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Hosts Stacey Harris and John Sumser discuss important news and topics in recruiting and HR technology. Listen live every Thursday or catch up on full episodes with transcriptions here.

HR Tech Weekly

Episode: 229
Air Date: August 8, 2019


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Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused (or extremely confused) and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation and let us know if you find something wrong and we’ll get it fixed right away. Thank you for your understanding.

John Sumser
Stacey Harris

[00:00:00] Today’s Show is brought to you by the human resource executive magazines HR technology conference and Exposition held October 1st to 4th at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Join me and thousands of your colleagues at the world’s largest exhibition of HR technology act now using the code hre X and you can receive a 300 dollar discount on your ticket.
[00:00:41] Thanks. We’ll see you there. And by the way, don’t miss the women in technology segment.

[00:00:49] Good morning, and welcome to HR Tech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Hi, Stacy.

[00:00:57] Hey John, how you doing?

Okay, I am in [00:01:00] even beautiful somewhere, Pennsylvania.

Oh, you’re not home this week you are you are here on the East Coast.

[00:01:07] Yes, if you can get through the through the thunderstorms we had some some pretty rough ones the last couple of days. But as soon as they and the rainbows come out, the sun is shining is not a bad time to be here on the East Coast. I think the temperatures are kind of mid nineties late low nineties.

[00:01:21] It’s breathable still so welcome to says you are they gonna need a snorkel degree this are it’s mostly water. Yes, but you don’t need moisturizer Josh. All right thing. There you go. You do need Moisturizer in California. So we were having a great conversation just with just before the started you were talking about some of the things that you’re seeing as you really scrub the data out of your survey.

[00:01:55] Let’s pick up there and then we can go to what the news is.

Yeah, [00:02:00] definitely. No, it’s it. We’re all as most people probably know we’re wrapping up our cleaning process for this year’s theater and uh our system survey that I work on and it is always a fascinating process to go through but this year particular I got to get a little bit deeper into it because we’ve got a new Analyst at a meager Chomsky who is sort of getting on board with all of the cleaning processes.

[00:02:18] And so I was sort of helping or through them and it is fascinating when you look at not only the numbers but the diversity of the types of companies that are in the research. So this year we’re going to end up with probably about twenty to thirty percent more. Then what we had last year almost we’re at around eight.

[00:02:37] 1894-95 will probably lose a few more when we go through some of our final data cleaning points. But but that’s almost 1,900 individual companies. We cleaned that down from like four thousand companies. So you do four thousand responses, I should say so we we go to individual companies. We make sure that no they know what they’re talking about.

[00:02:57] We make sure the data is appropriately [00:03:00] responded to a. Various questions, so it’s not just basically they put their email and or they clicked on a link they actually provided information and so it’s really interesting to see for me. Anyways as I’m getting into some of the details what the difference is between those companies.

[00:03:13] I mean we run the gamut from you know, the largest oil and gas or the biggest telecommunication firms or large Global government, you know organizations that that cross multiple Nations all the way to all nonprofits that are dealing with an individual. City and homeless situations, right or organizations that are developing or building, you know siding for houses or construction companies in a region and the differences between those organizations are amazing, but the similarities are surprising too and that’s really fun.

[00:03:47] It’s fun to see what makes us unique. But also what makes us the same so it’s a little bit of a human story there on that front so it’s been fun. How about a couple of juicy details? What’s the one thing that makes [00:04:00] companies the saying that you saw just one thing? Well, yeah, probably the biggest thing is that no matter who the company, you know, no matter large medium small what location or region?

[00:04:13] They’re in they’re using HR technology in multiple. Then their organizations it used to be that I would just sort of get my payroll solution and that would sort of be it right, you know, and then I might add a few things as I got bigger, but even companies of 20 employees, which is amazing is looking at plans to purchase Talent Solutions and engagement platforms where I don’t think that would have been the case five years ago, right?

[00:04:40] So I think it’s the diversity of the the types of HR technology that they’re looking to use that goes across all organizations sizes regions. It makes very very similar. They’re all dealing with Talent issues are all dealing with Workforce challenges that they’re trying to figure out how to handle an HR Technologies when way they’re doing it.
[00:04:56] So it’s interesting. Wow. And so what’s the one [00:05:00] thing that’s different? That’s probably I mean, you know, the one thing that was different that wouldn’t be different. Yeah, I mean, you know, I think the interesting findings for me are when you find a small local Regional company whose like I said, maybe doing construction in an area or a series of hotels right that or franchise owners right in one area who are spending just as much energy on things like.

