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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: 265
Air Date: May 7, 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. And every time I hear that music, I want to learn how to clog and I can’t imagine anything that would look dumber. How are you Stacey?

Stacey Harris 0:29
It’s a picture right now that I’m imagining that. It’s an image I must say that really, yeah, would do you benefit John, yeah.

John Sumser 0:36
We could turn this into a comedy show right away here is John clogging and falling down.

Stacey Harris 0:42
Exactly. But it definitely is music that brightens the day a little bit and I think in the current situation in the current market, anything that makes you feel a little bit lighter is a little bit better. And an image of you clogging actually is quite smile worthy, so, I think it gives us those things.

John Sumser 0:59
Yep. Anybody, anybody who’s listening who wants to play me the clogging lessons? I’ll bite. That’s the question of the day: What’s the best YouTube clogging video?

Stacey Harris 1:12
Oh, now we’re gonna have to go find it. See if the listeners can send it in for you John.

John Sumser 1:17
Yeah, there you go. So how are you?

Stacey Harris 1:20
I’m doing well, I’m doing well. Lots of changes going on in the Sierra-Cedar world. But we’ll have some updates on in a couple of weeks, but all good stuff. And the Sierra-Cedar survey has launched. So from a work perspective, the annual HR system survey is out now. So you’re gonna start being out and about in different venues, so that’s always a big part of my spring timeframe. So even though everything’s been a little bit wonky, because of what’s going on with the pandemic, and the changes going on in the work environment, we are we’re able to get the survey updated, added some interesting questions about what people were doing in the COVID crisis management space right now to the survey, and we launched it just last week, so I’m doing well and enjoying some sunshine today after a rainy week last week. And how about you, John? How are things going with you both at the work end in your shelter in place home in California?

John Sumser 2:08
Well, it’s interesting. I’m as busy as can be. And so that’s a surprise. It’s a really weird contrast to the news that you hear. I’m not going to get my great novel written in the lockdown period. And I talk to people from all over the place. And it’s so weird. Anybody that I talk to who has a clear grasp of the actual numbers, thinks that this is going to last a really, really long time. And yet, my in basket is filling with plans for reopening. You know, there’s this sort of deep, and it’s bipartisan, it’s not just it’s not just one side or the other, but people from both ends of the political spectrum seem to be agreeing on this. Let’s restart things. And everything that I read says that that’s gonna cause a second wave of this that will make this first wave look tame. And so I’m trying to make some sense out of that. I don’t know how to make sense out of it. It’s a crazy, crazy time.

Stacey Harris 3:11
Yeah, and around the globe I think other countries are having the same challenges. I think there are a lot of them are talking about reopening, but with a lot more structure and government oversight is what we’re seeing, particularly Asia Pacific countries, but even in Europe. Talked to a couple of friends in Europe. And they’re like, yes, we’re talking about opening but very serious requirements of every company who open. I think that’s the piece that the most, if you want to call it, it’s concerning. But it’s also, scary, that the idea that freedom is an important part of what we have here in the United States is important. But it also could be one of the most deadly things we’re going to face because companies that are required companies right now who are hard to stay open are not being held accountable to OSHA requirements or CDC requirements and companies who are in states and governors who are saying businesses that can open or not putting in place and again, I agree with you it’s not a partisan issue here. They’re not putting in place requirements for businesses around what they have to do. It’s pretty much an open field every company’s taking their own take on how they have to address this, but they are reopening without a doubt.

John Sumser 4:10
Yeah, it’s weird. It’s just weird. This is what happens when the government doesn’t do its job. And I am concerned about you know, there’s so many things I read a piece this morning about the traffic jams that are going to because when things reopened, because nobody will take mass transit. And so the trains will be empty and the highways will be clogged, and that just can’t be good. And if they’re clogged as much as they’re saying, that will put the food supply at risk. Because if everybody’s in a traffic jam, trying to get to work, because they’re not taking mass transit, then the trucks that deliver the food can’t get through. Yuk.

Stacey Harris 4:51
And we’re talking about this as to what it will be when it does reopen. But today, currently, you were telling me that we’re at 33 million people in the United States alone, that are currently claiming unemployment this week. Is that…

John Sumser 5:02
No, no, it’s 33 million in the last six weeks. So that’s 33 million on top of the what would it be on top of the 10 or 12 million who were officially unemployed going into this. So it’s almost 50 million people in total are unemployed in the United States. And that’s 50 million people who are in the workforce, who hadn’t given up hope on finding a job. And that’s awful close to 30% unemployment. But what’s really interesting just to pick up the earlier thread, what’s really, really interesting is the Washington Post reported this morning that 77% of those people who have been laid off believe they’re going back to work or going back to their jobs. And that hasn’t happened in a recession since the country was heavily unionized. People went back to their jobs after the recession, you know. Generally speaking, you get laid off and you are looking for a job somewhere else. You’re not waiting for your old job to come and rediscover you. So I think there are some people who have unrealistic expectations about what’s going to happen and who are going to be very unhappy.

