HR Tech Weekly: Episode #293: 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: 293
Air Date: November 19, 2020


This Week

Topics: Analyst Event updates from Stacey and John on Ultimate Software, Ceridian, and iCIMS. Plus, Yvette Cameron’s move to SVP of Product Strategy at Oracle Cloud HCM after Gretchen Alarcon’s departure to ServiceNow. Don’t miss Creepy HR, Data Collection, Privacy, the Federated Identity Initiative, Velocity, and competing skills networks.

Stacey and John disucss the Ultimate, Ceridian, and iCIMS analyst Events
Yvette Cameron joining Oracle Cloud HCM team as the SVP Product Strategy Link »
OutMatch Acquires Checkster Link »
iCIMS Acquires EASYRECRUE Link »
Topics: Ultimate Software, Ceridian, iCIMS, Yvette Cameron, Gretchen Alarcon, Creepy HR, Data Collection, Privacy, Federated Identity Initiative, Blockchain Identity Management, Velocity, Workday, Paychex, ADP, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and competing Skills networks.


Other News this Week

Paylocity Announces Acquisition of Samepage 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.

SPEAKERS: Stacey Harris and John Sumser


 John Sumser 0:14
Good morning. Welcome to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Stacey, how are you?

 Stacey Harris 0:22
Morning, John, I’m doing well. It’s a crisp, really cold morning here in North Carolina. So we had ice on the pond this morning as I was out taking my watch, and the leaves are all down. So I think we finally have hit winter and cold weather here. How about you guys in California starting to settle down a little bit, you guys at least getting a little bit of time to get outside while we’re still in lockdown?

 John Sumser 0:44
Yeah, but we live in such different worlds. Right now it’s starting to rain, it’s chilly and damp. And in December, the hills will be bright green and the animals will be having offspring. So our winter can look like your spring. Now, our summer looks like your idea of a desert, right?

You don’t have that part. But anyhow, it’s on the path to getting gorgeous, I never knew you could love fog. And when you live here, you have to love fog. And so there’s a nice fog settling in, which means all the plants will be happy.

 Stacey Harris 1:23
And most of my favorite pictures in that area are around this time the year and the fog rolling in. And it’s quite a beautiful thing. I get it completely. And our fall here is not a bad thing either. I can’t complain. I’m not in Ohio. It’s snowing in Ohio this week, I will take a little bit of crisp weather for us.

But yeah, we’ve had big events this week, we had three of our analyst conferences (virtual) but we had Ultimate, we had Ceridian and then there’s Degreed a little bit later today that I think some of us might be seeing, oh and iCIMS too, right. It’s been a busy week. Which ones did you get to attend? I got the Ultimate and Ceridian. Did you do iCims as well?

 John Sumser 2:02
I did iCIMS too as well. And that means that I didn’t have a deep enough look at any of them. I would, I would actually start this by encouraging people to notice when these things clump together, because you do yourself a disservice if you’re making a loyalty test. That’s not healthy, right? Because you have to pick. And so I tried to give as much as I could out of each of them. And I was surprised by a couple of things. The Ceridian one really surprised me. How about you?

 Stacey Harris 2:35
And there was a couple that I thought you know, those are expected. But I would agree that I was surprised by some of the innovation that we’re seeing that I hadn’t expected that we haven’t seen this entire year. So that was one of the things I think that that came a little bit out of some of the work being done at Ultimate, Ceridian definitely came out of the chute with some real clear messages.

And on top of the four events that we’re talking about this week, we also saw a lot of stuff going on from the acquisition and merger phase. So Outmatch acquired Checkster, which I think is a pretty big issue in the HR Talent Acquisition space.

iCIMS (at their event) announced the acquisition of EASYRECRUE, which is another talent acquisition component out of France.

Paylocity announced the acquisition of Samepage, which is a collaboration tool. I mean, this was just a week. And then on top of it, we had good friends who were moving from small businesses focused on blockchain technology and the future of the work to a major roll over at Oracle, Yvette Cameron moved into the head of HCM strategy for Oracle Cloud, HCM, so by no means is this a week where we didn’t have something to talk about.

 John Sumser 3:42
Yeah, yeah. So that’s Gretchen Alarcon’s old job, isn’t it?

