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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: 237
Air Date: October 4, 2019





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


Good morning, and welcome to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser and it’s our annual, “we have almost recovered from the HR Tech conference,” show. How are you Stacey?
[00:00:27] Stacey Harris: [00:00:27] I’m doing well. I’m doing well. I can’t complain. And I’I’m still sitting in my hotel room, but I will be out of here as soon as we’re done with the sshow. Just need to finish up a few more things. But yeah, it is it has been a crazy week. There is no doubt about it. There’s a nice thing about the radio show. It gives me a little bit of brake because I can’t afford to run down the hall and come back to do the radio show, but you actually took two more meetings this morning.
[00:00:49] I don’t know how you do it John you how many meetings did you have here this week?
[00:00:55] John Sumser: [00:00:55] I lost track. I don’t know. I don’t know maybe 35 and and but that was in the middle of career. I had the best time I gave three presentations and a couple of them were the best things I’ve ever done. And so it was great to do that. And then I had the delightful opportunity to be invited to 16 dinners and three nights, you know, and it is anybody here
[00:01:20] Stacey Harris: [00:01:20] probably.
[00:01:21] John Sumser: [00:01:21] Well anybody who’s from a large family knows that that’s what they say. To bring us like or for some people and it was it was just like that. It was like going from small group of people who I know and love to small group of people who are doing love and getting to spend less time with them, but I’d like but but I got to see lots of people and that was great.
[00:01:41] Stacey Harris: [00:01:41] That is that is definitely very good. I don’t think I had 16 dinners. I tried to keep it to just a couple dinners and night mostly cocktails events before the dinners. But yeah, there’s definitely no lack of food and running from one end of the Venetian to the other end of the Venetian when it comes to the HR technology conference at least on the evening event, but I had launched the a terror are the indicator system survey here on Wednesday actually.
[00:02:06] It was really very exciting to sort of get a chance to see how things are evolving in the EHR technology market and then share it at the session that we did because we did a lot of analysis that we’ve you know had for the last five years and our session this year and the room was packed 200 people attended it which actually blew me away because it was at the same time as many great other sessions.
[00:02:30] So it continues to tell me that people are really interested in what’s happening in the future Tech Market overtime not. They just from servile. How do I implement the technology? And what do I do with the technology? But you know, how do I get an impact out of it? That was the conversation we had in our session.
[00:02:44] I didn’t have a panel this year, which I wasn’t sure if I was going to like or not because it was it’s always nice to have a group people to start talk about the data with but it helped a lot and getting more information to the audience that they seem to appreciate the fact that we have the extra 20 or 30 minutes without the piano.
[00:02:58] So I think we’ll probably do that next year. Yeah, but it was we had within the first day almost 200 downloads in the first hour or two of launching the annually Tristan survey paper here at the HR Tech conference. So busy day for both of us, I guess tell me about the panel you ran because that was the thing.
[00:03:17] I heard the most about from everybody was your panel. Can you talk a little bit about that?
[00:03:22] John Sumser: [00:03:22] Oh, yeah, it was it was amazing. So the idea of the panel it’s a hybrid of a demo and the panel and the idea was to get for companies who did things that were so different that you could find how they overlap the in the AI sector so there was a troop Talent who does.
[00:03:43] Real-time machine learning enabled data management that allows you to do other machine learning related things. There’s Ultimate Software who has built their tool around the entire Suite of Ultimate Software. Is built around a voice of the employee natural language processing system moo. What are they calling themselves now modern higher is the result of a merger between Shaker and Montage.
[00:04:16] So you’ve got a full spectrum pipeline tool for taking people from an experience of working in the job through an interview process and using that as data and Tina. Or who examines the flow of digital Communications to identify places where there’s tension in the organization that is either the reflection of something bad going on or something bad that’s about to happen.
[00:04:43] And so so you can’t imagine four different points of view and and the the fun part of the panel was they all did we were Hurst hard every every one of those companies rehearsed with me till they could do their presentation. Under 7 minutes, and then we talked about a lot of things. But I asked them the hardest question I could think of asking them and they all did a great job answering those questions and then to get this whole thing set we started with breakfast in the morning and by the end of breakfast I had to leave they stayed by the other breakfast.
[00:05:21] They were all really good friends. And so so the the end of the panel was the four companies then the question was outside of your own company. The smartest thing you’ve seen in Ai and HR tap and what they really did. What’s talked about how to improve the offerings of each other? So it was a kind of you know in this early stage of Technology.
[00:05:45] What you want is for the people who are at the Forefront of development to be understanding each other’s problems in communicating about this problem so that there’s Rich learning and the people in the people in the panel did that in front of an audience? It
[00:06:02] Stacey Harris: [00:06:02] was
[00:06:03] John Sumser: [00:06:03] awesome. They were it was so amazing and I got to sort of say.