Stacey Harris 6:16
Yeah, I would agree. I do think there is a an actual regulatory distinction between furloughs and layoffs. Right. In the survey we’re asking this year, what are you doing to address it within your organization to address the COVID-19 crisis? And we have a series of questions that asked about whether or not people are being asked to reduce salaries whether or not we’re seeing furloughs, whether or not we’re seeing layoffs with no plans to bring people back. And it is interesting, there are more furloughs right now, obviously, the data is raw, we only have, you know, a couple hundred respondents, but we haven’t done a lot of cleaning in any of it. But I think it does go to show that there is an expectation of being brought back especially with that if that language is being used around people, right.

John Sumser 6:55
That’s right.

Stacey Harris 6:56
But it’s not a requirement. I don’t think, yeah.

John Sumser 6:58
Yep. Yep. If business picks up you can come back, is what furlough means, but I don’t get the sense that three quarters of the people who are applying for unemployment are being furloughed, right. That’s the number that we’d want to know. And I don’t know the answer to that.

Stacey Harris 7:14
But yeah, we still have news going on. Lots of stuff going on in the HR Techspace. Like you said, your inbox is filled, right?

John Sumser 7:19
Yep. Well, I just want to sort of underline that this is not like other times. So instead of a broad economic meltdown, which is what other recessions have been, this is a change in which industries and organizations are experiencing explosive growth. And maybe the sort of mid-ground is some product lines are growing and some product lines are failing, and then there’s the most outright failure. So that means that there’s a lot of business being done. There’s a lot of business being done, but it’s “nichie.” It’s not everybody everywhere needs a new ATS. It’s people who are In the rearrange retail supply chain are hiring like crazy.

So now let’s do the list. Cognizant is acquiring Collaborative Solutions. Go.

Stacey Harris 8:10
They are. This is actually not a surprise. But I think it gets back to a lot of what you’re talking about a lot of the stuff that we’re going to talk about today is in a reaction is basically betting on the horses they think you’re going to win in this particular case. Cognizant acquiring Collaborative Solutions, Collaborative Solutions is a Workday implementer and HR Technology strategy transformation organization. And so this follows suit with what we’ve seen across the board, most of the boutique small Workday implementers are being picked up by all the big players in the market.

At the same time, we’re seeing organizations like VNDLY receiving $8.5 million in Series B funding, now VNDLY is known as a vendor management system, but it’s a contingent workforce management system is really what it is on the vendor management side managed by managers. And so I think you’re going to see again that yes, people might be brought back to work but will it be brought to work back to work full time and maybe we’re betting a little bit more In this contingent conversation.

We also are seeing organizations like CareerArc launching AI powered video assessments to give jobseekers competitive edge in their job search, which basically means we’re taking that video interviewing tool that everybody’s a little, ugh, it’s giving us analysis and judging people, and maybe or maybe not is something that we should be using to make selections of people. They’re sort of flipping that around to give you insight as to how you interview which is a different take on it.

And then we’re seeing also ServiceNow in the news this week. So ServiceNow launched, this was supposed to be I think this week or last week was, supposed to be their users conference, they had a bunch of sort of announcements around sort of what would have been their user conference, but the big thing they announced was a new employee workflow to support safety for employees and customers who were bringing people back to work. But, more interestingly is they acquired an item called 4Facility assets from one of their system integrator partners App4Mation which is a tool that helps you log out or schedule things like desks and elevators and all the things that you would want to schedule for people who want to stay away from each other. Interesting stuff there.

We’re also seeing new Grant Thornton, again, along with the COVID idea, Talent mobility technology provides one-stop solution for HR professionals. It’s a very bad announcements title. But, basically what they’re doing is Grant Thornton is adding a technology component to their tax and consulting services that help companies manage the tax complications they’re going to get, at least as far as I’m reading this, from having all these mobile workers who might now not be in the locations they would have normally worked. So there’s a lot of stuff there going on with mobility.

So everything that I’ve got this week is really talking about a reaction to what’s happening in our market or betting on where we think the markets going to head and what’s going to be important. So, and then if we get some time Fast Company launched their 26th world changing ideas award this week and so there’s some fun stuff in there.

But what do you think, John? I mean, let’s just talk about Cognizant this acquisition of the Workday boutique firms I mean, we just saw I mean, my my own personal company Sierra-Cedar sold their Workday practice to Accenture a few months ago. We saw a couple other examples of this early on in the year. This idea of buying up boutique firms and banking on HR as a big part of these big consulting firms practices. Does this make sense do you think for where the market’s gonna be at?

