Dr. Angela Stopper Helps Us Rethink and Modernize Human Resources

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In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with UC Berkeley’s Chief Learning Officer and Director of People and Organizational Development Dr. Angela Stopper on why and how we need to rethink and modernize Human Resources.

A few reasons why she is awesome  —  she is the Chief Learning Officer and Director of People and Organization Development at UC Berkeley, she’s a faculty member at Penn State World Campus teaching in the Masters Program for Professional Studies in Organization Development and Change, she’s a course author and instructor for Illumeo. All fueled with a PhD in Workforce Education and Development.

Connect with, and learn more about Angela on…



  • Why it’s important to earn transformation before you do.
  • Who’s in charge of HR transformation.
  • How do you sell improving HR to executive.
  • How the pandemic accelerated change.
  • What to look for when hiring for a new version of HR.
  • How do you know a new HR is working?

“And so I think it’s starting to think about our human capital, our human inputs, our staff, all of the people that make our organizations happen. Start thinking about them as extremely scarce resources. That are very, very valuable. Just like we think about everything that we put into the products that we make or the services that we provide.”

Dr. Angela Stopper


Russel Lolacher: And on the show today we have Angela Stopper, and here is why she is awesome. She’s the Chief Learning Officer and Director of People and Organization Development at UC Berkeley. She’s a faculty member at Penn State World Campus, teaching in the Master’s program for Professional Studies and Organization Development and Change.

She’s a course author and instructor for Illumio, and this is all fuelled with a PhD in workforce education and development. Hello, Dr. Stopper.

Angela Stopper: So nice to be here with you today. Thanks so much for that wonderful introduction.

Russel Lolacher: Oh, my pleasure. Now, I’m gonna either touch on a really sore spot or really sweet spot for you, which is the first question I have to ask, which is what’s the first, what’s your best or worst employee experience? Could be your first, I don’t know.

Angela Stopper: So I’m imagining you can judge people’s personalities by how they answer this, right? I’m going positive for you. I’m living my best career life right now. My job is so much fun. I have a team that I lead. That are full of experts that are engaged and excited about their work. I have a boss who trusts me to do my job and looks to me to support him and his success.

I have a peer group where all of us, you know, bring us some little something different to the table, but work in a way that we can all play off each other’s strengths and help kind of fill in any gaps that are there. And I work for UC Berkeley, which is, you know, one of the coolest universities in the country, if not the world.

I live in the East Bay, so you know, perfect weather, perfect life, perfect job. Things are really good. Things are really good.

Russel Lolacher: I am happy for you and I hate you a bit, Angela, that’s very sweet that you jumped already the positivity checklist there. I want to go into the topic really badly ’cause I know we did a pre-chat and I’m like, oh, this is gonna be good. But I wanna dig into one thing about the… ’cause I always find it interesting about positive environments. Because to be honest, you only know it’s positive because you have had not so positive. So, in this environment, what is one thing that’s happening in a good way that you’re like, oh no, this is fantastic. Like there is just this one thing that you walk into a room and you’re like, haha, this is not normal.

Angela Stopper: It’s so interesting you mentioned that Russel, and you’re a hundred percent right. I have had some experiences. I literally had a manager in a per, in a performance evaluation once tell me that I was very tall and very blonde.

Russel Lolacher: Okay.

Angela Stopper: You’re very short and very brunette. What do you wanna do? Anyway. But I’ll say, and this is so cliche, but it’s a hundred percent true, having worked for an amazing boss and having worked for some, you know, managers that might have needed a little bit of zhuzh-ing around the corners, I can say what, what we all know.

People don’t leave their jobs. People don’t stay in their jobs. People leave their manager. People stay in their job because their manager. I have had the great pleasure of working for two incredible leaders in people and culture. Our rename of human resources at UC Berkeley, and that pillar goes the whole way up to a chancellor.

Our CEO say in the industry who’s just amazing. You know, people care about the people. They care about growth. They care about making sure that we’re taking care of the whole person, not just the, the piece of you that comes to work and puts out some kind of a product. You know, it’s truly a space where I feel cared about and I feel like I’m able to do work that isn’t allowing us to show that care and growth for all of our staff and faculty, which is really exciting place to be.

