HR Tech Weekly Logo

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: 246
Air Date: December 19, 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


John Sumser 0:14
Welcome to HR Tech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser and the Irish dance crew. How are you Stacey?

Stacey Harris 0:22
I’m doing well John. I am home in North Carolina and getting ready for the holiday season here enjoying some sunshine today. And how about you, are you home this week?

John Sumser 0:31
I am home and getting ready to abandon all hope and head into the Christmas cooking zone so couple more calls this morning and then it is time to don my red suit and jingle bells and start making vegan delicacies for a flock of people.

Stacey Harris 0:51
Isn’t there a story somewhere I remember we talked about of a job he once did about sellings I think it was sweepers with them with a Santa suit on, wasn’t that it?

John Sumser 1:01
Oh, that was my first introduction to technology. I was a door-to-door Santa Claus for the Polaroid instant movie product and so 1979 I think Polaroid who was a dominant photo company at the time, and famous for their instant pictures, made an instant movie project, they had invested four or five billion dollars in those days in the technology and and what you’d do is you put the cartridge into your movie camera, you take the movie, and then you pull the cartridge out and you dump it in some liquid and it becomes an instant movie and it was set. It was a revolutionary idea, but that was the year that Sony introduced the Betamax and so nobody bought the Polaroid Polavision product. Now, if you did buy the Polaroid Polavision product Santa would come to your house for a four hour Christmas party. And so that was my job. And I sat in a trailer with five other Santa Clauses twiddling our thumbs waiting for somebody to buy one and have us over to a party. So I was I was in a sort of a Santa Claus union sitting around waiting and since nobody bought them I got to know the other senses really well. And I certainly enjoyed driving back and forth to work and my costume.

Stacey Harris 2:24
Ehm, my sense, I think is that is a great example of being the best in a dying product area, I guess. Right. And having a great marketing idea a little too late for the industry, right? So both things that we’ve seen multiple technology companies do over the years. That’s a great story..

John Sumser 2:42
Exactly. It’s exactly the How do you get hate the word disrupted because it’s so overused, but when you’re the leader in an industry, it’s very easy to think that you know everything and that’s when you can get taken out by a little tiny, competitor. Sony was not much to speak of when it took Polaroid out and Polaroid was a part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, I believe, you know, they were a rock solid American company, but their engineers got all focused on solving the problems that they knew rather than understanding the things that they didn’t.

Stacey Harris 3:19
Exactly. Well. And that actually leads into what we’ll be talking about not next week. Next week, everybody’s taking a bit of a holiday break. But we’re going to be doing our special end of the year beginning of next year radio show on January the second. So we’ll be talking about the wrap up of the decade and what has changed and what organizations have grown or not grown the last decade as well as what we need going forward. So I think we’ll have a couple other stories like that won’t we?

John Sumser 3:46
Yeah, we will. The industry is kind of full of them. And so you know, all technology industries are full of them. So how about you what’s going on with you?

Stacey Harris 3:55
Well, besides being busy writing for my book, and focusing on what we’re doing for next year’s HR system survey getting prepared for new databases. I have been a little bit of time looking at what’s going on in the HR tech space this week and some interesting stuff. Instead of wrapping up the season with some interesting stuff going on with Microsoft 365, and a new dynamic 365, HR product from Microsoft, some news from hackers, I think you’ve got some of that will have you talk a little bit about that and some acquisitions that they’re making. Modern hire releases code of ethics for using AI in hiring this week, busy focusing on how they’re going to think a little bit more ethically about what they’re doing in modern high. Also this week. What was sort of interesting in the news was Vin Lee raised 35 million in Series B funding Benli is a vacant work management system, but basically it’s the contingent workforce product and I think there’s some interesting stuff going on in that space, not just in the technology space, but also in the legal space. We know that California is got a new employment law coming out that was put in place last year but is going to take effect January 1 and 2020. that limits the amount of work someone can do as an organization and be considered still a freelance or contingent worker, which I think is going to change some conversations and we definitely can talk about that. There was also some news this week about a thief stealing payroll data for thousands of Facebook employees from a hard drive in someone’s car, which is a whole lot of things we could talk about there. And if we’ve got time, IBM Watson recently did a huge article and have been doing a lot of focus trying to get people to maybe believe is the right word that they are the only big player who is owning the AI virtual agent base right now no one else they believe is doing it the way they’re doing it. So it’s been a busy week, Jen, you know, instead of my own stuff, how about you? Are you five preparing to cook and the feast of the Year for the holidays, any other news articles that you saw going on this week?

