Tom Finn (17:55.786)

Yeah, and quite frankly, why people left is always anecdotal. And we tend to always say, well, you know, it's the manager's fault. The manager didn't do the right thing or whatever, right? And sometimes that is absolutely the case, but sometimes that's the anecdote, and I wasn't even close to the truth.

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Larry McAlister (18:12.065)

All right, can I give you a little story, a quick story? So you ask someone, as they're walking out the door, why are you leaving? What are they gonna say? More money, better job. Because that's where their brain is at this moment. What I said is like, if you live near an airport and airplanes are flying over all day and you never hear them, then one day you open the window and you're like, there's a lot of planes out there. So I get hit up by recruiters all the time, many people do, recruiter calling you and you're like, I don't wanna listen, I don't wanna listen, I'm a job.

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Tom Finn (18:14.562)

Please do.

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Larry McAlister (18:41.769)

One day, you pick up the phone or answer the email from that recruiter, that's your window opening moment. What were you thinking then? Why did you take that call then? That wasn't better job, more money, most likely. There was something going on in your organization, in your brain, in your team that said, you know what? Let me see what else is out there. If you can get at that kind of data, that really is telling.

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That's a telling moment of what made you open the window, what made you response to Recruiter. By the time you leave, your brain's not even thinking about why I left. You're just thinking about what's next.

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Tom Finn (19:16.79)

Yeah, I've never heard it described that way. It's a beautiful way to describe sort of the process for an employee and what they go through, right? At some point they say, no, I'm not replying to that LinkedIn recruiter, or I'm not taking that phone call, or returning that email. And then at some point, you're right, the switch gets flipped and you say, and you open the window and boom, you're taking the phone call, you're answering the email, you're saying,

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Larry McAlister (19:37.481)

You open the window.

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Tom Finn (19:45.17)

Sure, send me the job description on LinkedIn. Happy to look at it, right?

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Larry McAlister (19:49.614)

Something changed that made you say yes. And if we can start getting at what changed then, boy, that would tell us a lot.

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Tom Finn (19:56.842)

Yeah, and I think our point collectively is that it's not always the manager. It could be, but there's a million other reasons that people...

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Larry McAlister (20:04.381)

The manager helps one way or helps or hurts one way or another, but to just say that's almost a dismissive. Well, it's almost like saying, well, nothing we can do about it. And that's never the right answer.

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Tom Finn (20:15.63)

So what does the future of human resources look like? I mean, you said transformation, you said tech, you said talent, but what are the skills that these particular humans are going to need for this workforce that you've just described as changing rapidly?

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Larry McAlister (20:33.985)

Right? So if you think of what, so say before it was like, you have to be a good communicator, right? That's always gonna be a skill for HR. Where we're taking that now is, you have to be a good communicator in the age of people who have short attention spans are being hit by 20 different slacks and emails and all these different things. Or you have to be a good.

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sort of inspirational person to talk about the future of the company. Now you have to talk about the inspiration of someone wanting to work here, where they're not sure they want to come into the office and you're forcing them to come into the office. So I think evolving our skills to be human-centric. Every decision we make is how does it help the human, which helps you help the business. Tech-enabled human-centric are my two sort of words that I have on the bottom of the book here.

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Human-centric tech-enabled work culture is shepherded by HR and the leadership.

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Tom Finn (21:32.15)

Well, look, man, you've said book twice, and so now I've said it the third time, which means we're gonna go there. So let's talk about this a little bit. The title of the book is The Power of Transformation, and you wrote the book with what in mind?

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Larry McAlister (21:34.825)

Yeah.

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Larry McAlister (21:48.821)

To help HR and leaders feel that they can be transformation experts without going to pay a million dollar check, without trying to get to a five-year project with some of the big consultants. So this isn't a book about theory. I don't talk about what other companies did or do benchmarking. I literally call it a field guide of how I did it at two Fortune 500 companies over the past 10 years, how I completely changed the way employees and managers and leadership and technology work together inside a company. So the idea was to help HR do it and help HR say, you're not a babysitter, you can do this kind of big work, CEO staff, you can do this kind of big work. So I'm giving you the field guide to follow this, easy terms, easy way to read it, so you can make a difference.

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Tom Finn (22:37.686)

So does it actually take you through a process of doing an analysis and sitting through and thinking about your culture and your divisions and those types of things?

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Larry McAlister (22:46.325)

So it's a little less about organizational development. It's more about the full-blown transformation of how a talent strategy speeds up the organization. We called it the Thrive Ecosystem for High-Performing Teams. And the core basis there was activate yourself, activate the team, activate the enterprise, and activate the future. That was the golden thread that we talked about the entire time we were there. And behind that are great mindsets.

