“As the chief people officer, my focus is getting first-line leaders the tools they need to develop their team and anticipate what comes next.”
There is calm in the talent acquisition space right now. Coming off of the Great Resignation and waves of talent market shifts, it’s refreshing to see the marketplace not have to fight for talent. And although the term “Quiet Hiring” is a bit of a stretch, it’s encouraging to see companies shift their lens and begin to look for talent internally. On this episode of On Work and Revolution, Debbie Goodman talks with Allison Nugent, Chief People Officer at Noodle, about quiet hiring, internal mobility, and the adaptability of GenZ employees.
Debbie & Allison dig into:
✓ The importance of internal talent mobility & how leaders can think about developing and promoting employees through stretch opportunities and advancement programs.
✓ The profound impact managers have on team engagement and how to develop middle managers to lead in a hybrid or remote work setting.
✓ The unique experiences of Gen Z in the workplace, especially those who began their careers during the pandemic.
About our guest Allison
Allison Nugent leads Noodle’s People team as Chief People Officer; she is responsible for developing and executing human resources strategies supporting Noodle’s overall business plan and strategic direction. These strategies include compensation philosophy, succession planning, talent management, change & organizational and performance management, and forward years workforce planning.
Allison is a people-centric HR leader with 20+ years of experience spanning global HR operations, global mobility services, talent acquisition, expatriate management, change management, and employee program management. Crafts human capital, workforce planning, and succession planning strategies that build organizational capacity and fuel long-term sustainability. Champions employee engagement, wellness, diversity, and inclusion programs foster a positive culture and promote a thriving, high-performance workforce.
Before joining Noodle, Allison spent several years as the Corporate Human Resources Principal of Relationship and Programs Operations for an Aeronautic-Defense organization. She conceptualized and delivered high-impact human capital initiatives in this role, harmonizing strategies with business needs, operations, and people strategies.
During her career, Allison has held leadership roles in the full life cycle of global human resources, immigration and mobility, talent acquisition, operations, mergers and acquisitions, and business development at Fortune 500 companies.
Allison is an active member of the Society of Women Engineers & Human Resources and holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering (CE) and a Master’s in Business Administration (MS & MBA).
Allison currently sponsors orphanages for abandoned children in the Caribbean.
Follow Allison on LinkedIn
Open for Full Episode Transcript
Open for Full Episode Transcript
Debbie Goodman 00:04
Welcome to On Work and Revolution where we talk about what’s shaping up in the world of work and Edtech right now. I’m your host, Debbie Goodman, and today we have as our guest, Allison Nugent. So Allison is Chief People Officer at Noodle. For those of you who don’t know, Noodle is an Edtech company which partners primarily with higher ed institutions to create online and hybrid programs. They do a lot more than that. But that’s just the simple abbreviation. This is Allison’s first foray into the EdTech sector, I think. She comes with many years experience in various HR roles at some very large organizations like Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen and others. I learned this about Allison, she had never intended to pursue a career in HR at the very beginning. There were a few false starts and a few detours, like many of us. But eventually, she found herself in the people and talent area and realized, hey, presto, it’s a fit. Today, we’re going to talk to Allison about just a few of the very many challenges that HR leaders are encountering in today’s workplace. We’re going to talk about internal talent, mobility, Gen Z in the workplace, and the critical importance of training and developing leaders in particular, middle managers. I have a sense this conversation could go in many different directions, too. So let’s start. Welcome, Allison.
Allison Nugent 01:37
Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Debbie Goodman 01:40
Okay, so firstly, before we get on to talking about all the HR stuff, what’s it been like to shift from a massive organization like Lockheed Martin, I don’t know how many employees they have, but it’s a lot, to a high growth venture backed, essentially, small company? I mean, 500 people in the sector is not small, but very different scale to your former employer, what’s that transition been, like?
Allison Nugent 02:04
Exciting, fulfilling. It almost feels like you’re walking out of your favorite shoe shop and you have purchased the best shoes ever, that will fit your feet perfectly and you’re ready to go out with friends. It is that kind of feeling. It’s the feeling of warmth, and a sense of pride, because you kind of know everybody now, it’s not 125 000 employees, it’s 500. And you can you can literally have conversations at an off site with most of those individuals over a couple of days.
Debbie Goodman 02:55
Yeah. So I guess for you the big transition is really feeling like the whole organization is your family as opposed to your perhaps little small department and you really got this opportunity to have broader connection. Is this despite the fact that essentially Noodle is a remote first company, right? Or is it hybrid?
