TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast

Ep. 24 - Mark Feffer

March 11, 2021 Fuel50 / Mark Feffer Season 1 Episode 24
TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 24 - Mark Feffer
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TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 24 - Mark Feffer
Mar 11, 2021 Season 1 Episode 24
Fuel50 / Mark Feffer

Independent writer, journalist and the editor of HCM Technology Report Mark Feffer joins us to discuss how HR and more specifically HR technology priorities have changed in the past year. Together with Rhonda Taylor they cover what technologies might have been on the backburner previously but have become critical to the way work gets done throughout organizations, particularly for a remote workforce. Technology can be effective to spread the culture of companies, however it only goes so far – tune in for Mark’s thoughts on how tech can be best utilized to ensure a positive employee experience.

Mark was one of the first to report on how algorithms have changed the recruiter’s role, the growing need for Chief Analytics Officers and the synergies between artificial intelligence and analytics. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter @markfeffer or on www.hcmtechnologyreport.com.

For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentxpodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the TalentX podcast!

Show Notes Transcript

Independent writer, journalist and the editor of HCM Technology Report Mark Feffer joins us to discuss how HR and more specifically HR technology priorities have changed in the past year. Together with Rhonda Taylor they cover what technologies might have been on the backburner previously but have become critical to the way work gets done throughout organizations, particularly for a remote workforce. Technology can be effective to spread the culture of companies, however it only goes so far – tune in for Mark’s thoughts on how tech can be best utilized to ensure a positive employee experience.

Mark was one of the first to report on how algorithms have changed the recruiter’s role, the growing need for Chief Analytics Officers and the synergies between artificial intelligence and analytics. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter @markfeffer or on www.hcmtechnologyreport.com.

For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentxpodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the TalentX podcast!

Rhonda Taylor  00:25
Good afternoon. Good evening. Good morning, wherever you are in the world. Welcome to another episode of TalentX. It's a new year, it's a new government in the United States and I think most of us are still living out our new year's resolutions. I hope so anyway, today we're gonna be speaking with Mark Feffer and Mark is well known for the publication HCM Technology Report. Mark, I will not give you the accolades that you truly deserve, you are so well respected in the space and like you said earlier today, you never realized that HR technology can be so much fun. So Mark, let the audience know your experience, your background, and then we'll get on to our discussion.

Mark Feffer  01:21
Sure. Thank you for inviting me in here, Rhonda. It's great to see you and talk to you. I'm a journalist by training, I started the Dow Jones back in the mid 80s, which dates me I know. But I was working on the online news desk in 1984, which is before the web by about 10 years. So I kind of grew up with the online world and after leaving Dow Jones after 10 years to freelance write about technology and finance, I joined Dice where I was their first managing editor. And I left dice about four or five years ago to start the HCM Technology Report. One of the things that I found at Dice is that HR and HR technology especially is actually a lot of fun. 

There's a lot of really smart people that work at companies of both startups and some of the big companies as well. And they're trying to do really good work and they are at an interesting point where they really are the entry point to a lot of companies. Especially at the enterprise level. Every company has to worry about HR, every company needs to take care of its workforce and so sometimes they're the first applications that go in on a organization wide level. It's fun, and it's interesting.

Rhonda Taylor  02:45
It truly is and I love you said that your 1980's, I look back on the football game last weekend, where it was Drew Brees and Tom Brady and the two of them combined were like 47 years of football. Well, I think we have them beat because between you and I, I think we're approaching 70 years of HR. 

Mark Feffer  03:09
Well, you know, my wife is an organizational psychologist, she spent 20 years in HR and I think that's the kind of statement she would tell me to just stay away from. So, you know, yes.

Rhonda Taylor  03:23
We're not going there. Okay, so what I wanted to speak with Mark was today, we're seeing a lot of changes. We are hopefully on the downside of the pandemic. But the pandemic has left its trail in HR technologies, and we're seeing a lot of changes in HR technologies. And I'd like you to address and I think, obviously the first one is that right off the bat HR technologies had to address people going home, the remote worker, what did you witness in that space?

Mark Feffer  04:06
I think that a lot of things became apparent to people that hadn't necessarily been apparent before, both in terms of HR applications themselves, the way people work, and about infrastructure. There's been an ongoing debate for years about whether or not working from home is viable and I think that debate is pretty much over. There's no reason that people can't work from home. They're productive when they work from home. They're efficient. I mean, there's certainly some some issues that crop up with whether or not they're working too long and maybe some aren't as productive, but some are more productive. But I think you get into that kind of thing or you're really looking at some of the nips. 

The bottom line is I think that people are going to be spending more time working from home. I think that has in turn put an emphasis on different aspects of technology that were kind of back burnered before and I'm thinking about collaborative technology, video technology for meetings and for interviews, file sharing, editing, co-editing, all of those kinds of things have become more important, actually critical, not just to HR, but to the way work gets done throughout the entire organization.

Rhonda Taylor  05:30
Yeah, and you really see that. And it's really varying amongst different companies. I was speaking to somebody at HP, and they just had all kinds of systems within their system. Because they've got employees at home, all around the world. So they put big bucks into it. And they're knowing, right from not only what activities going on on email, but what websites that their employees are visiting, things like that, during work hours. I never thought we would get to that point.

