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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: 259
Air Date: March 26, 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
Morning, John. I’m doing well. We’re calling from our respective areas. I’m in North Carolina this week. You’re in California. So how are you doing as well?

John Sumser 0:30
You know, it’s such an interesting time. I am both optimistic and terrified. That’s a rich blend.

Stacey Harris 0:39
It’s a perfect way to describe it though, yeah.

John Sumser 0:41
Yeah. And so everybody I know is optimistic and terrified. And we haven’t really seen anywhere in the news or in the stories people are telling us about what’s going on. We haven’t really seen panic yet, but I’m starting to see little bits of panic. I’m starting to talk to people who are are super frazzled, super angry, and not really able to see that it’s a consequence of the circumstances and not their kid or their boss or their employees. And so I expect to see an increase in weird angry behavior shortly.

Stacey Harris 1:18
Yeah. Having been someone who’s recently gone through grief in the last two years myself and also having been in during the downturn in 2007 having lost my job back then, knowing the similarities that a lot of what people are going through, I think is a grief for what was or what was what their expectation was going to be for this year and for going forward. So we’re going to hit a lot of grief for the people that we’re going to lose. We’re getting a lot of grief for job losses, but I think right now, what people are going through is grief for what, what we thought the future was gonna hold or what we thought our future was gonna hold. And that creates a lot of tension and frustration and as you said, anger and it shows up in different ways for different people. So it’s but it’s not unusual, I think that’s the most important thing for people to hear right now is that we’re all trying to stay as chipper and positive as possible and see wonderful posts and Facebook and good things people doing for each other. But it’s not unusual to not feel good. You should sort of be okay with that and know that that’s the state that a lot of people are in right now. Right?

John Sumser 2:18
Yep, I think there are a couple things there. Thing one is, it’s really good to take a hard look at your expectations. Because at times like this, when your expectations get interrupted, that can be confusing and the hope that tomorrow will be better or levelled out or clearer. What’s really going to happen is it’s going to keep feeling like you don’t know what’s going on, because we’re dealing with an exponential problem. And so it’s always good to feel like your expectations have been dashed, if you have well defined expectations, right and part of what we’re discovering right now. As how much we assumed was true, that may be is just an accident of timing. So it’s a really kind of delightful time to figure out how to live in the moment and not expect anything to borrow their good spiritual teachers who say, if you wake up in the morning and you’ve got a roof over your head, your family is healthy and you have enough to eat for the day. That’s as good as it gets. And it’s easy to forget that in the decade of really good times,

Stacey Harris 3:29
Yeah, exactly. I think your comment is right on is that it’s also easy to forget that, that this is as much as this will be an exponential change, and we are going to see probably more chaos happening. It is still a moment in time. Right? I think that that’s the other part. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about, which is setting aside what you thought the future would hold. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start planning you shouldn’t be thinking a bit about what it looks like on the other side of this because being compared to what it looks like on the other side. This is just as important as Being able to manage your emotions and your own personal outlook through it. And I think those two things go hand in hand and helping you cope with a lot of them.

John Sumser 4:09
Yeah, well, a guy I don’t think you know I don’t think I’ve introduced you, Michael Kannisto. But Michael and I are hard at work on a set of scenarios and recommendations that ask the question, what’s it going to be like on the other side? You know, and and it doesn’t look like it gets rosier at all. When California we’re expecting peak caseload to be in mid to late May, that by that time, there’ll be several million cases in New York State. And there must be a place out there where the new normal starts to emerge, where you start to have clear understanding of who’s got immunity and who doesn’t have immunity if immunity is possible, and you have to start to do things like you know, succession planning is a much more Line functions, that’s often just the way that the executive team defines the boundaries of the good old boys club. In the future, when it’s likely over the course of the next year, that 15 to 20% of your workforce is going to require some ICU time. So out for 90 days, two to 3% of your workforce is going to die unexpectedly, that you have to think about where are the real skills in the organization, a lot of the stuff about workforce planning that was theoretical now becomes critical, because you need to know you know, if you and I were in a company, and you were the person in payroll, who knows how to do the whole payroll thing, say we just had a merger or an acquisition. And so you’re juggling all these different nuances inside of the payroll system and you’re the only person who knows how to do it. We need to figure out that you’re the only person who knows how to do that. We need to Figure out how to trade somebody who could replace you if you get checked. Yeah. And that’s the new succession planning, you may be able to lose the entire management team. But if you lose the person who knows how to run payroll, the whole workforce goes down. And it’s a new view of what’s important in the AIDS crisis. In southern Africa, when the annual death rate from the virus was in the teens, they would have two layers of succession planning for truck drivers, because it turns out that you can have all the executives who want if the traps aren’t moving. There’s no revenue happening in any business that has any sort of deliverable code. And so who’s essential may mean something different than it did when you made the layoff list. So that’s my soapbox for the day.

