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: 268
Air Date: May 28, 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. Stacey, 268 shows we haven’t killed each other. That’s amazing.

Stacey Harris 0:27
Well, we’ve been practicing social distancing long before it was in style, John. So I think we’re good. We can have a couple arguments back and forth. But we can always come back together the next week and start all over again. So yes.

John Sumser 0:44
268 It’s amazing. It’s amazing.

Stacey Harris 0:49

John Sumser 0:50
Yeah. So how are you? How is solitary confinement treating you?

Stacey Harris 0:54
It’s treating me well. I mean, things like I said last week or starting to open up here in North Carolina, but I am personally taking things very slow just to be on the safe side, obviously making sure everywhere I go, I am wearing my mask. You know things are starting to open up a little bit when I’m finally able to order groceries again and get a slot to pick them up where previously I couldn’t do that at all. So yeah, I mean North Carolina is a little bit in this weird phase I think we’re a lot of the southern states are at. We’re starting to open up but unlike I think in California, and in New York and other areas, our numbers are continuing to rise here both in the the number of people who have COVID and the number of deaths. Now our governor here is very carefully watching that county by county and putting out numbers as to why they think that in different regions we should be able to open up versus others, but as a state as a whole, we’ve hit some pretty significant numbers just like our country hitting the hundred thousand mark this week. It’s surreal to know that every time you walk out your door that there could be someone that you’re interacting with who is the next person who has COVID just like anyplace else you were at prior to the lockdown. So yeah, it’s kind of a surreal existence right now. And how about you guys? I think California is being more cautious than anybody. But are you doing any opening up at all is fine?

John Sumser 2:07
Well, no.

Stacey Harris 2:11
That might be wise.

John Sumser 2:12
The opening is going slowly and we are in a particularly aggressive part of the state. Napa and Sonoma County’s depend on tourism dollars, and so the counties are anxious to open back up. But what looks like speed here is not the same as what it looks like there. So the beaches are still closed, but you’re allowed to go to a park, we went to a restaurant that has a lot of picnic tables and had dinner one night this week with a couple of kids who we haven’t been able to spend time with because of this. So it was nice to do that, but there’s no big rush. There’s no big rush to open because in the absence of a cure, all you’re doing is accelerating the next wave and the next wave could be terror. crushing. Now we’ve got one who’s a senior who was going to go to his graduation in the car, get in line and drive by as he’s getting his diploma. And another who’s going to be a senior in college and the California State Universities have all closed to classrooms in the fall. So he’s going to be watching TV. For his senior year, he watching TV for his senior year. So things are changing, but it’s a new world now. It’s a new world.

Stacey Harris 3:31
It is. Yeah, and a lot of the stuff that’s going on in the HR space is in reaction to what’s going on in our personal lives and in the healthcare community, and in reaction to the horrific numbers coming out of those who have lost their life and those who have been affected in other ways by the COVID-19 crisis. So it’s kind of this weird dynamic that we’re all in we’re in one hand, there’s so much sadness and grief and I think you had talked about this that we were going to be going through this, right? So much sadness, grief, and change going on in our country and in a lot of different ways, at the same time, so much innovation and opportunity and anxiety over what the next step will be. It’s just a weird mix of differing emotions I think everybody’s facing on a daily basis. I get up in the morning and I run through any gamut of emotions, from sadness, to despair, to exhilaration to excitement to opportunity, you know, interest to, you know, being able to write to, you know, getting to the end of day and going, I’m just worn out from all this sort of back and forth ping ponging of emotion. I’m assuming you’re feeling probably the same way. Everybody is right?

John Sumser 4:42
Yeah, one are the kids was talking to their doctor and the doctor said that, so we’re telemedicine heavy. So that’s an easy transition. But what the doctors are dealing with is an enormous amount of stress. People are, so the prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are go through the ceiling as people try to make sense out of their bouncing emotions and a world where all the boundaries have changed. It’s a crazy time. It’s a crazy time. You know, I think you’ve got data here that says the number of people who have filed for unemployment claims since the first of March is 40 million now.

