Navigating Flux: How Agility Puts Organizations Ahead of the Curve | Tammy Browning


The future of work is in a continuous state of flux, and the more flexible your organization, the more chance you have of hiring the best talent and navigating these changes successfully. Tammy Browning, President of KellyOCG, shares key findings from their recent Global Workforce Agility Report and talks about the constantly evolving expectations of the workforce, and why it’s essential for organizations to meet these evolving needs in order to stay ahead of the curve.


Tammy Browning Kelly OCG

Tammy Browning

President of KellyOCG


Tammy Browning [00:00:00] And what our research has found is that there’s no new normal, the future of work is going to be in this continuous state of flux. The this means employees are going to expect something very, very different and that could change at a moment’s notice. The report highlights that there’s Vanguard’s those organizations that are significantly ahead of the curve. And then we have our laggard organizations that are significantly behind the curve in terms of employee relationship management, workforce fluidity. And in fact, thirty five percent of our vanguards are suggesting that they are going to hire more talent than they ever have before.

Frank Cottle [00:00:56] Welcome, Tammy. Really appreciate you participating in the Future of Work podcast with us today.

Tammy Browning [00:01:03] Thanks, Frank. Thanks for having me. It’s an honor to be asked.

Frank Cottle [00:01:07] Before we get started, like to introduce everybody to exactly who you are. Tammy Browning is the president of Kelley OCG. As president, she leads the global MSP and RPO practices and adjacent solutions in Kelley Osuji, as well as the Ayres Group outplacement practices. Tami oversees $10 billion in spend under management for the MSP portfolio, and Kelly is a tremendous company that’s been around for many, many decades. Tammy and your role there is vitally important. Can you explain to us just a little bit about what OPG does the bandwidth of employees and activities that you have so that everybody appreciates what a tremendous effort that Kelly goes to and the history behind the company?

Tammy Browning [00:02:05] Yeah. Frank, thank you for that, and I should mention in opening, because it’s really a monumental day here for asset Kelly today. Specifically, we are celebrating our seventy fifth anniversary and the founders of the industry as it relates to staffing and human capital placement. So, we’re honored to be here today and really celebrated Kelly for seventy-five years, really, frankly, the entire industry holistically. We’re a workforce solutions company that connects people to work in ways that enrich their lives, and to put that into perspective, when you consider the amount of people we place. And then the supply chain that we also use is an extension of our organization. We place over four hundred and fifty thousand people around the world every year across all regions. And so here in North America and of course, in Europe, as well as into Latin America, so great depth and breadth, both in our staffing, our workforce solutions organizations, our independent, working with supply chain and others to make all that come to fruition to find work for four people or kill.

Frank Cottle [00:03:17] Tell me you’ve seen tremendous bandwidth and in what it. And that gives you a particularly unique insight, not just from your own company, which we would expect, but for companies all over the globe exactly what they’re doing during this pandemic period, how they’re reacting to things, how they’re adjusting their workforces overall. And I think that that’s critical, can you? You just recently released your KellyOCG Global Workforce Agility Report 2021. Can you give us some of the findings from that report and how you see work evolving in the post-pandemic period?

Tammy Browning [00:04:00] Yeah, you know, the report first was, in fact, a report that we started originally in a pack a couple of years ago specifically to drive some awareness to what was happening in the Asian communities and market. So, we took that report was so powerful. The information we gathered was so powerful that we expanded that this year and in fact just launched it about eight weeks ago. And what it has done is it’s really highlighted this resiliency in the workforce and the pandemic has really triggered sort of this systemic shift in how, when and where work is done. And what our research has found is that there’s no new normal the future of work. I think that you’ll be talking about for some time throughout this podcast is going to be in this continuous state of flux. The this means employees are going to expect something very, very different, and that could change at a moment’s notice when you consider that overall, the world of work today. Our research has really discovered that companies are some ahead of others. So, the example being the report highlights that there’s Vanguard’s those organizations that are significantly ahead of the curve. And then we have our laggard organizations that are significantly behind the curve in terms of employee relationship management, workforce fluidity. And in fact, thirty five percent of our vanguards are suggesting that they are going to hire more talent than they ever have before, and 62 percent are employing more contingent labor than ever. So, they’re using temporary labor or flexible labor categories in this flex environment and in a hybrid model. So, it’s been it’s our report has really found that organizations don’t have a one size fits all right now. It’s a constant state of flux. There is a leading-edge organization that are ahead of the curve in offering those flexible environments. And then there’s those are far behind. And so, the report gives a little bit of meat behind all of that and shared some great content

