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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: 280
Air Date: August 20, 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.
[00:00:22] Stacey Harris: Hi, John, it’s really good to hear your voice this morning. I think we were all a little worried that you might be heading out and away from home this morning, but we are happy to hear that you are here.
And we’re going to be doing the radio show this morning, even though I know you’re in some perilous conditions there in California, how are you doing? And what are your plans?
[00:00:40] John Sumser: It’s a really interesting time. And, you know, if you ever wanted to tell a story about global warming, this is probably it. So, I don’t think that most people understand that California is actually like. California is as big as from New York city to Florida.
It’s four hours wide going all the way down. So, the top part of the state where I live is mostly mountains and forest. After you pass San Francisco headed North, it’s another 10-hours drive to the Oregon border. And that entire area is big, tall, mountains, old primeval Virgin forest. And it goes on and on and on and there are only a couple of little towns between here and the Oregon border.
So when the fires come, they come, and last week sometime we had lightning storms. And one of the interesting things about California is it doesn’t get thunder and lightning in the North because there are no fronts to collide. All the weather comes in from the ocean and blows East. But we had a 10-hour lightning storm set off fires all over the place.
There’s so many fires burning right now, but nobody can actually really count them very well. Let alone attend to them. And the fire that I’m concerned about is burning about five miles from my house. And it’s gone to about 30 or 35,000 acres over the course of the night. The sky is like new Delhi, the air is unbreathable and they’re trying to figure out how to evacuate people. But, it’s COVID, so there’s no where to go. Right, so you’ve got people who need to get out, but there’s no where for them to go. We’re lucky, you know, we’re lucky to have some financial flexibility. And so we’re going to leave sometime today and go over the hill to Calistoga, which is hardly a hardship.
Calistoga is the spa part of Napa Valley. And we’re going to go there and meet my wife’s son, Holden, who is off to college next week. And we want to spend some time with him before he goes off to college. He lives in a town called St. Helena and St. Helena is surrounded by fire. So we’re evacuated from here to a place that’s a little less scary for a couple of days.
And then I imagine we’ll be headed way north next week. So we’re doing okay. We’re doing okay. This is the second time in 10-months. And so it’s a little stale [laughing] it’s a little stale.
[00:03:15] Stacey Harris:Yeah, understatement of the year but…yeah [laughing]
[00:03:18] John Sumser: That’s what’s happening in Lake Wobegon.
[00:03:22] Stacey Harris: Well, I think we’re all glad to hear that you guys have plans and understandably, you know, even when you are prepared and even when you have figured out what the next steps are, environments like that living in the hurricane zone here, you know, it’s just that eeriness of waiting to start the next step of the evacuation that gets very hard to put your finger on, but it’s a very uncomfortable feeling.
Cause you’re not sure what you should take, which it shouldn’t. You know, whether when you come back, there’ll be something still standing. You’re assuming you’re hoping, you know, all the best luck, but yeah, it’s a really tough time, no matter who you are and what your opportunities are, but we are glad to hear you guys are going to be leaving this afternoon.
That you’ll be in a somewhat more safe environment. Glad to hear that you’ll be connecting with your son. Like you said, we’re just seeing more of this. And 2020 just continues. I think, to add to what is been a very crazy year and a half for many people all around the globe. We’ll keep watching. I think everyone’s watching on Twitter to make sure you guys are safe and sound, but you know, the other thing you mentioned is your son going back to school and that has been, I think the other thing that’s been occupying the time of almost everybody that I’ve been talking to. If you have children, or if you have grandchildren or you have nieces and nephews, I took my son to school several weeks ago and now North Carolina is shutting down every college campus because students are proving themselves to be unable, to stay away from parties.
[00:04:43] John Sumser: Yeah. They’ve proven themselves to be young people.
[00:04:48] Exactly.
[00:04:49] I am not much of a fan of this theory that what it means to be educated is that you go to college and behave like a monk. It’s kind of an unreasonable approach.
[00:05:01] Stacey Harris: Yeah, exactly. So I think that’s where the rest of the country’s at and watching carefully what’s happening there in California and in Colorado, as we had mentioned that there’s two places right now, and many more because of what’s going on.
