HR Tech Weekly: Episode #261: Stacey Harris and John Sumser

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Hosts Stacey Harris and John Sumser discuss important news and topics in recruiting and HR technology. Listen live every Thursday or catch up on full episodes with transcriptions here.

HR Tech Weekly
Episode: 261
Air Date: April 9, 2020


This Week

Topics: This week: Nemesysco Remote Employee Wellness Monitoring, CloudMills and HRNX Merge, SAP Lowers FY20 Outlook, WorkJam Raises $50M, and Collaboration Software outfit Notion Raises $50M.

Nemesysco Reports Increased Interest for its Voice Analytics Technology for Remote Employee Wellness Monitoring Link »
CloudMills and HRNX Merge Link »
SAP Lowers FY20 Outlook Link »
WorkJam Raises $50M for Increased Demand For Digital Workplace Frontline Employees Link »
Notion, Maker of Collaboration Software, Raises $50 Million Link »
Topics: Nemesysco, CloudMills, HRNX, SAP, WorkJam, and Notion.

Other News this Week

Video-Sharing Startup VidGrid Acquired by Chicago HR Tech Company Link »
Justworks Launches Tool to Help Businesses Offer COVID-19-Related Paid Leave Link » Creates Talent Exchange with FMI To Match Furloughed or Laid Off Employees with Critical Open Jobs 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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Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused (or extremely confused) and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation and let us know if you find something wrong and we’ll get it fixed right away. Thank you for your understanding.


John Sumser 0:14
Good morning and welcome to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer With Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Hi, Stacey. How’s life in North Carolina?

Stacey Harris 0:24
Good morning, John. We’re doing well. We’ve got some sunshine today. We got on and off thunderstorms. But that’s that’s sort of a nice thing. It washes away all the yellow pollen in the air. And we’re all still sheltering in place in our home. So I don’t think much has changed. I mean, obviously, we’re all watching the news from our various areas and our hearts go out to everyone in those areas that are being most affected like New York and New Jersey right now. But really, anybody who’s lost people right now, so yeah, it’s we’re doing well in North Carolina, though, I think so how about you, California seems to have gotten to a point where they’re, they’re thinking they might have flattened the curve. Is this this is sort of exciting in this age of COVID-19 crisis to hear the good news coming out of California. Does it feel good to you guys there?

John Sumser 1:09
No. No, because flattening the curve just means it’s going to take longer and I wish. I wish that was true. I wish that flattening the curve meant Okay, we can go back to normal now, but it’s a funny thing to celebrate that we’ve avoided so far, what they’re seeing in New York City, but in some ways, we just put it off a little bit because the hospital beds are filling up but we’re going to run out of hospital beds shortly and it’s a different thing. And still the, you know, the people that people who are working are working hard and trying to figure out how to navigate all of the complex emotions well, getting 10 and 12 hour days in six days a week and the who aren’t working, you’re trying to figure out what the world you do about looking for work when everybody’s been laid off. So so the disease’s kind of like the catalytic structure of this, but the message itself is, you see it, I’m sure it’s the same way for you, you go to the grocery store in a release of masks and gloves. Yeah. Right. And so there aren’t bodies in the streets like there might be in New York, but they’re, it’s weird.

Stacey Harris 2:29
It’s scary. And it’s scary. I mean, I think that, you know, a lot of us I think this stuff has been going around and then about managing stress, managing wellness. It’s also been about how to manage that when you have other people who are depending on you greatly, right. Like whether that’s employees who are looking to you or whether that be your children. You know, there’s a story going around about parents not being okay because their children are feeling the stress and how are you managing that from a psychological perspective, and I can remember going through some level of that After 911 when my boys were seven, and three, and it’s hard to explain these kinds of environments to children, and they can feel and pick up on your moods, but it’s really true that even your employees can feel and pick up on your stress related issues or your partner’s who are in the quarantine with you. So yeah, I think it’s that double pressure of sort of, it’s weird. It’s scary. And then you’re trying to manage your own emotions. And those two things are very difficult right now.

John Sumser 3:28
Mm hmmm, yup. Yeah. And still, this goes on. And we’ve got interesting stuff in the pipeline today. So what do you see in the mailbag?

