HR Tech Weekly Logo

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: 262
Air Date: April 16, 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. Hi, Stacey.

Stacey Harris 0:21
Good morning, John. How are you doing?

John Sumser 0:23
I’m having a great time here. I haven’t suffered from jet lag in six months. There’s something totally wrong with my system.

Stacey Harris 0:32
It’s like hey, this is what real actual regular eight hours a night sleep look like right?

John Sumser 0:37
Right, in the same bed in the same time zone. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. So how’s solitary confinement treating you?

Stacey Harris 0:45
Solitary confinement in North Carolina is not bad, I can’t complain. I’ve got a great roof over my head, good food in the refrigerator and we’re waffling between, you know 40 degrees and 60 degrees on a pretty regular basis here. So we are enjoying as much as we can, with all of the other anxiety and fear that’s going on right now. The time and the ability to not have to get on a flight and not have to be away from our family and not have to be running all over the country. So yeah. And I will have to say I’m on an upbeat note this morning, although this weird sort of mix between anxiety and fear, I’ve got a lot going on in my own personal life. And I know a lot of friends, family who are struggling right now. But I had a great briefing this morning. I just It reminds me that for me, at least getting back into work and probably Unfortunately, my drug of choice is just working. And it just makes me feel better learning about new technologies and seeing what people are doing and hearing about the good stories around how the HR technology are helping organizations address the crisis in ways that we wouldn’t have been able to do just five years ago. So I’ll say I’m on a bit cheerier note today. So thank you, John. And how about you? Are you on a positive note? Are you seeing good things right now?

John Sumser 1:58
It’s innovation. Always explodes in times of crisis. So I’m seeing that and that’s what I’m looking for. It’s a rich emotional mix. I don’t know anybody who isn’t scared, or maybe better said, the people I know who aren’t scared, I’m quite concerned about. Right, because there’s just so much that we don’t know. And this situation is I listen to a show the other day that was 12. So it’s really, really well known scenario planners who have been in the business of helping companies see the future for 25 years, any one of them 25 years, and they were laughing amongst them amongst themselves because every single time you do scenario planning, and you try to figure out where the company’s going to go over a long period of time, one of the standard things that you do is work with a pandemic scenario, right? What happens if the other magical happens is kind of what scenario planning is all about. And There’s been a lot of work in the military and big businesses wrestling with questions like this at leadership levels, whether or not whether or not the organizations got prepared as a result of that as a separate question, but but thinking about this actually isn’t foreign to leadership in big organizations and so on. So there are places both in the startup community and in big business where things are getting set on fire right now, because the opportunities for growth and innovation are so explosive, and it’s so weird. It’s kind of the definition of irony that that happens at the same time that some of the people are suffering.

Stacey Harris 3:39
Yeah, suffering and dying and out of work and struggling to find homes and meaningful explanations for their children. And yeah, it’s a hard economy of emotions to bring together but I also think last night I was in tears over a friend a blog, and this morning, I’m just excited about where things are going and I think you just have to be comfortable with this way. This is where we are and the idea that there will be a new normal, there will be I think a leveling off of the swing. But this is life in general. Right. This is how we have to sort of energy gets energy on some level.

John Sumser 4:12
Well, yeah. So I don’t know if this is how it is there are I’m hearing three distinct views about how this evolves. Right View are is people have short memories, and and this will be over, we’ll be back to actual year ago normal. And it’ll happen very quickly. And I hear some reasonably smart people suggesting that that might be the case. And it’s certainly the hope that the administration is friendly. And then there are people who grow well. We might see a leveling of this somewhere in the early fall, but it’s going to be turn it on, turn it off. So people who are thinking about going to college in the fall probably have to rethink their plan because We’ll have social distancing and in intermittent way until there’s a vaccine in large part, and then I talk to people who are adding guns to their gun cabinet, because the end of society as we know it, you know, it’s, there’s a pretty broad array of views about how this is gonna go. And what I’m sure of is that a lot of things that look like they used to be essential are not going to be essential, and will reconfigure around that. And that’s pretty interesting. But that includes how work gets done and the way we think about work. So it’s gonna be a long rebuilding time, I think. And so normal will be constantly changing as we rebuild into whatever the next thing is, but that might be a decade away.

Stacey Harris 5:47
Yeah, exactly. And, you know, I remember coming out of just the recession of 2008, which wasn’t anywhere near like this right now. But I mean, you know, going from wild and crazy conferences and events and parties that were just the norm In 2005 2004, to an expectation after that, that you would tone down all the conferences, toned down sort of what was going on in the business environment work on a more conservative level, both of spending and investment. It took almost 10 years for some of that to ramp back up again. So if you think your length of time is probably realistic, right, I’ve just always been on that alone, let alone all the other things that we’re dealing with. I think you said right now we’re at was at 22 million right?

