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Hosts Stacey Harris and John Sumser discuss important news and topics in recruiting and HR technology. Listen live every Thursday at 8AM Pacific – 11AM Eastern, or catch up on full episodes here.

HR Tech Weekly

Episode: 29
Air Date: July 16, 2015


This Week

This week John and Stacey discuss:

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Hosts Stacey Harris and John Sumser discuss important news and topics in recruiting and HR technology. Listen live every Thursday at 8AM Pacific – 11AM Eastern, or catch up on full episodes here.

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Begin transcript

John Sumser:            Good morning and welcome to the HRTech Weekly, One Step Closer, with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. I’m John Sumser. How are you this morning and Stacey, how are you?

Stacey Harris:            I’m doing good, John, how are you? We got a beautiful…

John Sumser:            All right.

Stacey Harris:            Sunshiny day today, so I can’t complain.

John Sumser:            It’s Las Vegas. Stacey and I are coming to you live from Las Vegas today and it is sunshiny.

Stacey Harris:            Yes, and I’ve got an idea… [Crosstalk 00:00:42]

John Sumser:            Happy Birthday, Stacy.

Stacey Harris:            Oh, thank you, John. I appreciate that.

John Sumser:            Happy Birthday.

Stacey Harris:            Yes, yes, it is a, I am 29 and holding, as everyone says.

John Sumser:            That’s great. Yes. I stopped being able to say that. What have you been seeing this week?

Stacey Harris:            Well, it’s been an interesting week. I mean, we were actually just talking about it. There’s, at least, initially, there’s not a ton of news. When I started digging a little bit, we’ve got a lot of stuff to cover.

Both, you and I are here at the Ceridian Users Conference Event so that’s, we’ll definitely share a little bit about what we’re seeing here today and then there’s some interesting stuff going on in the Awards and Recognition space. Not actually probably as of this week, this is news that  has been happening over the last couple of months. It’s probably worth now bundling and talking a little bit about. It has to do with the [inaudible] and Globalforce and a couple of other organizations who are in that space and some acquisitions that are taking place and goals to go public and that kind of thing.

We also have some interesting news coming out of Workday this week that came across the news wire about some new goals they have around creating a venture capital group for themselves. I think it’s an interesting week to be covering both the HR talent technology space as well as the rewards and recognition space this week.

John Sumser:            Let’s work backwards. Workday has launched its own venture investing group. That’s a big move. That says something interesting about the company’s ambition to build a portfolio of research which is a old-fashioned way of thinking about being a company.

These days, most companies just purchase the research or don’t invest in it at all and here, they’re creating an arms length fund designed to bring research and development closer in without having it [inaudible 00:02:54]

Stacey Harris:            Yes, and the areas they’re specifically focusing on, solely focusing on, is data science and machine learning startup. I thought that was, to your point, they are figuring out a way to do research as a growing organization, that doesn’t have probably as much funds as some of the larger organizations, but it also, I think, highlights, you were talking about this earlier, and I think, it does definitely highlight, that Workday has much broader expansion goals probably than just the little world of software right now.

John Sumser:            The thing that people don’t talk about often in our business is that the idea of actually completely understanding human beings, with a machine, is a gargantuan task. It’s probably more complex than DNA mapping and sequencing, and we are making progress with DNA mapping and sequencing, but it’s a long, long, long project that costs trillions of dollars.

Figuring out how to actually account for human behavior in complex ways, the stuff that people are discussion today about predicting [inaudible 00:04:23] is sunshine and that the, can I predict what mood Stacey’s going to be in on Tuesday morning at nine o’clock stuff is, has perplexed human beings about each other for a long time…

Stacey Harris:            Yes.

John Sumser:            And it’s not a simple problem to solve. It seems like Workday is stepping up to the fact that this isn’t really, HRTech has the potential to be the largest lasting contribution of technology from the 21st Century because it’s where the science of interaction and the prediction of interaction will start to appear because this is the simple greatest database of person-to-person interactions. The rest of the internet is all person-to-machine interactions. HR technology measures a two-sided equation.

Stacey Harris:            Well, I think it’s interesting, would you add the marketing technology as well? I think you have to add the marketing technology to that mixture of what’s happening in the HR technology space as well or do you think that’s more just person-to-technology?

John Sumser:            The machine learning in a marketing context currently is simply, if I throw a million bebes at the wall, at least some of them are going to hit. That’s the basic principle of all marketing automation that I know of is that it’s a statistics game with very small numbers, so you have to get enough volume to make the small numbers work.

