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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: 276
Air Date: July 23, 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 in John Sumser. Hi, Stacey.

Stacey Harris 0:21
Good morning, John. How are you doing?

John Sumser 0:23
I am fantastic. I am living the life of luxury in beautiful California where everything comes to me. I no longer have to leave my house. Maybe I’m not allowed to, I forget which one it is but it’s somthing, it’s something, we’re having a kind of cool spell here. How about you?

Stacey Harris 0:42
Oh, that’s nice. Well, we’re not hitting a cool, cold spell, we’re right up there still in the 90s and 100’s. So the temperature is quite hot and sun has been shining here in between some thunderstorms in North Carolina, but, same thing still stayed inside.

I will just say I was laughing pretty hard yesterday or earlier this week. Someone had posted their new counterpart in their office which is basically the growing Amazon box that was just creating a very person-looking form in their house, looks like, I think we’re all sort of there are delivery bags or Amazon boxes are all that is growing for everyone who has that luxury is probably a better way to say it. But yeah, you know, and it’s it’s somewhat of a quiet week on the news front this week. So I think if people are taking vacations and we’ve seen a resurgence of homegrown vacations or road trips basically from a lot of people I’ve seen a lot of people who have taken up into the mountains or found a local home run out I think that this is definitely a couple of weeks people are doing it. So, we’re either stay vacation staying at home but taking time off of work and probably well need for everybody right now. So yeah, it’s been pretty good so far. And have you been busy this week? Are you seeing the same kind of slow down that I’ve been seeing?

John Sumser 1:52
I’ve been busy but my world operates at somewhat different rhythm, right. The people who raised money in the Spring are now in the middle of development cycles. And so I’m hearing a lot about new functionality and new products coming to market. So my world is moving. Actually, this is today is a particularly busy day for me because of all of the stuff that’s happening around. And so I’m not seeing anything like a slowdown, but I’m talking to a lot of people who would have been raising money last week, who are now quiet and getting some work done this week.

Stacey Harris 2:27
Good point. Things on on our end are actually not slow yet. I would say we just wrapped up the annual HR Systems Survey and so just a big thank you to everyone who listens to us who participates in the survey. We got over 2,400 professionals to respond to the survey this year. You know, arguably the most difficult year we’ve had in a very long time. So a big thank you to everyone who participated to the annual HR system survey for car seats and now sapient insights group, so excited to start digging into the data. My busy season I’m just picking up because I am now cleaning everything will end up probably with a bit less because we end up cleaning up duplicates and cleaning out now organizations that we can’t validate the data from, but just wow the amount of data that we’ve got this year, considering where everybody’s been at has been amazing. So I’m like you in our cycles are a little different. I think that everybody else does everybody’s sending snapshots of their great camping pictures or their stay at home backyard vacation. I’ve been hunched over a computer looking at numbers the last couple of days too.

John Sumser 3:30
Yeah, and I just want to underline what you’re talking about the amount of work that’s required to fill out the survey. This is not 2,400 people answer 30 questions about whether or not they like the boss. This is a detailed look at the HR technology stack in 2,400 companies and it takes hours and hours. This is way more complicated than a mortgage application or some income tax. Well, this is a lot of work on the part of those people who responded and they deserve your thanks.

Stacey Harris 4:01
It is definitely. The thing that always amazes me is I usually get in we did we got to the last week and we have people who email us and they’re like, Can you hold open for a couple more days? Can you give me a little bit longer? Our team is working on that. And you know, when you hear that a team is working on your research, making sure that it’s filled out appropriately. That’s just something I had never experienced before I came to fear cedar. And the work that we do here now under the sacred insights brand, it like I said, this research has always been something that I think for me has just been amazing to see not only how much people invest in it, but how much they feel it gives back to them too, because every time I talked to professionals, they’re like, Yeah, it really helps me think through my HR technology stack. And I think, you know, I don’t know about what you’re seeing done, but what I’m seeing is that a lot of people are taking this opportunity, whether it’s overly busy in their work environment, and their HR technology has been stretched to the max or whether it’s because things are quiet and they’ve had to furlough or layoff a lot of people in the organization so their HR system has been altered at multiple levels. People are taking this summer to reevaluate their HR technology stack in a way that they haven’t seen for a couple of years. And it’s causing them to do different questions to ask different things to look for different things in their environment. I don’t know if you’re seeing that because now you’re seeing the development side of it.

John Sumser 5:15
I’m not sure that it’s as clear in the marketplace, as it is to you, you have this really interesting edge on what’s going on. And so what is clear is that a lot of the work that HR was asked to do, they didn’t have systems to do and don’t have systems. So HR is going to be responsible for managing all sorts of aspects of health going forward and navigating the difference between what we used to think of as privacy and what privacy has to functionally be to get the economy working. And those are big, hard, complicated questions. And the HR tech systems never anticipated that we’d have that problem. So part of what’s causing this reevaluation is when people turn to their HR tech system, it didn’t do what they needed it to do.

