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HRx Radio – Executive Conversations: On Friday mornings, John Sumser interviews key executives from around the industry. The conversation covers what makes the executive tick and what makes their company great.

HRx Radio – Executive Conversations

Guest: Dave Weisbeck, CSO at Visier Corporation
Episode: 377
Air Date: August 28, 2020




Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation. Thank you for your understanding.

Full Transcript with timecode


John Sumser: [00:00:00] Good morning and welcome to HR Examiner’s, Executive Conversations. I’m your host, John Sumpser. Today. We’re going to be talking with Dave Weisbeck who you may recall was just here, but the conversation was so good, we wanted to carry it into another half hour. Dave, take a moment please and introduce yourself.


[00:00:32] Dave Weisbeck: Happy to thanks, John. And hello again. So Dave Weisbeck, chief strategy officer at Visier. My favorite joke has always been that nobody knows exactly what a chief strategy officer does. It means I get to do whatever I want and nobody can tell me I’m not exactly on task. The truth of the matter is what I really focus on this year is taking the responsibility where we need to take the business.


[00:00:51] You know, thinking about it from an internal perspective, really externally. Think about all the challenges that we face as a market. Trying to make sense of all of the data that we have, the massive amounts of exhaust on the systems we’ve put in place and that exhausted data. How do we use that? Bring better evidence to the decisions that we make about people.


[00:01:11] So it’s my job to try to think that through, understand where the world’s going, the market’s going, HR is going, businesses are going, and then translate that into how we can help from an organizational perspective to come in and make your business better. And so it makes it a really fun job. I’ve been doing that for about 10 years now.


[00:01:28] So it’s been a lot of fun.


[00:01:30] John Sumser:Yeah. I’m jealous. What a great job. We haven’t mentioned the company you work for, Vizier. So just a couple of bullet points about Vizier and then we’ll get on.


[00:01:39] Dave Weisbeck: Yeah. So as I mentioned, we’re doing this for 10 years and so busier also have to speak 10 years. I actually had our 10 year anniversary, this last may and a background of who we are in terms of people who built the company all comes deep within the analytics world.


[00:01:52] So that’s our passion and that’s really what gets your done. Take the data that you have from all of these different systems. And I always caution people. We think about the traditional applications we deploy in HR is the systems of data on people. But the reality is there’s a much broader set. You know, it can be anything from your customer relationship or CRM systems that tells you about people.


[00:02:13] That’d be your salespeople, but it tells you about your people. We try to bring all of that data together and be that single source of truth for you to be able to make better decisions. As you’re trying to figure out how do we increase our diversity or. How do we keep people that we desperately don’t want to lose?


[00:02:30] Or how do we improve the quality of our hiring and everything else across the employee life cycle. We try to help you to answer those questions better, faster, easier.


[00:02:39] John Sumser: That’s interesting. Is there any data that you can think of in the company that can’t be seen as information about people?


[00:02:48] Dave Weisbeck: Yeah, I thought about that one before, actually, I guess you have to twist yourselves a little bit and not for some of it to be included as people data, we get some systems, data machines collect data.


[00:02:59] That was probably the first category I think of as that. So people, data, so sensors we put in place might collect data. Is your core, financial is your general ledger. I’m sure there’s people data in there in fact of your contingent workforces, better trapped in there than it is in your core exam. So I always advocate for a more expansive view of what is people data.


[00:03:21] Because it helps us to connect it to the business. And a lot of these systems that the rest of the business gets really fixated on and, you know, goes talks to vendors and deploys and has big projects around. They hold a piece of the puzzle of people, data. And if you can connect to those, you can connect the decisions that we’re making around, putting in place, whether it’s an engagement program or, you know, a learning development program.


[00:03:45] So what is the impact it has, you know, from a cost perspective or a revenue perspective, And so I think that is a place we need to continue to advance from people. Analytics is connect to those business outcomes.


[00:03:56] John Sumser: So those are recent MIT technology review article about people analytics. That’s a review of a book that purports to have the real angle on when people have started. Have you had time to think about, about the article and it’s great.