Russel Lolacher: So let’s get into that topic. You mentioned HR, human resources. I know you’ve renamed it, but I, I, I always like starting any conversation by starting with a baseline, like what are we talking about? So traditionally, what is HR or human resources typically known of or thought in an organization.

Angela Stopper: I think there’s probably a, a spectrum. Of course. Just like anything in this world, there are HR shops that are kind of those 1950s personnel shops, you know, making sure you’re doing your compliance training, making sure people are signing their I-9s when they get hired and they call that onboarding.

You know, just kind of that, that bare bones personnel kind of space. And then you move into the more human side where people start caring about learning and development. Well, actually before that, we get into the more risk side of human resources, I guess, which is in that employee labour relations space. And, and then, you know, you move into that place where I think people start thinking more about the people and they think about talent acquisition, workforce development, learning, and development.

You can move the whole way to the other end of that spectrum where you’re more in the people and culture space where we are. So it’s all of the things. It’s all of the hiring, it’s all of the onboarding, it’s all the legal, it’s all the risk. But we also play in that opportunity space of human resources where we get to think about learning and development and employee engagement and employee experience in celebrating our employees.

And so I think you can fall anywhere on that continuum. I really like being in that 2.0 space in that people and culture space.

Russel Lolacher: So we we’re gonna talk about HR and its need for change. But as I sort of said at the beginning, to be positive, we have to know the negative. So if there’s a need for change, Why has there traditionally been a need for change? Because I hear what you’re saying about the spectrum, but from what I’m hearing is it’s not like cherry picking along the spectrum.

Usually it’s a bare minimum. And then if we have the time and resources, we’ll do labor relations. Oh. If we have the time and the resources, we’ll do that development. Oh wait. If we have the time… And like it’s, it’s really stacking on that Jenga tower as it will. So what is the need, why is there need for change?

Angela Stopper: You know, I think one of the biggest things that I get interested in is that we’re still following some habits and I’m calling them habits intentionally.

We’re following habits that were developed during the industrial revolution. You come to work at nine, you go on break at noon, you eat lunch for an hour, you come back at one, you leave at five because everybody was producing a widget on a assembly line. If you have, you know, industrial Revolution experts listening to this, they’re gonna have questions and comments about that, I’m sure but we’re, we’re generalizing here. I’m just an HR PhD. Right. So, but you know, there was, there was, there was a time and place for that. We were bringing people together, they all needed to be in the same space, in the same place, making the thing that was going down the conveyor belt. I will argue that we have moved to a place now where we’re not just a manufacturing society even more predominantly we’re kind of a thought society. We, we still produce stuff, obviously, but we produce a lot of thought leaders. We produce a lot of knowledge. We have knowledge workers that work for us. Marshall Goldsmith, I think is one of the most inspiring coaches I’ve ever talked to. And one of the things that he talks about is if you have a knowledge worker working for you, you don’t need to tell them what to do because the whole point of a knowledge worker is they’re smart, they know what to do, they got it.

They, they can do the do, but what they need is a manager who’s gonna coach them and help them to be successful in, in the ways that come around culture and learning and growth and development. And so I think because we’ve made this massive shift over, you know, hundreds of years here in this country, following some of those and, and other countries as well, following some of those habits from the early days when this was how we set up work, when, and this is what work meant and this is what work looked like, it’s very, very different now. And so we need to change because the world around us is changing. The people are changing, their needs are changing. You know, people don’t wanna punch a time clock and put in the the minimum amount of effort and get their paycheck.

You know, there’s probably people that want to do that.

Russel Lolacher: Is it all in a name? Because I know you’ve changed it, UC Berkeley, to People and Culture. I’ve heard other People Operations. Is slapping a name on it, helping with this change management or what is the DNA of those decisions?

Angela Stopper: Yeah. You know this, the slapping of the name on it. I think there’s lots of people that slap names on things and call it something new. And then they do absolutely nothing to actually change. And so the name piece was great, but it came later. The first kind of things that we started thinking about, and this was through the leadership of, you know, the people on my team, the people I report to, we started thinking about we want to be a place that great people work.