Frank Cottle [00:06:10] When you talk about a flexible work environment. Let’s add some definition to some overlap or reference that we’re in the flexible workplace and space sector and have been for almost if we have. Kelly has been not quite as long, but we were as a company, one of Kelly’s very, very first clients back in nineteen eighty-one or eighty-two. So, you know, I have a great appreciation for your history, but in some of our discussions with perhaps some of the clients that you consider, the companies you consider to be vanguards, we know going back to 2017 as a good year pivotal year that they couldn’t bring in good talent. They couldn’t hire good talent. Plus, they had a flexible workplace program. By 2019, as the pandemic started picking up in different parts of the world, everybody just got kind of kicked in the rear and now they had to do it. So, a lot of plans and perfect plans and perfect solutions and all these things that everybody thought, oh, here’s the perfect way to do this. Everything doesn’t matter. We just got to do it. And the amount of information they have gained and what they have learned during that period about workforce management has been phenomenal. Can you bring us up to speed on where you think some of that future will be and add some definitions to some of the things that you’re talking about?

Tammy Browning [00:07:51] Yeah, I think if the pandemic did anything, it taught us that many organizations, while had business continuity plans, they had never had to execute on one. So, the practical application of the business continuity plans was challenged. And in fact, you’d be surprised at some of the organizations that could immediately jump into action and take their workforce remote instantly and the ones that could not. You would suspect that, you know, everybody would have been prepared for something like this, but the truth be told, they were not in fact, in. In our report, fifty nine percent of the executives going forward in that vanguard population, just in general, have said that they’re going to have this hybrid model forever, and one in four companies believe that they’ll leaders that they have today, which is shocking, have the skills they need to manage a remote workforce. So, when you think about that in context, this hybrid work model, we believe, is here to stay for some time. The question is, is it here forever? I mean, forever is a long time. Right? We are more predicting that in about five years, we may see this shift back to some requirement of being in person or perhaps generations may have a different expectation of how they’re working.

Tammy Browning [00:09:12] If you’re thinking that this next and incoming generation, they thrive on face-to-face interaction and are saying they don’t want to go hybrid or remote one hundred percent, they want to have some context of being able to work with other people. So, I do think that we are going to see this hybrid model as an expectation. You’re right. The benefit that it’s created to organizations right now is that they can cast a far greater net for the roles that they need than they used to be able to cast from a talent attraction perspective. So, when you think about how they can fill roles in the future or how they can maybe identify a worker that is in Malaysia, but doing work somewhere in Texas, the odds of being able to do that in private in a pre-pandemic, it was difficult to convince employers to do that, particularly in a contingent labor space. Now it’s all the rage. How can we cast the net greater? What can we do to drive a better experience for these workers? And then what do we need to do to train our leaders in our organizations to manage remote workforce? We’ve not filled that that issue. And when you then think about sort of the skill gap that we’re all talking about in the industry, our data is really indicating that we’ve got the skill gap is only going to get worse, that the pandemic has only sped that up and we’ve had many people leave the workforce. So, I think having a hybrid model and engaging a hybrid model in the ways in which benefit an individual company is going to be unique and every company is going to have to have a different approach to attract talent long term.

Frank Cottle [00:10:55] Well, I think you’re right and it really comes down to talent overall in hiring the best people who know how they work or where they work, and that recognition on behalf of companies that you don’t have to have everybody clustered into a giant corporate headquarters in order to have a culture, your culture can be developed digitally as easily and maybe more easily at times as it can be physically. And we’re seeing that all over the world as well. What we’re seeing too, though it’s interesting, is we’ve made a statement year ago about five or six years ago that there is no such thing as an office occupier anymore. There are only travelers. And so today we are all digital nomads. I know you’re traveling today, and we caught you in a hotel visiting the, you know, on your way to visit some clients. I’m working from my residence today, but I’ll be at a meeting at one of our centers later this afternoon. So, we’re all digital nomads, whether we it’s long distance, whether we’re working in two or three cities with a permanent employer or whether we’re just working like I do from four or five locations, depending upon what I need to produce a particular type of work. So, when we look at our systems and when you look at the future of work and when you think of these vanguard companies, one of the things that we’ve seen as a challenge for many of us probably is the same companies that you do is how do they manage the remote aspects of offices? People in their homes, people in co-working and business centers. People sometimes at the corporate headquarters or meeting and convention centers? We think. It looks more like a travel management than a classic H.R. management model. What’s your opinion on that?

