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The Future of Work: Shelly Holt, VP L&D, Expedia Group

Uncategorized Jun 11, 2019

Join me to hear from Shelly Holt, VP of L&D at Expedia Group to learn about the Future of Work, and how the changes lead the way for new opportunities for Human Resources to really make an impact on the business.

Shelly shares that as the world is changing it requires a new set of experiences, and makes it an exciting time for HR professionals everywhere. The first step of adapting to these new changes is getting HR executives to pay attention to this topic, so that HR as a whole can be equipped to succeed in the Future of Work. Digital disruption continues to play a large role in what the Future of Work will look like, innovation is happening fast. While that can be scary to some, Shelly explains that no business is ahead anymore. Everyone is learning to adapt with the fast paced innovation. Shelly also gives insight into what this innovation means for startup businesses. Click above to watch the full VLOG interview.   (If you prefer to read the interview, see the transcript below.)


All My Best,

Cindy Lu

Founder, HR Mastermind Peer Advisory Boards

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Transcript by

Cindy Lu:                            Hi there. This is Cindy Lu of HR Mastermind Groups, and I'm here with Shelly Holt of Expedia. Shelly's going to talk to us today about the future of work. Shelly, maybe give the audience a little background on yourself and kind of why you're passionate about this topic.

Shelly Holt:                        Absolutely. Thank you for having me today, Cindy. Today I'm the Vice President of learning for Expedia Group. We're the world's largest travel platform and we really bring the world closer together through shared experiences, culture, and understanding. Prior to this, I spent really the majority of my career as a strategic HR business partner, leading functions across talent acquisition, leadership development, employee experience, organizational development, and ultimately learning. A lot of experience in the HR field. I think what makes me excited about the topic of the future of work is that there's never been a more compelling opportunity for us in the human resource area to really make an impact on the business. The world is changing, and it will require a new set of skills. It will require a new set of experiences, and isn't that really what human resources is all about? That's what makes me excited about this topic.

Cindy Lu:                            Yeah, I agree. I think it is an amazing time to be in HR. It's like, not only are you going to have a seat at the table, but I think you'll have to lead the table, given so much of it has to do with people.

Shelly Holt:                        Exactly.

Cindy Lu:                            I mean, I guess it could be obvious, but why is it important for HR executives to pay attention to the future of work? And by the way, the future feels like it's today.

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah, and I think we've talked about that in the past. There's definitely no shortage of people predictions. In fact, if you're looking at data around the future of work it can be quite overwhelming. I compared it recently to like, doomsday. You know, like that show Doomsday Hunters where people are like, hunkering down in their barracks with all their belongings? Sometimes the future of work feels that way.

Shelly Holt:                        I think a lot of our executives are reading the same data and the same predictions that we are, and they're wondering and struggling what to do with that. Their core business job is to drive transformation in their organization. It's people, but it's not really people-programmed. I think that's where we come in. Our ability to stay abreast of not just the topic of the future of work, but what is actually happening to businesses as they transform... this digital disruption, to your point, is happening right now. It used to be that we would read these predictions and they would say, "In 2020." Guess what, 2020 is like less than six months away when we start to look at that.

Shelly Holt:                        When we think about all of this innovation and this digital disruption, it's just really adding to an immense business complexity. If we are not thinking about these things, if we are not paying attention to them, we will not prepare our workforces for the future our businesses will grow farther and farther behind. The compelling reason is, your business is counting on you. Whatever industry you sit in, it's changing. They're counting on you to drive those HR transformations and to have an impact.

Cindy Lu:                            Yeah. Have you seen organizations... you don't have to name names, that haven't kept up with the times, and what ends up happening?

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah. I mean, I think it's a bit unknown for us right now, but we could go back and look at history, right? Think about Blockbuster. Growing up that's all I did, was go to Blockbuster and check out movies. Then Netflix came around. Then now guess what, Netflix is online. There's Hulu, there's all of this disruption happening in that consumer space. The same can be said for the phone industry, and thinking about the mobile industry. We used to have those big brick phones, and now you have the phone that does everything for you. It practically makes you breakfast. You can have it on you all the time. Evolution of industries is part of what made us who we are today.