John Sumser 11:20
Well, what happens at this point in a recession is little companies start to look like bargains for bigger companies. And so you get to, you get to do several things all at once, right? You get to acquire a new company. And it’s technology in an environment where it’s okay to lay a bunch of people off. And so in some ways, these are just complicated layoffs. And I don’t know, I don’t really think that what you get when you acquire a lot of little pieces is a bigger overall whole piece. But that’s the operating theory for these things is that you can sort of buy your way into integrated wholeness. And so the real proof of the pudding here is gonna be somewhere down the road. You know, the little companies are cheap, right?

Stacey Harris 12:09
They’re cheap. And the people who go to work for little companies generally kind of like working for little companies, right? That’s part of why they did it. So it’s always interesting to watch, you know, two years on usually, there’s some sort of agreement that at least some of the talent or senior level talent must stay and with that they have bonuses and things like that. But, as soon as those agreements, items are sort of completed, then you start to see the exodus, because there’s definitely a personality that enjoys working in big companies and a personality that enjoys working in small companies. Right. And those two are often times in real contradiction with each other.

John Sumser 12:40
Yep. That’s right. So you want to look at them in particular?

Stacey Harris 12:44
Well, I want to think about the contingent workforce tools that are now talking more about contingent labor, I mean, VNDLY receiving $8.5 million, is not a huge amount of money, but to me, I think we were talking a lot about the gig economy, which is a little bit different from the contingent workforce economy, right? The gig economy is the idea that I can sort of be my own boss and go do what I want to do the contingent workforce is a little bit more oftentimes, like I’m hiring you temporarily, because I’m not sure how long I’m going to need these roles. Do you think we’re going to see as we do start to open up the market, more contingent hiring, and that done at from the managers and other sides of the company than HR? Or do you think that we’re going to go back to more traditional hiring model as people sort of start coming back to organizations in the next six months?

John Sumser 13:33
Nobody who has ever laid people off wants to hire people again? Well, if you just finished laying people off and you think it’s a good idea to start hiring people, again, you might have missed what the layoff process was like. It’s really, really, really sad and unpleasant to have to lay somebody off and so it is normal that the way that companies reestablish themselves is by testing out whether or not there are things, and that’s where the contingent workforce in this description of it matters. And so what happens is people who used to have full time jobs end up in contractual relationship with fixed schedules associated with them. And I think you’ll see a lot of that. I think you’ll see a whole lot of that.

Stacey Harris 14:21
I think the big conversation for HR is to keep an eye on how many companies and particularly their managers are unaware of the HR regulations around how you can leverage contingent workers, right. I mean, that’s a big part of these tools is that they should manage the regulations that go with having someone work for you in a contingent model versus a full time employee model. A lot of people treat their contingent workers like their full time employee, and there’s some real laws regulations around that. So I think that’ll be definitely part of the HR challenge over the next couple of months as they start bringing people back at least in that fashion.

What do you think about CareerArc, flipping the idea of video interviewing and video assessment on their head and making it more of a personal asset. It will use AI and insight those gathering from view doing a pretend video interview to give you feedback on your own interviewing style. There’s definitely been coaching like that for years. So that’s not something new. But this time there’s CareerArc is saying they’ve got a artificial intelligence tool that is helping do that. Is this a better use of that technology? Or is this just the same technology being sort of leveraged in another way and so not really all that important?

John Sumser 15:25
There’s a lot of confusion and whimsical debate about whether or not you can do personality assessment by applying machine learning techniques to video data. And, you know, you immediately think about things like facial tics, other physical disabilities, the cameras, known problems with being able to identify people as people given their skintone. And so right now using video as an assessment tool has a pretty dark reputation. And so the idea that you use it on yourself while it relieves the company of liability. The idea that it’s too creepy and flawed to use in regular interviewing session means that what you should do instead is use it on yourself. That’s a stretch. That’s a stretch. It does make me want to go try to hack the system right because video is immensely hackable.

But here we go. It says you could get a soft skills and character traits report within five minutes by talking to the video. Doesn’t that sound like one of those Facebook games that you play so that they can collect data about you?

Stacey Harris 16:51
A little bit. But, on the other hand paying the other side of this, I do think having been often in the position where I have been laid off from very large companies, having career counselors and career coaches was probably one of the most important thing for me, right? Actually, some of my dearest and longest term friend kind Connie Cordero was my career counselor after leaving the last company that I was ever laid off from at a corporate level 2008 industry downturn. And she was so helpful in helping me understand my own challenges. And what I didn’t see about myself. But if we’re talking 33 million people, John, right, that you just mentioned, there’s not enough career coaches to do that. And the only the people who were at my company when I was at off who were salaried got that kind of opportunity, right? Even the slightest bit of that for someone who comes from maybe a more hourly level job or didn’t get that kind of a service offering from their company, because a lot of companies don’t offer that kind of service, I think is helpful. So I get where you’re coming from. And there could be some damage done without a doubt. But I do think that it’s something that helps to build a little bit of confidence is also a positive thing in these days too, right?

