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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: 270
Air Date: June 9, 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] Morning and welcome to HR Tech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. This is show number 270 Stacey. We should be able to swap places with impunity at this point, huh?

[00:00:28] Stacey Harris: [00:00:28] I would agree. We should be able to understand what each other’s going to say. It happens at this point in time and these kind of shows doesn’t it?

[00:00:36] John Sumser: [00:00:36] Yes. Yes, yes. So, what’s up with you?

[00:00:40] Stacey Harris: [00:00:40] What’s up with me? Not only are we dealing with all of the stuff that’s going on globally and around the world and here in the United States, trying to make sure that we are commenting on the things that are important to us. And there are a lot of things that are important to us. I think everyone, all right now, But also on a personal level, I have some good, exciting announcements coming out this week, which is always kind of hard to balance the things that are really good in your life with the things that you really want to know are not as good in other areas.

[00:01:10] And this week I’ll be going in for surgery on my ankle. For those of you who kind of know me, they know, know that I tend to hobble around some conferences because I have a bad ankle and I’m hopefully going to be addressing that this week.

[00:01:20] So I have a really busy week, which is why we’re a little ahead of the game this week talking earlier than our regular Thursday scheduled time.

[00:01:27] So it’s a big week. And how about you, John? I mean, are you home this week? Anything big going on for you?

[00:01:33] John Sumser: [00:01:33] Yeah, I’m not only home I’m not going out anytime soon. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the actual hospitalizations are going up across the country. We have not conquered the coronavirus and we have not done anything, but give into people’s discomfort at being quarantined for so long. So, I expect not only are the cases going to go up, they’re going to continue to go up and they’re going to be accelerated.

[00:02:02] Stacey Harris: [00:02:02] Yeah.

[00:02:03] John Sumser: [00:02:03] That’s scary because I think what’s going to happen is that a whole awful lot of the stuff that we used to take for normal might’ve had some chance of coming back, but now that we’re engineering the second bigger wave, the old stuff isn’t coming back.

[00:02:18] Stacey Harris: [00:02:18] Not anytime soon. No, I would have to agree. And even as someone who, you know, I had to make a really tough decision about whether or not I was going to get my surgery done because they had opened everything back up.

[00:02:28] My surgery date had already been scheduled way back in the fall of last year. And I had things set up, but I was. Man is this the time to be having surgery. North Carolina’s numbers are going up, but the doctor’s office where I’m going to be doing this as an office that would have been closed otherwise.

[00:02:43] So from a resources perspective, these are nurses and doctors who are generally not on the front lines and they are financially. I think the area that supports some of the hospitals, but for me, there were some other risks that I had to deal with that kind of outweighed it. And that’s, I think a decision that a lot of people are making right.

[00:02:58] This is now our life, right? Like what’s the risk level of going where we need to go take care of things we need to take care of. And are we okay with having that risk level and everything that we do? And I think everyone has to make that decision on their own. And it’s a really scary decision, right.

[00:03:14] John Sumser: [00:03:14] Well, that’s the weird thing. I’m not sure that everybody needs to make that decision on their own. That’s like the vaccination idea that the only people who need to be vaccinated are the people who think it’s a good idea. And that’s not how the real impact of vaccination works. If you’re not vaccinated.

[00:03:32] Then you are a danger. If you are making this decision to expose yourself, then you are eliminating yourself from being able to have social interactions. with me.

[00:03:45] Right. So it isn’t just, some people have some opinions and other people have other opinions. This is a social risk question and the consequence of person X, deciding that they’re not going to be safe is increased risk for everybody else. So, it’s not an individual decision. That’s very much not how our country works and how our culture works. So it’s a very challenging thing. But, we are paying already a super steep price for being so individualistic. Right. We have the highest number of cases in the world.

[00:04:25] We’re not the highest population in the world. We’re the highest number of cases in the world.

[00:04:34] Stacey Harris: [00:04:34] That’s a very good comment. I mean, I should probably appropriately say that the risk management that you’re taking is you’re making that decision, not just for yourself, but for anybody else that you could possibly come in contact with, you are making a decision about whether, what you’re doing. Is that they can take as well.

[00:04:52] And I think that exactly what you’re saying. Right. And so, you know, one of the conversations I had with my doctors that after I, you know, go through all this, I will expect that I will be quarantined. It will help that I will be without able to walk on my ankle for a while, but for the entire two to three weeks after I get the surgery and the work done, and I have seen more people in the last two weeks in preparation for the surgery than I have in the last three months.