We wanna be a proactive people partner. That was our tagline. Before, when we were still HR, we were moving towards being a proactive people partner, getting people used to that. We started talking about building a culture of coaching, having managers who coached, having managers that supported their employees, having managers and employees that had relationships that were meaningful and helpful and, you know, centered around growth and success, work success, still goals and development. You know, so we changed the way we do performance evaluation. We had, we used to do, which I’m sure many people still do, the kind of once a year fill out the thesis with 12 points and scales and write 20 pages justifying your existence to continue receiving a paycheck.

And we said, you know, if we wanna move to this proactive people partner, if we wanna move to people and culture, if we really wanna create a culture where we’re saying people are important, we need to stop thinking about rewarding behaviors that are leaning more in that, that old way of thinking space.

People shouldn’t have to write a 30 page thesis talking about why they’re adding value, their manager, and they can have a conversation a couple times a year, how you feel like you’re adding value? Anything I can do to support you? That should be enough. Because again, we have knowledge workers that wanna do a good job.

And so I think the name is important because a name kind of clicks in someone’s mind, okay, something’s different. And then you have to prove to them that something really is different, and that’s where the kind of rubber meets the road.

Russel Lolacher: I love that you’ve, you have to earn the name. I love that you mentioned that you have to earn the name because so many groups will go, we have a new name now we have to do that thing. And they never do. Or, or it, it’s a poster that, that’s put up and they’re like, oh, I remember that from 1975. Like, it’s such a thing where that’s, it’s forgotten about.

So I love the idea of earning a name, but who’s in charge of this kind of transformation? Is it HR driving it? Where’s executive in this? Do employees have a part?

Angela Stopper: Absolutely. This is something I think that when the organization, organization as a whole decides, this is something we wanna do, you need support from the top down, and then you need to grow that support from the bottom up so it can meet somewhere in the middle. I know we would’ve never been successful with this if our very top leadership wasn’t interested in this kind of work, or if they didn’t trust us to be the experts to say, even if you think this is a little crunchy or a little wonky, please trust us. This is what we need to do. Either of those spaces can, you know, bring leadership in to say, either trust us, we know this is what we’re doing. Or a leader can say, oh my goodness, we need to do this. So I think those top down kind of support mechanisms are really important. I think one of my one of my mentors back at Penn State where I got my PhD was Dr. Albert Vicere. He always talked about using leaders as teachers. Part of change management is, you know, stabilizing operations, stopping the hemorrhaging, starting to think in waves and using your leaders as teachers, as you’re moving through these big cultural shifts. I think that’s really, really important because if they’re not modeling and saying and doing what you’re saying, no one’s gonna believe it.

And I said specifically modeling and saying, it’s not just saying it. They have to actually do what you’re saying. And at the same time, we know so much power comes from our front lines. It comes from our individual contributors. It comes from the people that are doing all the work. And so we need to get them engaged too, and them excited, and we need to build trust so they know that what we’re talking about, we really mean, and we want their opinions and we want their help, and we wanna bring them in so that they can be part of the solution as well.

So I think it’s, it’s a top down, it’s a bottom up. It’s coalescing in the middle, and you need someone who’s gonna help. Bring those pieces together. And that’s where we were successful in our people and culture team. You know, we were able to have, have leadership there that said, this is important and this is what we wanna do.

They were able to engage the top, they were able to charge us with engaging from the bottom of the pyramid and kind of get everybody thinking and moving in the same direction. So I think HR or people, culture, whatever, has a really important place at that table. Human Resources has the name right in there.

We are the people that are in companies to talk for the staff and the people who don’t have a voice at that C-Suite table. I see that as our job to bring those thoughts and bring that information to the leadership so they can make great decisions. And so I think that’s where HR becomes a really good, like coalescer of these kind of cultural changes.

Russel Lolacher: So I know somebody’s listening to that going, well, that’s nice. That’s how it should be. But we both know, we had a chat about this is Human Resources always seems to be the division that gets the last of a thought when it comes to resources or prioritizing, but employees are the lifeblood of an organization.

So how do you sell this to executive when you and I both know HR needs to change but your executive is so very customer equals money or process over people or like their, their mindset is different. How do you crack that nut?

Angela Stopper: You know, and I think it’s probably different for every industry. So I work in higher education where it should be super easy, right? Except our mission as a University of California is research, teaching, and service, like should we say, making a great employee experience. Probably. Because you know what?