[00:04:15] Dave Weisbeck: That is yes. Part because I’ve been thinking about these questions for a very long time. And in fact, I have a very common set of questions that come up that relate to people, analytics and, you know, ideas of big brother privacy. It is a hot topic, certainly with what happened in Europe some time ago, and that causes organizations to wake up because they heard four letters, GDPR, and realized they had to look at things differently.


[00:04:43] And now we’ve got a new set of a four letter CCPA, the California act around privacy. So privacy factors into this big brother notions factor into this, but I always have a favorite way to talk about this. That is always about the use of data on people, people analytics, just generally speaking. It’s evidence.


[00:05:03] And the reason I relate that is very often at the root of people’s concerns or worries is this idea that the machines are going to make the decisions for them. And that we will lose the human and I don’t ascribe to that. I don’t see that as our future, some decisions can be automated because it’s, you know, we’ve got systems and package delivery in an Amazon delivery warehouse can be routed with an automated decision, really, to think of that as analytics, but the package goes down the left chain and then I left chain leads to the workers who load things into trucks to go to this location.


[00:05:40] But I don’t see us getting there for decisions. For example of hiring. I think we have to bring together lots of evidence and data is one of the best sources of evidence. And I always relate this in terms of something we’re all familiar with. And that is, you know, the crime shows we watched on TV in our lie on blond orders and our CSI who really building a case.


[00:06:02] And, you know, the wonderful stuff that we see that kind of more science-based and we’ve got the genetics and the DNA, and we’ve got, you know, the fingerprints that’s stuff. That’s great. And it’s wonderful, but it doesn’t exist solely in isolation from what was the witness? What’s the backstory, what’s the motivation.


[00:06:19] What else has happened? It’s softer, more qualitative, more human. So I see that the same way about. People analytics, we should bring the human aspect. We should bring the data aspect. We bring it all together. We make better decisions. And it doesn’t when you do that, I think the concerns about big brother or how it will be used appropriately or not. I think those disciplines.


[00:06:40] John Sumser: The article raises a ton of questions about the ethics. It talks about privacy, that’s important, but the sort of the world of unintended consequences where, you know, it’s true throughout the scientific world, that the act of measuring something changes. And one of the questions that I ended up having is. How does a constant measurement environment affect the people who are inside of that? You ethics beyond privacy.


[00:07:14] Dave Weisbeck: So the act of measuring it changes something it’s Heisenberg. So shout out to those who love quantum mechanics, all three of you. It is very true. Right? talk about this. Um, when you think about government policy and yes, we think when, when we bring that back to the worlds that you know, all of us are care about when we think about policies that were put in place around people.


[00:07:41] So know some of the HR programs we’ve put in place. We can point to one of the near term examples of a, an approach that’s being disrupted and some would maybe argue, has already been disrupted. That’s the performance reviews. We go back to some of the earlier days and organizations like success factors, you know, counting and a methodology.


[00:08:00] And now we’re turning that on its head. Because it’s what you start to see is of course, is the gaining of such systems is one aspect that you start to see when people say, okay, this is exactly how we will want to be measured, but then people will find ways to make certain that they can optimize their measure rather than, you know, the spirit of what they’re trying to do.


[00:08:20] And even before that, we’ve had quota systems in sales teams forever. It’s figuratively speaking. And so it’s a very common thing that sales organizations, nor sales individuals, figuring out all of the mechanics on how to optimize their quota rather than what you’re really trying to do is incense the right behavior.


[00:08:37] So I think in that regard, this isn’t new, you know, we always have to be diligent about the unintended consequence that comes from. That measurement, but I always turn it to the other way and ask a deeper question, which is, you’ve got two choices. You’ve got a very simplistic world of two choices. You have a, I think I, or you have, I have data and it becomes a choice of, I will dismiss the world of data because of these other consequences.


[00:09:09] Or I’ll go to a world where I have none of that. And I have to go purely on gut instinct and feel, and I would much rather be in a world where we bring greater evidence, more evidence than less. And so it’s always a really my, my way. I was trying to simplify it down. And so we have us very simple choice and it’s better to not be blind than it is to when it comes to using information to make decisions.