[00:05:14] And every time I come in contact with someone I’m thinking, okay, so who else are they coming in contact? And I think that’s how people have to think about it. Right. So, yeah, no, that’s a very good point to be made. That the risks that you’re weighing is not risk for yourself. It’s a risk for everyone else that you could possibly meet as well.

[00:05:34] John Sumser: [00:05:34] Right.

[00:05:35] Stacey Harris: [00:05:35] Yeah.

[00:05:35] John Sumser: [00:05:35] Yeah, so tell me about the really good news. You’re starting a new business.

[00:05:38] Stacey Harris: [00:05:38] Exactly. Yeah. So it was sort of the work that people started to see come out. And some emails coming out from me is that Sierra-Cedar had made the decision that they are spinning off the research function that has produced the Annual HR Systems Survey for the last 23 years. Not because it wasn’t something that they valued a great deal.

[00:05:57] In fact, they valued it so much. They were desperately trying to figure it out how to do this in a way that would continue to ensure that it would be successful afterwards, but because they, as an organization were going in a completely different direction, our agnostic vendor neutral approach that we all had always taken to the research wasn’t fitting with the direction they were heading.

[00:06:14] And so myself and the CEO there had a really long conversation about what was the right place for the research and the survey. I had been looking to for many years, create a brand new type of research organization. And so it just seemed like this was the right time. Although timing is always a conversation that’s difficult to have, but this was the right time for both me and for the research to move it into its own standalone organization.

[00:06:39] And partner with another organization, a dear friend of mine, Susan Richards, who ran SteelBridge Solutions, which is a small consulting firm focused on consulting around HR technology strategy and change management and transformation. A lot of the things that our research also covers. And so we felt that it would be a great opportunity to put the two organizations together and come up with a brand new organization called Sapient Insights Group.

[00:07:02] So for everyone who has followed the work that I’ve done for the last several years at Sierra-Cedar, all the research will be coming with us. Sierra-Cedar because again, they were very vested in making sure that the research continued will support the research for the next two years, providing some support and technology and some support and brand name and everything and use of some of the tools that we need to keep the research running. So you will see their name, continue to be part of the research for the next several years, but you’ll also start to see new connections come out from Sapient Insights Group. Also partnering with me is Teri Zipper. Teri Zipper is our chief operating officer, she also had worked with me several years back, both Susan Richards and Teri come from sort of the Mercer world for a lot of people who know them as well, some other large global consulting organization fields is also a minority partner with us as well. She’s a strategic advisor and she is also from organizations like Mercer and others. And so it’s a good group of very practitioner focused, very focused on how we help people get data and insights and use them in a practical way.

[00:08:02] And we’re really excited. It’s a great opportunity to start something new and have something beautiful come out of what has been a very difficult time, I think, in our country. So for me, it’s been a great place to spend some time investing and thinking about what does it look like to be a new research function?

[00:08:16] So.

[00:08:17] John Sumser: [00:08:17] So, I think this makes you an official southerner. I’ve always thought of you as a misplaced Yankee in North Carolina. But now that you’re banded together with Susan who went to VCU and Maryville, Teri who went to the University of Louisville and Kim who is from Louisiana State. All of a sudden there’s this you’re in addition to the already impressive Southern mafia in the HR consulting world.

[00:08:48] That’s pretty awesome. Are they going to teach you how to talk properly?

[00:08:52] Stacey Harris: [00:08:52] There’s definitely a lot of y’alls that come out sometimes on our conversations and it’s all in fun. Yeah, no, and the food, oh, the food with these women talking about and the wine and yeah, no, definitely great to be part of a very Southern [unitelligible] of women who have been in this HR technology business for a very long time.

[00:09:11] Yeah. We’re really excited about it. And I think the fun thing is that all of us have worked at some level and different organizations, both globally, as well as locally as well. And so what’s sort of neat is we bring our own different perspectives about where we were doing HR and what type of organizations we were doing HR for as well as global perspective of it.

[00:09:31] So that’s been kind of neat too. I get to talk to their clients that they’re working with now who are dealing on a day to day basis with what’s going on with the COVID-19 crisis. How will they manage HR laws in Georgia versus how we manage our laws in North Carolina versus Ohio, where I originally come from right.

[00:09:47] And so those kinds of differences regionally are really important from an HR perspective, as you have noted many times before more. So I think than some other industries might be. So yeah, it’s been kind of fun.

[00:09:58] John Sumser: [00:09:58] No, this is cool. So what is the exact point of the business?
[00:10:03] This is like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Are you Neil young?