[00:05:26] Social responsibility as large Global organizations, right? So I think there are similarities in maybe what they’re trying to do, but the type of organization that’s doing them is not the same right? So there’s so much seems to come down to the culture versus the industry or the region or the air.

[00:05:45] A lot of what I’m seeing seems to be a cultural decision by a senior leadership group as to what’s important or not important to a company and that’s it. That’s that’s sort of interesting where I’m not quite sure how we’re going to get to that conversation yet cuz we’ve got to figure out ways to assess that but you know, we talked a lot [00:06:00] about the differences in culture and and how that makes an impact on technology decisions and I and it can definitely be seen when two companies that are very much the same in size and type of work force and and and you know, the type of organization they are.

[00:06:14] And they have two totally different approaches to you know variations and how they approach social conversations Talent strategy is those type of things so that that’s sort of interesting and the Dynamics of diversity and difference. since. So I’m on the east coast to spend time with a couple of talent acquisition companies and I’ve had a chance to get to spend some time with people.

[00:06:42] I like to spend time with from around the industry and at the talent acquisition companies, it’s hard for me being generally from California at least four. For 25 or so years to think about middle New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [00:07:00] as places where there’s technology happening. And so what you see what I’ve been seeing is that there are really different Regional definitions of what bias is it isn’t.

[00:07:14] It’s hard to articulate but I think my first Siri is that basic demographics actually matter. So so where I live cupcake Asians are a minority under 40% and even in the sort of whitest of neighborhoods. There is a pretty generic spread of different kinds of ethnicity that seems to be less true in the Northeast and I’m not sure I could say it any better.

[00:07:43] The better not but but but you runs through distinctly ethnic neighborhoods here. Yeah, and that’s just not what happens in Northern California. Well, and I think at least on the east coast and you know, you’re in Pennsylvania right now. He said New Jersey have been in you know, I originally come from [00:08:00] Ohio and even here in North Carolina where you live is almost a calling card to some extent as to who you are in your background and your affluence right very much.

[00:08:09] So. Maybe everywhere. But particularly I would say, you know from my experience. It’s more so than some other cities and other regions that I’ve gone to outside the US right? But here on the east coast is definitely one someone serve knows where you’re at. They sort of have an idea at least on some level of who you are.

[00:08:25] Which good or bad. Maybe there’s a lot of bad to that from a biases perspective. There’s a lot of bad that from A diversity conversation, but when you’re looking statistics and the fact that we do a lot of no work in the idea of calculating a personality or a perspective or a view because that’s going to have an impact on how you do your job.

[00:08:43] Or whether or not we’re going to hire you or whether you’re going to fit into a position right location could play a big role in that? Right? Right. So it’s a it’s a huge conversation and it’s one that I don’t want to swing wildly and but it’s really avoid [00:09:00] that but it seems to me that what’s meant by bias is different in different regions and it’s different depending on who’s on the receiving end of the bias.

[00:09:13] But this is this is probably my big inside of the last couple of weeks has been. when I think about bias because I am a distinctly privileged white man. When I think of bias, I think of it as something that might produce errors in my decision-making and what my brought black friends think about bias.

[00:09:34] They think about it as a room that doesn’t have a door. That difference between sort of an inconvenience and a compelling totality of reality is it’s really hard to communicate that it’s really really hard to communicate that that statistical variations are bias. Yes, but if you’re [00:10:00] on the receiving end of that bias the last thing it feels like it’s a.

[00:10:04] Yeah, she feels like it feels like a limit. I don’t think you get to experience both sides of that. It’s very difficult experience besides that’s a good and you know, I think that’s the kind of conversations that we need to be having in the HR technology space right is. Because I think we we look at bias and I think your first comment about it being an error is is a perspective that it’s always wrong and then in another perspective it’s more than wrong.

