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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: 256
Air Date: March 5, 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. So Stacey, you flew out to where I live, and I flew out to where you live though.

Stacey Harris 0:26

John Sumser 0:27
I think we should rethink our arrangement.

Stacey Harris 0:29
This seems a little lopsided here, right? Considering for me it’s so early and for you it’s like the afternoon.

John Sumser 0:41
Right? My clock is still on West Coast time but I am sitting here in beautiful Philadelphia and you are one more time in beautiful Las Vegas. Has the inside of the hotel changed any?

Stacey Harris 0:54
Actually, this is the Wynn Hotel and they did make some additions which the sad thing is is that when we come to these events as you know, but all of our listeners probably get to hear from us from time to time we come so often that you could just have a pattern and you know, everywhere they added an extension to the Wynn hotel, which was nice, but they probably needed some the extra room, but I’m like, I’m a little lost as to where I’m going. But, but no, it’s been a good event. And, you know, I was wondering if a lot of people would show up to this event with all of the stairs. I will just say the flight coming from Houston to Las Vegas because I, you know, always have to do a layover was emptier than I’ve seen a flight to Vegas Been a long time, but the event was packed. We had over 3000 people here. So it’s been a pretty good event considering what’s going on in the rest of the world.

John Sumser 1:39
Yeah, Yeah, same here. I’m at Phenom People IAMPHENOM conference and the plane was past coming out here and the conference is packed. I don’t know if it’s a difference between east coast and West Coast but everybody’s shaking hands and hugging and passing viruses around like nothing’s happening here. Yeah. There’s like a lot of hand sanitizer on display. And it’s so weird, right because hand sanitizer gets bacteria. And this is a virus and virus or bacteria and hand sanitizer is an effective on viruses. And so it’s like, remember right after 911 there was all the security theater and you had to strip naked to get on an airplane and you could only have this night with the other thing and the TSA people were really mean that’s what we’re getting now is virus theater.

Stacey Harris 2:34
And it’s while it is wild, I want to say me, I think you know, there’s a sort of hesitation before you went in for the hug but there was still hugs there. So they were sort of that oak did I remember it shouldn’t or either, if you had get it, oh, I probably shouldn’t have but yeah, so lots of hugs and handshakes. Lots of hand sanitizers here at the UltiConnect event, but probably the most telling of all for this event is that the event is well attended and inside the building as well attended but when you go outside it seems a bit quieter and acquit a bit emptier. So, again, not sure you know if you know that just the fact that it’s just got less people in the area so you just don’t see as many so there was that and definitely hand sanitizer was in high demand. You are correct people were bartering for I don’t know if you remember ultimate. And because of the fact that ultimate and Kronos are merging, there is an expectation that, you know, through all the ultimate stuff, right, like all the branded material that gets given out all these events with sort of, you know, they’re in highlights who were trying to give it away in droves. And they always have these little hand sanitizers like things that they put on a little latchkey thing that you can carry with you. And those are like in high demand. People were like bartering for them here.

John Sumser 3:44
Wow. Wow.

Stacey Harris 3:46
Yeah. Yeah. But so but it’s good. It’s good. But I was surprised by how many people weren’t talking. I mean, the definitely was the conversation in any of the lines or when you when we heard some of the announcements that came out this week about other events that are canceling But I think people were were almost excited to see people there were there was a feeling of like, Oh, it’s good to be back on the road again, right? Both of our colleagues But even as I was talking to some of the practitioners at sounds like a lot of their other travel had been curtailed up to this point. And so they said that it’s been good to get out and see everyone. So I think we’re gonna get a little bit more of that, unfortunately, people sort of feeling like they’ve they’ve been unable to get out and see people and

John Sumser 4:28
Yeah, I assume there was lots of food and buffet lines as there was here. That’s something, yeah, you won’t see you know, you won’t ever see again, 90 days from now.

Stacey Harris 4:38
Yeah, we even talked about that in the buffet line. Yeah, that those are probably the last of the hotels. You have to change the way they’re thinking about it. Right.