[00:06:07] On the sidelines and take credit for it. So it was great.
[00:06:12] Stacey Harris: [00:06:12] Well, I definitely heard about it and I think you know and I had a conversation with you them the so I talked to Modern higher I talked to Susan talent and I know from both what I you talked with me about what you’re what you’re seeing in your report that the conversations that those organizations are very very different in some cases from what I saw from some of the traditional organizations, right?
[00:06:31] You know, these guys are breaking the mold. I think it’s the best way to put it about how you think about HR. And its role in the organization right? Like what it fundamentally can do. They’re also have to be a little honest. They’re also a little arrogance not in a bad way, but about how much they think this can predict and help organizations make better decisions.
[00:06:53] You’re the skeptic and me was really pushing particularly on Modern higher about no. Well what happens if you know as you move your product down Road donor because they’re talking about doing more of a mid-market in SMB platform. You know, how do. Deal with the fact that these small HR functions don’t have highly trained HR analytics professionals and them and they’re getting the same data and there may not know how to use it.
[00:07:19] So I will have to say I probably put a couple of them on the spot with those questions, but I think you’re right. There is these these organizations are rethinking what’s happening and reshaping to some extent HR for a lot of organizations. Yeah. The question is that they are ready for it, right?
[00:07:32] John Sumser: [00:07:32] No, I’m not sure if the question is is is a tour ready for it. I’m not sure HR is going to have choice in this right. That’s the that’s a your question presumes that the way that HR becomes something else is that HR is in charge of its own destiny. I don’t think that’s I don’t think that’s true. I think HR works for the company.
[00:07:54] And so and so is the company needs HR to become something else. That’s what HR will be. And the rest of the company is moving faster than we are towards a way of running the company that involves a scientific question of the heart of the company and give me a scientific question at the heart of the company means that you have a continuous stream of hypotheses.
[00:08:21] Some of which are wrong some of which are right, but all of which make your next question better, Right, and so so the model of software and the 20th century was what comes out of a computer is an answer. And in the in the intelligent tools Arena what comes out of the computer is a rule of thumb that might be right then it might not be right and that’s it entirely different relationship.
[00:08:48] It’s a probability. And it’s a it’s a good probability. But it’s what I’ve been saying lately is it’s like you hired a historian and she’s a great if she’s the best historian ever and she’s got all of the history and she can see the history all different but she can’t see the president. She can’t see the future and she can tell you if nothing changed.
[00:09:10] This is what the future would be. But we live in a world
[00:09:13] Stacey Harris: [00:09:13] where things that we predict might change or because they are adding. Options things in there. I think you’ll get some pushback this about nothing if nothing changes. It’s nothing changes and we know all the possible things that could happen in the future, right, but we don’t that’s the bigger issue.
[00:09:27] Right?
[00:09:28] John Sumser: [00:09:28] Right, right. Well, they’re adding options but it’s still data generated by the company. So it’s the past and there isn’t a there isn’t a way to speculate about for machine to speculate about a future that has a problem. They can only speculate about things that have already happened.
[00:09:48] Stacey Harris: [00:09:48] Well, this will be I think this is going to be the quandary for the for the next generation of HR technologist baby.
[00:09:53] One of the things that we talked about in the presentation. I did this week was the fact that and I think you’re right. The businesses are moving ahead. You know, our data found. We ask a question on a regular basis about whether or not HR is. Perceived in the organization to be a strategic business partner and the other options would be on their way to being input strategic business partner or their compliance based organization and.
[00:10:18] And Senior executive to answer our survey. So the the CEOs and CFOs and there’s there’s quite a few of them on the smaller organizations and definitely a lot of CFOs and CTO Zio to answer it in larger organizations. And those professionals were much more likely at 54% 60 almost 60 percent to say.
[00:10:37] That they saw HRS in strategic business partner. If they didn’t see them as a strategic business partner Sunday, we’re compliant there was no sort of middle ground for them. You’re either a strategic partner or your compliance Focus HR professionals. When you ask them the directors or managers, they were smack dab in the middle.
[00:10:52] Most of them thought that they were on their way to being strategic partners and I think you’re right business isn’t waiting. If you’re if you’re not there with me doing this then I’m that I’m only going to be with the compliance function and the teachers got to be there for her.
[00:11:06] John Sumser: [00:11:06] Yep, I think that’s right.
[00:11:08] But I’m seeing these pretty amazing sight. So so you’d imagine that in an airline. The HR department would be heavily concerned with compliance. Right because because everybody has to have their certificates of the planes. Don’t fall out of the air. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I depend on the HR department of the airlines to be concerned about credentials and certification and and the legal issues associated with those things.
