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Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution

On this episode, the boys are chatting with Anne Fulton, founder and CEO of Fuel 50. They dive into the impact of AI on businesses, the revolution in talent management, and the evolution of education in a skills-based economy. Anne emphasizes the importance of employee voice, data-driven change, and branding in today's workforce. Discover the origin of Fuel 50's name and its mission to match people with opportunities. Don't miss this lively discussion on HR, talent management, and the future of work. Connect with Anne and learn more about Fuel 50 at


Joel Cheesman (00:27.665)

Yeah, what's up kids? It's Frodo's favorite podcast aka the Chad and cheese podcast. I'm your co host, Joel Cheeseman joined as always the new to my Zealand Chad so washes in the house as we welcome and Fulton founder and CEO of fuel 50 and welcome to the show calling in from down under How are you

Chad (00:40.508)

always new.

Chad (00:50.217)

Not just calling in, she literally, she's already whine, she's ready, she knew exactly what to expect for this show.

Joel Cheesman (00:57.943)

She's in her evening wear. She hasn't even gone to bed. It's like 8 a.m. She's got a wine glass of gin.

Anne (00:58.264)

I'm out.

Anne (01:01.905)


Chad (01:04.328)

First and foremost, I don't know what Ann's evening wear looks like, so I cannot attest to that. She might be a jammy person. Who knows?

Joel Cheesman (01:09.549)

She's got the pearls on. She's looking good, looking good. Anne, please, please save us from ourselves and say hello.

Anne (01:16.068)

the face time. I know. So cool to be on with you guys. Yeah, I know you anything's coming my way. So I'm ready. I've just come off a 9am wine tasting session. So it was a very respectable 10pm London 5am or 5pm East Coast, but I was the host. So there you go. Set me up for a good one with you guys.

Chad (01:16.958)

Not gonna happen.

Chad (01:34.088)


Joel Cheesman (01:38.641)

Perfect, perfect. You are ready to rock and roll. So, Ann, a lot of our listeners don't know you, don't know Fuel 50. Give us a Twitter bio about you and then a little bit about Fuel 50 before we get into the Q&A.

Chad (01:40.712)

Five o'clock somewhere. Amen.

Anne (01:53.715)

Okay, so Anne Fulton, long time dreamer, as all entrepreneurs are. So, you know, great believer in creating amazing futures for people. So career matching has always been my thing since I was 14 years old, took a careers test, said I should be a funeral director, thought I could do better.

Anne (02:15.023)

created Fuel 50 to match people to futures. So Fuel 50 is now a talent marketplace matching people to opportunities, futures, career journeys, learning, mentors, coaches, everything that you need to make it happen. And that's delivering organizations business benefit of people will stay if they can see a future. So we're delivering retention, we're delivering productivity gains, we're delivering faster to market for people.

If you're taking an internal hire, placing them, you'll get better productivity, better performance. Takes two years for an external to match. So reducing cost of hire. So we're doing all sorts of things for individual good.

Joel Cheesman (02:51.825)

And you've been around a while. This is no startup, right? You've got some gray hairs in there somewhere as an organization, right?

Anne (02:58.879)

Yeah, so I think we hit the market. Thank you. We hit the market in 2014 at the awesome new HR technology at HR Tech. So yeah, we've been around 10 years now. But partnering with some of the world's biggest and best organizations, I'll put United Nations in there. I could throw in Meta, J&J. So some of these organizations, real enterprise grade where we're delivering scalable.

Chad (03:00.737)

and doesn't, but yes they do.

Joel Cheesman (03:02.826)

And looks fabulous. Nah.

Anne (03:27.979)

reskilling for the future. So that's our mission.

Chad (03:31.212)

So, before we start talking revolution, because hell, I wanna talk about that, let's talk a little bit about how AI has really kind of like thrown a wrench into some business plans, but for others, it has sent them into warp speed. Where are you guys at? Is it touching? Is it affecting any impact? Talk a little bit about that.

