Storytelling About tilr With Leah Carr

Ever wanted to understand the game-changing power of a skills-first approach to talent development? You’re in for a treat! We’ve got Leah Carr, the CEO of tilr, who has hired between 250-500 people in her career, to share her insights on this transformative concept. Leah talks about her intuitive hiring process and how it has evolved with the integration of data, owing to the digital era we are in.

We don’t stop there! Uncover the magic behind tilr’s innovative solution that captures a comprehensive understanding of an individual’s skills. This is a game-changer in targeted training and aligning employee goals with company needs. Leah also lifts the veil on tilr’s team dashboard, which provides leaders with visibility into the impact of training. We also navigate the choppy waters of measuring micro skills and language proficiency, and the revolutionary potential of a skills-first approach to internal mobility, compensation, and succession planning. Did we mention the exciting potential of crypto and the importance of adopting a new language when discussing talent-driven markets? Well, this episode has it all!Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.

Thanks, William

Show length: 27 minutes

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Leah Carr
CEO tilr

With over 10 years of experience in bringing new products to market, hiring and growing teams, and leading digital transformation, I am passionate about empowering people and organizations to grow together. As the CEO of tilr, a skills-first talent solution that enables HR and People leaders to measure and manage their team's skills, create strategic development plans, and make data-driven talent decisions, I am on a mission to change the way talent is assessed, developed, and deployed.


Storytelling About tilr With Leah Carr

William TIncup: [00:00:00] Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tinkup and you’re listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today we have Leah on from Tiller. We’ll be learning about the use case, the business case that her practitioners and pot and customers and prospects use to build for Tiller. So Leah, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and Tiller?

Leah Carr: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on today. Yeah, so I am the CEO of a company called Tiller. We are based out of Toronto and we have built a skills first learning and development solution. And what that means is because we [00:01:00] help you understand the skills of your workforce and the skills of your roles, we can deliver much more targeted training, whether it’s closing skills gaps and upscaling, or it’s aligning your employees goals to the needs of the company so that you both grow together.

William TIncup: I love that. So you’ve, you, this, you have you’ve always been in technology, but you haven’t always been in HR per se, but you’ve hired a bunch of people, right?

Leah Carr: That’s true. I think I’ve probably hired, I want to say it’s somewhere between 250 and 500 people. Like it’s okay. Okay.

William TIncup: More than 10.

Got it. How did you back then when you were doing it and you’re still doing that now with Tiller, of course, but what would, how’d you evaluate people’s skills? What was your kind of go to back then? What was your go to understand if they were, let’s say a Python developer, Java developer, whatever the bit was, how’d you know the, how’d you understand the breadth and depth of their skills?

Leah Carr: Yeah, this probably isn’t the right answer, but I’ve always

William TIncup: had it on intuition. Oh, Leah, if there’s a right answer, I’d like to know it. I’m,

Leah Carr: [00:02:00] I’m just one of I’m highly intuitive. It’s one of my skills. And so I have done almost all my hiring on intuition, but I recognize that is not how everyone can do their hiring.

When it comes to technical skills, I have led technical teams. I’m not technical. So you rely on the right people on your team to do those technical screenings. Can obviously employ tools to help you with that. But, I’m always a big fan of the human to human interaction. And I’ve also seen a lot of good candidates get screened out of.

Yeah. Technical

William TIncup: things. See, I’m glad that you admitted intuition because I’m also that way. And I think, or you live in an era now where you’re like no, it’s got to be, everything’s got to be math oriented. It’s that’s it. I don’t know if I believe

Leah Carr: that. I actually think it’s limiting when you’re not able to use intuition, at least to a degree.

One thing I learned, I worked in crypto in the early days and the people who wanted to work with us, they. We’re so passionate. And the way we hired, I don’t even think we ever looked at a resume. It was like someone would apply [00:03:00] and they would tell us, here’s what I want to do. Here’s what I know I can do.

And the resume didn’t necessarily say they could do that, which means their experience didn’t necessarily show they could do whatever the job was they’re applying for. But sometimes all people want is that opportunity to prove that they can do what they know they can do just because. The resume, the piece of paper doesn’t say it.

