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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 7AM Pacific – 10AM Eastern, or catch up on full episodes here.

HR Tech Weekly

Episode: 53
Air Date: January 14, 2016


This Week

This week John and Stacey discuss:

  • SmashFly Technologies Recruitment Marketing Platform provider raised $22 million led by Bessemer Venture Partners Link
  • Human Resource Executive Magazine Announces Inaugural Talent Acquisition Tech Conference Link
  • Unit4 announces integration with Slack Link
  • The Triumph of Email and its slow demise Link
  • Jellyvision launches Alex, an interactive cyber-advisor for benefits selections Link
  • Topics: #Recruiting #Communications #Benefits

About HR Tech Weekly

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 HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacy Harris and John Sumser. This is our 53rd show, and we are coming to you from beautiful Occidental, California. Where are you today, Stacy?

Stacey Harris:                        I’m home and I will be home for several weeks, which is a very nice thing in Raleigh, North Carolina. The weather’s beautiful, the sun is shining and it’s just a bit nippy. Perfect timing of the year to be catching up on all the news and everything.

John Sumser:                        That’s great. The people in Raleigh are going, “Who’s this stranger in town?”

Stacey Harris:                        Yes, the sunshine and the cold weather both combined. Yes, they are.

John Sumser:                        Do your children refer to you as Aunt Mommy?

Stacey Harris:                        Oh, for me being home? They’re [inaudible 00:01:05] no, no, no. No, I’m … My family is very happy to have me home, if for nothing no other reason the fact that I actually will cook a few dinners once in awhile.

John Sumser:                        Ah, a reprieve from Pizza.

Stacey Harris:                        Yes, exactly.

John Sumser:                        I’m glad you get to spend some time with them. You certainly travel more than almost anybody I know. [crosstalk 00:01:32]

Go ahead.

Stacey Harris:                        Oh, I was just going to stay even though we’re not traveling, there’s still a lot of stuff going on in the news. Do you want to talk a little bit about the things in the mailbag this morning?

John Sumser:                        Yes, yes. We’ll call this segment of the show, ‘What’s in Stacey’s Mailbag?’

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah, the fun, fun stuff. It’s actually been kind of a busy week, as far as news goes for HR technology and the spaces as a whole. Smashfly made a lot of noise this week by getting $22 million dollars in series B funding. We can talk a little bit about that. You probably know a little bit more about Smashfly, know Chris [inaudible 00:02:09] very well and a couple other people in there, but I have not spent a good deal of time with that organization.

We also have sort of the heating up of the talent acquisition space in general, I think is happening, as we’re seeing more and more organizations sort of think of it as a separate piece. For the moment, anyway, so Human Resource Executive magazine announced its talent acquisition tech conference, which is part of a spin-off of what they’re doing with HR tech, as well as I think another recruiting event that they picked up. We could talk a little bit about that today, what that might look like for the industry.

As far as other technology news goes, a couple small things. Unit Four announced its integration with Slack. I thought that might be fun to talk about, because I’ve been hearing more and more about what Slack is going to be doing for the business as a whole, and it’s becoming sort of the next thing outside of email.

Then, there’s some interesting information about People Matter and a new CEO, as well as [inaudible 00:03:11] and some new tools that they launched around benefits communications.

I think it’s a busy, busy week from a news perspective.

John Sumser:                        Fantastic. Let’s start at the top. The folks at Smashfly, who have been building a business for years and years, are finally getting their due and taking on significant investment in order to do growth. Smashfly … What Smashfly does is gives you all the tools necessary to do a comprehensive marketing campaign as the way to do recruiting. They have everything from Grip Campaign management and content management related things, to the ability to integrate talent communities you might call them, email lists other people might call them, as a way of filling the funnel at the top and then continuing to market to people all the way through the hiring process.

It’s an exciting thing that they’re taking on this money to do so some serious growth.

Stacey Harris:                        They are not a ATS, right John? I mean, my understanding it they’re sort of all the things that’s happening in the recruiting market that happened before the ATS these days. Is that correct in that statement?