Anne (03:52.119)

If I start with AI for our own business, like, oh my God, I mean, we've been working on AI for many years before this generative AI revolution. And now we're able to code faster, we're able to deploy faster, we're able to bring benefit to our end users. And whether that's an HR person, a line manager or...

an end user asking questions. So AI has been fabulous for what we are doing and that matching of people to futures just becomes more powerful with AI support. So that's our own use case. We're having lots of fun. I think our customers.

Chad (04:31.272)

Did you say you're using it for coding?

Anne (04:34.471)

Yeah. So, you know, coding efficiency or code quality reviews. So, yeah, there's all sorts of use cases that can actually, you know, deliver enablement. So.

Joel Cheesman (04:44.19)

Met as a client chat, so she's got Zuckerberg on speed dial. So she's into that year of efficiency, just like he is.

Chad (04:50.672)

Yeah, I'm sure. Okay, let's jump into some revolution here. I understand there's a book, Talent Revolution. So we've been hearing about a revolution forever. It seems like it's coming back. I don't know if it's this AI thing or whatever the hell it is, but you see a revolution in the future or you're hoping for one. Talk a little bit about that. Why write a book?

Anne (05:17.755)

Yeah, so I mean, the talent revolution for me was, you know, an absolutely necessary thing for us to put out there. And the reason for that is that we are overdue for this revolution. It became more urgent during the pandemic with the employee experience. However, you know, our original desire for change and transformation for organizations came from, you know, the methodologies where you had you were putting people in a box, right? You know, only the top right.

people would have a future. You wouldn't care about the rest of your organization. And in fact, some would say, you exit them as fast as you can, anyone bottom left. So that kind of methodology, we thought was flawed. There were succession plans for the top 100 people, possibly in an organization. But what about the other thousands of people that have talent and potential if you can match them to an opportunity? So we really thought talent management systems, putting people in a box, controlled by HR, was ready for disrupt.

So, you know, that's been very much our strong thesis is that we have to do things differently today than we were doing 10 years ago. So you know, there's so much more that we can be doing.

Joel Cheesman (06:27.143)


Yeah, talk about pre pandemic, post pandemic, because I feel like the pandemic and the work from home. That was sort of a start of the things changing significantly. Where do you do you agree with that? And where do we go from here? Because I think a lot of people would like to take us back pre pandemic, to the good old days, where do you stand on where we are and where we're going?

Anne (06:35.633)

I feel like, I can't take it.

Anne (06:55.475)

Yeah, I do think pandemic was such an inflection point and I actually wrote the book when I was in a managed facility for two weeks and under control and under the thumb of the New Zealand government at that moment in time and I was like, oh my goodness, what am I going to do? I need to do something productively with this time while I'm stuck in a room for two weeks, not allowed to leave my room. So that was an inflection point, but there were other things happening at the same time that I think

you know, created real momentum. So yes, you know, thankfully, we now have this real commitment to hybrid work, you know, or remote working, and that people can contribute from anywhere. So that's part of the revolution. The other big thing that was happening at the same time, along with this, you know, challenge to us all as to how we work, was the Me Too revolution. And to me, that was employee voice. All of a sudden, employees can no longer be ignored. We need to listen.

We need to pay attention to what our people are saying to us. You know, and MeToo's at an extreme end of the equation. However, every leader, every HR practitioner needs to create opportunity for voice for their people. And we're ready for bottom up approaches to things. And that's part of this revolution that we see.

Joel Cheesman (08:12.529)

That was yerk.

Chad (08:12.692)

It just seems like the system's been broke for so long. I mean, top to bottom, top to bottom. I mean, whether it's attraction, not using the talent that you already have in your database, not using the talent that you already have in the ranks of your organization. So from obviously, you know, the internal mobility standpoint, like you're talking about, being able to actually understand skills, once again, not whether it's external or internal. So you talk about pandemic, me too.

demographics, I mean, new generation, Gen Z, really starting to show itself in the workforce. And then obviously, tech, the velocity of tech is just immense right now. So I mean, this seems like a perfect time for the book. The question is, how do you get that adoption to happen, which is the hardest thing in our industry it seems.