Stacey Harris 5:25
Yeah, 40 million. That’s what we’re at. 2.1 million more Americans in just the last couple of weeks, we’re at a 15% unemployment rates in the US. But that’s that’s an average. If you look at a state by state analysis, states like Nevada, Michigan and Hawaii are closer to 25 to 30%, where other states like Connecticut, Minnesota and Nebraska are much lower. But yeah, we’re at a point that we have not literally seen since 1940s, and 30s. So this is a whole new world. And you know, there was an interesting article not too long ago that I read that said that this is even a more different economic downturn than what we might have faced in 2008 2009, where not only are people being laid off, and while you’re going through a layoff process, in many cases, you’re making the opportunity to sort of create a more lean organization and function. But we’re also seeing a lot of people have their salaries reduced, which is an interesting thing, which has not happened in any other downturn in recorded history, at least at this level, where people have taken pay cuts that people expect to stay pretty permanent for a while, because there’s been an economic theory that people will not be willing, they’d rather lose people within their organization and take a pay tide. And that seems to be different this time around, which means that a lot of the economic theories about how we’ll bounce back from this because those people who are taking pay cuts means they’re not having discretionary money, which means they’re not gonna be spending money in certain places. It kind of throws a lot of stuff out the window. So yeah, it’s a little scary out there right now when it comes to employment opportunities, right.

John Sumser 6:56
So it’s crazy. So you said 15%, but the way that the unemployment rate is calculated is you take the number of people in the workforce, which is 160 million. And you use that as the gross number. And then you divide the number of unemployment claims by the gross number to get the unemployment rate. And 40 million, over 160 million is 25%. And there were already another three and a half percent who were unemployed and looking for work. So the number the way that I see it is 28%, actually, right, because it’s 25% since the first of March, and it’s the other 3% that have been there for a while. And so it’s way worse than they’re reporting, and I understand why they would do that. I understand why it’s in the government’s interests to obscure the depths of the crisis, but the numbers don’t lie. 40% over 140, 40 million over 160 million this 25% plus the pre-existing unemployment is 28 and a half 29% unemployment. And we still have more filing to do. And so it’s weird. And you can imagine, you can imagine that everybody is scared because everybody has somebody in their family who’s lost their job.

Stacey Harris 8:15
Yeah, yeah. I walk talking to three people yesterday who had both parties in their family who has lost their job, or were losing their job, over the next couple of weeks?

John Sumser 8:22
Yeah, if my thinking is right, one out of four people, one out of every four people has lost their job. And you can live, I know people who live in big company bubbles, the top 12 or 15% of employment marketplace works in these big giant companies. And they are more insulated from this than people who work in small business, but that’s huge. And what’s interesting is 70% of the people who have lost their job believes that it’s temporary and that they’ll be going back to work. Right. And at the same time, people are talking about these draconian pay cuts and that same study from, that’s talked about pay cuts, also says that 90% of managers believe that they’re bringing their people back. And you can’t put 40 million people back to work. It’s way easier to hire, fire them than it is to bring them back. So, I think we’re gonna see so very unhappy people come the first of July.

Stacey Harris 9:23
Yeah, no, I think that July and August are going to be a really hard time for our country in a way that I don’t think we’ve seen in a while. One at that point in time, we’re going to start to lose some of the government benefits unless they get new things passed that are supporting a lot of these people who’ve been laid off with additional funding, right. There are many people we know in the market, especially at who were in minimum wage jobs or even working part time who are getting more money while they’re being laid off because of the Federal additional federal funding than they got through being employed. So we’re seeing some of that happen, which is having an impact on people being willing to come back right now. But then as that money starts to go away and people start to look to come back to work the question is can you bring them all back at the pace? Will there be the kind of work that we expect? I think that answer comes down to, will people be comfortable going out the way they have been? And you know, I think people have been cooped up right now if you’re seeing a bit of a demand, and there’s a lot of people out and about, but once we start to see the rising numbers, again in the fall, until we get some sort of a cure, or some sort of a antidote to what’s going on with the COVID virus, you’re going to start to see people get scared again and go back to sort of sheltering in place on their own if they have the ability to do that.

John Sumser 10:36
Yeah, I think people’s assumptions are going to get shaken terribly as we move forward. I have seen some stuff that suggests that the next wave won’t be as dramatic initially because so many people are going outside. And this doesn’t really spread outside. It spreads in offices, it spreads in churches, expensive concerts, it’s spreads at sporting events. It spreads in hair salons and nail parlors, physical therapy offices, but it doesn’t spread in parks. If people practice decent social distancing in the park, and I don’t know if you’ve seen the pictures of the San Francisco parks over the weekend last weekend, but they the chalk mark six foot circles, and you could take your people and sit inside of the circle. Yeah, but they enforced that sitting outside of the circle. So it looks like a great big giant piece of Swiss cheese with all of these circle staff there that all this empty space around the circles, unlike the beaches on the East Coast, or the beaches in Southern California,

Stacey Harris 11:41
Where they are packed right now I can’t say and even in our parks, I mean, it is really hard because they’re just not big enough to have that kind of space. In some cases. But people are trying.

