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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: 70
Air Date: May 12, 2016


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 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 with guest Erin Spencer sitting in. This is show number 70. Good morning, Stacey and Erin. How are you?


Stacey Harris: Good morning. We’re doing well, John. I think both you and Erin just got back from travelling, so I’m probably a bit more chipper this morning than everybody else.


John Sumser: Well, it’s about time you had a happy moment with us.


Stacey Harris: Yeah.


Erin Spencer: That might be true, Stacey. That might be true.


Stacey Harris: John, you guys were at the Cornerstone event this week, right?


John Sumser: Yeah. We went down to the beautiful JW Marriott hotel in Los Angeles down at the convention center area downtown and saw the Cornerstone Team. It’s a huge event. It’s astonishing how the company has grown over the years. I think there were a couple thousand people at this event.


Stacey Harris: They said on the website over 2,000 so I don’t know what the exact numbers were but the website said over 2,000.


John Sumser: Yeah. It was a scene and what’s interesting is that it was happening at the same time as Workforce’s … I’m sorry, Globoforce’s big WorkHuman conference in Orlando and there were big polls on all of the analysts community to be in both places. Cornerstone managed to do a great job of attracting the top-tier talent.


Stacey Harris: Then, we also have quit a few other topics to talk about. This has not been a quiet news week this week. We’ll not only talk about Cornerstone … Maybe a little bit of Work Human and Globoforce’s event, if you’ve got some updates. I haven’t got a lot of updates on that, yet, but we also have some interesting stories coming out about the idea of moving performance from a performance assessment model to a time-tracking model, particular for hourly work forces, to more of an outcomes-based model. I think there’s some interesting conversation there, actually. Quoting Adam Miller, who is Cornerstone on Demand’s CEO that came out of an article written by a tech entrepreneur who went to a collision conference event. There was also a really great, I think, topic this week about HumanEyes getting another $4 million to push wearable FitBits for your career. That’s going to be a fun conversation to have with you, John. I think some commentary on that.


John Sumser: Yeah. This is going to be fun.


Stacey Harris: Yeah. That one threw me a bit because they’re already starting to talk about companies and they’re not wanting to name the companies, use them and that, in an of itself, gets a little bit concerning. There’s also a lot of conversation this week about the benefits space so private exchanges are starting to retool and re-optimize because they haven’t quite hit the numbers they thought they were but at the same time we’re seeing organizations like Namely start their own private exchanges. As much as people thought, “Well, I’m not sure private exchanges are working,” we’re seeing some of these smaller, new technology organizations pull together their own exchanges so I think they think they can do it a bit better.


Then, if we have a little bit of time today, SHRM is getting ready to unveil their 2016 tech trends in technology. Now, of course, I’m thinking, “Are we halfway through 2016?” but I guess they’ve really pulled together their big report that they do every couple of years that they do on HR technology and so there was some interesting commentary on that at a panel that they had at their conference, recently. If we have some time, it’s worth some conversation. Do you want to start with a little update on what happened at Cornerstone, John, before we dive into all the other topics?


John Sumser: Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you Cornerstone is an impressive little company. They have extraordinary depth in their technical components and the senior people are profoundly and deeply versed in this amazing, [deep 00:04:46] functionality that’s Cornerstone. Cornerstone, if you don’t know … Cornerstone is a comprehensive talent-management suite provider. They offer everything: recruiting to successive branding, performance management, learning and in an integrated package. There seems to be 2,000 happy customer wandering around. The energy was good. They announced five new projects. They announced so much new stuff that I’m not sure I can tell you what it was. It was an overwhelming outpouring of new ideas and improvements. I think the case that they were trying to make was that the company [is fastly growing 00:05:46]. They need to make that case because the … like all tech companies their stock price is under pressure.


Stacey Harris: Well, and I think they also need to make that case not just from a stock price conversation but because they are one of the last standing talent suite vendors, particularly those who should’ve started all about probably ten years ago together, they’re one of the last standing, stand-alone talent management solutions with high levels of adoption. They probably have the highest … If we took a total adoption of talent management suites, stand alone, they probably have the highest adoption now but they have no core HRMS attached to them. Both either by their connected partnership, by their own organization or by being picked up by someone who has a core HRMS.