And so we hired people and we let them prove it. We let them be accountable. Let them, maybe that’s not the right phrase, but understand what I mean. Yeah. And it created the best culture where, it was a team environment. Everyone loved what they were doing. And I think that this is what everyone wants.

We want to prove that we can do what we know we can do and what we want to do. And it’s actually one of the best teams I’ve ever worked with because we hired in a very Non-traditional way.

William TIncup: I think it’s, especially at the early stages of crypto, who had a master’s degree in crypto, so it’s okay, who’s the expert here?

There, obviously there are people that are experts, but everyone else just, there’s a lot of potential, a lot of potentiality of, and [00:04:00] there are a lot of excitement too. I think there’s still a lot of excitement. Crypto yeah, that’s exactly it. So skills first, talent development. First of all, I love all of this because it helps with so many things it proliferates.

I just came back from SHRM and it was exciting from this perspective, so many people and there was so many people in the expo hall that the expo hall closed at two on the last day and they didn’t get everyone out of the expo hall until five. Wow. It was crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it, quite frankly.

And and I liked it. And not everybody was buying, but there was a lot of shopping. There was a lot of people in there really talking to people, which I found great. And this was something that was, it came up routinely was, okay, skills versus hiring, of course, like we talked about, but also skills based everything.

Okay, internal mobility has this help us, compensation, succession for everything it bleeds to. If we understand skills, it touches all facets of [00:05:00] HR.

Leah Carr: It’s actually crazy. If you think about it, why have we operated businesses for so long? Understanding people to do, but not actually understanding what they can do doesn’t even make sense.

William TIncup: We have no excuses. So at one point, a hundred years ago, you could say I just have no idea. There’s just no data and I’m really busy and I can’t ask the people. Okay, good. Fair enough. But we have plenty of access points, especially data wise, now where we can actually know these things.

Leah Carr: Exactly. We know these things. We’re getting to the point that this isn’t something you can do in Excel. And we talked to a 12, 000 person prospect yesterday, and that’s how they were doing it. Excel. And it’s limiting because all they’re able to do is understand a few key skills for every job family.

They don’t The people and we showed them our product and they were like, yes, this is what we want because

William TIncup: we can’t make an Excel spreadsheet. This detailed. I’ve joked about this all the time. Microsoft [00:06:00] office is the largest HR tech company in the world. Because people use Word, Excel, Outlook, some of the other products as well, Teams, et cetera.

If you look at it, and I actually talked to the HR tech the person who runs HR tech for Microsoft. I did an analyst briefing with them at Unleash, and I said, why don’t y’all just… Just build it! Stop playing! She goes, we have no interest in building it. Interesting. Yeah. And she’s from Seattle.

She’s close to you, actually. So she just said, we have no interest. Zero interest in building an HR Tech play. Because we have a consumer compact, if you will, that we don’t ever want our covenant. I think she used that as a word. We don’t ever want to break that. We’re we want to partner with other people that are building those things that are taking those things to market.

We have no interest, zero interest. I’m like, okay I got that answered.

Leah Carr: And it’s good. No. What you’re good at. You don’t bring in experts and partners for [00:07:00] the rest. I think

William TIncup: it’s that interesting because they could. I don’t know if it would be that great, but they could. Build something. So I want to get into the application itself.

So skills first, talent development. So you got to do at one point, you got to do some type of inventory or audit, right? So how do we know what, what someone has currently, maybe what potential that they have? What are they, what do we call them now? Tangential skills, transferable skills. There’s a lot of different words that we use to convey the things that they don’t have, but could have.

So take us into the app. Yeah,

Leah Carr: that’s, that, that’s a great starting point and you’re right. The core pieces are we need to understand the skills of your workforce and what we have a really engaging, easy to use onboarding, and it takes you through a few steps. Step one is we show you the skills for your existing role.

Now we don’t show you the proficiency or the importance they’ve been ranked because we don’t want people gaming the system, but we’ll show you first the skills for your role. Then, and so you can, click on which ones you have, what your proficiency is in [00:08:00] those skills will then take you through the skills that are important to the organization, because we want everyone talking the same skills language.

