3Sixty Insights #HRTechChat with Thomas Cielak, Vice President of HR Operations at Allianz Global Investors

We welcome Tom Cielak to this episode of the 3Sixty Insights #HRTechChat video podcast. Tom and I met several years ago to discuss his team’s use of Ceridian Dayforce when he was director of HR operations at ACCO Brands. He later joined global asset management firm Allianz Global Investors, in mid-2018, as its vice president of HR operations. This is his current role, and Tom’s team at Allianz Global happens to use Ceridian Dayforce too.

Tom is an advocate for the notion that, to be effective in their craft and as an asset to the organization, HR leaders today must become technologists. In today’s environment, where decision-making to buy enterprise software involves a broad variety of stakeholders, the IT department still has a say. The HR Technologist is far better at articulating a technology-buying decision to the satisfaction of IT and able to get the most of out of a deployment.

Technology for human capital management proved to be fertile ground for a spirited discussion. One highly relevant tangent we took revolved around the various generations in the workforce today, from Boomers to Zoomers and everyone in between. Differentiation in functionality between vendors may resonate only for some buyers in that mix. For the younger generations, HCM technology vendors may need to make their case in other ways, especially as Millennials move up the ladder and take on buying authority. This led us to analyze the rationale behind why so many of these vendors focus on the strength of their own employer culture as their marketing message. From there we took a slight detour to delve into an idea covered previously on this podcast: that employers ought to rethink their calculus fundamentally by treating the workforce as an asset, rather than as a cost.

Make sure to watch this episode. Tom brings a savvy perspective to HCM and the role of the HR leader.

Our #HRTechChat Series is also available as a podcast on the following platforms:

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Well, hello, everybody, and welcome to the latest episode of HR tech chat. I am very, very excited to be speaking with Tom Cielak today. And I hope I pronounced your last name correctly, Tom, I’ve never actually asked you. Good, excellent, excellent. Tom runs HR, leads HR operations, for a global asset management firm. And he’s been in the space for a while. He and I spoke/met several years ago, each of us in a former professional life in the same HCM space, and we’ve had many, many really interesting conversations over the years, and recently reconnecting earlier this year. Just around, you know, what is the impact, significance, essentiality or criticality of HR technology to HR leaders. These sorts of things… we’ve talked about employer culture lately, and all these very, very pressing, current themes in our space. And, and we thought, you know, we should probably do a podcast..an episode of “HR Tech Chat” and just kind of, you know, if we can, in any way potentially impart some knowledge, or you know, bring something out there to the market that other people can chew on and think about to help bring us all forward or evolve. So, thanks for joining us, Tom. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, and I know that you have this concept of the HR technologist that’s fascinating to me, maybe you could delve into that a little bit.

Sure. So thanks. Thanks for having me, Brent. Like Brent said, my name is Tom Cielak. I run HR operations for a global asset management company called Allianz Global Investors, based here in New York. Throughout my career, I started consulting, I’ve done a lot of work in the HCM technology space, have a lot of years of experience dealing with different vendors in the space and really, really, like drive HR technology through companies to make sure that they utilize that technology, engage their employees. Yeah.

Yeah. That’s really, um, you know, you can’t do HR without technology. Well, you can, it’s very, very difficult, it would require just many, many, many hands. Maybe you can get into that a little bit. How is the technology’s relationship to HR? How has that evolved? We don’t have to boil the ocean here, but where are we today? I mean, versus say 10, 15 years ago.