If there’s not, if there’s not staff and faculty who are doing the teaching and the research and the service and supporting the people doing the teaching and the research and the service and supporting the students that are coming in to take part of that teaching, you know, all of a sudden it all falls apart.

But, you know, it is really, truly about making the case that in the place where we are in, in today, in this time in history, We need to be thinking about people and thinking about how we’re going to engage them and tap into their strengths so that they can help us be nimble and help us move forward because the world is changing so fast and if we can’t tap into our people to help us find the solutions to the changes that are coming, no matter how amazingly talented your C-Suite is.

They’re gonna miss things. When you, you know, rise in an organization, you know that, you know, you get more and more kind of removed from the day to day, the front lines. People don’t like to tell you when bad things are happening. You know, people might not give you the feedback that you need.

And so in that space, I mean, I think it’s just, it’s critical for us to be able to say, here’s why we’re important. And also start making the business case. You can talk about how employees that are engaged are X percent more productive. There’s research out there from people like Gartner and the Association for Talent Development and CUPA-HR.

There’s so many organizations that say coaching cultures improve performance by this much. Engaged employees are this much more likely to stay. We know how much turnover costs. We know if we have employees that are staying longer and feeling better about their work, they’re gonna give us more. That all equals that bottom line, you know, bottom line profit as well.

And so I think it’s starting to think about our human capital, our human inputs, our staff, our all of the people that make our organizations happen. Start thinking about them as extremely scarce resources. That are very, very valuable. Just like we think about everything that we put into the products that we make or the services that we provide.

Russel Lolacher: How did the pandemic help with your acceleration? Because I’ve known HR professionals on social platforms. They’ve been screaming for years into the void, but then suddenly these last couple of years, suddenly people are listening. How did it change for you and accelerating the idea of HR needing more change?

Angela Stopper: Oh my goodness. It was so, there was so much tragic, horrible awfulness that went with the pandemic and the social justice movements that, that, you know, sprang from that. And, and everything that was happening in the, the, you know, so much was changing and there was so much going on. The one silver lining, I think of the pandemic was that it gave us time to reevaluate some of those habits that we were talking about earlier.

It made us realize that maybe we don’t have to work the same we way we did in 1956, you know, and it for organizations that were paying attention. And listening to people, they were, they were forced almost to pay attention. If they were already paying attention, they were probably halfway there. If they weren’t paying attention to it all, all of a sudden… you know, I remember I was at the office, it was the day before St. Patrick’s Day in 2020, and the message came out. Everybody go home, like, everybody out, everybody leave. We’re done. And as the learning and development person, I had to think, oh goodness, what does this mean? We’re going from a, a campus, an organization that was predominantly a work on campus, work in our space organization.

All of a sudden we’re sending everybody home and we, we still need to be successful. We still need to be a, producing the, the outcomes that we were looking for. How are we going to, as people and culture, support people in that change. And so I think it was an amazing opportunity for us to prove some things that we already thought we knew would work, to test some things, to see what does and actually doesn’t work and you know, I think my great hope is that people learn from that experience and maybe unlearned some of the things that we’ve been thinking are universal truths for a very long time. And my great hope is that we don’t just backslide the whole way back to, to 1950. I hear a lot of people talking about, well, you need to be in the office and because culture is important.

So culture is important. Hundred percent positive. Yep, I agree. Do you need to be sitting in a cubicle answering emails besides someone else who’s sitting in a cubicle answering emails for nine hours in order to create culture? I’m gonna say no. I don’t think that’s how culture is created. And so I think, you know, people say things sometimes like, well, it, we love culture and we need, we need, we need culture, and it’s so important to us, so everybody come back to the office.

I’m not sure those two things are quite as linked as, as some people would like us to believe. So right now is the really important part, I think, for people who are in the human space, the workforce space to say, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s think about what we learned. Let’s think about what worked. Let’s think about what didn’t.

Let’s keep experimenting. Let’s keep pivoting. Let’s keep being thoughtful and let’s keep progressing instead of backsliding into something that probably after three plus years is not gonna feel as comfortable as you think it’s gonna feel.

Russel Lolacher: I’ve never seen executive be more concerned about culture than when remote work was thrown at them. Suddenly, they care about culture now. Yeah, so much change. Can’t deny that so much has changed and Pandemic’s one. I mean, obviously it was a big one, but just everything in our world seems to be so in flux.