[00:09:36] John Sumser: Okay, we can go walk away with it. Number of bringing us back to the point of the conversation. And that’s, we talked a lot the last time about COVID related things. My guess is that you are learning a ton. And so I’m very interested about the product pipeline and what you think is coming as the flagship company and the people that are living expenses. What are your next issues? What’s coming down the road?


[00:10:04] Dave Weisbeck: Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting because our approach as a company is to say we’re a technology company, to be clear. We’re a software company, a technology company. We provide cloud solutions for organizations. Well, one of our beliefs, the whole notion of software as a service is a wonderful transition to a better way for all of us to get access to some pretty fantastic technology.


[00:10:25] But the last app and software as a service of always seems to be the one that gets under delivered, doesn’t get explored enough. It gets, you know, over promised and under delivered. And so what do I mean by that and our case? When you think about analytics, it’s very easy to put a bunch of tools and you know, and some, you know, somebody else’s data center, you know, the vendor’s data center and say ha analytics in the cloud.


[00:10:48] But ultimately what we’re trying to do is answer questions. That’s our goal. We’re trying to figure out the answer to deeper and deeper sets of questions about our people. Well, we can make better decisions to advance the business, advance their careers and the like, and so point of all of that, we advance our technology and that’s half of where we put our energy and then we try to advance the sets of questions that we can answer.


[00:11:10] And literally deliver them as questions. So we’re always advancing what is the latest state of the art types of questions. And so that means we got to stay really close to, you know, what are the questions that people are asking? What are they trying to figure out? And certainly one of the things that even connecting to the last little conversation have a giant question that people are asking now is just to try to get a better insight into diversity.


[00:11:31] In particular as a little phrase, I always love is inclusion is what we strive for. Diversity is what we measure. And so that is a huge area of topic. And to connect it to our last conversation, I think it’s a good example for you if you’d rather not, you’d rather know where you’re at. You’d rather know if you’ve got bias or unconscious bias in terms of the technical questions that are the types of behaviors that are happening inside your organization.


[00:11:57] And it’s an example of where I think data can have a positive change to the world right now. That’s a big fixation of ours is how do we start to tease out? It’s very easy to measure all of the cuts of data and understand. From a gender from an ethnicity, from a disability, from a veterans, there’s lots of cuts of how we might want to think about age diversity and then the multitude of ways to measure it.


[00:12:21] How do we start to kill back? Inclusion and inclusion is often answered in terms of steel, but how can we start to tease out? Are you actually included? And so one of the things that we have as an example of this is a hypothesis test, or is what we call an overly fancy name for. I’ll give you an example of that when you do hiring the question, the big question is if my interview ERs are more diverse, do you get more diverse?


[00:12:49] Hires at the end and no implications of bias except perhaps unconscious bias. But if you have more diverse interviewers and you apply them to a, you know, a nicely diverse candidate pool to get different outcomes, if you have less or more diverse interviews, And so that’s a hypothesis that I betcha thought is I bet you will get more diverse hires if we have more diverse interviewers.


[00:13:13] And so now how do you structure that in a way that you can tease that out and look for those patterns in the data in an intuitive way that allows you to see the streams that people follow. They follow the stream of going through these intercepts of interviewers. They follow the streams that host for those.


[00:13:27] Where does that lead to in terms of an outcome? And so that type of notion is a difficult one where we think about the data and the structure of data and the movement of people through processes. It’s a good example where we’re trying to put the technology together with also the questions that matter important that people either are trying to answer or should be trying to answer. And so that’s one area we’re trying to continue to push for.


[00:13:51] John Sumser: What’s an example of a question people should be trying to answer.


[00:13:54] Dave Weisbeck: The wonderful thing about people, analytics is it’s so massively diverse and you always go end up going back to the employee life cycle, because it’s a nice framework to start to cut this apart.


[00:14:05] I think we should be trying to answer quality of hire questions more deeply than we are today. If we go to the, you know, the front end, but we can’t do so without starting to look at not what happens after the hire. Is this person promoted? Are they, you know, are they getting salary increases? What is their performance review?


[00:14:21] And then track it back into where we source them from where, to who, who did the evaluation and who did the interviewing to say, this would be a great person to hire. And that’s a way that you can optimize the talent in your organization. But we often look at these things. So pipes and silos. And so we can look at, you know, data and our ATS, but we can’t connect it to the other systems and data.


