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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: 260
Air Date: April 2, 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 0:14
Good morning and welcome to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Hey, Stacey, this is our 260th show.

Stacey Harris 0:23
Wow, we’ve been doing this for a little while, John. There’s been a lot of pop up blog event and radio shows, which is great. I think everybody’s trying to figure out ways to connect and communicate. But we’ve been doing this for many years now. So this is good to hear 260. Let’s hope we continue on for a couple more years too.

John Sumser 0:39
260. Let’s just get this right. 260 is 52 times five. It’s a show every week week for five years.

Stacey Harris 0:48
Five years, yeah.

John Sumser 0:51
Remember, when we first started this, you were a sweet, young, sparkly eyed thing. And now we’ve been doing this forever and I’ve tuend into an old guy.

Stacey Harris 1:01
Yeah, yeah.

I just gonna say, I think we’ve all felt like that this last month alone. We’ve all turned a little bit older than we were previously. So I don’t know if it’s just a radio show doing that. But yeah, it’s been a good five years. I think that we sometimes forget how quickly time passes is one of the challenges. I think when you do weekly or annual, you know, like the annual HR system survey, we’re in our 23rd year and you just think, how have we been doing anything for that long, but it’s also part of, I think, the beauty of life that some of the things that we do on a regular basis help connect us they help keep some normalcy some level of I know, I’ve got to do this in my life. Right. That’s part of I think, the wonderful thing about stuff that stays a bit stable for us. So I’ll take that as a bit of stability right now, John, I think we all need that. Yeah.

John Sumser 1:48
Yeah. So our first our first entry into the into the world of losses, we’re not going to be able to talk about which hotel we’re staying in every week for a while.

Stacey Harris 1:59
For a while.

John Sumser 2:00
How long you think that’s gonna be, but I think it’s gonna be quite some time before I get a closed container with bad ventilation with a bunch of other people for hours on end.

Stacey Harris 2:12
We’ll have to say, yeah, it’s gonna you know, we have to really make some judgment calls even when things do start opening up about what are your sort of favorite things to do versus not favorite things to do? And flying seems like a really unsafe thing based off of the sort of the numbers we’re getting right now in the in the market. Of course, the first part of where I started, the first part of March on a flight ot to Las Vegas and back. Yeah, it would be hard to get back on a plane right now. I would have to agree that Oh, yeah.

John Sumser 2:37
Yeah. Can you imagine airplanes was six feet of distance between people on each side.

Stacey Harris 2:45
Yeah, I can’t confirm this. But I do know there was a couple articles about some of the airlines basically, if they’re still flying in areas and they’re still flight that needs to be done. People still need to be getting places. They’re like not selling the middle seat so that you have the space and it just makes me laugh because I’m like, do people realize like the middle seat gives you like maybe 22 inches, right?

John Sumser 3:02
Right. That’s okay. So there’s a little bit of news going on. What’s in the news? I’m sorry, there’s a lot of news going on what’s in the industry news?

Stacey Harris 3:12
What’s in the industry news I was gonna say yeah, I mean outside of us all sort of managing our personal challenges and losses these weeks there has been a lot of surprising news going on in the HRTtech space. One is something I think we’ve all been looking at what as Kronos and Ultimate software completed their merger. So we’ve been talking about this for a while. I think, even when that news came down, like well, is that going to go forward with everything and they went full speed ahead. You know, at this point, it looks like it creates one of the world’s largest cloud companies 12,000 employees worldwide and approximately 3 billion in revenue. And Aaron Ain Kronos slash whatever name they will eventually give it entity. And then you know, this may not be a bad because as timing goes there, Never a good time when we’re dealing with the kind of things that we’re dealing with. But I think anytime you do a merger and acquisition, there’s a bit of a downturn in just the number of deals you make and those kind of things. And so I think the whole market is down right now. I think everyone would agree. And so I don’t think they’ll feel anything different than what they would have if they were not merging, acquiring. So that’s definitely going on.

We also have Strivr for those who have followed the education phase. stryver is the company behind a virtual reality VR platform that companies use to train employees, they raised $30 million in Series B funding. And then all of this definitely worth a conversation.

