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Heidi Spirgi calls herself an “accidental HR technologist.” With an undergraduate degree in political science and women’s studies and a graduate degree in art history, she didn’t know she wanted to work in HR tech until after college and graduate school. 

But after just a few minutes of conversation, it quickly made sense why she was a perfect fit in her brand-new role as Cornerstone's chief marketing and strategy officer. When Spirgi entered the small breakout room where I spoke to her at Cornerstone's Convergence conference, she didn't have a corporate pitch or any rehearsed answers. Instead, she demonstrated a sense of humility, empathy and excitement about the challenges of modern work. 

You can listen to our conversation here, but below are a few key takeaways.

Question: How do you explain the convergence of HR and technology?

There’s a wealth of possibility around how we can change people’s lives through technology. That’s been the constant throughout my 25 years in this space that continues to interest me. How can we impact people’s lives and business results to create meaningful change? Technology really can be transformative when applied in the context of how we can make work more meaningful.

What drives you?

My goal and passion is to help humans at work grow, be happier and become their best selves. There's a fundamental connection between what employers do and how they treat their people. And at the end of the day, employers affect the kind of world employees live in. The desire to grow is human instinct, and many employers have not invested enough in nurturing that. I think Cornerstone's technology can be a vehicle to fix that.

What holds humans back?

Our society puts experts on a pedestal. The second you believe you're an expert, you become less open to new ideas. One of my favorite books is Radical Leap, which reveals how to lead with audacity and embrace change. Our leaders must foster an environment that allows risk-taking, making people feel comfortable enough to fail.

What worries you most about HR technology?

Software is riddled with algorithms. Everyone must be asking: How much can we rely on the algorithms, and when should we trust the results? How should we treat the data and react to it? By asking these questions and doing our diligence, technology can actually help humanize us. Just look at dating apps. How many happy couples have met and connected online? Why can't we do that at work? 

What skills do you feel we need to develop to grow and protect our jobs from automation?

CORE skills are critical to keeping humans in jobs. CORE is an acronym that stands for compassion/curiosity, originality, responsibility and empathy. In terms of hard skills, digital fluency and data fluency will become increasingly important. 

Where is learning headed?

The way people learn is not changing. How we learn is hardwired. What is changing is the way we adapt training to different learning styles. With today’s technology, we can deliver training online, in bite-sized chunks and in a personalized way. The more accessible and seamless learning is, the more compelling it is. Learning needs to be baked into the fabric of our life and work.

Photo: Creative Commons