Stacey Harris 6:57
It’s a good soapbox. You know a lot of the conversation that are happening right now are definitely triage based conversations because they have to be right. I’ve been part of multiple roundtables recently. Some great works being done by the HR open source consortium by Kate Bishop and her team by those who are on the front line trying to help companies make difficult decisions about furloughs and family medical leave, and those type of things. But you have to spend a little bit of time thinking about what happens in the best case scenario, what happens in the worst case scenario, or you will not be prepared for what’s coming and that’s the job of any management level in an organization is to have those tough conversations and have those difficult strategy conversations by there is destiel happening on the front both of investments and people are being hired and organizations are putting out some great tools and techniques for people to leverage during the crisis times. But what I’m encouraged in seeing is that there are some organizations that have thought about this and have figured out how much can we lose now to ensure we have the Right talent in the future close to a cost analysis. Well, there’s other organizations that took sort of a very quick and fast route of saying, we’re just going to cut all costs, now we’re hemorrhaging. We’re going to make sure it we don’t have merge anymore. And I think those two different approaches to handling this crisis will show us who’s going to be able to sustain this through long term. There’s some very different things. A lot of those organizations we’re hearing are now who’s made some very short term decisions, those senior leaders are also calling that, you know, the in the market to get back to work, even if it might cost lives. That kind of a horrific thing to hear. But that’s the kind of language I’m hearing in some cases. Without long term planning. That’s the kind of thing that starts to become an option, which is part of the conversation that we as HR professionals have to have, how do we not have to have that kind of an option?

John Sumser 8:49
That’s a complicating factor and that is the first layer of legislation to help with the virus grants 10 days sick leave to every employee. And if you have children, you’re entitled to 10 weeks $200 a day for childcare support. Now, if you are this is where the world separates into companies that do accrual accounting. And companies that do cash accounting, and most small businesses are cash accounting. And if you’re a cash accounting firm, you probably don’t have a reserve of $15,000, just because the government says you should. And so what you’re seeing, I think, right now are some short term decisions, because on the first of April, everybody who works for you requires that you have a $15,000 cash reserve for them, and that’s quite a lot of money. That’s a huge amount of money. And so that’s driving the layoffs right now, from my point of view, because if you can’t have laid off this week that you can spend that money or what money you have Taking care of your employees, but you’re not committed to holding some long term reserve and that reserve because it’s an employment related thing. It’s not dischargeable in bankruptcy. And so businesses are smart not to accrue additional stuff like that. And so yes, short term decision making is a bad idea. But if you’ve got the boat and it’s full of water, you need to start bailing, where you’re headed with the boat and wait till after you’re done bailing?

Stacey Harris 10:31
Well, and I think that’s the balance, every company is facing right now. And the ground is shifting under their feet to if that regulation is being put in place, if they made early decisions that might be counterintuitive to how that works, that could have an impact on them. I know one of the things I think that same act also has differences between whether you have 500 employees or more or less, right, so if you have less than 500 employees, there’s some more things that you could get including loans versus if you have over 500 employees and that’s the kind of stuff That if you’re right on the edge of those type of things, again, you might make some decisions that would be just make sure you’re in the right bucket or place you need to be to get the kind of support or tools you need from the government.