So when you think about HR technology 10, 15 years ago, very, like old antiquated systems really…it wasn’t there to really drive process efficiency. It was more there to like, process data and make sure people got paid. But you’ve really seen over the past, let’s say, 15 to 20 years, number one, that the HR technology space has really started to evolve, okay. So realistically, back 10, 15 years ago, it was really just processing data. Now, it’s really becoming an engagement tool, a productivity tool, really basically allowing like employee engagement driving employees to a platform, or really becoming an efficient part of the organization. In addition, like, a lot of data analytics that come out of these brand new systems. Really like driving people, data analytics, and people metrics throughout the organization. So it’s been a significant evolve from like 15, 20 years to old mainframe systems to really now, technology systems, you know. Probably like 10, 15 years ago, you never really thought about, you know, having a technology skill set in HR, or a mathematical skill set in HR.. it’s more of a customer service focus or more of a process focus. But realistically, now, those really need to come together, and really HR people, at least many of them, they need to really understand what HR technology can do. So you’re really starting to see that, you know, IT does not drive HR technology anymore, you’re really seeing an HR person or HRIS analysts really in the department driving that technology, implementing that technology, being able to really, you know, take the business rules that they know from an HR process standpoint, and really drive them through the system. So technology and HR has really come a long way. And those technology skills really need to evolve. And I think that’s one of the things that is starting to happen more and more. You’re starting to see more technologists in the HR space, even though we’re not fully there yet. But it really, I’ve seen like the most successful HR departments really have that critical role of like an HRIS analyst or senior HRS analysts to really drive and utilize the system. These brand new systems have like over let’s say 2000 great features, they can really drive efficiency. The issue is that if you don’t have a technologist in the actual space, or someone that really understands what the technology can do, you’re not really getting the biggest bang for your buck. So instead of just basically, let’s say processing payroll, like you really want to basically drive that data, you want people to be able to go in there and have like a one stop shop to like, do some of the HR business processes, and really to basically have all those back-end calculations that you used to never have, that can actually be done in the system. You do see with these new, you know, Software as a Service models, like you can do everything on your own, you don’t need to call the vendor like you used to, to basically start creating any back-end process, you have access to all that. So it really, really when you think about getting the biggest bang for your buck, like you got to move beyond the old, the old, like just payroll process or the benefits enrollment to really see what an HR technology can do for you.

That’s really interesting. There’s so much to unpack and what you just shared, there’s so many things. So first of all, I think this is interesting, it’s a mirror image of the evolution of our thinking about what HR is all about, right, you know, in terms of driving employee engagement and productivity and all these sorts of things versus taking care of just sort of the basic necessities of employing people like making sure payroll is processed correctly, and all this kind of stuff, which is important, but we’ve kind of moved beyond that. What’s really interesting to me, maybe we could, maybe we could kind of bounce off from here. We talked about IT, right? And everybody knows IT is no longer the driver really of enterprise software decisions. But they’re still involved. And to me, what you mentioned around that, being an HR technologist and really understanding the technology and everything that you can do with it. To me, it seems that IT could potentially, well, how do we put this: you don’t want to leave it to IT, maybe to have sort of a final say or somehow has a, you know, what do you call that as somebody can, you know, they can vote against something? veto? Yeah, the veto, yeah. You don’t want IT to maybe have veto power over something you want to do in HR, that’s not going to be possible without embracing a little bit more of the technology that you’re using. So maybe we could talk about that a little bit more… the dynamic, you know. Being an HR technologist to me seems as a way to kind of consolidate or to help ensure that that democratization of the power centers and making software decisions remained democratized?

Yes, I think, you know, when it comes to sort of HR technology, like I said, it definitely runs so many different processes, we’re talking about every HR process that’s very complex, that a lot of IT people don’t realize the actual process or how it affects the people, or really how things work from a compliance perspective with HR. So HR technologists can really bring through like the technology and the compliance and the people side and sort of bring that all together where it’s definitely not like, just a, like a standard technology package that IT just like basically supports, right? There’s definitely more than a support function when it comes to these IT, these new HR packages, it’s really a thorough understanding of the process and the people and really what it can bring to the table. So I think from my perspective, I always have brought IT to the table more from like a, you know, User Access Management, from a single sign-on perspective. But even now, you know, like, a lot of things are hosted, you know, the hosted environments… they’re so you don’t need IT to do any of the development. Like these new software vendors, they are your IT department, they do your development, you know, you can reach out to them, like you know, they basically do all the data transmissions with your benefit vendor. So the need for IT is like these HR technology vendors, they are your new IT, right? So you’re not really definitely stuck in sort of those old school like, like most companies don’t have their own data center anymore. Most of it is done on a hosted environment. So I think it’s like understanding that you know, this is sort of an HR tool to really drive HR processes and people and engagement. I think the decision needs to stay definitely with HR always just because it’s such a critical piece to sort of your engagement and your people environment and just making sure that you guys really drive that engagement. You don’t want necessarily somebody outside of your department making decisions on your technology, where you’re trying to basically utilize that technology to drive employee engagement and data analytics and making sure your processes are done, and whether you can do things on the fly. So I think it’s just also like from a networking perspective, like, you know, I think all these vendors out there have great networks where you can bounce ideas off other HRS people or, you know, HR technologists and other areas where IT just doesn’t have that total skill set when it comes to bringing that compliance technology and people side together.

