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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: 263
Air Date: April 23, 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: [00:00:00] Good morning and welcome to HR Tech Weekly with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Hi Stacey, how are you?

Stacey Harris: [00:00:21] Hi John I’m doing well. I am at home, surprisingly. Right, and you as well. Right? We’re coming from our sunny offices at home today right?

John Sumser: [00:00:32] Well, exceprt you and I were both in Pleasanton, California just a second ago. You know so the nice thing about being at hom is that you can be everywhere. We were just sitting in the Workday analyst town hall, which was an interesting conversation. Yeah. So what else is going on with you before we dive a little bit into the Workday? What’s going on in your world?

Stacey Harris: [00:00:53] Well it’s been a couple of busy weeks. For those of you who know my role at running the annual HR system, surveying, uh, we are soft launching it this week. So you might start to see some emails and information coming out about that. That’s made for a busy week. Like we talked about him last radio show. We were, we were trying to make decisions of whether or not we should go out this year and then decided after talking to lots of people, that data is going to be really important or the decisions we’re all going to be making through the summer and the fall. And so the more data we can capture the better and says that hopefully our ability to help a little bit in that process.

We were also thinking that there’s a lot of conversation going on in the HR tech, particularly this week. I think it would be, seems to have sort of picked up a little bit. So not only did we have the Workday innovation summit this week, which was sort of split up into a couple of different meetings, and we’ll do a little update on, but there’s also some big announcements this week coming out of SAP where there co-CEO structure was kaboshed and they’ve had a co-CEO structure for a long time so this SAP co-chief executive officer, Christian Klein will continue as CEO, but Jennifer Morgan will depart, and there’s a lot of commentary about that. I think worth some conversations.

Cornerstone completed their acquisition of Saba software. I think some people were wondering that was going to continue on with the current state of the market. Right now, we’re still seeing money being raised in the market. Goober raised $30 million. We saw there a collaborative knowledge management software as well as the conversational AI platform, yellow, which I think you’ve followed up on them before raising $20 million and a new European veteran. From gitlab, and I think it’s on Babylon thing correctly. A group of people who created a company called Remote and they secured $11 million, so lots going on there. Alexander Mann unveiled a brand new conversational hiring variants for hourly workers. ADP is staying extremely busy with employer preparedness toolkit. Then tools to help submit PPE loans and work market volunteer healthcare workers. And Google launched up beyond Corp remote access. That’s for virtual workers, getting rid of the VPN, which is an interesting conversation that HR is more involved in that you would be paying.

And then last, but by no means least the UK suspended pay data reporting amid COVID-19 concerns. So all of that wonderful work we made on diversity and inclusion and engagement. The UK is suspending requirements to show that you have paid both your female and male workers at a same level. So this has been a busy week, even though we’ve all been in our home for the last month and a half. John. And how about you? Any new updates in inside of your office? They’re in the Bay area.

John Sumser: [00:03:22] Well, you know what I’ve been out in about and I have, I had a chance to spend time in a room with a bunch of CHROs, and I think the thing that I took away from that is this, disruption that we’re experiencing or discontinuity I’m hearing it called this. This discontinuity is not hitting everybody the same way everywhere. So the consequences of this are. Range from going out of business to explosive growth. And so it challenges conventional thinking about how to message HR technology products. Most, most of the time the history has been that that if you are. A marketing team behind the HR technology product. What you want to do is get the one messaging and positioning packaged together so that you could have your sales force say the same thing to everybody. It turns out that the utility of many of the solutions that are out in the market. Varies wildly with the circumstances of the customer and when they are struggling for survival, it’s a different message than if they are dealing with log with the growth that happens because of the need to hire huge quantities of people in the short run. And so I think things are changing in some really interesting ways that, or leaving a lot of the traditional incumbents, a little puzzled about how to proceed.

Stacey Harris: [00:04:48] I say puzzled is a good word to use. Yeah. I mean, even those who have, I would say some of the most sophisticated marketing machines in our space, the large SATs and Oracles and workdays, and then those who have, so I think have built, uh, quite a, a backbone on, on sort of their marketing messaging, like Namely’s and and ADP and Paychex who’ve done a really good job of most recently positioning who they are. Every one of them is having to come at this from a very different way. And so I think, I think puzzling is, is a very good word to use. Yeah.