Want to make sure we’re noting which skills people have that are relevant to the role. And then we’ll take you through job experience, education, volunteer and life experience. We don’t typically think of ourselves as a collection of skills and we help people do that. And one of the things we’ve done that’s so important is the volunteer and life experience, because we don’t all have the same networks and connections.

We don’t all have the same opportunities. And it’s really important that we allow people to bring their full selves to work their whole experience so that we can. create more equity and inclusivity.

William TIncup: So skills versus competence, maybe it’s not a versus. What’s cause some folks have grown up in the world of building competencies models and I’ve never seen, I’ve seen a lot of people try.

I’ve never actually seen them work. And skills seems to be a bit more easier to approach.[00:09:00] I don’t know why that is, it probably might be, maybe it’s just me, but what’s been your experience with kind of people, how people look at skills and how people look at historically have looked at competencies?

Leah Carr: Yeah, I think one of the things we’re seeing is that some people use them interchangeably and talking about competence when they’re using skills. But if we’re talking about, how we would view competencies versus skills, a competency would be a collection of skills. It can be easier to drill down to skill level.

And I think it’s easier for the individual because while there are a lot of people who overrate themselves, there’s a lot more people who underrate themselves. And I think when you give a competency and it’s higher level, it’s a lot harder to say, yes, I can do that. Whereas when you break that competency down into 10 skills, someone who has.

Eight of 10 may not have given themselves the competency, but you’ll know they have the eight skills. And so interesting. Yeah. And so I think it can just be an easier way to think of ourselves. And, just[00:10:00] a step further on getting accuracy is proficiency is another piece of this, your standard scale is beginner to expert.

But what does that mean? We had a co op student tell us they were an expert in a coding language. And when we asked them what made them an expert, they told us I’m taking a course next semester. Yeah, exactly. There’s

William TIncup: just, there’s no, I’m the jaded part of me. It’s going to go say, I’m just going to say it.

I think that candidate was male. It was,

Leah Carr: it was, of course. And, but this is part of the problem, right? You have women, who do you deserve in groups who are. They

William TIncup: under, yeah some of it’s humility too. I’ve also found this and I know you’re Canadian, so I’ll say this to your face.

I’ve also found this with Canadians as well, and not, regardless of background or gender or the other things that most Canadian folks that interact with are super humble. You’re not somebody on the other, like 40 miles,

Leah Carr: someone will say to me like, Oh, you’re CEO. And I’m like, Oh yeah, but it’s a small company.

And I’m like, why do I keep saying that? You’re [00:11:00] right.

William TIncup: Just a small company. Yeah. Stop saying, or just.

Leah Carr: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You’re right. We, yeah. Yeah. And so when it comes to competency, we have put a lot of research into it. And we have clearly defined levels that also don’t have judgment on them.

So instead of saying one to five or beginner to expert, or no joke, I saw one that was baby chicken to ninja. We actually say if you are we say I have learned the skill. I have not used the skill. I can use the skill with a little bit of help. Like we’ve just Yeah. We made it so much easier to not over or under rate yourself, which is super important.

So what’s

William TIncup: your take on the the life shelf of our exploration of a self and of a skill and what I want, what I’m really trying to figure out in my own mind is this idea or concept of micro skills, things that you acquire, like every day we’re building something, like we’re using our mind to do some things were, if I were evolving.

Some skill. I’m not sure what it is, but something, but also something’s being diminished. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Just [00:12:00] we haven’t touched that in a while. So it’s not I think skills have historically been looked at as you’ve achieved them. And then if you don’t ever do it again you still have that skill.

It’s I struggle personally. This is my struggle. I struggle with if you haven’t touched Java in let’s say 10 years, you’re probably not still at that level. Yeah, you probably ramp up pretty quickly, but you’re not quite at that level. Like first of all, am I off? You do this for a living.

