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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: 78
Air Date: July 7, 2016


This Week

This week John and Stacey discuss:

Erin Spencer of Sierra-Cedar is sitting in for Stacey Harris this week.

  • The Internet of Things
  • Phenom People Link
  • Job Market Maker Link
  • Jazz’s partner program Link
  • Beamery and their VC funding Link
  • Microsoft’s recruiting letter 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: Hey, good morning and welcome to HR Tech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. We’ve got Erin Spencer sitting in for Stacey Harris again this week, our good fortune. How are you Stacey? Oops, Erin?


Erin Spencer: Thanks John. I’m doing quite well. I know we both miss Stacey and are excited to have her back, but this week I am in lovely North Carolina. I’m sitting on the deck of a house with fifteen of my closest family members and friends and looking at a lake and the pontoon boats out in the water. It’s a beautiful day for me. How are you and where are you, John?


John Sumser: I’m in beautiful Sebastopol, California where you know, in Northern California it’s really cold. It’s because the fog comes in from the ocean a settles. It’s cold like London is. Anybody who lives here delights in the fact that everybody else is cooking while we shiver.


Erin Spencer: Understandable. Understandable.


John Sumser: This has been a good week off the road for me. I’m headed out to the Ceridian INSIGHTS Conference next week and I’ve been delighted to be in my office for the week learning about stuff. There’s a pile of things to talk about this week in spite of the fact that it’s the Fourth of July week and nobody works. Everybody’s in North Carolina sitting on the edge of a lake.


Erin Spencer: You know what? Everybody should be. Everybody should take a week off, John. Even though I didn’t actually take a week off, but everybody should.


John Sumser: Well, so I took a week off this week and got it down to forty-five hours. I went upstairs at the end of the day yesterday and told my lovely bride that it was a great vacation because I was knocking off at 5:00.


Erin Spencer: Well …


John Sumser: Sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes it’s like that.


Erin Spencer: Sometimes it’s like that.


John Sumser: What’s in the mailbag?


Erin Spencer: We have some interesting topics this week. John, even though as you said there weren’t too many major shifts this week in HR technology. First off we want to talk about the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems survey. We’re almost done with collection efforts for this year. Then we had some other topics we wanted to talk about. Job Market Maker and Jazz and their partner programs and Beamery and some venture capital. Then last but certainly not least, a lovely recruiting email from Microsoft. John, we should get started. We’ve only got half an hour.


John Sumser: I want to actually add a couple of topics to that. One is a company called Phenom People who I talked to the other day. The other is the Internet of Things and its growing impact on our world. What’s the Internet of Things, Erin?


Erin Spencer: The Internet of Things is something that we talked about a little bit in the survey report last year. The idea that the Internet of Things is interconnectedness is just going to change everything about how we work and live and entertain ourselves. Because we have all of these digital abilities at our fingertips, that we’re going to be able to use our phones and mobile devices and this whole internet to be able to do all sorts of interesting things.


One of the articles I was reading this week was talking about smart mirrors, allowing consumers to try on your clothes digitally and then therefore everybody, not everybody. I still like to try clothes on in the store, but the idea that you won’t have to try clothes on in the store anymore. That you’ll be able to try things on digitally and see how they look, thereby reducing returns for the seller and then upping customer satisfaction.


That’s not the only thing. We’ve kind of been looking at little things, like just the idea that there’s a vacuum cleaner now that will clean your house, the Roomba. One of the statements in the article is that there will be some sort of Roomba things for crops and you’ll be able to plant and fertilize and water with giant Roomba things in the air for your crops. People will grow things that way. John, what’s your take on the whole Internet of Things? Is it too science fictiony or is it coming down the pipe faster than we think?


John Sumser: Oh, it’s coming down the pipe faster than you think, but it’s all big dollar items. The next time you buy a refrigerator it’s liable to be the kind of refrigerator that generates a shopping list for you so that when you go to the store you just dial up the refrigerator and it tells you what’s missing.