John Sumser:                        I think it’s probably more comprehensive than that. They are a recruitment marketing platform and the fact that somebody crosses the line between being interested and being considered a candidate, which is when you put them in the ATS I believe, is a trip point in their funnel. I believe they don’t stop at the ATS. I believe that what they do is treat [inaudible 00:05:15] as a system of a record.

Stacey Harris:                        Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Sumser:                        When you become official enough to [inaudible 00:05:24] inclusion in the regulatory statistics, you go into the ATS and Smashfly provides much of the remaining work of recruiting, which is all about persuasion and identification of people.

Stacey Harris:                        It’s a space that’s definitely growing the fastest right now, because the applicant tracking system seem to be wavering as to how many people [inaudible 00:05:51] picking them up or not adopting them over time. They don’t seem to be having huge growth.

John Sumser:                        I think I just lost you, Stacey. They are having very interesting growth. Boy, I hope you’re listening as well, the recruiting space is having pretty extraordinary growth right now because the unemployment rate is low. As the unemployment rate falls, people compete more heavily for talent.

The other piece of news that’s in here is that Human Resource Executive magazine announced its inaugural talent acquisition tech conference. It’ll be held November 14th to 16th, in Austin, Texas this year, and includes what used to be the recruiting trends conference. It’s a new, significant HR technology conference focused on talent acquisition, brought to you by the people who do the HR Tech conference that everybody knows and loves. [inaudible 00:07:09]

From my perspective, what’s going on is that the explosion of … There you are, Stacey. The explosion of –

Stacey Harris:                        [crosstalk 00:07:28]

John Sumser:                        The explosion of … Boy, I’m repeating my explosion [inaudible 00:07:34] of activity in recruiting, is spawning all of these investments and new conferences. The question is, ‘What happens there when the economy turns south?’ You know, from my perspective, that’s going to happen sooner rather than later. We’re at the end of a long run of economic [inaudible 00:08:00] and the correction is normal, and to be predicted in the relatively short-term. Whether or not talent acquisition retains its high-point, retains its gloss in the face of an economic downturn, is something that we’re going to take a look at over the coming 18 months I think.

Stacey Harris:                        So John, even if the economy turns down slightly a bit and the hiring sort of normalizes off a little bit, do you think that we have changed the dynamics of recruiting enough so … I mean, you take into consideration this new HR Tech conference that around recruiting, right, that they’re putting together, have we changed it enough now that even if things slow down, we’re not gonna go back to the old, ‘Give me a resume’, type of recruiting? Do you think that at this point in time now, we’re going to continue forward with this sort of social campaign marketing style of recruiting going forward, even after that?

John Sumser:                        I think that the recruiting is a pendulum, right? It’s like if this were an engineering problem, it would be a valve that could go either way and you switch it in the system depending on what’s going on externally.

When there is a significant abundance of talent, you don’t have to do [inaudible 00:09:29] as a way of staffing your organization. When there’s a shortage of talent, you have to do [inaudible 00:09:35], and so the idea that people are going to continue to spend additional resources on something they could do less expensively is kind of counter-intuitive. [crosstalk 00:09:51]

Stacey Harris:                        I think –

John Sumser:                        Go ahead.

Stacey Harris:                        I agree with you on some [inaudible 00:09:56]. I guess I’m wondering a little bit more about the fact that … You know, and I had this conversation with my young son last night. He’s getting ready to start looking for his first job. He’s 16 years old. The idea of putting in a resume seems so foreign to most of the 16 to 25 year olds right now. I think that’s the challenge that we might face.

John Sumser:                        I think, generally speaking, 16 to 25 year olds don’t have real job. There are a few who have gone to really extraordinary schools and come out in a company doing a job, but what’s available to young people in the age bracket that you’re referring never require a resume.

If, however, you’re going into a hiring process in any company that has more than two or three hundred employees, and you’re looking for a job that requires you have information [inaudible 00:11:00] sort of credentials, they’re only a couple of ways to really express that. If you do it online, then the difference between LinkedIn and a resume eludes me. You can put more stuff in there and you can have recommendations built in and you can promote it. You can use it to apply, so it has more functionality than a standard resume, but it’s still a resume. It’s still a history of what’s going on in my world.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah.

