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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: 258
Air Date: March 19, 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 Sumpser. Hi Stacey. How are you?

Stacey Harris 0:23
How are you doing John? We both know we’re home this week so we’re, no traveling for the moment, right?

John Sumser 0:31
Yeah, well, you’ve got family who are traveling they got brave people who are going between countries. I imagine you’re concerned about them.

Stacey Harris 0:41
I am concerned they had left just before things got really scary and they are thankfully able to get home we, one of them is on their way home today, another one will be on their way home tomorrow. We’ll work out all the flights and all the things and so by hopefully by Friday evening, my entire clan will be in the places they need to be at to hunker down. But I talked to a lot of families who were in the same situation for Universities and students who were abroad and people who were in the midst of travel while things were still sort of solidifying. It’s definitely been a challenge. But yeah, I will be a much more calm and happier mother come this weekend probably. So, but I think everybody’s dealing with those kind of challenges right now. And how about you? Everybody safe and where they need to be at in your family?

John Sumser 1:26
Yeah, today is my grandson’s first birthday. And so he’s going to have a glorious zoom birthday party. And I’ve been you know, we’ve been doing more and more things with video on Monday evening, my partner Heather Bussing and I teach a class of the local law school about internet and social media law. And we did that class by Zoom, Monday and it went reasonably well, although it’s clear that there are things that you need to know about using video conferencing going forward. Like having video conferencing over your your home wireless system while the kids are playing extensive video game, which means your video conferencing doesn’t work. And so doing work requires that you engage the kids in a battle for resources. That’s an interesting problem because the kids are home doing school digitally. And so you can’t tell them to stay off. And people have to deal with that. What are the tricks I learned is plug that either that cable into the back of your router and plug that into your computer and then let the kids fight over the wireless because you’ve got a hard wired. And that works for a lot of people as the students in our class figured that out. Their experience of going to school digitally got better.

Stacey Harris 2:48
Well, that’s good to hear. Yeah, I think there’s definitely that there’s there’s also an awareness that even in your neighborhood, I live in a suburbanite neighborhood and once a kid comes home, the speed of our line in general just flows down. And so there is some conversation to be had with your cable provider to find out if there are alternate lines they can switch you to as well. And I found that that oftentimes you tend to play a game of who switches to what more quickly, but it can help as well in speeding things up if you’re if you’re not on the line that everybody else is on for that moment if they’ve got two or three different lines coming into your neighborhood. So that’s another trick that I have learned as well. People all over the world are learning to reassess the idea of what working from home looks like when it’s a constant thing, not something they do once in a great while. Right, right.

John Sumser 3:35
Yeah. So what else are you seeing out there?It’s an interesting time?

Stacey Harris 3:39
Yeah, I mean, we we discussed, you know, how much do we want to talk about what’s going on from the standpoint of the healthcare and the virus perspective? And how much do we keep to the traditional things that we generally talk about, which is the news goes on in the HR technology space, and there are things continuing to happen and we definitely wanted to cover some of the things that are happening in the market that people need to be continuing to watch. So there are things taking place in the HR technology space like Topia acquiring Monaeo. Topia for those of you who don’t remember the name change was the original Moves Guide. And they rapidly sort of grown in the global talent mobility space. There’s an interesting conversation there.

We also have a Lyra Health raising $75 million to focus on mental health wellness platform for employers. $35 million is a pretty big chunk of change in the face from an investment perspective. And this is not the first time I think they’ve obtained investment. So there’s some interesting conversations talk there about the idea of an organization that’s focused on mental health and benefits continuing to increase in more investment. We also saw this week that HealthStream for those of you who follow the medical learning and development space they would, they would know the health stream name for those who are not in that industry may not know it, but it is one of the largest learning providers for the health care and nursing industries, HealthStream acquired a organization called NurseGrid , which was the number one rated and top downloaded app for nurses, so I think just solidifying their industry specific focus on education and training in the healthcare space, and talent managers. Well, they do have some talent out. I think what’s interesting there is we are seeing a continued sort of consolidation of industry specific ; in that space.

