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Hosts Stacey Harris and John Sumser discuss important news and topics in recruiting and HR technology. Listen live every Thursday at 8AM Pacific – 11AM Eastern, or catch up on full episodes here.

HR Tech Weekly

Episode: 22
Air Date: May 28, 2015


This Week

This week John and Stacey discuss:

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Hosts Stacey Harris and John Sumser discuss important news and topics in recruiting and HR technology. Listen live every Thursday at 8AM Pacific – 11AM Eastern, or catch up on full episodes here.

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John Sumser:           Good morning, and welcome to HRExaminer Radio, One Step Closer, with Stacey Harris and John Sumser.

This is John Sumser. How are you doing this morning? We’re coming to you live from beautiful Occidental, California, where the roses are exploding off the trees, and we’re waiting for Stacey, who will be here with us in just a moment.

In the news this week, we’ve been paying attention to … Oh, there’s Stacey.

Hi, Stacey. How are you?

Stacey Harris:            Hi, John. How are you doing? Good morning.

John Sumser:            Okay, we’re in the middle of it. It’s already started, so what are you seeing?

Stacey Harris:            Hi. Sorry about the logging in. We had a little snafu with the timing and the numbers and everything, so what are we seeing this week? I did send over some details.

It’s been a quiet week, if you can call any week quiet when it comes to the news. Probably the big news thing this week, and really it was last week, was an announcement by ADP that they had done some updates to their ADP Vantage, as well as some minor updates to their ADP Workforce Now product and ADP Run product.

What really caught my eye about that announcement was how many things they were doing all at once, and that they were focusing on employee self-service. There were a couple of articles about HR technology and the Internet of Things, and how that might be changing things. Then there was some updates, although I don’t think we have some of the details yet, that were just coming out yesterday from Workday’s update to their financial numbers. They did their quarterly release yesterday.

Those are probably the big news articles that were crossing my desk this week. Anything differently that you saw this week?

John Sumser:            No, no. I talked to some interesting companies over the course of the week, but you’ve got the big pieces. I think it’s interesting that ADP seem to be relentless right now, in beating the drum about the way that they are turning into making the company a contemporary enterprise [inaudible 02:35] player, and they’re just doing it over and over and over again. It’s really interesting, because they are monstrous and the last company you’d ever think that would be able to acquire an entrepreneurial edge, but they seem to be doing it.

Stacey Harris:            I would agree. The previous week, we were talking about the fact they had launched their analytics and big-data benchmarking efforts, and I think we haven’t had an opportunity to see that, so I don’t know how deep that goes. Then, right on the heels of that, they put out this announcement. This announcement covers that not only are they updating their total employee self-service experience.

Now, it’s probably important to note that last year, at HR Tech Conference, they had launched a whole new user interface that went across all of their platforms, so I’m not exactly sure how these two things work. I actually reached out to Sarah, who I work with over there, to see if we could get a walkthrough of the product to see, is this new experience something on top of that user experience, or is this part of the actual process areas in each of the products?

Particularly for ADP Vantage, they’re basically saying they have new recruiting features, new onboarding features, new career-planning and new learning features, which, learning was not a big part of what they had previously had, as well as, now, an interactive payroll experience.

As we know, payroll is probably the biggest thing that end users think about ADP, as far as their interactions with them, new company directory features, new employee profile features. Then they’re saying that coming in the summer and fall, they’re going to be adding updates to their performance-management succession planning, and time-and-labor and project-tracking tools. Basically, it’s the whole picture.

Now, I don’t know what that means and what those updates look like right now, but they put it all in the news announcement that they’re updating the whole package, basically. I thought it was quite [impressive 04:35].

John Sumser:            Well, it’s an amazing move for a company you wouldn’t expect [it from 04:43], so I think we’ll hear more about those things. I think that this press release stuff is just an impression point that points us toward what the buzz is going to be in the fall.

Stacey Harris:            Yeah.

John Sumser:            I had an interesting demo this week with Guild, who are the people who do computational linguistics in HR. Guild are publishing a full cradle-to-grave recruiting product that is focused on recruiter effectiveness through the use of computational linguistics.

This tool will help you write your job descriptions in a way that maximizes its SEO value in Google. It will help you parse resumes so that you can see where people who might have the expertise that you’re looking for but don’t describe it in the way you want to see it, or it helps you understand, once your job description is done, what the available supply is in your town.

It includes a video interviewing component to it, and all of the rudiments of CRM applicant tracking. A very interesting product that makes the claim that they can accelerate your recruiting results by stepping you through all of the noise and all of the process, using their computational linguistics engine.