John Sumser 6:01
Nope, I think you’ve covered the most interesting stuff and we ought to wade right into it. So Microsoft is I think this is the week where all the big old players decide that they’re going to be new again. Right? This is is the season of rebirth for 30 year old companies. 70 year old company. So Microsoft who has dabbled in and out of the HR technology market over the years is making a big push, they got Joshua Josh person to write an article about how they are bringing an integrated platform enterprise platform into the HR tech space. And you know, you can be forgiven for imagining that this is sort of Microsoft Office plus. But what do you think and what do you think Here comes here comes Microsoft, should everybody run in fear? Should we laugh, should we but

Stacey Harris 6:58
Well, I mean, I will have to say I’m one these small companies that have been on the the newest product they released in 2017 was teams, and we use it extensively in our company, and it’s the most frustrating software I think I’ve used in ages. So that being their newest song for anything they’re planning is something like that. I’m not sure I’m convinced that this is going to be a home run, but but we’ll see, you know, you never know what you can do when you throw enough money at something. But I will just say that in my experience, I mean, Microsoft has tried to do enterprise level applications that go beyond sort of the Microsoft office space for quite some time they’ve done very well with their as your cloud environment is definitely you know, increasing adoption. You know, there’s no doubt that Microsoft as a word processing Excel spreadsheet, you know, office tools, productivity tools is still at the top of the game, but we’ve not seen them do very well at business level, enterprise application, their functional level enterprise applications, partially because those things will never quite make as much money as the consumer level or direct to consumer product will just don’t have as big an audience and they’re so complex that they require a lot more focus, I think then oftentimes Microsoft is willing to give a product on a regular basis. So I’m not convinced of this, but we’ll see. Yeah.

John Sumser 8:16
Yeah, you know, the thing is that a consumer product, you make one copy and you sell 7 billion, you make one product, you sell 7 billion copies in the in the enterprise space, you make one copy, and nobody uses it, everybody modifies it. And so the dynamics of development are entirely different and in almost need to have two separate entities if you’re going to be in both the consumer and enterprise business and I haven’t noticed Microsoft organizing that way.

Stacey Harris 8:48
I would agree because at the end of the day, the enterprise will take more services, more required support more development and design efforts, which means you’re going to cost more which means from a bottom line perspective, it just won’t be as interesting as the other stuff, right?

John Sumser 9:03
Yeah, the margins are lower. And what people entering the market see is that the per unit sales price is higher, but the margins are so much lower, the sales cycles are longer, it’s hard to get a consumer oriented organization to operate effectively at enterprise pace and enterprise scale.

Stacey Harris 9:24
So it’ll be interesting. So you know, they can they can get a lot of leaders and influencers to talk about what they’re doing. I mean, there’s there’s definitely a lot of investment to be thrown around in this area. But you know, when the rubber hits the road will be your people pick it up. And it’s a usable product and tools, and they are definitely coming out saying that they’re going to cover the areas of compensation benefits leave absence compliant payroll integration, which is not exactly painful, oh, by the way, performance feedback training and certification and self service. And then they sort of have an add on that and all the things that LinkedIn does on talent acquisition. So it’s still a pretty muddied picture, but but it’s clear as in they’re focused that and then they’ve had for a while in that space. Sowe’ll wait and see what happens, right?