That’s not how, predicting whether or not we’ll have perfect chemistry and perfectly carry this show this morning, which is the kind of thing that you would want to know about human beings, it takes forever to accumulate the kind of data that’s nuanced. This isn’t drop lots of water and hope most of it gets in the pool or some of it gets in the pool. This is you’ve got to be right when you do this stuff.

Stacey Harris:            Well…

John Sumser:            Team learning, in its most conventional forms, is about being wrong so much of the time that you actually [inaudible 00:07:07].

Stacey Harris:            Well, and then the other side of that equation which is which systems in the world will have the most data captured about people…

John Sumser:            Right.

Stacey Harris:            And their interactions. If I understand what you’re saying is that that is going into the HR system and it’s very likely, it’d be interesting to sort of get a sense because, the marketing systems, by far, is interesting.

The whole Amazon Prime thing yesterday, I was just laughing all the way through my Facebook thread the other day about how many people were disappointed at what Amazon came out with for their Prime Days they called it…

John Sumser:            Oh, I didn’t see that. What happened?

Stacey Harris:            Amazon wanted to create, basically, and I think they did this for a couple of years, I think they particularly made it more prominent this year. They wanted to create another reason for people who, generally, only go to them during the holidays, and sign up for Prime access to come now in the summer and sign up for Prime access because they were losing a lot of money from a buying perspective.

The statement that they let out in the market was that they didn’t care if they lost money at all on this day. The whole idea was to get as many people as possible to the Amazon site. I think it flopped terribly for them. Now, I don’t know about that on numbers but, I think, as far as what people’s expectations were, across the board, you heard this, oh, there was absolutely nothing on that site that was worth going to. Walmart tried…

John Sumser:            That.

Stacey Harris:            To compete with them and made it even worse because neither of the sites had anything. Walmart came to the game late, like, well if Amazon’s doing it, we’re going to do it. That kind of interaction about how people react to messaging, to content, to topic …

John Sumser:            Say that…

Stacey Harris:            Yes, what I was saying was, that kind of, a mass of amount, and it was big enough that it hit all the news wires which meant there was enough people around the globe, US as well as Europe and Asia Pacific, they were saying that hit the site, that we were capturing massive amounts of data on a single day on, just because Amazon decided they were going to try and sell stuff at a discount price that they really didn’t end up selling.

I do think there’s going to be some connection between what’s happening with HR technology but I think it has to also be part of what’s happening with, I think, the, what people are doing with that technology and I think that that has to do with more marketing and business systems still.

John Sumser:            That’s a certainly what everybody’s doing, Stacey, but that certainly is a precise description of all of the knew approaches to increased monitoring of employee [bank 00:10:10] and that’s what the rewards and recognition companies are in the business of doing is increasing the number of positive transactions that you have with the employee, basically.

Stacey Harris:            Exactly, yes.

John Sumser:            The theory is that if there are more positive transactions, you have a better place to work, the relationships be more engaged or whatever the current language for employees will be happier is. It seems like these companies are having little bits of problems in the market place.

The Achievers’ purchase last week was not a positive and uplifting purchase. It was a sort of a transfer of debt and Globalforce had [inaudible 00:11:17] idea…

Stacey Harris:            Yes.

John Sumser:            What do you think’s going on in that business?

Stacey Harris:            Well, Blackhawk Network which is, purchased Achievers, is a payment card or pre-paid payment network…

John Sumser:            Right.

Stacey Harris:            I think you’re right, that was definitely an area where Achievers has gone out with probably one of the biggest bangs I’ve seen in the market as far as almost any HR technology from where it started. I remember talking to them in the days when they were I Love Rewards. They’ve invested heavily in trying to make this concept more than just rewards and recognition.

They went down the road of performance management. They went down the road of communications, of social engagement and, at the end of the day, it kept coming back to they were a rewards and recognition system. That’s not a bad thing. It’s still one of the more positive technologies and tools on the market, but is it a stand alone solution they’ve built out into anything more than just an incentive, creating a shopping experience connected to your work environment.

Globalforce went sort of a different direction where they were trying to map and network what was happening in your work environment. One of the most unique things they’ve come out in the last several years or so about is sort of capturing your work anniversaries in a way and capturing people’s feelings and inputs about your work along the way in a way that you could gather that all up into these videos and visuals and environments that shows you how valuable you were to the organization each year, each milestone, whatever that might be.

I think both organizations went in different directions with what they were doing with rewards and recognition but when you talk to the customers and the clients, as much as we talk about systems of engagement, they still look at them as ways to create a shopping experience at some level with their employees.

How do I get them to do more, to access the technology more, to be more engaged and that’s not the same as how do I have the technology help them, which is the real thing that I think you’re talking about with what HR technology can do if it’s done well.