Shelly Holt:                        I think the big thing around what scares me the most now is how rapid all of this innovation is happening. What used to take us like ten years, like if we used the phone example, took ten years to get to this mobile application that could do email and other things for us... to now all of a sudden this transformation from innovation is happening in like, two years. That's probably going to get even quicker. We're already behind as industries. I don't know that there's any industry that's ahead at this point of the game.

Cindy Lu:                            Except for maybe some of the brand new startups that are just starting that way, right?

Shelly Holt:                        Maybe, but I think even those brand new startups, they're going to face issues around scalability, right? They are going to face perhaps M&A conflicts, where people want to buy them for their technology. They're not immune. Just because you are a startup and you're building something in this innovative world, you have a different set of problems from, let's say a global enterprise organization would have.

Cindy Lu:                            Right. Yeah, and I think there's also a lot of talk around customer experience because the Amazons and Expedias of the world have just made it so that we expect a certain... the bar has been raised. To be able to look at a product or service and say, "Here's a suggestion for something else," we're spoiled. I think some people would say it was kind of big brother-ish, but I love it when they make recommendations. It saves me time. How that then ties back to employee experience... I think we're all conditioned to having that level of luxury, and so what have you seen as far as employee experience tied to customer experience?

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah. Well the first thing I would say is HR, we are somewhat notorious for having archaic systems, right? Systems that were built for us to do administrative tasks or to track like in a learning place, compliance, perse, did somebody take a training... We did not build our products in the eyes of a user. Today, people are expecting those consumer-great experiences. Let's face it, we expect it and we're in HR. We expect to go to a tool and it's intuitive, and for us to have this effortless experience, right?

Cindy Lu:                            Right.

Shelly Holt:                        I actually have been doing a lot of reading on... It used to be create amazing or memorable customer experiences, which is important, but people just want things to be easy to use, but they don't care so much if they're memorable. They want them to be easy to use. They want to go there and be able to get what they want. They want to be able to move on. I think when we think about employee experiences, we need to make sure that we're equipping people with the tools that make those experiences easy. We could have the most amazing idea around what an employee experience is, but if their interaction with that experience is bad, we just ruined everything that we were trying to achieve.

Shelly Holt:                        The other spaces that I think in the HR field... Part of how we have built economies of scale is really specializing in function, which is great and we should still do that, but we need to lift our head up and say, "How does that function connect to other aspects?" If I'm in the talent acquisition field and I'm responsible for recruiting talent in, my journey doesn't start there. When people come in, they expect that same experience that they had with me in talent acquisition in the talent processes, in the learning experience, in the total rewards space. Really, I think that for us when we think about experiences, it has to be a journey that's interconnected for people.

Cindy Lu:                            Right, right. Yeah, it's so critical. Especially, I think, as difficult it is to find certain skill sets... there's something like 39 skillsets that everybody's looking for, and then another 800 types of positions that the other 50% is looking for.

Shelly Holt:                        Yes.

Cindy Lu:                            It's pretty amazing, and it's good. It's helping executives that aren't in HR really understand the value as it relates to attracting and retaining employees. Speaking of senior executives, what have you seen in the way of digital literacy for senior executives? Now you work in high-tech world and you always have, but have you seen anything out there to really help bring senior executives up to speed?

Shelly Holt:                        You know, it's an interesting space. I've spent the bulk of my career in technology companies. Digital literacy was just sort of a... You had to have it when you were entering the door. I think that the world, however... there's not a lot of lines between technical skills and digital literacy and everyday work. We're starting to see even within sales, people are having to become data interpreters to help their organizations and their customers make better buying decisions. Those folks that are in customer service positions are having to sort through data to then figure out what the customer's problems are and solve for those. This concept of digital literacy is really evolving whether or not we even think about it. It's changing the way we work.

Shelly Holt:                        I would venture to say that most leaders are more digitally literate than we give them credit for. They live in a modern world, they're using digital things to make decisions for themselves. They're using tools that are digitally literate. I think that the bigger gap is probably less-so about their digital literacy but how do they help their organizations and their own people start to build competency around what to do with that digital literacy. The data, what do they do with it? Because we are flooded with data these days, there's not a shortage of it. But not all data is good.

