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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: 269
Air Date: June 4, 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, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Hi Stacey. How are you?

[00:00:23] Stacey Harris: [00:00:23] Good morning John I’m doing well.

[00:00:25] Yeah, like everyone else in a bit of a hard to describe emotional state these days, but the sun is shining. It is 90 plus degrees in North Carolina here. So if anybody’s looking for some warm weather, we’ve got it finally.

[00:00:38] And we are tackling difficult conversations both inside my home and throughout the space of HR and technology. So, it’s a good day. It’s a good day to have a conversation. And how about you? How are you doing it in California?

[00:00:51] John Sumser: [00:00:51] You know we’re nearing 90 days of confinement and it’s getting a little stale but I am quite concerned. They’re going to start opening things up unnecessarily early opening of things. We’re going to see a big second wave sometime in late July probably. So I am frustrated, confused, concerned. It’s nice. It’s kind of a rich cauldron of emotion. It’s a crazy time.

[00:01:25] Stacey Harris: [00:01:25] Yeah. The comment about a rich cauldron of emotions, it’s probably been, one of the things that’s been pointed out to me most this week is that the level of anxiety that has ramped up from what was already a high level of anxiety the few weeks before, but for friends of mine and people that I care about now and for our society and our country as a whole in something that I’m having a hard time coping with, but friends of mine cope with it on a daily basis.

[00:01:51] And so I think this is truly. There’s no other way, plenty other than a cauldron of emotion. We noticed it last week, sort of flowing back and forth between trying to focus on what you’ve got to get done for your job, trying to make sure things get moving forward, feeling emotionally empathy for those who you can’t help but who need help right now, and then trying to sort of tamp down anger that’s coming forward about things that are happening that you can’t change.

[00:02:14] So it is the culture and is a good way to describe it, I would say. Yeah.

[00:02:17] John Sumser: [00:02:17] Yeah. What a crazy time to try to operate. A couple of, you know, the, the record number of people who filed for unemployment, I believe this week is at 42 million, and I don’t understand the, how the unemployment statistics work, but when concepts of what, what are the statistics say that’s over 25% of the workforce.

[00:02:38] Yeah. Has filed for an appointment. And what’s crazy making to me is we talked last week about the survey of hiring managers, and 90% of the hiring managers thought that people would be coming back to their jobs. The Washington post reported at about the same time, but 77% of people who have been laid off take, they’re going back to the jobs.

[00:03:03] Yeah. And nothing could be further from the truth. Well.

[00:03:08] Stacey Harris: [00:03:08] Okay. And I think the data, I mean, the data even has a more distinct picture on this percentages of side. The number of those who hold bachelors degrees, their unemployment rate jumped from 8.4% in April, which is less than half of the 17.3% unemployment rate of those with just a high school diploma.

[00:03:27] And so. What we’re seeing is also that this is not just unemployment across the board. We talked a little bit about this. It was different by state. There was different by region. This is very different by your education level as well, in a way that we’ve seen in the past, but never quite this dark.

[00:03:46] John Sumser: [00:03:46] It’s unemployment.

[00:03:49] Because we haven’t been able to talk about this well in our country, but the attainment of a college degree takes you out of the lower class year, auntie’s better employment and longer curve and more stable employment. And right now the bottom of the pyramid, and it’s a pyramid scheme, the bottom of the pyramid has been laid off and the impact is disproportional or the lower class.
[00:04:18] And there is a lower class and there is a barrier. One of the ways we talk about it often is the difference people, hourly and salary deploys generally a class difference. Yeah. And so this falls heavily on the hourly employee. It falls even more heavily on the people who make less than $40,000 a year.

[00:04:39] Stacey Harris: [00:04:39] Yeah. I mean, one of the things I think you were noting was that school districts were laying off 6% of their workforce and beamed like how are they making decisions? Lastly, percent, the number of children haven’t changed, but if you have kids working from home, then you end up with. The support staff, which was generally the hourly workforce in a full environment that is no longer needed to support the homeroom classrooms.

[00:05:03] The staff that comes with the two or three students who need special attention. The staff who is cleaning the hallways, all that stuff. Those are the ones who definitely are being let go in current education environment because they’re the ones generally without the college degrees. Right.

[00:05:19] John Sumser: [00:05:19] Right? So the question is going to be how do we get these people back to work?

[00:05:23] You look beyond all of the protests and all of the unhappiness, and if we’re going to continue and succeed as a culture, we have to figure out how we’re going to get these people back to work. And if you look at the fundamentals, no restaurant is ever going to hire the same staff than it had before. The new kind of indoor seating will become the norm and it will be a mistake to go back to that to hiring at the same level.

