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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: 275
Air Date: July 16, 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 0:14
Good morning and welcome to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Stacey, good morning. How is it in North Carolina?

Stacey Harris 0:23
Morning, John. I’m doing well. We have a 95 plus degree weather going on right now. So we’re a little toasty out here in North Carolina. And reinstating mask wearing requirements, which is good and we’ve had them for quite some time, but I think we’re starting but I’m again. North Carolina’s on the same trajectory just a little bit warmer this week than it was last week. So and how about you?

John Sumser 0:43
Yeah, things are getting locked down pretty tight, but the weather has given us a break. It’s been low 80s for a couple of days and it looks like that’ll stick around for a week and so everybody’s dancing because you could go outside in the afternoon.

Stacey Harris 0:57
Much nicer weather 80’s than 95 I will admit. It’s amazing what 10 degrees does right?

John Sumser 1:02
Yep, yep. So it’s getting locked up, I’m getting really concerned that because there is no leadership at the top, we’re headed into very, very dark times, very, very dark times. The case rate in the country is triple, what it was at the peak of the first shutdown. And we’re not acting like that. We’re not acting like that at all.

Stacey Harris 1:25
No. I’m watching the numbers, and there’s more investments and more business and positive numbers coming out of second quarter around the globe than we’ve seen in a long time. So, yeah, we’re not acting like that directly here, at least in the states.

John Sumser 1:39
Well, $3 trillion goes a really long way. All that money, it has an impact and it has kept the economy afloat. But that doesn’t mean that things are okay. Right. It’s fake. The whole thing is fake. You could buy a lot with $3 trillion. You know, my son who is a struggling starving artists. Wow with the kicker shrub, the kickers trub unemployment, the small business loans, my credit cards are down to zero. And you know what I know a lot of people who did that I know a lot of people who are very nice shape because there was a bunch of money that fell out of the sky that you could use to rearrange your circumstances. And it was a tremendous thing. It’s about over. It’s within days of being over. And what’s on the other side of that is that inflated cloud of money is only going to be partially replaced. And by the time we get to the election, which is only what, slightly more than 90 days from now, I think November 4, and fifth are going to be very difficult days. Yeah, very difficult days because the bottom will fall out there. Well, no matter who gets elected, the bottom will fall out the day after the election.

Stacey Harris 2:56
I agree. Well, we’re gonna have to wake up and we won’t be investing in election gold, at that point, right? We’ll have another four years to worry about that from a candidate perspective. And so yeah, we’ll have to make some of the hard decisions, and probably really hunker down a bit more than we have in the last several months here. But I guess it’ll be interesting to see. Because I think what I’m seeing at least in the news, and what I’m seeing in the conversations with people that the fear of the pandemic is one component that everybody’s talking about, but then on the other side is we are starting to see a belief, a perception that it’s technology that’s going to get us out of this, that some level of artificial intelligence, some level of biomechanics, some level of better designed robots will make even if the pandemic lasts longer than expected, it will make work and life more feasible. And that’s where we seem to be seeing the investment. And you know, it’s a possibility that as we’ve talked about before, the innovations that we were kind of looking for are starting to come out from underneath all of this Necessity is the mother had an invention. And definitely we’re seeing that in some cases. Do you feel any of that at least part of the conversation to?

John Sumser 4:07
I’m not so sure that I’m seeing that. I’m seeing things that are more like, oh, people are starting to realize that if you want to, if you want the employees to go back to the office, you’re going to have to give them hazardous duty pay, that it’s not possible to create a safe office, because we don’t know anything about the virus, though. And so if you want the officers to open, I’ve talked to people who hate working at home, who, when they looked at what it was gonna be like to be in the office, they couldn’t find the value in going to the office, because in order to make the office so safe, that you can put the workers in it, you cut out their ability to get things done. And so we’re gonna have to think harder about a lot of these things. And there’s this American business notion that you have to arrive at a quick solution then the last thing that we need right now is a quick solution. You know, what’s gonna happen this stuff About the schools being opened or closed. I’ve never met a teacher who is willing to die for their students, as a matter, of course, going into the school this morning. And that’s what you’re asking him to do. And so the schools are open, you know, and that creates a whole bundle of problem because the women in the workforce get the short end of the stick at the schools. No, no. Right. And that is the czar in the 21st century. But that’s what it’s starting to look like. This is so burdensome, that it’s going to rearrange a lot of things socially. And we haven’t even really started to understand those things yet. It’s horribly difficult than it sounds do and googly to say it’s still you need to wait before you decide what you’re going to do. But the voice of a conservative voice that says way. be slow here, be slow here. Is it part of the dialogue? The debate seems to be about how fast to go where rather than Oh, let’s see if we could understand the problem. First. You know, I’m from the understand the problem first school of thought. So it’s gonna be interesting to see how it shakes out because we’ve got less than a month before the California schools should have opened. We’ve got six weeks till almost every other kind of school opens. And, you know, the thing that I’ve been seeing is the professional sports leagues with all of their money and all of their capacity to care for their employees can’t stop them from catching the disease. And yet, we weren’t ill equipped schools to have our children in them. either get the priority set there, it’s not possible to solve it with all the money in the world. So what we should do is send our kids to be on the frontline. That’s stupid.