Tammy Browning [00:12:59] Yeah, well, it’s interesting. You know, I’ve been in the business of workforce management for 22 years, and in that twenty-two years, the last 16 of them, I personally have been a remote worker. So, yeah, when you consider our industry, especially in the human capital space, we’ve been contending with remote work for some time. And what we found is technology is less now about do I have a laptop or maybe a Wi-Fi hotspot or in a cell phone to do my job. But technology’s gone far beyond those necessary computer and phone and maybe an ability to connect your Wi-Fi and much more around tech enablement for business growth and employers that have really adopted technology to drive behaviors within their organizations to make work easier to be done and think of the environment we’re in today and the technology we’re using now, this is an expectation going forward. Eighty eight percent of our vanguards said that adopting leading edge technology is critical to supporting long term business success, and 94 percent of them said their responsibility is to ensure that their employees have the skills they need to adapt to these new technologies. So, the training and upskilling of the resources, many have already begun sort of creating these technology and advocate organizations within them within their own orgs to be able to better understand how to use this technology differently, how to change the workload.

Tammy Browning [00:14:43] And what we’ve seen. It’s so fascinating for the last number of years. We’ve talked about air coming in and potentially taking over the work of humans today and potentially having RPA or some type of you know, digital innovation takes over the worlds of work. But the truth be told, the talent themselves, white robots, and technology in the workforce today, and they’re expecting it as part of their job so that they can become more efficient. So, it’s much more about how can we make people more productive in their roles? How can we create more visibility? How can we create more productivity metrics that can enable somebody to be more successful in their job? And this all comes by way of technology and every AI I talk to many organizations about. If you’re not really using tech as a strategy to make your employees better, faster, and stronger, then you’re missing out. And even more fascinating is if we’re not realizing that the individuals that you’re hiring, interviewing, and seeking to employ. If you don’t have a really good story about how the tech will enable their future success, your employee value proposition is at risk. So, we really talk about evangelize what the resources and tools that, technology wise, are going to be when you’re interviewing and attracting talent. It could be a leading edge and cutting cut through that the competitive landscape that individuals have because, you know, you maybe have ahead of the game. And so, it’s changing the way people work. There’s no question and I don’t see that going away or changing anytime soon.

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    Frank Cottle [00:16:23] No, I think that we’re going to see it accelerate. It’s interesting when you talked about robotics and artificial intelligence and things, we were just working with a group, and they installed robotics in their manufacturing process. Mm-Hmm. And what that means is instead of a person working on a shop floor to them, they’ve now said, well, we can hire anybody to run this robot and this robotic process that can sit anywhere. And so, the best engineers for that purpose, as opposed to leave operators sitting on the shop floor, we can hire them and we want to establish remote workplaces for that, that team. And so, they’re real concerned with the work environment of a remote workplace. It’s a bandwidth capability, et cetera, which might not be available in a residential environment. So, they want a real work environment for these people, but they don’t. They’re robot operators will be a distributed workforce. And that’s a major change. But it’s in every, every aspect of shop management, if you will. But it’s not one that decreases employee structure. It’s one that enhance. The structure, so I think that that’s going and. Yesterday, I spent a great portion of the day working in a meeting in the meeting was in Munich, in Germany and I was there holographic graphically. So that the technology I was wearing an Oculus headset, and it was quite a fun process, but the ability to travel is not just two dimensional anymore like we’re doing today with this podcast, but it is becoming three dimensional.

    Frank Cottle [00:18:27] So the capacity to bring people together physically in a technology format will radically change. I think what you’re talking about people coming back to the office. Beam me up, Scotty. I mean, it’s there’s a lot of that coming forward and that will become a method of travel technologically and of bringing people together. Just last weekend, I was working with a full team of about 20 people yesterday in Munich all over the world. And it was it was very exciting. It also took me three days to learn how to use the technology. By the way, it wasn’t something I could just slide into. I had to learn how to use this technology to do this. So, there’s a lot of about that. We’ll have to go on as well, certainly. Where do you see the future of work coming forward? We talked about the adaptation of technologies and hybrid work we use as a term that’s become somewhat ubiquitous as a term. Now, people working from any number of locations with equal impact look out to 2030, look beyond 2025 and kind of help. Our audience think of the strategies that you would use. Or recommend putting in place as you look towards a 20 30 work model.