Anne (09:04.319)

Yeah, I think you've got to think carefully about what's the unit of contribution that we're talking about here. And so, you know, I'm going to say skills are, you know, you've heard it before, that skills are the economic unit and the new currency in this economy, in this talent economy today. And if you're thinking around that, you know, I heard Danny Johnson from Redthread.

saying the other day, and I actually really liked it, why are we imprinting a work methodology that's 150 years old, created in the Ford era? Why are we still creating these organizational structures when the way that work is being delivered is radically different today? Why are we looking at this imprint model? And the answer, the unpacking of the answer is looking at what's the unit of contribution. So are we thinking about skills? Are we thinking about tasks? Because I think.

you know, we need to go on this journey of moving past jobs or roles as being the unit, the economic unit, which has served us for many, many years. But we are now ready to move from jobs to skills or jobs to tasks as an organizing principle for work.

Joel Cheesman (10:17.937)

Where do you put education in that? So what I'm hearing you saying is that the traditional sort of for your college, that's a lot less important if it's a skills-based economy. So where does that put education in you and how does that evolve?

Anne (10:35.887)

I mean, I really love that question. So thank you for bringing it up. I mean, I think education is going to be consumed differently. I think millennials and Gen Zs, I mean, they don't necessarily rely on classroom learning. If they want to figure something out, they're going straight to chat GPT to answer, to ask the question, or Googling it, and finding in the moment tutorials. So the unit of learning is consumed very differently.

That being said, I think there's a wonderful transformational work that involved with University of California network and led by this amazing technologist at UCI, very, very visionary around joining the dots between universities.

students and workplaces. So how do we create this seamless journey between work that exists and this wonderful learning population and how do we deliver this lifetime ongoing learning that means that people will have skills that remain relevant? So yeah, really interesting work being done there.

Chad (11:47.2)

So that's interesting from the standpoint of what we're used to is go to college, go to university when you are in your early 20s. And then 40 years later, you didn't go back to school at all, right? It doesn't seem like we've consumed the education or at least training like you're talking about. It is a journey of learning. It's not just it happens once, wait, they've got a master's degree from 40 years ago.

That's awesome. But we're looking at education and also, as you talked about, work in a different way.

Anne (12:25.279)

Yeah, I think I mean, the obsolescence of skills, you know, or the shelf life of skills, you know, scares me because yes, it's exhilarating, right? You know, it used to be that you'd come out with a skill and you think you've got five years. Now it's more like two. So that does scare me. So how do we enable people to really, because it's exhilarating so fast, right? You come out with a degree that you, you know, come out from school, and you think you're, you're good, really, you've probably got two years to take that skill set. You know, if you actually do come out with

Chad (12:40.712)

Why is it scary?

Chad (12:54.194)

Uh huh.

Anne (12:55.135)

meaningful skills. You know, you've got two years to leverage that before you're on to the next wave of learning. You know, so how do we support that?

Chad (13:02.612)

But what you're talking about though, is learning, a constant learning. So it seems like that's the only way we're gonna be able to keep up with tech in the first place. Is to be, instead of just doing this block of four years, right, or block of two years, block of four years, you're getting up to speed with whatever the certification block is, and it's just continuous learning. So it seems like again, revolutionary wise, it plays right into what your book's talking about.

Joel Cheesman (13:07.69)

Lifelong learning.

Anne (13:33.379)

I think it's also into the marketplace mentality, which is learning is not consumed necessarily via a formal university or a school-based education. That learning is from a colleague. It's right. You've got some reverse mentoring happening with somebody that's slightly better than you, at Excel, for example. Or you've got, like, I really want lessons from my CFO. It's like, how do I do a pivot table? So.