Erin Spencer: Yeah, [inaudible 04:56]. I wonder if it will have weights and measures and it will say, “Hey, you’ve only got a quarter of a gallon of milk. You definitely need to have more of that.”


John Sumser: Oh sure. That will ultimately be a part of it, but there are things that you can do with predictive analytics like the number of times you take the carton of milk in and out of the refrigerator and it passes by the scanner that scans the barcodes so it knows that it’s going in and out of the refrigerator. It can be a surrogate for how much stuff weighs, right?


Erin Spencer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


John Sumser: There’s some average amount of milk that you take out of the container every time you take the milk. It will predict that you are low on milk. It will have some idea about how many times the egg carton has come in and out of the refrigerator. You have some idea idea of how many eggs you need. Same with everything that’s got a barcode on it that you use over time. As the refrigerator watches your consumption patterns it will get smarter and smarter about what you need when you go to the store.


It’s pretty simple actually given everything that’s already in place. It’s just moving the store technology into your house. A way of thinking about it is that you’ve just moved the barcode scanner from the cash register to your house and that actually this is probably what Amazon is headed towards, there’s probably an Amazon relationship that you can have that if you allow them to predict your consumption then they can ship you a box of stuff when you need it.


Erin Spencer: Well, you know that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. You’re out of diapers and they show up at your doorstep. You don’t have to worry about going to the store. There are worse problems in the world, John. Problems.


John Sumser: Yeah, until the revolution comes and the power gets shut off and then you’re in trouble because you don’t know how to buy diapers.


Erin Spencer: Well, there’s been a resurgence of cloth I know. Now I use cloth diapers for my youngest daughter. There’s also a shift back toward shall we say the more traditional ways of doing things as well. It will be interesting to see the juxtaposition of the more traditional homesteading local lore series with the Internet of Things and the availability of everything. It will be an interesting time.


John Sumser: What the Internet of Things means in HR is that we will have a more accurate representation of what people are actually doing with their time. That will feel like heavy surveillance at first as you get used to the fact that your badge helps the system understand what you’re doing and allows the system to predict where you’re going to be so that they can take friction out of your relationships, but the essence of the Internet of Things is that your desk will be smart about the tasks that you’re working on. That smartness will be transferable so you won’t need to have your desk. You’ll need to have your device that tells the desk you’re hoteling in how to configure itself to suit you. That’s kind of cool, right?


Erin Spencer: That is.


John Sumser: The problem I always have when I’m on the road is getting a workspace that I can actually work in set up quickly so that I don’t have to think about it anymore. Imagine that the system understands what you need and all you have to let it know is where you are so it can reconfigure itself and give you your workspace wherever you are. That’s the kind of benefit. The creepy underbelly of that is if you can predict my physical behavior I’m going to think you’re Big Brother.


Erin Spencer: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Are you really monitoring how long your employees are out of their seats to go to the restroom or have a conversation in the hallway? How does your company use that information? It’s going to be an interesting thing to watch in the future. Interesting thing.


John Sumser: Yes, yes. This all ties. I’ve been thinking pretty heavily about the relationship between HR and security and it really is the case that all of the things that you can do with technology, all of the really smart, security-oriented coders and developers you can put on problems at your company don’t solve the real security problem, which is that disaffected employees and disinterested employees and unwitting employees are the biggest single security problem that any company has.


You might imagine that they just find it more convenient to use an off the system email server than an on the system email server and while that may look illegal or violation of policy or whatever, it has more to do with being an unwitting employee than anything else. That’s where security problems start. They start with stupid human failure rather than some overt aggressive act on somebody’s part. The Internet of Things will be a way of understanding who is causing that risk in the organization. HR will increasingly be tied to security in the Internet of Things.