That’s been an ongoing conversation about them, which is can they keep their 30 percent growth, which is generally what they’ve seen over the last several years … 20 to 30 percent growth year over year without having the core HRMS, because the market at this point is starting to slow down on the talent management conversation. As you’ve said, what I think is most interesting about talent and about Cornerstone on Demand is that they are, as far as I know, and the big players, the only solution that has recruiting and learning at a performance management at a pretty deep level built on the single platform. Now, I was going to get your take on their recruiting because one of the big announcements they made was some real updates to their recruiting and they’ve been hit that it hasn’t been quite as deep as it needed to be. Did you see the recruiting platform at this point that was getting enough people to buy into it?


John Sumser: Let’s look at a couple things. I just want to underline your point. Cornerstone sees learning as the core of talent management. I don’t believe anybody else does. I don’t think anybody makes that case in an interesting way. Of all of the providers, Cornerstone seeing learning at the core of things and that is a very unique and differentiating perspective that means the way they approach everything else builds around the idea that the way one uses talent is by developing it internally.


Stacey Harris: Yep.


John Sumser: Right? It’s a tool for, I would say … They have really big clients but I would say it’s a mid-market tool for companies that want to actually do talent management. I was interested in your comment that the talent-management conversation is declining. I’m not sure I’m seeing that so tell us what you mean by that.


Stacey Harris: No, I think the talent … When we’re seeing overall adoption, this is both in the [CRC sphere 00:08:49] but in other places, I think, you’re seeing the conversation around talent management, I think, anyways, slow down as we have to have a talent sweet in and of itself because what organizations are starting to find out is that connecting … Getting what you expected out of your talent management tool really requires an influx of data from your other systems; business systems, performance systems, HR systems, workforce management systems, because that all is what really informs the talent management conversation.


The outcomes of just doing development and recruiting and performance in the bubble in and of itself, don’t give you as much as connecting it to the rest of the organization. The one announcement that I think was made very loud very year at the Cornerstone event that even I heard through the Twitter stream was that Adam Miller, who’s the CEO, has doubled down on his goal for analytics and is launching a whole analytics package, it sounds like, that includes some tools to manipulate at a Microsoft Excel level. Is that one of the things you saw there when you were there this week, John?


John Sumser: Well, I didn’t see Microsoft Excel level. I’m not sure what that is but there was a big conversation about analytics and there was a lot of talk about expanded information about employees and predictive analytics for employees. It’s becoming a contentious subject. The entire analytics arena has a lot of momentum behind it but not a lot of customers and it has a lot of well thought out theoretical ideas but as we’ve been talking about over the last months, there’s no attention to safety, ethics or quality control in the predictive analytics arena. It means that Cornerstone … I didn’t find them distinct from anybody else making an offer in the space, I guess, is what [inaudible 00:11:11] and it was a … They have a good story to tell but there’s a long way to go before they figure out how to do the things that they didn’t want to do them with this. I don’t think that’s just a criticism of Cornerstone. I think that’s true across the board. Lots of hype about analytics but no meat.


Stacey Harris: No. I agree with that but I think the thing that’s most interesting in watching Cornerstone, their investment and they have now a new [MUCC 00:11:50] or online content tool called CyberU that they’re launching, which is their old name before they became Cornerstone back in the day but they’re launching it now as a content platform where crowd-sourced content can be created and launched. Their new-user interface, their focus on having a platform as a service, the analytics that you guys saw. Those are the things that I saw announced in the Twittersphere this week while I was watching.


My sense is that Cornerstone’s probably the only talent management solution that can come out and say, “We can become the center of attention for your HR conversation in a way that no other talent management solution can do.” I think they can change the conversation around talent management and they’re probably one of the only ones that can do it but I think the industry’s waiting to see can they make that a reality. Right now it sound really good and I think it’s well worth watching, what they’re doing, but I think we have to see can that become a reality? Can they pull together all the information the way it will make the analytics make sense like you’re talking about? Make it something viable.