So it's getting those in the moment learning connections, like who's better at this than me? Who can coach me on this? Who can mentor me? Where's my learning asset that I can get at my fingertips when I want it? So that really fast connection to what's relevant, but also getting an insight into what are the hots, what is trending in my organization? Where's the burning need? If I can anticipate that these three to five things are gonna be an issue for my organization in three to five years time, or two years time, I need to start investing.

So I'm gonna become an AI trainer personally. I'm gonna train the AI. You know, that's gonna be my role. And I think it's gonna be every one of our roles, right? As any kind of individual contributing, we're all gonna be working with AI. And yes, I want my doctor. Yes, I want my lawyer to be using AI so that they're getting better, sharper, faster answers, but I still want them there. So I think we've all gotta work with AI to deliver that benefit.

I just want to leave you with it. I've got another kind of quote that I'd like to share with you, right? And this is, and it does lead to the AI question, but I quite like this one from Josh Berson, which is that humans are the only appreciable asset on your balance sheet, on your P&L. So people are the only appreciable asset, right? So think about it.

Chad (15:20.508)

You're only...

Anne (15:23.011)

only asset that appreciates, everything else depreciates, right? Your laptop, you know, your phone, you know, your tools, your machinery, your cars, everything depreciates. People, people, no comment, but people, people can appreciate, we can develop and grow our skills, right? So we should be able to increase the value of your skills, talents and your people. That's our lifelong mission.

Joel Cheesman (15:30.605)

He's so wise.

Chad (15:49.928)

So the funny thing is what Josh forgot is that algorithms are going to be able to scale faster than humans. So that's a big change. That's where Josh is like 20 years behind the rest of the conversation. Yeah. So great job, Josh. Yeah. I mean, I think from the standpoint of how we're doing business, we need to change dramatically, which again, you know, we're talking about providing a revolution. And if we can tie and we should be tying.

Joel Cheesman (15:56.017)

Mm-hmm. That sounds like appreciation.

Anne (16:02.371)


Chad (16:18.828)

our job. So we talk about talent. If we don't have talent, the company doesn't run, at least today, right? There aren't robots and algorithms that can do everything that we need to do. And that's going to be, I mean, I think we'll be gone by that time that happens. But at the end of the day, talent is what provides product, sales, service, retention, expanding wallet share, all of that. You can't do it without that, right? But once again, talent acquisition.

Anne (16:29.935)

And that's can be, I think.

Chad (16:48.952)

needs to be able to make that business case. Does this book actually help practitioners better understand the dots, number one? Because you've got to see the dots before you can connect the dots. Is that really what you're trying to go after here?

Anne (17:04.015)

Yes, I think that they need to be enabled to see the business benefits. Right. So, I mean, I always like to start from, you know, what's the return on investment? What's the dollar impact and why should we be even considering doing things differently? So, you know, HR more generally needs to move from, you know, focusing on employment to focusing on orchestrating work, orchestrating learning.

You know, so, so can you being the conductors as opposed to the controllers. Of employment entry exit, right?

Joel Cheesman (17:38.293)

And you have a, your company has a global footprint and just. Pardon me.

Joel Cheesman (17:47.921)

Are we on a delay? Am I lagging, Chad?

Anne (17:52.078)

I'm trying to, I need to drop my camera. I just couldn't quite find where to find it. Cause I think I'm getting dropped a little. Is that better?

Joel Cheesman (18:00.145)

Am I lagging for you, Chad? She's lagging, okay.

Chad (18:02.032)

No, she's lying. She's the one who's lying.

Joel Cheesman (18:06.929)

Are you there, Ann?

Anne (18:07.583)

Let's try again. Yeah, I've dropped my camera.

just in case that was creating an issue.