Erin Spencer: Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ll plug the survey here one more time, John. We close on Monday so if you haven’t had a chance to take the CRC to HR Systems survey yet, please do so this week and we’ll be talking about the Internet of Things and all sorts of other fun new HR technologies in the survey when we release the white paper and at our presentation at HR Tech in October.


I know that October seems a long way away for some people, but for those of us in the HR community we are furiously looking at that date going, “Oh my, we have to prepare.” There’s a lot to do before that happens.


John Sumser: Right. It’s worth …


Erin Spencer: Something to think about.


John Sumser: It’s worth underlining the fact that the HR Technology Conference in Chicago is in the very first week of October, so everybody’s schedule which has traditionally had that conference much later in the month is accelerated a little bit. I would say in the HR technology community you’re going to see people realizing that they’re in trouble and losing their vacations in August. August will be a pretty interesting time. How’s progress on the survey?


Erin Spencer: John, progress on the survey this year is fantastic. We have gotten, I’ve been doing this for two years, but this is by far the best responses we’ve ever gotten. Not the data is not clean yet so I can’t share official numbers, but I can say that we are head and shoulders this year above where we were last year. However, for all of you listening who think oh, that means that I don’t have to fill out the survey and that I don’t need to do that and participate this year, please, please participate. Every single person, every single entry really makes a difference in the validity of our data.


John Sumser: Thanks. That’s the Sierra-Cedar Annual HR Technology Survey. You can find out about it by going to the HR Examiner homepage and clicking on a link or going to where you can also find the link to the survey. Please.


Erin Spencer: Absolutely.


John Sumser: Please help the industry get to know itself better.


Erin Spencer: Yes. Yes.


John Sumser: A couple of interesting companies I talked to this week, Phenom People and Job Market Maker are both predictive …


Erin Spencer: Why are they interesting, John?


John Sumser: Huh? Well, they’re both predictive analytics.


Erin Spencer: Why is that interesting?


John Sumser: They’re both predictive analytics companies operating in our space with real products. Job Market Maker will tell you the likelihood that a particular passive candidate will be responsive to your outreach for hiring them to come to work for you. They refer to it as poachability score. I’m not sure I like the term poachability, but the idea that you can have an assessment of whether or not if I wanted to come and recruit you away from Sierra-Cedar I would use the Job Market Maker tool to arrive at some conclusion about how well you would receive a request from me to talk about a new opportunity.


Phenom People takes that idea another layer out and solves talent acquisition pain points with predictive analytics. It is a surprising tool that combines what I would describe as word vectors with traditional semantic search tools to make the selection and fit process even clearer. They’re both worth taking a look at.


Who else is in the mixture today? You know what? There’s a note about Jazz, which is another talent acquisition company. Jazz has built a partner program and so they went through all of the process of announcing the partner program. The reason that I wanted to point them out is everybody has a partner program now. If you are evaluating the possibility of having a relationship with an HR tech vendor, it’s really, really critical that you evaluate the details of their partner program.


Partner programs are partly a question of how data is exchanged between the vendor that you’d be working with and their partner network, partly a question of how they’ve incented their partner network to work with them. How do those relationships work? Partly a question of are the partners in their partner network people that you want to work with? It’s like if I were to go back to the original example, If I were to hire you, Erin, I would not just be hiring you. I’d be hiring your entire social network.


Erin Spencer: Absolutely.


John Sumser: Partner networks are just like that. I’m much more likely to have relationships with people in the network now.


Erin Spencer: John, are you saying that we should be looking at our vendors based on their ecosystems and not just individuals vendors when we start to look for them then? Are you going to quite that far or are you saying absolutely you have to look at the ecosystem as a whole rather than just what an individual vendor can do?


John Sumser: If you don’t look at the ecosystem you don’t know what you’re buying. We’re moving into a era, when I buy a new car I make some assumptions about the maintenance and service that I’m going to get. That it’s possible to have my car maintained and served in a variety of ways, that the dealer can do it and that there are other people around the neighborhood who can also do it.