Shelly Holt:                        Think about, you brought an example up before where you like when a tool makes suggestions to you. But have you ever been on the receiving end of a tool that made a suggestion and you were offended? I'll give you an example. There was a tool that came out, and I won't say names, and one day they sent me a bunch of suggestions on what I should do. It was like, "You need to get plastic surgery, you need to get a massage, you need to get a colonoscopy." It was this list of things that I needed to do, and it was nuts. I don't know how they got it, but they're pushing data at me. When you think about literacy of data and you tie that to tools like AI and machine learning, our people need to have the skills to help create those algorithms that push the right info, and then parse that info out from a human perspective. I think the piece for leaders is how do you teach that in others, less so about are our leaders digitally literate.

Cindy Lu:                            Right, right. Yeah, that's an interesting point. I think I've heard that more than once. There's lot of data but not very many insights.

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah.

Cindy Lu:                            There's a shortage there. What about, on the HR side, what are some of the bigger advances that you've seen from a digital transformation standpoint from the HR perspective?

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah. I mean, I think that when... Well, when we look at things like the learning space, for instance, digital advancement in the learning space is really thinking about learning from a journey perspective and built into everyday work. One of the biggest challenges I think we've had in the HR field is that we've had a tendency to get a great idea or a direction that we believe our people need to go, and then we push very disparate unconnected programs out to them. Then we wonder why they aren't taking them, and then we start to mandate things or we say this is highly recommended. We're doing the exact opposite of what we need people to do, which is to have this mindset of learning agility where they're constantly learning.

Shelly Holt:                        When I think about fields like the learning space, this creation of learning journeys where people are learning something but they're actually applying it, they're coming back and they're practicing in smaller groups with peers, they're learning from others, they're building kind of this community of expertise... I think that's a very forward way of thinking. I see a lot of organizations trying to figure out how to do that effectively and move away from the old-school way of doing things which is since we can't get you to take an online training, we're going to bring you together for this amazing experience, but guess what, you're going to remember about 2% of what you learned and we've just spent a lot of money on that program. I think that's one of the ways I see the HR profession starting to evolve.

Shelly Holt:                        There's other ways too. I think there's still people who think on both sides of the plate, but even thinking about the performance review process, and should that be something that's annual, that's mandated, that's tracked? Or is really good skills having continuous dialogue with people and really empowering people to think about how they move their career forward through that continual-style of space. I think there's amazing work being done by HR professionals in thinking about how they build and organize collaborative environments that open up agility, that kind of moves beyond traditional hierarchy and business settings. Really building environments where people can come together naturally and collaborate.

Shelly Holt:                        I think there's a lot going on in the HR space right now where people are trying some things. The one thing I would love to see more of is our ability to no longer think about our profession as something that we lock and share only within our companies, but really looking out to say how can we leverage the power of the community of HR as a whole? There's so many good ideas out there and if we were better at sharing some of these, we'd probably be much more advanced as a whole profession than we are today.

Cindy Lu:                            I'm just going to take that snippet and use it as a commercial for my Mastermind.

Shelly Holt:                        You may.

Cindy Lu:                            Well, now I'm going to go back to the learning space for a minute. You know, I think part of the skills going forward being in HR is also being a marketer. I noticed in your background you spent some time really focused on, from a client perspective and knowing how to work with clients. If the client doesn't want it, in our case the employees, they're not going to engage. Where is that balance between sort of what you want to learn versus what you need them to learn? Do you know what I mean? If Henry Ford would have asked what do you want, they would have said a faster buggy or a faster horse or whatever the saying is, right? But what he came up with was the automobile. Do you see that employees are heading in the right direction as far as what they want to learn or is there some of... having to push them in a certain direction?

Shelly Holt:                        I think there's a couple things. I think we underestimate how much employees have on their plates. We live in a society where you're hyper-connected all the time. People no longer work a nine to five job. They're working all the time and they've got a lot on their plate. When you're talking about the transformations... I saw a stat recently around how many businesses were going through a transformation and it was pretty astronomical. We can assume that 75% of businesses are going through some kind of transformation. When that happens, employees are typically asked to do their job and then something else. I think we can't underestimate all they have on their plate. I think the piece that we have to do a good job with is meeting them where they are, and then layering on the skills that they need to learn to get them where we need them to be tomorrow.

Shelly Holt:                        When I think about things like resilience and learning agility and growth mindset and all of those human skills that everybody's talking about, those don't need to be disparate programs in my mind. Those can be engineered into the learning environment we create. If we're creating a functional learning program for them, let's create it in a way that teaches them to learn and to apply it and to practice and build all of those critical components of resilience and growth mindset into it. Let's not put another program on their plate.