Allison Nugent 03:14
It is definitely remote. We have three brick and mortars. One in New York City, in Manhattan, one in Troy, New York and the other in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Debbie Goodman 03:27
So you joined Noodle during the time when the war for talent was probably at its fiercest, and still escalating to sort of end of 2021, right? Where it’s like a real battlefield out there. Scarce skills, companies doing absolutely anything to hire in order to grow. Since then, there’s been a little bit of a cooling off, but is it still a challenge? To find talent? There’s so much noise right now all you hear about is layoffs here, layoffs, there, layoffs everywhere. But what’s the challenge, like right now on the ground?
Allison Nugent 04:05
I think there’s a lot to go around. I think that employers have loads of talented people to pick from, I think it all comes down to where you source your candidates, and what types of worlds you’re looking for. To your point, I would say 2020 to mid year, there was this huge climb on technology talent in the marketplace. And by the end of 2022, there was a huge shift. Fast forward to 2023 where we had the world was seeing on their favorite news channels, whatever that might be, you know, the number of layoffs and how it impacted our technology colleagues in the marketplace. It definitely was night and day. We’re aware that there was literally given 10, 12 and 15% adds to the salary to keep people on your team. When, and now it’s those individuals are being lost because companies couldn’t keep up and shift in the marketplace and the economy, life has shaped very differently for those individuals in that space. Not purposely that that same group of people that were impacted by the change. But I think that was the biggest or the largest the lion’s share of impact.
Debbie Goodman 05:40
Is there any change in sort of emotional sentiment? I mean, it felt like there was a lot of, there was a bit of a power shift, or dynamic change, certainly with greater employee activism, a greater voice to employees, greater power shift, to be able to ask for the things that they wanted. And I’m not even saying demand, I’m just saying, to ask and actually voice, their preferences. Now with, regardless of whether, you know, one company or one sector or certain types of roles have been affected more than others, I just wonder about the ecosystem, the general sentiment about job safety, job security, has that impacted your workforce at all? And has there been a change in tone?
Allison Nugent 06:28
You know, I would say yes, I would say yes and in some cases, depending on the functional area, no. Education is kind of interesting. I think if I, if I lean in on technology, I think there’s a different kind of humility that comes with those individuals that are on the team, and is working in those areas, their strategic areas. I still believe that there will always be a need for niche opportunities. But I think there is a certain level of appreciation for being employed and knowing that you have, you’re surrounded by people who want to see your thrive and grow, you know, make more money, obviously, right. But most part, at least from my lens, that’s kind of why I feel like the tyre has met the road and people were now settling into their roles and not feeling anxious about wondering what else is out there, and should I Move.
Debbie Goodman 07:33
Because that’s another type of anxiety, this almost like FOMO, the fear of missing out on the next big thing, listening to every headhunters call, when it comes to go, oh, maybe I could be advancing quicker or more money. And so that is kind of not something that we all think about, but the unsettledness for people who are not entirely sure if they’re in the right place, because they could be missing out on something else. That’s quietened, if I’m understanding you correctly.
Allison Nugent 07:36
It has 100%.
Debbie Goodman 08:09
Okay, and then let’s talk about the other, I mean, there have been so many great labels that social media has coined over the last year or so the one being the great resignation. And granted, there’s data to back that up. But is that still something that you’re seeing a lot of? Or is that in line with the appreciation factor of I have a good job with a great company, and a nice boss, so let me just hang in here for a while.
Allison Nugent 08:36
I think it’s exactly the latter of what you just said, I think people are settling in people are feeling like their value is important to the organization. And I think organizations in general, not just a company that I work for, but with, you know, tapping into my colleagues in the marketplace. I mean, their populations are also feeling the same. There’s a sense of calm, there’s a sense of we are settled, and we’re moving forward. And now it’s what can we do more for you in terms of training and development of mobility, internal of, you know, companies, and I think talent acquisition is talent acquisition professionals are probably feeling a little bit of quietness in their space. And I think that quietness is coming from, you know, not having to fight with the marketplace, for talent, rather look for talent internally, and just kind of help people with stretch opportunities and internal mobility and give them you know, chances to just be who they are and expand, which to me is really strong. I mean, that is a conversation of all conversations. I mean, can you imagine working for a company where you’re given an opportunity, which stretch opportunities to develop and then to move into larger or greater opportunities, greater roles. I think that must be something to look forward to.