John Sumser 11:09
Yeah, yeah. And so we’re not in the world that’s not chain retail or chain restaurants. But the small businesses that got every Main Street in America, this isn’t a theory. This isn’t a theoretical question. And those operations are unlikely to have cash reserves set aside. a month without revenue means they’re done and so. So throwing in the towel early means you don’t lose your house. You might lose your business, but you may be able to keep your house. And that’s the level of decision that people who’ve been through these things before are wrestling with because the question of whether or not there’s going to be a market when and when That market is going to open it up for a small business or mainstreet say, it’s a very long bet to take a loan on.

Stacey Harris 12:07
A lot of this conversation that we’re having even now and in the market as a whole, this idea of the small company versus the large company, there are very different and we’re seeing sort of large companies take a lot of the same reactionary measures as a small company. And it might be because financially, they’re in the same boat, I get that completely. But on the other hand, I also think there is peculiar if you’re a larger company who has some runway, this strategy conversation we talked about earlier, should have been in place because this is the conversation about who’s ready and who’s not all companies, those under 500. Those are Main Street shelf without a doubt, they’re in a very different predicament than the larger companies who have for example, my son works for a movie theater and granted the movie theaters getting large. They have a lot of resources, but also people not being in seats. They’re still paying for those movies, even if people don’t come and see them and rent or all of that but knowing what they were made your capacity. Freeze all around the world. Is there some level of strategy around those type of organizations prior to sort of heading into these kind of events? And that’s I don’t know the answer to that. I think that some of the conversation that we’re starting to hear and come out and some of these larger organizations,

John Sumser 13:13
Yeah, so what’s in the news?

Stacey Harris 13:15
So the news is actually, like I said, there is still some interesting stuff going on. Even though we are all in crisis mode, Ceridian has a little touch of brightness here named a new Chief Human Resource Officer seeking to I’m going to save current name Tohyama I think it’s Tohyama she comes from Vice Media where she was the Chief Human Resource Officer there since 2017. Prior to that, she was at the National Basketball Association in New York and in Hong Kong, and has also worked for Disney and Starbucks in Asia. I was quite impressed seeing this from Ceridian. I think that was a little exciting to have a conversation about who is being hired, you know, and what our organization seeing will be the need down the road. We do have some updates on the $2 trillion emergency relief package benefit that we probably talked a little bit about. Walmart offering rent relief, for store partners that may be not so much HR specific but that’s the kind of thing we’re hearing to help organizations get through some of these challenging times. There is still some money being invested in the HR technology space. We saw two large investments in the last few weeks Expressive, raised $30 million in Series B funding for their leadership AI for for it’s basically an enterprise service management tool. And then we also have another AI tool, get some funding the AI recruiting tool called Mya announced $18 million Series B funding so definitely some interesting funding stuff. ADP they didn’t make a press announcements about this we get the you know, Workday did, but when they were doing similar things, but this was came out in the notes from the financial analysts that ADP is giving employees hardship payments. So we know some of our large providers are investing here. And there’s a lot of organizations that we’ve been talking to her giving free access to programs and tools. See num is doing that with them as their talent experience management platform. We’re seeing SHL which is a company from corporate executive board giving free access to their AI powered virtual solutions, digital tenants on no other lists. And somebody mentioned last week, maybe the last conversation, you know, we might want to start here is that New York State is seeking tech talent for its COVID-19 technology SWAT team, but in that they’re basically asking for companies if they’ve got whole teams of product developers software development, engineering, hardware deployment and user support team data scientists, they want whole team to use to working together to come help them with their coven focusing on managing within New York City from a technology perspective. So still a lot of stuff going on, even with all of the triage and crisis work that I think the market is doing from an HR technology perspective, as well as HR. I mean, is there a place you want to maybe start John from a conversation perspective?

John Sumser 15:51
Let’s just draw, there’s one other piece that you didn’t mention which is the founder of Paychex. So you’ve got ADP At workday and all of the companies who are doing interesting things to support people in this confusing time, and then you’ve got the founder of paychecks, who says, send them back to work, losing a few people isn’t as bad as having a recession. So if you run a payroll company or if you founded that the payroll company, the most important thing to you is that people are working. Saying so at a time like this is not what everybody else is doing. So he certainly stands out. But my guess is that people will remember a very long time that this was Paychex’s position.