Shelly Holt:                        In doing so, we're teaching them those new skills. We're teaching them how to learn. That's not traditionally how learning's been done, and so I think we need to think differently about that in order to build those skills, so that we can give them both the combination of what's relevant for them and what they're interested in, but also encouraging them, whether they realize it or not, to learn the skills that we need them to going forward. I think everybody wants to be employable. I think we have to remember that.

Cindy Lu:                            Yeah. What do you mean by meet them where they're at? Like they're spending their day in Sales Force or their CRM, and so just making sure that's part of it?

Shelly Holt:                        That could very well be part of it. If your people are spending time in a particular tool, how are you engaging with that tool? Or are you just sending them to another tool? That's one piece of it. But tools aren't all of it. I think you can meet people where they're at if you're thinking about what skills they need going forward. Help educating them on, here's where you're at today and here's where you need to go tomorrow, and here's how we're going to bridge that gap for you in a learning program.

Shelly Holt:                        I don't think we can assume that people are reading like we are, and like business leaders are all the predictions that are out there. Most certainly I don't know that they're saying my job could be automated. I don't think they're thinking about those things. What are we doing to help educate them? Not making it scary so that they panic, but helping them say this is why, this is the connection point for you. This is how you're going to drive better value for your customers or better value for your partners or whoever it is you're working with. I think we have to help create that environment and have to create a way for them to shorten those gaps. I don't think traditionally we have done that. I don't think we've done it well, and myself included in that. I don't think we've done it well. I think we've just said we're going to create some other program that's all about what they need to learn going forward and they don't see it as relevant, they don't do it, and then when you mandate it you've just done exactly what you don't want, which is you're forcing them to learn. They're not going to learn, nobody wants to be forced.

Cindy Lu:                            Yeah. That's interesting. But it's interesting when you talk about the future and what it means. I just had an experience yesterday. So typically I have an intern go back and summarize these vlog interviews. I discovered a tool through one of my groups called I literally just sent them the link of a vlog and it was like, 100% accurate and it was like a dollar a minute.

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah!

Cindy Lu:                            Right. Granted an intern is not that expensive, but still. It takes her several hours to listen to it and then summarize. Now it's not as good as the actual summary, it's just a transcription, but I'm like oh, she's got a full-time internship this summer so I'm like, okay, this is awesome. At the same time, I also wanted to relay that message to her in a way that was like, okay, but this is what it frees you up to do.

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah. Totally. Totally. That's the thing, that's the message, right? It's not this big scary "your job is going to be eliminated", it's your job might be eliminated so what else do you have to offer? What else do you want to learn, what else do you want to do? Here's our business strategy, here's where we need to go, here's some options. What sounds good to you?

Cindy Lu:                            Right, right. Yeah. So that they can do more. I suspect the change is hard for a lot of people, but it's coming. I just watched a webinar last week that was talking about the book, Technology Fallacy, and how the real key is about people. They were talking about how most employees, they want to change and they want to learn but feel pretty dissatisfied today. The majority were dissatisfied with what's being offered. I think there's a lot of cool opportunities for learning and development to help with this whole transformation.

Shelly Holt:                        Absolutely, absolutely. I would 100% agree with that.

Cindy Lu:                            What do you think about future senior HR executive skills? We just did a survey and I'm just curious about your opinion on what you think maybe the three or four skills are for future HR leaders?

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah. You know, I think that what I've been seeing and what I've been experiencing is that business acumen and the ability to understand different aspects of the business. I don't think we have the luxury of just being HR experts anymore. I think it is expected that as senior leaders we're business experts first, in a way that we've never been before. That would be one of the things that I would say top on the list. I think the other pieces you alluded to, which is I think we need to be masters of experiences. It's not about just creating an amazing program or rolling out a performance management component or having a great benefit. It's about what's the holistic experience for people, and how are we creating that experience, and how are we living that experience?

Shelly Holt:                        I also think, to my point earlier, with the number of organizations going through transformations, we need to be transformation agents. We need to be the ones that are driving that change through the organization and through our cultures. I think those are probably top things, in addition to all the other things we have to do to just be good HR experts and good people performance experts. Those would be my top three. Now you have me curious as to what was on your list though.

Cindy Lu:                            Well the survey closes tomorrow but so far the business acumen is number one. That's ranked for both HR leaders and the non-HR leaders who responded. The non-HR leaders actually ranked it higher.