John Sumser: [00:05:16] Yeah. So I’d say that what one might have thought you do is you go from whatever the message was before, whenever the messages after and what’s happening. Instead, you moved from whatever the message was before to a multiplicity of messages afterwards.And that requires a current of marketing agility that we didn’t learn about when everything was constant growth for a decade or so. And so it’s fascinating to watch how people respond to that and we’re starting to begin to see the changes, give him the message, but it’s like everything that’s changing right now. When you’re, when you’re talking to people, this Nancy nice. That’s the hope that things will return them to the way they used to be. Mmm. I think that affects a lot of the things that we’re seeing right now.

Stacey Harris: [00:06:04] Well, I mean, we definitely saw with the Workday innovation summit this week, I think that played out on new sort of full screen on Tuesday. They sort of did a very scripted but very clear perspective of their total market capabilities, how big it was looking like $103 billion, you know, sort of market that they can sell into the total addressable market that they can sell into. Between their HCM payroll projects, financials, analytics, planning, and procurement applications that their big focus on clients right now is the CA HRO, the chief financial officer, and now the chief procurement officer because of their acquisition of Scouts, that their big messaging is around a unified product with a underpinning ohm analytics and machine learning. But at the same time, they were trying to morph in there what I think is a necessary message that they are an application that will fit the needs of a changing work environment. And partially because they are on both sides. Restrooms of clients, right? They’ve got clients as big as Walmart and growing as rapidly and quickly as Walmart. That’s not doing as much work as you would probably do and your, you know, lead up to the December holidays timeframe. And then they’ve got customers at a much smaller scale and a much more in the health. Care space or in the retail space that is struggling and challenged right now and I’ve got to figure out how to message a moderate tone for both of them. Right. I think we definitely are for for free.

John Sumser: [00:07:26] The thing that I heard that really caught my attention was the CEO of Workday made the distinction about not being a software company, but being a service provider. Right. And what you’re getting at is the difference between being a software company and the service provider is that, is that sure was providers are more responsive to the specifics of the industries that they serve.Then some overarching view of what softwares, and so I thought that was interesting. I’ve never heard that referred to themselves as a service provider.

Stacey Harris: [00:08:01] But it fits this picture because a software company is going to give you the software and you use it however it makes sense to you. But a service provider is going to give you the tools and the resources and the consulting and adjust that technology to meet the various situations that you’re in. Um, which is a very different, and to be honest, so much more expensive approach to managing technology in this day and age.

John Sumser: [00:08:23] Yup. Yup. And so I learned a lot this morning about Workday that I wasn’t as big a fan of the hour long commercial. It had a lot of interesting information about customer projects, but this morning was real people talking to real people about stuff that was better. The thing that I noticed this morning was they’re currently claiming to have 25 discreet production features that utilize machine learning in their talent optimization tool sets. That’s a lot. That’s a whole lot. I would, I would love to get under the hood and see what those 25 are and how they work. Well, that’s a significant push forward in machine learning. That’s they’ve just sort of tossed office. Oh yeah. Everybody’s doing this and it’s really a remarkable accomplishment. Yeah.

Stacey Harris: [00:09:13] And I think that was just in their top talent optimization area where they had additional, there may have been another handful or so that in that were in their financial and planning areas as well, but the talent optimization one was heavily tied to the work they’ve been doing and skill and machine learning skills. This is something that they invested in about four years ago and heavily made a play on that. This was going to fundamentally be the foundation, I think, of their talent in HR, machine learning conversation. Do you feel like that’s starting to come through? That they’re starting to actually make some headway with, with the idea about Guild being a differentiator for them.

John Sumser: [00:09:48] There are a bunch of puzzles about how machine learning works going forward and the puzzles have to do with the factory. Sure enough, everything we knew yesterday is wrong. It’s not quite bad. It’s not quite that, but there’s a degree to which there are whole kind of assumptions about what matters . Or not go forward ideas. And so it’ll be, I’m not gonna really be curious about how they adjust the story to account for the fact that you can’t make predictions based on yesterday with today’s information. And that’s, that’s what machine learning is all about.

Stacey Harris: [00:10:25] I think the other thing that we heard in this conversation was that machine learning is a foundational element along with their sort of unified, a single visual of planning and analytics all on the same page. Right. And when they mentioned that multiple times, but I also heard a lot more mentions this time around than I have in the past for them around industries. So they always have like an industry conversation. But this time we definitely heard that they were. Making sure they were meeting people where the industry has needed them and that there were certain industries, particularly in the, in the era that we’re in with the coven 19 crisis where they had not thought about, I think previously how much they could make a change, but we’re definitely seeing it now. Areas such as health care, benefits and management, managing healthcare inside your own corporation entity. They were also talking about a supply chain management, their acquisition of scout and how that made a big difference in supply chain management of various things needed during the Kovas crisis.