Stacey Harris 16:41
Tom Golisano is the founder and chairman still, it’s not even like he’s that separated from Paychex and then they open the story and the article on this that was run in Bloomberg basically saying the billionaire Tom Golisano was smoking a Padron cigar on his patio in Florida on Tuesday afternoon, then they go into his comment that the damages of keeping the economy closed as it could be worse as it is could be worse than losing a few more people. It’s hard to even imagine someone saying that we get the sentiment, we understand that economic challenges could actually cost more lives in some ways, maybe down the road. I’m hoping that at least where he was talking about, but that’s not the position anybody should be taking right now. And I think the memory will go on.

John Sumser 17:26
It’s pretty crazy. And then you look at New York State I mean, this this thing about New York State asking for people to let them use their product development teams. That’s so awesome. That’s like, Oh, these people live in the 21st century. You know, what we’re gonna need to make new york work. Yes, some quick development of some apps for tracking and contact management and contact tracing because New York City is going to be next week all we will be talking about this the heart show that we’re going to watch between now and next Thursday as people start shipping their I’m dying from the virus selfies form, and they’re going to be bodies in the streets. It could be all sorts of crazy stuff happening. And in order to get through it, you have to be clear headed. Imagine what we need to get through it and not have some fanciful padrone cigar smoking from the mansion in Florida bullshit. You know, at this thing, this is great. This is great. I love that New York is trying to figure out how to acquire focused, creative technical teams for small responses. It’s like being able to volunteer for the fire brigade when the fires are coming to your house. That’s great.

Stacey Harris 18:47
We should know that it wasn’t just a paycheck. Later. There’s leaders from Wells Fargo and from Goldman Sachs or used to run goldman sachs and people and other senior executives and billionaires around the world who have mentioned in the comments THE MOST I think thing that’s frustrating to me is these are the exact people who if they would invest in finances and money would do the same thing we’re talking about here in New York, which is us innovation, and this opportunity to think about how we rethink the idea of work. I was just talking to someone the other day is a hairdresser. She’s like, Hey, I can’t ask people to come to me. But if I make sure that I’m healthy, and I make sure that I wash my hands, they make sure they do all the things I’m supposed to do. They could come in certain situations and cut people’s hair at home, it’s a way to start thinking differently about my services. And I’m like, it’s a different way of thinking about it. Is there a way of maybe walking people through how to do it on the on the internet, your job? Is everything? Is there delivery mechanisms? All of those are things that we could be reimagining the world that we live in. And yeah, it’s a much different dialogue. Once you think about all of these technology companies that are offering in the HR space, free tools and services and access to their platforms, do you think that is a helpful thing right now in this environment?

John Sumser 20:00
I certainly think that people who are focused on helping their existing customers survive and prosper, people who are basically selling demos on the back of tragedy. That’s a little bit desperate. That’s a little bit desperate. So it’s sort of a case by case thing, my in basket is full of people with solutions that you should try because there’s a virus affecting your workforce. And, and my guess is that the likelihood that people are going to install brand new things is very low. And so don’t pick all of it necessarily very well.

Stacey Harris 20:40
Yeah, I’ve been having so many conversations with people around us is that I think expanding what you offer to family members, to me seems like a really powerful thing. I’ve heard a lot of organization expanding telematics and expanding lending platforms to feeling underserved, who have children at home content for people feeling numbers at home, something and that seems very positive. In what it can do it also in on this point, I think we agree on the fact that new technology new thing, unless you are really didn’t have any platform for doing virtual conversations or any platform for doing virtual interviews. And I think at that point you go out you go looking right. And there should be a opportunity for people to leverage that in some ways, really, from your sourcing. But yeah, the pushing in the market right now, it does feel very difficult to understand what’s the right way to do it, and then have this conversations with multiple vendors right now who are trying to figure out what’s the balance between being supportive, and being and being able to figure out what’s the next time I should actually touch base with someone and that’s a really hard thing to have a conversation about. We’re gonna have the same conversation about those who are senior survey, right. You know, it’s this point in time, what’s the right time we still the data is going to be valuable when we come out of this on the other side, but what’s the right time to ask that question and where are people at? So I think it’s on some level we all have to give each other a little leniency and understanding that people are trying to do their best job and manage The things from a marketing perspective or from an outreach perspective, and I think companies who are doing that have to be very, very cognizant of what the messaging is that they’re putting out there.