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and technology to make sure you're doing those. If you're happy as yourself, you're probably a better teammate. If you're a good team, you probably have a better enterprise. If you have a better enterprise, you probably have a better future. And if you have a better future, you wanna stay at that company. So it's a virtuous cycle that I talk about how you brand it, how you get people behind you, how to get leadership to buy into and champion this stuff for you. How to have a tech parade to figure out what problems you're trying to solve, then you worry about what technology you bring in. So it's very much at the level of enterprise-wide.

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Tom Finn (23:49.118)

That's cool. It's really nice that you took the time to build something like that and write the book because I tend to find that HR leaders are so overwhelmed now with the thousands of tech products available to them, that they're just not sure which ones not only are the best for their organization, but how they work together. And then, and then how do you even make a buying decision? Because some of the complexities are are big and big hairy kind of things you got to figure out. So how did you sort of boil this down for everybody to make it easy?

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Larry McAlister (24:21.633)

Yeah. I think the biggest thing, and as I do some consulting now, this is what HR tech companies sell into HR people have to think about and what HR folks buying tech have to think about is it's not about the technology, it's about what problem you are trying to solve. What are the biggest three things you're trying to solve? If you just go buy a piece of technology, bring it in, you're never going to get maximum ROI out of that, guaranteed. It's not build it and they will come like in that movie.

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There has to be a reason. So as you talk about, hey, this is our talent strategy. Here's the four elements, right? We all agree with this. We talked about personal growth and whole person. So we're gonna bring in a coaching organization to make sure that happens, that we learn how to be better to ourselves and grow as a whole person inside a company. So solve the problem. And then what I tell the HR tech companies is, don't just point to your shiny new baby. Solution, what solution are you bringing to the company?

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And what we did is we brought in 16 vendors at a tech parade. We knew exactly what problems we were going to solve. We knew what the scoring system was, just so we were on the same page. And then you can start comparing and contrasting. And it blew my mind, like, whoa, there's so much out there. Just bring in ones that we know or get references on. And I talk a little bit about in there of how you do that.

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Tom Finn (25:43.614)

Yeah, I love it. So the type of reader for this book is aimed at leaders in large organizations. HR people tell us who should buy it.

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Larry McAlister (25:53.085)

Yeah, so I think anyone who, like I said earlier, we're in a transformation whether you know it or not, right? It's happening to all of us. Some are huge, some are small, but your employees are being affected every day. So if you were in any kind of position, even if you were an employee, you can learn of what change means in a transformation sense. And even if you wanna change your team, how do you give them the vital few and how do we all focus on these one goals and brand this and make it happen? I think at the top level, leadership and HR are the primary ones.

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But anyone who is in charge of any change, any transformation can get something out of this.

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Tom Finn (26:27.946)

Yeah, I think the other piece is managers. I think we forget about these managers across organizations that are running mini-organizations. I mean, I felt like when I was in corporate America and I had teams of, of anywhere from 30 to 70, that I felt like I was in charge of that part of the business unit. And I was held accountable for the performance. Right. And so I, I think this book, if you've got a team of, gosh, I would say 10 or 15 plus, right, would be a great read as well.

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Larry McAlister (26:45.557)

You are. June. Right? And to your point, Tom, maybe your organization isn't great at transformation. You're still the manager of 30 people or 10 people. How do you take whatever they're trying to do and help your team transform to that? You could do it yourself if your organization isn't doing it so great. And that's what the best managers do. Right? I'll get you over the tail. I know they're not doing it great, but let's get over the tail until we get to the next.

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Tom Finn (27:21.322)

I always said, and I think I still do, my job is to keep the organization off of the team when you're in large companies. I will take the shrap metal, I will take the bullets, I will take whatever it is, and I will kind of keep you happy and safe, right? And make sure everybody's taken care of so you guys can do your jobs. Do you think that principle has some flaws in it?

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Larry McAlister (27:39.86)

Right.

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Larry McAlister (27:47.293)

Well, I think you have to be a master curator. You have to curate and nourish what the best things for your team are. It's very difficult to block everything. And so I think that you want to curate and double down on the things that you think, all right, this is really going to help my team. Let's focus on this. And then help polish or help them digest a bit more of what you feel is not as important.

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Because not everything fits everyone at the same time. No organization has that. So that's why managers are so critical in transformation.

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Tom Finn (28:21.322)

Yeah, I love it. So when you start to think about, um, the next organization that is a small or a medium-sized company, do the same principles that you're taking from fortune 500 land actually still work in kind of small and medium-sized businesses?