Yeah, yeah, and you got to think about, you know, also, just the type of person that’s in IT, you know? They have sort of a different outlook, that, that maybe a little bit of a different interest, you know, they’re very interested in technology, whereas an HR person has that sort of intrinsic interest in the people of the organization, right? And that’s not a, you know, that’s not a pejorative or anything in either direction, right. And you’re making a very good rational argument for that HR person to really stretch their understanding and just understand that they need to understand technology in order to be as influential as possible. You mentioned that, and I love this. You’re basically your SaaS provider, that is your IT department, in a sense, right? That’s really interesting. And maybe I wonder, you know, there’s probably some stat out there somewhere that we can find. Like, I wonder how many folks who used to be in IT for just whatever type of organization…how many of them have maybe, you know, migrated to join some sort of software vendor to work on?

Yeah, sure. Like, you know, obviously, these vendors, like they do the development for you, right, they write the code for you. So I’m sure there were like, developers in IT that basically moved to some of these, you know, these SaaS models, really SaaS companies to really start writing that code. I’m sure they have business analysts that sort of bring that together, you know, get the business rules and sort of work with the developers to sort of initiate or implement a lot of those business rules in the development of the software and the coating.

Yeah. Let’s switch gears just a little bit. This is, you know, this is obviously all related. But let’s talk in terms of the functionality that’s available out there in the landscape of all these HCM technology vendors. What is your take? You know, obviously, there’s going to be variations and how one vendor’s technology enables you to get something done versus another’s, right? But how much, you know, in terms of the big names that are out there, how much variation is there is? Have we reached this point where functionality isn’t as much of a of a differentiator, a competitive differentiator, as it used to be?

Yeah, I mean, I think you’re definitely seeing the features there. Most of the companies now have a lot of the same features, okay, like, one thing that, you know, I’ve always looked for is sort of like a single database. I’m not a big fan of having interfaces in between HRIS systems, or I like real time data. So you’re starting to see, you know, I think Ceridian was the first one to do that sort of single database, you’re starting to see other ones try to emulate that, you know, a lot of them have unified systems where they do some really good, good, good work in the background, trying to make sure that there’s no hiccups when data moves back and forth. But when you think about like, the old technology, most of it was on a mainframe system. You would, you know, enter things in a system and it goes to the mainframe, where it would process and then the data would transfer back and there was always data translation issues, you know, but you’re starting to definitely see, like, sort of the core processes are done, right? When you think about like, payroll, and benefits and vacation tracking, and, you know, time tracking and time rules, like they’re becoming pretty standard, right, so you’re now definitely starting to see like, more, more unique items come out, you know, like a self service or I should say more like an internet based, you know, answering system like robots, Dayforce Wallet, you know, like, things of that nature, like sort of the more let’s call them unique things are starting to be become a little bit of differentiators within the software, mobile technology. And, you know, basically they’re having like an Alexa on some of these apps now. So you’re really starting to see like, those are the differentiators at the same time. Like, what I don’t want to happen with these vendors is to sort of lose sight of some of those core processes like payroll and benefits, right? Because that’s the last thing you want. They’ve almost become like sort of the standard.. like they just work very well. But you don’t want, as new regulations come up, you don’t want them to fall short on those things because those still are the core. But technology now has made payroll processing, benefits processing, like, you know, data analytics, a lot of that those dashboards are already built in, you know, so a lot of them, it’s quick to do where you don’t necessarily need to, like, you know, spend a lot of time doing some of those core processes. So really, like a lot of the vendors are really trying to differentiate themselves with these brand new things in the market that might be more futuristic.

