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Cognitive Dissonance: Where Have All the Workers Gone?
Ira S. Wolfe -- Success Performance Solutions Ira S. Wolfe -- Success Performance Solutions
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Lehigh Valley, PA
Saturday, July 31, 2021


Ira Wolfe converses with futurist David Houle to shed lights adapting to cognitive dissonance, Covid and its unpredictability and a new normal.

Segment One – Cognitive dissonance is a situation where one has to live in more than one reality.

While one of the realities is the pre-covid environment to which the world wants to go back to, the other is covid is here to stay forever and the world around has to change. The workforce is vanishing from workplaces. The current scenario in the job market has been called as the labor storm, talent war and employment meltdown. Lesser number of people are joining the workforce which has left employers uncomfortable. The gradual shift of power to the hands of labor and employees was due since the last three decades. Covid has dismantled the 20th century product distribution model.  By 2030, around 1 billion people are expected to become digital nomads. Covid has been a learning experience that has taught the world a new way to find normalcy that is different from what was perceived to be normal. Businesses who can and will survive the disruption are the ones who have dared to look beyond numbers and invest in culture. It’s the culture that has helped them migrate to zoom or remote work that has helped them sustain. The certainty to which human beings are used to has crumbled in the pandemic and duality is the new normal. It’s this duality that the workforce has to adapt to with new skills in order to find a place of their own.

Segment Two – People have to adapt to the changes by making changes in their skillsets and personality traits.

Extroverts need to talk about and act on the changes while introverts can learn, think, process and listen. There are five abilities one must work on in these critical times. They are mental flexibility, grit, resilience, growth mindset and unlearning. There is never going to be a period of pre covid normalcy and the new normal demands its workforce to be hybrid, have mental agility to learn new things fast and also the ability to unlearn practices and skills that are obsolete now.


Segment One:

1. 6:28 – “A whole lot of transformation on a personal level then transfers onto the workplace.”

For long people have been confined to their homes because of Covid. This has given them ample time to work on themselves such as working out, meditating, learning a new skill, time management etc. There has been an evolution on a personal level for each individual. This transformation on a personal level collectively can bring in a transformation in the workplace.

2. 18:03- “Covid 19 is a bicycle with training wheels.”

Though Covid as a pandemic has disrupted the world, in the long run it would become one of those training sessions that forces people to adapt to change, that could not have been achieved any other way. It’s like learning balancing on a bicycle. You fall, skid and get hurt for the first few days but once you learn the act of balancing, you can never forget that.

3. 19:03- “Be Water, my friend.”

Water takes the shape of the container in which it is kept, flows always and has a strong power that can cut through rocks. When external circumstances change drastically around being flexible like water is the only way out. Being like water can make one flexible, resilient and patient.

4. 23:05- The daylight in which you enter the tunnel is not the daylight in which you exit the tunnel.”

There have been conversations around the globe about normalcy. There has been an expectation to return to life like the pre pandemic levels. In eighteen months, it has been established that there will be no normal as it was before the pandemic but a new normal. A newer workplace environment where hybridity will be the norm, office spaces would be physically reduced, 5-day work week abolished and a flexible work time. Covid has been the tunnel, a dark tunnel which did show us light in the end, but that light is different from the one that guided all of us into it.

5. 26:08- “Humans are addicted to certainty and the challenge to that is we need a duality or a choice.”

Human beings as a race have been used to certainty and predictability. Covid has affected this by disrupting our mobility and the way we work. On a wider perspective this has compelled us to think in duality. The older practice of thinking about work environment in either or perspective has to change to include all possible options.

Segment Two:

1. 36:36- “If you are extroverted you need to talk about what change is gonna be, if you are introverted you think about it, you process, you read, you learn, you listen.”

The changing work culture has to be accepted by both extroverts and introverts, though they will exhibit their adaptability to change in distinct ways.