[00:11:40] I was with a big Airline CHR. Oh last night and they’re doing strategic workforce planning on a decade timeline and running it like it’s a portfolio rather than a spreadsheet that you have to go out and there. Doing things like because because one of their goals is to have a fifty percent representation of women in their private cruise by ten years from now in order to do that.
[00:12:08] They are starting Aviation departments in universities with money and airplanes. And and the things that you have to do if you want to be in one of these programs is you have to guarantee an outflow rate of the right percentage of diversity content out of the program, right? So they’re building their own Supply on the tenure basis.
[00:12:36] And that’s what a strategic partner looks like.
[00:12:38] Stacey Harris: [00:12:38] I would agree that that a strategic partner is definitely they handle the compliance. It’s just part of. Job, but they are really thinking about the whole organization and I love that word portfolio. Right? Like it’s your figuring out, you know, which areas are you going to bet on and and that may not be the right word when you come to people you don’t want to bet.
[00:13:00] I know on a Workforce in some cases, but you are trying to decide which professionals and skill sets and areas in your organization. You’re going to have to lift up and invest in and that takes some real thinking it also takes data and you know, I’d be interesting to find a little bit about that organization over time to find out what they’re doing is in their organization to ensure that they have good solid data inside that Workforce plan.
[00:13:24] Right? One of the things I had a conversation with across the board with almost all the vendors they had was this challenge of getting. Good data into all their systems because organizations are struggling with the amount of time. The professionals have to fill out the information put it in place.
[00:13:38] One of the I had somebody came up to me after my session when I was talking about the fact that you know, HR actually has a skills Gap we have an issue where a lot of professionals are saying, we don’t know how to use the technology and tools in our data set and the and the professional came up to me from was a large manufacturing organization.
[00:13:53] And he said it’s not skills Gap. I tell them how important the data is. They can’t use the system if they don’t know how if there. Data in it. So I don’t know. I mean have you heard a lot about this idea of data acquisition being the problem and with any of the organization’s you’re talking to?
[00:14:07] John Sumser: [00:14:07] No, I haven’t heard that but there’s this there’s a standard joke in the world that I’ve been inhabiting and that is machine learning is 80% data cleaning and 20% complaining about data cleaning.
[00:14:20] And and I think that’s part of what the talking about. Is that is that getting the data is hard on a number of levels and. But I want to take you back to something right but me I think this is the difference between a compliance oriented HR department and the Strategic HR department is in a compliance oriented.
[00:14:42] HR department risk is something that you solve and the job of HR with risk is to completely minimize risk. And so if you see risk you try to put it out like it’s a fire. The Strategic HR department risk is something that you optimize because everything’s got risk in it and particularly portfolio management has risk in it.
[00:15:07] And so what you do instead of. Trying to minimize the risk of make the risks go away is you allocate assets against risk profiles based on trying to accomplish a larger whole right and you know because there’s risk in the equation that some things are going to work on some things won’t work and what you do once you’ve allocated the risk across the entire portfolio as you watch performance and you change the mix based on performance and that kind of thinking.
[00:15:37] You’re starting to see at the top of the most strategic HR organizations, but it’s what you have to do is you’re going to take a Workforce from today and we will do the
[00:15:47] Stacey Harris: [00:15:47] future. No, I I think that you that’s a very good explanation of it. I mean, you know, when when we look at the the data set of organizations know if your focus is trying to mitigate, right which is is definitely part of this risk management conversation.
[00:16:05] You’re always looking backwards. You’re always trying to stop people from doing something right? That’s the mitigation component of it. It’s focuses growth and value than your. Then you’re then you’re going to allow them to take some risks knowing that you might I think a really good example of this is you know, what we saw happening with machine learning and the hiring process of several of the large Global organizations came out and said look we tried to do recruiting that bias in our system.
[00:16:30] Here’s why this isn’t working but they but they took the chance to do it, right you have to take risks when you’re doing some of these systems you it’s interesting that you know that this conversation is in light of the vendors that I spoke with this week I could almost. To a t tell you which of the vendors that I spoke with this week are managing their people and their organizations with that eye towards we’re willing to take some risk and while we’re taking that risk, we’re going to build something that’s better than what we had before versus those who are trying to manage their businesses based off of keeping their customers and trying to make sure they’re not leaving them and trying to make sure you know, it’s a very interesting Dynamic, you know, when you put that kind of conversation about people and risk and compliance versus strategic in the view of you.
[00:17:14] Kind of briefings we have this bigamy one of the organization’s I thought did probably the best briefing that I have. This week was paycheck paychecks is a very mature been around for a lot of years payroll compliance organization. That’s generally what they’re known as I don’t think anybody would say it would have said, you know your five years ago that they have here the sexiest of Technology, but it was a great piece of technology for for very small organizations who wanted to sort of jump off of something like a, you know, a spreadsheet and their home.