Microsoft also taking advantage of the virtual team things going on in the market. Now teams for consumers just sort of make this they probably might have time this little poorly because guys, which is the tool that everybody’s using that Microsoft has purchased daily active users has up 70% to 40 million and now it looks like Microsoft wants replaced that with their new team’s product. So that’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to sort of play better off. And then you know, there’s some interesting things going on.

We know tons of organizations are offering free services free education free tools in the market right now from our HR Technology space. One that I thought was somewhat interesting is Qualtrics is releasing a free remote workforce. And at the same time of Covid-19 prescreen and routing questionnaire. So someone like Qualtrics, in our business, that sort of straddles between consumer and HR services and offerings has sort of that odd mix of a little bit of both in some of the things they’re offering that can be of help the HR function, I thought that was maybe worth having a little conversation about,

And then you had some interesting conversations about the name sounds terrible, but what Dr. Doom told me about the coming recession, I hope Dr. Doom has a few bright spots in his conversation. That’s probably worse topic or two if we get to that. So yeah, there’s news and things going on this week.

John Sumser 5:51
So I find I’m a big fan of both Kronos and Ultimate software, but this is a pretty strange merger don’t you think? They still don’t have a name for it. Right as they still have to headquarters, there are amazing people in both companies work getting done. But at the end, both companies are people inspired company. But they haven’t figured out how to get together. It’s very interesting. They haven’t really swallowed that bit of a challenge yet.

Stacey Harris 6:20
In the market that we’re in and with the separation, not being able to bring teams together, there were a few times when face to face really make the difference. But it’s definitely important when you’re trying to support the show changes. You can do a lot virtually, with teams that sort of a somewhat cohesive verse are working on the same direction, but when you’re trying to make the culture shift face to face is really hard to beat. And I think that if there’s anything that this is gonna be difficult for him is if they try and do this culture shift in the middle of the crisis management model that we’re dealing with. So my bet is the paper works well done, but they’re probably taking a beat, you know, a bit of a wait time on The next step, they will have to think a little bit about getting some time there for people.

John Sumser 7:06
Yeah, the really cool thing here is if you wanted to pick two companies to merge at a time when nobody understands what a company is gonna be like, it’s too much. You pick these two because they’re so people centric, both of them that you would guess that the output product would be a very people centric thing. I think that’s why it’s taking so long. I don’t want to cast aspersions at all. It’s they’re concerned about the quality of interactions that people have with the company that their customers have with their people. That slows this down. And they’ll come up with people sensitive solution at a time when there are no templates that you can use to get to the first really mega merger to happen virtually.

Stacey Harris 7:57
They happen to virtually and I think that will have the opportunity, not the option I think anybody really wants, but they will have the opportunity to show what a new company looks like in the post COVID virus era. Right. And then there will be a post COVID virus era. And I, at some point, the greatest level of what we’re dealing with will go down. And the question will be what is the new Corporation look like in that kind of environment? And they might have the ability to mold that in a way that no one else has. Right? So that will be I think, well worth watching what Aaron does, and and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does, because I do think that like you said, the organizations have different audiences and they have different approaches, I think the things and one is very operations focused and very operations level buyer and one is very much an HR and an HR level buyer. But those two worlds have been coming closer and closer to each other for years. And I think what’s going to be exciting is we’re going to start to see what that will look like when those two worlds are hand in hand the table making decisions that are for people and the business decisions right.

John Sumser 9:00
Yeah, it’s gonna be a good time. You know, here, HR Examiner, we’re spending time trying to figure out where the plateau is liable to be and what you want to be doing when you land there. This is actually an extraordinary time for HR technology. But you have to be able to get your head up out in the crisis to understand that this is the time where you should be making notes and collecting data, starting to imagine the organization that you want to have, rather than ending up with the organization that the crisis delivers to you.