So first of all. No,

Leah Carr: You’re totally right. I think about myself. I went to French immersion from grade one all the way through to university. I went to a campus here. I have a bilingual honors. But I have not really used my French since I’m going to date myself, but since 2006, essentially, and, when it’s spoken.

I can understand it. I can read it. But if, I were to go into a job and say I’m bilingual, it would not be the truth at this point. And could I have a refresher and get back up? Yeah, I’ve been playing around on Duolingo. So I think this is also part of it [00:13:00] is being self aware about I might have worked in marketing for the first five years of my career, but now it’s been another 15 years and I haven’t used skills things change.

And part of how our platform can pick up on that is that, again, we’re breaking it beyond the competency of marketing down to the actual skills and the skills change. If you haven’t done marketing in 10 years, maybe you don’t know how to use. Snapchat or TikTok or these tools that are so popular today and so you can pick up on some of it in that way, but it does require a certain degree of self awareness, which is why, we’ve got your individual proficiency ratings, but then we’re also just about to launch manager proficiency ratings and then peer proficiency ratings.

Oh, cool. That little bit of a, combo score because. It’ll just be that much more accurate getting the three views in there.

William TIncup: See I, I, everyone lacks in training. So first of all, I’ll say this about executives, board members all the way throughout, like everyone there’s a lack of training for everybody, but [00:14:00] I’ve keyed in the last couple of months on, on line managers, mid managers hiring managers, all the folks in the middle, let’s say they don’t get any training.

It’s just, it’s really obnoxious like early stage employees, there is some training, you’re about to do a job, yeah, we should probably train you, got it, but at one point they get promoted to a level and it’s yeah, we’ve just forget that bit we just. Janet, you’ve been promoted.

Great. Go

Leah Carr: do it. Even your most basic level of training, which is onboarding is missing. I’ll tell you, I joined in an executive level role, but the lack of onboarding, and basic things like tell me what each of these acronyms mean, I think it affected my productivity even two years into that role where, I wouldn’t understand what’s going on in conversation because of the way people were speaking.

So I think. Basic level of onboarding is the most important training when someone’s starting a role, but you’re right about leadership. When we launch in a company, I’d say, eight times out of 10 [00:15:00] training leaders is the most, or one of the most important priorities that the company has to start out with.


William TIncup: where do we, where does that data, where does our data go? Like where? Okay, so the four walls of Taylor totally get it, but does it impact or does it give any information or visibility or insight into other platforms or does it pull data from other platforms?

Leah Carr: We do pull data from other platforms. So we pull a lot of market data around which skills are the current, let’s say trending skills for each role, because we don’t just want to set people up for success in the present and train them for their next career goal.

We want to make sure that people are staying relevant. There’s this corn fairy stat. I read that they’re projecting 8. 5. Trillion dollars of unrealized revenue in the U. S alone in 2030 because companies won’t have the skills they need to compete. So we’re pulling that market data. So on a quarterly basis, you can go and look at your roles will recommend skills for your roles that we’re [00:16:00] seeing in the market so you can add them and start training people and making sure that you’re being more forward thinking about keeping the skills you need in your workforce and in your company.


William TIncup: Okay. So what’s the challenge? Cause everything makes sense to me so far. What’s the objection that your sales team or some of your folks have once they’ve talked to somebody, they’re showing them software, everybody loves it. Why would they say no?

Leah Carr: So I think learning and development’s an interesting space because while we all know that the number one reason people leave their jobs is lack of development.

Our answer has been this L and D perk, which is, Hey, here’s 500 a year. And then people learn what they want. They’re learning.

William TIncup: They’re not going to the abyss of the LMS and have fun.

Leah Carr: Someone goes and learns how to play guitar. They come back and want to play guitar for the company. And you’re like, but we don’t need someone to play guitar.

And then you just created frustration. And and then you have leadership and finance who want to cut back these L and D budgets because they’re delivering no results, no retention results, no [00:17:00] growth results, like they’re just not getting a return on that investment. And so it’s a big mindset shift to say, Hey, now we’re going to move to this method.

We’re going to be able to do everything. So we do often get. People who are like, I’m obsessed with this. I want it. They try to go sell it to leadership. And it seems like a bigger undertaking than it is, even though honestly, we’ve made it so easy. And the other objection we are facing a lot in, and this is temporary is HR budgets.

