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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: 42
Air Date: October 15, 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 HRTech Weekly: One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. You may be able to tell, I’m not Stacey Harris but how are you, Stacey?

Stacey Harris:                        I’m good John. Good. How are you doing? Hopefully, it’s a bit nicer weather now that you guys are getting into … Is it fall or summer? I never understand the seasons in California but it’s …

John Sumser:                        We call them the same thing, they just look different. Winter is the green time and summer is the brown time. Spring is the transition from green to brown and fall is the transition from brown to green because the rainy season … Hoping we get one. The rainy season starts somewhere in the next couple of weeks and if we’re lucky this year, it will rain for six months.

Stacey Harris:                        That is the hope, yeah. [inaudible 00:01:15] on that one for you guys.

John Sumser:                        I live right in the middle of the woods and so there are few people who are as interested in seeing the trees get a little greener than me.

Stacey Harris:                        Yes, understand completely. Well, if I could I’d send you some nice rain and green weather from here in North Carolina but we’ve got a beautiful sunshine today and finally be … Clouds have passed from last week. We were dealing with the hurricane that was passing through in the previous week and so it just had stayed gray and cloudy for almost three full weeks in North Carolina which is very unheard of and so today we are back to sunshine so it’s a good way to start the day today.

John Sumser:                        Yay. What is in your mail bag today? I feel like Ed McMahon to your Johnny Carson.

Stacey Harris:                        Well, it’s been a very [full mail bag 00:02:11]. Exactly, yes. Heading into what is the absolute busiest and probably most exciting time each year if we’re honest because we enjoy getting a chance to not only see everyone in the next few weeks at the two biggest conferences, at least, here in the US and in Europe that are coming up but we also get a chance to see all of the new exciting things people are launching for this big trade show season. If you are one of the few people who follow HR tech and [ontoware 00:02:53], there is a big conference next week in Las Vegas called the 18th Annual HR Technology Conference and that will have, I think, over 300 organizations in it is what, at least, the number that I’ve got right now. I don’t know, do you know what the numbers were last year for the attendees, John? You might know better than I do.

John Sumser:                        I sort of bookmark a number of 7,500 all in which includes the people who just go to the expo and the people who are in the vendors. It’s a number like that.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah, it’s a huge, huge event there in Las Vegas. The other event that’s coming up the following week then is HR Tech World Congress which is being held in Paris. That’s October 27th and 28th which is right smack dab in the middle of what is also another big event for the technologist in general which is Oracle Open World in San Francisco. It’s a big event week depending on what side of the picture of HR technology that you’re looking at. HR Tech Congress has been growing considerably in the last couple of years as well so I think they’re up to like … I think last year was like 3,000 or 4,000 attendees as well, correct?

John Sumser:                        Yeah, it’ll be 5,000 this year I’m sure.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah, yeah. In my bag is all the announcements as well as an analysis of sort of those announcements for this upcoming week of HR tech excitement. We also have an interesting follow-up story on Amazon and what they’re doing … Maybe not as a response to the early August New York Times article but maybe as part of that conversation and then there’s some interesting conversations today about what’s happening with the new Securities and Exchange Commission requirement around CEO pay ratio sharing for organizations and sort of where people are at, getting ready for that 2017 deadline for sharing that information. Then, probably … Not really HR tech specific but the only other thing that I thought was … It was well worth having a conversation because I think it talks about the bigger questions that we’re all dealing with which is Dell buying EMC which is for $67 billion. The largest software or technology purchase, I think they said ever, that’s the word that was used over the news. Ever.

John Sumser:                        Ever, ever.

Stacey Harris:                        Yes.

John Sumser:                        Ever.

Stacey Harris:                        Yes. That’s what’s in my bag today. Where do you want to start, John?

John Sumser:                        Well, so let’s talk about the announcements. You did a really great analysis of all the announcements that are out there to generate a Word Cloud. It’s very clear what the top items are so I’m going to read them to you. The most often repeated word in all of the announcements for new products that are out there this week is candidate followed by talent, followed by platform, followed by analytics, then learning, assessment and payroll. That’s a pretty interesting picture of what the market thinks is important right now. How do you make sense out of that?