Joel Cheesman (18:12.368)


Joel Cheesman (18:17.709)

Your company is a global company. So you get to see the world from an interesting perspective. So when you talk about revolution, different countries are at different places in this process. Different companies are in different places. So you have big enterprises, small businesses. Give me some nuance in terms of what you see on a global level of where countries, companies are in adopting some of the principles that you're talking about.

Anne (18:45.795)

Yeah, great question. I think what I'd love to see is up in some of those Nordic countries leading the way in very democratic work principles and democratic talent practices, because they've been very socially minded for a long time. So we're seeing a fair bit, I think, of innovation and leading edge thinking coming from the Nordics. I think, I do actually think Germany and its work council.

you know, again, you know, it's very unionized based kind of principles. And that has, you know, challenged our practices, you know, across the world. In terms of executing on change, I do think the USA and North America are leading on the way of actually implementing the executing change. So the world still does look, you know, so the thinking, the leading edge thinking is coming out of, you know, perhaps those high tech automotive

industries out of Germany and Europe. However, the actual implementation of change, I think, happening fast in a lot of organizations in the USA.

Chad (19:56.884)

So do you find that change happening in our industry in the same way where, you know, the US is actually adopting faster than many of the other countries around us over the globe or across the globe?

Anne (20:11.299)

Yeah, I think there's some really good thinkers in the USA and some early adopters that are really focused on creating a change journey and re-orchestrating their work principles in ways that are challenging all of our thinking. So Gore-Tex was one of the first with their Holacracy. I really like Patagonia and their thinking around...

Chad (20:22.28)


Chad (20:32.593)


Anne (20:33.911)

You know, no roles, no job titles. I'm defined by my contributions. You know, I'm contributing to this project and that project I don't have a job title. You know, pretty brave. Come to it. West Coast, right?

Joel Cheesman (20:43.877)


Chad (20:44.648)

That sounds very hippie dippy, does it not? I mean, it sounds sweet, but I mean, you gotta have some kind of direction, right? You can't just come in the morning and say, well, today I'm going to be an engineer.

Joel Cheesman (20:46.481)


Anne (20:53.763)


Anne (20:59.772)

That's Ventura, California for you, right? You know, they're all surfers.

Joel Cheesman (21:06.341)

And some of the, some of the things you're talking about are, it might be a little scary to a lot of organizations. It might be a little bit too much for them. What advice would you give them and looking at taking the leap off the ledge and embracing some of this change?

Anne (21:07.127)

That was it.

Anne (21:20.343)

Yeah, no question. I think you've got to start with your why, right? So if you are on this change to become a skills-based organization, where do you start? You start with your why. What are the benefits with becoming a skills-based organization? Where are your pain points? Where are your low-hanging fruit? And start there. So if you're looking across the talent life cycle, perhaps you've got a use case, you know, in the TA function, but perhaps your greater...

greater pain point is around future proofing your workforce from the learning point of view. So where are your low hanging fruit? Start there, build out that journey. I think there's no such thing of getting to perfection across the entire talent life cycle instantaneously. So you have to start somewhere. And technology enablement today around, creating a skills infrastructure or skills architecture has shifted dramatically so you can get those benefits because you do need to have that definition

your most basic unit of contribution across the organization. So, you know, starting there, utilizing what technology is available to you in a scalable way, to normalize what's happening. So some of the organizations we work with, oh my goodness, you know, talk about complexity, you know, they've got 10 different architectures, you know, existing across the organization. So where do you start? You know, so you can leverage technology these days to

normalize and harmonize across that to imprint with your own organization's DNA so it's still yours. Meta and J&J do not want the same skills architecture, right? They're not going to use the same nomenclature, they're not going to use the same language, they've got different strategic goals and imperatives, so how do you infuse that into what's really going to be important for the future of your organization? And then how do you stay agile?

Chad (23:10.76)

be able to, how do you start a revolution? That's the question, right? It's great to talk about it. There's a lot of me, we're talking about all the countries and being able to take little bits here and there, which I think is awesome because I don't think there is one system that is the perfect system, just pretty much like you'd said. So how, if I am a TA professional, I'm an HR professional, talent management, what have you, where does the revolution start and how do I start the fire?

