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The Evolution of the Workforce

Recorded LIVE from Transform earlier this year. This episode explores the dynamic changes in the modern workplace including in-depth conversations with Janine Yancey, the CEO and founder of Emtrain. With her rich background as an employment lawyer and her innovative work at Emtrain, Janine provides unique perspectives on the transformation of HR practices, compliance training, and workplace culture.


Podcast Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark. Buckle up, boys and girls. It's time for the Chad & Cheese Podcast.

Joel: Oh yeah. What's up everybody? We are at Transform in Las Vegas, day two. This is Steve Wynn's favourite podcast, AKA, the Chad & Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host, Joel Cheeseman. Joined as always, the carrot to my top, Chad Sowash is in the house.

Chad: Very much so.

Joel: As we welcome Janine Yancey.

Chad: Janine.

Joel: CEO, and founder of Emtrain Colt Train Night train. No, just Emtrain.

Chad: That is the best.

Joel: Janine welcome, welcome to the podcast.

Janine Yancey: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Joel: Excellent. So our listeners probably don't know who you or the company are. Give them the elevator pitch about you and what you do.

Janine Yancey: Okay. So Janine Yancey, I started my career as an employment lawyer doing a lot of litigation and investigations and resolving a lot of conflict in organizations. And that gave me the motivation to start Emtrain because I was kind of like the workplace therapist. I'd see patterns of behaviour over and over and over again and tell the managers, Hey, this is what's going to happen. And they were always surprised when...

Chad: It gave me the motivation to get the hell out of my job.

Joel: To get the hell out and...

Chad: That's what I heard. After all of that, get the hell out of my job.

Janine Yancey: No, to resolve conflict. I call it navigating around the rocks rather than going right into the rocks, right?

Chad: Okay.

Joel: Okay. So Emtrain specifically does what to support that vision?

Janine Yancey: So Emtrain is online learning and ethics, respect and inclusion. So it covers a lot of your compliance topics as well as DEI topics as well as really just kind of talent topics. And what we're doing, I think that's unique is we're approaching this from a skills-based perspective. So all of our learning is developing skills and we're measuring skills. So we're embedding our learning experience with probing questions, the type of questions you'd get in an annual climate survey. So think about annual climate survey embedded into a learning experience, and we'll show a scene of what good looks like, and we'll ask them, Hey, what does your manager do? This, that, the other thing. And we're getting employee sentiment at scale that we can slice and dice to see where in the organization you've got some vulnerabilities, where conflict is brewing.

Joel: And then plug the holes with education. Is that what I'm hearing? Okay.

Janine Yancey: Education and management actions. So like your HR business partner team is usually way understaffed, especially these days after the last year of layoffs. So they're exhausted. So instead of boiling the ocean, we're giving them visibility into which teams they need to go and talk to.

Joel: Okay. And you were founded when?

Janine Yancey: 2006 is when I stopped my day job of being a lawyer.

Joel: Okay. So you've been at this for a while. Okay.

Janine Yancey: So I've been at this for a long time. 500 plus clients ranging in size from Chevron, IKEA, Cisco, Workday, down to a lot of the organizations we see here at Transform.

Joel: I love this 'cause this is the story you don't hear about, this isn't the startup that's raised a ton of money, has a whatever founder, I mean, you guys have organically put in the work.

Janine Yancey: Yes.

Joel: Put in the time.

Janine Yancey: Yes.

Chad: How big is the organization?

Janine Yancey: Well, there's about 50 of us, so we're small. But what's interesting is we're all practitioners. So clients dig us because we've been in their shoes. We know how to solve their problems.

Chad: You speak their language.

Janine Yancey: We speak their language, and we know how to solve their problems.

Chad: Well, and you know what the real problems are because you actually walked in their shoes where a lot of other vendors are coming in from outside saying they think they know what the problem is and they really have no clue.

Janine Yancey: Exactly right. And Chad, they're trying to solve for less important things. So there are companies here that are spending most of their investment on how to make this as cheap and easy as possible, which is great, but they're actually not solving the big problems. And there's so much increasing regulation. Like our largest clients, their people are spending eight to 10 hours a year in compliance training, right? If you just quantify that expense of their hourly rate at scale, that's millions of dollars to get nothing but a completion report. That's stupid. So to use this program as a talent strategy, as a listening strategy, and you're actually getting operational benefits is what makes the CFOs happy.