John Sumser 6:27
As of this morning 22 million, and that would be 15%. Yeah, that’s crazy. Unemployed here in the United States, 22 million people have acquired so 22 million out of 160 is 14%. And there was already 3% unemployment. So it’s in the 17 range, probably right now. And there’s still two more reporting weeks before you get the full April number. So you can imagine that that the May one unemployment to hear will look like 22 or 23%.

Stacey Harris 6:58
They’re saying that probably by the end the summer we’re looking at almost 40% of possibilities, right?

John Sumser 7:03
Yeah, there are scenarios that make it look like that where we’re just on summer break for a very long time with no money to spend at the beach.

Stacey Harris 7:12
Well, at the same time in our minds, and we’re all aware that there’s still things going on, still money being invested. And there are still planning going on for large investments in technology. We did see this week though announcements that to the big conferences that we’re going to take place in June. So I think the idea that we are definitely not going to see things get back to any level of at least our level of normal, the June OHUG conference and the June Select HR Tech conference. Both were we were notified of cancellations this week I know about them because I was speaking at both of them. We sure there are other conferences that were going on in June. But as far as I know, at this point, there’s nothing that I have seen that’s on the schedule of sticking in June. So at the very least works through June and probably August now with no vendor conferences that I’m aware of that are on the books. So that would be September is the earliest I’m hearing people plan right now for.

John Sumser 8:02
Yeah, and that’s probably a little suspect. What excites me about this is I don’t know, are you part of the Singapore video conference?

Stacey Harris 8:10
I’m having a conversation about possibly doing that actually next week? So I’m not on it as of this point, but yes, I’ve heard about it.

John Sumser 8:17
So Josh and Jason and I are talking and I’m pretty excited because instead of this being something that’s exclusive to Singapore, there’s a global audience and implicit notion that anybody can go get a copy of the recording and consume it whenever. And that’s a new feature of communications that we’re just starting to see go and so I’m learning how to tape a talk from my desk and do it in a professional way. And that’s exciting. I think lots of people will be doing that.

Stacey Harris 8:51
Yeah, setting up video cameras setting up your audio appropriately. All those things. Yeah, we’re gonna we’re gonna see more and more of that, probably, at least throughout the end of this year, but we’re also seeing investments going on right now. I mean, there are two investments that I have. And you said, you’ve seen it several more this upcoming week, I’m seeing it on Findo. You have another way of pronouncing this name, a cloud based identification verification tool that raised 100 million dollars to invest in more background checking and identification. It looks like they’re adding artificial intelligence to the process that they’re using here. And then we’re also seeing another collaboration tool this week of Paris based company called Slite raising $11 million in their series, a collaboration tool. Does it surprise you, John, that we’re continuing to see investments right now? Are you still seeing this as well?

John Sumser 9:35
Oh, you know, just because the market changed dramatically doesn’t mean that the underlying financing doesn’t keep moving. And so I’m seeing active fundraising from companies that do things like answer questions to we’re going to talk about a question answering company a little bit later, but people like capacity and Socrates the sort of superduper knowledge in a ration systems that have a conversational flavor to the raising money, tools that help you deal with huge volumes of job applications. There’s a lot of innovation going on there. And companies like Simply Hired and that stuff is taking off, right? Because every recruiting department just experienced 100 fold increase in the number of people applying for jobs. It used to be hard to find candidates. And now it’s quite easy. So you have to have a way to sort through it all. And so those things are doing super well as our tools that help you adapt quickly so that you don’t need to bother the HR people who are buried in college right now or the IT people who are very involved. Anything that can automate those sorts of processes is having a good business success and able to raise money easily right now, because those are the problems.

Stacey Harris 10:56
Exactly. Yeah. I mean, that was the briefing I have this morning with walk me. Walk me is an adoption and digitization platform out of Israel that started out primarily the training tool that helps us walk through technology. But they’ve expanded their overall platform to not only help you walk through, but give you nudges and give advice and give guidance and give information while you’re on different screens and in different environments from a technology perspective, and they’re saying that they released their editing tool that for their platform free and 60 days, they saw a 2,000% increase in just content creation alone, because their tools, the end user kind of creation tool does exactly I think what you were talking about anything that allows you to help the workforce, increase accessibility, increase the information sharing and not have to talk to a live person is invaluable right now.

John Sumser 11:47
Yeah. And so we had a great conversation before the show about these kinds of things that simultaneously are creepy as all get up because they monitor your work on your desktop and how of extraordinary potential for being misused and the fact that they create a foundation for thinking about the workforce in a way that we haven’t had before. So, so for instance, if I can see through the system who asks you for help about what I can start to understand your job in ways that was never before possible, because I know I have a grasp of the content of the interactions that you have and what they mean. And your job for most people, unless it’s a very, very mechanical job, the essence of their time is what they know and how they apply it. And it’s been impossible with job descriptions are terrible at conveying this but if you should see what people are doing and understand the content of their behavior with software and their interactions, you can start to build new ideas about what skills are actually used inside of the company and what Stacey’s job is and how it’s different from John’s job.