Stacey Harris:                        When I first started doing this last night and it was late. I was trying to figure out a way to make sense of all the different news articles and things that people were sending me. I said, “Okay, well let’s put my researcher hat on.” [inaudible 00:06:54] a WordArt tool and then I also then did a word count on all the words that came up at the largest level in the WordArt and that’s how I went about doing this. It wasn’t surprising to see candidates at the top. I mean, we’ve been talking about the recruiting industry just booming in the last, really probably, year now, maybe year and a half almost but I was surprised by the fact of how much bigger it was versus things like payroll and learning. We know that those don’t get as much attention oftentimes and they’re not the sexiest of things when you’re talking about HR technology but they usually are getting some equal time as far as conversation at some of these events. That’s definitely not the case. It was more of the difference, I think but the biggest for me is how much the conversation is focused on candidates and assessments and analytics right now. It’s just off the chart.

John Sumser:                        This is, I think, there’s been a very quiet maneuver at LRP which is the company that owns the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas. Five years ago, this chart could not have looked like this because there was not a recruiting presence at the show. The biggest weakness in the design of the show, there were two. The two biggest weaknesses in the bazaar and of the show was the absence of the recruiting focus and the absence of the learning focus. You can actually see in these numbers that the learning focus is still coming along but that they have … What they have accomplished in this cycle, getting a recruiting presence into the HR technology show. That’s a really big deal. That changes the face of the industry. Part of what you’re seeing is the good work of the people at LRP to have a better representation of the actual spend in HR technology and you’re seeing the fact that recruiting always is a strong performer when the unemployment rate is low.

Stacey Harris:                        I was just going to ask, I mean, is that mean that when the unemployment rate start going down or going up, I guess is the better way to put it, that we will then start to see the focus on recruiting software slacken? Will we start to see … Because the phase at which we’re doing recruiting now, I don’t think can be sustained if the market … At least it doesn’t feel like it can be.

John Sumser:                        Yeah, but the spend on recruiting is directly related to the availability of talent. If people are in a line out in front of your office to come in and apply for a job, you don’t spend money on recruiting. Why would you, right? You spend money on recruiting when there isn’t a line out in front of your house.

Stacey Harris:                        Part of the other one that’s really big here though, or at least in the middle of the pack, is assessments on some level. I don’t know if this is a difference because I won’t say that I paid that much attention five years ago to what was happening in recruiting or before the recession what was happening in recruiting from a technology perspective. It feels like today, there’s a big focus on that we have a lot of candidates, we can’t find the right candidates. Is that a different conversation do you think than what it would have been before the recession?

John Sumser:                        The biggest trouble with recruiting, the single largest problem with recruiting however you do it is that a year after you hire somebody, bosses regret the decision about 50% of the time, right? It’s actually true across the board, in all settings, that hiring managers regret their hiring decisions at a rate of 50% a year later. Now, that probably is an expression of the fact that jobs aren’t really fixed things and when somebody comes and takes a job, they impact what the job is by the nature of the fact that [inaudible 00:11:51] somebody else. The job is never what’s advertised. The job is actually what happens when the person who is hired comes and starts to do it. You know all about that because [inaudible 00:12:02].

It’s tempting to look around and find blatant solutions there and as the unemployment rate edges down, every hiring decision becomes more important. People get very concerned about the quality of the hiring decision. At this point in the economic cycle, when there’s a huge abundance of people and growth is slow, you’ve got all the time in the world to make the decision and an assessment is less important. When things are going fast like it is now, there’s enough risk in hiring decisions so that people will want to address the risk but the risk goes away when the unemployment rate goes up. Does that make sense?