Stacey Harris 3:37
Yeah, surprisingly, I think actually, we’re seeing more business now even though we’re probably being hit with some of the harder issues with the COVID-19 crisis because there are more deaths. Right now. There are more frontline and healthcare workers who were struggling or being burnout, but the people who have all been pushed to work at home, which is the whole world at some level they’ve gotten into, we’ve stopped dealing with computers trying to be figured out And what’s my workspace and just the shock of the whole thing. And so we are starting to see some things pick up this week we got some interesting stuff going on one video sharing startup did grid was acquired by the Chicago HR tech company. Some of you probably know their name paylocity. Part of the three p groups have raised always calling them but this is interesting because paylocity is one of the small payroll companies out of Illinois that has primarily been focused on just picking up little HR applications to go along with them. But a video sharing startup is interesting. We also saw this week some really big investments work jam, which is a digital workplace solutions provider, raise $50 million dollars in a theory seed funding. So this is not their first funding round. We also saw a similar organization notion, a maker of collaboration software, similar type of application, raise $50 million, as well. This is their second round, which has raised it to about $65 million for them overall. So we are definitely still seeing investments. There’s some smaller investments. We’re also seeing some mergers and acquisitions. I think companies are realizing that they know they can do better, stronger together than they can not cloud mills and HR NEC merged to create a single integration platform tool. And so we can have some conversations about that. We’re also seeing some news coming out of our larger vendors, SAP, workday, ADP all been a lot of conversation in the financial markets about how well they’re doing how well they’re not doing. We got a briefing from SAP last week, which said things are doing well, we have things in the pipeline, and we are concerned about what’s happening with our financials. But up until that point, things were looking really good, right SAP, for example, said their total revenues was up by 5%. Cloud revenue grew by 25% year over year, which is a good place to be we’re right now in the middle of all that, but they also gave some details about other things that were going on. So we can cover that a little bit. And then if we get a little bit of time today, there are a lot of the question is whether they’re new applications or if they’re just taking what an organization is already doing or does and they’re just putting out press releases on it, but we are seeing some interesting uses of existing technology in the air. of the crisis one is I’m not going to say their name correctly and I wish I knew how to say I will have to go and find out but Nam Cisco name Cisco n e n e s wise SEO I have seen them before in conversations but they are a voice analytic organization that basically analyzes work meetings and give feedback on emotion. They are now rolling out a new remote employees wellness monitoring program and just works launched a new tool to help businesses offer COVID-19 related paid leave just for testing about payroll, a light payroll with a bunch of services and tools around tax and management of benefits and those type of things and they’re now adding an automated version of what a lot of other small businesses are getting their managed service organizations to do. So there’s some interesting things there that are being rolled out and eightfold AI is creating a talent exchange with the food industry association to immediately match recently for a loader laid off employees with critical open jobs. So interesting stuff going on, Jeff Suddenly things aren’t, you know, they’re picking back up as far as the speed of activity. The question is, is the same type of activity that we saw before the COVID-19 crisis hit right.

John Sumser 7:09
So I want to start with Nemesysco. Right? That’s a really interesting thing. This Nemesysco is a company that uses voice analysis to detect emotion, personality and assess risk. And they are now offering their service for monitoring for remote employees and meetings. That’s the analogy. And I wonder if there are two things. One is I’m not sure that there’s actual science here. Right? That’s not at all clear that this has been through some sort of academically rigorous scientific thing. But the other thing is, so let’s say you’re my supervisor, and we have Nemesysco monitoring my participation in the various beatings of I have so you get a monthly report about my mood in meetings? What do you do with that? What exactly is the information that you actually get from being able to monitor my mood in a meeting?

Stacey Harris 8:11
Yeah, this is an interesting conversation, right? Because the way they’re they’re representing this is that it will help you understand if there is stressors or frustration or anger building in a situation. But I think your question is right on. So when I know that, but I can tell you even my company, which is a very small company, and has not put out surveys for anything, is putting out a weekly pulse survey trying to understand where everybody’s at both their perceptions, their workloads, if they personally have COVID-19. So I think companies are a little trying to get some gauge of what’s happening with their employees. This seems to be a less intrusive way to do that. Possibly, if the data and the science work the way they say where I can see the appeal of this because I know as an employee, I hate taking those surveys they’re sending out to is that the possibility of what they’re looking at here.