[00:10:35] It can be dangerous or it can be Beyond limiting right? It’s not just an error. It’s a it’s the difference between me having a job that could save my life or not, right or, you know, give me something that provides food for my family or not or. It could be something that builds in what I want in my environment and that’s a that’s a conversation about ethics and wanted I chose not to actually put it in here, [00:11:00] but there was an article in sherm this week that I was reading about, you know ethics and and HR is role in ethic and I thought it you know, what I had talked about the Facebook fine that they just got from the government and talk a little bit about you know through the issues with.

[00:11:14] Amazon and their algorithms for recruiting at that was just so surface-level. Not that it wasn’t bad article was just it was just wasn’t really getting two things. We’re talking about here. Right? And I think that is a bit of the problem that someone talks about bias and ethics and it becomes a very surface level conversation about data privacy and diversity and it’s so much more than that, right?

[00:11:35] No, this is this is I think I think this topic is sort of the Gateway. To the way things are going to work starting yesterday right where the degree to which things are going to be categorized in measured. You can’t even begin to imagine and when you start doing that. Take [00:12:00] all of the scary negative stuff away from it for a second when you start doing that it forces you to dig deeper for this is an important thing actually for the last 20 or 30 years.

[00:12:10] The emphasis is on staying as shallow as you possibly can as business strategy. So the next iteration of stuff is going to be about going deep actually quite we have to do the work that the machine can do. Exactly, cuz that’s all that’s left for us at this point. Right is to do the it’s all of the hard rewarding work is all that’s left.
[00:12:35] And that I mean if we think about that if we think about what technology is going to provide for us if take at face value because what it has already automated is the shallow it is the idea of everyone is the same I treat everyone the same. Everyone is an algorithm concept if we don’t use the time we now [00:13:00] have because these Technologies are doing so much of that sort of surface.

[00:13:03] Staff Force already then. I think that’s the biggest challenge for HR in the future more so than are you strategic more so than are you, you know capable of understanding the technology. If you aren’t actually taking the time you’ve been given now to be more human for lack of better term to focus on the more human issues that the individual conversations right then then you’re not doing what HR is capable of doing in the future, right?

[00:13:32] Yep, I think it’s even bigger than that. I think I think the question of what is the relationship between HR and the quality of the company’s output? That’s especially hasn’t been addressed before and that’s got all sorts of interesting implications that will talk about over the next couple of months.

[00:13:51] But quality seems to me should be a primary concern of HR and it is nowhere because it’s a call center. HR generally [00:14:00] only thinks about things being cheaper or faster and many of the things like bias mitigation. You can’t do bias mitigation by hurrying up. You have to do by application but slowing down, right?
[00:14:13] And so it’s really it’s really hard thing for a cost center to sell that what you have to do is slow things down so that you can see where the biases well and I think this comes back to both HR. But also the leaders in the organization’s perception of HR, you know, we have a question that survey every year we asked about what is the perception of HR and organization and it runs the gamut from you know, a compliance activity to no respect whatsoever all the way up to strategic Partners, right and when I’m always fascinated by is that.

[00:14:48] It’s usually runs around 40% of the market that feels their HR function is a strategic partner at a making a strategic business difference to the outcomes and those organizations who end up in that [00:15:00] category also tend to be the organizations that spend the most per employee and some cases that are doing more what you would consider costly HR, right?

[00:15:12] So this idea that HR always has to find a way to. Dave or be cost-effective or you know, it’s a cost center at that whole conversation needs to change dramatically because if you are an organization that is focusing on the value of your people and the outcomes that those people have in the organization, then you’re not a cost center you are as important as the operations is in the organization, right Jeff.

[00:15:42] Yep, so we could go we could go around this around this Maple for a while and I’d love to but let’s find out what’s in the news. Yeah, it’s it’s it’s it’s not a bad way to start the conversation with a couple of interesting topics that both you and I are thinking about is we’re sort of working on our research projects this year.

[00:15:59] [00:16:00] But definitely there are still some things happening even while everybody’s sort of on vacation and getting ready to get started here in September, but we’ve got people strong out of India for those of you who know their payroll core HR mess. They’ve got other things they offer within their application.

[00:16:13] They’re continuing to build out there. They have just launched Zippy and intelligent Enterprise collaboration platform. We also have be Marie aiming to strengthen their employer branding with a career site. I’m interested in this thing a little bit. No be Maria sort of one in the new. Talent acquisition applications on the market particularly focusing on the marketing aspect of things it’ll be interesting to see how they’re taking that career site conversation a little bit farther.

