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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: 266
Air Date: May 14, 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 I’m not Stacey Harris, you are. How are you this morning?

Stacey Harris 0:23
I am. I’m doing well done. I’m sitting at home as we have been for the last several months. Sunshine here in North Carolina, looking out my beautiful green window today. So enjoying a bit of bright weather that’s a little bit warmer than it has been this week. And I’m not John Sumser you’re John Sumser. So how have you been doing John?

John Sumser 0:42
Well, you know, I’ve going a bit stir crazy. I’ve kind of used to running to airports and using the rhythm of travel as the forcing function in my work and so it’s taking some getting used to deal with this new thing. But that said, there’s all sorts of Interesting stuff going on. Right? The fact that we’re on lockdown hasn’t stopped forward progress. And we’ll see that in the news today. And while people are busily trying to figure out how to get things done, there’s real forward progress of some pretty interesting things.

Stacey Harris 1:17
I think it’s quite interesting. We talked about this idea of a new normal, or what it will look like in the next phase of work. And what I have found by watching outside of the political news and the health news, and the very sad dramatic stuff coming out of the areas that are dealing with the high points of the crisis and their healthcare workers that under all this is this current of how do I still do business? And what’s happening is that people are sort of rethinking the idea of what business is as a good way of putting it. So even in the stuff that we’ll be talking about today, we’re seeing some new ways of rethinking old things that people had been doing for years and years and years, and just different ways to get stuff done. So that’s my take on what’s happening right now is that works a little wonky just because we’re trying to rethink how you do it?

John Sumser 2:03
Yeah, I think I would without being overly aggressive here. The idea that there is such a thing as a new normal is, it hurts, hurts the analysis. What’s really happening is that people are discovering what work is one step at a time. And, and in this new structure, I mean, so much is moving around so many pieces are in play that the idea that it’s somehow going to settle, and that there’ll be a normalization of this is wishful, it’s wishful. Instead, what’s gonna happen is you’re gonna see people driving down the road in old broken cars, and the cars are gonna crash and fall off to the side of the road and the stuff that’s driving 18 months from now, is not going to look like these old broken cars, but everywhere I turn, I see people trying to breathe life into old ideas. And that is the healthy way that we solve this problem is by trying the stuff that we used to know how to do and discovering that it doesn’t work and having to flounder and be embarrassed because it doesn’t work while we either figure out what does or have somebody come along behind us who can figure out what those are. And that process, when you call it, the new normal, it doesn’t get the real feel, which is more like you know, we’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden. And so I did some research and found some caterpillars and ladybugs that we need to put in the garden to control the other ones. And so you get a little container and it’s got these squirmy things in it. And the squirmy things wander and do their thing and bump into stuff and eat and drink and then ultimately they stop being little squirmy things and they turn into butterflies and bugs and we’re coming through that kind of a process, right?

Stacey Harris 4:02

John Sumser 4:02
And the transformation and I’m gonna want a different word, but the moment that the larval ideas become functioning insects, we’re not anywhere near that. And you know what happens to a caterpillar when it becomes a chrysalis and when it becomes a butterfly, the caterpillar goes into a cocoon and liquefies. Then it becomes a butterfly, right?

Stacey Harris 4:26

John Sumser 4:27
Just the liquification process that we’re headed towards. And to describe that as the new normal is like saying, oh, yeah, you’re about to get run over by a car, but that’s okay. You’ll get used to it.

Stacey Harris 4:39
Okay. I think it was metamorphosis is what you’re looking for. And we’re gonna get a little Kafka esque on this here soon.

John Sumser 4:48
Sometimes it’s what this feels like I woke up and I was bug.

Stacey Harris 4:52
Yeah, I mean, the normal I think I think the thing that people are longing for is the idea that you know what tomorrow looks like. That’s one of the driving points I hear most people struggling with is and you know, even our comments about not traveling and how we’re used to that driving us to get work done. And we’re used to different levels of time management and different types of focus areas. But all of that really lends to the idea that you sort of wake up and know what’s in front of you. And I know for me, I have had to get used to the last several months, waking up knowing I have a lot of tasks to get done, but not knowing what the week was going to look like exactly. And that’s been scary. And people go through the different stages throughout their life, but to have a whole world feel that way. I think that’s why there’s been a grasp for this idea of a normal somewhere. And I don’t know that we will get there, at least not in the next six to 12 months. Maybe in two years we’ll get to a point where we feel like we know what tomorrow holds.