Like they are the first to be frozen, even though in my opinion, they should be the last to be frozen, like without your people, you are nothing. So I’ll give

William TIncup: you a, I’ll give you a hack on that and you’ll hate it, but I’ll give you a hack on that. So even in a recession, there are three things that don’t get cut from HR’s budget.

Okay. Payroll, payroll technology benefits technology. Now some of those are reduced. We just laid off 10, 000 people. Yes, you’re using less payroll software, but you’re still using payroll software, less benefits management software and anything [00:18:00] targeting high potentials, high performers. So the hack for you, the hack for your team is you stop talking about employees, then you literally just start talking more about your high potentials.

You can’t lose your high potentials. This is the future of your company, et cetera. And then once the market comes back to you, then you can talk about everybody. But those are the three things, historically, the last 25 years I’ve been studying this, those are the things that don’t get cut during a recession.


Leah Carr: That’s a good tip. Yeah, no worries. I feel like we’ve got to change our language a little bit.

William TIncup: We’ll have a different call about that, but yes, that’s, that’s ultimately why we’re going through this really, it’s a weird recession, because okay, The market’s crazy, but yet unemployment in hourly and in some pockets of the market, it’s still crazy low.

And so it’s not a real recession, not a recession that we’ve seen historically. Normally, when we have a recession, we have a talent surplus. Period. That’s it. The market goes down. A lot of people are out on the market, and we have a [00:19:00] surplus of talent. And so hiring becomes what’s historically been called an employer driven market.

And when it’s tight it’s then a candidate driven market. I’ve basically in the last year or so, I’ve just gotten rid of those words because it’s like just talent drives the market period, whether or not you’re in a recession because Gen Z and choose not to work. So those historical kind of ways that we’ve looked at things with supply and demand, they’re outdated because the talent has decided to work differently.

So really you don’t vacillate between employer and candidate anymore. It’s just a talent driven market period in the story. We could talk about that forever. Two buying things I definitely want to ask you. One is your favorite part of the demo. So when you on the occasion get to show people tiller for the first time, what’s your favorite part?

Leah Carr: My favorite part changed yesterday. We launched something new to production.

William TIncup: All righty.

Leah Carr: Here we go.[00:20:00] Which to me is a little game changing, which is a team dashboard, which means that as a people leader, I can view my team and listen, I can view it in different ways. I can view my whole team. I can view by people leader.

I can do by department, but I can view my team and I can go and see the impact of the training currently being done. IE, are people working on closing skills gaps and upscaling or are they working on things unrelated to their current job? I can see. And

William TIncup: unrelated just be clear. Unrelated isn’t necessarily bad.

Leah Carr: No, absolutely not. Just for the

William TIncup: audience.

Leah Carr: So that’s a great question. If you have 10 skills gaps on your team and there are five people learning and three of five of them are closing skills gaps. Great. You also want people working on, on their goals, on items for succession. But if you have.

200 skills gaps, and only one person’s closing one. That’s what you have to use the data, but

William TIncup: it’s looking at this. You can see everybody and in [00:21:00] totality, you can see what we’re actually doing as an organization and what’s not being worked on work versus what’s maybe being over indexed.

Leah Carr: That’s that.

Exactly. You can see that

William TIncup: piece of it as well. Interesting. A heat map.

Leah Carr: Interesting. We have, yeah, we have those heat maps for you. They’re right there loading more dashboards of the product. And it’s cool. We’ll also show you the impact that investing in each individual has on the company, high, medium, low, and the impact investing on your team has in the company so that, when you’re asking for money, what sort of impact you can make.

We will show you and you can sort your team by. Who has the highest skills gap, who would have the highest impact? You can also sort by skill. Where is my biggest gap in terms of skill? And then you could develop a course around your top two skills gaps. And it really just allows people leaders to invest in their team to help their people succeed and to help them achieve their goals in the company.