John Sumser: Yeah, yeah. I think the analytics conversation … We probably ought to do a whole show about analytics one day because it is a potent reality that’s coming our way but it isn’t really very well considered. I was thinking the other day at the Cornerstone event about how many HR technology companies are really technology companies and how few of them are actually HR companies.


Stacey Harris: Yeah.


John Sumser: That seems to me to be causing problems.


Stacey Harris: Well, and if you think about where this is heading, I mean one of the articles that I pulled and some part of it I pulled because it had, I think, some actually pretty good quotes from Adam Miller, who’s CEO of Cornerstone, but also I thought it was a great take on what you were just talking about; the analytics and what does it really mean in the business sense. From a technology entrepreneur … so Collision Conference, you know might know this more than I do, John, but I guess is a technology conference for techies, right? For those organizations who run technology companies to all get together. They had their conference and one of the people who attended who runs his own tech company wrote an article about his conversation with Adam about how managing powerful work forces is going to be less about performance ratings and less about time tracking, particularly for hourly organizations, and more about tracking outcomes. Performance outcomes.


Those performance outcomes being much more sort of along the lines of what we used to see in the hourly factory working. How many tables do you serve? How many cars do you get washed? How many things get done from a performance perspective outcomes base? I think that’s the real conversation, which is a lot of these entrepreneurs, a lot of these technology companies, are looking at the workforce from a outcomes perspective and they’re thinking about how they can change the conversation around workforce management and tracking and performance outputs. Now, Adam seems to think that’s the direction things are going and I think that’s where he’s trying to take Cornerstone. Do you think that’s going to be a realistic conversation or do you think that we’re going to have to step back and maybe rethink the fact that we’ve been tracking time and performance ratings and how people work the same way for the last hundred years. Is that going to change much?


John Sumser: You know this just just be a grumpy morning for me because I think pay for performance … Pay for performance, pay for what you did, has been the essence of the threat of at least American compensation for the last 30 years so I don’t know … I’ve listened to you. I have no idea what you were talking about because-


Stacey Harris: There is an hourly rate. There is performance reviews that are based off of what your manager thinks. Not particularly what you actually get done, right?


John Sumser: Of course, it’s not just how many phone calls did you make. Of course, the management’s assessment of your work is a part of this. Do you think that the people are suggesting that we’re going to have performance evaluations that don’t have the boss’s input on whether or not you should be there?


Stacey Harris: Well, I think that’s sort of where some of the conversations are going. The commentary in this article-


John Sumser: [Crosstalk 00:16:38]-


Stacey Harris: -was that Uberization … of course, Uber gets overused for all of this but the Uberization of the workforce, right?


John Sumser: Uberization and Uber because there is only a provider to consumer interaction. There are no bosses. You don’t need bosses. When you have an organization and you’re trying to achieve a simple focused mission, it’s nonsense to think that you can get the performance goals so perfectly configured that you can describe everything that the organization needs to do or, no.


Stacey Harris: Okay.


John Sumser: Not even close.


Stacey Harris: Not even close?


John Sumser: Not even in the same reality as people who go to work every day.


Stacey Harris: Let’s take this one step further. We’ll get you really cranky this morning, John. Then, we’ve got the HumanEyes story. HumanEyes just got $4 million to push wearable FitBits for your career. $4 million to come up with more tools and technology that track your personal workspace. HumanEyes, if anybody remembers the story about how Deloitte had done this beta tested project up in Canada where they had all of their employees where this lanyard with little boxes on them that tracked their movement and how often they got up and where they went and it was all opt-in that point in time, right? It was to help them redesign the workflow of their offices and whether or not they needed more offices that were set aside separately, whether the open-office environment worked; whether people with chairs or without chairs spent more time doing good things and meetings and they got quite a bit of data out of it, they felt.