Stacey Harris:                        The risk factor, I think it … Yeah, it makes complete sense. I think the risk factor is a big issue in a lot of the organizational decisions these days, right? The fear of being wrong is heavier than it has ever been or, at least, here in the I think in the HR industry. It feels like it is.

John Sumser:                        It’s not heavier than it’s ever been, it’s what happens at the peak of the economic cycle. You have to make decisions fast, you don’t have a … With really great decisions, you never have enough information so you’re out there on your own. No matter how good the analytics are, you still have to use your gut to get the decisions right and people get scared when it’s like that but it’s a function of the speed. It’s like the decision velocity, almost inside of organizations, gets very high as the unemployment rate goes down and growth records go up.

Stacey Harris:                        What it really means is it’s a really good time, at least in the HR space and really probably all over the world, to be in any kind of analytics platformer tool because [crosstalk 00:14:07].

John Sumser:                        Holy moley.

Stacey Harris:                        Feeling comfortable, right?

John Sumser:                        Yeah. This is the right time to be doing all sorts of things that involve helping the leadership team make better decisions. It’s a really good time for that.

Stacey Harris:                        One of the things I pulled out of the … All the different articles and all of the different things were the vendor announcements that caught my eye the most, right? There’s just a lot of announcements, I mean, I’m getting probably an inbox of 20 and 30 different announcements coming at us almost on a daily basis now.

John Sumser:                        Yeah, I can’t make any sense of it [crosstalk 00:14:48].

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah but I got a couple and I think it leads to what we were just talking about. One of them is Skillsoft and Sum Total. Skillsoft and Sum Total, it’s been a bit of a rough year for them because Skillsoft purchased Sum Total which was … If not the largest learning vendor at that point in time when they purchased them and one of the largest and so they’ve got the largest learning content provider as well as its LMS if you’re counting all the content tools that they offer, LMS and the largest long-term LMS at this stage with some talent management elements to it. Those two organizations merged last year. It’s been a bit of a rocky road in their merging. They are launching and I think this is a little bit under the covers because I haven’t heard much more than just their announcement about this. Launching what they’re calling a … Part of a talent expansion suite enabling a self-developing organization. I hadn’t heard that word yet. Self-developing organization. In a fast paced, decision making requirements that we’re talking about, can you have a self-developing organization? That will be an interesting one to watch. Go ahead, I was just … I hope you don’t want to talk about each of these because there’s like six of them.

John Sumser:                        Why don’t go through them but what I wanted to be sure to notice is self-developing organization exactly describes the intent of the work day learning management system that they’ve talked about this week.

Stacey Harris:                        [crosstalk 00:16:28].

John Sumser:                        It’s exactly that. This is a good buzzword.

Stacey Harris:                        I think we’re going to hear it a lot more. Equifax is throwing a state compliance onboarding solution. Again, managing that risk at a state by state level but I don’t think it’s [exciting 00:16:47].

John Sumser:                        That’s good. It’s not exciting but it’s … If you run an HR Department and you have work with 5,000 people, this is your life.

Stacey Harris:                        It’s huge, exactly. As I just said, this may not be the sexiest thing in HR but this could, you know, a bit of a game changer for many of the organizations who are at that smaller end who has to deal with state by state compliance out from onboarding. Infor also announced an interesting one and I don’t know if you’ve seen this one already, John. It’s looks they’re going to try and get back into the game with a Cloud solution. Not that they haven’t been there, you know, Infor Lawson and as a talent management suite has a pretty big role in the market and has been one of the longest standing industry specific tools in the market when it comes to healthcare. They are launching Infor CloudSuite, Human Capital Management CloudSuite. I think that’s what it’s that supposed to be from reading the article. They’re saying it’s a complete Cloud-based solution. They were one of the last few organizations that kind of … We can still do on premise. They’re now rolling out their CloudSuite. Does this one … I’m not sure, have you ever heard about this one before?

John Sumser:                        I hadn’t heard about it but I can imagine that they’re offering payroll. This type of year, evaluating marketing [claims 00:18:13] becomes a sport.