Now what’s interesting, a lot of studies are coming out right now. I think we’ve gotten through the point where people are like, okay, I feel like I’ve got enough data to start to share it. So you’re seeing a number of vendors who have done studies, a number of business organizations who have done studies around what people are seeing. And so we are starting to see some interesting data come out about the percentage of organizations who have furloughed versus the percentage who have feel they’re going to be bringing people back like you were talking of, right.

Layoffs were done by about 32% of organizations in the survey that they had done of the organizations who had done anything at that point in time, with 10%, indicating that those layoffs are permanent, which are meant the remainder of them said that they felt like they were going to be bringing people back or most of the people back. I think you had an interesting commentary of, could they bring everybody back, that we had been talking about. Just the sheer numbers of bringing everybody back all at once in an environment where we’ve got social distancing and an environment where we have a shift and how people might interact with these businesses. You go to a restaurant or do you just continue to order out from it that kind of a thing. Do you think that we are prepared for how you bring back 40 million workers. If you even want to at that point.

John Sumser 13:04
I think that this is going to be understood as the moment at which people shifted into newer, more technical roles. Right? The Great Depression was a key accelerator of the trend towards industrial life. At the end of the 19th century, the majority of people still lived on farms. And by 1940, people were in factories. And so we’re going to I don’t know what you’d call the next thing, but this is it. And so, you know, of all of the restaurant workers who are unemployed 75% of the waitstaff is not going to have their jobs back. And of all of the hotel and hospitality workers who are unemployed, a very minor percentage are going to have their jobs back because who’s gonna stay in a hotel? How do you know that the place is clean? How do you know you like going somewhere where you You’re going to get sick. That’s not going to hurry up in the change. But those people need to work. And there are jobs available. There’s a lot of demand available in places that are not restaurants or hospitality, particularly healthcare and then distribution. So people will make the transition. People are going to make the transition now because there isn’t any choice.

Stacey Harris 14:22
Amazon announced this week that they’re gonna make 70% of the temporary workforce that they’ve hired for this crisis intervention permanent. So basically, they are roughly hiring 3000 hires per day. They’re saying 125,000 of those hires were the temporaries. And that, you know, they’re currently at, I think I saw the number, I want to make sure, that Amazon has 840,000 employees full and part time at the end of last quarter. And the real possibility is that they will be crossing 1 million mark sometime in 2020. So I think you’re correct. I mean, the end at the same time, we’re also seeing as we’ve mentioned last week, a lot of labor conversations about how those workforces are being managed and addressed. And they have a lot more opportunity to have a voice in this kind of environment, especially as those jobs become more critical for the economy getting back on its feet.

John Sumser 15:13
Yep. So I think that the world is going to start to reconsider what job boards are. And this is a time where the job board is liable to be a necessary vehicle because people in the restaurant business don’t necessarily know where and how to look for work. People in the hospitality, if it’s not inside of another restaurant is easy to look for work inside of your industry. It’s hard to look for work outside of your industry. And we’re gonna see job boards that help people make those sorts of transitions.

Stacey Harris 15:46
Which means we’re probably going to see more investment there.

John Sumser 15:49
Well, you know, there was an article that was widely circulated in the job board world a couple of weeks ago from Andreessen Horowitz the Career Venture Capital company suggesting that the best place to make investments in HR was niche job boards. Now, the article was heavily panned by people who know what they’re talking about. And it may be that the problem that we’re facing right now is that there are a lot of people who know what they’re talking about and what they know and what they know that they’re talking about is no longer relevant, that we have actually entered a time and space where the fact that you’re an expert is your single biggest handicap rather than your single biggest asset.

Stacey Harris 16:37
Well, I think what we’re going to experience here will be interesting, you know, 2007-2008 timeframe, we definitely saw job boards change what they were, right. That was the moment when we when we had all these people out of work where job boards started to cater toward the person who was looking for the job and trying to help them figure out how they looked for jobs a little differently. And the same way I think you’re talking about now. But, we also saw a companies had to change a bit. You know, in the midst of an economic downturn, you did not want to be seen as a company that was excessively throwing parties or excessively giving out big bonuses. There was a demeanor and an expectation about brands that shifted as well, right. You know, one of the big things that we’re seeing I think happened in the market right now to is companies trying to reestablish their brand throughout this pandemic as being more caring, more interested, in helping their employees, more interested in helping the world in general, right. Which is a little counter to you know, what we saw with the last couple of years where things have been on, we’re on this roller coaster ride of doing really well. So you know, anything coming out of the high tech space or anything, where we’re we’re getting a chance to have a innovative work environment is more exciting and interesting than the actual culture of the company on some level. I mean, do you think that these job boards will start to give some relevance to being tools that help you understand the culture a little bit better in light of the fact that this is a downturn, because of a pandemic and not just because of the economic shift?