[00:05:51] So we’ve got displaced restaurant for sure. We’ve got displaced hospitality workers because while hotels will figure out how to solve it, problem, people aren’t going to go to hotels for a very long time, and the 25 or 30% of the the economy who are unemployed. I’m buying plane tickets of hotel reservations in the restaurant meals.

[00:06:14] They’re trying to figure out how to get it, who did expensively of their houses and contained expenses. For the most part. That’s all right. It’s going to be challenging to restart the economic engine.

[00:06:25] Stacey Harris: [00:06:25] And I think the economic conversation is hand in hand right now with what we’re seeing on the social front.

[00:06:31] I think you’re right in that there’s a desire to get the economy started, but there’s also a desire to get it started in the right way. Way. I don’t know how better to say that. I’m probably not using the right language, but I think the collective feeling, at least you’re feeling from those who are voicing their opinions right now is.

[00:06:50] Changes needed because a lot of what we saw as normal, a lot of what we saw as how things were done previously were masking. So very big problem in our culture here in the United States, and just heightened by what’s going on with the pandemic and the unemployment rate as well.

[00:07:10] John Sumser: [00:07:10] Right. Multiple issues that have to do with our group, the core system, the police.

[00:07:18] I’m an older white dude, right? Unless I completely of boxes. The treatments that I get from police is different. Frequent other people. Right. And that’s a problem. I shouldn’t get different treatments. I shouldn’t get different treatment until the extent that I’m treated differently. Everybody else. Yes. A different harsher realities of the web that I’ve exposed to because I’ve got a sack of privilege and so that’s a piece of what’s going on right now, but it’s a symbol of something that’s much deeper than that.
[00:07:51] And that is in our culture, the value of a life varies with skin tone and social class. And when I say the value of the life, or I mean access to opportunity. Access to equal treatment by the law and law enforcement. And we’ve pretended for a long time that you could solve that problem by meeting diversity statistics.

[00:08:19] And while it’s important to me, diversity statistics, it doesn’t give it the problem.

[00:08:24] Stacey Harris: [00:08:24] Okay. It doesn’t get to the problem, but it also doesn’t open up the conversations the way they need to be held either. I mean, we in the HR role are often seen as the torch fair, I guess is a good way to put it for the experience our employees have inside their organizations for the approach we take as an organization to diversity and inclusion.

[00:08:45] And I think oftentimes there is the justification. Then we have a program where we have someone who’s trying to do something about it, or we have an approach without having some of these deep conversations, which are taking place in some cases now. And that I think is a really important component that HR has to own, is that their role has to be more than a program.

[00:09:04] It has to be about changing how the conversation is taking place in the organization. Probably one of the most compelling things I’ve seen this week was put on by Jane Elliott, and for those who might not know JL it, she was the cool teacher who did the anti-racism to an activists who put on the blue eyes, Brown eyes exercise right after Martin Luther King jr was assassinated and she did a presentation sometime ago that’s been posted back and forth.

[00:09:31] Where she basically asked everybody in the room to stand up if they wanted to be treated the same way as their black and Brown counterparts were being treated. And I probably paraphrase that badly, but the room was silent and no one stood up. No one raised their hand. And that’s the conversation I think that has to be taking place inside of HR organizations.

[00:09:50] And that’s though really hard conversation, but it’s the kind of conversations that we need to have right.

[00:09:55] John Sumser: [00:09:55] That’s exactly right. And we need to get clearer that statistics are not answers. I think that’s, that’s statistics are descriptions, right? And so you’ve got a problem. And the problem is non-proportional representation of women and minorities across the board roles.

[00:10:17] I did compensation, but the answer isn’t to fix the statistics. Yeah. Right? And that I think is when you say we could have a program, that’s what that means to me, that we’ve got something in place that’s going to make the numbers look better. And the problem isn’t that the numbers look bad. That’s not the problem.

[00:10:38] That’s a reflection of the problem. The problem is that there’s discrimination in the workplace, and that’s not statistics, that the statistics show that there’s discrimination in the work race. Well, you know, this is the thing. You get what you measure and that almost always points you in the wrong direction unless you are super careful about it.

[00:11:00] It’s a very clear that we have made a lot of smoke and fire about fixing. The statistics have not really big though to address the patients problem.

[00:11:09] Stacey Harris: [00:11:09] As I always tell people, you know, you bring someone into an organization because of a number or a statistic and you don’t provide air cover. In many cases, you’re doing more harm than good because then you’re putting them in a situation where they have a no win environment.