[00:14:41] And so those more complicated questions become difficult for us to answer. But ultimately I still advocate that, you know, where’s this all pushing, where’s this all leading. I think a lot of people invest in people analytics or make choices that is simplistic in the sense that that is a cost base analysis.


[00:14:58] So they’re thinking what is the size of my team? How many people, what’s the cost of the solution. Can I consolidate vendors? And I think that’s, you know, that’s not a good business case for the advancement of people, analytics in an organization. Most people think about it in terms of what are the people, direct people, things we are passionate about are in HR outcomes.


[00:15:16] Can I advance my retention? Can I improve my hiring? Can I understand, you know, the learning programs we have in place and. Where we’ve got the right coverage and we’ve got the right programs in place. So we think about it in those terms, but where it’s ultimately going more of the peak of the pyramid is we have to connect those decisions too.


[00:15:36] And how does that advance the business forward? And one of my favorite little rants on this one is engagement. Cause we very often everybody does engagement. Everybody tries to measure engagement. You know, it feels like you can’t be a sizable organization without bringing to your board or your leadership team.


[00:15:53] Where are we with engagement? And everybody has to have a number in an older number. But what we invariably don’t do we just believe, and we don’t try to directly answer and connect. It is what is the effect of engagement, even as it relates to simpler questions? Like what does, if we move up our engagement by five points, what would be the outcome we would expect in retention?


[00:16:12] Would it actually make a difference to keeping the talent that matters to us? And then you can go further and say, We just accept without ever trying to, to see what our own individual answer is as an organization, if the cage increases by 10 points, what will that mean in terms of our productivity? Do we have at least a point of view on that we don’t have to have the perfect scientific, you know, written paper that’s been peer reviewed and all of the other I’s dotted and T’s crossed, but at least have a model that says, if we increase it by 10 points, we will get this much product Tiffany, which will lead to this much.


[00:16:44] You know? And then what is your business outcome? Is it customer satisfaction or is it revenue or what is it that, you know, that matters to your business? We still have to connect those things that we were doing. In terms of our people and the decisions that have a, have a HR program impact to a business strategy impact.


[00:17:02] And that’s where we continue to push us busier. I think we have to continue to push as an industry.


[00:17:07] John Sumser: That’s interesting. So I’m thinking a lot about the changes that we’ve experienced over the last six or eight months, and imagining that HR is going to have a increased focused on health and safety and much of what you talked about, sort of assumed health and safety at the core. I wonder if you can imagine health and safety being the fundamental things that are the foundation of all other measures. Do you think there’s a role for health and safety in your view?


[00:17:38] Dave Weisbeck: Sure. Yeah. It was a health and safety where we see it predominantly today is organizations, industries, actually workers at more, has more risks.


[00:17:48] They’ve had the leading edge. So oil industry oil and gas, you certainly see that quite dangerous work. I also see it in some public sector, places, particularly cities, you’ve got road crews, you know, maintenance, you know, sanitary at these things, complete dangerous work to say nothing, you know, fire and police and et cetera.


[00:18:05] Oh, so they’ve led the way with some good standards in terms of some of the data as well, so that we can start to look across and bring data together so that we can start to compare and contrast or huge advocates of benchmarks take our 10 million or so employees that we count in our probation try to give relative comparisons.


[00:18:23] But the point is that’s been the leading edge. What we saw actually starting in March was suddenly this explosion of people trying to answer questions. That related now of course, from a Kobe perspective and trying to understand and exposure and risk. And I think that’s a nice evolution of the health and safety is not to look at it from an incidence perspective.


[00:18:44] And so looking backwards from an incident active and saying, okay, obviously there’s something at the site or location for the nature of this work that we need to put in place as a corrective action. But now can we start to try to figure out how to model risk and exposure? And so that’s a nice evolution to try to get ahead of the curve.


[00:19:02] How prevalent will that be in the future? And that’s a really tricky question. I mean, and I think goes to the heart of questions. We’re all asking right now around what is the new normal? Well, we’d be more of us be working from home. Most certainly. There’s some wonderful stories of 1918 influenza from the Spanish flu, right?