John Sumser 22:11
That’s right. Well, it’s a very challenging time to be in marketing. You know, we had 11 years of continuous growth. And that’s as unprecedented as the number the numbers over 3 million for unemployment claims this week. And that is like seven or eight times the highest it’s ever been. And we don’t know what to do. generically. We don’t know what to do in a situation like this. And the drive for quarterly results is relentless. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to do, you’ve got to do something. And so, there are there are serious mistakes that are gonna get made reputation, reputation, damaging mistakes, and that will be part of how the landscape is reshaped. I do want to notice that you mine got funding in the middle of all of this. And my is a conversational chat bot kind of thing like Socrates that AI but more focused on recruiting as I understand it. And those sorts of tools, the AI tools that we’ve been talking about four years now are going to have an interesting resurgence. Every recruiting department is going to experience a logarithmic explosion in the volume of applications. Everybody who’s unemployed, is sitting at their laptop sitting on top applications, and you need automation to wade through that, even if it doesn’t work perfectly, and even if it compounds your problem, in some ways, you can’t hire enough humans to process those things. You can so the workload in recruiting goes up by TEDx. We’re processing inbound stuff and the workload for recruiting involved in Hiring dropped by 90%. And so things like that inside of the recruiting department make a big difference and that everybody has 1000 questions from HR, what’s okay working at home? What can I do? Have you seen that video of the woman who is on the conference call, the Spanish woman is on this conference call and her husband walks by in the background of these in his underpants.

Stacey Harris 24:23
I haven’t seen that when I’ve seen similar kind of things right. People have put together this is a horrified a challenge with the family as well as you are your own personal forgetting that you’re on camera, and he would never do in person, right?

John Sumser 24:37
That’s right. And so HR is going to get asked about stuff like that. And that means that tools that are able to handle things that are in policy or that are the result of looking up stuff on multiple systems simultaneously, that stuff is going to have an extraordinary moment here because the only way to handle the increased volume is by starting to have automation involved in it. And so it won’t be just working from home. It’ll be working from home. And you’ll have a digital intermediary between you and the HR department. And it’ll be great because that’ll produce consistent answers to stuff.

Stacey Harris 25:16
And, you know, Mya was another who got investment, very similar but more important internal organization, as Expressive as an artificial intelligence that focuses more on helpdesk and internal questions and conversations. So I think we’re going to see this on both sides externally and internally in HR, that this is going to be a space where we will see investments increase because you as a human being might not be able to keep up with the regulation changes. We were just having a conversation about what’s changing with the regulations and Family Medical Leave Act and what people can and can’t do from taking leave. It feels like there might be a space for being able to update a system that can answer those questions quicker in some cases, and then getting every human being updated. Those are the kind of things that we’re gonna have a lot more conversations about later on.

John Sumser 25:57
Yep, yep. And so what this says It’s not that the market is not dead, but the market is certainly changing. And what the customer does is certainly changing. And that’s probably a great place to end because we’re going to start as we go through this transition, we’ll start looking at what people are doing that’s different. And you can imagine that the market and investment in the market will

start to align with the stuff that people are doing that’s different.

Stacey Harris 26:24
Yeah, definitely. Well, I think that’s a place for us to definitely have some more conversations as we get going and helping people think a little bit more through that. What will the different look like and where can you start to put your foot and even in uncertain grounding, what the places you can take some steps. So that’s probably the most positive thing we can end on today, John.

John Sumser 26:43
Yep, thanks for doing this Stacey. Great conversation, difficult time. I hope everybody is staying insulated from the virus to the extent that it’s possible for you to do so. Stacey and I are pretty well hunkered down and we’ll be back here next week with more news of the industry. Thanks for tuning in.

Stacey Harris 27:04
Thanks everyone, everyone stay safe and healthy.

John Sumser 27:04
Bye bye everyone.

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