John Sumser 18:03
That’s a good question. I think what you’re going to see is that job boards start to get better at predicting the likelihood that you will succeed in the job that you’re applying for. Right? Remember, this is me, right? And I think that artificial intelligence is gonna weave its way into all sorts of things very rapidly. Now, at the job board that’s driven by artificial intelligence that assesses the performance prospects of a person is going to be different. So that means the job boards that used to just provide unfiltered quality are now going to be able to make some sort of predictions and this opens all sorts of questions about managing bias and understanding the flow of people from the job board to the company.

Stacey Harris 18:50
Yeah. Well, it’s gonna be interesting. I mean, at the same time, we’re also seeing some interesting partnerships being made, not only in the job board space, but in the overall HR technology space right. So, one of the big announcements this week is worth noting is that Workday made a huge announcement that they are now partnering with to help organizations safely return to work. And I thought this was an interesting announcement. I mean, Salesforce has been doing some really interesting work on their site, which was originally meant to be I think, an HR platform, and it sort of changed a little bit to sort of morph into a couple of other things. And now Salesforce is sort of using that platform to help develop tools within their environment that are doing contact tracing, and they’re doing workforce management type of tracking for organizations who need to do that in the sales environment, as well as your understanding who your employees are and what their needs are those kind of things using their extended platform to bring together people who have sort of built tools to support the COVID crisis and workday has decided that they are partnering with Salesforce. What they have explicitly said in this kind of a partnership relationship is that they’re not partnering with one of the other organizations they’re tightly connected with, which is ServiceNow, who’s doing a similar type of, let’s pull together a bunch of things, to sort of help and support organizations bring together COVID respond. We’re also seeing the same time they’re making this announcement that Workday is also announcing the general availability of their Workday Extend, which is their platform as a service solution, which means people can build modules on top of the Workday environment in a way that they have not previously been able to outside of just sort of the few that workday has given that to, again, all in response to I think this idea that we need to rethink how these platforms are working together, right, which is kind of what you’re saying on the job board too. We have to rethink what the role of that job board might be.

John Sumser 20:36
Right? So I love this announcement. I love it, particularly because there’s a new Workday tagline. That’s, the source of truth for real time worker information and skills insights for today’s dynamic workforce. Now there’s there’s an aspirational goal. There’s, there’s an aspirational goal, but it’s unclear to me that peope will find the Workday skills cloud and the salesforce reopening businesses stuff, the intersection between those two things. What do you think that is? I have a hard time really getting the relevance of the deal. I get the power of the press release. But, I don’t understand how work poses to be a part of reopening.

Stacey Harris 21:22
I think that’s been part of their challenge, right, as a system that is fundamentally about current employees, they had a gap, particularly with the workforce management space where they didn’t exactly have all the tools you needed to bring people back to work in the way you need to on a safe and safe way and what Salesforce has, in the fact that they track people outside of a work environment. That’s what the CRM really is, is tracking everyone else that you have in your organization on some level, connections with that are not part of your company. You really need the intersection of both of those things, I think to handle this back to work conversation because there’s an element of data and processes and tools that have to be held away from your your HR and your finance data. And my sense is this is a way for Workday to have a little bit of both of those things and not have to go through creating a whole extended, you know, model right now.

John Sumser 22:14
Yeah. So I still don’t get what that means in terms of practical application. We’ll see how it unfolds and the fact that Workday and Salesforce are collaborating is the interesting news here.

Stacey Harris 22:27
Yeah, exactly.

John Sumser 22:28
That’s a big deal piece of news, what they’re doing. It doesn’t sound like they actually know what they’re doing. That they’re doing it is a pretty important thing.

Stacey Harris 22:38
Yeah. We also have mentioned a couple of studies, the study that Paychex study as well, days old, there’s another study about UK small businesses that we’ve sort of been referencing a little bit here too. So we’ll probably note those studies when we publish the information on the radio show today. Because we’ve been sort of throwing around stats from various parts of studies, but all of them are along these lines of how do we think about next steps? What are people doing? What are they planning on doing? So we’re seeing more of that probably over the next couple weeks too.

John Sumser 23:06
Yep. So welcome to the summer of the pandemic. And, thanks for taking the time to do this Stacey. Thanks for listening in everybody.

You have been listening to HR Tech Weekly, One Step Sloser with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. And we’ll see you back here same time next week. And now here are those Irish guys

Stacey Harris 23:25
Thanks, everyone.

Read previous post:
I Don’t Know. Is Learning By Mistake How We Learn Best?

Is there a way to rewire your brain to transform the fear of the unknown and self-loathing of mistakes into...