John Sumser:            That’s right, so, without being too glib, the people who respond to immediate transactional motivational pushes tend to be better at sales than they are at creative things. Is that too over the top? That what motivational tools are great for are working with people with the need to be prodded into motivation on a more frequent basis than perhaps a lot of people. Maybe there’s a line with human beings that say, some people operate on extrinsic motivators and some people operate on intrinsic motivators and…

Stacey Harris:            Yes.

John Sumser:            It seems to me that industries and companies and cultures favor or don’t favor one of those two things. That would be, for me, a really interesting dimension of a corporate culture is what kind of rewards to the people there want.

Stacey Harris:            I think that differs by culture too, to your point, I don’t think that’s a, we often times try and [flatter 00:15:12] the sales roles or those who would be in support roles. I think, a lot of times, that’s very specific to cultures of organizations as well. It would be interesting to see what the research came out on that one with.

John Sumser:            I think that’s exactly right. Whatever that thing is rewards and recognition approaches really work well there. If you’re a good [boyfriend 00:15:40] another 12 hours, you can go shop in the store is a traditional way to motivate people.

Stacey Harris:            Yes.

John Sumser:            It just sort of doesn’t fit the depth of the world that we operate in today with the shopper businesses at the heart of the world. People who do software for a living do not need motivators in that way.

Stacey Harris:            Well, an interesting take on it might be, this is something, I think, worth have a conversation about is, we’re at this Ceridian event this week. They’ve connected what they’re doing, I think, they came out with a couple of big announcements this week. They’ve put in some new user interfaces to engage audiences a little bit more. These user interfaces, I think, are definitely moving in much more of a progressive manner as far as how many clicks and how much access people have to the information at a very quick pace which, to me, is how technology interacts with you is a piece of your motivation for leveraging it.

I think the other things that they really focused on this week in their announcements was their TeamRelate technology which is a personality profiling technology and tool they’ve now embedded, they [start 00:17:08] with an acquisition they made last year, completely into their entire system. That also includes, they’ve embedded it into their LifeWorks program and then connected LifeWorks which is their EAP and their challenges for wellness programs and their wellness program tools, they connected that to their own form of rewards and recognition technology called WorkAngel which is out of the UK.

They’re taking a stance of, if you’re going to be tying all of this together, you need to understand the personality better so that you can, I think, make some decisions about how this fits as a team from a motivation perspective. Do you think that gets any closer to what you’re talking about?

John Sumser:            Well, so what’s really exciting about the Ceridian move to integrate personality assessment into the flow of data is that it creates the opportunity for much improved communications. If I know that you are sensitive to communications that come, a change in the tone in my voice or some language choice that I make, and I can correct that, the odds of us having a better conversation are improved. I think what unnerves me a little bit is that people get very literal about this stuff. People get very, very literal about this stuff, like the stereotyping of sales people that I did…

Stacey Harris:            Yes.

John Sumser:            If you’re building a workforce and you’ve got the stuff in the data flow and then you go what percentage of our workflow are X and you start designing policies around that, you run the risk of losing all of the benefit of the system, potential benefit for improved communications because it’s still just, it’s a simple view of how human beings operate and I don’t meet very many simple human beings…

Stacey Harris:            Well…

John Sumser:            I mostly really complicated people.

Stacey Harris:            Very much so, yes. I’ve done a lot of, in my previous background, I did a lot of organizational design and organization development work which, often times, crossed over into doing disk profiles or Myers Briggs profile management and I was trained in both of those programs. [You study 00:20:04] the history of a lot of these personality programs is they start off as experiments, many cases at universities, as their audience base thing and then sort of expand from there over time with thousands and thousands of corporations adding data into the data set.

At the heart of these generally they’re meant primarily to help people communicate. Primarily what they’re generally designed for, now, I don’t know the exact details behind what, in the science behind TeamRelate but, once they start thinking about how people communicate, then they start thinking about how to build teams and then they sort of build off of that idea.

The number one thing that you saw in all of those programs when they were done manually, before technology was really involved in, and they were probably the last bastion of technology to really go there because I can remember just five years ago, looking at disk profiles online and they’re still being done in some of the most early stages of technology and transformation, what the challenge with all of that is, is that if you do take it too literally, you can take it in a very wrong direction as you said because people are complex.

There was a big focus on most of those programs is on developing massive amounts of coaches and trainers who can help people understand how to leverage that information, put this information right into a technology environment, there are a lot of risks that people don’t have those coaches and trainers around helping them think through what this information means.

John Sumser:            Right, right, right. Only speak in Swahili on Thursdays to Stacey.

Stacey Harris:            Exactly.