[00:17:44] Conversation with me this week pointed when they came and they sent down the exactly wanted to tell me about what they were doing with, you know, Gathering data and using it from a benchmarking perspective. They wanted to talk to me about how they were using their technology to start Gathering data from work versus through wearables and through the bus.
[00:18:01] But they were all that was going to enable their businesses to allow their workforces to be more flexible and to put their information in different places and not make the burden on the employee to sort of clock in at places where it didn’t make sense for them. They were really thinking I think in a much more forward sense about a lot of these things that a lot of organizations are shying away from because they’re afraid of some of the risk around it, right but they also had answers for a lot of the compliance conversations I had about gdpr and if they go Global, what does that look like and where are the challenges?
[00:18:31] So, you know we can see this even in the vendors that were working with you find a new vendors who were sort of besides obviously the area the ones that you talked about on your panel, but who were sort of differentiating what they were doing based off of concerns about risk versus where they’re heading in the future.
[00:18:45] John Sumser: [00:18:45] Should this the veteran who I saw that God my attention the most was the last one and it could be. But but but for presented a very interesting tool that allows you this this is going to sound so mundane. The tool allows you to do market-based pricing of an individual job with an individual perform so you can get the market price for a job and you can set a policy so that tells you what what the band is of the market price, but the.
[00:19:22] Market price for a software engineer who has 17 years of experience with probable but they can tell you they can tell you what that’s supposed to look like and that gives you the capacity to solve the compensation Equity problem individual conversations, like which is which is astonishing and and it creates possibility that you can actually if you were to install a.
[00:19:49] The transparent compensation philosophy designed to eliminate pay Equity problems in the short term across the workforce. You could install a comprehensive skills inventory of your company in the process of making that pay Equity problem solve and give yourself a leg up on out your strategic workforce planning, right and the idea that that could emerge out of the compensation.
[00:20:17] I don’t think anybody would look for the solution to that problem there, right? We see how do we make sense out of the skills inventory of the organization? And there it is. There it is in so so and and it’s all a. Machine learning artificial intelligence kind of underpinning in a very rich taxonomy in a very rich competencies database that they now have a mechanism for deploying it on an individual by individual basis rather than the big struggling organic organizational processes that trudge through each category getting the thing done.
[00:20:55] I was just blown away by the possibility.
[00:20:59] Stacey Harris: [00:20:59] I you know. Many of my best friends are compensation analyst
[00:21:09] John Sumser: [00:21:09] is I have
[00:21:15] Stacey Harris: [00:21:15] told you before.
[00:21:31] Transparent about what we’re doing with pay Equity. Right but I think most companies inside talk to would love to be able to have that level of assurance – right of allowing managers to have those conversations and then their jobs would be much more focused on what we just talked about earlier, which is the workforce planning and risk management and and management conversations where they can actually start to do.
[00:21:56] Forecasting which most compensation analyst can barely get to forecasting models because all they’re doing is playing around with pay bands and comp reviews and and looking at different variations and what options are and arguing with managers about what can and cannot be done within their system.
[00:22:13] Right? So, yeah, I know I think that’s a fascinating, you know opportunity but it also means that companies cultures have to change and there was definitely a lot of organizations that that I talked to this week. I have some great. Stations with some workforce management Technologies like TimeClock plus and Workforce software at talk to shorty and a little bit also talked with many of the Enterprise systems who have their own of talk to Kronos as well.
[00:22:38] I should say they have their own workforce management systems and I found across all of them. That was very interesting. Is that every one of those Technologies is touching large cloth? And then pulleys and the only organization their time clocks are gathering data. Their software’s are gathering data.
[00:22:58] They’re Gathering data and multiple ways from employees. They have a lot of the skills information you’re talking about and those Technologies are starting to realize the power will what they have as well. And so I think what you’re going to find is that systems that we previously didn’t think of a strategic Tools in our organization like compensation tool.
[00:23:21] Like workforce management tools are going to be really interesting because they have more data and they have more opportunities for machine learning to actually do something with that data in the next generation of environment. Right? I think the same thing about payroll systems as well those technologies that often times get relegated to either operations or administrative roles are going to be the sexiest technology in the next five years.
[00:23:44] They have so many cool things that are coming and I would recommend anybody who hasn’t paid attention to their workforce management system in the neck. Last year, so to start looking at some of these new technologies that come up coming out in the product areas that I saw
[00:23:56] John Sumser: [00:23:56] right right
[00:23:57] Stacey Harris: [00:23:57] You guys we’ve heard a lot about some of the things that we talked about and we’re going to wrap up our call for HR Tech 2019, and I’m sure they’ll be a whole lot more conversations that will come out of our notes for next week.
[00:24:08] So thanks everyone.
[00:24:10] John Sumser: [00:24:10] Okay. Thanks for doing this Stacey, another great conversation and thanks for tuning in. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser.


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