    Tammy Browning [00:20:02] Yeah, I think it’s going to be really fascinating. You know, we can I wish I had a crystal ball to be as.

    Frank Cottle [00:20:08] I have one

    Tammy Browning [00:20:10] I wish I did for 2030. I feel like, you know, our world is evolving so rapidly week to week. In fact, I was just chatting with my organization yesterday about our next workforce agility report, and it was intended to be an annual report. But because things are changing so rapidly from week to week, even we’re considering now doing quarterly reports because of that dynamic. So, 20 30 is there’s a lot to be said for what could happen by then. But what I that I can tell you is that generationally speaking, if we think about what’s happening, not just with AI robotics, the technology enablement that is going to absolutely be there and where you were going with your story is that that is here to stay, and it will enhance the way people work. And not only is it going to enhance the way they work, but we’ve also got to teach people how to use this technology and be far more advanced. So, I think if Organizations Day aren’t working on reskilling and upskilling and training as a as a standard practice for what could happen in five to 10 years, they will be behind the boat for sure. AI and robotics need humans to interact when you think about the robotic industry while it is cutting edge, and it’s fascinating. And in fact, here at Kelly, we are working on the digital worker and any temporary robot strategy too. So, we’re whereby if an organization needs a robot instead of a human, we will place that a robot as a temp worker. So, what we’re what we’re seeing, though, is that robots still are not as advanced as people think they are, and they still require their humans to run them and to understand how to engage with them and understand how to train.

    Tammy Browning [00:22:01] So if we’re if you’re not working on that as an organization, you’re behind. And then really, I think if we’re thinking about other topics that we need to be discussing by 2030 is do you have a DNI strategy that aligns to your future of work strategy? So, does it diversity, equity and inclusion come and play a factor in that? Are you upskilling talent in that area and are you focusing on it? And then I think some of the other things that we are going to see, and I know this is near and dear to your heart that what does this do to big corporate headquarter locations? What does this do? Do we reduce downsize? Do we have a jump in type style office spaces instead of big office spaces? Do people have home offices now more readily available to them? So, I do think there needs to be an understanding of by 20 30 is what is that commercial real estate landscape going to look like? It is going to be very different than what we’re experiencing today. I was on the phone yesterday with it with a tech company who out of out of the Silicon Valley, who said that they’ve vacated all their premises. And what they have done is rented a home for their executives to have a home base and go work from time to time just again 20 30. So far out, Frank, it’s hard to know what you’re seeing. So many things change drastically, but those are the big, the big ones that I would suggest organizations start working on.

    Frank Cottle [00:23:30] Well, you know, it’s interesting when you think about it and a lot of what you’re talking about here and that I’ve reference to are large organizations. Global enterprises. And I think but the great majority of all workers work for small companies that have less than 10 employees. So, when we see the mass of people, it’s really a question of, I don’t know the answer to this, but will these changes be led by large enterprises or will they actually be the laggards by comparison to the smaller companies who by and large are much more agile to begin with and have a much more a much closer relationship with the direct employees as we as they grow their own companies? So, I think that that’s one thing. The other thing that you referenced commercial real estate, et cetera, I think a big percentage 20, 30, 40 percent. I mean, I take you’ve been throwing out lots of numbers. Let’s get some real simple numbers. Oh, Tammy, you’re going to work from home one day a week. I’m the farm manager at your company. I said, well, there are 20 percent vacancy. Oh, you’re going to work on a hybrid basis three days a week. Oh, geez, I got 60 percent vacancy now. So, the repurposing of commercial real estate. Will be reshaping cities and everything, really, and if you think let’s take a Manhattan, look at that and say, well, if we just repurposed 30 percent or 40 percent of all the commercial office space in Manhattan and turned it into residential space, what would that do to commuting patterns? What would that do to bringing the cost of residential space down to where more people could afford it? And what would that do to injure energizing the smaller businesses within the city, the restaurants, the shops, the shoe store cleaners? I mean, everything within the city. And that’s one of the things we see going on or starting to go on already as we look at renewal rates for large spaces of a lot of the larger enterprises that you’re talking about in the commercial area. So, we see that going on right now.