John Sumser:                        I don’t know how you get around that. Now, resumes don’t do very good for the hiring manager, but I don’t see an alternative. I don’t think people get jobs because they have a Facebook profile and an employer looks at the Facebook profile and says, “Yeah, I want to hire this person.”

People do get jobs by networking socially, but that’s not anything new and you have to have something like a resume to do it. That would be my push back.

Stacey Harris:                        Okay, well and I guess it sort of flows into the next story, which is the one about Unit44. Now, Unit4 is a European based ERP and they’re fairly large in the European market. They have 4000 employees worldwide. They’re a $530 million dollar organization, so even though we don’t hear about them a lot here, they’re fairly large in the European market. They’re trying to get into the HR space, so much like an Epicor or some of the other ones, where they’re sort of mid-market ERP small business ERP’s. They’re building out an HR component, what they’re doing, but I thought what was interesting is that they put out an article today … Actually, two days ago, talking about their integration with Slack, and Slack being the new communication tool that, at least they see, sort of replacing long-term emails and replacing the traditional communication method [inaudible 00:13:08] organization.

I was just wondering, sort of that whole same shift, is this just another way to do the same thing? Like, we’re talking about with LinkedIn and resumes? Or, is there a real shift in how people are communicating and how they might be looking for jobs, and how they might be communicating inside a company?

Have you had any exposure to Slack? I’ve read about it, seen it, but I haven’t used it yet. I know a lot of other organizations have been working with it. Does Slack seem like a tool that’ going to replace email in the way everybody’s talking about?

John Sumser:                        I don’t know. I don’t know how you’d call it. The problem is that when you get in a large organization, a large contemporary organization today, there’s so much communication by so many people who are all included on the CC list through the email, that –

Stacey Harris:                        Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Sumser:                        – That people view their jobs as answering email, and so the communication about the job has become the job, and that’s crazy. That’s crazy! Although, you know there’s a question out there about what do people do when all the jobs have been automated? The answer might be email.

Stacey Harris:                        [crosstalk 00:14:29]. I can kind of agree. I spent three hours yesterday trying to get back to emails, so anybody who got an email from me saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get back to you from your December email”, that was because of this.

John Sumser:                        What Slack does, is it allows you to just, you know, sort of lean over the cubicle wall and talk to your coworker without all of the overhead of email. It’s an additional tool. I’m not sure that it is a replacement tool.

Stacey Harris:                        [inaudible 00:15:03] That might be sort of the next conversation about, you know, sort of we were talking about … Me and you were talking earlier this week about automation and analytics, and what people are sort of trying to do with analytics. Analytics, in some sense, assumes that we are doing work and making decisions the same way we did five years ago, because it has to have data to make those decisions based off of. If work is changing, and how we do work is changing, and Slack and other tools are part of the new way of doing work, does that change the reality of the behaviors that we might have inside companies?

I think what you’re saying is it doesn’t, because it’s still communication, right?

John Sumser:                        Well, when you have … Increasingly, organizations are built of people who don’t work together, and so what we have to do is find communication tools that allow for individual communication without the entire group having to be involved. I think that’s what companies like Slack are really trying to get at. It’s more like a replacement for being in the same place than it is a replacement for email.

My guess will be that those systems … It will be like what’s going on with the ATS and recruiting. The ATS is becoming a sort of a system of record, and when things need to be recorded and monitored they’re jotted down inside of the ATS. Everybody’s using tools that do other things better and so the ATS isn’t a sexy thing any longer but it’s a necessary component of getting the work done. You can’t run an organization that’s large enough to come under the EOC scrutiny without an ATS. We can’t do it. None of the replacement technologies come close to solving that problem, and while that’s not sexy, I believe it’s pretty profitable.

Stacey Harris:                        I think what the … The other line of that, I think that’s sort of interesting that you’re talking about which is that there’s an … Sort of like we’re building technology on top of the really important technology, the systems of records, right? We’re building tools on top of those, really, is what you’re talking about, which automate more levels of what we were doing previously.