Stacey Harris 12:59
I think the conversation we have which I think is a valid conversation is digital adoption. Is technology adoption improvement the same as improving productivity? Can those two things be automatically linked? Or is it possible then, like you said, it’s much more of the nuances between those things which don’t look like increased activity, but look like what you asked versus how often you asked it. You know, I’ve been very impressed with organizations like Watson who have been able to think more broadly about what their role is inside of an organization. You know, you started off as a training application. And when you broaden your thinking, you think, okay, because I’m in this place doing this for these organizations and these employees, I can also help you not just learn how to do it, but maybe help verify some of the fields or maybe I can now here at this point, expand and help you figure out where upstream the thinking has gone wrong, that causes all the audit problems at the back end. So can I at the upstream area, readjust the things that that person is thinking about? So that they either fill out the right information or we capture the right information, all that stuff is valuable as a broadening of thinking. The other side of that is that it is a bit of trying to measure air. And you can measure air, but it’s a little bit wonky. And as you’re doing it, is it impacting what you are actually doing as an employee? Is it making you change how you clip the information in or would interact because you know, you’re being monitored a little bit more or being tracked a little bit more. So those are the conversations I think are really good. But I think we’re going to get to a point where everything we do in our work environment is going to be monitored, and the hope is being monitored to help you improve for your own personal goal, not just a company number tracking goal, if that makes sense.

John Sumser 14:46
Yeah, that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.

The company’s gonna monitor your work for your own good.

Stacey Harris 15:04
Probably it’s what it sounds like but my audience understands me.

John Sumser 15:11
So here’s what I think is interesting, really before the last decade, your work was your work. And the softer was something that you use to help you with your work. And in the last decade, the software has become the work. And so when you have tools that monitor desktop behavior, what you’re saying is the software is the work. And my guess is that we’re going to come to a moment very quickly where we understand that the software is a word that whether or not you’re a good salesperson does not depend on whether or not you feel that you’re Forbes and And whether or not you’re a good HR person doesn’t depend on how will you use workday. whether or not your HR person depends on whether or not you meet your goals. And I see little data anywhere that says if you use the software properly achieve your goals. I don’t think that’s true. And so I think there’s a risk. And it’s aggravated by the fact that we are in this experiment about what does working from home during a pandemic mean, and how do you monitor and control that. But the idea that you can do it with automation, when we have never done it before, we’re going to automate processes that we actually haven’t done before. And so that says, we’re going to move the process directly out of the office into your house, and we’re not going to think twice about we’re not going to think twice about whether or not that’s the smart thing to do. We’re just going to measure it. And I think it’s more complicated than that.

Stacey Harris 16:37
I’ll give you that it’s more complicated, I think that something like that is a part of the picture. It is not the end answer. So from my perspective, we have to start gathering data to make the decisions and to have the conversations it’s a little bit like nobody talks about smoking and death and cancer until you actually start to track the number of people who are dying. It’s that kind of a conversation that it is not the answer to the cancer issue, but it’s gets the conversation started. And I think the same thing is these are real issues right now. I mean, Zoom basically just got sued for aleged data breach last month, because of the fact that they’re taking data that they’re using in their application and sharing it with third parties, including Facebook, I think it gets exactly what you’re talking about is that there are places where this is going to intrude, as we’re getting the work done, how many companies? How many people? How many organizations are leveraging zoom every day now? I mean, what was their share? their usage went up. I don’t have the exact number, but it was something ridiculously high. And yet people are unaware that they’re sharing data with a third party in a way that could come back and have an impact on you personally, right?

John Sumser 17:41
That’s right. And Zoom has struggled with privacy questions in general, you know, it’s sport in the local high school where all the kids are at home. Everybody’s trying to figure out how to Zoom bomb a class. Right so you’re an uninvited but you’re a student. And so you’d go by and tell a joke and disrupt the class. And it sounds like to me, I certainly would have figured out how to do that.

Stacey Harris 18:06

John Sumser 18:10
So there are growing pains with them I guess is what I’d say.

Stacey Harris 18:15
Which I think it’s gonna be with any of the technologies that we’re using right now. I mean, as Zoom is having challenges, I mean, they don’t have the numbers in use, but they have like the Zoom shares went from $68 on January one to $159 a share in March 23, and then are down to $113. Because of all of this and probably even less now I haven’t checked but and companies are banning their use of these like SpaceX and teachers are being instructed not to use it now the New York State Department of Education at the same time Microsoft Teams is breaking daily records as 2.7 billion meeting minutes tops mid March high by 200%. So the working from home thing is real. And whether you’re using Zoom or Microsoft Teams and all of us know how much tracking Microsoft’s doing now because we get regular review ports on how many meetings we’ve been in and whether or not we’re up or down in our quiet time and all of that. So the team’s application is tracking probably 10 times more than what just our email account is tracking.