There’s an ecosystem when you buy a car. That stuff is so well established that nobody really thinks about it very hard anymore. In software the idea that there is a dealer and various things that you can get done around the neighborhood is a newer view, right?


Erin Spencer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


John Sumser: The ecosystem idea has always been a part of physical distribution and supply chain situations. A software supply chain that’s organized by the central player is part of this platform thinking that has been part of the latest wave of business planning and software establishments. If you don’t know what’s in the partner ecosystem you really don’t know what you’re buying. You can end up with a relationship with a company that doesn’t have an partnership ecosystem and that means your choices are wildly limited.


Or there are many partner ecosystems that fail. You could end up in a relationship with a company that doesn’t offer you very many options because they haven’t put the necessary investment into their ecosystem. I’m going to say that what you’ll see over the next three to five years is an expanded kind of evaluation of all of the vendors in HR tech that’s particularly a look at how well their ecosystems work, how well their supplier and partner networks work. Why aren’t you covering that in the survey this year, Erin?


Erin Spencer: Well, it’s a hard thing. Now that you’re asking about it I really am thinking gosh, we’re asking about platform as a service this year and infrastructure as a service, but that’s not quite the same thing as your vendor network and how do you make your choices and is the vendor network a big part of that? Obviously with our survey one of the things that we track is software adoption. We tend to see that people who have PeopleSoft for the HR MS also have PeopleSoft for other technologies, also for payroll and also for their ITM and such.


Even if it’s not very good, what the vendor offers in that space isn’t very good because they tend to offer multiple things, people just tend to go with what they know or what is already included in the package that they bought. Then we’ve started to see people branch out and buy something different because they realize that what they have doesn’t meet their needs.


Actually looking overall at an ecosystem is I don’t want to say a new way of thinking about software purchases, but I don’t think that’s the first thing that comes to people’s mind when they’re looking at new vendors.


John Sumser: Well, what’s really interesting about it, so Workday is one extreme. Workday, in order to become part of their partner ecosystem you really have to work hard. They’re very, very demanding and their partner ecosystem is relatively small, but it is extremely robust functionally and extremely reliable because of how hard they vet the people who go in.


You look at the other extreme which is maybe the model where it’s a kind of if the Workday is a tight coupling, the SalesForce model is highly promiscuous. Anybody who can read the API can get into the SalesForce network. SalesForce doesn’t really guarantee the performance of anybody who’s outside of their network, right?


Erin Spencer: No. No, they do not.


John Sumser: That’s the range. That’s the range. You have to be able to figure out that balance between choice and rigidity that suits your company best when you’re buying a product. It may be that that’s the most important thing about the central software provider.


Erin Spencer: Now John, if you were talking to a software provider, would you recommend that they be more liberal in who they allow in their partner program or would you suggest they take the Workday approach to being more rigid in their partnership partners?


John Sumser: Well, it probably depends on the stage of life that the company is in. If you are a new firm and you’re trying to prove that you can handle scale, it’s a lot of work to be able to really demonstrate that you’re good enough as a vendor in HR tech. I’d suggest a very rigid approach in the beginning because you want every one of those relationships to be powerfully incented towards success and under enough control so that you can guarantee that your customers will have a delightful experience.


It may be that as you scale, so if you look at Oracle’s ecosystem it’s so vast that it’s almost unintelligible to somebody who’s not an inside player. There are so many vendors inside of the Oracle or SalesForce or SAP ecosystems that it’s really hard to tell where one begins and the other leaves off. That’s probably where you want to be in the long haul, but only after you’ve set a very rigid performance environment.


Erin Spencer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


John Sumser: Right? So it’s a developmental thing. I haven’t thought about it very much, but it may be that it’s like most kinds of development where you have to be simple and disciplined in the beginning in order to be able to be innovative and creative at the end.


Erin Spencer: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I like making you think about things, John.