And then an interesting one, which was sort of crossover a little bit of the other things we’ve been talking about. But for those of you who know SHRM, which is the Society for human resource management, the largest public global Association membership organization, I didn’t even realize we had 300,000 HR business executive members, and 165 countries, they don’t exactly say how many workers are in the SHRM organization itself, as I was kind of looking for, but we didn’t get a number there. But they have made a selection of a new HR Technology for their payroll, workforce management and core HRMS and they have selected Ceridian Day Force to do that. So I think it’s worth having conversation about What happens when the largest human resource organization in the globe who touches more than 300,000 HR and business executives on a regular basis, you know what their decision around HR technology means for the rest of the market.

And then if we’ve got time, we definitely want to spend a few minutes talking about what organizations in the HR tech space are doing around the COVID-19 virus and addressing things for both their employees as well as their customers. We did see some interesting announcements come out, both from workday and Facebook, as well as Grokker and Cornerstone on things that they’re doing for the industry that we could sort of share with everyone.

And then John, I know you’ve been thinking about questions that people should be thinking about as they move into the next stage of this COVID-19 crisis management process. So, lots of things still going on, and a lot of things that we should be thinking about the same time any of these worth a little bit of a conversation before we dive into some of the bigger topics you and I were thinking about.

John Sumser 6:56
So there’s a really important question here right, the things that I’m hearing from the operating parts of companies is that people are holding their cash back. So the small businesses that I know are seeing their accounts receivable age an additional 15 to 20 days already as the big companies who pay them stop paying to hoard cash. And so you hear a lot of stories about deals being struck with cash not moving. When you look at these acquisitions like topia acquiring money, or Lyra health raise or the history of acquiring nurse, good thing. The question will be, do they actually get the money? Right, and there’s a lot of behind the scenes fuss going on in the banking system about where does the cash go? Because we’re about to see we’re about to see the unemployment rate go from 3% to 20% in a month, and that means that cash is crazy and almost everything you know about business is wrong. right now. And so this attempt to move the industry forward, it’s really important that we achieve some level of normalcy, but it’s really, really challenging. So I wonder if the consolidation stuff is going to continue, you’re going to be able to continue if mergers and acquisitions, you know, now somewhere in the crisis, and it may not be that far off, people who are sitting on the sidelines with money are going to start picking up companies cheap. Right. And so our list of acquisitions is probably going to go through the ceiling somewhere over the next four to eight weeks, as well. He’ll players pick up pick up companies that have been wounded by the crisis.

Stacey Harris 8:43
Well, and what will also be interesting to see and we did see this in 2007, I think in 2008, was which of the small companies will band together as well and so there’ll be there’ll be a lot of pickups for those who have money and then there will be some company so they think this move by Topia with picking Monea is two companies in an area that is likely to be hit really hard, like global mobility is one of those areas I was looking they have a quote here from KPMG about how much global mobility is supposed to be growing in the next several years. And I thought that whole number might just completely dissolve from an expectation perspective, surely, because traveling around the world will not be something people are as comfortable with or moving to another country, possibly at least within the next 18 months to 24 months. And so these two companies together might be able to weather that storm a little bit more feasibly than to smaller companies individually. Monea is the technology different managing business travel compliance for enterprise and individuals and there will still need to be business travel, but you’re much more likely to have people who may be travel in and travel out versus what topia was traditionally focused on which is primarily focusing on moving people which I think you’ll have probably a lot less movement. So there might also be some interesting things happening with companies figuring out Can I buy or can I acquire can merged with someone who has more opportunity at this point in time because of the kind of things they offer than what my current business model is. So for example, anybody who was connecting with Zoom right now, they’re one of the few stock prices that are continuing to rise with everything going on. Right,

John Sumser 10:16
Right. There’s an interesting thing I was I was trying to figure out who you would invest in, in this marketplace. It turns out that the cellphone providers and internet providers are doing just fine. And you gotta imagine that there are pockets inside of HR Tech that gonna just explode as the result of this, but it’s still pretty foggy to see that I think the announcement that SHRM is going to use Ceridian that’s a pretty interesting thing you know, if you were any provider, having the endorsement that comes from having SHRM choose you is an extraordinary thing. It’s an It’s an extraordinary move that SHRM has made and the advertising and reputation value for Ceridian must be astonishing.