They felt it had helped them actually make changes to the office environment. HumanEyes has now taken this and now they’re doing hats and they’re doing lanyards and they’re doing all kinds of sensor badges, basically, to … and microphones and location-proximity sensors to track what’s happening with employees, whether they’re on the phone, on the ground, everywhere. They’re continuing to get more and more money thrown into the work they’re doing. They’re getting more and more organizations leveraging their tools with the idea that the end user, the employee, can get information about what they’re doing and make better decisions about how they do their job than their boss can do on some level, right?


John Sumser: Right. Right, so this is coming. Right?


Stacey Harris: Yep.


John Sumser: The idea that they’re building things that include motion sensors and microphones. There’s a lot that you can learn from just the tone and inflection of conversations about where the conflict hot spots are in the organization. About how smoothly the interactions are going. All of the real interactive performance stuff in the moment-to-moment execution of the organization. It probably, on some level, already is being tracked and stored, and we’re just going to track and store more of it. Wearable FitBit for your career, I think, maybe they have an overly enthusiastic marketing person putting out jobs like that but the fact that you can generate really good, useful data about how the world works and then use that to optimize performance of the company, that idea is here and it has something that looks a lot like security associated with it, as well. That was the end of a conversation about the emergence of the surveillance-type technology in the workplace and whether or not it’s a good thing. What do you think?


Erin Spencer: Obviously, the technology’s there and it allows us to do that. There’s another part of me that goes, at what point is this creepy? As a data geek, I love the idea that we could re-engineer a workplace to try to make people more efficient but then there’s a part of me that’s like, “Are what point are we getting into science fiction, minority report, too much tracking sort of thing?” At what point does it really hurt people’s personal freedoms? A lot of what technology allows us to do is fascinating but should we be doing all of that? That’s a moral judgment. It’s going to be one that comes up.


John Sumser: When people left the farms and went to the city to work in factories, that was a sense of loss of personal freedom. Massive sense of loss of personal freedom. That’s what the Luddite movement was all about. The reality is that we adjusted just fine to being in more crowded places with less privacy and more overseeing by management. We adjusted just fine. My sense is that we’ll adjust just fine to this next layer of stuff, which is more personal freedom and more monitoring. The monitoring can tell us so much interesting stuff that it makes unimaginable things possible. Absolutely unimaginable things possible. You can see coming corporate and national security systems that are entirely tailored around the individual. Entirely tailored around the individual so the malicious disruptive hacking that has become cyber war can get some reduction. That we can have a little bit more piece and quiet inside of that terribly risky environment. I think that’s what people are really thinking about as the positive side of this and then the negative side is, as you point out, that an intrusion into your private space always feels like a violation.


Erin Spencer: Yeah, and it does and I know that one of the … An article that I read a while back was talking about at what point does that intrusion end? Does it end at 5:00? But wait, you have your work phone with you that you have to carry all the time. Are they allowed to track your movements past essentially when you’re no longer on company time? Do those actions affect your work? Do they get to judge you on those? If I go somewhere that they don’t want me to and they know about it, how does that affect my performance evaluation? Even though it’s after company hours.


John Sumser: It’s a very interesting universe. I think the companies that are big enough to behave in the way that you’re describing only employ about four or five percent of the workforce.


Erin Spencer: Absolutely. Very true.


John Sumser: The really, really big, white-collar companies where that level of tracking is interesting, it’s a very rarefied environment. It’s a very, very rarefied environment. I don’t imagine that this gets out of the box and creates an impenetrable security … dystopian, impenetrable security state. It’s going to be more surveillance around. No question. Any final thoughts, Erin? What did you take away from this conversation?


Erin Spencer: Just that what we’ve been going over is really that technology is quite powerful and it’s being used in a lot of new and interesting ways. Just being aware of that and what technology can do for individuals and for organizations is very important. With that, tempered with using things In a way that doesn’t actually hurt the human part of your human resources, I think, is going to a large part of the conversation going forward.


John Sumser: Thanks, Stacey and Erin. Thanks for being here and thanks for doing this. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly: One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser with Erin Spencer sitting in. Have a great day.

End Transcript

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