John Sumser 10:07
Yep, it’ll be interesting to watch this one unfold. And then after that Modern Hire has put out a code of ethics for using AI in hiring. And, you know, I’m a fan of this idea. I had a little bit of involvement in this particular project is to be a prog, but I do think that everybody who delivers AI is going to have to make a statement that talks about safety and risk in order to inform employees, managers and other stakeholders about what they’re actually getting into. And so I think that modern hire is just at the head of the pack is all that all that they they’ve done here is they’ve demonstrated how to get started with a code of ethics and it’s a great step forward, but it’s one that everybody is going to need to get on board with at some point, though.

Stacey Harris 10:57
I want to ask a little bit about code of ethics John, your perspective on since since you’ve been involved in the focus on this, what the I guess the thing about code of ethics society, you know, outside of regulations is that somebody has to oversee them, somebody has to make sure they’re being adhered to. And if they get broken, there should be some consequences. Any thoughts on how that might come about for the code of ethics market and the AI space because our regulations just aren’t catching up to where this is at right now. And so that this is the next best thing, right. But how do we hold people accountable to them?

John Sumser 11:31
Well, so I’m not sure I agree with you. I’m not sure that enforcement is the most important thing here. And I get a little torn about calling what needs to happen ethics because it always becomes a conversation about rules. And it’s really too early to have hard, fast rules that you punish people for breaking and I think those things are called policies. Right. So an ethics code is more on the vision and explanation level that is a list of the 10 commandments that you can break, are you going to help? So you want to say things like, we won’t use information that you don’t understand, for instance, right. And that’s not a hard and fast rule. That’s a, we think it’s important that if we’re going to be evaluating you that you understand how we’re evaluating you and that we’re committed to not evaluating you with information that you can understand. And that’s sort of a nod to the video interviewing desktop that’s going on with hirevue that hirevue claims that you can tell something about somebody’s personality by looking at 15 minutes worth of data taken from video, and there’s not really much in the way of hard science there. There’s some correlation data, but there’s not a lot of hard science there and you can’t really explain what’s going on to somebody who submits themselves to a video interview, right? And so a code of ethics that says, we won’t use data that you can’t understand, gets at the search of things, or the the systems that claim to be able to assess personality by compiling social media data, it’s really hard to understand that if you try to explain to somebody how their Twitter flow demonstrates their personality, and how that can be captured mathematically, I think that’s, I think that’s a stretch, right? And so, so there are areas like that. And then there are areas like some conversation about bias, you know, you can’t get the bias out of a system, but you can talk about how you think about bias and what you’re trying to do about bias right then so. So I would say that ethics statement is more about trying to convey what you’re trying to do, and where you think the guardrails are? Then it is to say, to say, anybody who does the following thing is going to get two weeks off without that make sense?

Stacey Harris 14:10
But I would assume also, yeah, it makes sense. And I would soon also give some guidelines for your developers too, because I mean, that’s one of the things we oftentimes forget is that a lot efficiency is bigger companies, much higher is one of the smaller stations. But I think for all large organizations, there is a bit of letting your developers especially product developers who are sort of leading up large functions, they’re run with the best ideas, and there’s so many directions we can go these days with AI and content and information and the use of it inside of corporations inside of vendors who were developing content, the line of ethics is a guidelines and ways for them to think about how they’re doing development to I would assume, correct?

John Sumser 14:50
Well, it can be it can be one of the things that that that I’ve done is I’ve started to get really interested in this area. And so I have a couple of projects, helping people with these things. One of the things I’ve done is I’ve built up sort of a scoring rubric that evolves. And the scoring rubric is the topic areas that ethics codes have addressed across the observable universe of ethics codes they’re about, they’re about, I don’t know, maybe 90 or 95 observable ethics codes out there. And they all touch on this subject or that subject and so so that the the most important thing currently in the AI ethics codes is transparency, and making sure that people understand what’s going on. And I think that’ll change because there are, as you just mentioned, there are a fiscal things that are not yet included in the statements. How do you how do you make sure that the development process ends up with something that everybody can live with? Is is the kind of question that you’re going to and I don’t think that any of the ethics guidelines that are out there address that yet.