John Sumser 8:59
Well so the company does an array of things. One of the things that does is it correlates personality to the tone of your voice. Now, that seems like bullshit to me. But you know, that’s just me. And then it also uses the same voice signal to identify mood and stretch in my voice. And so again, the question is, what do you do with that? What do you do? in their call center products, they claim to be able to identify calls that are going bad while they’re going bad. They say that three or 4% of the calls ended up with the customer being mistreated. And so they say that they can monitor this and notify the supervisor. So the supervisor, Kevin immediately get into the call and fix the problem. And that’s interesting, but call center behavior and meeting behavior are very, very different things. So it may be appropriate to express extreme displeasure in a meeting. For instance. May be entirely appropriate, it may not be appropriate at the call center. And so the context in which mood happens in the context in which my personality is displayed are critical factors that it’s very, very difficult to understand. So I can imagine being called into a supervisors office and go, you know, you’re grumpy on Tuesdays and Thursdays What’s going on? Right? Or? Or Wow, you’ve been in a rosy spirited mood for 37 days in a row. Are you tricking on the job? Can you imagine being called into the boss’s office because of your mood?

Stacey Harris 10:39
Yeah, well and my sense is that you probably don’t get down to the individual level that might be more in aggregate and again, not knowing we haven’t done a briefing with them. So let’s be upfront with that. I think there’s there’s opportunity to be briefing but they pointed out as a new thing they’re doing in this meeting analysis knew previously where they’ve been uses and things like background screening and recruiting process. Is which is very personal to better understand the mindset of employees who you’re evaluating that is a one to one connection. And that is in the same company that does credit risk analysis, right? their belief is that they can give some sense of whether or not you’re worse or better credit risk based off of the voice analysis. So it really walks that fine line of not just what we call HR creepy, but privacy standards, because to your point, the context is important. But it’s also a bit about what you’re personally dealing with emotionally and what’s going on in your world before and after whatever this meeting or this verbal exchanges. And so I think what the big conversation here is, what is this based off of what science because I’m just waiting for one company to use this kind of data in some way it gets back to someone and it ends up blowing up in their face. So that would be the concern here would be that are you using this in a way that could be against any privacy or regulation laws or anything like that, and they don’t seem to mention that right now in any of this yeah.

John Sumser 12:00
Yeah, but there’s a clue. And the clue is in this notice that we’re talking about, there’s always a standard quote from a customer of some kind. And the person they quote here is the CEO of a polygraph company, right? A lie detector test. Yeah. And so this is the lie detector test people think this is great stuff. And so if you’re in that world where treat your employees that way that lie detector tests are so necessary part of the onboarding process. Maybe this is what you do. But I have the hardest time This says we’re going to assess employee wellness by listening to their voices. And you know, and I don’t think there’s an adequate definition of employee wellness. So assessing it. Are you aware of anybody else who assesses employee wellness?

Stacey Harris 12:48
I think people are trying to assess the mood of employees. And with that, making some inferences around how that will impact wellness. I think there’s that two very different thing. I don’t think you can Assess wellness from a voice perspective, because wellness is both mental, physical, it’s a whole range of things. Right. And I think that makes such a broad statement about what wellness is that is a very poorly worded conversation there.

John Sumser 13:12
They say they could monitor employee wellness this way. They don’t quibble about that. They say that that’s what they’re doing. It seems like a reach and it seems like you know, if you’re getting into the work from home environment, part of what we’re going to see is increased monitoring of employees for a variety of reasons. And there is a temptation to be sort of draconian in that monitoring. There are already stories out there of companies that keep zoom on full time so they can see if you’re actually at your desk to a new job.