[00:11:20] There was some of that also too that I thought was interesting, but didn’t have anything really to do with machine learning. It was just the ability to do, to see planning and data all on the same place as well. So sometimes the simple things I think make more of an impact. Then sometimes all the machine learning conversation as well.

The only last thought, I think is that the thing that was nice to hear was that Neil, basically his kind of last comments were about the coven traces and how they were supporting their customers and how they had done a town hall. And basically we’re, we’re, we’re making . No, it’s just run off. You don’t get promises, but making somewhat promises, at least for the next 90 days or so, they were not laying any of their employees off and that they were focused on taking care of their employees so their employees could take care of their customers.

[00:12:05] And that was, I think, a really positive message. That’s good to hear from a large tech company. And I think we probably really are hoping to hear that from a lot of other large organizations because we’re heading into some, some, some scary times for a lot of people. And so hearing the large companies who can weather it a little bit, yeah.

Better than a small company. It’s important for them then to support the sort of ecosystem that we all live in. So that’s probably my final thoughts. How about yours? Anything else from the session that you learned that you thought we should make sure that the audience

John Sumser: [00:12:31] hears. No, no, but I didn’t courage anybody who runs the sorts of things to try to find out more about how it works.They does it. It was a very effective usage of a 50 person zoom meeting and Bravo for them. They’re, they’re jumping out ahead, taking the lead and getting the word

Stacey Harris: [00:12:50] out. Hi.

John Sumser: [00:12:52] True. What are we regarding the mailbag? Now let’s go back

Stacey Harris: [00:12:56] a lot to unpack in the neck a couple of minutes. So SAP is CEO chains kind of reverberated through the market for the last couple of days in a way that it was sort of like, at first you were like, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh Beth. Kind of interesting. And then who would leaving came out and then what they were doing. Right. So you know the fact that that Jennifer Morgan and they’ve only had this code CEO thing for a little while, so I think it’s been six months maybe that they’ve had that in place, or at least Jennifer’s and Christian has been there together. They’ve done cozy over long times in the past, but I really liked Jennifer Morgan. I had seen her present a couple of times. I thought she was very thoughtful in her approach to things. And for me it was sort of sad to see one of the female leaders and a large industry tech company like this no longer be in that kind of a role. Right. Uh, and not being in the company at all. And so that was kind of sad to me. Have you heard about this at all? And do you think that, does co-CEO work effectively and is that part of the challenge or do you think they were just looking at, you know, sort of circling the wagons and doing a better job of optimizing the cost? Right now.

John Sumser: [00:13:57] Oh, you know, this sounds a lot like do you watch the HBO series subsection. Yeah, yeah. It’s one of the better chunks of binge worthy TV. The story of a company that is the product, uh, brilliant, but now completely nuts. So cranky old man and as the . Yeah, the games he plays. Hitting members of his family off against each other as they compete to see who’s going to succeed him. And it is really, again, wonderful. And it sounds like they do with that over at SAP, the scuttlebutt is that this is a cleanup of anybody who’s associated with the last person who was in the successes. Wow. And so you know what better than a big old software company to play these sorts of games with the top leadership and how sad that this is what happens to the first move and CEO in the space. Yeah. There’s nowhere in the world where six months is an adequate enough crowd period for a CEO. So you have to read this as a retrenchment of the sort of male dominated hierarchy of SAP. Uh, you know, in this market, that’s a reputation that you don’t want to have, but the coverage of boys club, I think this is a bigger deal then. Yeah. Anybody is really talking about, yeah. Well, and I think

Stacey Harris: [00:15:25] it goes along with the announcement that we also got out of the UK. And you’re seeing other areas of Europe where so much of the movement towards equality, um, particularly at least on the female side, you know, not in all other areas, but at least the female side.

Has been really pushed at a regulations level, at a enterprise level, and you’ve said this, and it always just makes me cringe. But in a time of crisis, things like diversity and inclusion, things like our belief in equity and pay and you know, hiring diverse slights and all that stuff tends to go away and we kind of revert back to our old standards.

You know, UK suspended their payday to reporting amid this COVID-19 crisis. I understand it’s difficult, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not important in this day and age. Right. And that just because there’s so many people who are going to be out of work, that we’re not going to still have to look at equality as part of the conversation. But it seems like that might go hand in hand with some of this.

