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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: 249
Air Date: January 18, 2020





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
Good morning and welcome to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Hi, Stacey. How are you?

Stacey Harris 0:21
Hi, John. I’m doing well. How are you doing?

John Sumser 0:25
All right, how’s the sound?

Stacey Harris 0:27
Sounds like you’re in a little bit of an open room, but I’m assuming you’re not right at home today. So are you traveling?

John Sumser 0:34
Actually, I am in the middle of making a big dinner tonight. So for dinner, we’re having Sun shokan leak, Sue, and Papaya.

Stacey Harris 0:45
Very nice. You’re gonna make the listeners hungry today. Now we’re gonna have some lunch for everybody.

John Sumser 0:51
Well, we should go back to pretending that this is early in the morning. Yeah. So what’s up with us a little Well,

Stacey Harris 1:00
It is been a little while I’ve been busy this week. I’ve been on the road doing some work in my home office in Atlanta working on some designs for our database strategy that we’ve been working on for the last year and I’m holding up filings. Is that why I’m schedules a little bit off track this week?

John Sumser 1:15
No, I was in Chicago. I just got out of Chicago before the storm hit. And then I flew from Chicago to Minneapolis. And it was snowing so hard that they had a de ICER truck next to the plane the entire time. We were on the runway.

Stacey Harris 1:31

Unknown Speaker 1:32
Yeah. I have never been more delighted to live in California.

Stacey Harris 1:38
Scary times I had a few people who were at that meeting who were heading mentioned. I think they made it back in time. But yeah, I remember those days waiting on the tarmac in Cleveland with the snow and the DI there’s and I have to admit I don’t miss stop right now. I possible I try and say all events that are south of the Mason Dixon line. Right, sir,

John Sumser 1:57
show what’s in the mailbag this week. We’re going to talk about,

Stacey Harris 2:01
Yeah, it’s been somewhat busy week although we’ve been traveling and running around the country. Other things are going on. Oracle made some interesting news this week, they hire the new cmo chief marketing officers from AWS. That’s where it’s probably having some discussion about because I think it harkens back to where Larry beat his big competitor and their focus and cloud versus individual functionality. Cornerstone did a big acquisition and retention and acquisition in a while they did a pretty major acquisition. for them. They acquired a company called club tree to build the leading AI powered guilds platform for people development paying about $18.5 million for what is essentially a guild database and thinking you’re going to offend me this one because it basically says it’s a field database that was created with algorithms with or they call it bias free algorithm. Sean, so I’m interested in your thoughts on that one. But that’s going to be an interesting conversation. We also saw from female people do another round of funding raising so if enough people raise $30 million for their AI platform used by multiple organizations. And then we also saw that modern health which is another HR technology, but more in the healthcare space raised 31 million to accelerate the reach of mental health benefits. That’s something that hears much about something that is still a benefit and surprising history somewhat separated in many cases work board also raise another $30 million worth for business fast startup that provides goal setting and management software. So performance management, I’ve seen them slightly in the market, it’d be worth talking about why we’re seeing so much investment in some of these technologies that are considered still niche players in the market today. And then if we’ve got a little bit of time today Hey Jeff launched a new recruitment marketing software so page if we haven’t heard a lot about obviously they’re in Australia with all the stuff going on in Australia, America right now I’m sure it is been a bit for them to get their their new products, but they were able to last week launch their new recruitment marketing kresser which was Cousin Trinity recruiting application. So it’s been a busy week was busy. We’ve been everybody else has been busy and well done.

John Sumser 4:05
What have you got to start the year at some point in time it was us Lonestar.

Stacey Harris 4:10
It was yes, I would have to say. All of us were coming back last week to all of our upcoming webinars and upcoming events or all feeling like we’re just a couple weeks behind where we should be at I think you were hit it head on our last all that everybody had taking this a little bit longer holiday this year. So

John Sumser 4:27
cool. So let’s talk about Oracle. Oracle stole a CMO from Amazon Web Services.