John Sumser 19:11
It’s gonna be an interesting time. I think, you know, the hierarchical centralized management idea is an old old thing. And it’s not going to go away quickly or painlessly. But when you try to take that management thinking that makes offices work and apply it to distributed work, I think you end up with serious stupid. And so I wish that I thought that what was happening was everybody understands this as a new way of doing it just and just as you said, we collect data so that we can start to have a conversation. But my sense is that what’s happening is the old standards are still being applied, and you’re being measured at home against standards that had to do with being in the workplace, and they’re both over and now Under, right, the way that work happens when you’re in a distributed workforce is different. It’s different. It has different productivity algorithms. It has different output phenomena. It has different relationship phenomena. It requires more social time, because video is such a sin experience. And so things are really changing. And it would be great if what what people were doing is going well, things are changing. Let’s see what happens. We’ll watch and we’ll measure and then we’ll have a conversation. But I think all the expectations are not changing. And so people are being held accountable to things that are unrealistic.

Stacey Harris 20:38
And I think that’s a great reality check, which is that exact term held accountable to the old way of doing things. But we were just talking about well we’re waiting for the new normal waiting for the new norm, but there’s no normal we talk about how we’re going to think about work because work wasn’t really ever normal. Every evolution of what work was brings us something different and this is just another evolution. of how we think about how work can get accomplished in organizations build a huge amount of work that’s being accomplished and shops and on ground floors and in the hospitals. And we talk a lot about how the information workers, I guess you would say the people who can work from a home environment are connecting. But these technologies are also being used in those fields environment too. And so when you’re talking about tracking information, just imagine for the moment if someone played a video the other day have the feeling of being in an era right now with the constant respirator noise and the constant beeping and the constant and having the coverings all over your face all the protective gear like someone like did a video that made you feel a bit claustrophobic by having it through that protective gear and then all the noises and at the same time that we’re doing all of that someone’s checking how many times we’re checking in on the iPad or if we’re securing our zoom calls that we have to have with the families who want to see their their loved ones for their last time. together. That’s a security and a HIPAA risk issue. Those are real issues and real time stuff that’s changing now in this environment, and we, as HR professionals have to figure out how to adapt to it. That’s really our job, isn’t it?

John Sumser 22:13
Yeah. So here’s the thing, you’ve moved the workforce home, that’s great. You start monitoring it, that’s actually smart. But you can’t tell whether or not the things that you’re monitoring and measuring are meaningful until you get to a point where you can see whether or not people are meeting their KPIs. Right. And so there’s a review process somewhere down the road where we look at performance and say, Is this the right performance? Or isn’t this the right performance. And until we have that data, you can’t really tell whether or not somebody is doing the job, right?

Stacey Harris 22:45
You can’t, but none of the systems allow us to look at that data with context around it to look at that data say this data is for someone who’s working at home and is viewing and has this kind of job and this data here from his working in a hospital environment I just described, and what we’re doing all the data the same on that level. And I think we don’t know what that data means yet. And none of the tools that I’ve seen from an analytics and a planning and scenario planning perspective allows you to put context around the data yet. At least not in a way that’s easy. Right? So that would be the other part of it I think that’s important.

John Sumser 23:19
Yep. So that’s so much to explore. And I think where we come down at the end of this conversation, is, it’s a pretty exciting time to be working in an HR in spite of the fact that it’s also the same time where it became okay for men to cry at work. You know that’s a big deal. And so with all of the change comes all of this glorious opportunity and experimentation. And if you look at that, it’s pretty easy to get excited. And then all you have to do is pick your head up and look at everything else and you could get terror. So it’s like being on a roller coaster.

Stacey Harris 23:55
It is. It’s like being on a roller coaster, but I think you know, again, we’re all in it together. And as you said crying was all right, so is laughing, so is smiling, so is shouting at your screen once a while or out your window, my neighbors have given me some strange looks from time to time, but I’m telling you, it’s okay. Yeah, everything we’re feeling is okay. And including the excitement for what the future might hold. So this is all the stuff that we’ll have another conversation next week John. Hopefully, there’ll be some more exciting stuff to talk about, right?

John Sumser 24:22
Yep. All right. Thanks very much, Stacey. This was a great conversation. And thanks, everybody, for listening again, you’ve been with HR Tech Weekly with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. See you next week. Bye. Bye now.

Stacey Harris 24:35
Thanks everyone, bye.

Read previous post:
Introducing Small Scenarios

Heather Bussing, Michael Kannisto, and John Sumser have been busy. They're collaborating on a series of short digestible papers that...