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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: 65
Air Date: April 7, 2016


This Week

This week John and Stacey discuss:

  • Oracle unveils HR help desk, mobile app for Learning Cloud »Link
  • Wellness Programs Raise Privacy Concerns over Health Data »Link
  • PayPal Abandons New Facility Plans Due to N.C. LGBT Law »Link
  • SmashFly Launches Consulting Practice to Help Organizations Become Modern Recruitment Marketers »Link
  • Rise of the ‘self-taught’ developer disrupting recruiting, education »Link

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, which Stacey Harris and John Sumser. This is our 65th show. How are you, Stacey?


Stacey Harris: Doing well. Doing well. Home this week taking care of some family emergencies, but other than that we’re hopefully going to be getting into spring here soon on the east coast. Looking forward to some flowers and sunshine, hopefully, over the weekend. How about you, John? I know you were doing a bit of traveling this week but not a ton, right?


John Sumser: You and I both had to miss Oracle’s HCM World event, which turns out to have been an extraordinary thing, I believe.


Stacey Harris: Yep.


John Sumser: I am, today, in beautiful San Jose. You know what? We’re ideally situated to talk about the biggest news item of the week, which is PayPal pulling out of North Carolina because I’m in spitting distance of PayPal and you’re not even in spitting distance of North Carolina; you’re right in the middle of that stuff.


Stacey Harris: I’m in the middle of it. I’m in the middle of the controversy and weeping openly that my adopted state has taken the stance it has, but it’ll be interesting to see if some certain pressures will make some changes. Yes, there’s some interesting news on that front.


John Sumser: Yep. We’ll put that squarely in the mailbag. Let’s see what else. We’re going to talk a little bit about HCM Open World. We’re going to talk about privacy and wellness data and whether or not that matters. We’re going to talk about PayPal pulling out of developing a new facility in North Carolina. SmashFly has launched a consultant practice to help organizations become modern recruitment marketers and, oh, this is amazing. Self-taught developers are nearly 50 percent of all the people who work in technology and that’s causing people to re-evaluate whether or not technological education matters. Then, the last item on the list … There may be another one. I’m going to look while you pause, but the last item on the list is that BitPay, a small, bitcoin provider, has produced an API that allows payroll operations to pay in bitcoin. It’s a big deal and there are German businesses that are [acknowledging them 00:03:05]. That’s where we’re starting. You want to just start talking about Open World?


Stacey Harris: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Everyone should know, just if you’re out there listening, that this week it is John’s mailbag. He went out and sourced the stories this week due to some things that I’m dealing with this week, so you get a little taste of what things perk John’s interest today, which normally it’s what perks my interest. Which, I think the Oracle HCM World is really a great topic because I was very sad that I was not able to attend this week. Not only did I miss an analyst event that they had but I also missed a presentation that I was supposed to be delivering, so if anybody attended the presentation, my apologies that I wasn’t there. I had a great colleague who delivered it for me but there were some interesting things at HCM World this week that they announced. There was a big focus on employee engagement and technologies that support employee engagement, it seemed.


Really, dealing with additions to things like HR help desks, which I thought was sort of interesting that one of the things that we track on the [CRC 00:04:09] research is help desk technology. Not a lot of other organizations really track that technology, and particularly in the HR space. PeopleSoft is still one of the largest technologies and tools in the market that people leverage from a help desk technology and then, ultimately, it comes down to other IT technologies and things like Salesforce being leveraged in that space. It looks like they are now with their HCM cloud adding a HR help desk solution to it, so it’s surprising sometimes to think how important those small, little pieces are when it comes to features and functions and HR technology but we really do see a big uptick in the amount of employees an organization can really support with the help desk technology that’s tailored towards HR. Then, the other thing I think that they really focused on, it looks like, is the Learning Cloud. I was quite impressed with some of the elements that came out in the Learning Cloud. One is offline learning.