So yeah, it’s just a surreal time just as it has been for the last several months, dealing with COVID to be talking about things like HR technology and business and strategy, but we still have to keep going, what do we to be having the conversation? As you’re sort of dealing with all this, it has worked continued on for you?
Do you have to continue to do the things you normally do when you’re dealing with evacuation plans. That’s always the conversation here around hurricane week. Can you keep working while you’re sort of making plans to evacuate for hurricane.
[00:05:43] John Sumser: Yeah, I’m having too much from working to stop. So I remembered like last night I got out the suitcase and it was like seeing an old friend – it’s been six months since I saw my suitcase.
It used to be every other week, It was go out and do the road, come back do the laundry, go out and do the road and I’ve been doing that for a long, long time. As I forgot a whole bunch of little things. And so it’s been good to see my old friend the suitcase. It didn’t get any worse or by sitting in the closet for six months. You know, so I know how to work from the road.
I’ve always worked from the road. And so it’ll just be a different kind of road. We’ve got a lot of great stuff done. The last time we evacuated, we set up shop in the apartment and went to work and we’ve got a lot of great work done in that week. And so I imagine it’ll be just like that this time.
[00:06:41] Stacey Harris: And for those of us who work tends to be our way of dealing with everything else going on around us. Sometimes it’s a great way to just move on past the anxiety and all the other things going on it could be what’s happening…
[00:06:56] John Sumser: Are you calling me a workaholic? Right there you just called me a workaholic. I heard you. I heard you.
[00:07:03] Stacey Harris: [00:07:03] Just a little John. You know it takes one to know one.
My children would definitely advocate that advocate that that’s the issue, right? There’s that mix of workaholic with procrastinator. You put those two together. It becomes a really interesting mix.
[00:07:12] John Sumser: [00:07:12] Right, there you go.
[00:07:16] Stacey Harris: Well, the country seems to be dealing with this a little bit too. I mean, we actually do have stuff to talk about this week. It’s not common things that we’ve been talking about, but there is some data in the market this week about the U S productivity rising 7.3%. The biggest increase since 2009, I think that’s the conversation and we definitely want to get in today, but there’s also the stuff going on in the tech space that kind of requires some conversation.
Oracle is in talks to acquire TikTok, challenging Microsoft. That blows out of the water, the business to business versus business to consumer conversations that have always been placed for Oracle.
Workday and IBM are partnering now or a solution to aid workplace reopening. A little bit connected to also with what Workday has been doing with Salesforce.
So Workday definitely is becoming a more friendly partner. I think that a lot of this basis, Salesforce launched a new feedback management solution, combining that business to business, business to employee conversation we’ve been having for quite some time.
EdCast announced that in conjunction with talent management partners, it’s launched a new integrated career path and internal mobility solution. That’s in direct competition to what we’re seeing on the Degreed side of things that EdCast competes with.
And then we do have some funding going on this week. Still, even though the world feels like it’s in chaos, Helloteam, which is an employee engagement and conversation tool landed $3.5 million in the funding this week.
And a couple of interesting lawsuits have been going on. Victory for the campaigners in face recognition cases. Face recognition is a big conversation for HR. Do we do it? Do we not do it? What does it look like? And can we do it with regulations that are coming down that was out of the UK.
And then Google is taking another stab at eating their own business card, LinkedIn type of connections. Starting with India this time was something that calling Visiting Cards.
So as crazy as the world seems, John, there’s also a lot of work going on still. What do you think about this productivity conversation?
[00:09:12] John Sumser: I remember when the government would issue a report and have a number in it, and I’d go, Oh, that’s the number.
And now with the government issues, a report, I go really?
U.S. Productivity Rose by 7.3%. That seems like the most unlikely thing I have ever heard because nobody’s doing work the same way. Everybody’s on a learning curve. So if the measure of productivity is actual work, getting done, this is nonsense. This is complete nonsense. Now, if it’s some other measure, like a lot of people are spending their budgets early productivity is measured as revenue, then it’s been a good quarter.
But the idea that the country is almost 10% more productive in the middle of this.
[00:10:09] Stacey Harris: Yeah. The Bureau of labor statistics definition for productivity is measured by comparing the amount of goods and services produced with the inputs which were used in production. Labor productivity is the ratio of the outfits, goods and services, the labor hours devoted to the production of that output.