Stacey Harris 6:50
Yeah, not having kids in that kind of a school environment anymore but I do have children in the university setting which is a little bit better because they have a little more control over some of their options. But I had a friend who passed around a commentary, I think, from the California they’re kind of running the numbers, and they’re basically making you will assume that point 1% or whatever children will pass away Well, that of 160,000 cool, you know, that’s 310 gigs or something, they’ve done the math on it, and that was like your hundred 10 kids. And that number, I think, is the one that stuck with everybody. And that’s the same conversation we have about our employees and have been having about our employees to some extent, in the beginning of this, particularly for those working in frontline role, health care, or warehousing or food packaging, or any of those areas. You know, we talked about money running out, but those roles never even have the opportunity to get the stimulus money. They were always considered frontline workers. So their options were get no money or stay working. And so those are the difficult decisions. I think we’ve been in for some time. We’re just adding to that now our children, which is a whole different level, right?

John Sumser 7:54
Yeah. So I’m optimistic. I’m super optimistic, but I think this is gonna get a lot worse. Really. You know what I’ve been saying it’s gonna get a lot worse real shoes now for four or five months as it has.

Stacey Harris 8:09
But, you know, the markets continuing to move on and people are continuing to push forward. So you know, it’s a balance in the world that we’re in. But yeah, it has continued to get worse. And I think the slow and steady approach to a lot of this is not bad guy. I don’t know that I would push for the Let’s jump as quickly as possible, because I think there’s a lot of people who are investing in that sort of using the language of agility as that type of thinking around it. And I think that’s a very different dialogue, where the slow and steady making some decisions about where we’re at what we’re doing and making various strategic data driven movements is probably a much better guidance in this market. But that means you have to be able to gather the data. That means you have to have some level of flexibility in whatever you’re doing, whether that’s your personal decisions or your organization to wait a little bit and that’s the hard part right now. If you didn’t build in enough flexibility in your organization, extra people in inside and outside your organization extra time to get things done your organization, a small cushion from where you were at as far as investment, that makes it a lot harder, right? If you were working on the edge and everything, which is where we tended to be both globally well, business perspective, everything was close to the edge.

John Sumser 9:21
Right. And now we’re in a new world. Sometimes it looks to me like everybody abandons their posts to go work on the COVID problem. And so I think one of the reasons we’re seeing slow evolution in the industry news is, people are busy fighting fires right now. And we’re going to have a very interesting shift when the fires come under control, and people wake up and go, Oh, we sort of lost track of where we were go with that. That’ll be a moment where the markets really change when we get there. So what’s in the mailbag?

Stacey Harris 9:57
Well outside of all the bigger news that we just mentioned. There is a lot of stuff going on, like you said, both investments and in news about colleagues and friends. We got news this week very sad news that people Trump’s co founder Shelly thing passed away from cancer she ran people strong is one of the larger India based HR payroll organizations, and one that was primarily focused on the India market. But not only was she sort of a female in a predominantly male lead phase, she was also I think, one of probably the few voices in the market really talking about how important the Indian market was as an individual market. And so that was a real loss to the industry this week. We also saw a couple things going on the music market from our friends and lead gen hired a new Managing Director out that way and opening up somewhere age specific work, David, I’m gonna say David’s name last name, right? I’ve met him multiple times is a great gentleman give it Grace urato you can let me know how badly I mangled his last name, but David has been a good friend of mine who’s been out in the Asia Pacific market. been consulting on talent management HR things and then he’s now the new Managing Director for the Asia Pacific market for lead gen run by our good friend Jay snapper book. We also have quite a bit of investment this week. Probably the largest one is social chorus announcing 100 million dollar investment led Vice humera Equity Partners, a social chorused was most interesting to me of all the other investments. There were some other ones. There’s a couple of performance management tools like lattice and we saw some interesting investments and a couple of workforce management tools we might bring them in next week. But I think social courses the most interesting this week because they’re a communications platform, a workforce communication platform, so we’ll probably won’t talk about them ServiceNow and Deloitte extended their strategic alliance agreements, we’re seeing closer and closer connections between these groups. I think this might have also impacted Deloitte no longer supporting their own. They had their own HR service delivery application for a while but they were sure pitching to the market. I’ve had a couple people asked me recently if I knew what happens that it doesn’t seem to be out there and available anymore. It probably in light of this connection. We’re also seeing more back to work type of technologies going on Kappa ta ta pa HR launched it back down because digital suite which is quite interesting and some of the tools that they’re putting forward there. And then if we get a little bit of time, there’s some interesting stuff going on. I think on the innovation side with some new tools. One is a fully automated AI recruiter from every Oh, that’s something that you’re completely interested in. We’re also seeing machine learning have been flipped on its head being used to help our actors and our creative talent inside the media environments, figure out how they communicate with their new audiences, kind of like if your talent How do I find out the right place for me to communicate and talk to so taking that matching technology and flipping it and then we also have another set of new technologies being put out by I’m not going to say this correctly. A jarro MDG Jay, ar o f, who’s co founder acquaintance really talked a little bit about a tool that organisms that they’re building that Helping blue collar workers and large organizations match up work and not be temporary services but share workers and I have a lot of conversation about sharing workers recently. And we saw that in 2008 downturn as well. So lots of stuff going on. I don’t know if there’s any particular one of the topics that you want to focus on. But it’s interesting conversations these days and different focus.