Stacey Harris 9:35
That’s a great way of putting it. I think that last week was, it’s really, really easy. And I say that easy in the most understanding terms, but when you are in crisis, you go into a mode of trying to save everything, you’re sort of just trying to wrap your arms around thing, a strategic thought process around that, although it is difficult and very hard to set back from the emotions that you’re feeling might end up providing a better picture for you. At the end of this type of crisis, and so action, although it’s imperative when we’re saving lives, taking too quickly when it comes to job decisions and organization structures and financial metrics are something that, you know, we have to probably think a little bit more about, though. Yeah, no, it’s it’s an interesting time also to think about what you should be investing. And I think that’s something we often forget as we’re going through crisis is easy to think about what we should be cutting back in and where we should be taking conservative efforts around what we need to do from a management perspective. But you know, I think this Strivr investment of 30 million for VR training, as well as sort of we’re seeing an increase of Slack was up by 30% in users this week, we obviously know, Zoom has been increasing in overall stock prices, although there has been some interesting conversations there about the security around Zoom, and some of the gaps but I think all of those areas are places where people are seeing an opportunity not just to invest in a moment and a need, but in what the future might look like if we do it, right. So you know, $30 million is a lot of money in our industry and to get that at this point in time. For a VR training platform may seem a little bit early. But I think people somewhere saying what this is probably the future of where we’re at and how we do training and how we connect people and how we make sure we don’t lose some semblance of the work we need to do even if we have to have some distancing across the market in the globe, right.

John Sumser 11:18
This is liable to sound a little pollyannish. But the reality is that innovation explodes in a crisis. And given the extraordinary size and depth of this crisis, you should expect an extraordinary explosion of innovation, right? Things are going to really change and things are going to really, really get innovative. Although it might feel like adapting to the necissity, we’re going to we’re going to be in very different territory. And so it’s smart to do several things right now. It’s smart to invest in marketing, and it’s smart to invest in bits and pieces of things that look like they’re going to be tomorrow. Customers hear that’s a really interesting thing. You know, Jason Averbook is doing some pretty cool stuff on the Slack channel. And basically he’s saying there’s no such thing as the future of work. There’s the now of work and the now of work looks a whole lot like the future of work looked two weeks ago, and there’s this extraordinary explosion that this Strivr investment represents of really interesting things that we swore couldn’t be done a month ago that got done overnight.

That got done overnight.

Stacey Harris 12:30
Overnight. We can’t have everybody work virtually and it’s done overnight, right? Yeah. Yeah.

John Sumser 12:35
So imagine that that continues, the things that were impossible can be done overnight, what a cool time to be alive. It’s scary, scary as hell. But oh my goodness, the possibilities for positive things are just extraordinary right now.

Stacey Harris 12:52
One of the other topics before him a conversation about is the announcement from Microsoft that they’re going to try and replace Skype with their Teams for which I am working on some level Teams has a couple of things in it, I think that people are really excited about inside of businesses that it limits what you can say that limits how you can see your files, it limit the open issues. And it was one of the challenges was Zoom that we’re seeing, although with rapidly increasing in the market is I’m seeing these posts now on Facebook, how to eliminate drop ins into your classroom in Zoom right. Which can be scary if you’ve got people dropping in who aren’t supposed to be in those meetings. So I’m also wondering, innovation take off and drive change these large companies trying to force but some of the things that they’ve been working on into this net death, if you think that force fitting will work and you know, do we have any examples of the past where large companies have been able to take their products or their goals and rearrange them to fit into the next generation after the crisis?

John Sumser 13:45
You know, I don’t know about you and I’m gonna assume that everybody who would listen to this has the same problem that I do which is my in basket has filled with people trying to make the move that you’re describing the desperate will give you a free trial because There’s a crisis going on crap that that poses for people trying to do good things, you know that because of cobit, we’re going to give you a 30 day free trial is this level of desperation in the marketing function, because the numbers haven’t changed even though the circumstances have changed. And so people are falling away behind other 2020 goals and doing things, whatever it takes, no matter how dumb it is to try to make some last gasp effort to recover the sales pipeline for this year. And it seems to me that Microsoft Teams as a Zoom alternative is kind of like that. I’m certainly seeing a lot of it. I’m on Microsoft Teams conference calls 5% of the time now, and it didn’t exist two weeks ago. But I don’t know. I don’t know. Do you think this thing about Microsoft announcing Teams for consumers, they say, hey, you can plan book club meetings in Microsoft Teams. and I’m like, wow, did anybody tell them what’s going on.