So basically my understanding is people are moving faster, getting more out per hour. That’s what they’re basically saying, goods and services. The other piece of this, and we saw this in the 2008, 2009 downturn. I can remember a lot of documentation showing how the us proclivity kept rising and rising, even through some of what was going on in that recession and the last downturn. And when you’ve dug into a lot of it, there was some automation that was being put in place there. So people were automating a lot more as they relate people, they were figuring out ways to automate that work. In a lot of cases, they were also requiring more from the people who stayed in their work jobs.
So you were seeing a lot of burnout happening and a lot of that kind of conversation happening about 2010, which was just after that 2009 last ride. So, I don’t know if any of that plays into this as well, but yeah.
[00:11:15] John Sumser: Oh, oh, oh, I get it. I get it. If you do the same amount of revenue, but you’ve laid off a third of your workforce, you’ve just had a 33% productivity increase. That’s what you just said. So the other title for this might be, “Layoffs in full swing.”
[00:11:36] Stacey Harris: I don’t know enough about how they get their actual calculations to know, but that was, I can remember those conversations coming out of the last recession, because there was a huge uptake in productivity then. And 2009, we were not bringing people back and that was the last big jump. And it was because people had been laid off. In huge amounts in 2007 and 2008 and 2009 money was being made, but we hadn’t hired anybody back at that point in time.
[00:12:01] John Sumser: Yeah. Okay. Okay. So this is a nonsense statistic, great?
[00:12:05] Stacey Harris: It’s actually not a nonsense statistic. It’s actually a really bad statistic. If you’re an employee working inside of a company that has laid off a lot of people, because the amount of effort that you’re investing also is expected to be increased. This is where we start to see the conversations about how many hours can you invest? I have a feeling that we’re going to start to see the burnout conversation in the next several years. On top of all of this.
[00:12:32] John Sumser: That makes sense. Now Oracle is competing to buy TikTok.
[00:12:39] Stacey Harris: I don’t even know where to go with this job. What’s your thoughts on this? Do we want to be doing TikTok with Oracle, I don’t know.
[00:12:47] John Sumser: Of all of the companies in the world might open a consumer franchise of all the big companies. Big B to B companies that might open a consumer franchise. This would be least likely to succeed. And so, so this starts to look like a battle of the billionaires to see who gets the new shiny toy.
[00:13:08] Stacey Harris: Yeah. And the scarier thing is, do you trust Oracle with your commercial personal data? Any more than because the whole reason for having to sell is because in the conversation there’s been concerns about the Chinese government having access to all the data that’s coming in through TikTok. So that’s part of this push and pull to sell, correct?
[00:13:29] John Sumser: I can’t tell. I can’t tell it’s so mixed up with crazy politics. I can’t imagine the TikTok would be for sale if it wasn’t for the fact that a group of kids used TikTok to organize a major embarrassment for Trump. That’s why it’s for sale because Trump is insisting that it’ll be sold.
And so it’s not for sale for a market reason. Who knows, you know, Trump came out and asked for a finder’s fee. He put it in play with his rhetoric. So maybe Oracle is willing to pay a higher finders fee.
[00:14:04] Stacey Harris: Yeah. I don’t even know where to go with that, but I get what you’re saying. So, but Hey, you know, TikTok seem to be serious about it.
[00:14:13] And so does Oracle, so we might very well see Oracle tick tock videos at the net Oracle conference. Interesting. Could liven things up a little bit, right?
[00:14:24] John Sumser: Well, that might liven up Oracle for a year but it’ll sure kill TikTok. I guess, you know, you may be buying your teenager a Lamborghini but you can be pretty sure that he’s gonna wreck it.
[00:14:40] Stacey Harris:Yeah, it’s definitely not a good week to get on our, “what the hell are you doing side right now?” Right?
[00:14:48] John Sumser: More money than brains. That’s what comes to mind is more money than brains.
[00:14:52] Stacey Harris: But I will have to say a little bit more of a serious note here. I mean, Oracle has been investing in their sales tools and they have been invested in, and the focus on artificial intelligence from a consumer perspective, buying trends, that kind of thing they’ve been doing that.