    Frank Cottle [00:25:55] The other thing we see going on. When we look at residential real estate, I don’t know of a single large scale residential home development today that does not build in Allwork.Space into the residence as part of the initial design. And there’s two generally two workspaces. There’s an individual workspace for an office type environment, and then there is a common or family type workspace that is more of an open structure for. Dual use, not just possibly a family room, is but for family work use as well. We see this going on all over the world, not just in North America. So, if we are going to see changes as we look towards this 2030, there will be evolutionary more than revolutionary. Hopefully, we won’t have another pandemic or other type event that will cause us to get so unsettled. But I really think that we’re going to see major changes that will drive really a much better work-life balance. And I think that’s one of the things you are heading towards with what the generational changes are that we’re going to be seeing and why even before the pandemic, you couldn’t hire somebody unless you had a good remote work plan. The Work-Life Balance is key to health, physical health, the mental health to strengthen families and family relationships, which support societies. And so, I think that we’ll see a lot more of that coming forward. We must

    Tammy Browning [00:27:44] And we will. And I think those organizations that are specifically centering in on how we can create a better employee experience and engagement scores are off the charts. I don’t I don’t know if you were tracking engagement of the millennial population today, but I’m sure you’re reading about the great resignation and all the things that are upon us and they are here. Those are real. We are absolutely seeing them. And when you think about everything else you just shared, when you when you top all that off with the fact that sixty three percent of our millennials say that they’re willing to just quit their job if they don’t have a hybrid work model, they’re willing to walk away without a job in hands. They’re willing to take a job for lesser pay. They’re willing to move to a city that offers more of what their cultural style is or what their environment is. And so, I do think that there will be this, this shift to an employer’s having to watch all of us, meaning the humans that do the work, how we’re behaving, and we’ll have to be very adaptable and very nimble. And what you suggested around the small employer, I think they have an advantage there. They can be as quick or as fast as they want you with deploying new strategies. And as a as a side note, I have a son that just exited college. And as he exited and went into a company, he chose a company that was twenty-two people big instead of one big enterprise organization. And what they sent him his first question was What’s my tech package? What are you going to send me? And they sent an entire office setup to him, and that’s what we are going to expect in the future. And they gave him an allowance for a chair and a desk. That’s how those smaller organizations are going to be nimbler because big corporations, they must go through some bureaucracy to get all of that to come to fruition, right where these small companies do not. So, it’s an interesting design and interesting model. People are working with people that they’ve never physically met before. Now think about the offers that are being extended to the people that have worked in this last 18 months that have never even met their boss in person. It’s a really fascinating how we’ve evolved. And yet I think I do think in the coming years we’ll see a little bit of amnesia. And I do think some organizations will go back to a demanding people, be on site again and they’ll lose out on the talent long term. So, it’ll be it’ll be an interesting thing to watch. If you could share your crystal ball with me, I would love to have a glimpse at it.

    Frank Cottle [00:30:26] I will send it over.

    Tammy Browning [00:30:29] Yeah, just for a minute.

    Frank Cottle [00:30:33] Tammy, I can’t tell you how much we appreciate your time today. I know how busy you are, and you have a global enterprise that you must take care of and doing a great job, I might say. So, I really want to thank you. Are there any parting words or any last moment things you want to leave with the audience’s words of wisdom, or just how people might reach out to you if they have any questions?

    Frank Cottle [00:30:57] Yeah, I think what I what I think would be helpful if is our again, our global workforce agility report launched just a couple of months ago. If any of your listeners want a copy of the report, I’m happy to send it. You can find me on Tammy Browning Kelly. Okay, so if you just look Tammy Brown and Kelly Osuji, I’ll be the first person on LinkedIn that will pop up, shoot me a note, say I’d love a copy of it. I will email you the full report. It is long and comprehensive if you have it in a global roll. We have created it in such a way where you can double click into regional information. And see how some of those high-level numbers that I shared today, how in fact they resonate at a local level in some countries because it is very different what we’re experiencing around the world versus what we’re experiencing here in North America. It’s very different. So, send us send me a note and I’m happy to show it to you. And then, Frank, just thanks for having me. I think it’s wonderful that we’re talking about this early and often and having these dialogs regularly about what companies can do to stay ahead of the curve to attract the right talent. Because the net is in my work, I pride myself every day as our organization does, that we find work for people in ways that enrich our lives in any way by which they choose to work is our motto.

    Frank Cottle [00:32:12] So that’s a great motto, and we know that you as an organization, do a terrific job.

    Frank Cottle [00:32:18] So, Tammy again, thank you very much.

    Tammy Browning [00:32:22] Thank you.

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