They now have the ability to do learning and training offline as well as online. That seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal in this day and age but you’d be surprised that not every LMS in the market has offline learning, still. Offline learning means that you can run your learning, track it and be able to take the entire course, including usually surveys and questions and things without having to be connected to an internet connection. When you think about the fact that we do so much video in most of our learning these days and we do so much interactive activities, that’s a pretty big deal. Then, also it looked like in the learning module, I’d have to get a little more detail on this but it looks like they’re rolling out some level of, if not SCORM compliancy, some sort of e-learning connectivity compliancy where they are able to connect their content in the new Learning Cloud LMS with Oracle to other e-learning softwares.


I’d have to get a little bit more detail about what that is to understand it a little bit better, but they definitely announced that. Then, more on their recommendation engine. The recommendations engine, I think, is an interesting perspective because John, me and you have been talking a lot about artificial intelligence or machine learning and Oracle’s HCM Cloud recommendations engine … and it looks like is going to be used and connected to part of their help desk module. I thought that was interesting because help desk is where, generally, all the questions go. It’s a great place to be able to pull your recommendations from. Those are the big things I took out of the materials that we were shared with this week. What about you, John? Surprised by the things they were focusing on? Do you think those are the right areas, from an HCM perspective right now with the technology boost we’re seeing?


John Sumser: What I like about what Oracle is doing right now is they’re focusing on benefits rather than technology. I’m a crazy person for new technology. I have been talking … Mark Bennett at Oracle is one of the most interesting thinkers about artificial intelligence and machine learning in the industry. He’s one of, maybe, 50 or 100 people who actually know what they’re talking about in that area. He’s the best at simplifying it, of anybody that I know. His sections about machine learning all feed into real benefit for customers rather than that the stuff that I prefer a little bit, which is to geek out on the technology so I was really looking forward to getting to spend time with Oracle’s people who are the technology geniuses. They have a ton of them. It’s easy to forget that Oracle is a monstrous technology machine with huge numbers of people who really know what they’re doing. [Just think, 00:08:07] HCM Open World is 6,000 people in Chicago. That may make it the biggest HR technology conference of them all.


Stacey Harris: Yeah. It’s big. They were up to, I think, to 4- or 5,000 last year so they’ve definitely increased the numbers this year.


John Sumser: Yeah. It’s very interesting to watch that phenomenon as well, which is that as the big enterprise companies become the providers of tools for their own ecosystem, they can start to have conferences that are focused exclusively on their users that include all sorts of things that you expect to only see at an external conference. I’m sorry I missed it.


Stacey Harris: Yeah. I think it’ll be interesting to see how the vendor-based conferences continue to grow. We asked a question last year on the survey that was specific … on the [CRC 00:09:14] survey, that was specifically focused on what events are you going to? Because we were trying to get a sense of where people were getting their content from and what we … It was somewhat surprising, but I guess in light of things as we’re starting to look at it, is probably not, but it was definitely the vendor events that seemed to get the top billing over all the other HR tech and HR type of conferences.


The vendor events seemed to be where people were planning to go most often. That doesn’t mean they aren’t going to the other events as well; I think it’s just that we’re definitely seeing more investment in those entities. You know, interesting along these lines of where people are getting content and their information, the other thing that Oracle HCM announced this week, which is a little off target from, I would consider, the traditional HR conversation but definitely more on target with how people think about their roles within communities, right-


John Sumser: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Stacey Harris: -and where they get their community information is that they launched a … within their Work Life product, which is their benefits wellness program product, they launched a volunteer efforts or employee-supported volunteer technology. Now, the only other organization that I know of that has a volunteer program, specifically technology, is Cornerstone On Demand. I thought this was interesting. This volunteering module goes along with the “My Reputation” module that they had rolled out previously last year and some social media technologies. Do you think … I mean, as we start thinking about these vendors, you had mentioned that they’re focused on benefits … As we start looking at HR’s role in organizations, are they going to start to connect all of these, what we consider ancillary, in a social and community-based things that happen in organizations that generally weren’t part of HR previously from a technology perspective or do you think this is a one-off for someone like Oracle and Cornerstone?


