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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: 274
Air Date: July 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.

SPEAKERS: Stacey Harris and John Sumser

John Sumser: Good morning and welcome to HR Tech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Hi, Stacey, how are you?

[00:00:21] Stacey Harris: Hi John, I’m doing well. I’m continuing to stay quarantined as much as possible. Sun’s shining here a little bit after some of the big thunderstorms. So we’re doing well. Although our coronavirus numbers are continuing to rise in our area, but you know, staying where you’re at wearing your mask, all those things and trying to keep a good, positive attitude.

[00:00:39] And how about you? You’re in California. You guys are dealing with some of the same stuff, but we’re all in this together. Aren’t we?

[00:00:45] John Sumser: Well, yeah, they’re locking down my County again tomorrow afternoon. We get one more night at the bars before it’s time to take two months off. I dunno, Stacey, this is crazy. and we simply don’t know what this is yet. And we’re trying to pretend like we do. It’s weird.

[00:01:04] Stacey Harris: It feels like, you know, watching the news and watching the numbers, the big obvious fear is health and safety. And, you know, we’re losing a lot of people that other people care about or that you care about personally. And that’s obviously the most important issue of anything going on right now.

[00:01:20] But I think also there is a new sense that okay, if this is the world that we’re living in, what is it that we think about as work and connectivity and relationships in a world where we really do have to be sensitive to the fact that human interaction could cause pain and death. And so, well, I think when it first happened, there was this, Oh, let’s just get through it, let’s get to a point where we’re past the curve. That was the conversation. And now I think the conversation is. Okay. How do you just live with this? It’s not a new normal, because there was no normal. It’s just, how do we live with this? And what does that look like in this world? And that’s the conversation that I know has been happening both in my household and I think in other households and inside of big corporations and small businesses is what’s this world look like that we’re in the middle of, and it’s happening around the globe. Some countries worse than others, but it’s definitely, we’re still being challenged with it here in multiple places in the South where I live at, so.

[00:02:18] John Sumser: Have you ever seen a really big car accident? You know, like 50 cars in an accident?

[00:02:23] Stacey Harris: I can gladly say I have not been involved in one of those or seen one, but I understand the concept of pile ups, right.

[00:02:29] John Sumser: Yeah, well, I happened to see one on an interstate on one of my trips where 50 cars hit eachother. And I saw it from about car 15. So it’s just this, seemed like, this endless series of thuds as one car plowed into the other car.

[00:02:49] We’re about 5 cars into a 50 car pile up. And the idea that we can figure out what it is and what we’re going to do, and whether it’s going to be like there’s a lot of time and energy being wasted on that. And it’s simply not possible to figure about this week in Texas, the hospitals are going to get overrun. And so the idea that we know how to live in a world where the hospitals don’t have the capacity to take care of us, period, for some extended period of time.

[00:03:17] Nobody’s actually thinking about that. Nobody’s actually thinking about, Oh, Oh, people are going to have things that require hospital level attention and can’t get it. And how can we treat them? Or, we’ve got populations of people who don’t have immediate death-threatening illness but have chronic diseases that they’ve had for years that require some medical attention periodically, they can’t get that.

[00:03:45] How do we solve that? Right? And instead, we’re looking at people whining about the fact that they have to be in their houses with a mask on. Jeez. How insensitive, right. There are people who have real trouble and we think it’s a big deal. The privileged people think it’s a big deal to think about how we’re going to cope with our Brie and toast and our little houses with the stuff being delivered by drone from Amazon.

[00:04:14] The real question is yes, the entire society is falling apart. It’s a 50-car pile up and we’re only five cars into it and nobody knows what to do.

[00:04:24] How’s that for bright and shiny today?

[00:04:27] Stacey Harris: We were having a much more cheerful conversation earlier, but that’s what I think you’re right. It’s one of those where there is such an overwhelming feeling of what can I do that you sort of have to figure it on whatever scale it makes sense for you personally. And I think the scale you just talked about is the biggest scale.

[00:04:44] And it’s the one that I think we’re hit with every night on the news. But then you get up the next morning and have to figure out this PL that works for you personally on four. How do you figure that out? So I get what you’re saying, but I also think there’s human nature to want to step into looking forward.

[00:05:00] It’s part of our DNA and makeup is to think, what do I do in the next couple of days? And that’s the piece. I think we’re at a point that it may be impossible for us to figure it out. That doesn’t mean we’re going to stop doing it. So I think that’s a challenge for many people in organizations, right?