Well, yeah, it doesn’t read like that’s what they’re doing. But you’re right. You’re right that ther is a, looking for work is horrible, looking for work in an economy where there aren’t any jobs do the reason that there are 33 million people who are out of work is there aren’t any jobs. So it’s a hyper competitive, high rejection rate pursuit to look for work. It’s very, very discouraging to look for work. And so anything that gives you a confidence boost. And probably not anything I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t recommend a shot of courage as a way of navigating unemployment. I think that’s got a pretty dark downsides. But there are many things that are good confidence boosters and this could be one of them, you’re right?

Well, we’ve got a couple other things that are along the same line things they’re trying to help the companies or the employees or those who are out of work service. Now, you know, we’ve seen a lot of we’ve got a new workflow for your COVID crisis management model, right. So there’s a lot of that here about supporting state for employees and customers returning to work or returning to your environment, quicker caught my eye which is interesting with ServiceNow is that they acquired a piece of technology called 4Facility Assets off of a system integrator that probably more like IP, I would assume, right? A tool that allows the organization allows employees to reserve death offices parking spot, decide when people should be leaving and industry scheduling, leaving times up the doors. I talked to someone the other day who said that in Brooklyn, in big apartment buildings, they have to schedule time to use the elevator and they only get to be in the courtyard of their big buildings for half an hour. So you have to schedule when you’re going to leave for grocery shopping. And when you’re going to like that kind of scheduling seems crazy, but that’s the kind of stuff people are gonna have to do to go back to these big companies. And so that’s what’s ServiceNow basically acquired.

John Sumser 19:46
It’s gonna be fascinating to watch the experiments and it’s gonna be terrifying to see the consequences of the failures.

Stacey Harris 19:55

John Sumser 19:56
Yeah. Yeah. And then we have Grant Thornton. Why is Grant Thornton offering a one-stop solution for HR professionals?

Stacey Harris 20:05
First of all, I think the language here is just really so bland and consultative that you don’t know exactly what they’re offering. But if you look at it, they’re offering a configured use of Equis. I think that’s how you pronounce it, software assignment pro platform, is a piece of technology. My understanding is that it will manage domestic international regulatory tax and compliance issues associated with mobile workforces. And why this becomes really important right now is if your company generally has most of your workforce working in one country, one state one location, or if you have people who are traveling on a regular basis, and you kind of know where they’re traveling to in this environment where we have people in different countries because they got caught there or if they have remote workers who are working in their home offices and their home offices across the state line. And I don’t know the answer to this, but does that now mean that they have to pay the state taxes because they’re working inside one state versus where your headquarters is at. Right, that’s my assumption of what this, this pen tool is going to be able to help organizations manage a little bit better.

John Sumser 21:04
Okay, that makes a whole lot more sense to me then my first reading of this, thank you.

Stacey Harris 21:10
It’s a bit of hype around what I think is actually a very necessary thing for HR function. So, I really wish we could talk to some of these marketing professionals and tell them not like if there were words not to use, and definitely one of the most important things would be talent, mobility, technology, all those are words that are so general in the market, one-stop solution says nothing, right.

John Sumser 21:31
Right. Well, maybe that’s the interesting thing to close on. The change that we’re going through is extraordinary. And people who do marketing in this environment have a great opportunity to make a great difference. But the easiest thing to do is to sound just like everybody else. And so there’s no better time to focus on what makes you different than right now when I can’t tell who you are because you’re the 71st person who has sent me a piece of email this morning about something about COVID-19.

Stacey Harris 22:06
Yeah. And the one-stop shop for all your needs, right?

John Sumser 22:10
There you go. Well, this is not as upbeat as we can usually get, but it was a good conversation. Thanks for doing this Stacey.

Stacey Harris 22:19
Definitely yeah. And excited to see what we’re going to get into the next couple of weeks. I think there will be a lot more interesting and upbeat information hopefully that we’ll be able to share with people around, well, upbeat might be the wrong word, but interesting information as companies start to reopen, right?

John Sumser 22:32
Yes, maybe the headline will be, “Lemmings engage in very upbeat and lively march towards the cliff.”

Stacey Harris 22:40
Yeah, OK! On that note.

John Sumser 22:43
All right.

Stacey Harris 22:43
Play the Irish music, John.

John Sumser 22:46
Okay, time for me to start clogging again.

Stacey Harris 22:49

John Sumser 22:49
See you next week and thanks again Stacey. Bye bye.

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