John Sumser: Well, something’s happening in HR and I’m not sure that these things weren’t part of HR in the past but it wasn’t possible to really track and encourage with technology. There was always somebody from some department that was in my field of view who was off to spend some time with United Way or championing their disease-oriented charity with walks and getting sponsorship inside of the organization. That stuff generally channeled through benefits and HR. By putting some management in front of it, you make it possible for companies to now say that they are more involved in social causes than they were in the past, and that’s a great role for HR. My guess is that they’re responding to what they see as marketing.


Stacey Harris: Well, it should be interesting to see because I think where Oracle’s really putting its emphasis is really on … although it’s a very flexible technology, which is one of the things I think that the market always expects from Oracle, they’re really focusing on these relationship-based connections with HR, which is really an interesting conversation to have. Is HR technology about managing things or is it about creating a better connection with HR? It seems like Oracle is definitely going down the path of “How can we create more connection points for HR right now?”


John Sumser: Well, and that’s in keeping with … I’m not sure I ever bought the idea but this theory that HR systems should be triggers for engagement. This is the Josh Bersin idea of systems of engagement. This is what they look like, in fact.


Stacey Harris: To the other … Well, I was just going to say that fits into your privacy and wellness data comment here, which is from SHRM. You have an interesting article about employees participating in a company’s wellness programs that may be unwittingly sharing too much information when they undergo health screening tests. Me and you have been talking about this issue for quite some time, right? Are people giving away too much information? Do they know what they’re giving away? Do they know who has access to it? There was a big article in the SHRM organization around this topic and they had a lot of interesting comments from government agencies and other people in the article. That’s right as we were talking about as we create a better relationship with HR, HR has to know more about us, right?


John Sumser: Well, there’s that and we’re also in a world where people don’t understand everything that’s possible, yet. As paranoid as the guy in your neighborhood who wears tinfoil hats is, it might be worse than that. It actually might be worse than that and when you put lots of information in hands that you don’t understand, it has the potential to be really troubling. I think that’s what they’re really saying at SHRM, is when you let people examine your life, you don’t really know where that’s going.


I was talking to a very high-placed manager of HR technology in one of the biggest companies in the world and she keeps stickies over the cameras on the desktop because she doesn’t know who’s going to be looking through that camera. She doesn’t know if she can cause that camera to be safe so she just puts a little sticky note over it because she doesn’t want people to be watching her at work and she’s got a camera on a machine in a corporate network and she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know. This question of “What’s privacy? How do you know if you have it? What do you do to protect it?” is going to start to bubble up for people, I think.


Stacey Harris: Yeah, and I think the other side of what SHRM had in their article, and this is a big role that SHRM plays in the industry, as a whole, is SHRM is in many cases one of the very few organizations that are large enough to actually have advocates and to have, particularly in the U.S. government, at least, to have people who go and lobby for certain things that we’re looking for from in an HR perspective. Sometimes depending on which side you’re on, you’re not sure which side SHRM may or may not be on. It depends a little bit on their associations but I think one of the things that they’re looking at and saying is, “This is an area that we should probably put some regulations around sooner rather than later.”


This is the point at which let’s not wait until someone oversteps their bounds; until we find someone doing something they shouldn’t be doing or before some really egregious actions are taken place around discrimination or issues with sharing that data in ways that could hurt someone. Let’s put some regulations around it. Do you think that it’s better to wait until the big issues come up through some sort of legal ramification or do you think you should put regulations around this stuff early on?


John Sumser: It’s a great question. I can’t imagine SHRM being really proactive in this area. That is so unlike SHRM to say, “Oh, here comes a big issue. Let’s get on top of it before it becomes a big issue.” That’s not what SHRM does. If SHRM did that, then SHRM would have great training for procurement of HR technology and great training for HR technology and they simply have ignored the question. That’s 15 years that-


Stacey Harris: Yep.


John Sumser: -they should’ve had that stuff in place, so the idea that they’re going to somehow get all up and on top of privacy, I’m not sure they’re going to do that. Now, it’s very interesting. I think you could really throw a spanner in the works of the evolution of technology if you started to regulate privacy too quickly and I think if you don’t start regulating privacy fairly quickly things are going to get really weird. I’m of two minds and I don’t think that I know which is the better approach.