[00:05:16] John Sumser: Oh, no, I think this is what’s so wonderful is people are really good at imagining solutions to problems they don’t understand and do it all the time. And we’re sort of in, at the edges of an industry that does that for a living. So I am amazed the pundits and analysts and influencers who cut this all figured out. Very interestingly, their solutions to disease and social disturbance, and broad inequity, sound a lot like the solutions they had last year. You know, packaged for today. New wrapper, same old BS.

[00:05:55] It’s just hysterical. And, you know, there’s good reason the economy’s inflated because we put $3 trillion worth of stuff into it. So, the businesses are still turning out the spreadsheets that say that everything is good. In some quarters, people are working a lot harder because it takes more time to be distributed but no one is getting anything done.

[00:06:17] Stacey Harris: I think your comment is actually right on. No, obviously we had July 4th here in the United States last week. And so I think news was slow, but there was still quite a bit of what I would call our industry news going on. And to your point. We saw numbers come out for second quarter for public companies in our industry Paychex at the end, Oracle all in general, you know, certain areas, depending on, you know, how you looked at it.

[00:06:40] But in general, all of them had some pretty positive, better than expected, which is a good way to put it. So not where it would have been if they would have predicted in the first of the year, but better than what expected second quarter numbers, despite the virus impact. I think that’s what you’re saying, right?

[00:06:53] Like there’s been an infusion of money particularly here in the States, but in other countries as well, that has. Possibly kept some of the financial impact at bay a little bit has kept people in general. If they were lucky enough to be able to claim unemployment, she would have some level of that. Or if they were lucky enough to have their business up and running, we’ve been able to get small business loans or if they have the right paperwork and the right tools and the banking relationship that has not been for everybody, but there’s been a portion of our market that has been able to feel like things are going okay.

[00:07:28] Are you surprised by the fact that we saw better than expected numbers in our technology market this week? You know, after what you just talked about?

[00:07:36] John Sumser: Nope. The American government put 3 trillion dollars of support into the system. Guess what? Almost every single penny of that had to go through a payroll company of some kind.

[00:07:50] No, the putting people on it off of layoff lists happens on software in our industry, the examination of the workforce to see who’s left after the layoffs that happens, this is a good time to be in the HR tech industry. It’s just the sort of the ugly side of the business, but your business perspective, you couldn’t imagine a better place to be than an HR technology right now.

[00:08:16] The sky is definitely falling the end of the world. If you’re an HR technology company, it’s a good time to make some more money. It is.

[00:08:25] Stacey Harris: I think it’s also a good time to remind people that it’s really hard to make big decisions without data. Right. I mean, I mean, I, I get what you’re saying about the fact that we’re making decisions that are difficult and you know, and we’re, we’re talking about furloughs and we’re talking about layouts.

[00:08:43] We’re talking about, you know, Cobra assignments and those kinds of things. We just have a series of friends who worked for IBM, IBM just around the layoffs. You know, it’s continuing to happen. This isn’t gonna go away tomorrow by any means. But I also think that compared to 2008, when we saw a similar downturn and slow progression of people being laid off over time, this time we’re at least seeing numbers and data much more quickly.

[00:09:06] And some, I think conversation about what that impact might have on organizations in a way that we definitely didn’t see it in 2008. No, I don’t know. I mean, I get what you’re saying, but yes, it’s a good time to be an HR and HR technology because it’s doing a lot of the hard lifting and much of the less than pleasant lifting inside of our market right now.

[00:09:24] But I also think that we are possibly getting more insight into what this impact will be and how they have to think about coming back from it than we did in previous years, which hopefully maybe will mean we’ll have that a little bit faster return to people getting back to jobs and opportunities over time.

[00:09:40] But we’ll see if that happens right.

[00:09:41] John Sumser: Well, you know, I am in a area of the world that has been ravaged by wildfires over the last several years. And we live in this little development with 28 other families, and many of the other families are people who lost their home. And so they’ve got some PTSD from the loss and they’ve got these weird things.

[00:10:05] They weren’t prepared to lose the house and it’s taken years. To recover from the thing. Now they’re in a house, they have a bed, they get up, they go to work. But the world that they live in is haunted by the world that used to be, which was very different and generally much nicer than the world. So I think we have to be careful about thinking that we’re headed to something that looks like it used to be.