John Sumser 13:21
Because I am all about AI and recruiting. Let’s start with this company called FBO. That is launching what they call a fully automated AI. They provide the first fully automated end to end recruiting technology leveraging AI to increase recruiter efficiency while eliminating non strategic manual tasks. You know, that’s quite a thing to say it if it worked for the last 20 companies that said something like that would probably be super notable. But you know, this is a case where you have a company that needs to do PR for because the whole thing is that you have to be able to be understood is different from the competition and this doesn’t differentiate and they claim to have at the core of this is a job distribution thing with a theoretical database of 75 billion candidates but anybody who’s bought and sold these kinds of things over the last 25 years knows that database is always have holes have the job distribution is never intelligent. And so you get way more crap back. You know, this is automated recruiting like using dynamite to fish. Yes, yes, you can catch fish this way. Yes, you can. And it makes a lot of noise if it’s kind of fun. But the vase a really big mess. When Yeah. Right. So you know, there’s a flood of new recruiting investment that the elevation or which people have really come out strong about investing in tools that look like job boards and front end recruiting process stuff. So I think we’re gonna see more offers like this where what’s reasonably clear is that there are no actual practicing recruiters involved in the development of the process. But you know what, you know, what we’ve seen over the years is that investment money doesn’t really have much sense, because it’s more likely, what’s that game where you spit roulette, where you spin the wheel, and you pick a red and black and the numbers such as for this, like,

Stacey Harris 15:27
well, particularly an angel, right? We’re not quite sure what’s going to take off toes pandemic conversation, but I think the thing that sort of threw me on this one, and there were multiple stories like this, but it’s the language is being used in all of these there was another one where X amount of companies are now putting robots and she never had to talk to HR is this desire to craft the marketing around the idea that you never have to touch anyone? You never have to see anyone. You never have to be involved, you know, and so the idea that virtuality is all about not being involved, was sort of the bigger conversation that I think in multiple levels across topics this week, you know, we’ve talked about the fact that the virtual approach to thing isn’t working very well for a lot of different types of industries. And this is particularly one in HR where the idea of not being involved as being a good thing, does that really make it better, that’s the piece that caught my eye.

John Sumser 16:20
So tell me a little bit more about this. You see this as the essence being get the people out of the system so that they can work better

Stacey Harris 16:28
and better work without having to interact because and pandemic days, we don’t want people having to be connected. You definitely want to do things face to face, but in doing things face to face, that means you don’t want to have all the other touch points as well.

John Sumser 16:44
I’m reminded of a project that I had to do earlier this week that involves that it was a long day. It involved a spreadsheet. The first spreadsheet had 25,000 lines in it and I figured out after a while how to get That sounds good. And then I had to go look, line by line that that thousand lines and categorize those things so that I could make sense out of the thing that I’ve been given that kind of work. People do that kind of work all the time. And I hate doing that kind of work, I really hated going to work. And I spent a day with some music, getting it done. And at the end, I learned stuff that I couldn’t learn any other way. I don’t like to do other work. But I learned things that I couldn’t learn any other way because I touched every single bit of data in the stack. And that’s the thing. I think you’re talking about being missing here. Really, it’s not so much the interaction with people that is concerning. It’s the interaction with the actual thing that’s going on. That’s concerning, you know, so if you don’t ever have to touch anything, how would you have any sense of whether or not it was going well, because the you asked machines, how are you doing that? It says, Hey, boss, I’m doing okay, and that’s good enough. But that’s back to the current problem with engagement, polling and testing. How are you doing? Right?

