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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 with transcriptions here.

HR Tech Weekly

Episode: 56
Air Date: February 4, 2016


This Week

This week John and Stacey discuss:

  • Franklin tech firm Rustici sells to U.K. company for $26 million Link
  • Want a job? These two industries are desperate for talent (iCIMS economist hire) Link
  • Yahoo performance management process challenged in court Link
  • Department of Labor on Monday said it plans to revive a survey of “contingent” workers Link
  • Topics: #Learning, SCORM, XAPI, #BigData

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

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Begin Transcript

John Sumser:                        Good morning and welcome to HR Tech Weekly. One step closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. This is our 56th show. Good morning Stacey, how are you?

Stacey Harris:                        Good morning John, I’m doing well. It’s a bit rainy and cold here on the East coast. Hopefully you guys are getting a little bit more sunshine on the West coast, but other than that we’ve got a pretty good day with lots of new stuff.

John Sumser:                        We got some rain, but we’re happy for every little bit of it.

Stacey Harris:                        That is true.

John Sumser:                        It’s been dry here for a while. What’s in Stacey’s mail bag?

Stacey Harris:                        It’s been an interesting week on the topics this week. I pulled a couple things from last week as well, because I think there’s some topics that need a broader conversation than what we got through last week. The first thing, I think, is on learning space. There’s an interesting article about the LTG buying what is loosely known as Rustici organization. We’ll talk a little bit about who Rustici is and what that is, but it has very tight connections with the world of SCORM and Tin Can or X API compliance. For learning, this is actually a pretty big deal in the learning space, and made some ripples that I think are worth having a conversation about.

There’s also some interesting conversation, I think, ISIM sent out, it was one of their regular updates, but in the update of who’s picked ISIM and why reports that were [inaudible 00:01:50]. They mentioned that they were hiring a gentleman, who use to be Bloomberg economist.

John Sumser:                        Economist.

Stacey Harris:                        See if I can say the word right even. Yeah. See if you can say it 3 times straight, right. As their internal economist. Working on their research and data analysis of their content that they’re getting, as part of their software as service model. I thought that was really interesting, because me and you have had this conversation about various organizations who have economists, and who have data analytics roles, who do nothing but think about the data that the organization is acquiring as SAS provider. I think, there’s some conversation interesting in there.

Marissa Mayar, is once again in the news. Poor woman. I say, for woman at Yahoo, but there’s a lot of people who are not happy with her right now.

John Sumser:                        Yeah. She’s not poor though. She’s maybe sad.

Stacey Harris:                        She’s not poor, yeah. Once again, she’s getting sued by one of her employees for the performance rating model. I think, there’s some interesting conversation there. Along at the same time, as she’s once again announcing more lay offs for Yahoo. There’s some interesting conversation about the performance ratings and can they be brought into question as a tool for laying people off.

Then before we leave today, I think, we really need to spend a little bit of time talking about the on demand hiring community. There’s some interesting news from Lyft the previous week, settling their lawsuit. Then there’s also some news about Obama is expanding some interesting goals for the Census Bureau and the Labor Bureau’s, goals to basically capture data on the on demand workforce, and the contingent workforce.

Those are probably the biggest news pieces that I had pulled for today’s conversation. Where do you want to start John? You think any of those are more interesting than the others?

John Sumser:                        Let’s just work it from the top. I’m going to confess to having not much understanding of SCORM going in. I’ll probably end up to be dangerous, so let’s talk about your friends in Nashville.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah. Rustici really is a firm that was started and created by Mike Rustici, primarily around the idea of helping companies figure out the SCORM regulations. The SCORM compliance is probably a better way. The SCORM compliance standards. SCORM is a standard that was created by a group of organizations that got together, along with some semi government, not really government, it more US industry standards.

It started out with the airline industry and the government working together to say, we need some standards that content in learning and development can be portable across multiple platforms. At one point in time, every learning management system in the market had it’s own content creation tool. Plus there was a lot of other content creation tools that went all the way back to things like, Dream Weaver days and the web design days. When you were building your own web, and you didn’t know if it would actually work within a certain browser. It was the same concept.