Stacey Harris 4:35
Yeah, I’m getting ready to to make some plans for the travel to the Oracle modern business event that they have each year we do try and capture as much information as possible about what they’re doing with their customers and Oracle HCM Cloud. But when you go to many of their events, the big conversation ends up being about the cloud solution that they’re creating the the idea of having a public model that is available but still has the tube People can use a mixture of sort of private and public. And if you sort of played a drinking game with the amount of times that Larry mentioned Amazon, you’d be quite drunk at the end of most of those events. So yeah, so this is definitely another shot and then directions saying that we want to be a major competitor with Amazon more than some of the other organizations that we talked about on a regular basis, I think.

John Sumser 5:19
Yeah, this has been a an ambitious and unrealized ambition of Oracle’s for some time, but they like to say they’re one of the top cloud providers, but they’re the only ones who ever say that. So maybe the secret uses marketing and having a new Chief Marketing Officer for Oracle his from Amazon, Who would have guessed 20 years ago that being the chief marketing officer, though this guy was the vice president of marketing, he was the vice president underlied at Amazon, just that that was a step to beat reading marketing at something like Oracle. Nobody. Really train even though they feel very much the same.

Stacey Harris 6:01
They really have your age. When I went back and did the exercise we did that first year, we started looking back. It’s amazing to really think that when we first started talking about Amazon, and it was just not even quite 20 years ago, right? They were bookstore, right? That was a no one would have guessed that they would have ended up where they were at. Right. So, um, I guess that that that’s just a cautionary tale for everyone never never count anyone out as far as what their possibilities and future could be, especially in this day and age.

John Sumser 6:33
Yeah, it’s an amazing story. So now, course I’m biased cluttery to have an AI powered skills platform, how many AI powered skills platform Do you think there are?

Stacey Harris 6:49
No, I, this was I mean, my sense on this is this is a direct response to what’s going on over at work day on Sunday. I mean workday created their skills framework. They’ve invested heavily in that. I know that cornerstone was trying to leverage all of their background and experience and tools to pull together the ontology from their learning processes. Right. But I think probably what must have happened is that they came up short, and realize they needed to buy that data set. What I found was sort of interesting was that, you know, they were, you know, the language they’re using here have a, a bias free range algorithm that was used to develop this feels bad. But that’s pretty bold to say something is completely by a free right at this point.

John Sumser 7:46
It’s silly to say it’s not, it’s not just odd, but it’s silly. There are only a very few people left. Make Any such claims about artificial intelligence that that they’re the data set or the output is bias free. Because data without context is meaningless. And context is bias. So, you know, it’s it’s actually not very hard but, but there are a lot of people who’ve sold a lot of investors out of the idea that they can make money by being bias free. And so it’s a hard thing to step back from class

Stacey Harris 8:32
ontology based on the consolidation of over 1 billion jobs guild across multiple languages, which is an interesting one, because we don’t do a lot about languages and differentiations, and that into a library of 53,000 verified skills that accurately describe an employee profile from any industry. Now, you’ve also been following what Google’s doing in this space is 53,000. A big number here.

John Sumser 8:56
I think it’s kind of a standard number. I saw one this morning. from a company called my abilities calm and God knows where they’re from, but my abilities, calm promises, 50,000 skills and they promised 50,000 skills organized around the idea of the relative physical activity required in those skills. But, so Okay, and then IBM, this is the heart of the IBM initiative. And Sally calm has a massive system of this sort of thing and is often the source of taxonomies for people who are trying to run large enterprise systems that don’t have operating taxonomies currently, and so I count Oh, geez. And burning class has won. This is like this is like the part time sport for people who want to re envision a tar is to build a skills matrix. But one of the things that’s really interesting is you can start you could I suppose, Define all of the skills associated with the job, although I’m not sure that that’s a really useful way to do. It’s really, really challenging to get that data in a in an extraordinary form out of a resume database. And so, so the only reason nobody’s going to look through a library of 53,000 verified skills, nobody’s going to review each and every one of them. And so the question is, How deep is the skill information? And how do you how do you compare it to what somebody’s resume says?

Stacey Harris 10:33
These are the definitely the different focus here in the building is building inventory. That’s precise growth, development and informed recruiting decisions.