John Sumser 4:46
Right. Forever. Yeah. Gonna be it’s gonna be interesting. We’re right at the cusp of a surprise introduction to a brand new world that’s going to be way better off because we’ve evolved some AI stuff and way better are off because we have really, really, really gotten close with video conferencing now. And so a change that you could have seen coming 10 years ago just got accelerated I think.

Stacey Harris 5:13
Definitely. Well tell me a little bit John, I mean, we’ve got a lot to cover. IAMPHENOM is the event you’re at UltiConnect is the event I’m at those are two big things we definitely want to talk about today. We also have several events canceled because of the covid-19 virus. So we can talk a little bit about you know, the fact that two big ones ones that have a lot of global impact Oracle’s modern business events and ADP’s Meeting Of The Minds got canceled yesterday I posted those were meant to happen in the next few weeks. And they canceled their in person events and they said they’re gonna be doing some virtual stuff. We also have some updates this week on diversity and inclusion that report that Mercer had put out on pay equity there’s some great things happening in the sort of advancement of people we know in the market SilkRoad Technology announced that they have asked Lillith Christianson to move up to Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy and Product Officer officer from her role in the head of onboarding build over there. Oracle is getting some jobs 1300 roles in the next several weeks it looks like. We also sell Betterworks Acquires Hyphen, which is two small companies merging and the engagement phase. And OutMatch announced strategic investment from Rubicon Technology Partners. It’s been a busy week and that’s not even counting Talespin, which is a virtual augmentation company nabbing $15 million in funding so I’m not sure what your weeks been, like I mentioned we’re gonna get to all of these conversations, but it’s not like the virus and the concerns over people traveling has stopped the business going forward. It seems like in a lot of these organizations,

John Sumser 6:43
N, but I bet you’ll find some so nuanced like the Talespin funding announcement. Can you imagine a better time to have a virtual reality experience with a human assembly To live on the other side of the interaction, so you can do training stuff. And we’re going to be looking, we’re going to be looking for opportunities to reduce interaction, intense relationships. We’re just going to be doing that. Right. And that puts tailspin in this very, very interesting position. You remember there? I forget, I think I think this was Larry, the guy you get to practice firing was there was their product. Yeah, sort of. So sort of an older white guy who’s a little entitled does and doesn’t understand that he’s being fired. And so you get to go through the process of interacting with this virtual reality person, as you learn to be more delicate in the language that you use. It’s very interesting. And so they’re, they’re gonna, they’re going to become a presence fairly quickly as the result of a virus stuff. Good thing they got money.

Stacey Harris 8:00
Yeah, yeah, definitely. And, and, and the the interesting thing I think about, you know, not just you know, augmented reality or or virtual conference events, a lot of the times they’re closing thing because we’re putting something on virtually. But also, I think the other kinds of things that are gonna see some real uptick is meeting management in a way that that you can handle workloads that don’t require as much face to face right. So some some ways to do collaboration and meetings that get you some of the same feelings as if you were in the room. The virtual reality can do a lot of that. But there’s also that that tangible sort of like throwing ideas around putting things up on the whiteboards right, those are things I think we’re going to see some chicken as well, we had, I had a lot of conversation about that with a couple of people this week, who were talking about how they’re trying to create more interesting meeting environments, on a virtual level. And so yeah, we’re gonna see it takes all those things, right.

John Sumser 8:57
Yep, yep. I just saw something the other day about how mysterious it is that there isn’t a really good remote whiteboard experience available yet. But there’s a turtle hole there and some sort of shared whiteboarding tool will get one, this is going to make it necessary. So tell me what you learned at connections. I’m sure a lot of talk was about the merger.