What we saw is that these organizations got together and they said, we’re going to create a standard set of tools and content to wrap around these individual content tools that you’re creating. For example, if I’m creating something in Flash, or I’m creating something in [Leftor 00:05:52], which is another content creation tool. If I publish it, I’m going to publish it to SCORM standards, that means it will play inside of any SCORM player. That means all the content, how long someone’s taking it, who’s accessed it, the survey or exam question content, will all come out in a standard format that any LMS can read.

That’s a very long explanation of what SCORM standards is.

John Sumser:                        Let me try [crosstalk 00:06:20].

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah. See if you can replay that back. Yeah.

John Sumser:                        Let me see if I can say that, so I can see if I understand it. SCORM is a protocol, a set of instruction, a way that you would code some piece of content, or the wrapper, the meta tags on some piece of content, so that it’s intelligible by any learning management system that’s compliant. It solves the problem of having multiple data standards. The big problem in our space, is conflicting data standards, and this is a way of standardizing for training objects.

Stacey Harris:                        For training objects, yeah. Learning objects, as they’re often called in the market. Yeah. It’s been around for a little over, I think, 15 years now. The SCORM, itself, maybe was out in the early 90s. Then there was various versions that came up. I think, they got to SCORM 2.1, is the final version. It’s probably even a little bit longer than 15 years then, because it was early 90s when it was coming out. It’s probably more like 20 something years.

I think, about 5 years ago, 5-6 years ago, the US government who buys a lot of learning content, as well as other large entities said, SCORM it’s the technology and processes it was build upon are just old at this point. It was pre modern web technology, pre mobile, and it’s not working for existing learning management systems. The US government put out a request to see who could come up with the next version of SCORM, the modern day SCORM. Rustici won that relationship, partnership grand.

They actually partnered with the US government and a couple other entities, to come up with what’s called X API today. You might have heard the term Tin Can API. They basically set the new standards for a piece of content, meta tagging data, tracking content. It’s not even content, it’s a piece of programming, that you could embed in any web based environment. That will then, basically track any learning activity that you want to add to it. That could be going to webpage, viewing a You Tube site, taking a SCORM course.

Instead of recreating SCORM, they basically created something that was completely new, and outside of the context of what anybody would have thought of with SCORM. It [crosstalk 00:09:07] a whole bunch of information.

John Sumser:                        This is standardized spyware that monitors the behavior of employees as they interact with learning objects?

Stacey Harris:                        I had never quite thought of it a spyware, but yeah. If you build it into the tools, it could definitely track almost any activity you’re doing in a web based, and maybe even outside the web. I don’t know all the standards around it. It might go outside the web as well. Yeah. It’s mobile friendly, and it’s capable of sending that information in multiple ways, to other types of technology.

What really is interesting, and I always thought this would’ve had a great opportunity for the HR technology space, but no one ever in HR tech space seemed to really pick up on it. It’s always stayed within the learning space, but over the last 5 years. Rustici and Mike, who started the Rustici program, decided to create another company called Watershed. Watershed is an organization that Mike Rustici went over to run, and is what’s called a LRS organization.

A LRS organization, is a middle wear technology that captures information from the X API tools and puts it into a format that other organizations can use to track information about activities that people are doing from a learning perspective. It’s the next generation learning management system, depending on who you talk to.

What’s happened, is LTG bought Mike Rustici’s old company, which was called Rustici organization, and they bought a 30% share into the Watershed program, or the Watershed company. Mike Rustici still owns that and has ownership of it. All of this really is to say that, the learning conversation is getting a bit hotter than it has, because things are starting to change.

LTG, the company that bought all of this, is a consortium. An organization that basically is a holding company that has bought multiple types of learning infrastructure programs, and content creation tools, and they sit out of the UK. The UK has recently become the central location for a lot of learning technology updates and new releases in the market.