Stacey Harris:                        Yes it is. It does, yes but what does that really mean? That’s our job. That’s what we fit into it at most of these events once you really get down to it.

John Sumser:                        Yeah, this is the analysis part. Complete is a pretty lofty claim.

Stacey Harris:                        Yes, exactly but it’ll be interesting to see. I’m actually excited to see them make that move at this point in time. Towers Watson. They just recently divested their work day practice and their HR strategy work that went around that. They were focusing on their products. Remember? That was the … We had talked about that probably about two months ago and so now, they’re coming out with their HR analytics software. I’m very intrigued to see. They’ve got other things … We’ve seen their products previously. It was the first time that I’ve kind of said they’re marrying with the word software with it. This is, I think, their big push into doing that so that’ll be interesting to see where that heads.

John Sumser:                        Those three companies are all … Towers Watson, [inaudible 00:19:24], Mercer are all toying with the idea of becoming technical companies.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah, yeah. I think some are making a bigger statement of it than others and I think Towers Watson is one of them. It’ll be interesting to watch what they’re doing. Vestrics kind of the same model that they were consulting firms and is now sort of shifting. Now, they’re also rolling out Vision 2.0 which is their what if HR analytic scenario. I’m interested in seeing it because, again, their marketing speak and their announcement was we can give you analytics on all your what if question basically. It’s sort of what they were saying and I thought that was an intriguing conversation because all the what if conversations that HR is dealing with oftentimes have very little to do with HR data, it has a lot more to do with business data, right?

John Sumser:                        Right. I actually like to see that one because the things that you really want to test are pretty big what ifs. The problem with all predictive analytics is you can only get a future that looks exactly like the past. Everybody knows, the future is never like the past and so, the problem with predictive analytics, in general, is that it doesn’t do a good job of forecasting what’s actually going to happen.

Stacey Harris:                        I think that the historical component versus am I looking at data that is not historical but actually should be part of my what if scenarios which is market trends, sizing issues, economy, it’s all that stuff, right? One of the startups is this company called Wanted Analytics. I’m not sure how startup they are but I think they’re at least in that mode. They said they’re going to do a trend line that gives access to four years of historical data that quickly identifies demand for positions by industry, competitor, talent, skill, et cetera. Have you seen this one in analytics previously and is that … ?

John Sumser:                        Wanted Analytics is not really a startup. They’re seven or eight years old. It’s a New York City data play. I believe and I could have this wrong but I’d almost swear that I saw that they were purchased by the Corporate Executive Board.

Stacey Harris:                        It didn’t say that in the announcement.

John Sumser:                        No, no. I saw the announcement and that’s what I was looking for in the announcement but they have never been able to get traction because the data is so complex that it’s hard to tell how to use it, at which level of the organization so they really can tell you, for a given job what’s the history of demand for that job in a zip code range and that’s really powerful information. It’s what the Conference Board tried to do all of those years with its data and they really can do it with the data but knowing what the demand was last year, it doesn’t really help you figure out what to do next year. What to do next year has this major calculation of, obviously, the economy going up or down and unless that’s what happened last year, you can’t forecast it.

Stacey Harris:                        This is, I think, the essence of HR analytics on some sense which is how much of the history versus how much of the future do you have to put into that algorithm to make it make sense. That is going to be the question in all of this because no marketing forecast in any retail environment I ever worked in just looked at historical data. They’d be out of business within a year or two, right? They had to look at spending trends and insights into what was happening and where the Superbowl is going to be at that year and all of those type of things to make some of their buying decisions. I think you’re going to see the same thing start to happen in HR analytics. The only other two items that I pulled out and I should know as I’m calling these out, that there were 78 new product announcements. At least that’s the final number, I’m not sure if there’s more than that but 78 new product announcements at least that I had so far.

This is just a handful of the ones that I picked up that sort of peaked my interest. Two of the startup pavilions caught my interest this year. One is called Life Guides. Their direct language is a company controlled content management system with CrowdSource questions and machine learning to analyze themes and sentiments. You couldn’t put more geek speak in there if you wanted to.