So this is one more, and if you’ve worked in HR for the last 10 or 20 years, this might be a shift for you. So for this new HR, what kind of skills, what kind of leadership do you think would be best suited for this new…

Angela Stopper: yeah

Russel Lolacher: People and Culture.

Angela Stopper: Yeah. You know, one of my friends and mentors, that was my, the woman that actually hired me at UC Berkeley, Joe Makna, she said to me, HR works on a spectrum of risk to opportunity. So, you know, kind of that ELR employee labor relations space, there’s a lot of risk- space in there. And there’s a lot of opportunity.

So if you can think about bringing folks in that have skills that lie on that opportunity side. I think you’ll be really well placed. So bring in people that, that have wonderment, you know, that want to, that look at something and think, how can I make this better? Bring in people that are innovators that can take an idea and move it forward.

You know, bringing in people that are, that can bring people together and get them excited about ideas. You know, I think those are really, really important characteristics. Obviously, you need experts in, in this space because, Often we still do play in that risk area of human resources. You need people that know what they’re doing.

You need people that care about the mission. You still have to do compliance training. Even if it’s boring, you don’t wanna do it. Now we, we still need to play in that risk space as well because we are. The human resource workforce group of organizations. And at the same time, I think there’s a little bit of space to bring in people that are more in that curiosity.

Trying new things. I think you need to get away from perfectionism. I think perfectionism is one of the most deadly traits that people have. Because frankly right now, if you are waiting for everything to be perfect with the bow on top and the box perfect, so you can present it to somebody, the world has already changed while you were busy like wrapping the present and putting the bow on, and you know what?

It’s not perfect anymore. So you need to be able to have enough comfortableness with risk that you’re willing to kind of try things and pivot when it doesn’t work. Do experiments, see what works, see what doesn’t. I think those kind of, that scientific method, strategic thought, comfort with ambiguity, I think all of those are really important traits that we need in human resources right now because it moves us on our spectrum more towards that opportunity space.

Russel Lolacher: But we’re really nailing that culture too, because they have to be open to that failure, that ambiguity. Because even if HR wants you to, you’ve got executive going, but money, but money.

Angela Stopper: Right. I mean, I work at UC Berkeley, we’re the number one public institution in the world. Tell you how many a students work here. All of them. You know, everybody. They are the smartest people I have ever worked with in my life, work on this campus. It is incredible. And when you have that, that you know, success and, and you feel the, that, that need for, for high achievement, it can be really scary to say, you know what, let’s get it 90% and see what happens.

And so that’s where it becomes really important again, to have that top down and that bottom up piece, because you need a community that can support people in saying, even if it’s not a hundred percent, we know that, you know, we’ll get it there. We know that it’s okay to present it in the space that we’re presenting it in now, because we’re gonna pivot.

We’re gonna adjust, we’re gonna have a hypothesis, see what happens. We’re gonna make some changes, and you can’t do that, to your point, if the top is watching and saying, well, you know, that TPS report didn’t have a cover sheet on it. That’s problem for me, or whatever it is that, that they’re worrying about in the perfectionist world these days.

Russel Lolacher: You touched on it there about age. You’ve got a lot of students working at the or makes sense, university, but at the same time there are other generations that HR has to work with. How does a new HR approach a generational workforce that may have different demands and expectations of the organization?

Angela Stopper: I think we probably have every generation working for us from our student employees to our faculty who, you know, probably still reach into that, that great generation, veteran generation kind of gen generation. I think with anybody, it’s really about talking about the why and the how, not the do this, do that.

It’s really about educating and being able to share stories and share successes that people resonate with and that matter to them. And so, you know, that’s not easy because something that matters to a 20 year old who is a first gen college student that has never been in California. It’s probably very different than something that matters to a Nobel Prize winner who has been a faculty member for 30, 40 years.

But if you can figure out your clients, and I would say as human resources, all of those people are our clients. Our clients are every person that works for us. Figuring out what matters to them. And that’s individual for probably every person, because every 20 year old’s not the same. Just like every Nobel Prize winner is not the same.