John Sumser: Yeah, that’s great.


Erin Spencer: Off the cuff thinking.


John Sumser: That was a great question. There are a couple of other quick pieces and then we’re bouncing out of time. A company called …


Erin Spencer: Wow, we are.


John Sumser: … Beamery which I thought was an auto parts dealer and you thought was an ice cream store.


Erin Spencer: An ice cream store, right?


John Sumser: Yup. It’s another talent acquisition play out of London and they just closed a round of financing of two million. That’s news because there hasn’t always been a venture capital investment market in Europe. It’s really exciting to see that taking off. I think if you look at that happening in London and then you look at what’s happening in the small tech hubs in the United States like Charleston, South Carolina, what you get is a picture of a technology industry that’s exploding all over the world including its financing efforts. That’s a very, very interesting thing to see. The UK will be able to leave Europe but they’re not going to be able to leave the banks.


Erin Spencer: Well no, and that alone is an interesting thing, interesting thing. One of the other things that we had talked about was Microsoft and this lovely recruiting email. John, do you have that up? I think it will sound funnier coming from you.


John Sumser: Yeah. Here’s the Microsoft email to university students that they’re trying to recruit in Northern California. Hi, I’m Kim, a Microsoft university recruiter. My crew is coming down from our HQ in Seattle to hang with you in the crowd of Bay Area interns at Internapalooza on 7/11, but more importantly we’re throwing an exclusive after party the night of the event at our San Francisco office and you’re invited.


There will be hella noms, lots of dranks, the best beats and like last year we’re breaking out the Yammer beer pong tables. Hell yes to getting lit on a Monday night. Right? This is Microsoft pretending that it’s Animal House.


Erin Spencer: Let’s be clear, it said dranks, D-R-A-N-K-S, not drinks, D-R-I-N-K-S. Really, really going for the slang here.


John Sumser: Yeah. This would be like me going to a high school sock hop and trying to dance. I do the famous old white guy dance which is kind of writhe in pain in a small contained space. It’s an artificial attempt at hipness from a almost thirty year old company. They are a thirty year old company. Then saying that the essence of their college recruiting is about getting drunk on a Monday night is just embarrassing.


Erin Spencer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


John Sumser: It’s just embarrassing. It’s just embarrassing. it’s a reinforcement of everything that’s wrong in the Silicon Valley culture. You don’t send a letter like that to a bunch of women engineers.


Erin Spencer: You do not. You do not.


John Sumser: You do not for safety reasons and for proprietary reasons. This is very clearly Microsoft continuing to participate in the bro culture that’s what’s broken about Silicon Valley. If you look at this as a soft of anti-female assault, it’s disgusting. The real thing here is what kind of nutcase puts this sort of material out in the era of the internet where it’s going to get read on some podcast and covered in the newspaper? Right? It is so easy to damage your company’s reputation that this ought to be an object lesson in don’t be stupid.


Erin Spencer: Then the other thing is do you really want employees for whom breaking out the Yammer beer pong table on a Saturday night is their idea of a good time? Are you really attracting what you want to attract, John? Is this what Microsoft really needs as an employee base? Are they barking up the wrong tree, trying to find the wrong people?


John Sumser: Maybe they’ve been watching too much Silicon Valley on HBO and not enough Silicon Valley on the ground in Silicon Valley. I don’t know.


Erin Spencer: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right?


John Sumser: What a great conversation. Thanks so much, Erin. This has been another [inaudible 29:24], but we should probably call Stacey and put her on notice now.


Erin Spencer: No, no, no. We’ll be happy when Stacey comes back, John. We’ll be thrilled that she’s joining the show once more. I always thank you for a great conversation and we’ll be here next week.


John Sumser: Yeah, thanks everybody. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser and Erin Spencer has been sitting in. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week. Bye bye.


Erin Spencer: Thanks all. Bye.

End transcript


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