Academy Spotlight: June 2019

June 4th, 2019

We love our Academy members! Every month we get the pleasure to speak with some of our most active members, both individuals and enterprises across the globe, to learn more about what HR challenges they’re experiencing, what their goals within the Academy are, and what they are most excited about. We also bring you trending topics from within the Academy. This is our first monthly spotlight so we'd love to know what you think. Contact us here if you have any feedback.


Photo of Stella Ioannidou Name: Stella Ioannidou
Title: Manager, IT Workforce Management Head
Company Profile: 8k person bank; 600 person IT team
Location: Athens, Greece

What is your current role?

I work at an 8,000 person financial bank headquartered in Greece that is undergoing organization-wide Agile Transformation. We have a 600 person IT team that I am responsible for keeping engaged and educated through learning and development. The bank’s agile journey started within the IT department, and little by little has affected everyone across the organization making its way into agile project methodology and agile as a management practice. We just celebrated our 3rd year of the Agile Transformation journey!

How did you get into HR?

Every time I hear Josh Bersin say how he is “an Engineer who didn’t go to HR school” I get so pumped up and motivated. I am an engineer as well: one who got so fascinated by the impact and the potential of HR and people in general, that managed to find herself in an HR-related position after working hard in various business roles for more than a decade. After receiving a Master of Science in Information Systems Management I started off as a Project Manager for an IT team and soon realized the major differentiator of whether projects are going in the right direction are not the tools but rather the people—the human element of how people work together. And so I began to take classes in people coaching and became fascinated. Eventually the bank I work for started an initiative to build a Learning & Development function dedicated to the IT team, and I was selected to lead it. I still consider myself an IT nerd at heart, with a passion for helping people get better at what they do.

Why did you join the Academy?

Since I don’t come from a “traditional” Human Resource background, the Academy is actually my HR School! Back when I was transitioning into a people development role, I needed a way to learn the academic or “book smart” side of HR. Prior to the Academy, I could only find one MOOC course that taught very basic foundational knowledge of the HR profession but left me thinking “what’s next?”. There just weren’t many training options available out in the market. And we all know that books alone don’t get us all the way there. We need to apply our learnings and talk through it with peers. I was seeking a global community of like-minded professionals that I could connect with, share common problems, gather insights from, and share best practices. The IT function evolves so quickly that books alone can’t possibly keep up with new processes, technologies, and even business models. As our industries are being disrupted, we also must disrupt the HR function, and the Academy’s access to connect with peers and do this is priceless. To reinvent ourselves we can’t silo our organizations, we must come together.

When you look back a year from now, what do you want to have accomplished in your role as an HR leader? A year from now, I hope to have a better understanding of the People Analytics function. Since it’s a technical subject there are not many books on this topic area, however, I feel it is a huge missing component from how we are currently managing our workforce. I also hope to have formed my own circle of “go to people” within the Academy’s HR community and build a strong network. Just as important, I hope to become a trusted resource for HR practitioners across the globe so they can come to me with challenges.

What HR challenges are you hoping to solve by being a member? What are your goals?

I work in Banking. Our CEO and Management team are focused on transforming the corporate ecosystem in such a way that the Bank remains relevant and in a leading position in tomorrow’s market. How to rediscover our core competencies, embrace our digital future, optimize our internal processes, introduce agility into our most unmovable spaces, acknowledge the world of FinTechs as opportunities to grow, and last (but not least) make the Non-Performing Loans weight not just manageable, but sustainable.

What are you loving about the Academy?

First off, I love the Community that the Academy offers. Secondly, the gamification elements within the digital learning platform itself are motivating and make you want to participate because it's so easy to do so—something that is missing from a lot of learning platforms out there. Also, all of the learning is divided into small pieces (microlearning) so if you only have five minutes while waiting for a train or feeding your baby you can get some learning in without a huge time commitment. Lastly, I really enjoy that there are quizzes throughout that test your knowledge and understanding to make sure you have grasped the concept taught. This Academy is the best learning platform I’ve ever learned on!

What would you like to see more of?

To be completely honest, I don't know what I don't know right now since this is one of the first HR learning platforms out there. As time goes on it will be great to see more solution-oriented conversations taking place in the Community focused on “hey I have this problem, who can help me brainstorm on a solution”.


Drawing of people talking

What it is?

By now you probably have heard of the term “radical candor” either in news articles, management practices, or from reading Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor. This management philosophy based on caring personally while challenging directly has forced managers and leaders across the globe to rethink traditional management and leadership styles.

In her book Radical Candor, Kim Scott shares how the key to building and maintaining authentic relationships at work lies in “radical candor,” which she defines as the ability to give feedback that both challenges people directly and shows we care about them personally.