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah.

Cindy Lu:                            That survey, those results will come up mid-June, but you hit on... you said it more eloquently, masters of experience. There's definitely that piece. Transformation agents for change management is a huge one as well.

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah.

Cindy Lu:                            Yeah. I think having sort of a marketing lens to your employees is so critical. In fact, at our big HR event this year in Dallas, one of our panels... we got CHROs from Toyota, Capital One Finance, and Unisys, and that's the topic. How does HR sort of function with the lens of marketing, and looking at our employees like the customer.

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting. I would totally agree with that customer-focused approach. We talked earlier about tools, for instance. Those were not built with a customer lens. Those were built with a what can we do to simply our world lens. When we're talking about tying that to experiences with people, experiences are about the customer. Whether that be internal customer, an external customer, that's the focus. I think we haven't traditionally done that very well in the HR field. Having that marketing [inaudible 00:25:08], I think is a huge, huge value for us.

Cindy Lu:                            Which is early in your career, but not so much for most HR folks. What's one tip you would give somebody to be more marketing-focused in their HR role?

Shelly Holt:                        Well yeah, it would be [inaudible 00:25:29]. Well first of all, the easy thing to do would be to spend some time with a marketing organization. How do they target customers? How do they do journeys? What do they think about as they're thinking about their SEO strategies? They're super intuitive, and then I think about marketing people, they're always willing to talk about it and share. That would be the first thing.

Shelly Holt:                        The second thing as far as advice for HR people, I think that one of things I've seen in my career and I caught myself at one point doing this, was we can get pretty far removed from our end customer. Whether that be the actual customer itself or our internal employees fitting in a function. We can get very far removed from that, and that is a danger. Once we're far removed we lose a bit of touch with reality.

Shelly Holt:                        When we talked about meeting people where they are... if we don't know where they are, we can't meet them. One of the other pieces would be to do a stint where you're closer to the business. Whether that be to go work within an operational line, whether that be to partner more closely with the division or brand within your organization. I think it's really really important, because I have seen organizations that have gotten too far removed and they are not driving value for that customer. That is a real, real danger. Even beyond the marketing component, just staying really tight in lockstep with your customers. Go shadow them, go sit with them go learn with them. I think that is really important.

Cindy Lu:                            Right. Well and then that means building that into our day. I ran an organization in Milwaukee where the employees wanted to learn and grow but they had so many billable hours that they had to hit. It wasn't so easy. It wasn't until we said, "You know what, you get this many billable hours a week just to focus on your developments and learning." Otherwise they were kind of, like you said, there's a lot coming at them. They're like, we don't have time.

Shelly Holt:                        Yeah. You know, it's funny. Organizations will do that, like carve our hours for you to go give back to the community. People do it. They use that time, they know they're going to go give back and it's part of their inclusion and diversity efforts. Very few organizations do that where they say, "And we're giving you X amount of time to learn." I think about the fact that learning is everything, it's a new experience, it's shadowing somebody, it's going online to learn something, it's attending something... there's many ways that they can learn and share, but if we don't give people the okay to do it, people don't feel like they can. Even if you look at a lot of survey data, people will say, "My manager doesn't make time for me to learn." Does the manager not really make time for them to learn, or is that their perception, that the manager wouldn't approve if they wanted to do it.

Cindy Lu:                            Right, right. Yeah, makes sense. Well Shelly, this has been fabulous. Really enjoyed speaking with you about this topic. For those of you watching, of course our big HR event will be at Cisco this year in Richardson, Texas. If you can't make it live, we're going to provide some of the videos later, so watch out for those in the future. Later in this fall.

Cindy Lu:                            Anyways, Shelly, any parting words of wisdom?

Shelly Holt:                        I'm excited to see the other videos, I'll say that. I can't wait to see the rest of the series. You know, I think... Here's the advice I would give. With the future of work, we don't know. We don't know what predictions are going to come true, but we do know that we have the power to do something and we have a tremendous opportunity to influence our businesses right now. As much as we can do that and we can share what we're doing and we can learn from each other, we really have probably one of the most compelling business cases we have ever had in human resources, and that makes me excited. I hope that makes others excited. My door is always open for conversation on these topics, so thanks for having me.

Cindy Lu:                            Yes, thank you. Take care.

Shelly Holt:                        Bye.


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