[00:10:10] Stacey Harris: [00:10:10] Alright I’m going to make you really sad John because I didn’t listen to a lot of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Yeah. Sorry,

[00:10:25] But that being said, yes, we are bringing together of a group of people who I think we’re already doing a lot of really exciting things. So the purpose of the business is really to be a research and advisory services function. And the reason why we started something new versus just us joining SteelBridge is really that we wanted to create a whole different entity.

[00:10:47] That was the exciting part about partnering with Susan because she’s spent an amazing vision. She feels the industry can go from an HR perspective. And from my perspective, it was really nice to be part of an organization. We kind of started from scratch. Rethinking the idea about what we could do, because I’ve always been really excited about the possibilities with research advisory services and insights that we can provide to the market with, from a data perspective.

[00:11:10] So the purpose of the organization is to be a research and advisory services. Function, which basically means that we will have customers that run the gamut from practitioners and corporate clients and customers to some of the vendors who might want some deeper dive in the data to some of the financial market analysts and stuff who also are looking for data in the market and what’s happening in the HR space.

[00:11:31] We will stay in the HR technology space. As far as the research goes, we’ll continue to manage all of the things that fall on the edge of HR technology and finance technology. So we will be also doing the finance technology space as well. So the change management, the transformation, the strategy work that goes around it, the policies and procedures that fall around it, all of that stuff.

[00:11:51] We provide services for our customers on as well as data and insights from the research all have a very strong belief. That the research that we provide is a community service. So we will continue to provide the annual HR systems survey and the annual finance and supply chain management system surveys as a service to the community.

[00:12:13] We’ll be providing the aggregate findings to the market as a whole, as we have always done year after year. What we will be able to do now though, is have more resources who can help us like that data in ways that I think will provide more insight for individual organizations and the vendors and the industry as a whole about how they can think differently about the decisions they’re making around the technology that is serving our industry.

[00:12:36] So that’s our goal is to provide people with the data and insights that can help them make better choices and decisions.

[00:12:43] John Sumser: [00:12:43] Cool. Cool. So, so if I want to find out about all of that and want to do business with you guys, what do I do?

[00:12:52] Stacey Harris: [00:12:52] I’m not trying to be a commercial on that front, but yes, there’s definitely as a small business, it’s always good to hear feedback and insights.

[00:12:58] And also if anybody’s interested in finding out a little bit more about us, it’s pretty simple. It’s So, all one word, or you can look me up on LinkedIn at Stacey Harris on LinkedIn and there’s details there that’ll link you back to the company. We also have a press release that’s coming out this afternoon around 3:00 PM about the work that we’re doing and the combination of the two organizations.

[00:13:22] So lots of good stuff and happy to answer any questions people might have. So one of the biggest things, that was my concern when I first started looking for a home for the serious theater, HR system survey research, and the finance and supply chain research was where am I going to find someone who respects the importance of this, that tradition of this in our community.

[00:13:39] And I was really, really excited to find a home with Susan and Teri and Kim and their, they value that research as much as anybody else in the industry, because they’ve leveraged it for their clients for a long time. The other thing that we’re very sensitive about is that, you know, we were trying to decide when to have the launch of this organization. We were actually supposed to do it last week and we felt that was just not appropriate. It was more important to make sure that the conversations that were taking place last week took place in the way they need to take place. We know those conversations are continuing this week as well around the black community and the work that they’re doing to try and engage the market.

[00:14:13] So, we’re also just being very aware that this is a sensitive time. Our goal right now is to just make sure that people know that we’re here and that we’re open to conversation, but we don’t want to take attention away from all of the really great conversations that are happening right now. And so it’s going to be a little bit of a quiet, open, I guess you would say, Oh, we needed to get the placard out just so people knew how to reach us and knew why I was emailing from new email.

[00:14:34] So that’s really our goal this week.

[00:14:37] John Sumser: [00:14:37] Got it. Well, congratulations. This sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun and that you will be able to have more real time conversations with the people who respond to the survey and their view of the world. So I assume this is going to make the research better.

[00:14:54] Stacey Harris: [00:14:54] I think so, right.

[00:14:55] I mean, that’s one of the challenges when I was at Sierra-Cedar, as much as they were really vested in this is that, you know, we were sort of limited by just the number of resources that we had. And so it just to run the research with the small team that we had, it was a year round effort. And I did not get to talk to many, as many people as I would like to about the research and the work that we’re doing.

[00:15:13] And what was really important is that now I get the opportunity to not only be on the team a little bit, so that we’ve got more space for that, but I actually get the chance. To talk to practitioners and be more invested in some of the work that they’re doing and get a sense that on how it’s happening on the ground.