Interesting. Yeah. Yeah. Because that would be interesting, sort of a vicious loop right there. So for instance, you know, we’ve made so much progress in all this kind of stuff, I think back to… I love automobile analogies, right? You know, back in the 60s, it was all carbureted. And then they started to add, you know, fuel injection, and that used to be a big deal, you know, this car has fuel injection, that’s great… electronic fuel injection, it started off as mechanical, but this isn’t “Automobile Tech Chat,” but anyways, the whole point being that now everything has that, that electronic fuel injection, and, you know, it’s just something they’ve completely figured out in just about any car except maybe I don’t know, every once in a while, you get one that can’t do it. But you don’t even have to think about it anymore. It’d be terrible if car companies all of a sudden were so focused on the new tech, like, for instance, autonomous or semi autonomous driving… that sort of novelty that only a few vehicles have like Tesla and a couple of other premium brands. Right? It would be terrible if they focus so much on that, that somehow the electronic fuel injection, just sort of lagged and maybe with new gasoline blends that are out coming out later, they might, you know, fail or something like that. So it’s the same sort of things. Now, what’s interesting to me, though, is companies, so the vendors, they are competing in terms of these novel, new, new capabilities that they can offer. Right, that’s one thing, but is that a compelling enough? Like, how compelling is that in terms of a competitive differentiators, in your opinion?

You know, I think it depends on what they’re trying to roll out. And really the demographics of any company, right. So when you think about, like, on demand pay, like, it definitely focuses more on sort of the manufacturing type environment, or people that may be, you know, more of the blue collar workforce where, you know, maybe like some companies like financial services, right, who maybe are more of the, you know, the exempt and the, you know, the higher pays, maybe that wouldn’t necessarily work for you, right? When it comes to like differentiating, when it comes to like data analytics and whatnot, like, you know, it depends on the organization, you know, like, Are your HR business partners savvy enough to use those analytics and really drive making those decisions? I mean, mobile app is like, when you think about the generations that are coming down the line here, like, you know, the younger generations, like, they only know the mobile app right there, they’re not going on a browser at some point, like so, like, at some point, like, they’re gonna want to do everything on the mobile app, right. So they want to be able to do their performance reviews, you know, their compensation, their pay, their benefits all on that mobile app. So I think like, you’re gonna see, like, the best technology companies really start driving that mobile app, you know, and really making it the key driver of how to get information, you know, so I think that’s going to be one aspect. In addition, like, you’re definitely starting to see like, a little bit of a social aspect to some of these, these HCM technologies, like, you’ll see like little bulletin boards, where you can like like, put kudos on to like your, your friends in the organization, etc. So it’s almost like you really want to, like get away to drive people through to your mobile device, your mobile app through the HCM software, and like, you know, really get them engaged in that software and really make like, sort of the technology almost a little bit social, right? I mean, you’re seeing a significant inner integration between work and life, you know, so people basically like you know, they want they probably log on to their you know, HCM app at night you know, past like five o’clock like there’s really like the work hours are different people are definitely more remote as the as we become like, you know, after COVID, more and more companies are going to be remote. So like, they really want to feel connected through these through these apps. So like, there should be a good social, hopefully ability, like I think company should do like a social aspect to these apps where people can really post messages about, you know, projects that they’re doing, etc. Like, you know, and I think I think HCM technology companies will continue to expand down the line to include maybe more, you know, complex, complex items when it comes to like, maybe executive comp or stock option trading are really trying to really starting to push the envelope to really drive everything into one sort of system.

Yeah, because the more the more folks who have in The system the more often right the the more it’s going to achieve for the organization. Yeah. And so we, on a previous conversation, we this, this kind of segues into this. We talked about, you know, the generations and and the idea of millennials who aren’t really the younger generation anymore, you know, they’re they’re in their late 30s and early 40s. But but also Generation Z I’ve heard called Zoomers and these sorts of things. And you mentioned the younger generations, and their just inclination to do everything, or propensity to do everything via the mobile, the mobile device to the mobile application of whatever the functionality is, right. Let’s talk about functionality. And it’s, you know, what it’s perceived worth is into to the various generations, you know, the older generation, you and I think we’re both, we may both be Gen X, I am very much Gen X, and right smack dab in the middle. And, you know, to me, you know, I recall, you know, I remember when there was no internet, and I actually I do remember when internet happened, it was really cool. And it is I can’t imagine life without it anymore. But except I can, I can fathom life without it. Because we didn’t have so whereas, you know, millennials and but especially Zoomers, they, they literally do not know a world where there was not this level of connectivity. And also this this level of, of technological capability. So, you know, what are the implications, in your opinion for HR or any any enterprise software? vendor but what but focused on HCM? Right, yeah, what are the implications of that for these vendors?