Stacey Harris 9:23
Yeah. And there was definitely, I think, an air in the at the event of sort of what’s next and and, and the big issues is that they probably don’t have all the answers. So because of the announcement just happened and the two teams are just and they’re still actually in a bit of a quiet period until it actually is they can’t like share everything yet until the deal is finalized. What’s yours? So I think about a month away. And so there’s a little bit of a you know, I think a struggle because ultimately, you know, has invested heavily in a lot of new products that were coming out this week. And so I think they were trying to just sort of say, look, let’s know, let’s do business as usual, knowing that, you know, no matter what happens, we’re going to take care of our customers. So that was that was really the theme of the conversation this week, great. There was over 3000 attendees, right. And if anybody’s ever been in an ultimate conference, it did record a lot of these conferences, and there some that are, you know, more sort of, you know, exciting than others, and some that have sort of like, no big feelings of being at a conference where you get to meet all the right people. And there’s some that feel like you’ve just gone to sort of a family event, the ultimate conference always is, it’s this, this very, I think, wonderful feeling of you have now come to a group of people that you are just really tightly connected with. It’s nothing to translate because you’ve got events that are like that, like I like was just we’ve all known each other for years. This is much more like a tribe feeling like you know, you you every time you meet someone in the hallway, they’re sort of the same type of thing that you’re doing and you have an easy conversation. And I definitely think that the way ultimate has done it failed over the years has been knowing who his customers are. And so its customers are all very much alike in both their culture and their brand approaches. And they’re focused on HR as a critical component with every company from 300 employees all the way up to now the 20,000 employees that they had companies in the organization there but yeah, so they’re the opening speaker this week was Bill Hicks, Adam, who was the CEO but he’s stepping down and place of Aaron and who is going to be coming in from the merger from Cronos was not able to attend this week. So Bill Hicks kind of kicked things off his own the usual stance to get involved in the opening entertainment, so I did a nice little dance number. So a lot of Jody Kaminsky who is the indications and chief marketing officer and Cecile Alper-Leroux who as many of you know is a good friend of most of ours who’s been working on the strategy and the product area for Ultimate for a long time and Robin Semeck, who’s also heading up craft product to lots of opening conversation. About how important the culture is important the customers are and where they’re heading. Aaron did come in, he flew in for just a half a day that he had to fly out to accept some award, which are the four Best Places to Work to deal had to go except that as well, in some cases for the ultimate organization, so both of them were heading out for that, but he made about 20 minutes to give a speech about how he felt, you know, first he I think Aaron did a really good thing here and then he kind of said, I’m just you know, sort of one of you I’ve been working at Kronos since 1979. He told some really great stories on a personal level about him and his family and about how he likes to get to know people before they know that he’s the CEO, how he worked in job at you know, Kronos all the way from cleaning the bathrooms, you know, up the CEO role to think that made the audience feel very comfortable with sort of who he was and how he felt about the businesses and the and the work that he does. He also spent a lot of time focusing on trust and transparency and that he is was to make sure the cultures work together and that he continued to keep what was really, really good about the ultimate environment. And it’s not probably one of the most insightful and probably this very on the nose comment was he his big thing to all the customers is please don’t listen to all the people who are calling you and telling you about how this is not going to work said including the pundits and influencers. They said they don’t know us as well as we know us. And trust us, we’re going to take care of you. So you’re kind of the big messages that came out of it. There was another product that was released as well. So

John Sumser 13:34
Wow, did that hurt your feelings?

Stacey Harris 13:36
No know because I think, I mean Aaron’s got a point I’ve been the one thing about Aaron. He’s very blunt about things right. And would you make for gold? I think, you know, leader. There have been a lot of speculations about whether or not this will work, right. And so I think he’s basically telling the customers just hang in with us, you’re going to see how well this is great. Everybody’s telling them.

John Sumser 13:59
So this is This is foundationally that the the merger of these two companies has the potential to be the best data foundation for an HR AI system that’s out there because of its full spectrum. And, and and full of data, so it better be successful. And this is this is a this is a huge, wonderful opportunity.