John Sumser 5:46
Yeah, but this is more like a 10 year project. And that’s, you know, it could from 1929 to the start of the second world war to really make the shift from beginning to intermediate industrial economy. And along the way there were these massive job losses and government programs that relocated people all over the country. What I saw a statistic yesterday that said that 40% of people with incomes under $40,000 a year lost their jobs in the last six weeks. 40% of people making $20 an hour or less lost their jobs in the last six weeks. That’s just, that’s, that’s wiping out a class of people. And the project that it takes to restore the economy from that point, given the pandemic involves the invention of new jobs. It involves doing things that we’ve never done before. And right now, people are in a panic about how to get enough plexiglass into the office so that you can put walls between cubicles for the people to go back to work. That’s putting band aids on the cuts, and you most certainly need to put band aids on the cuts. But that isn’t even beginning to address the question of what are we going to do? That’s just, how do we keep going as best we can while we figure out what the problem actually is, right? And that’s the thing that I dislike most about the new normal conversation is it assumes we know what the problem is. And we don’t.

Stacey Harris 7:27
Yeah. We don’t know what the problem is. I would push back a little bit on the fact that we have never done this. I do think, at least globally, after the 1930s we did do a lot of work camps. And you know, that’s how the Hoover Dam was built. That’s how many of the state parks were built, you know, was the idea of creating jobs from a federal level and creating environments where people could get back into work. We have done this I think what it is we haven’t done this in the modern day, which is a very different dialogue. With modern expectations around what freedom is and what a minimal level of living is, and all of those things and technology, and so there is a lot of conversation to be had about, have we created an environment in our current world where we are not able to move to the next step? And that’s another piece of what people are scared about.

John Sumser 8:22
Yeah, and I’ll just say that the dimensions of this problem dwarf the problem that we solved in the 30s. And that’s the thing that people haven’t really grasped yet is that six weeks into it, six weeks into it, we have higher levels of employment than we had in the 30s. And the layoffs have just begun. Saying that we know what we’re doing right now and that we have some notion of what’s going to happen is like, remember when we were going to hit the peak of the pandemic in the first week of April?

Stacey Harris 8:52
Yeah, sorry.

John Sumser 8:53
Remember that?

Stacey Harris 8:55
Yes, I remember that.

John Sumser 8:57
It’s a sad thing to laugh at, well, same thing with unemplyment. These are the good old days. And it doesn’t work until we start really, really adjusting to that fact. I’m hearing stories about wealthy CEOs holding an all hands meetings to let the people know that they don’t have to worry about them. You know, we’re doing fine here in our penthouse. You needn’t worry about us. We’ll let you know about that other stuff like whether you have a job or not. And so the class differences between workers and executives are starting to show. And that’s a problem. So we got some interesting news here today.

Stacey Harris 9:39
Yeah, I mean all the stuff we were just talking about all that filters down in different ways in our industry. We’ve had a lot of layoff announcements, but we’ve also had some changes in CEO’s. We’ve had some changes and new products being launched because of all this and some more investments being made in the industry. So as much as it feels a bit gloom and doom and change is always difficult and I think your point is very well taken that we are going to see the gap between those who have and those who have not probably become very, very clearly defined through all this. We’re also going to see some amazing new things happen both in our industry and around the globe as people come up with new ideas about how to address all this.

So yeah, we have lots of news this week. We have Cornerstone on Demand. So many of you follow them on the learning as well as recruiting and performance management space. But Cornerstone announced a changeover that was gonna be taking place in June of their longtime CEO Adam Miller, big name in the industry, being replaced by Phil Sounders who came over from their Saba acquisition. And we’ll talk a little bit about that because they also did a briefing at same time yesterday about that.

But we’re also seeing investments in the market. Paradox raised $40 million in the last week and a half, in their Series B to help companies embrace the future of work with their conversational AI. We’ve seen lots of these conversational AI’s is getting investment right now. This one’s a little different.

Remote is another organization that raised money this last week $11 million in a seed round funding focusing on helping companies hire and onboard talent anywhere in the world within minutes. So this is a bit of a remote gig hiring model but more of a global perspective that was why for me it caught my eye. There was some other investments this week, their general job boards and some talent acquisition stuff, but this one I thought was really interesting because of the idea of a global onboarding kind of model very quickly.

We also saw some product announcements this week, in lieu of not being able to do big events. We’re starting to see some of these vendors really push out some of the products they’ve been working on Oracle launch their self service analytics tool for cloud HCM. They’ve been working on that for quite some time.

Business Solver launched a benefit pulse tool, as well as a tool for assessing the best way to put it is options for healthcare for all the people who are currently out of work. That was sort of an interesting one, I think because business overgeneralize as a b2b business business conversation, but it looks like they’re trying to provide some help to forge an open market for the 22 million people they’re expecting to be out of healthcare just because of the unemployment numbers.

And then last, but by no means least, Ascentis, who we don’t hear a lot about they’re generally small business HR technology, but they’re starting to make some noise. They’re announcing their touch free time clock. So they’re launching their own time clocks right now, which is new for them with temperature reading capabilities along with biometric analysis. So I’ve been talking to a lot of the workforce management organizations and a lot of them are using their biometric technology. The temperature is a new one for me. So I thought it was worth having a conversation about so as much as we talked about the fact that things are changing. There’s a lot going on right now, John. So where do you want to start in the conversation?