[00:15:08] I can see where they can make a case for how this would add to that conversation. I think the harder part for me is not only taking them seriously around a consumer component, but also how you use all of it data and the regulations around him. And there are some real good questions being asked about what tiktok is doing with their data, because so many kids are using it and there’s so much information being passed through it.
[00:15:33] And I think those questions should be asked no matter who buys it, but there is a concern that if bought by Oracle, are they going to hold up to the same standards that some of the other innovations? And I think that’s something that we shall hold on accountable for it. If they do purchase it or perhaps on a more serious note there.
[00:15:48] John Sumser: Yeah, we should have a long, long conversation at one point about the concentration of power in the hands of a few Silicon Valley companies. You could frame this as a survival move by Oracle because everybody else of Oracle’s size has a source of consumer data.
[00:16:06] Stacey Harris: Yeah.
[00:16:06] John Sumser: And Oracle simply doesn’t have a source of consumer data. So you could say that they understand better than most that their real competitors are Facebook, Google, and Apple, and those three and Microsoft, and those four all have robust consumer data and Oracle doesn’t hold those, you know, in that particular little billionaires club. Gosh, if you don’t have 100 foot yard, you need to get one. And so this is their hundred foot yacht.
[00:16:36] Stacey Harris: eah, tthe data source of the year, right? Like where do you get the most data? It’s similar to, you know, early day conversations about who has the biggest network, where do you get oil from? You know, anytime we talk about resource and right now data is the resource you’ve got figure out where you get it from.
And consumer data is the biggest resource and, um, that’s definitely, I think, worth the conversation.
Now on the flip side, companies are dealing with work to work or business to business are continuing to focus on back to work conversation reopening. Now IBM has been sort of an interesting player in this because they don’t have a consumer data source.
They had probably one of the most extensively invested in artificial intelligence tools and the Watson platform. Are we creating an environment where you either have, I have a direct connection to consumers or your business to business. And so you become like a Workday and IBM and all those groups have to in Salesforce, those groups have to connect to each other now.
[00:17:32]John Sumser: I don’t know if they ever describe it that way, but that doesn’t sound new to me. They’ve always been consumer businesses and business to business businesses. And it’s only been a few of those who have actually been able to pull off both having a business facing operation on a consumer facing operation.
The two worlds are so different that it’s really hard to make sense out of the decisions you make some differently in one setting versus another. And if you treat consumers as if they were business clients that go away, the quality of the businesses business product is different than the quality of the consumer product, because of scale reasons you can’t afford to finesse the design and development of B2B products in the way that you can consumer products, because you don’t have billions of people plugged into your social network. You’ve got millions and you can’t amortize the cost of design across millions. You have to have a bigger pool.
[00:18:33] Stacey Harris: Well, I think that’s a great way to put it. I mean, we’re definitely seeing more investment in B2B space and employers treating their partners as a consumer lite, not quite getting there. But like you said, you can’t invest that much. It’s just not possible. But you’re doing your best to get there. Right? Which is definitely integrating more datasets, having better user interfaces and this particular place we’re seeing Workday and IBM rollout a workplace reopening solution that includes modeling the site. Some of the stuff we talked about in the last couple of radio shows, assessing the risk in the community, you know, managing supplies for things like personal protection publishing site readiness reports. All the things necessary to make me as an employee feel comfortable about maybe going back to work, but still a business focused conversation, right, and a risk focused conversation.
[00:19:23] John Sumser: Yeah, just to bring it back to the last little thread, when a B to B company sinks about employees as consumers, it’s a metaphor and they never deliver a consumer quality experience. It’s never really about treating employees as if they were customers, because they’re not. Right. The next time you have a customer who you can fire at the, touch them in the wallet because you fired them the very next time that employees will be consumers.
You know, they’re not, they’re not they’re your employee and they have to take whatever you give them in some ways, particularly when there’s high unemployment. And so this metaphor that employees should be treated as if they were customers breaks down in the execution. It’s great marketing talk. But it’s really, really, really difficult to do.
And all the technology in the world isn’t gonna make you feel comfortable about going back to a place where you can get sick and die. It’s a good bandaid. It’s a good thing to do. You need to have it, but the problem isn’t the technology. The problem is your level of trust with the people that you work for.