[00:10:31] Right. Well, we’re not, we’re on an adventure. Every single business model, whether it looks like it right now or not every single business model broke in February. And we’re going to have to come up with new business models because you can’t do it the way that we used to do it. That takes time and the making of lots of mistakes.

[00:10:54] It’s a risk taking and refreshing an innovative time to be alive, as long as you’re not trying to go back to the place where your house burned down and recover the scrapbooks from the ashes. If you do it, that it’s just awful. And it’s not really going to help very much. Cause we’re all in a new place and we haven’t settled yet.

[00:11:17] Cause it isn’t over yet. Yeah. We’ll start being able to rebuild when it’s over. That looks like way into the fall before we could even start to think about that may be well into next year.

[00:11:29] Stacey Harris: Yeah. Next year I think is probably more realistic based on what we’re hearing of those numbers right now.

[00:11:35] John Sumser: I think we won’t even know. I believe November 4th is the day that we’re looking at. When we finally come to understand how bad is this, as long as there’s an election in front of us, then the government will continue to throw money at problems. Unless there is a complete suite of both houses of Congress and the presidency, then they’re going to squabble and nothing will happen.

[00:12:01] And so we’ll discover what’s going on there right now. Everybody has to contribute to keeping the economy up and floating, but once the electricity comes, all of that motivation goes away and the stimulus will dry up.

[00:12:13] Stacey Harris: Well, and I think it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out on a global front too. That’s where a lot of conversations are taking place right now just did a piece for the world artificial intelligence conference. And it was more of a global conversation. And that was sort of interesting to see that the conversations that are happening globally are happy with the idea that it isn’t going to go away.

[00:12:35] There won’t be a, a per se new normal, there’s just, we’re living in a different world. Right. And so you have to think differently. I think the innovation component that you talked about. Is definitely being spoken about at that level, particularly for those countries who have managed to figure out the appropriate response, both in healthcare and in business for that doesn’t look like it will end because of an election or end because of a governor saying one thing or another.

[00:13:03] Um, and some of those answers have been very authoritarian and have restricted privacy and created lots of issues and human rights concerns. And some of those answers have been very innovative, but the global community think is the conversation. That will be interesting. After we get through the conversation here in the United States, one of the things that I think would be worth having discussion, but at some point is, does the U S technology market have the opportunity to work globally without the ability to travel globally?

[00:13:35] Like we used to, and I think that’s. It gets to our earlier conversation, you know, without the face to face connection with working in this hybrid environment, can we still work at the level or even work at the level is probably not the right word, but work in a way that we can still sustain some level of productivity, that’s a better way to put it.

[00:13:54] John Sumser: That’s a great question. That’s a super, super question. I’m trying to think of non-cynical ways to come at it because it is so easy to get dark about this stuff. But the question that you’re asking is can you maintain a global business when the people on the other side of the transaction won’t let you fly to their country.

[00:14:21] Stacey Harris: Let’s not go too dark on this one yeah.

[00:14:22] But yeah, every company that we’ve talked about works at some global level at this point and time. What’s that

[00:14:23] John Sumser: Right. Right. And so I haven’t spent much time thinking about that, but it is the case that I haven’t spent much time thinking about how do you do remote oriented international work? Although I’m giving some pace to that in my own work, it’s super challenging because when you cross cultural boundaries, you have to get very explicit about what things mean.

[00:14:46] And in some ways that’s easier to do when you’re not face to face. That’s interesting.

[00:14:53] Stacey Harris: If you have an example of that, cause I’m not exactly sure what you mean by that, but you have to get very explicit about sort of what things are called or what tools we’d

[00:15:00] John Sumser: use, or…

[00:15:01] No, no, no, no, no. The very, the very essence of cross border work is that you have to be able to translate all of the requirements for a project or a document or contract into something that very explicitly means what it’s supposed to mean.

[00:15:22] So, if you want somebody in China to execute a task, you have to be able to describe the task in explicit detail. When you’re within your own culture, you don’t have to do that. And so anybody who does outsourcing gets good at being explicit about what they want. It’s a much more contractual set of relationships, but it’s easier to do that when the transaction is across time zones, not quite so personal and this side of why we need to be very conservative about how you test the boundaries.

[00:15:59] And so remote work promotes a discipline description of the work, and we’re not used to that, right. We’re not used to having our work described in excruciating detail, but that’s what distributed work get to, I think.

[00:16:15] Stacey Harris: Exactly. It’s very specific. It’s also to some extent, I think when you get specific than regulations and requirements and stuff around it also get very, because you’re dealing with multiple cultures and multiple regions, you have to be very simple about what it does and does not cover in that phase.