2. 36:48- 5 abilities needed to survive the change
  •  Mental Flexibility
  •  Grit
  •  Resilience
  •  Growth Mindset
  •  Unlearning

Podcast Notes

With The Pandemic, Things Shifted (7:36)

Matt Burns admits he is not a technology expert. But with his passion for technology and after spending two decades in the corporate world, fifteen of those in HR, and the last five as an HR executive, he’s well versed in leading large digital transformation projects. Prior to the pandemic, he started his company, Bento HR.  He said, “when the pandemic, things shifted.  Organizations decided to do more “self service” things, and [change] became more acute in terms of the needs that organization had” (7:36). Through self-exploration, he recognized that immersive technology would be the future, and he learned how powerful technology could indeed be if it were appropriately employed.

Make Work Better, More Human (8:52) 

Unfortunately, technology isn’t explicitly taught in most curriculum.  Consequently, people who enter into the HR profession lack the technical knowledge which stifles innovation.  Burns says that “we wanted to help [companies] better illuminate the opportunities for technologies to make work better, more human…and we think virtual reality is a cool way about doing that.” It helps support broader work strategies.  VR can help answer the question of how to create a lasting and binding work culture when you no longer go into the office five days a week.

Intersections of Intimate Conversation and Colocation (10:32)

Virtual Reality is not just for gamers anymore.  Burns sees it as “a fantastic solution at the intersections of a more intimate conversation when you don’t have colocation.” Many business activities can benefit from more intimacy.  A few of those areas include:

  •     The recruitment process – here, you can “sit down” with new teammates.
  •     The onboarding process – get a better understanding of who to go to for what info.
  •     Learning and development – this is the discipline he believes will be the prominent place VR is used in the workplace.

More Synchronous Communication (11:35)

Burns says, “you can have more synchronous communication” when you employ VR.  You are entirely immersed in an environment with others, and you can engage on a more personal, intimate level. The exchange of information feels more personal than communicating through a screen and video conferencing. 

At Bento HR, employees engage regularly using VR:

  • All Bento HR employees have a VR headset.
  • Burns described how he made a sale as an avatar to another avatar, and the company saved thousands of dollars.  Rather than spend money on a flight, lodging, and other non-productive travel expenses, he engaged the potential customer using VR. He sent the client a VR Headset at the cost of $300 and $50 shipping costs, and the client returned the headset after the presentation!
  • Workshops and training – most events have been small groups at this point but Burns expects the size of the meetings and attendees to increase in the future.

The Key Is FEELING. (14:57)

“The key is FEELING,” says Burns about the VR experience. Instead of sitting in a meeting watching a PowerPoint presentation, you can experience it by immersion (stand in another person’s shoes.) You feel how someone else might feel if the experience was actually happening.

Leaders Are Scared (16:59)

In today’s society, “leaders are scared” to make mistakes in the workplace. If they say the wrong thing and offend someone, losing their job might be the least of their concerns.  With VR, they can do simulations of real-world situations. They are allowed to mess up in a “safe place” and learn from their mistakes. Think about how VR could revolutionize diversity and inclusion training or learning a new skill. 

Leaders can now be coached more privately, almost like a sports team that watches game tapes and replays of their upcoming opponents.  They are put into uncomfortable situations in a safe space through VR. The learning potential is endless.

Specific Problems with Enterprise Learning (17:55)

Burns says, “above all, I love VR because it solves specific problems with enterprise learning.” VR, simply put, offers better learning opportunities. The information can be disseminated more efficiently, and it can be learned in lasting and impactful ways.  With intention and an open mind, the experience will allow you to see the world and other people in a completely different way.

Technology Is Expensive to Iterate (24:23)

When asked why all companies have not yet signed on to implement VR in their workplace, Burns reminds us that “technology is expensive to iterate.” Companies are just not ready to invest in it yet. The perception of VR at this point is that it is a luxury item. But that’s not true. The gaming, pornography industries, and the military have been using VR for decades.  Burns believes that the next wave for VR will be concerts and sporting events.  It is a beautiful way to be immersed in the experience without the inconvenience and cost of attending. But VR allows you to experience the event as if you were there. 