Well, I think, you know, it’s interesting, you know, as, as the as the, the more mature generation starts to retire, you know, these mature generations, they’ve seen the really like, the older antiquated systems, they’ve seen the evolution, the evolution of technology from like, you know, as what we would say, probably right now is really, really bad. 15, 20 years ago, really complex to, hey, a little bit better, to even a little bit better to like 2020, it’s actually pretty good. Like, when you see like, these, these systems are really good. But it they’re probably really good to these more mature generations, because we’ve seen the really bad, right, so when you think about these newer generations, like they’ve never really seen that technology, right? I mean, like, they’ve always had a mobile phone, they’ve always had the apps, right, like, you know, think about 10, 15 years ago, yeah, the technology was really good. But we are still going on the browsers, you know, the, we didn’t really have the apps as much as we do now. So for them, like, you know, they don’t know what it was really like, their benchmark is a lot higher than ours was. Okay, so I think what you’re gonna start to see is like, depending on your HCM software, like they’re gonna want all the bells and whistles right, right off the bat, right? They’re like, they don’t know what really bad was. So they’re continuing to look to the future and be like, if they hear something else from another company, or one of their friend’s company, or something else, they’re gonna, they’re gonna expect that on the software, right? Like, they, they probably won’t even ask you the question like, do you have mobile technology? Can you basically, you know, enter your vacation on mobile technology? Can you do dashboards on mobile technology, they’re gonna assume that that’s there, right? So you’re seeing, you’re gonna see a difference in sort of, like, let’s call the the expected business rules to basically just automatically be there, you know, they’re not going to, they’re never going to ask anything about like, you know, connectivity, or is it internet based? Or what can you do on the internet? What can you do on the mobile, they’re just gonna assume everything’s mobile. So you’re gonna start to see a significant shift as these, these younger generations come up that everything is going to be based on technology, and they’re gonna want, you know, one stop shops, they’re gonna want to do everything in their mobile app from social to pay to, you know, Venmo, they’re gonna want to do everything in that one stop shop, they probably want to do their banking in the same app at some point, right? So it’s like, you’re gonna see a significant drive toward really ease to not only use like, using your technology for ease, but like for convenience, right? They want that convenience.

Yeah, yeah. You know, it’s not it’s not what he’s asking. Well, let’s put differently a boomer might might ask, have asked several years ago, oh, can I make a phone call like a regular phone call on the smartphone, right? You know, this is kind of, like an extreme example, but just to make the point, you know, Zoomer would never would never ask this just that’s just something you don’t even ask. Of course, of course, you can. Oh, and by the way, I don’t make phone calls. You know, like text. Right? You

know? Yeah, exactly. Right. I mean, like, I think you’re seeing like you’re starting to see a significant change from like, text, like from email to text, right. Like more and more People are texting business. And you know, they were we used to basically do like these long drawn out emails, you know, everyone’s going to text I think texts, I think eventually, like, at some point text will be the main communication method.

Probably, that’s, I’m inclined to agree with you, you know, into the same the same point nobody’s nobody’s even wondering, you know…a Zoomer is going to go in there and is going to assume that the technology they’re getting is going to process payroll correctly every time in the most efficient way possible. Which, you know, so for a for a vendor who’s in we’re talking about once the Zoomers get into positions of leadership and start becoming decision makers in the, in the selection of these various technologies. So, you know, that so for for a vendor to to to falter in that area today that’s potentially skimming in the not too distant future that could be potentially just catastrophic and absolutely destructive to their business.