I’m not sure what this is going to do, but I think it’s going to start a change in the market, from a learning perspective. It will start to get people to thinking about, do I need SCORM, how do I create content, should I start using X API. I now have a company that’s investing money in this, like they never have before. 26 million dollars, this purchase was for. Is it time to change the learning industry, since we’ve organizations like Workday and Oracle now creating their own LMS’s? Is someone like Skillsoft, going to shift their entire content library from SCORM compliant to something else? Over time there’s a lot of questions to be had in learning space.

John Sumser:                        Cool. It sounds like the beginning of some really interesting times. That’s fantastic. I assume, [Tyer’s 00:12:21] an economist. That’s an interesting trend. Do you think we’re going to see more of that?

Stacey Harris:                        The reason I pulled this story was, because me and you had this conversation. Equifax, has an economist as well. We’ve seen this in other organizations, who have a lot of data to work with. I wouldn’t have particularly thought of ISIM as having a lot more data than other, but they are a cloud based business, they’ve been doing the recruiting space a long time. I don’t know. You probably know then a little bit better than I do, John. Is there enough data coming from all of this content, to have an economist who’s going to actually start predicting thing, and forecasting what’s happening?

John Sumser:                        I have the hardest time imagining that if you hire an economist, what that person is going to do is disclose any information that would ever be harmful to you. I’m certain that an economist would never expose any information that showed sales patterns, or customer relationship patterns, or that sort of thing. That means that an economist hired by a private company, to look at that private companies data, is really part of the marketing department.

That’s interesting. It’s nice to have economic content created by the marketing department, but I don’t know that it’s all that interesting to know what the trend is in a company that has 4,000 or 5,000 customers. That’s different if your man power. I’m sure man power has an economist, and I’m sure that ADP has economists, probably like rooms full of economists at ADP. They have these huge data sets. I think, ADP has 5 or 6 hundred thousand customers. Everybody. That’s a different story. Equifax processes data from hundreds of thousands of operations, that’s a different story.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah. I agree with that, but are we getting to a point where that is a bit of a differentiator for those organizations, because those analytic roles, those roles that tend to look at your data with an eye towards what can tell me beyond my sales and marketing needs. Is it a point at which, we’re starting to see that even the smaller organizations are saying, can I provide added benefits to my end users by giving them some [agrided 00:15:21] insights.

I haven’t had an opportunity to speak to ISIM about this. I just want to set up a conversation with the gentleman who they hired, Josh. Just to see what his expectations around this role were. Are we there yet, where every organization has some level of big data and some sort of insight that they can give back to their organizations?

John Sumser:                        It’s a really interesting question. I think, the answer is we’re there. The answer is that we’re there. You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t believe that the first moves in that direction are altruistic. In general, we are now in a world where people have so much data, that there’s something to be learned by looking at it.

Stacey Harris:                        I …

John Sumser:                        I think … Go ahead.

Stacey Harris:                        I agree that you have to be careful about how these roles get used, because they can very much be part of marketing and that’s a conversation that gets less than valuable for the end user. If it’s going some place else, I think there’s some interesting data that all these vendors have that no one else could have, because we’re down to cloud environment.

John Sumser:                        Right. It’s a fascinating time. I believe, people will take all sorts of approaches to understanding all of the data that they have. It’ll be very interesting to see what prevails. Economics is a good way to look at it, but there’s also an anthropological view or a sociological view. People will, as time goes on, try those different approaches in different settings.

Stacey Harris:                        That’s actually a very interesting conversation to have. It would be interesting to see what the various vendors are taking as what type of analysis is best for the various types of data that organizations have. I guess, it’ll be something that will play out over time. Of course, you can look at … go ahead. What’s going on with Yahoo, and that whole different idea about social conversation.

John Sumser:                        You know David Kippen, don’t you? He’s been on the HR Examiner and code advisory board for a long time. He’s really pioneering the use of anthropology to do this. In a big, big way.