Stacey Harris:            One of the big things that I’ve been hearing and those that have come across the various boards, and I don’t get as much into the search engine optimization, the recruiting side of it, from that perspective as you might, but does this address the issue now, with Google changing all of their search models and algorithms to focus more on mobile-friendly technologies and some other things, I think, that are really impacting things like job-board candidates, and job searches, and those types of things? Is this something that’s going to address that, do you think, or is that a bigger issue?

John Sumser:            Absolutely. Absolutely. If you run a recruiting operation and you are not paying attention to search engine optimization, you’re probably not a big player. You’re probably not a big player in your local market, and you’re certainly not a national or global player. If you’re a national or global player and you want your job advertisements seen, you have to do something to get them seen, and since the company website is the most likely place for action to happen, that’s where you start.

Great employment branding and great corporate recruiting all has attention to SEO these days, and it isn’t unlike the other thing that we’ve seen. A vendor who pays attention to the shifting sands and makes sure that you have optimal performance, given the shifting sands, is a big deal.

That kind of functionality is available, the job distribution and SEO optimization, that functionality’s available in a lot of places. What’s interesting about the Guild product is that it has that capacity embedded in an overall recruiting tool as if that’s just a natural piece. Everywhere else, recruiting systems are often a [sea of 08:43] point solutions, and so everywhere else this is a point solution.

Stacey Harris:            Yeah, it’s interesting. One of the emerging-technology questions we’re asking this year on the survey has to do with all these [different 08:55] applicant-tracking one-offs, not the actual applicant-tracking system, but all these separate, individual recruiting tools, video tools, search engine optimization tools, are they using them, are they not using them? I’m interested to see, because as I’m going in, I’m seeing that there are a lot of organizations who are using some and not all, a few and not many. What you’re talking about, I think, is that if you’re using this myriad of recruiting technologies, it’s very unlikely that any of them are optimized the same way, if I’m understanding what you’re saying?

John Sumser:            Recruiting is unlike the rest of HR. It’s really unlike the rest of HR. It’s external facing, so it’s interested in markets rather than internal behavior, and it’s a very competitive world when the economy’s good. What you see is that innovation is a hallmark of recruiting, and it’s much more of an early-adopter culture than the rest of HR.

What happens is, people who are really Cracker-Jack recruiters tend to be Cracker-Jack technologists too. They do the things that early adopters do, so you’ll find in your survey that there are [questors 10:31] where the last thing anybody wants is a suite that has recruiting capacity in it. What they want is to be able to take every new innovation as it comes down the road and incorporate it, because it gives real competitive advantage.

There are, Jesus, twenty or thirty Fortune 500 companies who behave like that in their recruiting departments. Pepsi and Anderson come to mind easily, but there’s a subset of the really big players who do it this way, and they have to suffer through the equivalent of learning how to do optimization for every new technology that comes along. There’s always a technical aspect that if you want ultimate performance, you have to get good at tweaking to get that ultimate performance. That make sense?

Stacey Harris:            It makes sense, and it completely reminds me of why, when I was in the recruiting side of the business, it always felt like you were one step behind on everything. There’s always one new technology, one new thing you were trying to do, one new way of approaching it. Yeah, it’s definitely a business, I think, that’s on the move.

The other thing that I pulled out of the articles this week, which sort of goes along with this, is that the idea that talent and the recruiting world is going to change when we start looking at the Internet of Things being the next defining, big change in technology. We went from the information age, to the social web age, to now, the idea that the Internet of Things might be the next big thing, depending on who’s talking and what futurist you’re listening to.

Their commentary in this one article that I have looked at, and it was from Asia Pacific News articles, so it was very focused on what, particularly China, was going to do from a recruiting perspective, as we move into the age of Internet of Things. Their commentary was that we’re going to need a lot of programming and a lot of hardware skills, because we haven’t needed hardware skills in quite some time, at least not as in-depth as we have for a long time.

What they’re not going to need a lot of is interface skills. I thought, well, that’s interesting. What happens to the idea of HR technology when the computer screen, the phone screen, is no longer the primary way you capture gathered data, get people to interact with you, instead, you’re doing it through tools and machines, and things that are in front of you, your car, your washing machine, whatever it might be. I thought that was an intriguing perspective on this idea, and probably recruiting will be at the forefront of this conversation as we move into it.

What are your thoughts on that, John? Do you think the Internet of Things is going to change things that much for people?

John Sumser:            Absolutely, and not at all. It’s always paradoxical in that way. Recruiting is one of the most complex organizational functions, because it’s both external and internal facing. It’s more like purchasing in that way. The Internet of Things would simply make it more possible to reach a potential employee in different settings, so the idea that there are no interfaces I find a little science-fictiony. I can imagine getting a job out of my refrigerator. I could imagine hopping in the car and, while it’s turning on, giving an ad to the satellite radio for a job that I might be interested in, and I can imagine having a video interview while I’m driving down the highway, in the pop-up display of the car, right?