Yeah, and I think, you know, even now that even though they’re not in leadership positions, like they still do drive a lot of the workforce culture like, you know, Millennials drove a lot of the great changes like in flexibility, right? So I mean, like, to me like the gen, you know, the, the millennials in the Zoomers, they’re going to drive more different cultural aspects, right? Like, they’ll, they want even more flexibility, but at the same time, like they want, you know, they want a purpose, right. So like, you know, social responsibility is going to be big in these in these new HCM companies, etc, really driving that type of stuff also.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. How effective is it? I just want to get back to this question. How effective, really, is it given this new landscape for a… let me put it differently: what would be the best way for an HCM technology vendor today to to to differentiate itself or to or to advocate, let’s not say differentiate for itself, but instead advocate for itself in the market? to to get more eyeballs more interest to gain market share? What would you know, what would be the best way, or what are we seeing? How are they? That’s a better question, what are what are you seeing in that area? How are vendors sort of presenting themselves? Are they talking about their functionality? Is that is that what they’re just fixated on solely? Or is it part of a greater mix in the market and messaging, like what’s going on?

I think like, I think all these technology companies, obviously, they do talk about their technology, but at the same time, like, you know, there’s also a big engagement and cultural aspect that, that you’re sort of buying when you buy these, you know, these platforms, right, like, you know, you’re buying this HR technology to really engage your engage your, your, your employees, and also like, you know, you want to basically have a great culture, your company, like, you know, get the best workers and the best talent and really retain that. So, you’re really like, you know, there’s a big, there’s a big push to sort of talk about the culture of these HCM companies, and how great their culture is, and they sort of utilize, you know, their software is sort of one of the main drivers of the culture, right? So not only are you as a, as a customer trying to really to buy the technology, but I think inherently in the back of your mind, you’re, you’re hoping to buy their culture also, right, like, so I think it’s very important that, you know, these these HCM companies have a great culture that they’re really driving some some cultural aspects. I mean, when you think about, like, you know, in the early 90s, like, you know, Ultimate Software, they’re the one that started the “people first” thing, I think they’re the main driver of that, that really, really put employees to the forefront where they really can really tell, you know, sort of their culture, and they continue to do that, you know, and more and more companies more and more HCM companies are really doing that. You’re seeing a lot more activity on on LinkedIn, like, Hey, I got a job at Paylocity. Hey, I got a job at isolved. Right. So you’re seeing really in the marketplace, like, hey, congratulations, you’re coming. Like, like, to me, it’s like even these, like be like, you’ll see people that base, they’re saying they got an internship, you know, on LinkedIn, which I think is like, we would have never done that, like 15 years ago, right? Like, nobody cared about our internships, but it’s an opportunity to be like, hey, by the way, like, Hey, I’m starting my career, and they’re really trying to like sort of drive culture, you know, you talk about like Glassdoor, right. I mean, like, I think everybody goes to Glassdoor and like, you know, obviously, you got to take some of the reviews with a grain of salt. But you know, when you have like 3000 reviews you like, there there is there’s that that’s a good enough review to really like get what you know, get what the culture is at an organization. I think, you know, you you see organizations where they maybe their Glassdoor goes up or their Glassdoor goes down and stuff like that. So I think it’s extremely important for, you know, these leaders in these companies to really understand like, as they start to, like, you know, do the shifts in technology and sort of like, you know, obviously, you know, there’s a financial aspect, they’re still trying to make money, etc. But like, that does take a That can take a significant toll if like, your, your culture starts to drop, or you’re not focused on your culture anymore, because a lot of people are trying to buy that culture too.