What’s interesting, I think, about the Slack conversation and email … I thought this was really great, an article that I pulled up from … I think it was the Atlantic Times or one of the regional papers, but there was a reporter talking about the fact that part of the interesting thing about email and the internet is there’s no one who ‘owns’ it. At most, you maybe can say sort of Microsoft might’ve, you know, sort of owned it under Outlook. But really, honestly, email doesn’t have someone who was the face of email in the day, right? Unlike Slack and Facebook; all of their owners were sort of tied to Zuckerberg and whoever else started each of them.

The question I think is this idea of: Is their sort of email a fundamental tool that will always sit? This idea of communication across the internet and network. Underneath something, you need that, and then Slack is, again, a tool on top of it. I think that’s kind of what you’re saying as well, on the recruiting side, correct?

John Sumser:                        That’s right, that’s right. Communications are not simple single-thread problems. Communications involve human beings who need to interact on a variety of levels, and so that’s true all over the board. I mean, this really clearly resembles a workday approach to architecture, which is that there’s an underlying platform and the actual functions or applications sit on top of that platform and use tools that are inside of the platform. Then, there’s data integration on top of that.

Stacey Harris:                        Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Sumser:                        Every setting, I imagine, is going to echo that structure, which is that you’ve got a core, you’ve got ways of actually getting things done, and then you’ve got the data that comes out of it that you have to manage.

Stacey Harris:                        I think that’s going to be sort of this whole underlying theory about the growth of communication tools, and the growth of recruiting technologies. The growth [inaudible 00:19:43] any of the stuff right now that’s sitting the space in the HR check space is … I was writing up a piece yesterday about this, which is that we’re filling in the brick wall. We’ve got all the bricks now. We’ve got the big pieces. Everything else is sort of filling in the niches, filling in the holes that those big bricks didn’t meet or address previously, right?

John Sumser:                        Right.

Stacey Harris:                        It’s interesting … This is a great example that is the Jellyvision example. Jellyvision is a benefits communication tool. It really started out as a e-learning company, I think, back in the early days. It’s launching an interactive cyber-advisor for benefits selection. I’ve been talking to a lot of organizations about benefits recently, and this issue about benefits selection and advising which has fallen on the shoulders predominately of HR specialists or benefits advising groups that an HR specialist might bring into the organization. Now, we’re lending to automated technology to do that. These are the type of communication tools I think that are being bought right now that are filling in gaps that previously there was no technology for.

Have you ever experienced anything with the Jellyvision technology? Do you think that this is something new, or is it just, again, the next step in what we’re evolving from?

John Sumser:                        I love the people at Jellyvision, but this is the third year that I’m aware of that they’ve introduced a new, brand-new off the shelf ‘nobody’s ever seen it before’ [inaudible 00:21:10] technology.

Stacey Harris:                        Okay.

John Sumser:                        [crosstalk 00:21:14]

Stacey Harris:                        Hey, they got a little bit of news out of it, right?

John Sumser:                        They got us to pay attention. I mean, what they do … To me, the great thing about Jellyvision is they come to these horribly dry settings with a sense of humor.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah.

John Sumser:                        They’re real … I would describe their founder as a stand up comic, and he’s a great witty fellow. What they’ve done is that any communication that’s scary, largely because it involves money and it’s boring, can be improved with a tool that makes it light and makes it easy to understand.

I’ve seen Jellyvision. They’re good people. I’ve seen Jellyvision as sort of the [inaudible 00:22:10] wave of bringing simplification and visualization into the nitty-gritty parts of human resources communication.

I just did a bunch of research about the evolution of benefits. The benefits world has gotten so complex that when people have to make choices, it’s virtually impossible and the law suggests that you have to give everybody something, like the same information about everything, even though some benefits appeal to some people and not to others in order to make sure that you’re not creating a dis-fair impact. What you have to do is communicate the stuff to everybody. The International Association of Benefits Providers recognizes 90 different kinds of benefits.

Stacey Harris:                        Wow.

John Sumser:                        When you’re asking people … And that doesn’t include workplace flexibility. It doesn’t include a whole bunch of things that people tend to see as benefits. When you’re tying to explain to people how to understand their benefits and what to do with them, you need help and Jellyvision is good at doing that.