[00:15:30] I actually miss that a lot. I used to do it back in the day back when I used to work at Bersin and Associates, I was a little bit more involved in projects people were working on talk a little bit more with practitioners on a regular basis because I had time for that. And it fit into the work that I was doing.

[00:15:44] I’m really looking forward to getting back to that. I know you and I have had that conversation. A lot of times we get buried in the data. And if you don’t get on the ground and talk to people who are really living it every day, that data tells a very different picture. Once you get more insight into what people are doing every day, so yeah.

[00:16:00] Good point.

[00:16:01] John Sumser: [00:16:01] Yup. Cool. So, what, well I don’t know there isn’t anything else nearly this important in the news, but what else is there?

[00:16:09] Stacey Harris: [00:16:09] There are some other things. Yeah, I appreciate that. It’s not all about Stacey today without a doubt. But it is exciting news for me. So, you will hear more about it. But. yeah the other stuff going on this week I think it is related to some of the stuff we were talking about last week. The change is happening, both for the HR community as a whole, the black community, as a whole, the conversations that are taking place, difficult conversations inside of our organizations and inside of our associations that are important to have.

[00:16:36] And I don’t know about everybody else, but I know. I am really glad that we’re able to have those conversations. And we’re seeing that in the data as well, and the articles and the comments that are coming out. So one is about the may jog reports. There is a claim that in that environment with everything that’s going on, that maybe the Bureau of Labor Statistics is not using the methodology that people think they should be using.

[00:16:59] So that might be worth a conversation today in the middle of everything that’s going on. There’s also some interesting stuff going on with that company called one touch IO, which is employing AI to identify and protect sensitive enterprise data. If the new organization has gotten some additional investment and funding, so $14 million in funding, one of the things I think that this whole conversation that we’re having in the market right now with COVID-19 and conversation about skills that’s brought up, which is where does that sensitive data sit?

[00:17:29] How do we manage it?

IBM had some interesting news. They were making this week. They are getting out of the facial recognition business and calling on Congress to advance policies, tackling racial injustice. So definitely in line with some of the other conversations that we had last week. So, it’d be interesting to hear if you feel that getting out of the facial recognition business will do any difference there for them.

[00:17:51] And we also have, I think some industry news People Strategy and Peanut Butter are partnering to bring student loan assistance programs to the small business, even in this market that we’re in that kind of conversation makes sense for a lot of young new employees and Oracle released a whole new program I think it’s very similar to what we’ve seen with some other organizations. Gretchen Alarchon did a really nice write up on it though, of a packaged group of solutions, helping people bring people back to work and that a little bit more of a safe way by using the technology to do that.

[00:18:18] So, lots of stuff going on this week. Any of those areas you want to talk a little bit more deeper about John?

[00:18:24] John Sumser: [00:18:24] Well, we ought to talk about the BLS numbers. You know, this is one time, so you can forgive it as a classification error, which is what they claimed. But, if it happens again, then we won’t have any choice but to understand that the administration is manipulating the statistics to make the stock market work.

[00:18:46] And there was an explosive bomb in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, as the result of this report, which grossly understate, the appointment rate. And so in our world in HR, HR tech and people analytics, we depend on consistency in methodology or data. Alright. And if there is a player, whether they’re the government or not, who is monkeying with foundational data to make themselves look good, this is not a trivial thing. This is not a trivial thing at all. This is sabotaging the economy in order to make yourself look good to get a stock market bump and not OK. Right.

[00:19:32] Stacey Harris: [00:19:32] Yeah.

[00:19:32] John Sumser: [00:19:32] So.

[00:19:32] Stacey Harris: [00:19:32] This one hit me. Yeah. I would agree if there’s a topic to talk about because we live and die by data and how well you clean data and the numbers you use to cut data by. It makes a difference in people’s lives on an everyday basis, particularly with the Bureau of labor statistics data.

[00:19:49] Now, if I understand what it happened is in the month of may, they basically had a slip in a number that they hadn’t paid attention to. So that now looking back, all the numbers were better than what they were reporting, I guess. So that the number looked like now, we actually had a decline by about 13.3%.

[00:20:05] Where it was up to 15%, but if you really looked at it, they had just reported the numbers incorrectly is what I’m understanding. But I think what’s even more egregious about this is that if you’re looking at this data and you’re looking at it by aggregate, there’s a whole other conversation that’s not being had right now, because in aggregate in all, yes, we’re at 13.3%, but that really only applies.

[00:20:27] To a very certain segment of what’s happening in the market. If we look at black men, you’re looking at 16% unemployment, even at the incorrect rating and assessment that they’re doing, black women are at 17.5% Hispanic women are at 19.5%. We’re only looking at a subsection of our market and we’re not giving a full picture even with the incorrect data as it stands.