Stacey Harris:            Talk about no texting, right? “No interviewing,” that’s going to be the new catchphrase for the special-service ads.

John Sumser:            Well, I’m sure people do FaceTime conversations while they’re driving now, all the time. I haven’t thought about it before, but video communications in the car, it’s got to be a thing that people do. I’m not coordinated enough to pull that off, but people must be doing it, so building that into the heads-up display in front of the steering wheel is a logical extension of the Internet of Things sort of thing.

I think, though, that the big money in the Internet of Things is making the things that we already don’t pay any attention to a little bit more able to be seen when we want to see them. What that means, the Internet of Things, the big project that I watch is GE’s instrumentation of a jet engine. They’ve got internet connections all over the insides of a jet engine, which allows pilots and mechanics to be able to quickly understand what’s going on inside the engine in a way that you used to have to wait till it was turned off to do.

Stacey Harris:            Yep. That makes sense. I’m glad to hear they’re doing that.

John Sumser:            In the Not Internet of Things, if something was running, you couldn’t really test it. You had to wait till it was done running before you could look at it. That’s the essence of 20th century management is, you sample, and then you make decisions from the sample.

In the Internet of Things, everything is real time all the time, a continuous stream of data. You see that as graphs and other kinds of visualizations, rather than a separate test-and-check sheet like you would in the time before the Internet of Things.

Stacey Harris:            Well, that’s an interesting perspective, and we’ve been doing this for quite some time, but on the HR side, even that side, that testing and checking and getting information has always been based off the idea that you would run sample groups, run tests, run initiatives, see if they work to get the data, go on to do something differently.

This idea of the Internet of Things and this idea that we’re going to start gathering information, gathering data while things are working on products and systems and tools, that’s fabulous. It means we don’t have to stop, we don’t have to wait to get our information.

Does that relate as well with people, when you’re trying to make assessments about programs or tools or systems that they’re using, this idea that in the moment that someone’s working with your technology, can you be testing what they’re doing and how quickly they’re doing it, and what they actually are getting out of it, the self-service conversation?

John Sumser:            I don’t know about self-service, but I do know that the way that we do performance management today involves stopping everything so you can have a conversation, and that seems stupid, doesn’t it? Interrupt performance to talk about performance? Why wouldn’t you talk about performance while you’re performing? The reason is, we haven’t had a way to report on performance while it’s in process. What we’re moving to is a management style that doesn’t separate reporting from doing.

Stacey Harris:            I would take that one step further. I do think it is very self-service focused, and maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking a lot about self-service recently, particularly employee self-service, manager self-service.

I think we also have to make that paradigm shift with gathering data too. We used to have to stop to gather the data. You have to fill in information, put in forms, all that stuff, not just stop to have the conversation.

Now we’re saying also that we shouldn’t be stopping to gather all the information. It should somehow be automatically filled in, in some way, right?

John Sumser:            Of course, of course. I guess where I hiccup on that is the idea that it’s automatically filled in still carries the model that what you have to do is separate measurement from doing.

In the universe of the Internet of Things, and the universe that we’re in now, measurement and performance are not things that are separate from each other. When I wear my wearable device, I don’t have to stop and take my pulse. I just look at my computer to see what my pulse is. There’s no interruption to get the information.

Today, when I take my blood pressure, I have to put a device on my arm and sit and take five minutes to take my blood pressure. In a couple of years, I’ll just look at my wrist.

Stacey Harris:            I think we’re saying the same things. I think one of the things that I’ve noticed in some of the recent conversations from the vendors is how easy their user interface is, that conversation about how much more fluid it is for people to put information in.

I think what I’m hearing from you, and what we’re talking about here, is this idea that maybe that’s not the direction that organizations should be heading. Maybe it’s not about how easy it is to put information in, or how user-friendly the experience is, but how much it’s able to get without bugging you, right?

John Sumser:            Right, right. Why in the world should the software that we use to facilitate work, become the work? That’s the big gripe that users have. This is a joke [that’s always in 21:14] Philbert, which is, “We spend all of our time doing stuff that prevents us from doing the stuff that matters.”

No matter how easy it is, an HR user interface is devoting time to doing stuff that doesn’t matter so that you can get on with the stuff that does. Filling out my various HR forms is not work. It’s not work, it’s an interruption. Ease is one thing, but getting rid of it is where the operations and engineering and sales department would like to be.

Stacey Harris:            Yeah, and I definitely see that that’s the direction where we’re heading. I guess the question for me, oftentimes, with all of that is, how quickly will we get there?