John Sumser:            Yes, right and really good relationships aren’t, they have some fortune cookie moments in them but they’re not about fortune cookies. They’re about complexity and nuance and the relationships that you really want to manage and understand and that this is our, the central creative relationships that make the business work. The stuff is not really thinking about that yet.

There’s some interesting work going. The people at E-Harmony are trying to take what they’ve learned about what personality intersection with long term relationships actually looks like and they’ve got deep research and lots of money. They’re coming to our world here shortly.

The science that we’re going to be developing is extraordinary. Just to bring this back to ground, that’s why the Workday creation of the venture fund is so interesting because it suggests that they understand how complicated the problem actually is.

Stacey Harris:            Well, I think it also suggests that, part of what I really like about what Ceridian’s doing and I think Workday is building off of this idea as well in their own way is that individual personal, even though that, we’re sort of in the age of the individual right now. There’s a lot of conversation this week about Millennials and how they’re changing the world and what people are expecting. I don’t think, it’s not so much Millennials, we’ve all had this conversation that everybody has some general focus of what they’re expecting these days.

The idea today is that everyone wants to be known as an individual. They want to give feedback, they want to get feedback, they want to be part of an eco-system, but as an individual. Part of that dialogue I think is actually just the beginning of stepping into the next piece which is what is your role as a team member.

The big data science and the big analysis and the big work I think that’s really going to move us to the next step isn’t as much understanding the individual as it is understanding the individual’s role in team. I say that very carefully of the fact that that doesn’t mean that there’s a right kind of person and a wrong kind of person in a team, but I do think that teams and understanding teams are the next big evolution of what HR can and could do for a corporation.

John Sumser:            That will be really interesting to see. That certainly, there’s been a faction in HR for its entire life who think that that’s what HR is supposed to be about. That’s actually, the weird thing about HR technology is that the learning and training technology is always seen as a separate arena. When you look at the big trade shows, they don’t put HR technology and learning and training technology in the same trade shows even.

Stacey Harris:            No.

John Sumser:            There’s that wing of the HR conversation who believe that education and team development are at the heart of what HR is supposed to be and then there’s the more transactional view. It would be cool if what happened over the next five years, emphasis on team development and that emphasis on education as the focal point of HR, it’d be nice if that had a little bit of a resurgence. It’s been missing.

Stacey Harris:            It’s definitely been missing. It’s been, I think, a, it’s an area where I think organizations have, right now anyways, aren’t quite sure where the right investments are [remain 00:25:59]. I think this is a time where it’s stepping back and trying to decided if the investment should be in individual development, in team development, in growth, in tactical training programs or in strategic training areas.

I think all of that has been a bit up in the air because if you’re focusing on all the things, the big data about HR and technology and personalities and all of that, in some cases, is more important than knowledge, then how do you marry those two worlds as far as thinking about what you need from a person and then, throw on top of that, the need for experience. I think…

John Sumser:            Sure.

Stacey Harris:            It’s going to be interesting…

John Sumser:            Sure.

Stacey Harris:            One of the things we started talking about, as maybe wrapping up the conversation today about is that, one of the things that’s interesting about what Workday is doing, is the idea that, by doing the investment the way they are doing, they are not involving themself in the creative process that happens with those small businesses and those small groups which really needs to happen outside of an architectural structure.

John Sumser:            Well, that’s, it’s a really great question because the way that Workday, Workday isn’t alone, but within our industry, Workday is the proponent of this, not having anything at the core, anything more than is absolutely necessarily at the core of the enterprise, is a new way of thinking about what an enterprise is. That hadn’t really dawned on me. That would be a great conversation to have.

It used to be the view that the organization had to be self-sustaining and the new view that Workday is putting forth, as are other companies, is that the organization just has to have more margin or more financial leverage than the rest of the system and being core capable at anything isn’t really important if you’ve figured out how to master the ownership of the eco-system.

Stacey Harris:            That, I think, is a great conversation maybe for the next week. I think definitely a little bit more than we can get into in the next two minutes there, John.

John Sumser:            No but, that’s actually a fascinating conversation to have and that’s, we’re on the hunt for what the conceptual models are for the next century and that’s not a bad place to look.

Stacey Harris:            I think that’d be a great place to start the conversation next week.

John Sumser:            As usual, interesting half hour of conversation. Thanks for spending the time this morning.

Stacey Harris:            Thank you, John. It’s been a pleasure as always and thanks to everyone for taking the time to listen to us.

John Sumser:            Yes so, you’ve been listen to HRTech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and Jon Sumser. We’ve had a lot of fun being here with you and we will see you same time next week [Closing music].

End transcript


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