Stacey Harris:                        In my experience on the learning side … Taking compliance based, regulation based content and sort of making sure you’re delivering it in a valid fashion but with a sense of what we call a reality check, is oftentimes when the humor comes in, right? There’s a lot of examples of safety videos that had humor brought into them and that really made a difference, because what the humor does is it brings the conversation down to a level that the … Not only are they paying attention to it but it also gives them, as we say in the learning space, a little bit of a reality check on what this dangerous, or this decisions, impact will have in your next step in your career.

I think what’s interesting about this particular … At least the explanation of what Alex does and I thought was sort of a conversation I’ve been having with a lot of people, is that Alex supposedly is making decisions based off of information that you’re giving the technology, right? You’ve got three kids, you’ve got a parent maybe that you’re taking care of, you’ve got dental needs or other needs, so does that get in the way then, a little bit, of what you were just talking about which is giving the communications to everybody? Or, is it because you made the selections that now you have given yourself the ‘OK’ that you can only see pieces and parts of the information?

John Sumser:                        I think their view would be that by choosing you have helped solve the problem. I’m not sure that that sells all the way, but it’s certainly a good view and it’s a very difficult communications problem, so people are going to try all sorts of things.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah. It will be interesting to see, because I think we’re going to see more and more of these decision making tools. This is a conversation I had with Ronda [inaudible 00:25:36], who runs sort of a firm that supports not only a lot of brokers, but helps organizations make decisions about their benefits technology. We had this very interesting conversation yesterday about the fact that the HR community making these buying decisions not only needs help around the Jellyvision’s, but they need help making decisions about what they should be selecting, too, right?

They’re struggling to make their own decisions once they do finally pick the packages or the appropriate tools that work for their organization, and they’ve got to communicate it appropriately. Benefits are becoming a bigger, a much larger, piece of the HR conversation these days than they have been. Not just because of ACA compliance requirements, but I think it’s because in general, there’s just a wider mix of benefit options in the market today, both here in the States and internationally. I think also because the end-users, the employees, are expecting differentiated benefits much more so than they had previously.

Do you think that expecting differentiated benefits might go away a little bit to you if the economy turns and the hiring reduces a little bit?

John Sumser:                        Let me make sure that we’re clear about what we’re talking about. When you say ‘differentiated benefits’, what you mean, I believe, is in 1950 a company could offer one set of benefits and that was good enough and you took it or you left it, but you got the same benefits as everybody else. The contemporary personalization, the view of benefits, is that the best system provides an individually tailored benefits program for each employee. I don’t think that goes away, and that’s largely driven by the fact that healthcare is no longer a differentiator. It used to be that having a healthcare program was a real retention tool, as well as being a benefit, and when the ACA was initiated and everybody got healthcare, it stopped being that important.

What’s happened is that companies have had to compete on differentiating benefits and the whole thing is moving towards what looks like an administrative nightmare. That is one-to-one benefits programs. I don’t think that changes, although will certainly slow down if there’s an economic downturn. That’s what the world looks like now. Everybody gets a trophy and everybody gets a tailored benefits package.

Stacey Harris:                        The hope is that, I think on the long run, that the tailored benefits package will lead to tailored health and tailored wellness, and tailored improvement of life, right? You know, your approach to things that are important to you, right? That’s the goal I think organizations are trying to achieve.

Now, whether that’s actually coming to [inaudible 00:28:40] for organizations, I don’t know. I think that’s the interesting research that has yet to be done, is that all this tailoring, is it leading to people sort of feeling like they have more control over the things that are important to them? I’m not sure anythings really been done in that particular space, but it’s definitely on a healthcare side, we’re seeing organizations look towards more individualized healthcare at the very least. It will be interesting to see where some of the fitness programs and the other things fall into that space as well.

John Sumser:                        It’s actually a surprisingly exciting area and I think we’re going to get a chance to talk about it a lot this coming year.

We have ripped through our half an hour. It’s been, as usual, a great conversation Stacey. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this and thanks everybody for listening.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah, thanks everyone. Have a good week.

John Sumser:                        All right, so we will see you back here next week, same time, same place. Thanks again Stacey. This has been HR Tech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Have a great afternoon. Bye-bye.

End Transcript

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