[00:20:34] Stacey Harris: Yeah, I’m going to push back a little bit. I get what you’re saying and I completely agree. I mean, we just made the case that the tools are more business focused. I will say that I do think there are some companies, you know, the idea of talent management was very much a pseudo conversation about talent back in the day. But I do think that as employees and as people come into their own about what their skill sets are and what their capabilities are, and we get a level of talent that is really in demand in certain areas, there is some level of, “how do I keep them? What are the things I need to do to make sure that they feel comfortable,” but that is in an environment where there is jobs and where there are opportunities. So as there are less opportunities, that kind of conversation goes away. But I do think that we’ve seen some of that in the market.
And I do think that some of the employees levels have been demanding that which has shifted the business to business products in a different direction. Not totally there by any means.
[00:21:25] John Sumser: You know, I have some trouble with that picture because you paint a picture of people who go to work and do stuff all day and don’t know what skills they have.
hat’s just weird. Of course they know what skills they have they know what they do everyday. They do it. What they don’t have is a way of describing those skills to somebody who doesn’t work in the same company. Right. So there’s a language problem. And what people have been trying to do, there’s a whole lot of money being thrown around in a whole lot of different places to do things like career paddling, by trying to translate what people think they do into what employers think they need.
And it’s voodoo mostly, because employers don’t do that good a job at thinking about what they need. And employees shouldn’t be concerned about how to describe the way that you write this particular report to the next employer until it’s time to talk to them. But, the employees know what they do. They know what their skills are. That’s not really a question.
It’s more of a case that the companies can’t really effectively articulate what they’re going to need, because things are changing quickly.
[00:22:35] Stacey Harris: Yeah that much I think we can agree on that things are changing so rapidly knowing what you need and making the business case for what you have and how that will fit. Those two worlds are definitely not synced up. I think EdCast would feel a little sad about you saying that it’s voodoo right now. I mean, they’ve just invested it sounds like a chunk of money and partnerships in their new career pathing and internal mobility solution. But we’re seeing almost all of the, what you would consider education or content based tools or the learning experience platforms, depending on what you’re calling them now, investing in this career mobility conversation.
And I think a lot, for the same reason you just mentioned, right? You can’t have content and training and education and management of that kind of information experience without connecting it to something that is inside of the company.
[00:23:23] John Sumser: Yeah, but name a company that doesn’t have a career mobility offering at this point.There’s 40 of them, you know, and none of them can solve this problem. When sales start to hit a hiccup, you fire the sales manager and you switch sales techniques. And so anybody who’s done a career plan inside of the company, based on the current sales technique is in trouble because the new sales technique works differently and requires different skills and different kinds of people.
And so a lot of corporate churn happens in departments where the technology shifts fairly regularly. And I have never, ever, ever seen all of the demos that I’ve been through, a tool that helps predict the likelihood that the skills you’ve learn are actually going to be needed by the company. Right? And so it’s not really career pathing.
[00:24:17] It’s the weaving together of data that says, “You know what, if things were like they were in 2019, here’s what your next move would be.” It’s all rooted in historical data and the historical data is all bad. So voodoo. I stick with voodoo.
[00:24:33] Stacey Harris: You stick with voodoo.
[00:24:34] John Sumser: And you know what, voodoo priests spent a lot of money on oils and herbs and chicken heads and all that stuff. So the fact that it’s being invested in doesn’t mean that it isn’t voodoo.
[00:24:48] Stacey Harris: Well on that note, John, we have gone through our half hour and had, I think, an interesting conversation up until you mentioned chicken heads. But that one lost me a little bit, but I get what you’re saying.
[00:25:01] John Sumser: Voodoo isn’t cheap. Voodoo isn’t free.
[00:25:03] Stacey Harris: No, and there is a lot of people investing in this stuff right now. I would agree. And much of it is smoke and mirrors. Yeah.
[00:25:10] John Sumser: Well that’s better if I don’t call it voodoo, if I don’t make it a religious question. It’s okay. It’s smoke and mirrors.
[00:25:18] Stacey Harris: [00:25:18] My version, my definition.
[00:25:20] John Sumser: There you go. There you go. Well, as usual, great conversation. I appreciate you taking the time to do this and thanks everybody for listening to our ongoing conversation about the world of HR technology. 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.
[00:25:51] Stacey Harris: Thanks everyone. Bye.

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