John Sumser 12:44
So what do you think about time clocks that take your temperature and do an iris scan, or a facial recognition? What do you think about that?

Stacey Harris 12:53
Well, personally, it’s a little creepy, but on the other hand, I think we’re going to see work environments where people are starting to do things like taking temperature and taking down symptoms. I mean, this is the contact tracing, everyone’s going to be hearing the term contact tracing over the next couple of months, technology is being looked at across the board. The question is what you do with that information and how it’s used, right? Because once you find out that someone has a fever, then how much do you have to get in their personal life to understand what that fever means, right? And then,

John Sumser 13:26
Well, yeah this is a very clever tool for discriminating against women in menopause.

Stacey Harris 13:32
Yes, that’s right. Exactly. Yes. There is a lot of things that this could this could backfire on organizations if they don’t implement it well. The tool itself is not bad by any means. I actually think there we have to start thinking about how we bring our workers back safely and we have to put in place the things that they expect before they walk through the door to make sure they feel comfortable walking through a door. But we have to also put in place the processes and the policies and procedures to make sure that we do that in a way that is respectful of not only the regulations, but of the brand and the values we say that we’re holding ourselves to.

John Sumser 14:11
We probably need to involve an employment lawyer in this conversation, but it’s my sense that you cannot discriminate against people based on a physical characteristic. And so in order for gating of the organization to be done, based on some sort of real physical characteristic, the regulations will have to be changed. And I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination that people are going to stop doing this just because the law says you can’t, but it’s a super important consideration. Yes, we need to make safe workplaces. But no, it’s not okay to categorize and discriminate against people, no matter what your excuse is.

Stacey Harris 14:54
Yeah, but that’s actually not what’s in it right now. OSHA requirements for safety are overriding discrimination requirements when it comes to anything that has to do with healthcare at this point. Now, whether that will hold up in a court of law and whether or not that

John Sumser 15:09
Says who?

Stacey Harris 15:10

John Sumser 15:11
Says who? Just because you say that that’s not true. God knows with the government that we have the idea that somebody would prioritize one thing over another outside of which crony to give the money to you know, that’s not happening. So, business owners may wish that that were true. But it isn’t true. And there is a super need to get back to work, I wouldn’t dispute that for a second, but just because there’s a super need to get back to work doesn’t mean you could drive 100 miles an hour down the freeway?

Stacey Harris 15:42
Yeah, no. Believe me this one is one of the slides folded up and I want to make sure we talked about it today because I think companies are assuming the technology is out there because they’re allowed to use it. That’s really what’s happening. If someone has made it available and someone has made it accessible. Well of course all the vendors have done all the research. We talked timeclock plus last week, and they’re tracking, contact tracing tracking using existing tools they’ve already had in place, which are a good tools, but they’re responding to requests from the employers about what they want and need. And the question becomes have they had the conversations at both a legal and unethical level. You can’t just stop at a legal level. It also has to stop you have to think about it at the brand level and employee comfort level. There’s a whole slew of things that have to happen here. And then technology can be put into place because I think there is a place for most of this technology if you think about how to appropriately use it.

John Sumser 16:35
I don’t think because we’re having a crisis that you get to just willy nilly suspend the legal environment and the anti discrimination laws are in place because it’s easier to discriminate than it is to solve the problem. And so I’m sure that you’re right that these companies are responding to requests from their clients but that It doesn’t make it smart or good. It just makes it a request of a quiet.

Stacey Harris 17:04
Is it a different than getting on a plane being required to give your temperature to get on a plane at this point?

John Sumser 17:09
Is it any different than being required to give your temperature on the plane?

Stacey Harris 17:14
Yeah, so before I go on a plane…

John Sumser 17:15
I don’t, I don’t, you know I don’t. No, no, no, United States is what we’re talking about. Not most international.

Stacey Harris 17:24

John Sumser 17:26
OSHA. You can’t do that, OSHA and the Americans with Disabilities Act don’t apply in other countries.

Stacey Harris 17:32
Okay, alright good point.

John Sumser 17:35
Right, and Ascentis is an Iowa company. We’re not talking about launching this internationally, this is a domestic, and we’ve got the biggest mess. And so whether or not there are get your temperature taken requirements in other countries. I don’t know how to think about that yet. But can you or can’t you go to work because of your temperature is an area that is much more protected and regulated than can you or can’t you get on a commercial property? Right? If the government doesn’t regulate that space, then companies can. The space that the government regulates starts at the security place and if they want to add temperature stuff there then that’s a government decision. The question of whether or not I can discriminate against my employees based on their health status, that’s a separate, very sticky legal thing, and that people are just wandering right by because they’re in a hurry to get the doors open. And it’d be really, really good to review this stuff with really conservative employment lawyers. Because that…

Stacey Harris 18:42
I think we will agree on that one and completely John. I would recommend that for everybody.

