What Matters

Topics: HRExaminer, John Sumser, by John Sumser

photo of Naomi Bloom on HRExaminer article by John Sumser published April 27, 2016

Learn why John Sumser finds Naomi Bloom to be the single most influential person in the history of the HR Technology industry.

If you aren’t following the HRExaminer Radio show (podcasts), you might explore them a little more. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings at 7 am Pacific, there is a live half hour radio segment. There is a small audience (maybe 30 people each week). Another 500 or 600 people download and listen to the segments over time.

They’re good for a walk, run, or car ride. You can listen while you relax and get a tan. They help pass the time on long plane rides. If you’re careful, you can multi-task and listen in on that next long conference call.

In fact, when someone says, “Oh, sorry, I was on mute,” what they really mean is, “I was listening to an episode of HRExaminer Radio and was so engrossed in the conversation that I stopped paying attention to this conference call.”

On Wednesday and Friday, I interview key players in the HR/Recruiting technology ecosystem. On Thursdays, in a segment called “HRTech Weekly: One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser,” Stacey and I discuss the big ideas in HRTech while reviewing the news of the past week. Stacey Harris, in case you don’t know, is the working muscle behind the annual industry defining Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey. (See the bottom of this page for more info). Sign up to participate in this year’s survey.

On today’s HRExaminer Radio show, I visited with Naomi Bloom.

Naomi is the single most influential person in the history of the HRTechnology industry. Armed with a liberal arts degree, she began as a coder. (Did you know that 48% of software developers do not have a computer science degree?) By the late 80’s, she’d accumulated enough experience and reputation to open her own consultancy, Bloom & Wallace. In the following 29 years, she’s left her mark as an industry visionary.

Naomi’s central crusade has been (as you can learn in the podcast) to bring precision to the language we use to speak about technology in the HR sector. As a part of this mission, she’s spent countless hours helping software developers manage and understand their data models. She’s the reason that you can, on occasion, tell whether or not something is actually SaaS.

During the show, we talked about her experience with HR practitioners. When she encounters working HR professionals, she always asks, “How does your company make money?” In her experience, most HR professionals don’t know how to answer the question. She wonders how you can tell what the right thing to do for the business is when you don’t know what the business does.

I do, too.

Another of Naomi’s talking points is the idea of personal responsibility. She has really invested a significant amount of energy into the question. If you think about the “What does your business actually do?” question above, you might see that it’s a way of framing personal responsibility for HR practitioners. In other words, you can’t deliver real value in HR until you take personal responsibility for making decisions that contribute to the company’s business objectives.  “Be curious. Read the annual report,” she said.

“It’s simple,”she says. “How does the company make money? Then, what do we need to do to make that better?”

(The conventional way of saying this is ‘business outcomes.’ I prefer the less passive ‘business incomes.’)

It’s a one-two punch with Ms. Bloom. After talking about personal responsibility in HR practice, she moved on to personal responsibility for career and retirement. “We’ve been responsible for our own careers, development and financial security for the past 30 years.”

She closed the conversation with a short discussion of one’s responsibility to leave the world a better place than you found it. It’s an ancient ethic that was given to me as “Always leave the campsite in better shape than you found it.”

Naomi Bloom is the heart and soul of HRTech industry software development.


Published since 1997, the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey is the longest running, most widely distributed, and most highly participative research effort in the HR industry, annually tracking the adoption, deployment approaches, and value achieved from HR technologies. We study the roadmaps that organizations navigate and decisions they make regarding technology, integrations, processes, and people when building an empowered HR function that serves the workforce and supports organizational outcomes. We provide practical data on emerging and innovative technology trends and help organizations understand how they can capitalize on them. We share this research freely to assist organizations with developing their HR systems strategy, devising a plan, justifying investments, and ultimately executing on their HR technology vision. All responses are confidential and only used in aggregate results. Download all HR Systems Survey White Papers here.

Sign up to participate in this year’s survey.

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