Stacey Harris 11:05
Yeah, and this is sort of an interesting one, because I don’t know that SHRM the organization itself sure is that huge probably. But like you said, this is all about the announcement and the connection to them. And you know, as you notice, this announcement doesn’t exactly say how many employees they have. I’m looking up online and sort of a mix, I get 393. I’m not sure if that is correct or not. That’s that’s off of the Google search, of employees, which would be a very small company, even for a Day Force organization. But just the fact that sort of, you’re getting a bit of a hit with the with the largest Association for HR, and it’ll be interesting to see, you know, one of the things that I’m hearing a lot of organizations talk a lot about is the idea that HR Technology selection right now has become, we’re seeing a pause in buying decisions. That’s one thing to have this announcement come out right now, it means that this decision was probably made a little while ago, but two We’re also seeing that as organizations are rethinking their working requirements and working needs almost a sort of a step back to say I need to maybe rethink even some of my requirements. If the world’s gonna change as dramatically as we think it might change in the next 24 months with requirements for people working from home and access to technology on our on an ongoing basis and those type of things. The question for sure will be as Day Force who they need going forward? I think the short answer is we sort of sees that most of the current creature messes in the cloud environment can meet most of the needs that organizations need, will they be able to meet the needs of all virtual organizations if that’s what we have to run into for a little while? Right.

John Sumser 12:35
That’s where you get to some pretty interesting questions. Do our standard model, HCM systems work well in distributed workforces? And I don’t know if any of you know of any that are specifically designed to handle distributed workforces?

Stacey Harris 12:51
No, I would say none that were designed with that in mind. I mean, I think we might possibly say that some of the work that ADP is doing with it with a team based model could possibly be a little bit more aligned there. But that’s their newest product, which is really out in the market yet totally miss out. But it’s not being used by a lot of organizations. And so I haven’t really seen that in action yet. So I can’t say if that is as it was stated to be to us at an analyst event, but I have not seen many applications that were designed with the idea that I’m going to be serving most of my employees in a virtual environment, that would be an interesting conversation or to have with some of the vendors, right?

John Sumser 13:29
Yeah, I think that we’re about to learn all sorts of things about what it takes to make virtual work happen. And that hasn’t been a singular focus of HR or HR tech. It’s been a sort of a sideshow. And so you can imagine that our news is going to start really having a lot of people making big claims about their relevance in distributed workforces.

Stacey Harris 13:55
I think the other side of this picture is that not every job can be done distributed. Right. So in a distributed format, I should say, turned on. So in those areas, manufacturing service industry, you know, grocery stores, those type of things. The other side of that is how do I manage a workforce in a way that ensures their safety? Because although Yes, we have social distancing now and life will eventually sort of get back to some level of normalcy. As we get past this crisis. I think in Delmon sort of the the the psyche of our world will be this might be the first of many that there might be future so we have to keep it some level of heightened awareness, probably, at least for a while will be in the minds of employees and workers and businesses. So then things like biometric clock, and training sessions where you require everyone to, to sort of do some sort of hands on work are going to be a struggle to sort of say this is the wave of the future where it would be much better to progress Find some sort of access to something where I don’t have to touch anything where I can do things and training virtually those are going to be the tools that will become more valuable if this is the world that we’re entering into for for more than just this one crisis.