[00:19:22] As we, it was somewhat misnomer. And in some of the social norms that changed, I mean, what are those social norms? What are those work norms that will also change and will health and safety rise up? I don’t know. Actually I suspect we will see. Changes and the work environment, certainly how prevalent health and safety will be as part of that.


[00:19:40] I think wellness and wellbeing are going to be big topics because we’ve all been so disrupted. We’ve all had such a shock to the system that we are going to care about that because we will, we will quickly understand that that has an impact on our overall productivity. And so I think we’ll see a rise coming from that angle.


[00:19:59] How much will stick though? Maybe a little bit of everyone’s cast.


[00:20:03] John Sumser: Another place where we could have a very long conversation. So last thing what’s changing that you didn’t expect. You’re the strategy guy you’ve been doing a pretend years. What surprised you in the last year or so?


[00:20:16] Dave Weisbeck: Yeah, the surprise is there’s this wonderful expression that talk about change.


[00:20:20] And one of my favorites is this idea that the timeframe of change and that in a year, things change, you know, much more than you would expect, but in a shorter timeframe. So in a week, week or a month, things don’t change as much as you would like, but in a year, that change way more than you would expect.


[00:20:35] And so I think that is going to hold true here. As we look at what’s happening. Now, the other one is in terms of change that I always love is this idea that changes happens slowly and gradually until it doesn’t. And there’s this wonderful notion that even changing in the world of nature most often happens in what is known as a punctuated equilibrium, really fancy term.


[00:20:57] I’ve always loved that just basically says everything kind of goes along with this constant state of change. And then there’s a giant punch to the face. And we’re clearly in 2020 is going to stand as the biggest punch to the face to kind of change the biggest punctuation to our equilibrium. And so what will we see?


[00:21:15] We are going to see changes on diversity at a pace and a rate that we did not expect. We are going to inspect it. We’re going to demand change that I didn’t see we’ve been on this constant change of improvement forever. It seems and slope, and it’s been glacial. And now we’ve had a wake up and we will see change much faster.


[00:21:34] I think we’ve seen that in terms of the nature of work. And when you read those who do the deep research and think deeply about the changing nature of work, everything they’ve been saying, it’s been shown to be the past that we’re on, but it’s been glacial. So the idea that we need to form teams more dynamically that works has been is less task orientated.


[00:21:55] And one of the consequences of that, well now with us all being distributed and us having to make a rapid transition to be digital organizations, because we had no choice. Those now are going to accelerate those changes in the nature of work so that we are less Holden to the traditional organizational structures and more, and we’re going to have to get way better at measuring how the virtual teams, how does cross departmental virtual teams that spin up, do work, bend down and dissipate.


[00:22:27] How do you measure the effectiveness of that? And to me, and that’s one of them, that’s a really profound question around that gets to the heart of the nature of work changing and the reality of the way modern work has done, and then challenges the fact that none of our systems are designed for this.


[00:22:43] That’s the org structure. We hold in the core. HRIF, doesn’t have a notion of the idea that we form teams this way. Performance reviews, engagement, measures the individual against the organization at large, it doesn’t measure the person with the team, so to interact with. So we have all of these gaps and we’re going to have to radically change about how we start to think about measuring the new form of work.


[00:23:05] John Sumser: That’s a healthy agenda. Looks like you’ll be at the strategy job for another 10 years. Thanks for taking the time to do this Dave. That was a great answer. Why don’t you take a moment, reintroduce yourself, and tell people how they might get a hold of you.


[00:23:18] Dave Weisbeck: Yeah. Dave Weisbeck Chief Strategy Officer at Visier. The simplest is Dave dot Weisbeck at Visier dot com. Visier, V-I-S-I-E-R. If you don’t know if this year you should, because we’re the leader in people, analytics, whether it’s by customers or breadth of solution to toot our own horn. Yeah, we’re the best. So we’d love to have a conversation about how we can help your organization.


[00:23:37] John Sumser: Fantastic. Thanks again for doing this. You’ve been listening to HR Examiner’s Executive Conversations, and we’ve been talking with Dave Weisbeck. Dave runs strategy for Visier, and is a guy you should be paying attention to. Thanks for tuning in, and we will see you back here next week. Bye bye now.

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