Yeah. That’s, that’s, that’s the real point right there, I think you really put it very, very well, there are people are buying that culture too, you know, I think that what I’ve noticed too, with the HCM vendors is that they, the technology vendors, what they’re doing is, they’re, they’re, they’re presenting this sort of archetypical, you know, ideal employer culture that they have themselves. And, you know, a lot of them do have that. And there’s also a way to market that message, too, right. But you think about everybody who’s most people who went into HR, you know, they, they didn’t go to HR, because they wanted to be involved in, you know, tedious compliance related things all day long, you know, or, or to be sort of the the arbiter and say, you know, some sort of a layoff or a very difficult situation of having to fire somebody, although that’s all part of the job, it absolutely is. But they went into it, because they’re people-people, and they want the, you know, I’d say most of them want at their core for their organization to be the most it can be from, from a people standpoint, you know, to have that high level of engagement. So, it’s a way, I think it’s very, very smart, you know, it’s a way for those for those organizations to, to kind of maybe even live a little bit vicariously, or that’s probably, that’s, I would put it a little bit more positively. It’s a way for them to to aspire, it’s, it’s it’s inspiration for them. Yeah, they can live vicariously through it. In the meantime, but it’s, it’s kind of a motivation to aspire to be that, you know, which is really, it’s a great marketing message.

Yeah, I think, you know, also, I think, you know, one thing that you’re starting to see, which is actually really good with these technology softwares is like, they’re really starting to also address business issues, right. And I think it’s, you know, when you when, you know, when you think about, like the finance department or the marketing department, you know, and you know, they’re, they’re really involved in the business. So like, these technologies should really start to, you know, address business issues, right, like, so I think it’s like, you know, if you can really start to address these business issues, like, what are your business issues? Like? Are you trying to become more digital? Are you trying to grow your organization? How do these new technologies, you know, fit into your culture and your engagement, but also like, how does it basically help your business and the bottom line from a financial perspective when it comes to the people side of things, and I think that’s one thing that has been significantly missing sort of throughout the years, it’s been more of a process driven thing, but you’re definitely seeing the culture. But you’re also now seeing like, what are really what are the real business issues that are really you know, happening right now, especially when it comes to give an example, Like COVID? Right? You’re gonna see more and more companies allow people to work anywhere in the United States, right? So it’s like, they these, is there a compliance issue that happens with people working all over the place? Yeah, so you want the software to be able to do that. But by doing that, you’re basically you know, increasing your talent pool, like you can hire somebody in like, Idaho Now, that might be the best technologists that might maybe never come in the office. So you’re gonna see, like, really, these technology companies also start to address some of these significant business issues.

And that’s super important, right? This this is actually wasn’t expecting us to necessarily get into this today, but, but but I will say that, that um, this very much intersects with an idea that a thematic direction of our research at 3sixty Insights this year, this idea of, we call it concrete and abstract, HCM, concrete HCM being all those things that are financially quantifiable having to do with HCM, how does it you know, payroll being possibly the most concrete aspect of, of HCM, although sometimes payroll lives under finance, but it is a number that is an indisputable number that that goes out every week, two weeks or monthly, right. But there’s also but there’s a whole employee sentiment thing around that too. Right. You know, if you get payroll wrong, good luck, buddy. I mean, they kind of have a big, a big Mutiny on your hands very quickly, depending on how large the mistake is, I think, I think it came out from the it was a it was a number Yes, the workforce Institute from UKG, they came out with a finding 49%, essentially half of employees are willing to tolerate just two, just two or excuse me, just one, some sort of mistake with payroll. And they’re they’re looking that they’re they’re looking for a new employer after that, which is really Interesting, but but bringing it back to what you said the vendors focusing on the business, the business impact of HCM, right, we need to broaden our understanding or kind of our concept of what the business impact is of our people, in my opinion, you know, and there’s, there’s a lot of it that’s sort of very easily translatable to the, to the to accounting language, you know, or what the accounting think, you know, it’s okay, we expended this much labor, labor, we spent this much on labor expenditure for, for, for scheduling, you know, if we get something that’s better, more efficient, for the technology will save X amount, you know, and that’s a productivity, that’s a productivity gain that we can, that we can lob into the, into the spreadsheet, right, these sorts of things, right. I was having a conversation with someone recently, I do not recall who it was, I talked to so many people. But anyway, that sounded like a humble brag, and it wasn’t. Trust me. But anyway, we had this this thought that, you know, what’s financially quantifiable now is just what’s what’s what we can see right now. There could be something that seems completely not quantifiable from a financial standpoint. And it may therefore, receive sort of short shrift from financial leaders of an organization, but that thing could, in fact, be the trigger for something that does turn into something that’s financially quantifiable later. You know, maybe even the organization no longer being a going concern, because they neglected their employer culture for so long. Right? So, you know, I think we have an excellent opportunity in the HCM market, I think as a space, as a profession, to expand that understanding of what the what really is the business impact of your people? And I’ve had conversations around this, you know, in terms of, you know, seeing HR as a cost to contain that’s, that’s been the thing that HR has been, for years, just working to, to get out from under, instead, something to invest in, and I was speaking with someone recently, around this idea that, you know, why not literally put your your labor costs, like, put it in a different column? Right, in your in your accounting spreadsheet, so treat it as an asset, treat your people, and then all of a sudden, they become an asset to invest in. What are your thoughts around this?