Stacey Harris 18:10
Yeah, exactly. It’s even worse in the fact that I think because we’re stepping into automation as an answer to the pandemic conversation, because that means you can reduce human touch point, then we’re saying, oh, we’re automating it anyways, then we’re also just, we’re just gonna take the person out of it, it just makes more sense that I’m doing this now at the time. And I think that’s the least that we’re making that concerns me is generally when you go through an automation process, there is a point at which you go from manual to investing in a couple of tools to automate to having another person, maybe do it and then you know, automating it so you’re kind of going through a process where you’re learning and getting continuous feedback and making changes all the way through until you end up in a spot where it is truly automated, like my calculator during my time tables, but it end you will lose something along the way, but you gain it in efficiencies. We’re sort of skipping over that just because taking the human element out of it is the first thing we’re focusing and not the automation, I guess maybe the better way to put it. So it’s just a very different approach. So I think we’re all going to maybe watch a little carefully in the next couple of months.

John Sumser 19:14
Well, it’ll accelerate as the economy sours, the layoffs will accelerate, right. And that’s the last accelerate, people are going to be looking for solutions that do the work of the people who used to work there. And so we’re going to see more of this. And you know, the big questions actually turn out to be things like we’re talking about, which is not the to miss the human connection. It’s how do you know when the thing is broken? If you don’t have anybody else to know what they’re doing? And if you sit down the number of people who know what they’re doing, how do they ever get a chance to go through that process that I described and looking at the data if the machine does it? So there’s stuff that you can learn from doing the work that you don’t get to learn if a machine does it all for you all the time. And does that mean? That you are ceding control of the decision to a machine that you don’t understand very well. And that’s a bad idea.

Stacey Harris 20:08
The other big topic this week that came out throughout all the conversations was not only the automation and the robotics and AI is going to get us out of it. But the other thing was the connection between service delivering, like meeting the needs of your employees and getting to sort of what is whatever the next generation of work environments that we’re looking at. I mean, we saw the ServiceNow and Deloitte extending their strategic alliance, which was all about HR service delivery and how those two are going to work hand in hand and how important it is to have communication and work. We also saw the hundred million dollar investment in social course, which is a company I’ve seen briefly, but not a lot. All their focus is an organization that’s doing workforce communications, which is a mixture of onboarding and benefits information, but now COVID information as well. So the flip side of this is people are looking for information and you And they’re hungry for it. And we’re not sure how to get it to them right now. And that’s the other big threat I saw this week.

John Sumser 21:06
So I’ve been looking really hard at HR that uses SharePoint as a way of creating self service opportunities for employees. And you can see a lot of the stuff as companies noticing that SharePoint doesn’t work at all. That is, that is a bad way to organize, and that it gets filled up with contradictory junk. And when you take a pass through, like some of these firms are doing to try to reorganize the SharePoint stuff. That’s a lot of what ServiceNow does really is make sense out of the existing junk. The problem is that the existing junk is highly contradictory. And if you don’t thoroughly audit that stuff, with some sort of a framework about what constitutes good, you end up with even more confusion after The repaving of the road is done. And so I think we’re gonna see a lot of crush in this area. And the reality is that the cost of the effective implementation of automation technology is significantly higher than this round of funding and investment would lead you to believe that

Stacey Harris 22:22
it’s very expensive. And you know, I’ve been through multiple rounds of what I call this is really knowledge management. We went through it in the 90s. We went through it and around a bit in 2000, various levels of technology. Now it’s falling on the shoulders of these HR service delivery organizations or communications tools is the constant issue that the data inside your organization is never organized as well as it needs to be to just manage general indication, let alone helping you make good decisions. And it’s because the stuff is not organized well is the stuff that complex and requires context around it, unlike standard data like employee size that you know, how many people recruiting and some stuff that we’ve been using in our big data analysis up to this point. So I think your comment about the fact that it’s going to require a lot more money is true. It will also I think, require new technologies that think differently. Don’t just look at the data inside of it, but look at all the contextual conversations around it. And that’s a lot harder and a lot bigger type of technology. I would assume you’ve probably studied more of it than I have. So

John Sumser 23:23
Yeah, I think that’s right. So another great conversation. Thanks for doing this. And thanks, everybody, for listening in. We’ll be back here same time next week. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. This was our 275th show. We will be back here next week. Bye Bye now. Thanks.

Stacey Harris 23:44
Thanks everyone.

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