Joel: There's a lot of competition out there, upskilling, learning, some big players. How do you guys obviously nimbler, cheaper. What's the differentiator for you guys when you're at a sales call with so many big competitors with deep pockets?

Janine Yancey: We're in the market of really the online compliance niche. So there's actually just a handful of companies that we compete against.

Joel: So you don't consider LinkedIn Learning or others like that competitors or do you?

Janine Yancey: No. So we partner, LinkedIn's a client. We partner with LinkedIn Learning, Udemy's a client. We partner with Udemy. Udemy business is right here.

Chad: So you provide content to them. What does partnership mean?

Janine Yancey: Oh, well, so first of all, they're clients of us, so they roll out our programs to their whole workforce. LinkedIn Learning, we're going to be supplying an Emtrain course within LinkedIn Learning this year.

Chad: How many courses do you have in Emtrain?

Janine Yancey: Oh, Emtrain. We probably have about a 100 or so.

Chad: Okay. So one of many that you could prospectively be rolling out into LinkedIn 'cause I seen this as a perspective partnership and revenue generator from a distribution standpoint through a platform like LinkedIn.

Janine Yancey: Yes.

Chad: Highly used platform.

Janine Yancey: Yes.

Chad: They need content. They want content.

Janine Yancey: Well and currently they do not do compliance. So that has been a strategic product decision they made.

Chad: Yeah.

Janine Yancey: I talked to their head of product last year.

Chad: Which is why you're perfect for this connection 'cause they don't have to do it.

Janine Yancey: Well, at some point they will do it. The answer from their head of product was, it's not a question of if, it's just when.

Chad: And who are they going to acquire to make sure that they have...

Joel: I was gonna say, it sounds like they could just write a check and be done with it.

Chad: Yeah, yeah. I mean that makes it a lot easier.

Joel: That's a big smile on Janine's face right there.

Janine Yancey: I'm not saying anything.

Chad: Quick question around skills. So, how do you actually analyze the jobs to understand what skills are in those jobs in the first place?

Janine Yancey: We have created a skills matrix for every employee in the workforce to be their best selves, right? So, some of those skills are specific to people leaders.

Chad: Okay.

Janine Yancey: So, for example, going back to my kind of prior life as a lawyer. Most of the harassment and discrimination cases stem from managers who are not skilled at managing their power. So meaning, they will say something, they will do something, and they can't think through how that's gonna show up to a direct report. And then they're just always shocked when they get this bias claim.

Chad: Well, they haven't been trained to manage, so they suck at managing.

Janine Yancey: Well, part of management training is managing your power. That's one of the courses we're going to be doing for LinkedIn.

Chad: Gotcha.

Janine Yancey: Cisco is also a client. They want us to develop for all of their people leaders the inclusive manager series this year, because there's just some tried and true skills you need to build to get better outcomes.

Chad: Yeah. Yeah. Like diplomacy.

Janine Yancey: Diplomacy means different things to different people. That's the hard part.

Joel: Most things mean different things to different people, right?

Janine Yancey: Yes.

Joel: You talked a little before we pushed record about comparing a team, a sports team, in this case basketball, to corporate, where chemistry isn't there so the results don't happen. Tell that story to our listeners and how your product sort of manages or helps get chemistry, people that can actually work together in unison, because I think that's a little bit of a secret sauce if you can do that in an organization.

Janine Yancey: We have all these data analytics tools out on the market, and none of them measure chemistry, the social dynamics within the organization and within teams. And when you think about the relevance of that, that's when I gave the example of a basketball team. So I'm from Sacramento. Kings are our basketball team. They had years and years of losing, losing, losing, despite investing in top players, top talent. But if the talent doesn't play well together, you're not gonna get the win. So you need a tool and you need a strategy to, one, make visible and measure the chemistry that's going on in the organization. Like which teams have people that are spinning out because it's nails on a chalkboard for what their teammates saying?

Janine Yancey: Like how do we figure that out? And that's what we're doing here at Emtrain. So we're doing it coming in. The beachhead is always, yes, it's a compliance course. Our preventing harassment course is our flagship course, but we're using it really as a talent strategy. It's like how do we play well together?