John Sumser 18:47
Yeah, in the absence of a clear statement from the regulators, that you’re not going to be held liable, you’re going to be held liable. So did you see there’s a I believe it’s a Texas Mexican food joint called Nacho Daddy that is requiring workers who return to sign a release that says the company isn’t liable if they get sick from coming to work.

Stacey Harris 19:15
Wow. But I’m not surprised at all.

Yeah there’s going to be all sorts of weird shit.

And we’ve got Amazon testing to allow peope to come to work right. So yeah, this is gonna be across the board, big companies, little companies, you know, do you make sure people are safe? Does that making sure people are safe stepping on their right? Do you even if you keep it separate from HIPAA data, like the HIPAA requirements, like right now they’re saying, well, at least if I keep my employment data separate from my data that I’m capturing about the person’s current state of health, that part of what’s going to make it safer. All of this is up in the air and you definitely need guidance on all of this in my statement, so don’t do it alone.

John Sumser 19:57
Yes, yes. Make sure your vendor has a big insurance policy.

Stacey Harris 20:02
Yeah, exactly. Let’s talk a little bit about cornerstone.

John Sumser 20:04
Yeah, Phil Saunders who is the current CEO of Saba was just named the CEO of cornerstone. And this is an extraordinary thing. Adam Miller, who started the company and has run it to $600 million a year in revenue, is becoming the Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors while Phil takes over the CEO’s job. And Phil did an extraordinary thing with Saba. He is a business operator who knows how to find efficiency and the marketing edge in things and so it’s gonna be very interesting to see what he does. What do you think about it?

Stacey Harris 20:44
Yeah, the announcement came out. And I actually heard it from the financial analysts before I heard it from anybody else. They were calling me asking me about it. And then, you know, we got on a briefing that was supposed to be about where Saba and Cornerstone were going to go towards the future, where they sort of announced Adams plans to move and then quickly dumped into kind of a hi from Phil to a hour presentation of Adam telling us about the future of the organization and where it was heading. So it was a little bit disconcerting, felt a little bit like this decision and this change may not have been planned. But normally you would expect an announcment like that. And then to have someone like Phil do the big presentation. But Adam jumped in. And as always, I’m always on board with the vision Adam has of sort of educating the world. I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve always gravitated towards the conversations that happen around what’s going on with Cornerstone. And they have some real long term plans around what they’re planning to do with their artificial intelligence, their learning and development and how they’re going to wrap everything in the learning picture. But I also heard very clearly that Cornerstone is a cash machine, which was actually words directly out of Adam’s mouth. And my fear is that under Phil, as good as he is, but that they might end up operationalizing themselves out of innovation. So that would be my biggest fear about this.

John Sumser 21:56
Yeah, I think that’s a reasonable question to ask. I will tell you that I had a deep conversation with Cornerstone yesterday about their AI ambitions. And you know that conventional story right now about AI has shifted away from machine learning because all of that historical data is broken right now. And onto the skills work that companies like Burning Glass have been doing for 20 years and workday has been doing for three or four and they’re probably 15 or 20 initiatives that are about trying to understand what all of the skills in the world are and what all the jobs of the world are and what all of the people in the worlds are and make them blend together. And they have some interesting new people on the team with Cornerstone who given the right funding and sustain the big funding could do some very interesting things. So I was optimistic coming off of the phone call, but you know, the heart of the Cornerstone cash machine is the user base. And nobody’s ever seen a level of layoffs like we’ve just had. And nobody’s ever seen the level of business failure that we’re about to see. And so we’ll see if they can sustain it. I give them high marks for a good running start.

Stacey Harris 23:18
Yeah. I’m hoping so because I think Cornerstone plays a really important part of the HR technology ecosystem. They have driven innovation in a way oftentimes that other learning organizations couldn’t because of their scale on their scope and because Adam just really, I think, understood his customers. And I know Phil’s done a nice job with what they’ve done with Saba. So I’m hoping to see that that will come to fruition. But I also know that when you start focusing on a lot of different applications coming together and operations is your primary focus, you could easily end up with what we saw happen with SumTotal which was some really interesting stuff, but they spent so much time trying to support all the myriad of different products that had been aggregated underneath that brand, well years, that the innovation got lost really quickly, I think for them, and I think they’re still trying to come back and some of that under the Skillsoft brand. So yeah. So just something to watch.

John Sumser 24:08
Yep. So, another great conversation. Thanks for taking the time to do this. And thanks, everybody, for checking in with us today. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly with Stacey Harris and John Sumser and we will see you back here next week. Bye Bye now.

Stacey Harris 24:37

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