John Sumser 15:13
Yeah. The big question about what happens or the other side of this is, is something that really has my attention, because we’re not coming back to the way it was a week ago. That’s not it’s not gonna be like it was ever again. And getting your mind around that. It’s a real challenge. You know, the great thing is there’s nothing but opportunity in the in the world that’s coming. But the trick to understanding that opportunity is it doesn’t look like what we just had. So I think, you know, what happens in times of crisis is the level of innovation explodes. And so you know, we’ve had we’ve had a decade where they really brilliant in vacations were Facebook. And that’s after the innovation before that was the internet and the innovation before that was desktop computing and the innovation before that was chip development and innovation before that was going to the moon. You know, we’re sort of do for we’re starting to do for something other than expensive ways for everybody on the planet, the gossip. Right. And so it’s I couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come. And it’s very, it’s a crazy time because it’s possible to be super excited and super optimistic and scared out of your wits at the same time.

Stacey Harris 16:44
At the same time, I think that’s that’s the dynamic that we’re struggling with. Right. I think everybody’s struggling with which is I mean, last week, we didn’t get to talk about it, but I had a whole list of of things about how the pandemic conversation was pushing innovation forward with The use of artificial intelligence in robotic robotics, right, we’re seeing some of probably the most innovative analysis work being done that I’ve seen in the market, right, on trying to understand where the pandemic will go and how it will spread. We’re also seeing some of the most forward thinking use of robotic and automation inside particularly in China, but another areas where they’re using those tools to allow people to get the resources and the health care that they need without putting other people at risk. Right.

John Sumser 17:33
Yeah, you know, I spent an hour Monday morning in a busier that’s kind of like a town hall for people doing people analytics. And there is some amazing work going on the people analytics teams are working 80 hour weeks, their chest is is all about because the questions that leadership are asking right now are totally different than the questions that they’ve asked before. I spoke with some people on the Uber people analytics team. And their view of the world is astonishing. Right. And in the process of solving crisis related problems, they’re starting to have insights about the way their workforce operates that that were unavailable to them when it was sort of a static environment. And so they’re learning new ways to think about using external information. And one of the things that happens in in people analytics right now is if you’re not plugged into external sources of data about both the disease itself and the innovations associated with disease, you can’t make good predictions. Right. And so it sounds crazy. So what’s what’s interesting now is that is that back to back to our news, the big companies, the big Silicon Valley’s workday, Facebook and its ilk are granting their employees cash bonuses to cope with this, which is great, because in the small business sector, everybody’s getting laid off. And so keeping the workforce intact is really smart of those big companies. And for everybody who’s working in those big companies, please take the privilege that you’ve been given tended in your local restaurants carry out. Because Because Because it turns out that the entire economy depends on the people who are going to be hardest hit here.

Stacey Harris 19:34
It’s interesting. There was a couple other news announcements this morning about different executives and CEOs making statements that they weren’t taking their pay this year to ensure that their employees all were not laid off and those kind of announcements I think one was from the Conference Board which was pretty impressive and in our research area, right to pay him for executive make that statement, but I think that’s the kind of you know, we have done very well, for a very long time at the, at the, in these in these large global businesses, particularly in the technology space, right, but it takes a base of people every day getting out there working, investing spending to be able to keep this economy running the way does and I think that’s the thing that’s scaring probably any of us who have watched that dynamic who understand the interplay between your local hairdresser in your local grocery store in your local food chain, as well as your mom and pop shops, to how Facebook makes its money, realize that those two things can’t be disconnected during

John Sumser 20:37
Right. You know, if you are inside of those big companies, it’s hard to remember that that that the economy at the street level drives the overall cultures ability to support those big companies and that they work and they’re successful because of the little people who are going to be hard hit the dry cleaners that are going to go out of bed. So the the nail and hair salons that have had the shutter and don’t have a month’s worth of cash. You know, it’s also a really interesting time because the, you know, I supposed to go to Singapore the first day, but Korean Air who I travel on internationally canceled all of their routes, but they also aren’t answering their phone, so I can’t figure out what my very expensive ticket is gonna get refunded. And what I realized is that Expedia and Priceline have forced the airline industry to run at margins that are so tight that they spend the money when they take it in before they deliver the services. And it’s unlikely that Korea there is going to be able to return my and so you start to see how thin we’ve been running to get this far. And there are a lot of big companies that are super vulnerable to interruption in their cash flow.