 Stacey Harris 3:46
It is, it is, Gretchen moved to ServiceNow a few months ago. And I think Oracle’s been looking for a while at who’s going to be taking the lead role from a strategy perspective, per se, HCM applications, particularly since Chris Leone, I think moved up a little bit was covering more of the overall cloud product, not just HR. So they were really in need of someone to handle this. And I think to really understand the audience, Yvette’s got a great background in this, I think this was a good move for Oracle. She’s got experience working previously in the PeopleSoft. So she comes from the early PeopleSoft crew, she worked with Saba for many, many years. She was an industry analyst for many, many years. And so I think she’s going to be well rounded in this and she’s just came out of doing, I guess you would call it groundbreaking work withVelocity, one of the new networks that are building up around blockchain identity management that’s coming out where you know, they were with her going to be many I think that will be growing out of this model. But Yvette was working on that. I mean, what do you think about this move, John? You know, Oracle has been kind of quiet on the HR space, and this is their opportunity to make a change, do you think they’re gonna be able to do it?

 John Sumser 4:51
Well, what a complicated move we’re talking about here. The first thing that’s worth saying is, I believe all of the enterprise level strategy leaders in our industry are women. That is awesome. That is really awesome. And so this puts Yvette squarely in the ranks of that generation of women leaders, right? So that’s an interesting thing. But I wonder what’s going to happen to her Federated Identity Initiative. You know, if I were a member of that, I would be reacting in horror that the person who I thought was the heart of this is now working for Oracle. That’s liable to be really messy, that’s liable to be really messy. So it’s a great thing. It’s a great thing for the industry. And there isn’t anybody more knowledgeable, there isn’t anybody with knowledge than Yvette is.

 Stacey Harris 5:48
Yeah, I’m excited about this move for the Oracle team, because I know I’ve been struggling to try and find a message in their vision for a little while, especially for the HR audience. So, I think this was a necessary move for them. But I agree, I just had a briefing with the Velocity team. And you know, the product that they’re pulling together, the initiative that they’re pulling together, has a lot of big names invested in it. Ultimate SAP, Oracle, all of them are part of it now. So, the question won’t be is without Yvette, will it continue to hold the same level of cache? I think, you know, what you’re saying is, that may not be the case. But we’ll have to see, because it’s being the single identity federated model that they’re kind of buying into right now.

 John Sumser 6:31
Well, amongst a certain part of the industry. Yes, that’s true. They’re the big fish, but they’re hardly the only fish. And they’re not really, overall, they’re not really a super significant component of the total mass of the industry. It’s big good old, clunky enterprise companies, and Wall Street loves them, but they don’t have the really the capacity to be as flexible as they need. And the people who are coming up and are going to be the people making the innovations with the data. They don’t know anything about these big companies. You know? They don’t know a thing. So, how are you gonna get them in? They don’t know who you are.

 Stacey Harris 7:17
It’s an interesting challenge, right? You know, Workday has got its own network in the blockchain environment with identity management. And you know, we’re also seeing ADP is not part of it, Paychex isn’t part of it. I did ask them about that. And there were some comments, and there’s still some conversations going on. But those are two huge entities that are not part of that kind of a network. And to your point, a little bit of the more than anybody would have called them, the newer guys in the block, but definitely doing some new innovations. And then we’re definitely aren’t seeing that the Microsoft’s the Googles, or the Facebook, which is really where the data and the power sits, right, like, that’s where most of the personal identifier information is at at the end of the day.

 John Sumser 7:59
Yep, and it’s smart. It is smart, for there to be an HR industry move in this direction. It’s smart, because the prices that our vendors are going to be charged for the data by Facebook and Microsoft are…just wait, just wait. You want data about your people [laughs].

 Stacey Harris 8:22
That is a good point, yeah.

 John Sumser 8:26
You know it’s a market, right, it’s just a market. And so people will play with the market like it’s a market. And this is, you know, Velocity is kind of a positive thing, because it shows that there’s an industry here. And we’re little as an industry. So that’s good. Anyhow, the thing that caught my attention, besides, I want to say one more time, I was dumbstruck by the fact that there wasn’t a single person on the executive team at Ceridian who I knew. And this new generation of leadership at Ceridian is super professional and super competent. And all of the sense that this is a startup of some kind is gone. And it’s an amazing thing to behold. It’s really an amazing thing to behold it’s a total step forward. So that said, skills, everybody all week. Everybody had a skills, taxonomy and their own way of figuring out what skills were. Did you notice that?

 Stacey Harris 9:27
Yeah, I mean, I agree. I mean, it was an interesting issue. And what we saw at both their event, and some of the other ones were different, I think, from what other people expected. If you were to take the stuff that you thought was most important out of those events, what would you say it was right now?

 John Sumser 9:43
So I want to try to answer that on two levels. On one level, I am really concerned about everybody building their own little power of Babel that is the skills network because nobody’s checking to see if they agree with each other, right? So they’re setting up these elaborate intellectual structures. And I won’t be able to tell if the way you talk about it in your software is the same as the way they talk about it in their software, if I’m a person moving through the system. And so while they’ve made really an enviable thing for customer lock in, to have the data in that way, but it also inhibits employee movement in the kind of cross pollination, because when you go to another company, you have to learn a new taxonomy entirely and a new set of tools for accessing the taxonomy. It’s going to slow down business evolution.