John Sumser 10:43
Right? Yeah, it’s so challenging because I was listening to somebody talking the other day who was out over out over her skis, I guess, is what I’d say. And she said something like the way you take bias out of a resume analysis is you don’t look what you don’t look at extracurricular activities. But if you do look at extracurricular activities, you can see things like I ran the student government at the University of Michigan for two years. And while that’s an extracurricular skill, if the job requires leadership of large groups of people who don’t have any reason to follow you, and that’s, that’s an important skill, you got to be able to pick that up, oh, the resume, but the operating theory and some of these places, so you can look at data like that. And so, so I don’t know, I think there’s a lot of smoke and not a lot of fire in this skills, magic stuff.

Stacey Harris 11:40
well as other things that I think that everybody really would do talking about is the maintenance of the databases. Now, maybe you can give me some insight on those if they’re building them with an ontology and algorithms does that mean they should be self perpetuating feeding themselves in some way? Or is you know because what I find is that most From the organizations who are talking about this skills management neglect to talk about how it gets maintained on a regular basis with input from the end users continuously reassessing it as one of the things I thought that workday hadn’t taken some time to address when they were talking about their tools, is that a concern that should be brought up here?

John Sumser 12:16
Of course, that’s a really great point. There are some places with automated maintenance, and really deep datasets underneath each individual skill. So when you say there’s a library of 53,000 skills, you could mean a list of 53,000 skills, you know, so it’s so it’s, you know, 50 per page, so it’s 1000 or 1500 page document with a list of skills. Or you could mean a comprehensive analysis that shows what training you need to do to achieve the skill, how you identify mastery of the skill and the evolution of that skill as it goes over time and technology changes around it and Nobody ever talks about that very clearly because it can be exhausting in its depth. And as you rightly point out maintenance is a real trick when you’ve got this much data, and the only way that you can validate or verify it is with automated comparison against the flow of jobs that are going into the market, right. So all of this stuff will be a reduction of the data that’s in job ads posted over the last x years. That’s how you get to 50,000 verified sales.

Stacey Harris 13:37
I exactly and another having a hard time and maybe it’s the old competency manager inside of me not feeling gorgeous, creating a new format or the binders that used to sit on my shelf of competencies, right. So maybe I’m a little jaded on this round because of that because I spent years building binders that were outdated before they were get printed as well. It’s definitely you said this is a face is going to get really crowded and there’s gonna be a lot of hype. And I think the the end game will be can you keep it updated? Can you make sure that it actually achieved some outcome? Can you sort of understand your biases and build to those biases and sentiments then right making sure that they are acknowledged and thought through and what they cause? And those are some of the things I think a lot of these organizations have to maybe take a step back from?

John Sumser 14:23
Well, there’s another question to which is there’s no agreement anywhere on whose ontology is right or close to right or what they have in common. So it’s pretty easy to imagine working for a company that uses the workday ontology and then going to work for a company that uses the cornerstone ontology and going to work for a company that uses the IBM on top. That’s it, let’s say, let’s say you took those three jobs in a row and discovering when you show up that what you thought were skills are no longer skills, because there’s no translation or standardization or Cross the datasets.

Stacey Harris 15:01
Yeah, and I can remember those conversations when we were talking about competencies within industries, right, Colin groups of industry, people try to get together to create the competency model, at least for especially those that are certified industries. And this concept then gets wider and more nuanced, I guess, when you start adding technology and quick decisions made off of that, right.