John Sumser: [00:16:18] You know, the red fall truth about social balancing is that it’s two steps forward. One step back to social and one step back. And that’s been the story with women’s rights is been the story with civil rights. And. You know, there’s certainly a fairly interesting group, uh, people in the minority communities who are giggling at the idea that there is a retrenchment towards, towards these other things because they haven’t really felt the move towards greater equality.

And you can see that simply in the way that the . This current disease is hitting the neighborhoods that are mostly occupied by people who are less than equal in her culture. So we’ve got to keep pushing, right? We gotta, we gotta keep pushing, and we gotta keep noticing that it’s not okay that what SAP did is what a French woman CEO without a trial period.

That’s just not okay. That’s just not okay. Rational. It hurts them in the marketplace.

Stacey Harris: [00:17:18] At the same time, we’re seeing some other organizations, I think try and take leadership. Dan’s at least in spaces where they can ADP, but a long list of the things that they’re doing at this time, point in time. And one of them is that their CEO sent a letter to leadership in our country, no, to basically say, what can we do to ensure that.

The economy and the market continues to say, well then we also saw them put out and really interesting toolkit to help employers be prepared for the things that federal and state government relief requirements are requiring of them. And the paycheck protection program alone requests and cause. There’s a lot of regulations around what you have to do as specifically. To use those relief program and to get the money back. They’re also investing heavily in their work market technology that is, um, helping volunteers. We’re in the healthcare space, sort of figure out where they can volunteer around the country to try and manage the regions that have the hottest spots. So that’s kind of nice to see the technology market stepping up in places where they think they can make a big difference as well. And it was hard to see leadership changes like we just talked about. But it’s also good to see them figure out what can they do to help.

John Sumser: [00:18:27] That’s right. That’s right. And ADT, you know, NDP as the biggest player in our market by a lot is doing remarkable work leading in this way. And so Bravo, ADP.

Stacey Harris: [00:18:40] Yeah, I mean, when you think about 600,000 companies, most of them small companies, and so ADP is hurting probably as much as everyone else if these companies go out of business. But it’s also the fact that they run the world that we live in and to be able to make sure that they can continue to hire and retain their employees and their customers is a big conversation.

And definitely they’re stepping into the middle of it. The other ones that we’re seeing, I’m not exactly sure that this is groundbreaking, but Alexander Mann, we don’t talk a lot about their recruitment process outsourcing company. They unveiled their conversational hiring tools for hourly workers. Now seeing this kind of technology used for hourly workers in different places, but Alexander Mann is definitely one of the larger recruitment process outsourcing organization, and it seems like they’re taking what they had acquired Karen HR in 2019.

[00:19:30] Which is that chat pod hiring tool, and they’ve turned this in to sort of a bigger technology thing for their organizations and their customers. Do you think we’re going to see also more investment in these spaces where you and I have talked about as sort of a cutting edge like chat bots and the machine learning as a investment in trying to get the economy moving as well as things like hourly workers is a hard place to be right now. Right.

John Sumser: [00:19:55] Well, the thing that’s going on that’s really interesting is if you are a company and your doors are open, the number of job applications that you are receiving is 200 times what it was about to go.

Stacey Harris: [00:20:08] Yeah,

John Sumser: [00:20:09] because there are, I think there were another 5 million, so it was 27 million people who lost their jobs should start in this thing for a total of about 35 million people who are on. In the are 22 according to 3% and you know, they’re, I’m home and they get an unemployment check and they are applying for jobs to applying for jobs everywhere they can think of to apply for jobs. And so you get this great big inbound stuff. And the best way to handle it is, um, conversational technology takes a piece of it in the interaction with the category of them.

One of the big problems in HR tech in general is that searches. So. But you may have all this wonderful stuff in your system, but nobody can find it because the standard is Nouvel quality church and none of the vendors offer something. Okay, Google all the search. And so the other thing that is seeing a growth right now is tools that allow you to Wade through those big piles of data to find the right people to hire. And so those are the bright spots in the growth landscape here as conversational tools and things that augments search so that you could more quickly find, I think Workday has a product. They call their skills. I’m not clear how well it works on volume, but that’s sort of what the Staley or looks like. There’s a number of the smaller point solutions.

Stacey Harris: [00:21:38] Yeah. And is that similar to the one, the yellow messenger that receives 20 million in investment? They, I, I don’t know if you’ve looked at them, but they’re basically a conversational AI platform used by a hundred enterprises for customer and employee engagement is sort of the same type of thing. Right.So.