John Sumser:                        Here is what that means I think, here is how I would understand that. Do you know what Quora is? Quora is a well attended website where people in the technical industry ask and answer each other’s questions. It’s great. It’s really interesting combination of actual insight into technology and economics and business practice modified by the flavor of the competition in Silicon Valley. It’s a really useful way for the industry to talk to itself, that industry being Silicon Valley. This is a really interesting way for the company to talk to itself and then the idea that you can … That what you do to measure engagement is start a conversation in the company and then mention the conversation. That’s quite marvelous. I don’t know that you could pull it off but it’s a really interesting idea. That’s another way …

Stacey Harris:                        Well, content management systems … Yeah.

John Sumser:                        Go ahead.

Stacey Harris:                        It’s an intriguing idea. Content management systems has not had a good track record of sort of taking off outside of compliance areas. If they could do this, you know, it would be interesting to see what it’ll be, right?

John Sumser:                        This is a more real-time version. There have been companies who have promised to be able to examine e-mail and arrive with the same sort of conclusions and nobody buys them because of the privacy implications. This is a way of … At least looking at the public face of the conversation without interrupting with privacy stuff.

Stacey Harris:                        I think similarly the other one that caught my attention from the startup pavilion was Talentsity which is spelled with an S. It’s a non-survey, real-time engagement analytics solution. I was intrigued by the idea that they’ve specifically called out a non-survey, real-time engagement analytic solution. Last week I was at the Mercer event and one of the big conversations is performance management and the idea of dropping all of your performance management ratings and the biggest question from the group in doing that is if I don’t have performance management ratings, how do I get some data about what’s happening in my company, right? A non-survey analytic, it’s still interesting.

John Sumser:                        I don’t know, do you understand how metadata works in cellphone monitoring? It’s against the last to monitor the actual conversation but it’s not against the law to monitor who it was from, who it was to, what cell tower, where was the power [inaudible 00:27:35], all that soft of stuff you can monitor freely. The government can monitor it freely and cellphone records. There’s a big, big movement to understand that metadata because it turns out that you don’t really need to know what somebody said, what you need to know is that they have a conversation. You can see that without digging deeper. That’s a way that you could do this. You could say that the health of your organization depends on your interaction patterns and so, you just need a way to examine and quantify the interaction patterns. There are between badge information and metadata and e-mail and sort of CC lists on large distribution [inaudible 00:28:29]. You get a pretty interesting idea of what’s happening inside of an organization by watching that overtime. There’s probably a way to equate that directly with engagement. Engagement with more interactions, right? [crosstalk 00:28:51].

Stacey Harris:                        Yes, exactly. That’s the other question. Those are my …

John Sumser:                        [crosstalk 00:28:56]. That’s great.

Stacey Harris:                        I don’t know if you … Have you see any other announcements that I didn’t pull out of the various e-mails that we’ve all been getting?

John Sumser:                        I think you got the best ones. I also think that we have exhausted our half hour again.

Stacey Harris:                        We have and we didn’t even get to talk about Amazon so I would just recommend maybe taking a look at some of the articles that have come out about it and there’s a couple of other topics that we will probably have to hit, I guess, in the next three weeks because next week, we’ll be at HR Tech. We’ll be doing our call that Thursday morning right after HR Tech and then the following week, I think, some of us will be in Paris so it’s going to be busy [crosstalk 00:29:45].

John Sumser:                        I’m not going to Paris. Are you going to Paris?

Stacey Harris:                        I’m not but that is only because I have some personal issues that I can’t get out of and … Yeah, but I do think … I think both events are great events.

John Sumser:                        Yes, I do too. Okay Stacey, thanks. It’s been crazy productive as usual and thanks everybody for tuning in and listening today.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah. Thanks everyone. We’ll be looking forward to … Yeah, next week.

John Sumser:                        Yeah. Alrighty, bye-bye now.

End transcript


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