[00:11:22] This is for females, minorities, anybody who’s being into environment where you’re trying to make a change. And you’d expect the weight of that change to be on the person that you’re bringing in instead of the organization itself. And I think that’s a lot of the conversation that we’re hearing from out of the online social commentary and the conversations, at least I’m trying to listen to, is that the weight of change has to be all of
[00:11:47] John Sumser: [00:11:47] us.

[00:11:48] Yeah. So there’s a really, really tricky dynamic. And the tricky dynamic is it’s like this, when is the right time to end discrimination? And the answer to that is right now, but the organizational processes of ending discrimination are almost inherently more incremental. And once you agree that while at the right time is now.

[00:12:12] But we have to go slow to let the organization do its work. You’ve just given him to the problem. Right. And that is such a tricky thing for companies to figure out because when’s the right time to solve pay equity right now? Not 200 years of doubt right now. Will it cause upset? Yes, it will, but when’s the right time to do it?

[00:12:36] No. And that reality never seems to percolate into the organizational structure, which is how you end up with this. It’s 52 years since 1967 53 and one can understand that the idea that people think that nothing’s changed because it’s been incremental. It’s been incremental and slow and unnecessarily slow.

[00:13:02] Oh, we both talk about some blues. Well,

[00:13:05] Stacey Harris: [00:13:05] I, okay. Well, I mean it was one of the things, I think that’s been in the news a lot. It’s along this topic. There was a couple of really good pieces put out about race and technology or just technology in and of itself, and the ability to do the analysis that needed to be done with some of the biases that are already built into it.

[00:13:25] So there’s some great list of books that I think are worth reading. We’ll probably toast them from this one. Article from VentureBeat, gender shades, voicing, erasure AI now algorithmic accountability policy tool kit, those kind of things. But you’ve looked at this issue for quite some time. Is artificial intelligence going to make me issue better or worse?

[00:13:46] John Sumser: [00:13:46] Well, you know, while there has been an enormous amount of attention paid to artificial intelligence, Hey, significant hurdle, the fundamental idea. You know, first of all, you got to start with this as an actually intelligence, but the fundamental objective that I see people working towards from all different sorts of angles.

[00:14:09] Yes, completely personalization of the relationship between the organization and individual. And when you get to complete personalization of that relationship, you can start to make the overall relationship pretty transactional, right? So you’ve got this job, you’ve got these skills, you want that job, you have this gap.

[00:14:30] Here’s the training that you need. It’s more like math than it is like a parenting conversation. And we’re headed in a direction that allows us to do that so that everybody’s experience of their conversation with the organization. Is unique. Yeah. Until now we haven’t had the computing capability, the mental capacity, the math modeling capability to imagine that everybody’s relationship with their organization is unique.

[00:15:00] And once you start there, then solving for class disparities and racial disparities, it’s a much simpler thing. Yeah. You’re here, you have these skills.

[00:15:15] Stacey Harris: [00:15:15] Because I think the most in, because I’ve been talking about this then I did my first survey back in Bersin days 2007 2008 and I remember thinking at that point in time, we are getting to a point where HR doesn’t need to build policies and decisions based off of categories. They can build policies and decisions based off of individuals because that’s what the technology is allowing us to do.

[00:15:36] And I think that deep personalization. What’s so powerful about it is it doesn’t wash away color. It doesn’t wash away background. It doesn’t wash away who we are. It actually elevates that and values the things about us that are so important about who we are. I mean, that’s my take on it. Am I being too Pollyanna about that?

[00:15:54] John Sumser: [00:15:54] No.

[00:15:58] Cool.

[00:15:59] Stacey Harris: [00:15:59] One of the other things that came out this week, which I thought was quite interesting, is that along with all of the technology changes, we are still seeing investments in the HR technology space. You know, it’s been a week where almost all news has been quieted and for good reason to allow the voices that need to be heard, heard.

[00:16:16] But we are seeing some investments and I think it actually has an interplay with some of the stuff that we’re talking about. The two big investments we saw this week are a UK based company called cut-over. Which raised $17 million in series a for its work orchestration app. That’s sort of a workflow work management type of thing and run the mixture there.

[00:16:37] And then Bonusly, which is a platform which is basically a rewards and recognition platform, receive $9 million both series a funding and financing. And I was kinda struck by the fact that. What we’re seeing, I think is a lot of what we’re talking about. I now have to figure out ways to incentivize my workforce a little differently.

[00:16:57] I now have to figure out how to provided an environment where I orchestrate the work in a way that is maybe different than it was done previously. So if they’re re do workflows, redo approaches, both could be used in positive directions. In some of the things we’ve talked about, both could be used in negative directions depending on how companies choose to use them.