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Larry McAlister (28:37.597)

Yep, now there may be a little bit smaller, but the concept is still the same. Golden thread, authenticity, simplicity, and using some part of technology to propel that, and being as clear as humanly possible with your employees of where we're going and why. That's still the core element. And I talk about branding it, so it's kind of a cool thing that people wanna do, and not making anything mandatory. I talk about the velvet rope.

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Studio 54 used to be a dive bar until they put up a developer rope and said, you can't come in. So how do you drive some of your chains that people like, whoa, I wanna do this, that looks cool. This is the right way to do it. No organization can fail by following those rules.

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Tom Finn (29:19.854)

I love it. So when you think about the next steps within the marketplace and you're thinking about what's gonna happen in HR tech, do you see consolidation? Do you see winners and losers? Do you see people going public? Where is your head when you look at the landscape?

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Larry McAlister (29:38.541)

It is the Wild West, but I do see signs of consolidation. I know two or three companies, individual companies, who are selling on the same paper to customers. So they're selling, it's three different companies selling on one pitch. So they're thinking about how do we have a full solution? We're starting to see the big boys, like the hyperscalers, like Google and Microsoft and AWS, driving their own AI products out into the market.

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having their own training courses on that. So the big will get bigger. There'll be some consolidation. But what I really love to do is look at these little guys who have a dream and a technology and that helps you see the future, right? They're usually the first movers, right? They're usually the innovators that the big guys sort of say, oh, that's a good idea. So I like looking at the little guys because they're the canary in the coal mine of what's coming next.

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Tom Finn (30:33.322)

Yeah, I think that's absolutely dead on. Now, you got a lot of knowledge. You've been doing this long enough. Like, what is your take today on how you got to where you got to? Because it probably didn't start of, you know, Larry was 18, went to college, graduated, and became the CHRO at a Fortune 500 tech company.

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Larry McAlister (30:56.413)

Yeah, what I write in the book is, I was always like a world creator. So I was the dungeon master, the nerdy dungeon master in Dungeons and Dragons. And I would, we had computer baseball in the old Apple II and I would have my friends come over and build leagues and set up leagues in the basketball court, design my own pinball game. So I was always like a world creator. This idea of, I like to see other people playing in my world and seeing how they're doing and getting better at it.

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So that was always at my core sort of strength or passion. So, you know, I became an L&D director at Citibank when I was young. And they're like, congratulations, you're the youngest director ever in this part of the company. You're L&D director and you have no budget. So I had to create my own training out of thin air, you know, and I had my buddy shoot video of me when the videos were this big and.

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That's how I really started getting into HR is through building my own training and building my own L&D stuff.

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Tom Finn (31:55.854)

That's cool. And what would you say to somebody who's, you know, a young, a young buck coming up in the HR space? You know, what are the lessons that you would want them to take away?

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Larry McAlister (32:08.341)

So I think number one is technology. I mean, we can't stress it enough, understanding where this generative AI is going and see that as the biggest tool in your tool belt. There's no other way to think about that in any job, HR too. But I always think of like, our job is to be aspirational. Like this is where you can go in this company. This is where you can go in this career. This is how your work can drive change in the world. So aspirational.

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And then inspirational, helping them understand, cheering them on. And finally, execution. How do we make sure we're landing all the planes? How do we make sure we're delivering to everyone? How to make sure that you're good at providing feedback, tools, and the best mindsets is really our job.

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Tom Finn (32:57.89)

So if I'm being honest, Larry, I have found that in my lifetime, the last piece of your commentary, the old execution is where we see departments, and I don't think it's just HR departments. I think it's departments just in general and organizations start to fall flat. They can be aspirational and inspirational, and the brain and the energy just is not matching what the hands are doing and I see a massive disconnect in execution.

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Larry McAlister (33:24.385)

Totally 100%. You're 100% on. Some other companies I got to, and they're like, we just could never land the planes. We were great at building the planes. We just could never land them. So I say there's two kind of cultures in a company. One is the one everyone talks about, which is culture and values and how we treat each other and sort of a mission statement. That's one culture. The second and more important culture is the operational culture. How do we actually get the money?

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things done here. And a lot of times that takes more cross-functional, more planning and more accountability. How many meetings have you been in where everybody comes in at the high level, agrees to the next steps, goes back to their team and nothing gets done. Constant. So the best company I ever worked for that did this, when I first came to Silicon Valley, it was a small medical device company fighting all the biggies like Siemens and GE. So they had to execute and be fast. So they did this quarterly event.

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Tom Finn (34:13.982)

Yep, a lot. Yeah.