Many big companies are seeing the benefits of VR in areas like training.  Rather than training people for two weeks through VR, they can reduce that time to one week.  Saving that much money for each employee when you train THOUSANDS of employees per year can mean MILLIONS of extra revenue for these large companies. 

When Burns was asked what he would be speaking about a year from now, he told Wolfe that he would expect to reminisce about the pandemic, discussing how mental health was impacted during the pandemic, and how VR was helping to build workforces for the future.

Doom Loop (36:27)

HR expert Dick Finnegan says that in the world of HR and retention, “these two words say it all – doom loop.”  Doom loop describes the trend that companies are currently experiencing where they hire new employees who don’t show up, ghost the employer, or quickly quit, causing HR to bring in more new people who soon quit, and the cycle continues. 

Typically this doom loop happens within the first 30-60 days.  Pre-pandemic many people blamed it on missed expectations and misrepresentation of the job during sourcing and interviewing. While still true, the doom loop is speeding up because there are so many job openings and too few people applying. For active job seekers, the opportunity to jump ship is plentiful.

The Glue HAS TO BE the Boss. (39:11)

Within that 60-day honeymoon period, the new employee has to become glued to the job, and “the glue HAS TO BE the boss.”  What employees talk about at the end of the day are the boss, co-workers, and tasks they do. But if they don’t like the boss, they are apt to simply find a new job. 

Bosses who perform “stay interviews” during that first 60 days are more apt to have employees who stick around.  Finnegan reported that one company he worked with put a system in place that drastically reduced their turnover rate from 50% retention to 80% retention of employees during their first 60 days on the job.

Stay Interviews, Forecasts, and Accountability (40:00)

This company charged the bosses (aka managers) with “stay interviews, forecasts, and accountability to get them to stay past 60 days.” The team leader conducted the stay interviews on the 5th and 30th days of employment. Recruiters and hiring managers then met weekly much like doctors completing grand rounds. They would discuss problems and concerns, recognize successes, and debrief problem hires. Retention increased during the first 60 days of employment by an astounding 30 percent.


The Geeks, Geezers & Googlization TV Show is live every Wednesday at 1 PM ET on Facebook, YouTube, Talk 4 TV, and broadcast on W4CY Radio, part of Talk 4 Radio on the Talk 4 Media Network.  The podcast is also available on Talk 4 Podcasting. Following the broadcast, the replay will be available at the same links for YouTube and Facebook, our podcast website Geeks Geezers Googlization, and on most podcasts including Apple Podcast, iHeart, Spotify, Amazon, Stitcher and more.

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About Success Performance Solutions

Since 1996, Success Performance Solutions has established itself as an HR leader in pre-hire and leadership assessment, respected by both clients and peers. Its portfolio of testing includes administrative and technical skill testing, DISC behavioral profile, personality job fit, cognitive testing, emotional intelligence, and adaptability quotient.

About Ira S Wolfe

Ira S Wolfe is a “Millennial trapped in a Baby Boomer body” and the world’s first Chief Googlization Officer. He is president of Poised for the Future Company, founder of Success Performance Solutions, a TEDx Speaker, host of Geeks Geezers Googlization podcast, and frequent presenter at SHRM and business conferences. Ira is also recognized as one of the Top 5 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Future of Work and HR by Thinkers360. His most recent book is Recruiting in the Age of Googlization, now in its 2nd edition, is recognized by multiple organizations as one of the top Business, HR and Recruiting books to read in 2021. He is also the founder of the Googlization Nation community and a frequent contributor to HR and business blogs, including Cornerstone's OnDemand and Medium.

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Name: Ira S Wolfe
Title: Chief Googlization Officer
Group: Success Performance Solutions
Dateline: Wind Gap, PA United States
Direct Phone: 484-373-4300
Main Phone: 800-803-4303
Cell Phone: 717-333-8286
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