John Sumser 15:21

Stacey Harris 15:23
So what about our friends been on people, john, I mean, another $30 million for their AI recruitment platform. Now, they mentioned in the commentary, we’re gonna we’re a Microsoft, Microsoft’s, a client of ours, but they’re still around just 300 companies leveraging their top 300 very large companies, I’m assuming based on the numbers and things that they have posted, but what’s this round of 30 million for this point? I mean, we’ve been on people been in the market for a while now. Is there a point at which you should expect some of that stuff to be able to sort of stand on that one? Or is this just because of where this market is that it just requires so much technology and you know, higher risk? That’s on the outside is that we just have to keep repeating it was funding

John Sumser 16:04
well for our people has become a pretty interesting, massive organization, right 500 people in the company means that you might expect it to have $50 million in revenue. And so one of the things that happens in the early days of SAS is you get credit for sales, but you can’t spend the money. Right, the bookkeeping for SAS accounts is, is crazy. And so it takes a while to catch the bookkeeping up. And a lot of times these sorts of deals allow you to continue to grow by keeping the bookkeeping legit. And it really is just another tank of gas on a long drive. And so so I expect the vibe of all the recruiting companies who come up in the AI era to non people is by far the most interesting and the most powerful song so I expect this is another step in the right direction.

Stacey Harris 17:03
And so, I mean, you’ve seen a lot of what they’re doing on the AI front. And it sounds like that’s where they plan to continue to make more investments will their will where their tool be something that’s going to wireless and then next year, so based off of what you’ve

John Sumser 17:16
seen, what they’re starting to have a pretty comprehensive experience for employee. So it starts with the employment website, knows who you are and gives you things that are relevant to you content and job possibilities and stuff like that. You go through the hiring process in the AI is implemented across the hiring process, you get inside and internal mobility is operated the same way. And so and I believe I’d have to look but I believe they have a candidate communications system too, so you can keep the employment pipelines fall and it’s starting to look like a comprehensive recruiting solution. With the kind of legs into the organization with onboarding and internal mobility that are what talent management should look like,

Stacey Harris 18:10
you know, it’s interesting this concept about personalization before I was pulled from a lot of conversations that are happening in the HR space. This week, I went and took a quick look to see whether enhance the keynote, the show that comes out every year, technology around this time of year that would pique an interest or sure fell into our area and not a lot Most of it was what we would consider interesting is, you know, washing machines attached to you and toothbrushes and tell you how you know how hard it is to you know, brush your teeth and more watches and those type of things. But the one thing that I think sort of hits them along the same lines is there was a tool that was sort of not launched there. It’s actually it’s open out in the market, but was talking about at the event called deltas parallel reality. And basically what Delta has developed in the airline in conjunction with misapplied Sciences is a new technology that enables one airport screen to display unique Slides travel information, Pacific boarding gates departure delayed sky publications to 100 different people simultaneously at the same time, based on their length, you know what language they want to see what’s unique to them, which means that screen is automatically seeing them coming, updating, and they’re seeing what’s unique to them. And other people aren’t sure how the technology works. But they’re saying it’s pretty amazing to see, you know, is this the world we’re heading into where everybody has their own personalized experience with everything?

John Sumser 19:29
Well, so I was listening to Pandora last night on the ride somewhere, and Pandora kept hitting the mark with music that I wanted to listen to. And a lot of it was music I’d never heard before. So I thought, Oh, yeah, with music, you want to reach an audience of one. And so all of the artificial intelligence stuff is great if you’re trying to reach an audience of one with a specific agenda inside of a finite universe. And my guess is we’ll see more and more and more So one kind of experiences, that’s really where they’re headed with the employee experience idea.

Stacey Harris 20:06
And that’s, that was one thing, I think so I’m a crossfitter. I would agree, you know, we’re seeing more of this. And the question becomes, how does that fit with industry specific needs or with the idea that you always have to improve a piece of technology to create best practices? Don’t the idea best practices inside of technology actually work with an audience of one concept? Right, I think that’s going to be the other conversation, we’re going to start having this year a lot more because best practices assume there’s an average for everyone, right?

John Sumser 20:33
Or when you do that, you can collect enough information so that you know and there are clues out there you know, the the airline certainly have all of my travel history. And so it’s pretty easy to predict where I might want to purchase a ticket or where I might want to go or what kind of hotel I might want to stay in and I listened to a lot of music so so as Pandora starts to notice what I listened to it gets this interesting idea of me and I guess the will be for the other kinds of personalization is how do you collect the data what makes sense to me.