Chad: But chemistry, you hire who you hire, and that's what you get in, right? And if they don't know what the chemistry is before they actually land on the team, that's going to be hard, right? So from a management standpoint, you can try to manage that as a team, but if you're hiring individuals who just don't have the right chemistry together, that's going to be hard.

Janine Yancey: So I disagree, Chad, because yes/and. You can create your own true north values and skills within a team, within an organization. And so like one of our skills and our matrix is curiosity, starting with curiosity. So if you've got two people, they don't mix. It's like, all right, how do we start our interactions with curiosity? How can we inspire folks to wonder, Hey, what makes that other persons' tick? And if that's embedded in just how we do business, it's kind of our operating guide. Everyone starts tracking to the same set of really kind of skills. That's how I think about it.

Joel: I mean, you could say chemistry is a bias because people interview and like, oh, well, there's chemistry because we're alike.

Janine Yancey: Exactly.

Chad: Oh yeah.

Joel: We're the same kind of person. And it can be a real landmine that organizations need to be aware of.

Janine Yancey: Well, we've done that research. I mean, a lot of places have done that research and it is a bias.

Joel: Yeah. You are launching a new product here at the conference. Talk about that.

Janine Yancey: Yes So we're launching our second iteration of our people analytics tools after getting a year's worth of client feedback on how to make it more useful, more actionable. And so these are 150 million employee responses about the interactions on their team, how their managers perform, how their coworkers perform, how their leaders perform and show up. We're also giving a risk heat map and we're starting to integrate with case management systems so that employee relations teams see proactively before there's a claim where there's pockets of conflict.

Joel: Help me visualize that. A heat map for what?

Janine Yancey: So you're seeing you can slice and dice by business unit, by geography, by some of the more senior leaders, right. Because we don't go down to the individual. You can see where people are saying like the respect score is low, right. And so if you unravel the respect score, we've got four skills. It's managing our own biases. That's at the individual level. It's in group out group dynamics at the team level coworkers. A lot of harassment cases stem from in group out group dynamics. It's managing your power at the people leader level. And then it's ensuring equity at the organizational level. So we're asking questions at each of those four points and fleshing out how people are seeing and experiencing those dynamics. And so if we see a business unit where the whole team is rating that manager as they suck at managing power. Okay.

Joel: DEF CON too.

Janine Yancey: Exactly. Let's send an HR business partner to that manager.

Joel: Interesting.

Janine Yancey: So, for example, we have American Eagle as one of our clients.

Joel: I only wear American Eagle, by the way.

Janine Yancey: Well, my kids do. We can slice and dice by district 'cause that's how they're organized their DMS. We were looking over their analytics, which they actually presented to their board, the audit committee of their board. And we can see that while they were generally pretty healthy, district 52 was under 50% in their benchmark score. And I said, oh, so who's the DM at 52? And they all kind of chuckled [laughter] They're like, oh, [laughter] Yeah, we get it.

Chad: That guy.

Joel: It's Chad.

Chad: That guy [laughter],

Janine Yancey: I suspect if you talk to all of our HR friends in this conference they anecdotally know what's going on.

Joel: Their gut tells them, right? Yeah.

Janine Yancey: But they don't have anything to help them have those conversations either with the executives or frankly the managers, because they don't have enough street cred, frankly.

Joel: Yeah. You as a mature company, has seen the rise of AI before there was AI.

Janine Yancey: Yes.

Joel: So you've seen it as it was born, particularly with the data that you're using I assume.

Janine Yancey: Yes. Yes.

Joel: What's your perspective on ai, what it has meant to your business and what you think it means ultimately for, the world of work?

Janine Yancey: You know, I, think it's gonna allow us to do more with less work, less headcount.

Joel: Less People. Yep. Say it.

Janine Yancey: Less headcount.

Joel: She said it.

Janine Yancey: It is. I mean, so we're a small, org, but we're already doing more with less. I mean, we don't need a QA engineer because we've got Cypress, which is AI. You've got Jasper, which is AI for marketing blogs. I mean, it is what it is, right?

Joel: It is what it is.