Stacey Harris 14:26
It really isn’t and I think that that’s exactly what Aaron is saying is that it’s a huge opportunity but it also means that if it doesn’t succeed it only didn’t succeed because and it’s on Aaron’s shoulders because he wasn’t able to make it succeed and and i think he’s basically saying look, I’ve got I’ve got a big stake in making this work because I know how much we have here that you know other organizations just don’t have at this point. You know, it was it was really telling they rolled out this concept called life work journey deal. It’s very involved in that and the life work journey concept really is taking the ideas through Much like the employee lifecycle, but much more with the idea that that includes all the things that go on in your life. But oftentimes, we forget about things like we want to build and family time and we want to bring building things, they’re going to be a legacy for us in our own development and things like that. And in each and every area where they kind of walked have talked about the products that fit into this life work journey, you could see very clearly how the combination of the strong talent and HR focus that ultimate has and the combination of the strong workforce management and operations focus that Cronos has will make that story that they’re telling me the kind of development work that they’re doing even more impactful because you can’t talk about a life work journey and all the things that go into it if you can’t get down to the level of the actual work that’s being done, which is what you get out of the workforce management system and the time tracking tools and the leave of absence request which has to do with all of the things that you’re you’re dealing with personally and that was made to me You know, I, we I asked a question of Aaron when we were in the analyst room about how he’s going to bring together his sales conversation because the khronos, our sales teams works heavily with the operations, finance, and oftentimes sort of supply chain and lead in the organization, those roles that aren’t particularly all the time focused on just HR, sometimes they charge that conversation, but it’s not a primary in many cases. And the khronos are the ultimate team is very focused on the head of HR that is their audience from beginning to end, for the most part. And so what Aaron has is not just the right product, he’s also got the ability to speak to almost the entire C suite in the organization in a way that I don’t think any of the other vendors possibly have, except for maybe the really biggest year PS but even they oftentimes get stuck just talking to finance or just talking to the CEO and not being able to get down to the HR level. This is going to be something I think that that it was A real win for them if Darren can figure it out on the sales side.

John Sumser 17:02
Well, and what’s really fascinating about this is that the merger of these two companies is actually quite symbolic of the change that we’re going through, it gets called the future of work, but but there’s this change that we’re going through in the relationship between the company and its employees, that makes a larger allowance for employee freedom of movement, because that’s actually really good for productivity. Right? When you when you can be everything that you are on the job, then you get this explosion of energy that comes comes from not having to pretend to be something else or not having to figure out how to game the system, get it done, but it requires merging the external person with the internal person and that’s exactly the same thing as the Kronos Ultimate software Alliance. It’s the sort of the merging of the soft and the hard I think it’s this right. It’s gonna be amazing.

Stacey Harris 18:04
It will be, yeah. And I think there’s only a couple of areas where I mean they could trip up right one is that I think the diversity that ultimate has brought to their organization and to their culture is really powerful. Kronos hasn’t quite made that much progress and and diversity both is the team they have and of the organization but there’s they’re making strides they’re trying to write so I think as long as they realize that, that diversity, the focus on the end users, that customer involvement, a little bit more white glove, which is a lot of what you know, ultimate brings, as well as you bring all of that really great operational focus that you know, Kronos has, you know, those are the things I think that this is the two cultures are going to have to make sure stay very true to part of what this bigger company looks like. You know, one of the great things that I purchased begun for the ultimate event was a women and leadership webinar session that we did, it was a recording and you know, a lot of times we go to these analyst events and we see a lot of the same people who’ve been there time and time again, and all summit had brought into influencers who are part of the analyst group and also participated as women in leadership session, one was Minda Heart who wrote the memo “What Women Of Color Need To Know To Secure A Seat At The Table.” And the other one was Elena Valentine, who is the founder of Skill Scout, which is a hiring videos organization particularly focused on bringing people of diversity as part of her organization and making sure that the people who are creating the message the people behind the camera are just as diverse as the people who are in front of the camera, right. And we have as an eating conversation that was about as raw as you could get about the challenges of being both a woman as well as being an underrepresented minority in any situation and what that was like in the work environment. I want to say that it’s a conversation I haven’t seen done quite as well as any other you know, sort of HR technology environment, you hear a lot of it in HR event events, like work human, those kind of things, but an HR technology focus on it was really those are the kinds of things I I think Ultimate does very well and that Kronos could gain so much from if they’re able to sort of pull that as part of the bigger culture conversation