Just like every me and you is not the same. But you know, figuring out, you know, what’s important to them and then trying to tell your story with that in mind. The best way to figuring out what’s important to people is to ask them, how many times have you been in a situation where somebody’s like, it’s this person’s birthday.

We should be partying. Maybe she’ll go to dinner. Maybe she. Here’s an idea. Why don’t you ask them what they wanna do for their birthday when you’re at work, you know, oh, we have an employee recognition program coming up. I wonder what should we do? Should we have lunch? Should we give them a gift?

Should we give them a clog? Ask them. The challenge with that though, is when you survey or when you ask you, they need to do something with that. And so we’re very good at sending, sending out short kind of employee experience, culture, climate surveys. Sharing back the results that we get, which can be scary because sometimes they’re not, you know, shiny stars.

Sometimes we get, you know, a C or a D or an F but sharing that back with people, then telling them what we’re gonna do about it, then reminding them that we told them what we were gonna do about it, then sharing with them how much progress we’ve made. All of that, I think really helps to tell that story so that anybody, regardless of where they’re falling in their career, can be excited about the change that’s happening.

Russel Lolacher: How do you know you’re successful? You’re changed. You’ve changed. You’re, you’re a new name, you’re a new HR 2.0. Why not? How do you know that it’s working to make that change?

Angela Stopper: Yeah, so that’s a, so we have a couple different indicators that we looked at. Our key performance indicators, our KPIs we wanted to talk about were people that were involved in some of the. Learning and development changes we were making, were they staying longer? Were they performing better on their performance evaluations?

Were they we don’t really promote, but were, were they growing in their careers? The challenge with that KPI is it takes about three years to see that. Right? So a general, our generally folks were staying in their jobs about three years on our campus. So we had to say, Hey, trust us. We think this is gonna work, and in four years we’ll be able to tell you if it did or not.

I mean, right. So that’s not the only KPI you can use. Certainly! You need to think about other things. I mean, that was one of them. Are people showing up differently? You know, you could start to see some of the changes with the performance evaluations right away when we made our change in the way we do performance evaluations.

One of the things I’m so proud of and that we still know we need to do work on is we looked at our, our staff on average, and then we broke it down by our different demographic groups on campus. Our old performance program, our black staff, were receiving 10% lower ratings than our white staff. Right. Yeah, that’s a problem with the program.

The new program that we just rolled out a couple years ago, we’ve closed that gap. I think now it’s like 4.6, which means we’re not there yet. We still have work to do, but just looking at those kind of indicators I think tells us that we’re moving in the right direction. It’s also something you can feel.

I talk to people on campus and they say, wow, I was here when HR was this and now it’s under this new leadership with Eugene Whitlock is our Chief People and Culture Officer and, and with our, our leadership team, and, and it feels different. It feels better. It feels good to be here. I’m excited to come.

You know, those kind of things, just those anecdotal things I think are important. And then during the Great Resignation, we were able to look to see how many people left. So we were able to take a look at, because we’re part of a system we could take a look at across the University of California, all of our campuses, what is their kind of resignation?

What is, what’s it looking like and what’s ours looking like? Ours was better. People were staying, people were staying in their jobs at Berkeley, even more than they were staying in tech or in other industries here around, around the Bay Area. So you can look at these different indicators that tell you, I think. It’s not chicken egg or egg chicken, but you can look at these indicators and see that you’re having a positive impact on the culture and the employee experience, and that’s coming through in productivity or people staying in their jobs or people being excited about new things, or we started a referral bonus program.

If you refer people to campus, obviously you like working here, so just tracking those numbers. We started doing employee experience conversations, which we stay conversations, stay interviews instead of just exit interviews and started getting excited, getting, you know, data from folks, not just when they were walking out the door when it was too late to do something, but talking to them about what would be meaningful for them, for them to stay in their career, for them to grow and to be engaged.

And all of those stories and data points are things that we can put on dashboards that we then share back out with the world so they can see kind of that positive impact.

Russel Lolacher: I love. I love that you mentioned stay interviews because I am a big proponent. We mentioned this as well, we talked offline about this as well, that it needs to be an organic journey from onboarding to stay to exit interview. But it seems like such a, oh wait, did we do an exit interview? I think we should have done an exit interview way longer than it should have been.