And. As someone who has loved being a people leader, because I [00:22:00] love helping others, achieve. It’s just such a great way to actually understand how to invest in people and help them

William TIncup: grow. I love this is eventually, if not now, this data can be used on the front end in terms of acquiring talent.

And even internally, it can help. Promote people into positions where there’s gaps. So you can look at this and say you can look at this and say, okay we need to acquire, we don’t have this skill. No one’s actually moving, making movement into this skill. We need to hire for that skill. That’s that kind of makes sense.

But also the internal mobility part of then saying, Hey, we have this gap. We now can recognize that we have this gap and no one’s making real clear movement. Oh, wait a minute. Sandy’s made fantastic movement to that we can promote Sandy. And like we can cover that, it’s like coverage. You can, we can now cover that gap with someone that internally that has already acquired those skills or been working [00:23:00] on those skills, et cetera.

I love this.

Leah Carr: I think one of your favorite parts of the platform would be, we have a Boolean search. So you can find people based on skills. So if you have a project or you have an open role, we can show you who matches, but you can toggle between who has the skills and who wants the skills. So we also help you build project teams and use work as a development opportunity by saying, okay, I need three people.

I’m going to put these two people that are pretty proficient and this additional person who wants to learn the skill. So we already have some of what you’re talking about and I could talk forever, but I have really great ideas of what we want to do for the hiring space as well.

William TIncup: Awesome. So last question is, quick question in the sense of what would you, if you could script questions for practitioners when they’re evaluating skills for talent development platforms or suites of products, et cetera, what would you have them ask you? Because, this is one of the, one of the reasons I started this particular podcast was one to help educate practitioners as to, what should be, [00:24:00] What should you be asking?

Like when you’re evaluating software it looks great. I think we have the problem. What questions would you love to field and your sales team? And, everybody to tell her what should practitioners be asking?

Leah Carr: I think they really need to ask and drill down on the skills piece.

AI is. Super hot right now, but one thing that is really important to remember about AI is it’s great when the use case is there. But when we’re talking about skills, I see a lot of platforms that are doing AI inferred skills, but when AI is inferring skills, that means that if you and I both had marketing manager job titles, AI is going to infer skills based on that.

You could be doing social media and I could be doing in home, but we’re going to land. Same skills. That’s not valuable. So I would definitely encourage if you’re evaluating a skills based solution to ask, especially if it’s AI inferred, like, how are you going to capture the unique skills of an individual rather than generalize skills based on their job titles?

That to me is one thing that’s really [00:25:00] important. And then also like with many things, ask about how The platform has built in the ability to be equitable and inclusive, because there’s a danger that if that hasn’t been thought about, that things could actually be worse than they are. Try it.

William TIncup: Try it.

And then we saw that with in history, Amazon, when they did their first kind of AI on the hiring side it failed. And I didn’t take them to task for that. I’m like, it’s going to fail. It’s supposed to fail. That’s okay. Everyone lashed out. I was like, Oh, look, they use it.

It would, and it predicted that white men and they’re like okay. Yeah. It’s going to fail. It’s artificial intelligence. It’s not quite intelligent yet. So give it a break. It’s an infant. It’s kind of infant levels, it’ll get intelligent over time. I think it’s

Leah Carr: hard when you don’t work in the space to remember that I’m reading a book right now called AI 2041.

We are still years away from a lot of the AI use cases. Now, it’s made a huge [00:26:00] leap recently, we know that, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to get everything perfect for many years.

William TIncup: That’s the we’ve set the bar really high with artificial intelligence. It’s Okay. Thank you. Eh, artificial.

Yes. Good. God doing the good work. Intelligence. Yeah. That’s a high bar. That’s a high bar for humans.

Leah Carr: Yes. Use that line. That’s a really good point.

William TIncup: It’s artificial, almost better than humans. Okay, good. Now we can move it and change it and rebranded over time. We started with this high bar of, yes, it’s artificial intelligence.

It’s artificial for sure. Yeah. I’ve got that. Leah, I could talk to you forever. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Leah Carr: Thank you so much for having

William TIncup: me today. And thanks for everyone listening. Until next time.

The Use Case Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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