Janine Yancey: I'm speaking as an employer right now, not a CEO, not as a HR practitioner. Having said that, I think we need to have confidence that with every kind of paradigm shift in our society, doors close and new doors open, right?

Joel: Yep.

Janine Yancey: And I do think that, I mean, just in the last, let's just even call it the last 10 years as we see Gen Z increasingly coming into the organization, they're changing the world of work in really good ways. I mean, there's some challenges too. But things that us Gen Xers would never dream of having the guts to ask for they're just blithely demanding it. It's like, okay. All right. So I think overall we're trending in the right direction. I think the next probably five years are gonna be rocky, but we will ultimately get to a good path.

Chad: So Rocky, how? Just because there's a, a difference thought process for the Gen Zs coming in versus, you know, what we're used to.

Janine Yancey: I think Rocky because Gen Zs were generally raised by.

Chad: Xers.

Janine Yancey: Us Gen Xers, yeah. And us Gen Xers didn't have parents that were very present. So we overcompensated with our kids.

Chad: Oh yeah.

Janine Yancey: And we're seeing what that looks like in the workplace. It's like, oh shoot. [laughter] So they have a bit of a, an awakening. They're gonna have an awakening when.

Chad: How so?

Janine Yancey: Life's not so easy. Life's not so easy. The work ethic's not necessarily what I think it needs to be.

Chad: Well, yeah, but okay. So we were programmed to live, to work, right?

Janine Yancey: Yes.

Chad: And their program work to live. Right. Which is to be quite frank, I think a hell of a lot smarter, right? We're not on this earth to sit around and sit behind a desk and do a job.

Janine Yancey: Agreed. Chad agreed. But you make your choices. So you can't say, I'm going to work to live, but I also want.

Joel: I wanna be CEO in a week. [laughter]

Chad: Well I don't think they wanna be. That's the Problem.

Janine Yancey: They want the six figure salary.

Chad: That's only because they're paying $100,000 to go through college when boomers paid like 15.

Janine Yancey: True.

Chad: I mean The dynamics to be able to say what you said around rocky and the change it should be, it's the evolution of the workforce. And that's where your company and your product should also evolve and flow. You shouldn't hope that Gen Z magically becomes Gen X because that shit ain't gonna happen.

Janine Yancey: No. Well, and it shouldn't happen. I'm not saying it should because like, listen, we didn't have anyone showing us the way.

Chad: We did not.

Janine Yancey: So we did the best we could do. [laughter], now Gen Z has had a whole lot of of attention.

Chad: Oh yeah.

Janine Yancey: And care. So they should be the best, generation yet.

Chad: We hope we can always hope.

Joel: You mentioned, the world of work. Five years ahead, I wanna talk about your business.

Janine Yancey: Yes.

Joel: You raised $8 million a few years ago.

Chad: Oh, nice.

Joel: You're a mature company. What do you wanna be when you grow up?

Janine Yancey: So our goal is to change the world of compliance. So I always say laws follow people. People don't follow laws. And what I mean by that is when people screw up, guess what? A law gets written. So instead of optimizing for, let's understand this law, screw that. Let's understand people. Let's understand why Boeing, after spending a million dollars a year for 20 years on their compliance program, still has jets falling down from the sky. Okay? Compliance issues. They're not compliance issues, they're people issues. So I wanna change the whole world of compliance and get it back to focused on people and people's decision making and their skills. Because the laws and the lawyers being a lawyer myself, sorry we screwed it all up. We did.

Joel: All I heard was get $100 million dollar check from LinkedIn. That's all I heard in that. Sorry. Janine. Janine Yancey, everybody, CEO and founder at Emtrain. Janine, for our listeners who want to connect with you or learn more about the company, where do you send them?

Janine Yancey: Oh Please, visit us online That's

Joel: Oh, she's good. She's good.

Chad: Colt train baby.

Joel: That's another one in the can. Colt train. Night Train. Emtrain. We're out.

Chad: We're out.

Podcast Outro: Well Thank you for listening to, what's it called, A podcast, the Chad, the Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting, they talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of shout outs of people you don't even know. And yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese. Not one cheddar blue nacho, pepper jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Anywho. Be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever. You listen to your podcasts. That way you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit Just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese is so weird. We out.


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