Stacey Harris: Well, it’s going to become a more, I think, realistic conversation as we get into realistic case studies. The PayPal article that you brought up where PayPal is basically planning to … For those who might not know, and I think everybody knows what’s happening in North Carolina, but North Carolina has passed a, what they’re calling, religious freedom law and for those of you who don’t know, North Carolina is my adopted home. I moved here about three years ago. Love this state and the area that I live in in Raleigh-Durham but very sad to see that they went down this route.


This was in reaction to a law that was passed in Charlotte that was actually more opening to letting people of different transgenders use different facilities and organizations. North Carolina legislation went the other direction and basically said, “We’re going to do a freedom of religion act,” where they’re basically going to allow organizations to basically deny services based off of whether or not someone has … follows the same religious beliefs that everyone else or that this individual does in a business. I think it’s the best way to describe it. You might have a better way to describe it, John, but it’s sort of horrific to think that you can deny business based off of any factor, right?


John Sumser: What a crazy thing. From the outside, it looks like the people of North Carolina think that somebody who is transgender is dealing with huge amounts of guilt and shame and confusion and this law is all about what happens in bathrooms. Right?


Stacey Harris: Yeah. Well, it’s part of the law. Yeah, that’s part of the law. The other part of the law is actually that … That’s a very small piece of the law; the bigger piece of the law is that they have allowed businesses to limit services that they offer based off of their perspective of whether or not someone is following their religious beliefs, so that’s the bigger part of the law, which is actually the more scary part.


John Sumser: What Silicon Valley is doing is saying, “Look, our view is that diversity makes for better organizations and if you don’t want diversity in your organizations we’re not coming.” Yay, but I’ll tell you, that’s very much a California view of the world. In California, particularly Northern California where the tech companies are, it’s a world where difference is really celebrated. Somebody like me, a white man, is a minority and what’s exciting for everybody is looking at the variety of people you can be around. Silicon Valley’s had some trouble attracting women, in particular, into the technical arenas. This is a big opportunity for Silicon Valley companies to prove to their constituents that they really are behind this fundamental belief in diversity as a primary factor in doing business.


Stacey Harris: It’ll be interesting to see if it works. We’ve seen it work in other areas where these laws have been passed and they’ve backpedaled on them. The other push back that’s happening right now is should this be an issue that should be addressed by … Do businesses have the right to push these changes or are we overreaching the democratic process? I guess it depends on which side of the issue you’re on, right? As to whether or not you believe that. Businesses, obviously, have the right to take their business where they want and so the other question is how does that impact the employees and the HR staff that have to help make some of these decisions, right? This was an imminent change they were in the process of making of adding 400 people and a new building in Charlotte. Think about the HR person who had to make that immediate shift and was HR involved in that conversation at all, right?


John Sumser: Right, right. It’s going to be interesting to see how HR does. I wonder if SHRM is going to going to out in front of this issue? The other thing that is in the mailbag is there’s a study about the fact that 45 or 46 percent of all developers are self-taught. That a college education is not how you get a job in technology. That’s an interesting thing. That particular statistic peaked when the economy peaks and when they do the cutbacks, you don’t get proportional cutbacks. The people with degrees survive the cutbacks, generally.


Stacey Harris: Yep.


John Sumser: What do you think about self-taught developers and how you credential people who know what they know how to do, technically, because they’re good at it. Not because they have a degree?


Stacey Harris: Well, this is a pretty personal topic for me. My dad was actually a vocational high school teacher, being in electronics. In many ways, self-taught himself but with a college education around it. He was always trying to figure out how he encouraged his students to go to get at least two-year degrees, if not four-year degrees. It was always frustrating for him to see that the universities, in general, could not connect what they were doing with what the corporations or businesses needed. They couldn’t quickly or fast enough keep up to speed with all the changes that were happening on a technical basis. No matter how hard you tried to work through those programs from a vocational perspective, they were never exactly what the businesses needed. I think the bigger issue, though, is exactly what you were saying around this topic, which is in this immediate need, in this immediate moment, you can definitely gather up a lot of self-taught people and those self-taught people can make an immense amount of money very quickly in this industry.