Debbie Goodman 10:11
Yeah, I mean, let’s switch the lens a little now to that, that internal talent mobility, which once again is not a new thing. Social media has also just found another great term quiet hiring, which I’m like, Oh, come on, that’s a bit of a stretch. But we’ll roll with it. But essentially referring to companies that are in some cases still have decided not to do as much external recruiting. And instead to focus on their internal talent, and look for help those people internally to look for other opportunities. Sometimes it’s reskilling as well, because we can already see how many organizations are being impacted by automation, AI, all the things. So it’s reskilling, upskilling and promotional opportunities. It felt a bit like in the last couple of years, that many companies were almost held to ransom to find next steps for talent or else they’d move on. What are you seeing and perhaps at Noodle or in your cohort of colleagues in the HR space around internal talent stretch? Are companies, are there more programs that are more defined or was is it still very ad hoc? Interested to understand a little more.
Allison Nugent 11:34
Depending on the organization, if it’s a company that has been established and their guardrails in place, and, you know, guidelines to support internal mobility, you kind of find more of a formal kind of a setup. I think for companies that are probably a little bit more younger in the space, what I tend to hear and see is, it’s not well defined. But there are pathways to get people to the next level. So certainly, you must remember nine box, right? I’ve been talking to colleagues about nine box assessments, and then succession planning, and then using those vehicles to actually upskill upcoming leaders, right, and then work with those individuals to bring them to a place where you can say, well, you know what, you’ve done this, this and this, let’s tie this back to your competency, or KPIs or skills, knowledge and abilities. And where do we take you from here? What do you desire to do? And I think that has morphed into well, now here are these two positions that are maybe one level or two level above where you’re at. How do we get you into these roles? How do we position you for those opportunities? So mobility has become almost like the grassroot of moving people through the pipeline, not just for promotional opportunities, but for true career advancement. As change agent vectors to support the employee and the employer without having to look to the external market to bring in new talent. That has been a little bit of our experience. And we continue to work on that. And my colleagues in the marketplace have shared with me some of the same.
Debbie Goodman 13:29
I wonder how that impacts Gen Z as well. So let’s, we’re moving swiftly along with our agenda. I kind of have a real empathy for Gen Z. And I’m not a huge fan of the broad generalizations, but many Gen Z’s secured their first job during the pandemic. And have had this very weird, warped, odd type of first career experience. I mean, their understanding of like, what is a workplace is so different. I guess it’s the same as first graders who entered first grade during the pandemic. Their understanding of the dynamics at work, and how culture, how things work around here is so different to how it may have been if they had joined the company even a year earlier. So you manage through various through your channels, perhaps not directly, but I’m interested to know what you’re encountering with this cohort of our first job group of people.
Allison Nugent 14:32
Yeah, there are some, you know, highs and lows, right? The highs are that group of Gen Z’s are very comfortable in a remote space. I think there’s a certain level of socialization that they need, but I also have seen where they have thrived to just fit in where they were. We are, we meaning Noodle, is all over the United States, right? And what my experience has been and continues to be that people are very comfortable in their space, connecting through zoom technology is a real thing for us. And I think when, if I go back, and I think about when maybe I first started working, I mean, the most technology we had was the house phone.
Debbie Goodman 15:27
I remember that, too. I think I maybe had a fax machine, definitely not a computer.
Allison Nugent 15:32
Exactly. So and then you have, you know, you have devices in hand, you have your cell phones, your iPads, you’re all just think about all of that. And then you have the connectivity through Zoom and the lens of Teams and just name it. I mean, I feel like that is working well and has worked well. I think, what I see is when you have that combo of Gen Z’s and other generations, you tend to hear a little bit of a mixed bag where technology is great. But I really need to see someone, I really need to have a person that I can walk over to and stand in front of and have a meaningful discussion. I’ve heard everything from I prefer you to text me then to Slack me then to email me or to IM me. So all these modalities of communication has become a real thing for us. And I think they’ve really kind of held their own. I appreciate them for just being able to meet the expectations for whether your company is large or small, just being able to stand up and get work done and do things in a way that supports the organization and it lends to what they want to do. Because they too, have a way of doing things. They appreciate a certain type of work, and they appreciate when a company can be flexible. So that flexibility is critical, essential to that generation.