[00:16:40] Another one is out of the European market is Alexander man. They’ve hired a little HR technology known as Karen HR. So artificial intelligence chatbot assistant technology and adding leaders for North America. So they’re sort of building up. I think their idea of reaching North America that also has to.

[00:16:58] With that technology, [00:17:00] we also have HR startup raising five million dollars called with you with me, which is for veterans. Always a soft spot for me in my heart though. Nice. We’re getting some some additional work there and if we get time say I think there is some interesting conversations to be had.

[00:17:15] There is it was a great article sort of written and a charred I’ve did this but it was about HR leaders and how much they have to know about deep fakes. Do you know about deep fakes John? Have you done much research into this area at all? I just know what I see out of the corner of my eye and what is interesting to me is that it’s likely that people are going to start learning how to pack assessments for instance.

[00:17:43] Why wouldn’t you have a small company that looked at that company X’s assessment process and came up with scoring mechanisms and strategies for games and stuff that gave you an advantage of getting assessed in a way that meets [00:18:00] the company’s hiring criteria. So what two things from Faking my video interview so that you don’t notice by Shifty eyes.

[00:18:10] Cheating on assessment test. I think those are all coming our way. Yeah, and we’re also seeing them in the the the particular example, they gave here are not just in the recruiting space, but we’re also seeing the idea of scams. With using your employees as part of those scams, right? So capturing a video of your CEO or a video of someone high up in the organization and then sending that to someone in some fashion or some way to get them to do something that they would normally not do inside your organization, you know who’s held accountable for that kind of you know it how careful do we have to expect our employees never would have occurred to me, but but you know so many jobs these days you have.

[00:18:54] Lots of responsibilities and no Authority. That’s what that’s what a non hierarchical management [00:19:00] structure does is get lots of responsibility and no Authority and so the traditional way that people make up for the Gap and Authority is they invoked the name and reputation of the boss. To do this.

[00:19:16] You better help me. It’s like it’s like the basic arm-twisting methodology. And now you can do it in the video. That’s great, man. Three already emails from someone who is named my CEO saying I have an urgent call. I need you to call me to give me information on our company, right and I’m like, oh come on, but I mean these are happening already on some level now imagine that they do nobody.

[00:19:46] Oh, right like they could actually take my CEOs voice chop it up. And send it to me in a voice mail or again video and the amount of I think risk here for employees is [00:20:00] pretty high right when we think about what’s happening right now with, you know, sort of the scam market and the street of the ransomware market and yeah.
[00:20:08] So there’s that there’s the recruiting scams. There’s the ability for organizations to sort of understand, you know brand like know what happens if an employee is deep fake saying something and then your brand gets hit and it’s not something you can come back from those are all issues that that organizations are have to face with this and it’s an HR issue, right who would have ever thought HR would have to deal with the issue of the the conversation in this particular article is about when it started was Forrest Gump being placed in Bull.

[00:20:35] Like, you know meetings with Jeff Kennedy and stuff and I was thinking never in my wildest dream when I was watching for scout for the first time would I have thought oh, there’s an HR issue that’s coming to pass right? There should be there should be a design rule that goes if you’re going to develop a technology, please try to understand in advance how it’s going to be used as spam and inhibit that.

[00:20:59] Because this [00:21:00] is this is just more spam. Right? And so so the answer to what’s going to happen and how our employees going to manage. This is there will be algorithms on phones that go. Oh this looks like a fake video. Yeah. All right, just like just like all of my phone calls now or labeled spam.

[00:21:18] Yes, not all of them every once in a while. I get a phone call from somebody who I care about. When my phone rings it’s an 800 number trying to give me a timeshare somewhere something. We don’t answer it. Yeah, and you’re right. Yeah, that’s just right at so. Those are I think you know some interesting things going on.

[00:21:37] I mean, do you want to spend a little bit of time talking because you know with the recruiting Market, I think there are some interesting things happening here the the be Marie conversation conversation with career sites, right? As well as the Alexander man and and Karen HR. Both of those are not Investments per se financially but Acquisitions and new technology [00:22:00] anything new here you think other than what we’ve already talked about with the idea of HR technology being put together with Consulting here.