How is technology part of this? Because we’re talking about change and technology is certainly one that I can barely keep up with. So if we’re changing with HR and human, human, human is part of this, how is technology interwoven to make it easier to do that?

Angela Stopper: Yeah, I think, you know, the stuff is happening right now with, with AI and ChatGPT. If you are not paying attention to it, you should be. And if you’re not a little bit terrified, you should be. It’s, it’s remarkable the things that are happening right now, and I think that technology should always be used as a tool to help us do our jobs better. I’m not a person that thinks that technology is ever going to replace me. It probably will at some point, but I will be long gone by then because, you know, maybe 50, 60, 70 years from now, potentially. At the same time, I think that there is so much in technology right now that we can be using to help us do our jobs more efficiently, more effectively, faster, quicker.

We have to be careful because you know, some of the algorithm algorithms that AI is based on, were created by a certain group of people that might have a certain bias level that we need to pay attention to, and we need to continue to think strategically and thoughtfully about how we’re employing these tools to be successful.

But I think that the opportunity is really figuring out what your vendor is, figuring out what your tech is, figuring out what you can do to take things off of your plate. That technology can do for you, that frees you up to do the more human things, to do the more thoughtful, strategic aspects of our work.

And that’s what I think is really exciting about the tech that I’m seeing popping up right now. You know, there’s, I know very shortly we will have, have AI that will be able to do exactly what you and I are doing right now. It’ll probably be more eloquent than I’m saying it. You know, they’ll be able to have a Russel-Angela conversation about X, Y, Z, and people will be like, wow, those are brilliant people.

We’re brilliant people. Of course, Russel, but you know,

Russel Lolacher: It won’t look as good. I’ll tell you that, straight out of the gate. No.

Angela Stopper: But you know, I think it’s all about figuring out what you can take off of your plate that technology can lighten up for you to give you the space to really do that human work. That, that we can do to make people’s lives better, more efficient, more effective, more profitable, happier, whatever it is that’s meaningful for them.

Russel Lolacher: You’ve been in the organization behavior space for a while. You’ve studied the hell out of it. Is there any stigmas you’re still worried that HR will keep with it even with as much change as we’re trying to get through and make it HR more relevant than it might be in some organizations.

Angela Stopper: Oh my goodness. Yes. I, I’m actually thinking, I’m, I’m writing a talk right now on like the five things we need to unlearn immediately to continue to be successful. I think there are things that we think we know as universal truths that are not universal truths. We need to stop using the term "change fatigue".

I feel like an organization consultant, such as myself, invented that term at some point to make a lot of money. The reason why humans are where we are on the food chain on this planet is because we have the ability to adapt and change. There are anthropologists that talk about when Neanderthals were on the planet and Homo Sapiens were on the planet, and one of the reasons that they think the Homo Sapiens overtook Neanderthals was because they looked at the tools that the two groups had, and Homo Sapiens tools adjusted and changed with time where Neanderthal tools stayed relatively the same through most of their existence.

So that change, being able to change and adapt is part of our DNA and we need to embrace it and we need to grab a hold of it and we need to be excited about it. And we need to stop blaming, change fatigue for not wanting to do things that are scary or risky or might not feel as comfortable as, you know, not changing.

So I think that’s something we need to be very cautious of. I think we need to continue to question these habits when we’re saying about bringing people back to the office in order to build culture. Bring people back to the office and then build culture. You’re not gonna build culture simply by bringing people back to the office.

Thinking about these things holistically and keep making sure that you’re paying attention to ’em, I think are things we need to continue to pay attention to. I think we just need to keep questioning. We need to keep growing and we need to keep thinking in that space in order to be successful.

Russel Lolacher: Things change. I, I know it’s a reoccurring thing on this, on this po on this episode, but if you’re gonna change, how do you keep something like this relevant? How do you future proof an HR team that you’re changing into this new thing that may change into another new thing in 15, 20 years? Like, how do you stay relevant?

Angela Stopper: Yeah, I think it is about building a community that you trust. Of professionals that you allow to do their work and you allow to bring their voice to the table and you allow them to help influence and move you forward. No one person has all the answers now. No one person had all the answers 50 years ago.

Certainly no one has all the answers now, and no one’s gonna have all the answers as we move into the future. So I think if we can figure out ways to build community in, in ways that work, build trusted spaces, build safe spaces where people can come together and share and learn and grow. You know, I talk about a model that I created called the You-Me-We Learning Model.