Debbie Goodman 17:11
I am definitely seeing that in the up and coming the Gen Z’s who are even getting into sort of a next layer of their next job, their third job. If flexibility is not on the cards, it’s almost like a no, I wouldn’t. They will not look at the opportunity unless they’re pushed to and then they’re going to move pretty quickly into something that does offer them flexibility. A question though, around yes, the technology is enabler. I mean, we’ve all seen how effective and productive people can be. Has there been something specific that Noodle has put into place around the sort of the learning and onboarding component because of everything I’ve heard from many hybrid and remote workplaces is the thing that they just have struggled to replicate, is that learning through mentorship, that learning through almost we call it osmosis, but it’s not osmosis, it’s like through actually being in proximity to people hearing others on the phone, seeing how others interact, the in passing conversations that all contribute to the institutional knowledge that one has about the work that you’re doing, the product that you’re selling, the way in which this organization runs? How have you seen that in the context of the mostly remote work world?
Allison Nugent 18:24
Yeah, I think the advantage that Noodle has is the opportunity to bring what we love and care about so deeply, the premise of why we exist, learning, into our own organization. Whether it’s from a design perspective, or it’s from new employee orientation 2.0, or it’s from building teams remotely, to providing new leaders with how to manage employees in a remote space. I think those are the things that we live for. And I think that has benefited us during the pandemic and even now, we’re not fully back into the office quite yet. We’re still in that, that remote realm.
Debbie Goodman 19:12
Okay, the last few minutes of our time together. I was reading a report by Vizier that spoke about the impact of managers on team engagement and essentially saying that there was a 70% variance in team productivity, effectiveness and engagement, depending on the quality of the manager. And we often think about leadership development as training and developing your top leaders, people who sitting in like exco executive level, management roles, but for most organizations of a certain size, the one who impacts the individual contributors are at middle management level. And how, what are you seeing in terms of training and development of middle managers, those who are in their first management job who are absolutely going to learn and have to know how to lead and manage at least hybrid, possibly fully remote. What’s happening there?
Allison Nugent 20:07
As the chief people officer at Noodle, my focus is really around getting first line leaders or people leaders the tools that they need to be able to have those crucial conversations, develop their team, understand the needs and assess them, anticipate what would come next. Manage people in a way that really gives lens to respecting another human being and developing them for their next career move, whether that career move, it’s internally mobilized, or it’s external. The goal is to share that level of learning and provide that person with what is needed to be successful in their current role. So that’s kind of where we are at. I mean, it’s in its infancy stages, but we are going to run really fast in 2023, to make sure that our people leaders are up to speed, and they have what they need to be successful. They’re great people, by the way.
Debbie Goodman 21:11
Well, it sounds like a lot of why the reason why things are working in this ongoing remote environment is because of the culture of responsibility, accountability, trust. I mean, you need those as foundations, and you haven’t specifically said those words, but it’s almost implicit in how are you speaking about the organization, some of the philosophies. I just wanted to ask about the training. Is there, are you finding the need for specific hybrid or remote management training? Because, you know, a lot of my clients are embarking on hybrid work. And you know, I’m constantly on the lookout for specific training programs. There are some amazing ones I’ve noticed at Harvard X, there’s a fantastic one that Tsedal Neeley, who is a, you know, she’s the preeminent expert in the space, has put together. There are a few others. Is this something that you focus on specifically? Or is it more just general right now?
Allison Nugent 22:12
I think we’re taking the general approach. But I have to tell you, we have to get a little bit more niched in terms of how we’re managing the training component, I think, because we would probably remain remote for a little while longer right, as we see things happen in the world. Those are some areas that we will definitely be tapping into. Because they’re key, and they’re essential for the growth and operational piece of our business. From a business continuity perspective. Unless we do that, we would not be able to manage the workforce the way we would like to manage of course, and give leaders what they need to be successful.
Debbie Goodman 22:53
Well, Allison, it looks like we have actually been successful in covering our agenda points, as we had set them out to be, but we’ve completely run out of time. So although I would love to ask you so many other questions, we’re going to call it in now and just say thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure to chat and hear some of what’s going on and what lies ahead for 2023. Sounds like it’s going to be a very busy but very exciting year of laying tracks into the future.
Allison Nugent 23:22
Absolutely. And thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure being here with you.
Debbie Goodman 23:27
Bye now. Thanks for hanging around all the way to the end. It would mean the world if you would rate and review On Work and Revolution on your favorite listening app. It helps people know that the show is worth listening to. And so I will really appreciate that. Thank you so much.
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