Well, that’s interesting. You know, I mean, I think you’re right, it’s hard to quantify a lot of like, sort of, like, the cost of HR when it comes to the people, right? I mean, obviously, from a payroll perspective and benefits that’s a hard dollar cost. But like, I don’t know, if it’s really easy to quantify, like, the amount of wasted labor or the amount of disengagement or realistically, you know, there’s, there’s always these turnover metrics that like a turnover person, you know, cost you $50,000, like, I don’t know, if that’s really quantifiable. When it comes to training, I think, you know, as we basically become more and more technology driven, I think our skill sets are really falling behind, I think, like, you know, hiring the right person is very important, okay. You know, it’s like, making sure that they fit into what you want, you know, in addition to, like, I heard this recently, like, you know, instead of having a cultural fit, have a cultural add, like, some of that adds to your culture in a positive way, and stuff like that, which I thought was a very interesting thing that somebody put it as, right, like, but at the same time, like, you know, as more and more companies are going through, like, you know, diversity, like, you know, you see, like these, you see, a lot of times when you recruit you’re looking for five to 10 years of experience of HR operations, they have to work in financial services, but like, are you better off now like quantifying to get bigger bang for your buck to get somebody that was not in financial services, get some of that was in manufacturing, bring some of those experiences, get somebody that, you know, wasn’t an HR operations their whole life, maybe they were in accounting, maybe they were in marketing for a while, maybe they were in, like, your manufacturing operation. So you, you’re gonna start to see, like, in order to quantify a little bit about those costs, like you really do need to get people that have diverse experiences, that really tried to, like, you know, bring that to the table, you know, so to speak, to really, you know, help you not have this group thing, right? Because, like, yeah, if everybody’s had the same exact experiences, you’re not really getting that additional, like, you know, diversity and experience diversity, or thought diversity and idea, you know, but it is it’s really hard to quantify some of those soft skills and I think that if somebody can figure out how to do that, that’d be like a golden ticket.

It’s definitely not going to be, well, I think it would be somebody who has some sort of a financial background who’s gonna know how to do it. One thing that’s interesting, though, that what you said and occurred to me is, you’re absolutely right. You know, it’s, um, it’s difficult to quantify. It’s next to… Well, I’m not gonna say next to impossible because I don’t know enough about this. Okay. But, but it seems to me that be very difficult to quantify what’s, what’s the potential value lost by not doing something? You know, that’s that. That to me is too vague, you know, even though it definitely does have an impact. You can’t really, yeah, I can’t imagine trying to put $1 right to that.

Yeah. It’s too hard. It’s, I mean, like, we’ve been talking ..HR people have been talking about this for 20 years, and we’re still talking about the same issue. So somebody hasn’t solved it yet. We’re still trying to but somebody hasn’t solved it.

That’s a great point. And maybe that’s a good place to sort of land. You know, I think we’ve been talking about these things for a while. They’re very important. We still have our work cut out for us…to figure out, you know, how to actually broaden that understanding of the value of people to an organization, although I do think that we’re moving in the right direction. Yeah,

we’re definitely moving in the right direction. A lot of work to do, though, you know, we got to continue to move forward to quantify that, but yeah, we’re definitely moving in the right direction with technology and culture and engagement.

Yeah. Excellent. Excellent. Thanks so much, Tom. Yeah, thanks so much. Yeah, this has been a fantastic conversation. I’m sure our viewers will absolutely love it. Thanks, Brent. Have a great day. You too. Take care. Bye.

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