Stacey Harris 13:44
I think we’re gonna find lots of this work from home as possible. But this idea that I need to verify where you’re at what you’re doing and all times, it almost becomes as if being at your desk meant you were working, that would be my dream. All of us who’ve worked in offices really know that being at your desk, just watch office space, right does not mean you’re working. But I think there’s this renewed conversation about this topic because of the work from home component to it. And as if smiling meant that you were in a good mood, or as if true, being in a good mood meant that you were engaged in your company, all of those things are, again, assumptions we make without really thinking through behavioral science and psychology. And again, not knowing what the science is behind Nemesysco’s model. No, I think if you’re using AI and algorithms and the data you get from any one set of group of people going through one set of situation, my sense, is it just like any other AI or algorithm, you can’t just take that data set and automatically transfer it to another environment and make the same predictions or assessments because it has to be retrained and rethought. Right. And so I think there’s just a lot of loopholes on this is what I would say, right?

John Sumser 14:56
Yeah, I think you know, one of the things that anybody who’s worked in retail or hospitality those is how to put on a good face, brimming full of enthusiasm and the generosity when you don’t really feel like doing it. Right? That’s sort of fake it till you make it ethic is what you do if you’re working in a job where being cheerful is a necessary part of the thing. And so it just makes me wonder whether or not you can actually measure the tears of a clown kind of thing. Can you measure what’s underneath the happy face? I don’t know. I don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see how they do. So CloudMills and HRNX are merging. And that’s, to me that’s interesting, because they are both companies that help their clients wire all of their systems together. And I think it’s good to see them coming together because it’s something that is kind of a niche and kind of unnecessary standard and the idea that there would be a Betamax and VHS solution. There has always been troubling that said, now we’re getting closer to a single solution.

Stacey Harris 16:05
Yeah. And to me, I, you know, I remember running into Cloud Mills a few years back and you know, talking about what they were doing. And it was sort of, we’ve got these large integration tools like mule soft, or those type of applications, and Cosmos was was really focused on the idea that look, we’re taking the HR conversation to the same level, we’re going to not just make it easier to integrate, we’re going to pre create those integrations in HRNX was talking about doing the same thing when I met them a few years back as well. And the fact that we think about HR as a unique organization that needs to have its own set of connectors is really critical and important thing because it is the one software across enterprise organizations that gets touched by more than anything else. So I can tell you from the zero cedar research, on average, across all organizations, they have 18 different connectors to a major HR application for large organization that jumps up to 60 to 70, integration connections that have to be managed and first of all, are innovations that somewhere in the range of eight to 10. That’s a lot of integration connections to be managing, and to maybe have to think about even developing or creating, if you don’t have some tool that will do it for you. So yeah, I think this is really interesting.

John Sumser 17:13
Yeah, good luck to them, because it’s a critical thing. You know, this is part of your work at IRHM is that the broad array of people in HR don’t really understand the under the hood complexities of HR Tech, and this is an under the hood tool for HR tech.

Stacey Harris 17:32
And it’s entered under the hood tool, and it’s a tool that makes it possible for those professionals who are doing that kind of work to focus on the more strategic areas when they have a tool that helps them through this versus having to do the hands on work. So

John Sumser 17:46
Yyeah, so that’s cool. So SAP released their numbers in there, just the first but their numbers are down. Yeah?

Stacey Harris 17:53
Yeah, they’re down for this month. So basically, the software license revenue was down 31% year over year in q1, which ended On March 31, but they said the first two months of the period we’ve had healthy activity, but the Coronavirus pandemic obviously postponed significant amounts of launches. I like I said their briefing was very positive that they gave last week and we had a lot of new interesting things that they were talking about that were on the roadmap. What caught my eye on this one was they also announced with that all the different conversations about what was happening, what was impacting these year over year software license revenues was that the total investment or incurred charges of the cancellation of in person events was a total for them of 36 million euros 36 million euros for just canceling the in person event, which is their big Sapphire event. And then they also had several other SAP small events that were canceled as well. But that’s just I don’t know that I’ve heard yet the numbers that have been incurred by all these cancellations. That was the first time I heard someone put it out in total like that.

John Sumser 18:52
That’s a big number. But these are monstrous events. They’re the heart of business development and SAP and Workday and Oracle. And I imagine that those marketing departments are really scrambling to figure out how to replace the lead generation that reflects, right, the fact that they’re paying those cancellation fees for those big things suggests that they’re going to have a contraction in business development.