[00:16:33] So, yeah. Documentation, deep explanations. We might change how we think about conversation and business, where that handshake just says, okay, we’re going to get this done now with a much longer transaction to get things done. And to be honest, a lot of the stuff that I pulled this week, you know, it’s very international in what the conversation that you’re just talking about.

[00:16:53] Then there’s three big news items. This week. One is to shape and MHR to shape the learning LMS that’s being embedded in a. Basically an existing MHR international groups, suite of HR technologies. The other story was silver Lake, which is a services based company in the HR space, acquiring a cloud-based payroll nature, software specialists, ciliate philia again, the services and the HR technology combining with the idea that, you know, they’re all international, very specific conversations are being had.

[00:17:24] And the last one, which is Xerox is building a quick to deploy app for hybrid workforce. Very much their focus was on having an international workforce. Their exact first words were, this is a GDPR approved item, basically the software, and it doesn’t need tie into your existing HRES HRMS and HCM platform, but it basically supports organizations tracking information about their team availability in a way that they normally would not be able to do that.

[00:17:52] And the COVID-19 data that, that needed to be connected. All three of those are about large organizations trying to figure out how to work globally and either doing that through partnerships or new processes or new tools to your point, being very specific about the fact that these relationships are being built because of what’s going on in the pandemic.

[00:18:13] John Sumser: You know, the one I do want to be sure that we get to in this is the Ultimate Software – Kronos story.

[00:18:22] Stacey Harris: We do. Yep.

[00:18:23] Ultimate software and Kronos started to do research in the area of multiple dimensions of diversity and inclusion at work and the equity at work index. So starting to put an index together for organizations to give a sense of whether or not organizations were not just saying that they were doing well in areas of equity.

[00:18:43] But we’re actually being held accountable to it through behaviors and through metrics that were being tracked with an index and starting to share that open source tools and resources to help organizations manage to that index. So this has been something that’s been in the works for awhile with ultimate is now picked up with the ultimate Kronos connection and fits really well with a lot of what we talked about last week with Kronos is workforce Institute conversations as well.

[00:19:04] So this is new and I think they’re just getting it out the door. We’ve heard a little bit about it before, but this is now being launched. So it’s good stuff.

[00:19:10] John Sumser: Yeah. I just wanted to be sure to notice that because in all of this, that group continues to make their commitments to social justice and gender and racial equity, a top priority.

[00:19:25] And I think it’s just amazing. That level of leadership is something that you find in our industry. It’s an amazing thing to behold I think.

[00:19:36] Stacey Harris: Yeah, no, I would agree. Especially with the conversations we’re having, it’s really easy to get buried under. How do we sustain work, what is the future look like in a way that a picture of what the path looks like?

[00:19:48] So there’s many times, but a lot of the conversations that you see come out of ultimate and Kronos with the workforce Institute, as we’ve talked about, is trying to rethink a future that is not only more equitable and just, but is also a different picture. No matter what happens with what’s going on with the pandemic, the next step should be much more equal and much more profoundly different than what it is today.

[00:20:11] And I think that’s part of the conversation they’re trying to have.

[00:20:13] John Sumser: Yeah, I am so happy to see that because all of the dynamics of the economic and healthcare reality push against that the two forces are actually extremely conflicting and we need more energy on the side of social justice and equity for everybody, particularly black wives.

[00:20:36] And that has to stand out in the midst of the chaos associated with the healthcare crisis.

[00:20:42] Stacey Harris: Yeah, it’s part of the conversation that gets lost easily. When we start thinking about what tomorrow looks like, and I’m glad to see that we’re seeing organizations who are having that conversation.

[00:20:52] John Sumser: Yeah. Me too. Well, we had a good time in this conversation.

[00:20:58] I wonder if we should order roses next week, and be smelling the roses while we’re having the conversation just to see if that improves the outlook.

[00:21:09]Stacey Harris: We can try. You know, the thing that I’ve been writing a lot about recently, and I think no matter how we look at it, John is that change and pain and chaos does bring something new forward. And depending on where you’re at in the middle of the process for your own life, you have to understand both the losses and the gains. And hopefully, you know, we can do a bit of that for everyone.

[00:21:31] John Sumser: Yep. Okay, well, we’ll be back next week. Thanks for listening and thanks for doing this Stacey. As usual, a greart conversation and we will be back again next week for show number 275. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Have a great weekend.

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