Stacey Harris:                        Explained to me a little bit about how that plays out on a data side, because I don’t think a lot of people understand that. What does that look like from a data perspective?

John Sumser:                        In order to figure out, let’s say it’s hiring problem. In order to figure out the hiring problem, what you have to do really, is understand the kind of people that you want to hire, understand what the culture is in which you’re hiring the people, and start collecting data that shows you how people fit into their cultures. You want to hire something that marries the culture of the company with the culture of the people that you’re hiring. Particularly in large scale hourly workforce’s.

Going and studying both cultures, the culture of the group that you’re trying to hire and the culture of the company that you’re trying to bring them into, gives you the ability to understand by looking at the rest of the data that’s lying around the organization, where you have indicators of fitness, or maybe [fitingness 00:19:04] is better. There’s no magic formula here, and there’s no quantitative anthropology, that I’m aware of outside of forensics, but you can start to test ideas to see how the flows changed.

One of David’s great projects, was a kitchen game that helped kids in India who were from the wrong group to be kitchen game, persuade their parents that it was an okay job to take. A real interesting kind of project, where in order to solve the problem, you’ve got to understand what the anthropological block is, and you could get that data externally. Largely becomes externally.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah, very much so. I think, the other side on the financial side, the economist side, what’s interesting about what’s happening there. I think, what we’re seeing is these two worlds merging a little bit. On the economist side, we know that what they’re looking at our generally models that have been built in market, about how people will make decisions based off of financial outcomes.

We know that in the last several years, many of these standard economic models, financial models, have been dis-proven in some sense, because they weren’t taking into consideration a lot of what you were just talking about, which is behavior based models. Understanding that people make decisions based off of their perceptions, and their feelings, and their cultural background, and their experiences.

Economists today … I’m going to have trouble with that word all day long it sounds like. Economists today, if they’re really on the cutting edge of what’s happening, which it sounds like some of the people that are being hired recently the space are. Then what they’re doing is what’s called behavior based economics. Which is really this idea that you have to understand the underlying behavior indicators, to understand how people will make decisions concerning anything that has to do with money. Everything that has to do with money, has to do with your job, because your job makes money.

It’s an interesting side of both perspectives. That will be interesting to see. If there’s a winner in that game, or if those two worlds are going to collide and we’re going to get something in the middle.

John Sumser:                        I think, maybe if you just pull back just a little bit, what we’re seeing is the official entry of people with social science roles into the company. I think you’ll see psychologists, we already have organizational development as an analytical mode. Learning is closer to these social science things, than recruiting is. Learning brings some perspective like that into this. I think, professional social scientists inside of the company are part of how we make sense out of all the data.

Stacey Harris:                        Let’s take this down to an actual example then. The Yahoo story with Marissa Mayar right now. What’s happening is, one of her employees is basically challenging that the ranking scale, this quarterly performance review that being done on all employees since she’s entered the organization. On a 1-5 scale, where everyone who was at the bottom percentile, which is old GE and [Welshs 00:22:52] model.

John Sumser:                        Forest ranking.

Stacey Harris:                        Forest ranking, yes. All of that, she’s getting rid of people and that she basically let go of 1,100, I think was the actual number I saw in here, people between 2014 and early 2015 based off of this ranking. There’s a regulation, particularly in California Department Fair Employment and Housing, that basically states, that if you lay off a certain number of employees you have to pay unemployment. Do you think that this is something that’s going to come out? Is that going to go through the courts? Is Yahoo, possibly going to be challenged on this, or do you think that this is going to come back where they have statements, they have information, and they have their data lined up?

John Sumser:                        I’m not sure this has anything to do with forest ranking, first of all. This is what constitutes a lay off. If you have forest attrition, over time what constitutes a lay off. The question from the guy suing Yahoo is, isn’t it a lay off if they lay off this many people? The Yahoo response is going to be, no we’ve got a system in place that manages out when people fail to perform. That’s not a lay off, that’s a performance related question. It’ll go to a jury or a settlement. It’s a good question, I don’t have any idea what’s right here. This is splitting hairs on a piece of California legislation, and it’s never going to extend into the rest of the country.