Even today, I was writing an article about my shopping experience. I still will use Amazon as my primary tool these days, doing online shopping. Someday I can see down the future where I will be living my life and deciding that I will be purchasing things at the point in which I need them, not when I sit down and actually go to Amazon and make my purchases.

I think that’s what we’re talking about here, with the HR side of things, but we’re not even there yet on the consumer’s side. How long do we think it’s going to take before HR can get there?

John Sumser:            Oh, I think that you’re going to see some very interesting things. I’m going to a conference in July called Cultivate. Cultivate is a subset of the Open Source Conference in Portland, Oregon, which is the great-grandma of all the Open Source Conferences. Cultivate is a conference dedicated to the idea that all companies are software companies, fundamentally, and that as that becomes more and more true, what happens is that engineers who have not been trained to do HR and leadership need access to tools for HR and leadership.

In those environments, the cutting-edge environments where all companies are software companies, HR interfaces are going to disappear. They’re going to disappear, because who wants to have a great experience doing HR when there’s work to be done?

Stacey Harris:            Yep.

John Sumser:            Like [crosstalk 23:50] …

Stacey Harris:            Who and …

John Sumser:            Go ahead.

Stacey Harris:            No, I think you’re right. Sometimes, when you think about hearing that comment, “Who wants to be doing HR,” we have a whole industry, and our whole world’s been built around the idea that HR is something that you do want to do, but it’s a true comment, right?

John Sumser:            Well, but all of the adoption-rate problems that all of the software have is the primary indicator that people don’t want to do this. There’s all of this nonsense about systems of engagement, which is, “How do we get people to like doing HR stuff”.

What silliness. People aren’t going to like doing HR stuff. It’s record-keeping. There’s not a needful return for an employee for investing time with the thing, and that’s what drives adoption. “What do I get out of this” drives adoption.

Stacey Harris:            Yep.

John Sumser:            It’s just an old model. In our industry, we’re going to see lots of people doing a lot of things that make them very successful in the model that’s currently out there, but the future is not more of that. The future is not more of that. It’s less of that.

Stacey Harris:            John, it sounds like you go to a lot more interesting conferences than I do, because that sounds like a very fun conference. It’ll be interesting to hear what you come back in July with from that particular one, because if every company is a software company, it changes the whole model, right?

John Sumser:            That’s if you follow the thinkers in the venture-investment community. That’s what they’re talking about. Most of the companies that I spend time with are, in some way, trying to move themselves to a SAS model. They’re trying to become subscription oriented, because it’s so much easier to manage a business if you’ve got predictable income and only have to attend to variable costs.

The 20th-century model is variable income and variable costs, and that’s way harder to do than a single thread of revenue, so everybody’s attracted to that, and everybody’s attracted to the kind of valuations that you get with that kind of business. It’s inevitable that everybody becomes a software business, just like everybody became [accepted by 26:21] the manufacturing business in the 20th century. That [crosstalk 26:26].

Stacey Harris:            I’m interested in seeing where that conversation goes, because I think I can see how we’re getting there. The question becomes how quickly can we get there, and between now and then, what’s the place that people should be investing their time and energy and their financial money right now. If we know this is the direction the market’s heading, how do we map out the between-now-and-then picture? That’s the conversation I think most people are trying to figure out right now.

John Sumser:            I think that what you’re seeing is that both your perspective and my perspective are necessary to make the next leaps, that the people who are most likely to become software businesses know who they are. For them, the answer is different than it is for the people who are least likely to become software businesses. If you just look at the United States, it’s seven million companies trying to figure out the answer to that question.

There’s a range of market available for all sorts of people to do all sorts of things.

Stacey Harris:            I would agree with that. That leaves a wide door open for the next conversation. I’m not quite sure what next week’s topic will be about, but I have a feeling it’s going to have to do something with the area of user experience and what people are doing. That seems to be the direction that we’ve had a lot of conversations on recently.

Will you be traveling next week, John, or will you folks be working out of the home office again?

John Sumser:            Oh, I am in San Francisco for a day, but mostly I’ll be buried in generating the report that I’m currently trying to get out the door.

Stacey Harris:            I’m looking forward to seeing the next report and what it has to say, so we definitely want you staying home and getting that done.

I think we’ve burned through our half hour already, John.

John Sumser:            We have indeed. It’s been another great conversation, so thanks for taking the time, Stacey. It’s been good to be with you this morning.

Stacey Harris:            Yep, definitely, and thanks, everyone, for tuning in this week. I’m looking forward to the next conversation.

John Sumser:            We will talk to you next week, and here we go out the door. Have a great rest of the day, everybody.

End transcript

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