John Sumser: [00:21:54] what I think of when I think of yellow messenger, what of that day. Okay. When a horribly bad day, it’s really a tool for turning, you know, what was the big problems in communicating with him. Java Africans is that they’re kind of be 30 competing channels along which information moves. So if you want to, if you want to talk to those people, you have to be conversant in these 30 channels. You know what a Facebook messenger, all of the Google services email. Yeah. And it’s very, very difficult to keep track, uh, the conversations in the specific relationship. And I think that what yellow messenger does is integrate those various conversations into a single thread. So it’s not AI in the same way the virus describing, but it does still out the communications channel problem. And it’s probably a third area.

Stacey Harris: [00:22:54] Yeah. Not an unimportant issue. You’re pulling all that stuff together. Of course, this gets back to the issue we have of language, right? Conversational AI being used in two different perspectives. Right? Right. Yeah.

John Sumser: [00:23:06] Yeah. Well, you know, it’s an evolving marketplace and the language is bad, and you might say it splits it two ways.

One way is what yellow does, which is. Facilitating conversation across platforms. The other is what some of the others like Socrates do, which is creating an entity that understands everything so that you can have a conversation with it. Right? What so one is the voice of the company as, whereas in policies and data in systems.

And the other is the interchange between the company, uh, various stakeholders. So you could imagine them being cleared up.

Stacey Harris: [00:23:48] Yeah. those two actually felt like they probably need to be working a little more tightly together. Right.

John Sumser: [00:23:55] Yeah, but the problem is, you know, but it’s really interesting because the problems are so different, right?

The organization as an intelligent entity, that Jewish people, the ability to have conversations with it, it’s closer to knowledge management. Right? So how do you get an answer to the question? How much time will I be able to take off when I have my baby? Right? That involves querying multiple systems, and so it’s a complex systems integration job to do that level of knowledge management, or there’s another company that helps you understand financial regulations when you’re trying to do a short range of financial work by intelligently parsing 2000 page policies.

So that’s one thing which is understanding what the company is about. And then this is facilitating the flow of communications between people. So that’s important. Both important. Let’s pick one bar. Um, she wouldn’t have here. The Philly startup seed is heating up with guru. According to knowledge management tool.
So it’s along the lines…

Stacey Harris: [00:25:07] I was going to say it actually fits pretty well into the conversation we just had. I’ve had a chance to see Guru early days. I remember sort of doing a briefing with them, and it’s a collaborative knowledge management system, right, Sort of capturing a bunch of information and sharing it in a different formats, which sort of note and places to have conversations.
But, seems like they’ve rapidly grown, changed a little bit of what they do. They’re getting $30 million from a mixture of investors, including ACCEL A-C-C-E-L Slack and others, and they’re seen as sort of the hot places to be in the Philly startup scene. So yeah, I think it’s the same topic you were just talking about though. This idea of knowledge management versus knowledge sharing.

John Sumser: [00:25:46] Well, and what fascinates me is that this company is in the same startup universe as PhenomPeople, which is for my money, the most fully articulated AI solution in the HR tech universe built from the ground up, to be AI and the idea that there is an AI startup scene in Philadelphia.just wrecks a whole bunch of assumptions that I have about Philly

Stacey Harris: [00:26:18] That is correct. AI and machine learning can be done anywhere in the world, especially now in this day and age. Right.

John Sumser: [00:26:25] Yeah, do you think they’ll call it cheesesteak valley?

Stacey Harris: [00:26:28] I don’t know on that one. I’m not a person who spent a lot of time in Philly, spent a little bit, they weren’t too far from my hometown and Cleveland. A lot of similarities, too, are very practical people. That was the one thing that I felt though. But the two of them, right? So yes, maybe they might call it, Philly cheesesteak or whatever.

John Sumser: [00:26:49] Yeah. Well, just to clear things out, I am informed in the text right now that nobody who’s actually from Philadelphia eats cheese steaks.

Stacey Harris: [00:26:59] There you go. Instant feeback for you John.

John Sumser: [00:27:05] That’s the day that we live in. So yeah, another great conversation. It was fun. It was fun to be at the Workday, it was fun to be in Pleasanton with you. while still sitting at my desk. Uh, definitely. Thanks for doing this, Stacey it’s always a wonderful conversation. Thanks everybody for tuning in. We will see you back here next week. Same time. Bye bye now.

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