Stacey Harris 21:07
And that actually maybe leads into the last topic we might want to cover this week, which is modern health. Modern health raised 31 million in the series B funding. And they’re an organization that focuses on mental health benefits that providing the tools that would support that it is they say that basically creates a better offering beyond what is offered by major medical health plans or legacy EAP. It’s a modern health environment with different approaches for what people should be taking for their mental health care. This is an area where again, now we’re crossing that line do I want my company know that much about me, right? And yet, we’re spending an enormous amount of money investing I’ve seen multiple This is not the only one we’ve talked about in the last six months have something to do with mental health where there’s been getting some big investments this year, is this another area where you’re hearing that also and what happens? If you’ve got the data inside a company, you’re recruiting to another company, and where does that information go? Right?

John Sumser 22:06
I think you’d be nuts to utilize a system like this. Right? The basic thing that they talk about is mental health has a stigma associated with it. And I don’t know, I don’t know a lot of companies that have earned their employees trust to the point that employees shouldn’t feel comfortable letting the company know about their mental health. And even more interesting is the question of the recommendations that the company makes about mental health. Right? Is it? Do I really want my company to tell me how to solve my depression? I don’t know. And do I really want the company to have in their records that I’m depressed occasionally have that I struggle with depression because depression has these two sides. The highest performers almost always struggle with depression. And that’s the face of depression that’s high performance, and then some people are debilitated by it. Some people alternate between those things that are super productive. But if you have that data in the hands of an idiot, and they think that depression is only one thing, and they’ve got a stereotypical view of depression, all sorts of weird stuff can happen, right? That’s that’s the problem with a data driven world is the people who consume the data may not be qualified to consume the data. And so this doesn’t talk about how you qualify people to consume the data.

Stacey Harris 23:29
And that’s the thing. I think that’s across the board with all of the recommendations that are being put out in the market, right? What do you do if you find that 20 minutes we don’t go down to the individual level, right? If you just find out that 20% of your workforce is prone to depression, what’s your step with that right at a team or enterprise level? Right?

John Sumser 23:49
Well, so what is currently percent of your workforce has that problem. And most of them work in a single division under a single group of bosses. And so what you’ve got done is create evidence of liability for injury, right? While I understand how interesting it is to know about that, and then it’d be great for solving problems. I think the lawyers are liable to go, are you kidding me? You know, and so there’s this difference between what’s possible and what’s likely to happen that you have to figure out on this particular one.

Stacey Harris 24:28
And I think that goes back to you know, some of the stuff that we’ve been talking about the last couple of months Dahlia the same thing, you know, the the hirevue lawsuit, all of this is going to get ahead of the laws and the ethics and the regulation. It’s a matter of who’s going to who’s going to get you know, cut first it might be a poor way of saying it but but who’s going to be the first company to feel the brunt of somebody saying, hey, this was done incorrectly or it was used against me, right? No Time will tell. It’s not to say that I don’t agree. And I do want to say that I Do actually think we need to fix how we address mental health inside of our companies. And so I don’t I do think we should probably be careful about being too much of a naysayer, it is important to make this an easier environment. I mean, I know I can remember when I was going through challenges after my husband passed, trying to access any type of support through a traditional EAP environment was the most painful and to be honest, ridiculous process I’ve ever went through. So I don’t disagree that it needs to be improved, but I do think we need to monitor it closely. Right.

John Sumser 25:31
You know what, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m not really a naysayer here there is people spend the vast majority of their time working for their companies. And there’s every reason to think that a company is positioned well to help with mental health issues spot. That kind of data is precious and involves a level of trust that doesn’t necessarily exist between employees of their companies and my senses. You have to work on the trust part first.

Stacey Harris 26:01
Well, I think that’s a great place for us to sort of wrap up the conversation this week. I think that maybe in the next couple of conversations we can investigate are the companies actually, you know, gaining more trust. There’s been some some research on that too. So maybe that’s worth looking at as well. So

John Sumser 26:17
That’d be great. Love to see it. So, thanks for doing this again. Another great conversation. And thanks, everybody for tuning in. We were at an awkward time this week, but we’ll be back to normal next. See you around next week. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Bye Bye now.

Stacey Harris 26:36
Bye everyone.

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