Stacey Harris 6:05
Yeah, that’s a great way of synthesizing it didn’t do what they needed to do whether they were overly inundated with change orders or needs to read, deploy skilled workers or the needs to think through their workforces current safety standards, or whether they had to make really difficult decisions about furloughing, or layoff, or even removing whole parts of their businesses. I read a great article last week about Airbnb and what happens when a culture that’s built around. We’re all family. We’re all in this together. What happens when that kind of an organization has such a downturn as they’ve had in this market and has to start to lay people off. And that’s a really difficult conversation about culture. But it’s an even more difficult conversation when you have to make the choices with the HR data that you’ve been touting we’ve been using for other things. And so it’s a really hard place for HR to be right now, but what I’m hearing most from everyone is excitement is probably not the right word but interest in getting it right. If they have to do it again,

John Sumser 7:01
This is gonna be a really informative time, it’s gonna cause a whole lot of innovation. And I don’t want you to take away the idea that I think this is something the vendors screwed up, I think had there been a product out there that did all of the things that people needed to do at the pandemic, nobody would have bought it. HR is a very, very difficult market to sell things and people only pay for things that they are certain they need right now. And to that kind of purchasing behavior has come around to bite HR and its environment, its culture, right square in the bud, right? There are things that you need to buy and need to have, even if you don’t ever use them. You know, in California, if you don’t have a crowbar under your bed, you’re a nutcase because when your house falls down from the earthquake signal, you need to be able to pry the roof off of you. So you haven’t have this profound view. But if you’re really lucky You don’t ever have to use it. And that kind of thinking is not part. You know, you look at procurement related stuff all the time. There’s nothing out there that, you know, put a little bit away in case of emergencies functionality in the software. And so I think that might change a little bit. I think that’s something we might talk about a bit. What do you need just in case and how do you tell what’s enough?

Stacey Harris 8:24
Yeah, no, I actually think that’s a really great topic right now. I think that’s the conversation they’re interested to having right now. Because they’ve been talking about it’s not like HR didn’t say, Oh, this was important and some level is that, you know, when they were building business cases, it was really hard to make those kind of business cases was much easier to make a business case about a wellness tool that would save them X amount of money or a talent management system that could be used and that you could think more about keeping that top talent not redeploying your talent across the organization because that just seemed like it caused more heartache inside the organization and more difficult conversations. I think these kind of conversations we’re talking about are really important. But it’s not just HR that had to have a wake up call if it’s the business leaders to because then the business leaders similarly we’re living what I would call it very much of the edge, cut the workforce to the optimized level. Think about the numbers to the optimized level, preparing for risk and adversity means you leave a little bit of room so that you can bless when you need to. And I don’t think anybody was really doing that effectively.

John Sumser 9:28
No, no, we were on the keto diet, the entire economy was on the keto diet. We need some more carbs, right. And so,

Stacey Harris 9:39
That’s going to be your new story.

John Sumser 9:41
Things are about to get, so, things are about to get interesting. So, what is in the mail bag?

Stacey Harris 9:48
Well, like I said, it was somewhat quiet. But there’s still some interesting things that are worth talking about this week. We did get one of the first, I don’t know if it’s the first, but you know, they’re saying it’s the first, Virginia approved the nation’s first Emergency temporary standard. Now of course, the word temporary and emergency standard in there for COVID-19 pandemic. But really what it comes down to is they’ve put together a standard for opening up work environments. And that I think, is something interesting because we have not really had at a regional or statewide or a definitely at a country level here in the States a requirement of what you have to do for workers to keep them safe before you can bring them back to work or once they’re in the work environment and with the COVID-19 environment. And without that kind of regulations and requirements. Each company is taking their own stance, it also means that employees are less likely to have the ability to push back against that. So there’s that that’s going on right now.

We also have some money that was distributed. This was more last week and this week, but I think it’s worth the conversation. Lattice which is a performance management organization raised 45 million in series D funding, which means they’ve gone pretty deep into the funding process for their performance management performance and goals tool.

We also have some news from one of our good friends over at Velocity Network so that Yvette Cameron who works on that that many of us know and have talked to. Velocity Network is demonstrating the art of the possible for the Internet of careers. Basically what that means is that they are now announcing a release of their Testnet 2.0, which is the Velocity Experience Center, which is their sort of career credentialing tool. And so we can talk a little bit about that. And, you know, are there others in the market who are doing similar things? Where’s that going to end up?