Stacey Harris 21:54
It was really interesting when I was trying to get my children home and we were working through the details of it and for the most part, it was pretty, one was flying on British air one was flying on Air Ireland. And what we found is that all the local country airlines were not taking calls and had stopped. And you didn’t know if they were going to be running or not. We had to move all of our flights to the bigger, British Air being one of them, and to the bigger environments and United being the other, to make sure that the kids had the ability to get home. And I think that’s exactly what you’re talking about. When the smaller businesses inside these bigger business environments. They’re running so thin and they’re running, they can’t keep the processes running while they’re doing it. And we’re hearing a lot of things about people outside the US who are our second different countries, because those are the only flights that would go into those countries at one point in time. Right.

John Sumser 22:44
Right. Yeah.

Stacey Harris 22:47
It’s changing, but it’s not I mean, it’s scary. It’s scary and and it’s going to be I think, for our audience and for the people that we’re we work with on a pretty regular basis. There’s sort of that that balance between scary and making sure that our job is to some level try and figure out how we keep the world running at a normal level because we’re getting some conversation going about what things look like as we get past the crisis. Because if we’re not prepared for that, it will be a another level of chaos as people start wanting to leave to buy services to do things. And if we don’t have an infrastructure rendered ready to pick back up again as well. Correct.

John Sumser 23:25
That’s right, and what that’s gonna look like varies depending on how long this thing lasts. So I was talking to somebody in Hong Kong, and they’ve been quarantined in the house for 10 weeks. And it’s easy to imagine that that’s what happens here because we were so slow about getting testing started, the way that the company that the places are successful in containing this thing work is you have your temperature taken every time you cross a barrier going in and out of your apartment building in and out of the place you’re having to do and the hospitals all have dramatic gated entry ways that are like airlocks. And we’re not seeing that here yet. And so you could imagine that this might run a very long time and the question of how do you in wartime, make your business operate? And then when it ends, and you’ve got all of the damage that’s been done, how do you collect yourselves and move on into the world that emerges there? That’s the stuff we’re thinking hard about at HR Examiner.

Stacey Harris 24:28
Well, and I think to our audience, we’re going to continue every week to have our conversations to share what information we can and ultimately think maybe talk a little bit about some of these conversations you’re talking about John, because I think if we can help everyone else, think a little bit about what they’re preparing for the next step. It’ll help us sort of get through the current crisis as the current crisis is it just feels like it’s just a bottle of anxiety that we’re all in the middle of and and as we should be in there’s definitely a lot of fear for those that we love and our family, but having something else to focus on while because being focused on the fear without focusing on the preparation that’s that’s I think, where the opportunity is for us to maybe help out in the whole industry to help out I mean, we’re seeing a lot of other HR applications and HR technology providers in this market trying to do the same thing. They’re providing you know, Cornerstone’s providing some free training through their their Cornerstone Cares program. We’re seeing organizations like Grokker providing, you know, access to free wellbeing programs that’s happening everywhere. We’re seeing, you know, a benefit programs extending tele medication medicine out to extended family members. That’s the kind of community I think that we need to pull together to say, we’re working together on this, there will be a future and we all have to sort of think about about both ends of that spectrum though. That’s our promise everybody that will keep doing both of those.

John Sumser 25:44
Yep, so a darker but great conversation today. Thanks for taking the time to do this Stacey. And thanks, everybody, for listening in. I hope you’re healthy and doing well and enjoying learning how to do video conferencing in your pajamas. So,

Stacey Harris 26:01
Maybe next week we’ll do some tips on that John.

John Sumser 26:05
Tips on how to get the camera to only show your face.

Stacey Harris 26:08

John Sumser 26:11
All right. Well, thanks, everybody for tuning in. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer With Stacey Harris and John Sumser. We’ll see you back here next week. Stay healthy.

Stacey Harris 26:22
Thanks, everyone.

John Sumser 26:22
Bye Bye now.