Our professional relationships come in all shapes, sizes, and lengths—from friends we’ve worked with for years, to bosses who send chills down our spine and mentors who have given us life-changing advice. How we nurture these relationships determines our relationship capital: a combination of our reputation, influence, and ability to get things done. There are a number of ways to cultivate relationship capital. Of course, we need people skills and good communication tactics. A willingness to collaborate. And venturing out of the shadows at company events doesn’t hurt. But that’s not enough. To build more than an overstuffed LinkedIn network or a stack of dusty business cards, we may need to be a bit more of a jerk.

OK, maybe not an actual jerk. But we do need to get comfortable telling people things they might not want to hear—and hearing some things we might not like in return. Radical candor is tough. Criticism can feel brutal and can go against some deeply ingrained lessons, like “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Criticizing others can have the boomerang effect of making us feel bad. Radical candor asks us to take criticism in our stride, smile, and recognize that although the feedback we’re being given may sting, it can also be a huge gift.

Building relationship capital means developing mutual trust. Being authentic. Moving beyond empty praise or off-the-cuff reactions to a comment. It means caring enough to get real with our colleagues and demanding they do the same with us.

Why does it matter?

By adopting a culture of radical candor you can develop more relationship capital and communicate more effectively with colleagues—regardless of your role—and create a culture of feedback to achieve great results. Radical Candor helps you love your work and the people you work with. C’mon, who doesn’t want that?

How to get started?

Scott offers the following guidelines: Be humble. Be helpful. Be immediate. Praise in public. Criticize in private. Be specific. Finally, differentiate between actions and character judgments. There’s a big difference between telling someone they sounded like an idiot and telling them they are an idiot. She provides a simple framework that can be used as a compass for candid conversations:

Check out Kim Scott's site dedicated to Radical Candor here. The Josh Besin Academy contains introductory resources on Radical Candor, and 100s of other emerging and core HR topics.


Photo of Bill Pelster Bill Pelster is one of the Academy’s Senior Faculty members. Senior Faculty members support learners through their learning journey in our Programs, providing guidance and expertise in particular subject areas. Our Senior Faculty are also active in our engagements with enterprise clients.

Bill is the former Chief Learning Officer at Deloitte, a retired Air Force Captain, with a background in Computer Science and an MBA. Learn more about Bill:

Tell us about your background and how you got into HR & Learning?

My background in learning is similar to many others in this profession; I started out doing something completely unrelated and eventually found myself in the business of HR and Learning. My first experience in learning was in the Air Force. As a young officer I was selected to train other officers. I was hooked. The satisfaction of helping others understand and apply their new knowledge is something that is hard to explain unless you experience it yourself. When I left the Air Force, I went into professional services. My background is in computer science with an MBA. I was hired to do SAP Financial implementations during the Y2K era. As much as I enjoyed configuring and coding, I found the biggest challenge was really helping the employees adapt and learn the system. In 1996 I volunteered to take that role in the implementations we were working on. It proved hugely successful and led ultimately to building the change and learning practices within Deloitte. From there, I was asked to lead the development of our new hires and where I built the first large scale simulations. This led to my selection as the Chief Learning Officer for Deloitte where I had the honor of building Deloitte University.

How and why did you get involved in the Josh Bersin Academy?

Josh and I have a long history. I was the partner in Deloitte that bought Josh’s company, Bersin & Associates and created Bersin by Deloitte. During my time working with Josh, we always talked about how can we help the profession of HR, Talent and Learning. In many ways, this group of professionals tend to be overlooked. The academy is something I believe in; a place for professionals by professionals all focused on elevating the profession.

What are your primary areas of expertise (in HR)?

I am first and foremost a learning and talent person. I have had the opportunity to work on some of the toughest talent challenges through my client work in my 25 years in consulting plus leading the reinvention of Deloitte’s talent brand centered around development of leaders at all levels. My client work plus my internal roles within Deloitte have given me a unique perspective.

What are some of the emerging HR topics or trends that you are most interested in?

This is an exciting time. HR has always been critical. However, in 2019 the importance of what HR professionals bring to the table is exponentially more important than just a few years ago. Some hot topics I keep track of: AI, automation, and augmented capabilities are all critical. But not from a doomsday perspective but from the opportunity this creates for us to make work more meaningful and enjoyable. Let’s let the robots do the dreary work. As humans, we should focus on where we add value: our insights and creativity. So in addition to technical areas, I am also interested in what does work mean in the 21st Century, how do we enable humans to reach their potential while staying healthy and fulfilled. Making the world a better place is what ultimately gets me excited every day.

Sign up to the Academy to become part of a growng community of global HR professionals committed to advancing our profession. Sign up here.