Salesforce ended up killing off Einstein voice assistant, you know, we get to see I think probably a lot of things people were putting out there as a test run that definitely didn’t take off during the pandemic. Einstein’s voice assistant might be one of them.

And then there’s also some interesting research that came up where researchers at Chalmers, I’m not sure if I’m saying that correct, the University of Technology have found that they were able to use an AI system to strip identifiable attributes like gender for speech recording. This has a huge impact on something like biases and recruiting and those type of things, and so probably worth a conversation.

And if we have any time, Amazon’s opening health clinics for employees. That’s not something as a new idea. We’ve had health clinic open for large organizations have been in HR Tech space in San Francisco. I’m sure Google has their on-campus healthcare, and Facebook has their on-campus health care, but it’s generally not been done an hourly work environment as much. And so I think it’s worth a conversation about what does health care look like across the country in this next generation of the market? So not a lot of different topics. But any place in there John, that you’re interested, maybe diving in a little bit deeper today?

John Sumser 12:38
Oh, let’s start at the top. I’ve done a quick scan of the new Virginia standard. And let me tell you, we just don’t know enough about what’s going on yet to be able to say that here are the things you need to do to open up for instance, in the Virginia standard, it doesn’t address bathrooms and one of the things I’ve been talking with people about this week is how exactly you do bathrooms when you go back to work, right? Because in most corporate bathrooms, you can’t have two people in it and have social distancing. And if there was ever a place where bodily fluids were in the air, this is it. And so you probably have to clean up after every use in order to keep it safe or have a ventilation system that sets all the values out for you go back to them or something like that. But nobody’s talking about this stuff. So it’s sort of remember when 9-11 happened, and we had years and years and years of security here at the airport. Yeah, this is like pandemic healthcare theater. The actual problems aren’t being addressed. But we have things for show. So I’m not a big fan of this Virginia-thing.

Stacey Harris 13:48
I understand it, but I think we have to at least start somewhere. I think the fact that there has been no standard that a state or federal level leaves employees at a real risk of being able to battle anything have these conversations, one of government at least within some standards than companies who are completely blatantly not doing anything they should be doing at least can be held accountable to those facts, but I agree that’s definitely not strong enough. Same thing with elevators or small spaces, or they mentioned here specifically meatpacking facilities and stuff, you know, those environments with different types of ventilation. They haven’t really addressed some of the most egregious things, but at least they started to put a little bit of teeth into it, because it’s just been driving me nuts. Your partner, Heather probably has a much better take on this. But knowing how employment law works, that you have to have something that you can say someone was breaking a regulation oftentimes to start the conversation. Otherwise you just put your health at risk, right.

John Sumser 14:45
I’ll give you that. This is from the we need to hurry back to work school of thought. The mistake that a lot of people make is believing that there’s going to be the same place we stopped going to as the place that we’re going back to That’s just not true. It’s not true the work environment in order to be safe the work environment is nothing like you imagined. So, you’re right, this process is starting to needs to start somewhere that is probably as good a start as you could get. But there are a lot of things we don’t know. And going back to work is dangerous, even if a company meets these requirements.

Stacey Harris 15:22
Yeah, no, completely agree with that. And that’s the sad part is that there are a lot of employees who won’t have a choice in this. And so like anything else in our in our market, it will be up to oftentimes an HR professional to put forward to their organization, what risks they’re taking, and what risks they’re putting people at and that’s a rough place to be for HR today right now.

John Sumser 15:43
Yup, that’s the job today. Okay. And next?

Stacey Harris 15:47
We were talking a little bit about Lattice, I mean Laticce is a performance management organization. $45 million is a lot of money, especially in series D level, that means they’ve gone through three additional rounds of funding and they don’t quite get the total amount that they have now raised in this particular article. But I just wonder, is there space for a standalone performance management tool in the market right now and what Lattice is, for the most part, well known good naming, good branding, I think, you know, you’ve seen their brand around, but it really is a tool that does goals and performance reviews and check-ins. But it does it with the idea that now we can stretch the idea of how you think about performance and stretch the idea of how I move people around my organization, that kind of thing. Is this what we need right now with everything that we were just talking about?

John Sumser 16:32
You know, I’m not a huge fan of the conventional ideas of performance management, most of this stuff, right? The performance management tool is something that you go to periodically to make sure the documents are in order so that when I tell you you’re not getting erased this year, I’ve got the chart or when I tell you, you’re getting the rage, I can explain why. And that’s how performance management works right performance management is is exactly what the relationship between the supervisor and the employee looks like. And in well executed relationships, there is a sort of Goldilocks approach to just enough involvement to make sure that the employee is on the right track, doing the right things, feeling good about it and getting the results they want while developing the way that they want. And sometimes that requires very intricate detail connection. And sometimes you could wait three or four months to have a conversation. It depends on the level of maturity of the employee and the area that they’re working in. And the point of performance management tools is to somehow standardize that rhythm across the organization, and you can’t do it. That’s not how work works. And so this is some big management idea about how work should work. And B systems always get abandoned. They always get abandoned and there’s a new generation of stuff and still, it gets abandoned because the people who designed this stuff have theories about what work is like but they don’t really have much experience with what work is like. So, you can see the argument for there being a market here, but I’m not sure that one more additional way of looking at what we’re doing regularly actually generates value. I think that’s probably why they’re still raising money instead of making a profit.