[00:20:50] And that to me is probably the more egregious issue that we’re dealing with in the market.

[00:20:54] John Sumser: [00:20:54] Yeah, but at the fundamental level, this is the number of unemployed people fell month over month by 22 million. Right? The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed people divided by the total workforce. Total workforce is about 160 million.

[00:21:14] So if the number of unemployed fell by 22 million, then that should be about a 16% unemployment rate before you added on top of the people who were already unemployed before the May’s numbers. So they’re already, were 13% unemployed. That means that the real number is closer to 30%.

[00:21:48] Stacey Harris: [00:21:48] Yeah,

[00:21:48] John Sumser: [00:21:48] Right, and to have this level of lack of clarity in the reporting,

[00:21:52] Stacey Harris: [00:21:52] and we’re doing it in a way that we’re not looking at the whole group as a whole either. We’re just looking at a piece because that seems to be the number that we like to see. Right.

[00:22:01] John Sumser: [00:22:01] Yeah. So this area has been religiously kept from political interference.

[00:22:07] Stacey Harris: [00:22:07] Yeah.

[00:22:08] John Sumser: [00:22:08] And if the current administration is going to screw with that as well. Wow. But it makes it very hard to understand what the right things are to do to solve the problem.

[00:22:21] Stacey Harris: [00:22:21] It does. And, and I think that the hard thing is that we look at some of the news from the businesses. It’s the corporations that are trying to take some conversation around data and ownership around it. But the question becomes if we can’t trust the BLS data, the government data, can you trust corporate data?

[00:22:39] You know, we’re looking at $14 million being invested in an organization just because they are focused on identifying and protecting sensitive enterprise data within your organization. Right. Making sure that people can access that you shouldn’t be able to access it or making sure I can find the data that I need to get rid of in my environment, because of things like GDPR and then organizations like IBM pulling back from facial recognition, which is a whole nother set of data conversations.

[00:23:05] Do you think the future is that corporations are going to be the ones that we’re going to have to go to for the data that we need to make decisions about our world in their own independent stand instead of a government entity?

[00:23:16] John Sumser: [00:23:16] The answer is corporations can’t do this on their own. There are pretty interesting benchmarking initiatives that combine data across customer basis.

[00:23:30] There’s just nobody who has everybody as a customer, except they’d be companies like Paychex or ADP. If you could get the data put together between Paychex and ADP, you might have something really interesting. Each of those people individually can provide a good guess. But collectively they have all the data.

[00:23:50] So that would be if the government is going to politicize this data, that somebody is going to need to come in and straighten it out,

[00:23:58] Stacey Harris: [00:23:58] Is that a bit of the watchdog role that journalists and industry influencers and people who are sort of watching things have to start thinking where’s the data where’s the most clean and accurate data available?

[00:24:10] Because it’s really hard. I think for people to figure that out,

[00:24:13] John Sumser: [00:24:13] Yeah. And the problem is that those people aren’t being paid to create data and do research. Right. And so to say, we’re going to throw it over the wall and the journalist will pick it up. I don’t know about you, but all the magazines I get are getting skinnier because nobody’s advertising.

[00:24:29] And when people don’t advertise in the magazines, they go away. And so journalism is dwindling quickly. And citizen journalists like you and I don’t have the resources to produce data at the accuracy levels that we need.

[00:24:45] Stacey Harris: [00:24:45] Not the watchdog level or at the BLS level that you need across the globe. I would have to agree.

[00:24:50] This is a difficult conversation. Maybe it’s going back to where we started when we were talking about why we’re starting our own little research group. I don’t know that we can solve that particular problem for the whole world without a doubt, but it’s a scary thing. It’s a scary thing to not know where the data is at and who has the right calculations.

[00:25:08] And I think that’s maybe the bigger conversation we had in the market, what is, what is the role of government? What is role of appropriations? What is the role of other entities in managing data for us? And that that’s a conversation I think well worth that, but maybe we’ll have to talk about it next week a little bit more.

[00:25:24] John Sumser: [00:25:24] Yup.

[00:25:24] Yup. Okay. Well another great conversation and congratulations on the start of Sapient Insights. It’s going to be great to see what you do with that.

[00:25:41] Stacey Harris: [00:25:41] Thanks John.

[00:25:41] John Sumser: [00:25:41] So, thanks everybody for tuning in. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly with Stacey Harris and John Sumser.

[00:25:48] And we will see you back here, same time as usual next week, which is Thursday morning, at eight o’clock Pacific. Bye. Bye. Now here come those Irish guys.

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