But it’s exactly so there’s the current trend or like i think i think that might be 18 different topics that ethics guidelines address currently. And there’s a distribution of how how many of the guidelines follow those things. But there’s a turn at the bottom. So so we’re in the early ages, and people don’t really know yet what all of the issues are. And so you can imagine that these ethics guidelines will evolve as people start stumbling across real problems.

Stacey Harris 16:35
And it’ll b e interesting to watch. Yeah, I mean, anything going to how these start to entangle with the regulations that come down the pike, and do they understand each other. So the fascinating stuff to talk about for next year, right, heading into tomorrow morning, is this conversation about the ethics policies? Well, speaking of regulations that are going to sort of impact what’s happening in all of this space here, we’re seeing a lot of regulations come out around the idea of what is an employee and what is labor, which there’s some some pretty big ethics around that maybe not so much in the AI but but how it’s being viewed inside of the HR system. There’s definitely some ethics around it. One of the only companies that I pulled for funding we get there was a lot of companies that got funding. Last couple weeks, there was a coaching company and there were lots of job boards, we’ve got funding, but the one that really piqued my interest was then Lee, which is $35 billion in their Series B funding led by insight partners, they call themselves a cloud based work management system. But if you look deeper at what they’re doing, they are one of the many organizations who are looking at managing your contingent or freelance worker workforce. Now they’re focused here on fortune 500 companies, large organizations and their investment here, it looks like it’s going to be around creating a tool that will be more customer focused and modern and disruptive technology. And as you said, that term gets used a lot. But it comes along the same time that we’re seeing this new regulation in California, where the new Employment Law says as of January 1 2020, freelancers are no longer allowed to do inside of an organization more than 35 actual submission is what it is, then I was sort of intrigued by how they were defining this. But the effect is, is that if you are submitting more than 35 elements, project pieces of work, then you have to be considered a full time employee for an organization. Am I reading that correct? And and do you think some of these regulations coming a place of California is the first but New Jersey is looking at some new york’s looking at is this going to have an impact on this huge market that’s growing around contingent workforce management is allowing.

John Sumser 18:38
This is the beginning of a war. This is really the beginning of the war. The reason that the states are interested in regulating who is and isn’t an employee is that the states run almost exclusively on payroll tax revenue. And so when somebody isn’t employee, you don’t really get a lot of choice about whether or not you pay your taxes. When you are a freelancer or a some kind of a gig economy worker, you have to decide beside your quarterly taxes it you have to decide to pay. And so the net is that the gig economy produces a more erratic cash flow than traditional employees do. But the law is bizarre and written by people who don’t understand what they’re doing. And so if you say that somebody who is a freelancer producing 35 blog posts must be unemployed, what will happen is anybody in California who does that will be out of work because 35 blog post, and you’re starting to see that the people that I know who are freelance bloggers, their contracts dried up starting in November, because people who read the lot didn’t want to pay with a paycheck arriving in January and so the work has dried up but there are other things like the independent truckers of California all qualify as employees under this law. And so independent truckers do their work by being small companies. And so they’re able to deduct all of their expenses. And if you are an employee, you can deduct the expenses. And so the consequence of the law for companies who are trucking firms that use independent contractors to solve search problems is that you put them out of business because they have to capitalize the search capability. And so there’s every reason to think the lawyers that I talked to are of the impression that the law will be changed in the spring. Because it was written by people who didn’t understand the world they were trying to regulate.

Stacey Harris 20:47
Which happens a lot, right?

John Sumser 20:49
Well, yeah, yeah, if you’re a politician it’s not an indicator that you are knowledgeable about the things that come under your control.