Stacey Harris 19:16
They’ll be some sort of addressable net steps over this. And the business development that goes along with it has to be figured out that you would normally have gotten from that kind of investment. And that’s the investment of cancelling. So you know, that, you know, what they would have been initially on the overall events were much higher. And the expectation were that all the business development that would have come out of that would have been so much higher, right. Yeah. But where I think, you know, many of the large organizations are at, especially if they had big events in the first part of this year, many of them did, some are lucky out that they’ve got the fall timeframe when they’re doing their events. But that still has an impact, I think, on other types of events that were sort of industry specific, or regionally specific that were going on at this time of year as well. So yeah, I think we’re going to see a lot more of the impact of the lack of events and connections and business development efforts that could go on in the first quarter are going to play out through the summer and into the third quarter of the market right as we get into the fall season.

John Sumser 20:12
Yep, yep. So let’s touch on Notion and what was the other guy with Notion?

Stacey Harris 20:20
WorkJam. Yeah, WorkJam and Notion. Yeah, always interesting names.

John Sumser 20:23
Yeah. Yeah, so this is pretty sizable funding they’re both $50 million fundings and it’s pretty sizable, given the frightening business climate right now. So what do you know about these guys?

Stacey Harris 20:35
I haven’t briefed with either of them, but I have seen mention of them. So you know, I don’t think they’re huge in the market. I mean, you know, Notion I know a little bit better. They have dates fairly small. I have 42 employees, 1 million users to give contact. Our survey covers 21 million users. From an organizational perspective. There’s a we have like 1800 different organizations who participate in the fear seeder survey and it’s 21 million employees that are covered In that sort of data set, so 1 million users is good, but it’s not huge. They say that they have organized more than 180 meetup in 21 countries in 52 cities. So notion is really much more of a platform, it seems to be sort of connecting those collaborative conversations, where my sense of jam is there a little bit more on the different technical side, they’re they’re offering more tools and capabilities to have conversations and take notes and those type of things inside of that environment. My question about these kinds of environments is how do these compared to the existing Zoom and Go-To-Meeting environments or these Slack environments are these combinations of those so I think, you know, getting into this, we’re going to start to see a another sort of rise in collaboration tools, because we sort of lost a lot I think of momentum when we started to get a couple of big players in that space. There wasn’t a whole lot of innovation, I would say in the collaboration space for virtual workers over the last three or four years and it’ll be interesting to see if these guys are able to compete with some of the big market shares right now.

John Sumser 22:02
The other thing that’s gonna be interesting is to see whether or not the work from home thing actually works. You know, I keep hearing a whole lot of people who are anxious to go back to the office, the fantasy about working from home has turned out to be needing to do the dishes when you’re supposed to be at a meeting, you know, right. And so there’s a complexity to this, right, it looks or one have like working from home is a big deal of this good power move forward. And then on the other hand, maybe not, maybe what we’re discovering is that people need to work together.

Stacey Harris 22:36
I think the one differentiator for the WorkJam is that it sounds like they’re trying to create Collaborative for frontline workers. So I’m not exactly sure how this is working in this particular space, but they are talking about actually doing digital collaboration for those who are non desk workers. That’s a unique differentiator. And so that might because I do think right now our frontline workers are struggling because I had this conversation with someone the other day about, you know, well, it’s easy to send email to everybody who’s sitting at a desk, even if they’re all at home sitting at a desk. But reaching my frontline workers was really important and critical information now has become a big challenge and letting them vent their frustrations or their fears or their concerns like pushing to them might easy I texted or something but getting their feedback has been difficult, which is why we’re seeing a lot of uptake, some pulse surveys so that might be a differentiator for something like a work jam too. So maybe you’re coming about these the work at home working is a big conversation, but it’s also is the separation of work employee because I don’t think that’s going to go away as much. I mean, we’re probably going to have a year at least if not more, as this virus kind of works through our work environments of people’s relearning how to work where they don’t get in the same room as often or they do have to stay six feet away. Even when we do go back to the business being open. Those type of things right.

John Sumser 23:55
Yep, another great call. Thanks for taking the time to do this Stacey it was a good conversation.

Stacey Harris 24:00
Yep, as always.

John Sumser 24:01
Yup, you’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. We’ll see you back here next week. Thanks for tuning in. Bye bye

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