Stacey Harris 15:02
yeah it’s

It’s really been a challenging week for me this week I had a friend that I lost not to COVID per se but to the fact that she couldn’t get the treatment she needed because of the challenges that were happening with her getting to New York for her cancer treatment and the thing that was most I think powerful and and also in the moment felt right was they did when she came home for hospice, they did a parade because nobody could come and visit it right? It is a parade of people striving by her house to say goodbye and the Facebook Live View of that right and so when I’m thinking about what I would turn to for something like a book club, or an important social moment for me, right, it seems to me like Facebook Live has been the tool that people are using for those kinds of things I’ve got, therefore they’re going to Facebook Live her funeral. They’re gonna you know that someone is talking about a Facebook Live baby shower because their baby showers coming up and these are things I think that makes so much sense. I don’t know that I would think Microsoft Teams or something like that, but those are things that are pouring out of what’s happening in our lives every day, right? And I think will change how we think about work as well. So.

John Sumser 16:09
Well, first of all, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry for your loss, you’re at the front end of something that I don’t think people have really grasped, which is everybody is going to lose somebody close to them, everybody is going to lose somebody close to them. And now you’ve got, you know, from the sort of this industry perspective, you’ve got an HR department that is simultaneously trying to figure out technology, laying people off, and immersed in demand for compassionate treatment. So in a way that nobody ever imagined possible. Everybody is going to take bereavement leave on the same day. And you know, bereavement leave has never been managed as if it was something that people were actually going to use all at once and bereavement leave is code for people, are going to be shell shocked bygrief. Yeah.

Stacey Harris 17:01
Yeah. I was just gonna say the thing about bereavement leave. And this is a hard thing to blame. I think everybody lost them on. So we all get that. But if you’ve lost someone who’s very close to you who was in your household, I lost my husband four years ago, for those of you who didn’t know that, and the grief that goes along with that will home and think we’ll stay in touch with emails and stuff, but take the time you need right but it’s not a linear process and it’s not Oh, I get over it in three days or a week or a month. It’s this day is really bad and the next day is really good. And and the next day after that I’m you know, in bed all day because I just can’t get up. There’s just grief has these levels, right that we go through. And I think one when you’re working at home, which is where we’re at all day, it’s hard to sort of understand how that grief will play out and in a in a way where the the emails and the things are always available because there is a tendency to want to sort of dive into work to forget or dive into things or to feel like you have to answer when you’re not really there. You’re not really ready and I think you’re Your comment about the fact that it’s not just sort of dealing with grief, it’s about dealing with the waves of what people are going to be dealing with. HR has not really, I think ever had to have prepare for something like that. Yeah. So it’s going to be powerful and scary I think for people.

John Sumser 18:13
And so what’s interesting to me is that there are all sorts of very immediate problems that you can start to do things with technology, or and some of these problems are not going to change at work at home workforce asks more questions of HR. And so the question answering functions and the automation that you can do the question answering functions is going to be a big, urgent need because they are swamped with questions that are being asked. And then the employee assistance program kinds of stuff. Nobody knows how to do that. And it’s distributed environment, and we’re going to have to get really good at offering the kinds of things that used to be in the EAP in real time over Microsoft Teams are Something like that. And that’s another technology answer. And then, you know, it’s not just that we’re all going to be suffering grief, our organizations are going to lose people, we’re going to lose, depending on who you ask one to 3% of the workforce to death, and another 15 to 20% of the workforce to 90 days in disease recovery. And so the question of who does essential stuff and how do you know, and how do you make sure that they’re covered when you are under pressure while you’re doing layoffs, while you’re trying to be compassionate while you’re trying to answer all these questions, this is a hard time to be an HR, the HR HR is the frontlines of this problem in a whole lot of ways. And people are working so hard that nobody’s even coming up rare.