Stacey Harris 20:57
Yeah, and I think the other side of this I mean, obviously you know, this is going to have an impact on truckers Uber drivers live probably be Dine and dash and grub hub all those would have similar environments like this that would be picked up writers, bloggers are the first to have an impact. But the HR technology side of this is also who’s tracking that. What if you weren’t paying attention to this law? What if you don’t know where your real answers are located at all the time or if they move from, you know, maybe they’re six months in California, six months, you know, outside, you know, there’s all those kind of things that have to be tracked and what system is tracking that right now. And if that’s the piece that I’ve been sort of really trying to get my arms around, none of these technologies right now that are doing all this find a gig worker are offering the management of the compliance side of this picture.

John Sumser 21:45
Well as there wasn’t a tremendous compliance side till just recently, and you’re absolutely right, you’re absolutely right. This is liable to become the hot button issue in HR overriding everything else because everybody in the organization hire freelancers. today. The marketing department, America’s freelancers, engineering is freelancers. Everybody has freelancers. And if they all have to be coordinated through either procurement or HR, one of those two operations has to wake up. And they’re both capable of administering compliance stuff or given does it all the time. And HR does it all the time, but somebody’s going to have to do it. And if you’re trying to have a controlled view of your entire workforce, and its expansion and contraction over the coming years and do real workforce planning, and you’re an HR, you really want to have control over this data.

Stacey Harris 22:42
Yeah. I’m not sure that HR likes to hear that because they don’t really like to own it, but definitely their area.

John Sumser 22:48

Stacey Harris 22:49
We’re running up against maybe one more topic here. Do we want to talk about the Facebook having their data stolen or do we want to talk about IBM’s expectation that they are the virtual agent provider of the future John, which one do you think is the most interesting conversation?


John Sumser 23:03
We should title this show, “Big companies behaving like big companies!”

You know, because IBM is making this kind of delicious assertion that they’re the only players in the sandbox. And you can imagine that not everybody agrees with that. And then Facebook, some employee had all of the payroll data on hard drives in their car. And now you think this was the cloud company to beat all cloud companies, right? If they don’t protect their own payroll data, after all this, after all the junk in the last five or six years, they don’t have stringent approaches to protect the favorable data. That means that your data and my data are in a hard drive in somebody’s car too.

Stacey Harris 23:53
Yeah. Somewhere.

John Sumser 23:55
Somewhere, somewhere.

Stacey Harris 23:58
Yeah, and whose role is this? Is this it or HR? I think it’s a real conversation in the market these days, right that we’re not having probably nearly as much as we should.

John Sumser 24:06
You might recall that I’ve been trying to make the case that HR should be responsible for security because it is the place that’s responsible for the protection of personally identifying information in the organization. And that that is the asset that most digital intrusion is after. Right. And so HR auto, the secure the question, but you know what, you don’t get a lot of people in HR. Yeah, that’s right. We should do that.

Stacey Harris 24:36
Maybe the other title for this show should be “Things HR just doesn’t want to own but really should,” right?

John Sumser 24:46
That’s right.

Stacey Harris 24:49

John Sumser 24:49
That’s a long hashtag!

Stacey Harris 24:51
It’s a very long hashtag. I know well, I’ll let you make a decision John.

John Sumser 24:57
Nope, it’s in there. It’s great.

Stacey Harris 24:58

John Sumser 25:00
Okay, next week we’re off.

Stacey Harris 25:01

John Sumser 25:02
Following week we’re on. We’re going to have our granddaddy of all granddaddy shows talking about everything that’s happened in the last decade.

Stacey Harris 25:12
Well, maybe not everything, but anything that’s interesting. How about that?

John Sumser 25:16
Yeah, the only one thing that was interesting. Yes. So we’re going to do that. So thanks for tuning in. It’s been another great show. Thanks for doing this Stacey. We will see you back here in a couple of weeks. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Bye Bye now.

Stacey Harris 25:35
Thanks everyone.

Read previous post:
2019-12-19 HR Examiner article heather bussing women and work hr leadership photo img cc0 via pexels adult art beautiful 4152 544x816px red sq 200px.jpg
Of Women and Work

“Men and women are different. This is not a problem. This is an asset. Women do not need to be...