Stacey Harris:                        They say, California is first of those years. You’re saying it’s never going to go anywhere else.

John Sumser:                        California’s first, it’s also 0. It’s first if the thing catches on. It was first with the Beach Boys, but there’s a lot of stuff that happens here that doesn’t catch on and that people just make fun of. It’s not always first here.

Stacey Harris:                        Is there a bigger question though? Marissa Mayar’s whole approach to trying to halt the ongoing decline of Yahoo, has been to take a let’s nail things down, get really tighten up who this organization is and the people who are working for this organization. Is there a good way to halt an organization from declining? From going through a complete meltdown, which some would say Yahoo is. There’s other ones that me and you have talked about, that have been going through some recent difficult transitions.

Is it best to go through the process that’s she’s been going through, which is to try and basically cut away all the dead weight, get things slimmed down, to really be ruthless about how she approaches her decision making in the organization, or if we’re looking at some of the data from the other organizations that have made some turn arounds recently. Is it better to put a more social spin on it that creates a better culture, in some organizations?

John Sumser:                        Did you ever see the Beverly Hillbillies?

Stacey Harris:                        I have yes, fortunately I grew them quite a bit yes.

John Sumser:                        Yeah. The Beverly Hillbillies are an old sitcom about a bunch of people from Kentucky or Tennessee, who are shooting at a possum for dinner, and cause oil to be discovered on their ranch. They moved to Beverly Hills, California and do everything that a country bumpkin family would do in Beverly Hills, California. They got rich, because they were in the right place at the right time.

Many companies get rich because they’re in the right place at the right time. Nobody ever wants to say that, because it’s suppose to be run by smart people. If you’re in a company that was successful, because it was in the right place at the right time, when times change you’re out of luck. You’re just out of luck, and there’s nothing anybody can do to save it. If you are a well build company that’s created a market out of some form of discipline, and that’s built into the core of the company, that you are a market maker.

You can last for a very long time. It’s a question of the quality of the assets that are built by the organization really, and whether or not they provide residual value when times get tough. This is just the Titanic sinking, that’s all it is. They got a new captain and she didn’t do very well, because the boats sinking.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah, the boats sinking.

John Sumser:                        It’s really not a [inaudible 00:28:18] on Marissa Mayar, it’s that Yahoo is failing.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah. Now everyone, I think, is watching this with an eye towards did she do something wrong. I guess, that was the question, was there anything right that anybody could’ve done in this situation? I don’t know if there’s an answer to that. One of the topic, I know we’re coming up against the end of our show, but I did want to point out that there is, I think, on the contingent labor work, first conversation, some interesting stuff going on, but I did want to make sure people are aware of that. The Department of Labor, noted that they’re going to revive the survey of contingent workers.

Which, I think, is really really important, because I’ve gone out and tried to get data on contingent workers. There’s several other organizations who’ve tried to get contingent worker data, at least here in the states, we have almost no data, because they stopped asking data in 2005 on contingent workers. I think, that’s important news to pay attention to, is that the Secretary of Labor said, that they’re going to do a census bureau run. Will ask questions about the contingent workforce in May of 2017. Which I think, is going to give us some interesting data in the market. I think that’s just well worth noting.

John Sumser:                        I think, the contingent workforce is probably the topic of the year for 2016.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah.

John Sumser:                        I’m sure it is. Okay. We’ve whipped through another one. I sure learned a lot about SCORM and the learning market today. That was very cool, thanks for the tutorial.

Stacey Harris:                        That’s a very, very quick spin on it.

John Sumser:                        Yeah. That was great. Thanks everybody for listening in and thanks Stacey for being here.

Stacey Harris:                        Yeah. Thanks everyone.

John Sumser:                        This has been HR Tech Weekly, one step closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. We will see you again next week. Bye bye.

Stacey Harris:                        Bye everyone.

End Transcript

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