 Stacey Harris 10:36
It’s going to, and I think this is the same issue we were just talking about, like, do we create a network with everything and all in one? Or do we do it in different environments? And what I think we’re finding is that it’s almost a matter of you have to start somewhere, that’s kind of the conversation I hear most of the time. Is we know that it’s this isn’t going to be the final product, we know that it’s going to actually be challenges with connecting with what other people that is the taxonomy, or their definition, or their value. But at least by starting, we’re starting the conversation, we may have it all wrong on both sides. But we’re at least going to find out which is the same thing we do when we do internally, with any kind of measurement or metrics or data analysis work. It always starts by at least showing the data you have finding out it’s all wrong, and then starting to have the conversation about how to fix it right? Do you think I’m missing that or you think that’s incorrect?

 John Sumser 11:28
Well, that’s interesting. But that would imply that if you have to show your work, as you’re moving along, that leads to, and everybody has a well developed one, because there is no emerging capacity to be able to tell the difference between these things. Because these things are not rooted in reality, theyre rooted in resumes and job descriptions, right. So, both resumes and job descriptions are fabrications to some extent, and it’s not clear that they match what’s actually going on in the world, right? You know, a resume is a distillation into a few words, you know, the whole point of writing a resume is to get it as concise as you can get it which means there’s all sorts of stuff that isn’t covered. And that’s where this gets rich. That’s where this gets really rich, is as we uncover more about each other, we’ll be able to make better and better decisions, but not if you assume that you can get it all from an abstract layer.

 Stacey Harris 12:30
Yeah, you know, I agree. And yes, and that is the challenge that we’re facing with all of this conversation about job descriptions. And this is why I think we saw some of the acquisitions that we saw this week, I mean, the acquisition with OutMatch and Checkster, and the acquisition with iCIMS and EASYRECRUE. One is a acquisition of the tools that are assessing referral, and assessing how well someone’s done on the job. That’s the OutMatch and Checkster assessment and acquisition. And the iCIMS with EASYRECRUE, which is more of a video interviewing tool, both of those bring in additional data, additional perspective, that might help you do a better job of understanding, if you had that job description, correct originally. Do you think that makes sense, or you think we’re still too far away from where we need to be at?

 John Sumser 13:18
Well, so collecting data is interesting. Collecting data is always interesting. And there are liable to be some real treasures in the data that we’re starting to collect. But in the end, it’s still all a conversation about a job rather than the actual doing of the job, right. And so what you can imagine is that the job will get increasingly measured, because there’s all the computing capacity, and it’s always some sort of interface where you can measure everything. And there will be data that is not inherently intelligible in English, about what skills actually are. It won’t be coherent in English, because it’s all in machine speak, right? It’s all data. And that is going to come up. And there’s going to be this conflict between that organically developed actual representation of the work and the theoretical framework that people are trying to put on it. And that’s actually pretty close to the class warfare that we’re seeing starting to emerge, right. There’s this theoretical layer on the top of there’s the way it actually is on the bottom, and there’s a duking it out going on. And so my guess is we’ll see that six or seven years from now, the the intersection of technology, and theory is messy, and it’s starting to emerge here. So there’s gonna be some utility over the next five to seven years. But this is a research project with really deep implications.

 Stacey Harris 14:48
Well, and I think this kind of starts where we began the conversation at, right, which is this idea that can you create a network, can you have it all? The answer is eventually we’ll get there and eventually the mixture of the technologies and systems are going to pull all this together. But as we get there, it’s gonna be messy. And I, for one, think that the organizations, the solution providers who are trying to get us there, particularly in the HR space, you know we’ve also got a lot of organizations on the consumer side with the Facebook’s, and the Googles, and the Microsoft’s who are also trying to get us there. I think we’re gonna see differing perspectives on how you get there. A lot of what we solved in the ultimate event and in the Ceridian event was that they were both taking a perspective that if they were able to get larger, more global organizations, not only would they increase their value and their numbers, and all the big things that you want to get out of a growing business, but there was definitely a perspective that if we do that, we’ll have a better view of how work works, and how people interact. And so there was a data component to the conversations that both of them were having, I think, that I don’t know that we would have heard even five years ago. It would have been just about the finances and the money and the value proposition of just getting bigger customers. But we definitely heard a good data conversation here too, which I think goes along to what you’re saying like they know they need to get it, they know they need to be there. Do you think there’ll be a winner in this race though? Do you think this is a race or is this we’re all going to get there at the same time and create something new?