John Sumser 20:08
So, much to talk about. I do want to tell you about IAMPHENOM20, the Phenom People thing, I think I just witnessed the birth of a new institution on the landscape. Phenom People has about 300 customers. They’re building it’s really interesting what they’re doing. They’re building on top of the labor supply that in the Philadelphia environments, and that’s how to a whole bunch of things that you might not think about it first in particular connection. And there’s this pocket of HR tech expertise in the Philadelphia area that they’re starting to pull in and they built this incredible team, but they are a an AI first. It started off as an AI first sort of employment website tool, but they are expanding and they have ghosted, Their ambition to become the experience layer that crosses all of the HR silence. And if you look at what they’re doing, right, so so I just I just sat through a very long presentation on their talent graph, and they are able to mine extraordinary insight out of every single click and interaction and keystroke in the hiring, onboarding. And early days of the first job experience that that creates, creates nuances and layers of data and understanding that that I’ve never seen anywhere before. And so about 1000 people here and you know, this is a very, very technical conversation really, but but I was riveted people stayed in their chairs, sort of with their jaws, dropping as They talked about the relationship between an individual companies talent graph, and this monstrous global talent graph that they’re building so that you can situate your data inside of a bigger picture and benchmark from a million aspects. Simultaneously, while being able to be cognizant of variations in the local labor supply and demand process and amazing stuff. Just amazing.

Stacey Harris 22:29
That’s powerful. That’s the idea of being able to see the external market with your internal market, highly anybody’s cracked that not and if they’re getting to that point, that’s a much bigger picture than we’ve seen, I think with any other organization on the talent acquisition side.

John Sumser 22:44
Well, and it’s and it’s so that’s, that’s a piece but what’s really interesting is, is they could look at the click flow of somebody who is right they separate inbound job, data flows. By personas, and they can see behavioral differences between professional people and hourly people. And so as they start to understand who’s there, the behavior of the website changes based on first the the persona that you fit. And then as you start to unfold the job, the total behavior, the website changes, it’s awesome. And when you look at the behavioral stats of the back end, you can see the relationship between people of certain certain experience categories and this particular job and how long they last in the apply process till they figure out that it isn’t the right job. Really interesting. It’s light years ahead of anything that I see.

Stacey Harris 23:45
So it’s hyper personalization, but also hyper tailoring to me, I mean, and that’s probably a dirty word but but hyper sort of, making sure sort of it doesn’t just personalize it. It’s it’s not Getting into point at which you know, you no longer fit for this, which means you you take yourself out of the process, which is much better than having someone else take you out of the process right and wasting both first time.

John Sumser 24:11
Yes, yes. And then and then the ability to see that. And the second that as a manager trying to fit, you know, when you have a bunch of people coming to your website to apply for jobs, you really want to understand what’s going on with them, because it took the courage of the people who don’t really belong there to do something else and do it gently. It’s good for your reputation as a brand, but you need to be able to see what they do whether on the website and understand that very clearly. And so this is super set up to make that visible as a dashboard. And so you can you can modify the nudges in the system to get the behavior that you want out of the aggregate population that you’re dealing with. It’s cool!

Stacey Harris 24:55
And was there much conversation with all of that about biases and sort of then, how an organization actually has its own biases built into it, did they talk about how they were going to get some of that out of process?

John Sumser 25:06
So, I think that’s a really powerful question. And their answer tends to be the idea that you can get bias out of the system instantaneously is nonsense. And that what you want to do is actually understand the behavior of bias. So focus on it, and and let that bubble to the surface. And then over time, as it becomes a problem that you can identify in click streams, then then you can really channel it in the right directions without being heavy had the right answer. And so you can solve the part of the bias problem that happens in human computer interaction. And the part of the bias problem that happens because AI is is making some categorical errors, that stuff you manage over time by why What happens and watching what your incremental improvements due to the overall process? And so they they have a sort of a five year clock on how long it takes to really coherently and effectively address the problem.