Stacey Harris 18:25
Well, the opposite perspective of this kind of system. I think it’s interesting you actually had I think an article written this week in HR examiner about it, which is the idea of organizations or tools that track the work you’re doing and in that work getting the work done performance is assesssed but only as a side note to the fact that you’re in the system getting the work done. Systems like Moovila with Mike Psenka do a little bit of that. The idea of our goals and our strategies connecting that not because we’re tracking it for a performance review, but because we’re trying to figure out how to get the work done and as a byproduct of getting work done, something comes out of that that talks about performance. Do you think that’s a more realistic model that we’re going to see come out in the market? And actually will come out with some outcomes for organizations?

John Sumser 19:11
Yeah, yeah. You know I was looking at a new performance management system earlier this week. And they had rankings of employees in a work group and at the top of the pile was the employee who met all of their goals on time. And at the bottom of the pile was somebody who met about 40% of their goals and missed a lot of stuff and just didn’t finish a bunch of stuff. And so I said, Okay, which one of those employees is the most valuable employee. And of course, it’s the one who doesn’t make their goals on time because they’re constantly being pulled off to solve the problems. They don’t have the problem. They have the problem if the world was full of people who were really good at checking all the boxes, and that’s what performance look like. And then rank orders performance where It’s just gonna be great. But getting the job done doesn’t really necessarily mean accomplishing all the goals you set out to accomplish.

Stacey Harris 20:09
Yeah, exactly.

John Sumser 20:09
So that may or may not be important. And the assumption that it is important is where the trouble comes from.

Stacey Harris 20:17
I love that analogy. And I think it’s so true. You know, sometimes makes me feel a little bit better I’m not the kind of person that checks all the boxes, oftentimes, but I do think you have to look at the work first before you ever begin to look at a goal that was set to be achieved. And that’s the dialogue that I think we’ve unfortunately forgotten in some of the HR system so yeah, so it’ll be interesting to see where that heads.

Now, we’ve got just a few moments do we want to talk a little bit about what’s going on in the blockchain space? Velociy is something we’ve been talking about for a little while. It’s been sort of pulled together by a consortium of a lot of HR based organizations. You know, we’ve got some really big names who are part of this particular Consortium for building a career credentialing management site. SAP and Oracle and all of them are part of this one, and Ultimate. but do you think that the career credentialing is best used for where blockchain can go? How do you think about which which of these consortiums to buy into, to some extent?

John Sumser 21:10
Well I’m just thinking we should do this every week, because we’re not gonna have time to cover it. But we should definitely make this the topic of next week’s show. Because, it’s really interesting. There’s an industry Consortium, that’s all the software vendors. And there is a chamber of commerce funded initiative that’s got really powerful backing that has 300 employers. Now which system we’re going to use the one that’s come up as a standard by the software company. So let’s go through the standard by the employers. Well, I think the one that’s being done by the employers has better legs, and there’s probably room for many, you know, this may be like all of the systems we’ve seen recently that pretend to connect everything together, that there is just a massive proliferation of systems connecting together. So, I see 30 companies working in this problem in a variety of ways, and there’s no coordination amongst all of the efforts, there are these little federated pockets. And so we should talk about that at length next time.

Stacey Harris 22:11
Yeah, maybe you can talk a little bit about what kind of standards and maybe that’s the more interesting conversation that you need to have in place to know which of these can connect and how do they connect? Because that’s a conversation that I’ve seen. There’s a large consortium that I knew of that’s being built out of the Asia Pacific market, which is a whole different group of organizations and group of entities. And they came to the association that I’m part of, IRIM, to ask if they would oversee the standard framework, just validate the kind of things that they’re putting into this are valid and that was an interesting conversation. It wasn’t, you know, how do you build it, but it was what things should we be all adhering too. So yeah, definitely add it to next week’s conversation about what is this career management, credentialing, personal credentialing, blockchain conversation because we’re starting to get big companies now doing this, this is not just pie in the sky. These are big companies who are investing lots of money in this now. So. it’s worth having a conversation about.

John Sumser 23:06
Cool. All right. Thanks for doing this again. Stacey. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. And we will see you back here next week.

Bye Bye now.

Stacey Harris 23:18
Thanks, everyone.

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