And it, back in the day in the eighties, the, some very, very smart people came up with what they call the 70-20-10 model. And it said, you know, 70% of what we learn comes from this, and 20% of what we learn comes from that, and 10% comes from formal learning. So I don’t like to think about it like that because that that silos and pillars things into a way like, oh, 70% needs to go be social learning.

I think about it in this, You Me We space. So we as organizations can provide opportunities for our people to be self-directed learners. ME learners where they take care of themselves and they’re active and they go out and they find information and they bring it to us and they help us change. And then they can look to us.

They look to their YOU learning, they look to you, the organization to provide things for them. And they look to the WE, they look to their social network to provide things for them, and we, and organizations can create safe space for that WE learning, we can create space for people to be ME learners, and we can push information to them in a e-learning kind of way that’s really powerful. So I think just moving through that cycle and continuing to think about that and continuing to bring all the voices to the table will help us to continue to be future ready and relevant as we continue to move through the world..

Russel Lolacher: So we’ve said you’ve had a bad experience and now you’re living in Utopia. So Angela, what are you most excited about with the future HR?

Angela Stopper: I am, you know, you mentioned it right when we started talking. We have been talking for years. People, particularly in the learning and development space, and in HR just in general for years have been saying, give us a seat at the table. We can help. We can help you C-suite, we can help you make good decisions, and we can help you make this business stronger, better, more efficient, more profitable, more effective.

Pay attention to the people and the other things shall come. And I am really excited because I’m talking to people out there in industry, talking to people like you, talking to other people in my network. And I, I think I’m starting to see that shift. I’m starting to see that place at the table where the voice of the human that is in the organization is starting to have an impact on strategy and what the organizations are doing and what they’re calling success, and I think that’s HR’s place.

So I’m really excited and hopeful that that trend will continue, that we’ll continue to bring those voices forward as organizations are building their strategies and figuring out ways to say future ready and future proof their success. I think it’s just a wonderful time to be in learning and development, to be an organization development, to be in HR.

Really, really fun times coming, I think.

Russel Lolacher: So I have to leave you with one last question, Angela, which is, what’s one simple thing people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Angela Stopper: Oh my goodness. What a, that’s not a simple question at all.

Russel Lolacher: Why should it be?

Angela Stopper: You know, I think there, there are so many things that we can be doing. I think one simple thing that anybody can do is talk to a coworker and ask them a powerful question that has nothing to do with their job. So I was just talking to a wonderful, wonderful woman here in the Bay Area.

Her name’s Kat Vellos. She was a keynote speaker for us at a conference, and she said she was at a party at the week over the weekend. And somebody said, so what do you do? And she said, you know what, I’m trying not to talk about my work outside of work so much right now. So could we talk about something else?

Like could we talk, ask a different question? Just that opportunity to, to get to know each other in a human way, I think is really powerful. Now, you don’t wanna be, you know, you don’t wanna dig too deep and you don’t wanna, you know, I know some people get a little itchy when you think about like making a best friend at work, but what Kat says is, okay, you don’t wanna make friend.

You don’t go to work to make friends, but you go to work to make enemies? Probably not. So, you know, take a minute. Take a minute to, to just have a conversation, ask a question that’s not about X, Y, Z project. That’s not about some fire you’re putting out that’s not about, you know, the CEO’s speech that went viral last week.

Just ask a human question and I think, see what that does for your relationship. See what it does for your happiness. See what it does for your engagement. See how it brings people together. I think it will really pay out for folks if they’re comfortable, you know, just being a tiny bit more human in the office.

Russel Lolacher: That is Dr. Angela Stopper. She’s the Chief Learning Officer and Director of People and Organization Development at UC Berkeley. Thank you very much.

Angela Stopper: So much fun being here. Thanks for having me. I hope somebody got a nugget or two outta the conversation. It was truly a pleasure. Thank you for all of the work you do, bringing our community together and helping us learn from each other, making that safe space for us to talk and share and grow. You’re, you’re changing the world every day bit by bit, so thank you for that.

I really appreciate it.

Russel Lolacher: So we leave the show with me blushing. Thanks, Angela. Way to go. Nicely played.


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