Stacey Harris 26:16
Wow. Five years seems like a long time, but I think we’ve talked quite a bit about the fact that the bias, but ethics in itself right is a process right? All of these things are processes and you have to build some timeline in for them nothing is going to be fixed overnight, right?

John Sumser 26:29
Yeah. So imagine imagine that you are a 10,000 person organization. And you are growing at 10% a year and you have an attrition rate of 20%. That means your hire 3000 people a year can 3000 people a year isn’t enough to really have the data to do interesting things with but by the fifth year with compounding of a 10% You’re pretty close to 20,000 hires and In a dataset of 20,000 hires, then you can address the internal issues way more cohesively. We can make progress if you can’t make progress. But if you are a big bang solution to the problem, you have to have the data, you have to have the data. So these guys are these guys are slow and patient, it turns out that they’re nine years old, and have been heading in this direction for a long time. But now they’re at 300 clients, they are migrating their focus to the enterprise segment, and they expect to onboard another 300 clients this year. And so, right because they’re a big supplier to work day they have 100 work day clients. So they’re riding that wave too. It’s it’s a very interesting thing and it includes everything from let’s see, there’s a sourcing function, there’s the website function, there’s a Jobs ontology function, there’s a communications with candidates and pipelines function. There’s interview scheduling and management, there’s chat bots that can be customized to specific jobs, which is pretty interesting. So this all sits on top of a graph architecture. And the fundamental design is to generate data so that the AI makes the whole big spider.

Stacey Harris 28:27
Well, and artificial intelligence was definitely a major theme, even in the Ultimate event, but I think, you know, what we’re seeing these organizations start to realize is that AI can’t be just just an overlay, it has to actually be more of an underpinning. The way that the ultimate was talking about it was they want to do very mindful artificial intelligence, focusing on accessibility for people focusing on culturally inspired UX. And I think what you’re saying is the same thing that we’re hearing from them is that artificial intelligence has to help you do the job better not just do it in the same You’ve done faster. Right?

John Sumser 29:01
Right. Exactly. That’s that’s. And so, so as, as this company talks about the current product, you can see this you can just see the skills differences required for recruiters coming to learn the platform, for instance. They have to have to be way more data savvy, and think way more about aggregate behavior in their pipelines. And typically recruiters have been good at one on one processor.

Stacey Harris 29:34
Yeah, we’ve heard for a while that they these markets are going to change the requirements of the HR professionals at every level. And recruiters an exception to that right. Yeah.

John Sumser 29:43
So big week, we didn’t get to everything. Sounds like you had a good times like a year. Well, let’s see where was last time we actually did get to everything.

Stacey Harris 29:52
It’s been a while I was just having someone was telling me they listened to like you. You read all the stuff which is good because I get to hear it and they go and then you go to get to two of the many topics. I said, I know, it’s really hard if the race that we have so much to talk about, but I think it’s a good deeper conversation hopefully is giving people some more insight into what’s happening and they think so. I

John Sumser 30:11
I think we should change the title of the thing HR tech weekly, one step closer, to talking about everything we promised too.

Stacey Harris 30:18
Yeah, exactly.

John Sumser 30:23
Alright, well, thanks again. I hope you travel well. We’re out of the snowy season I hope and we won’t have a lot of interruption traveling back to North Carolina and I will be on a plane tomorrow morning. It’s some ridiculous hour of the morning and get to see a Philadelphia sunrise. Yeah. So thanks, everybody, for listening. And thanks for doing this Stacey, it’s always wonderful.

Stacey Harris 30:46
Definitely always a good time. Looking forward to next week. I think we’ll actually be in our own home situation. So and hopefully no snow and no cold at that point. Talk to you next week John.

John Sumser 30:55
Yeah. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly, one step closer to talking to everything we promised to talk about with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. See you here next week. Bye bye.

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