[00:22:07] These are two great companies. The first thing that I want to say is the guy who runs Karen HR. It may be the coolest CEO and all of HR Tech because he’s also he’s also the drummer for Canada’s leading Americana band. And so so he often runs the company from hotel rooms on the road while the band is touring and this is this is like a big deal band they play huge Arenas and and he’s so much of a gentle genius that he doesn’t make it seem like it’s a problem to be.

[00:22:44] Sort of a rock star drummer and the CEO of a tech company at the same time. He’s he’s one of the one of the best guys I’ve ever been and some of that the fact that he was acquired by Alexander man says a lot about [00:23:00] Alexander man. No same as no aware of no is very sensitive to the actual realities of chatbot development.
[00:23:10] And there’s a lot of in the chat bot Arena. There’s an enormous amount of hype and underneath the it’s like it’s like it’s like a chocolate cake that has a two inch layer of frosting on it. There actually is chocolate cake under there and that’s actually good but you have to get through all of the frosting to get to the cake.

[00:23:29] And Karen HR is one of the pieces of cake. Okay, right. And so it’s it’s a great acquisition and in some ways the early stages of chatbots are much better fit with staffing companies because everything revolves around the transaction and the Staffing. So anything that can bring regularity to the transaction is an improvement in the results of the company, right?

[00:23:58] And so it’s a very logical [00:24:00] thing for staffing companies to buy chatbot companies, but it’s also part of a larger Trend where people in the Staffing industry, like rpos are becoming technology providers because they can bring a different business model to the market. So because Alexander man gets paid on a transaction basis then when you buy technology from Alexander, man, it may not even come label technology.

[00:24:28] It makes labeled Services because they don’t have to accrue Revenue in the way the traditional HR providers do it gets even more complicated when you go look at somebody like round stud. Who is going to our eligius who are releasing named products in technology into the marketplace with different business models underlying the technology?

[00:24:53] So there’s there’s there’s a shift signified by the Alexander Banner position here. I [00:25:00] think this is you know, it it’s part of what we have been talking about right with with all those organizations you just mentioned but it also from me really sets the tone for the fact that this is Ben. This is this because Alexander man is is a london-based at you know organization and I think there is a conversation to be had at some point about.

[00:25:19] The European in the asia-pacific markets perspective on artificial intelligence, which I think is very different in some sense from the North America perspective and I believe there is a conversation here also about the fact that the idea of it being a support or. A assistant or that that kind of a tool perspective is much more comforting in those environments and much more sort of accepted than the idea of something didn’t you and telling you this is how you do it, right?

[00:25:49] So so that would be interesting to see if there’s some difference there as well. Yeah. I think that probably spreads right into the be worried conversation. This is another discipline group [00:26:00] of people executing. What’s a conventional Silicon Valley business in a setting where the financing and the Staffing is all British.
[00:26:08] It works right that the first thing is that it works and that when they do things like adding career sites, but you have to understand about what they’ve done is the career site again is sort of the hate to keep using Crossing on tape. But to be some that you have a career site isn’t just advertise jobs, but it’s understand what happens.

[00:26:32] So the career site becomes the generator of data about potential employees. Well beyond what they give you in the resumes. So what’s hard to get from the announcement itself is that the Murray represents the idea that the more different ways you can interface with the people who are trying to be calm your employees the more data you can collect about that [00:27:00] particular demographic and the more sensible you.

[00:27:02] Citizens can be all right. And so there’s a there’s an argument that will emerge. I think that says that the approach of having multiple touch points allows you to make a better quality recruiting decision and we’ve known for a while and that was the talent pool conversation to some extent right as well and good but I think that’s exactly what this is.

[00:27:23] This is this is how the talent pool conversation expresses as a career site. Yeah, that’s exactly what this is. Well, it’s definitely there’s definitely a lot of interest here. I think even as it’s been a quiet kind of sleepy summer week the topics are artificial intelligence and talent acquisition along with that really difficult topic of bias and ethics things.

[00:27:47] We’ve been talking about all year long. Even on a hot summer week where everybody else seems to be on vacation. Those are still hot topics here. So it’s definitely been [00:28:00] a week.

[00:28:04] Okay. Well, thanks Stacy as usual great conversation. Thanks everybody for listening in this has been HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser and we’ll see you back here next week.

[00:28:21] Bye.

[00:28:25] Bye everyone.

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