[00:17:17] John Sumser: [00:17:17] Yeah, I’ll tell you what, there’s a really interesting thing that’s happening under the covers right now, and that is almost every company that is owned by a private equity firm instead of left. So got pickups. So 20 and 30% takeouts. And you know, the pay cuts are better than losing your job, although it creates kind of a mess.

[00:17:38] But every company now is transparent about its earnings and its revenue. I’ll call employees, know how the company is doing, and it turns out the companies didn’t really have bad code, particularly companies that served enterprise Koreans didn’t have bad quarters. And so now you’ve got the case of people having taken pay cuts while the company does better.

[00:18:00] So the speakers are going to have to be restored and they’re going to have to be restored just before the second wave of the pandemic hits, and that sets the pace for pay. That’s the salary. Okay. The two variable based on definitely before. That’s interesting. That’s different. And that’s coming as a result of this.

[00:18:21] I think. And
[00:18:22] Stacey Harris: [00:18:22] that’s difficult, especially in light of an environment where those judgments might get made more so by a manager than buying a compensation band or a compensation analyst as well. Right. It changes that dynamic quite considerably, right?

[00:18:37] John Sumser: [00:18:37] Yeah. Well, this is how the difference between being a labor shortage and the labor surplus is good.

[00:18:45] This is exactly how that works. So I think Bonusly if I understand bonus, these business model, right? It’s got the word bonus in it. So there were awards mechanisms behave like the variable that we’re talking about there. Right, and there’s been a pretty significant move over the years too. Compensation that is part salary and part bonus.

[00:19:09] That’s still a pretty normal thing. It’s just going to get more variable because the salary part is going to become variable. Yeah.

[00:19:16] Stacey Harris: [00:19:16] And I think we’re also gonna start to see the more variable component come out. And you know, one of the comments here about Bonusly is that people can give their points or their bonuses too, organizations in need, right?
[00:19:28] So it’s got this idea of giving to the community social responsibility, that kind of stuff tied to it. But I’ll tie it to the employee. Not so much the company unless there’s some matching allocated in that, but that also I think is another aspect of this conversation about compensation and how do I want to leverage it?

[00:19:46] How do I want to use it if I, I feel it’s important to also be supporting those type of nonprofit organizations that are important to me. Do you want me to do that through a company that needs to be a growing thing that we’re seeing in the, in the market as well? Right?

[00:20:01] John Sumser: [00:20:01] You know, so much is going to get learned in the next year that we will be an impossible to imagine space.

[00:20:08] We’ll just be a little impossible to imagine a space where a lot of the ground rules in the social contract have changed permanently.

[00:20:16] Stacey Harris: [00:20:16] And I think that’s going to roll out not just in our companies and organizations. I mean the other two really interesting things that came out on the message wires this week is how the other technologies or social technologies are starting to react to what’s happening right now.

[00:20:30] One is the messaging app signal. I don’t use it, we don’t want to use. It launched a face blurring tool for their images that people could post with the idea of ensuring that people weren’t being retaliated against for being part of things that are going on. At the same time, we saw a big announcement that Google is facing a $5 billion lawsuit for tracking users in incognito mode.
[00:20:53] So as much as you thought you were kind of being incognito, it sounds like maybe you weren’t. Those two things go hand in hand with the fact that data privacy is really a big part of this conversation and we haven’t even touched on it.

[00:21:05] John Sumser: [00:21:05] Right. We should spend some time next week talking about privacy a little bit.

[00:21:09] So the protest.

[00:21:10] Stacey Harris: [00:21:10] Yeah. That’s an important topic.

[00:21:12] John Sumser: [00:21:12] Wow. No bundles of joy this week.

[00:21:17] Stacey Harris: [00:21:17] Well, interesting conversation. Yeah, yeah.

[00:21:20] John Sumser: [00:21:20] Yes. Did I tell you the joke about my grandmother? So when my grandma was getting old, she would sit in her Barca lounger and yell at the TV. And, and I thought, Oh my God, this woman is going nuts.

[00:21:36] Turns out she was a trendsetter because of what I do for a living now is sitting in my office and yell at my TV.

[00:21:47] Stacey Harris: [00:21:47] John thank you. We all needed a little bit of a smile at the end of,
[00:21:53] and we’ve all been yelling at the TV and our machines right.

[00:21:59]John Sumser: [00:21:59] Yup. Okay.

[00:22:01] Stacey Harris: [00:22:01] Poor Alexa these days.

[00:22:03] John Sumser: [00:22:03] She’s so amused.

[00:22:10] Well, Stacey, it was another great conversation. Thanks everybody for tuning in. We’ll be back here next week with another version of HR Tech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. See you then. Thanks for listening.

[00:22:26] Thanks everyone, bye.

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