Anne (23:40.203)

Yeah, I would say start with understanding the voice, right? You know, if you think of all the revolutions around the world, you know, there's a lot of employee voice. There's a lot of sentiment that's starting at the grassroots level. So understanding the voice of people or your stakeholders, right? So, you know, in talent acquisition, what are your candidates saying? You know, what do they care about? What's what are they looking for in terms of that experience? Same with your employees, you know, your stakeholders. So to me, it does start with the voice. You know, you've got to start there.

That should then guide whatever comes next, right? That's got to be your start point. What's most important? And how does that link to?

Chad (24:17.224)

from the, for the most part, companies don't even know what the voice is. I mean, candidates are going on to black holes, employees are leaving because they're not getting an opportunity to actually internally find other positions, move laterally, what have you. So it sounds like from this conversation, the first thing you need to do is understand what the people want.

Anne (24:41.867)

Yeah, and you've alluded to the other thing, which is also what's the data telling you, right? So if you've got retention issues, you know, if you've got pockets of people or you've got candidates falling into the black hole or getting noisy, in terms of giving you feedback about what you're not doing. So, yeah, I think to me, you know, that's a really powerful, you know, starting point. And that should drive what change comes, right? So, you know, then how do you go? Where are we going to get the most impact and benefit from change?

is from that data. So it's gotta be data driven.

Joel Cheesman (25:12.129)

Yeah. I'm hearing not only data, but a lot of branding, uh, in your, in your answer. How important is employer brand from your perspective, uh, in looking like a revolutionary, uh, company, a company that someone wants to get on board with. Um, and, and s a side note, uh, fuel 50 is a pretty unique brand. How did you guys come up with the name and what's the story?

Anne (25:35.695)

Oh, yeah, thank you. So, yeah, we wanted to fuel engagement and retention and fuel futures. That was our mission, right? Fueling futures, but also fueling engagement and retention in organization. Yeah, had gone when we came along. And I say, yeah, sorry. We could have grabbed, but I think that's gone now too. So anyway, 50 in numerology happened to really resonate for us.

Joel Cheesman (25:54.483)


Anne (26:05.147)

So that was, numerology means pathways, passion, progression, and multiplicity, which was really around our scale vision, bringing everyone on that journey. So yeah, there's the fuel at the end for you.

Joel Cheesman (26:15.085)

Wondershock's Patagonia. Little hippie in there. So bigger picture employer brand importance in this journey.

Anne (26:24.359)

Yes. I mean, I think, yeah, I think branding, I think differentiation is going to be increasingly important, right? So again, understanding what your people want, and then making sure that you're communicating against those things that are going to be important to them. I think values, communication is so important. What do you stand for? Particularly, as we're all going to become more AI enabled, you know, I don't know how many of you are getting those reach outs on, you know,

LinkedIn or in your inbox, you know, on, you know, and you said, this is a human, you were like, you know, it's not a human. It's too clever. So, so I think, you know, different differentiation on your value prop, you know, your value proposition is going to become increasingly important being human about what you do, you know, so it's going to be about our people connections going to become we want them more real, right, as a as a consequence of this revolution.

Joel Cheesman (27:16.31)

human. More human.

Chad (27:19.228)

more human, I mean using tech to be more human. All right people, that's Anne Fulton. Anne, where can we find the book? Talent Revolution. Where can we find the book number one? And number two, if people wanna connect with you, where would you send them?

Anne (27:34.347)

So yeah,, you'll find the book there and easy enough to get a copy sent over or we're on Amazon, bestseller list and organization development subtext. And yeah, I'm found easily on LinkedIn. That's my best way of communicating with me, but yeah, Twitter, Anne Fulton, Fuel50, you'll find me.

Joel Cheesman (27:58.097) Chad, that is another one in the can. We out.


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