Stacey Harris 19:47
Yeah, and we’re talking about the things that you would normally deal with but now have to become a virtual conversation. EAP environment on the best days, never worked really great. But you know, now you’ve got to figure out how to do it virtually But there’s also I think some areas that are touch gray areas or HR professionals right now, when we have work environments that are completely virtual, what do I do? If I know that someone is all alone and they’re getting sick as a manager with HIPAA regulations? I’m not really allowed to share that information. But is it something I need to do to let someone know if there’s no one else that that person is depending on? What do I do if I’m an HR professional, and I know that I’m to be laying someone off and they’re in the middle of actually being sick, and they will lose their insurance? What is my responsibility at some level with those kinds of thing? Those are questions I don’t know that we have answers for or there’s regulations are going to be found lacking because they have never covered anything like this before. It’s a really difficult place to be for each or not just to sort of manage things that you would do anyways, virtually, but you also live in those gray areas where no good answer and some of the

John Sumser 20:56
Yeah, yeah, it’s an arena where we’re going to find out what works while we’re doing it, right? So all of the stuff that we’ve been learning for the last decade about innovation being something that you do, you innovate on the car while it’s going down the highway at 80 miles an hour. That’s what it’s like to be in HR today. That’s what it’s like to be in HR today. And that’s why it’s so infuriating that the the marketing people who are jamming email boxes with free trial offers claiming to be philanthropic don’t understand that they’re overloading people who are already overloaded. And that with those people need our solutions problems that they actually have.

Stacey Harris 21:37
Yeah, you know there are some great things that are being done out there in places where organizations are giving opportunities for people just to come together and talk and ask questions. There’s some wonderful Employment Lawyers that we know friends of ours who are out there giving great webinars around what the regulations mean, and how do I apply them really, really helpful things from what I’m hearing from you You know, the other things that I’m hearing that is really being helpful just pages for resources. I’ve seen a lot of organizations putting together pages of resources that when you have the time or when you need to get the answer immediately, you can find it quickly. Those are the kind of things that seem I think, to be the most value to the people that I’m speaking with. We’re on the frontlines dealing with the challenges. You’re trying to help people. But it’s really hard to know what is the right thing to do sometimes, not just from a marketing perspective, but also from a planning perspective. Charlie, talk about the future when it feels like the rest of the world is barely get through the present is what is my role in that? Should I be doing it? I think this there’s no you have to give a little leniency for both of those bases as well. marketing professionals aren’t completely tone deaf, they’re trying to do their best. And I think the future is a place where we have to start thinking about even though we’re in the middle of crisis and pain, right, so those are two ways we got to maybe get some space as well.

John Sumser 22:54
I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m a little grumpy because my email boxes is overloaded.

Stacey Harris 23:00
I get it.

John Sumser 23:01
I think that’s true of a lot of people. I don’t think marketing people are any more tone deaf than anybody else, this is a very, very difficult thing to figure out. And the pressure’s to continue to solve problems as they look at the beginning of the year in the midst of this complete disruption. This gives you a first hand experience of what it must have been like to be in the management of Kodak, or

the management of the music companies as they declined everything you know how to do as wrong, sort of, and that’s part of what happened to this kind of event.

Stacey Harris 23:37
It’s been very, you know, these are going to be difficult conversations we’re going to have over the next couple of months, but we will continue, I think, to think about, you know, what is the new, what is the future things we should thinking about, but also what’s the reality that people are dealing with today? Just a little shout out personally, for those of you my friend, and when I ran out who passed was a fourth grade education teacher and you know, many of the times I thought about, you know, how would I honor someone as amazing as her and one of the things that I would just like to say is if you are looking for a place to share a story about yourself or someone that you are in quarantine with, or maybe someone that you haven’t talked with for a while, there’s a wonderful organization called Many of you probably know it, it’s a great way to capture the stories of the people in your life, and to share them with the world and just turn up in her honor. And so I’d like to say, please take the opportunity to record and remember the people that you love dearly. So it’s a great time talking to you today, John.

John Sumser 24:28
Yeah, thanks. It was a great show. Please take care of yourself and attend to your grief and the same for everybody else in the audience. This is a rich and confusing time and it’s really great that you’ve taken the time for us to talk about it today. We’ll see you back here next week, same time. Thanks again, Stacey. Thanks, everybody for listening. You’be been n HR Tech Weekly with Stacey Harris and John Sumser our 260th show. See you next time. Bye bye.

Stacey Harris 24:56
Thanks everyone.

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