 John Sumser 16:16
So, I think this is the aviation industry after Kitty Hawk after the first flight. And after the first fight, there were a kajillion people wanting to be a company that made flying machines. And there were many who were successful. And none of them became, none of them, became Boeing or Lockheed. And none of them became Howard Hughes with the first airline, none of them. So, I think that’s how this goes is we’re marching into a future where much of the stuff we know is going to be somewhat irrelevant, because it’s handleable. And so the idea that what we’re going to do forever is get better and better and better and better and better and better at the same thing. And the way you hear that expressed at these meetings is that, we need a better view into how work actually happens, is an absolutely common thread between all of the vendors. And when HR goes to the operations and says, We need a better view of how the work actually happens. Operation says, get the hell out of here. They don’t say come on in, they say you’re just gonna interrupt our work. What are you talking about? Right? And so the industry,

 Stacey Harris 17:34
I have to agree.

 John Sumser 17:35
will go into that same thing, right? I mean, that’s how it always goes. And so the industry is going to have the same problem.

 Stacey Harris 17:42
Yeah. And that’s true, right? We talk a lot about mobile, we talk a lot about better user interface, about reviewing all the different products that are going to be HR service delivery, which is really important over the next several years. But at the end of the day, the really valuable tools are the ones that the employees don’t even know are gathering data around what they’re doing. That to me, I just have this conversation with someone the other day, that as important as all of these HR technologies are, and I do think the work they’re doing is important in the new improvements we’re seeing in time and payroll, both Ceridian and Ultimate have some great conversation about what payroll will look like in the future. All of those things are important, but the real innovation is going to be sparked by those products and those tools that sit on top of a lot of these technologies that you don’t even know are there, that are capturing data information and insights without interrupting the work that’s happening. That’s some interesting stuff there that’s a long, long conversation about surveillance of employees, without them knowing.

I get it.

 John Sumser 18:48
That’s why it’s worse than “Creepy HR.” People will behave differently under those circumstances. Right. And that’s the problem is like, I’m starting to have conversations with people where the ground rule is we can’t talk about what we’re talking about, we have to talk around what we’re talking about.

 Stacey Harris 19:11
Because the tools you’re using to communicate are capturing everything you’re saying.

 John Sumser 19:16
That’s right.

 Stacey Harris 19:17
Yeah, no, I get it completely. But I also think that the next generation is aware of this, and is also more willing to do that if they don’t have to fill out another form or tell you how they feel, or tell you what their work is. Like there’s a trade off to this Orwellian view of the world. And we I think we’re gonna have to find the happy medium and what’s the ethics around it, but I do think that is part of what the future looks like.

 John Sumser 19:45
Yeah, I actually completely agree with you. And I’d say it this way: that our current idea of privacy is very weird and built on a worldview that emerged when there were under a billion people. And so the idea of privacy includes this very spacious view of the world where there’s lots of room for everybody. But it’s not like that anymore. There’s a lot more of us. And when there’s a lot more of us, you get a lot less privacy. That’s just how it is. Privacy is people not being around. And when there’s more of you there’s more of you there’s more of you around. So we’re going to make some adjustments. And one of the cool things is that when you reduce privacy, you get better fit. That’s the trade off with privacy is, the less I know about you, the less well I can serve you. Right? Better service comes with deeper knowledge. And then you have to ask, is the better service worth it?

 Stacey Harris 20:39
Exactly. And I think this, the answer is somewhere in the middle on this one, because I think my generation and your generation are pretty clear that there are a lot of things that are not worth giving up our privacy for. I think the next generation after us is very comfortable that some of their privacy will be given away for the sheer fact of being able to get the right kind of product sent to them to get the right kind of commercials to not have to filter through so much information and to have it sort of just provided when they need it. And I think that’s going to happen to our enterprise systems as well. I think as our work environment, we’re going to see a lot more conversation about the more you know about me, the more you can do a better job providing benefits, the more you can do a better job showing me opportunities, you know, the more you can do a better job actually supporting me when I’m having problems. And to do that we have to be comfortable that we also have very clear ethical guidelines along what you can’t do. And I don’t think those are in place right now. So I think that’s a bit of the sticking problem, because we don’t know what we can and can’t do with the data yet.

 John Sumser 21:45
That’s absolutely right. That’s absolutely right. And there’s so many ways to run on from there, what a great end to the show. I love it when the conversation can go on longer. It’s good. Thanks for doing this. And thanks for tuning in everybody. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Bye Bye now.

 Stacey Harris 22:08
Thanks, everyone. Bye

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