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Larry McAlister (34:28.769)

called Dash. So it was like, you know, Q1, Dash, it was probably 909, and Dash, because everyone was running around every quarter to get this done. So everyone in the company had a vital few that they followed. We're all doing this. And every quarter, what are your goals? And they would stand in front of the company or the VPs at a certain point. Sales would come up and say, here's what we're hearing in the market, where we're winning, where we're losing. And here's my goals. Then up would come marketing. Here's our marketing plan for the next quarter. And in that moment,

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Are these two aligned? You stop the meeting if those two things aren't aligned. And then up comes engineering. Here's what's in the pipeline. What do you mean that's in the pipeline? We just heard we're losing business because we don't have X, Y, or Z. So that kind of discipline every quarter, alignment, cross-functional, was the highest executing team and organization I ever worked for. And it takes that kind of discipline to get the kind of execution that you're talking about.

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Tom Finn (35:21.95)

Yeah, that's a nice little roadmap for people and something that actually you could do as a team. You don't have to do that at the enterprise level or the region or the country or whatever it is, you can do that with your organization. It doesn't matter if you have 10 people in your company.

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Larry McAlister (35:35.293)

Right, I carried the vital few with me since that year. My teams always have a vital few and our quarterly most important task to achieve that vital view. So yes, you can as an individual, as a small team, even as like maybe just an apartment, it works.

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Tom Finn (35:50.398)

Yeah. And really it's about getting people on the same page and making sure that our goals are all aligned and that I understand what your objectives are and you understand what my objectives are. So when we get together in two weeks and we talk about something, you've got a kind of a sense of where I need to go as well.

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Larry McAlister (36:07.385)

Right? And it gives you the power to say no. So someone says, hey, I want you to take on this big project. You're like, all right, here's my five vital few. Which one do you want me to stop? Because people just pile on and pile on and pile on. And then sooner or later, you're not doing anything.

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Tom Finn (36:23.05)

It's actually a really good point because part of the gift in business, uh, of, of great leaders and great managers is being able to say no. And it is really a gift and a skill and a talent. You have to be able to say no, but you have to do it at the right times with the right prioritization.

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Larry McAlister (36:41.169)

And what's the reason? Why are you saying no? And if you say, we all agreed last quarter, this is the goals, I'm happy to take this one off and add yours, but let's be clear, that's the decision we're all making. And those conversations are seldom, sadly, in a lot of companies.

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Tom Finn (36:57.182)

Yeah, well, I love what you're doing, Larry. And I love the energy that you're bringing to the table. You mentioned just kind of in passing in the conversation that you're doing some consulting work. Tell us a little bit about that so that we better understand what your focus is.

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Larry McAlister (37:11.261)

Yeah, so if you listen today to say, how do I build a talent strategy and make it clear to the organization? Very simple and authentic. Or how do I tie that to technology? So that's what I'm helping on the HR side. Or if you're a small HR tech company and you're like, I need to get better at my go-to-market, or what do people like you, Larry, think about? Help us build our roadmap or our sales plan? That's really where I'm getting most of my customers.

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Tom Finn (37:36.118)

That's awesome. That's awesome. Well, thank you, my friend, for the great work that you're doing and really the way that you're looking at the world in terms of modernization and generative AI, but also people and technology and talent and transformation. I mean, it's really important that we have leaders looking at this thing the right way. And I think you really got your eye on the ball when it comes to what's coming in business.

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Larry McAlister (37:58.997)

Thank you, Tom. I appreciate the kind words coming from you. I value it.

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Tom Finn (38:03.146)

Well, my friend, you are very welcome and I would love to send people wherever they can find you. What is the best place for somebody to track you down?

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Larry McAlister (38:12.017)

Yeah, so larrymcalisterbook.com or LinkedIn. I post a lot of stuff on LinkedIn around these topics. So larrymcallisterbook.com or LinkedIn, come look for me.

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Tom Finn (38:22.218)

Yeah, we will put all of that in the show notes for you, my friends. Larry, thank you for joining. It is very much a pleasure to have you on the show. And keep kicking butt and taking names, my friend.

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Larry McAlister (38:32.636)

Thank you. Thanks for inviting me, Tom. This is a pleasure.

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Tom Finn (38:35.478)

All right, my friends, thanks for joining the talent empowerment podcast. Go check out Larry's book, the power to transform, and we'll put it all in the show notes for you. We'll see you next time.

Tom Finn
Podcaster & Co-Founder

Tom Finn (he/him) is an InsurTech strategist, host of the Talent Empowerment podcast, and co-founder and CEO of an inclusive people development platform.

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