When the market becomes saturated, which it always done whenever you have a high demand for a certain, specific skill set because then people all start to go into it. It’s a place where you end up having a lot of people go into because there’s a lower barrier of entry, what you see is that over time, when those demands decrease, the people who continue to have jobs generally tend to be the people who have gotten four-year degrees. At least, in the past that’s how it’s happened. If you look at what happened with networking in the early ’90s and with early-day cable work that was done in the early ’80s, that stuff started out with a lot of non-university-based technology training and then basically morphed into if you kept your job, it was those who had the degrees. I think this is a question about the needs of the audience. What are their long-term goals? Then, the needs of the businesses. The businesses probably aren’t really thinking about what’s going to happen to someone ten years down the road.


John Sumser: There’s also a pretty interesting study that I didn’t get into the mailbag from Instructure. Do you know Instructure?


Stacey Harris: I do know Instructure, yeah. An interesting LMS in the market, yep.


John Sumser: Right. They’ve got a product called [Grids 00:26:37] that’s coming to the market. What they’ve found is that 75 percent of the college-educated crowd say that their skills become quickly outdated and only about 10 percent think that their employers help them in any significant way to stay on top of stuff. Huge chunks, 80 percent, are using their mobile devices to consume education to try and stay on top of their skillset because that’s the only way that they have to get the education and they squeeze it in through the cracks. There’s an interesting possibility that the college-educated people may not survive this time because there’s alternative ways to keep your skills up.


Stacey Harris: That might be the case right now. We’re seeing a shift in how people learn and what people think of as important elements in learning. The idea of self-taught learners, people who can learn on there own, is probably going to be one of the most important skill sets in the market as a whole, right? My money, and this is … we’ll see where we go here, but my money is on that when things get tight when we start looking at long-term needs or we see another recession come around, and this could change, but recruiters themselves generally fall back on the easiest way to sort through the people that they’re hiring or the people that they’re keeping and it always seems to fall back to that certification or that piece of paper or that they have … “I’ve got a list of 20. How do I pick the five I’m going to keep?”


You have to have some sort of standards around that. Do you think that’s going to change? One of the comments that you had here is SmashFly launching consulting practices to help organizations become modern recruitment marketers. That assumes that we’re always going to be marketing for recruiting, right?


John Sumser: Well, I think you’re on maybe the topic of the year, which is are recruiters still going to pick the short list or is a machine going to do it? If a machine does it, then it’s liable to be more related to performance than it is to credentials. I think we’re going to see in the next year lots of products, largely driven by people like SmashFly, who are bringing discipline to recruitment marketing, that allow other kinds of decisions to be part of the recruiting process. When you get scared, you don’t have to go rely on an old-fashioned way of doing things but when you get scared you can let the machine tell you that these attributes are what makes a great worker rather than the more conservative approach of relying on credentials. We’re going to have fun watching that unfold.


Stacey Harris: We’re definitely going to have fun and I think it’s going to be interesting. I have a young nephew who’s a self-taught programmer since the age of six. He’s now 14 so I am advocating that he gets his degree right now. I still think there’s some value in it but if it goes the direction you’re talking about and performance is the way we’re seeing it roll, I will be very happy to see that happen, as well.


John Sumser: Well, that’d be great. What a great conversation. Thank you so much for taking time out of your family emergencies to keep our streak of 65 in a row going. Thanks for doing this today, Stacey. It was, as usual, a great conversation.


Stacey Harris: Definitely, yeah. Thanks to all the people who have reached out to me because some of the stuff that, as you said, that we’re going through now, we have a wonderful community here in the HR technology and just HR in general community. It’s good to get a chance to get a break away from everything and talk a little bit about what’s happening this week in the HR tech space. We’ll talk more next week, John.


John Sumser: Yes. Hopefully, your emergency will resolve and it can be your mailbag again.


Stacey Harris: Next week. That’s right. We’re going for that.


John Sumser: Okay, good.


Stacey Harris: All right. Thanks everyone. ‘Bye.


John Sumser: Thanks, everybody. Have a great rest of your day. It was good to have you here. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly: One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. ‘Bye-bye, now.


End Transcript

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