Mark Feffer  06:14
Yeah, I think you're right, it's sort of accelerated that, I think employees often feared it. And, you know though, we're still in the early stages of really a new generation, or new new era of work, where a lot of these things like the monitoring technology that you were talking about, it's kind of hot and employers like it right now. But as time goes on, I think they're gonna start to see some pushback from a lot of their employees. And I think one thing that employers have demonstrated throughout this crisis, is that they they actually are listening to their employees pretty closely. Earlier this year, early in the summer, when the government in the United States was trying to push companies to reopen their businesses, whether it was safe or not a lot of employees just drew a line in the sand that said, No, they weren't going to, they weren't going to show up. And employers backed off pretty quickly. 

And I think it was Gartner who did a study that found majority of employees, a significant majority of employees believe that employers essentially had their back in terms of making sure that the workplace was safe to come back to. And a lot of the issues that employees had actually were less about the workspace than they were about getting on the subway, or something like that during the pandemic. So I think there's going to be a rebalancing at some point about things like privacy, if employers are being aggressive now with monitoring, I think you're going to start to see some of them back off, because you're just not going to want the word to get out there to candidates that that's the kind of culture they've got.

Rhonda Taylor  08:01
Oh, exactly. And at some point in your hiring process, you hire that person to trust that person. And I think that some of these monitoring softwares are hard on the trust element.

Mark Feffer  08:20
I think so too. I think some of these technologies can work very well as long as they're handled properly by managers and by the companies themselves. For example, you mentioned monitoring email. And I think that there's a lot of tools out there that allow you to monitor email, from sort of 15,000 feet. You're not tracking individual messages, but you can see trends. You can identify how many of the emails are going outside of the company, how many are going to certain sites, and you can identify down to a department level where there might be mischief happening that HR managers need to fall into. Technically, it might be possible to track an individual's email, but it probably isn't a smart thing to do from an HR perspective, and from an employee experience and culture perspective. And I think that's the balance that more companies are going to have to start to find.

Rhonda Taylor  09:24
Yeah, and did you find that the employers they were thrown into a space so quickly, it was almost like a knee jerk reaction with some of the software platforms that they ran with, because it's unchartered waters.

Mark Feffer  09:45
Yeah and I think you're right. I think it was a knee jerk because all of a sudden, you had had all these people working from home, you had a lot of managers and companies who had never liked the idea of their people working from home so they kind of anticipated all these problems. But you know, we've been we've been working from home for, what about nine or 10 months now, and I don't want to be a cynic. But you know, here in the United States, we're going to be working from home for another year. And so a lot of the sort of long term impact or long term consequences of aggressively monitoring, or of not having regular check ins, of not leveraging technology in a really smart way to deal with a hybrid workforce, those are going to become more and more apparent as 2021 goes on.

Rhonda Taylor  10:37
Yeah, yeah. And then there's the other aspect that I don't know how technology. Companies have their culture, our culture at Fuel50 is own it. Other companies just do it. During this time, how does technology help spread the culture of companies?

Mark Feffer  11:13
I think where most companies get into trouble is when they imagine the technology is the answer, as opposed to a tool. I've been on Zoom meetings that are just a riot, the people there are fun, we have a good session. It's an hour and a half meeting that could have been an hour, but we all walk away feeling like we really accomplished something, we had a good time, and we're glad we're a part of that team. I've also been to Zoom meetings where it's like sitting at the Department of Motor Vehicles for an hour waiting for your license, it's just, it's gray, it's boring, nobody's talking, and it's just terrible. Now, in real life, or I should say (I was going to say in the real world) in person, I've had similar experiences. 

My point is just that if a company says, Okay, we're going to have video interviewing for our talent acquisition so we're tech savvy, and that's going to help us show candidates what we're about. Well, the video interviewing technology isn't going to do it, it's the way your managers and the way the people who are doing the interviews conduct themselves and lead the conversation. And I think it's really important for people to keep the technology and that kind of perspective. We have so much technology in our lives nowadays. From the time we get up we're using our phones, we're using our tablets, we're using our laptops, we're using Zoom, it's just everywhere. But you have to remember that in a lot of instances, the idea of the technology, the point of the technology, is to enable a conversation a face to face conversation, and that conversation is going to work or not for many of the same reasons it would or not in person.

Rhonda Taylor  13:13
Yeah, and I think what you said earlier, is that the person conducting the interview. Like employer branding and the culture of the company that has to come through via the person conducting the interview. And also obviously, conducted by the website, people are going to the website and checking out the culture of the organization, but there needs to be consistency. The other thing I'm witnessing is the employee experience right now with technology. There are some days, I'll tell you I could just throw out my hands, like, oh, what now? There's just so much and you talk to people, they're tech tired.

Mark Feffer  14:08
Oh, yeah. That's true. But I also sort of wonder if how much of it is tech tired or just work tired in this situation? There's two things here, one is I think infrastructure, internet connections, for example, video connections all of that is going to start to become more and more recognized as an HR kind of issue. Because if you've given an employee an old laptop and you won't pay for them to upgrade their internet access, so they're struggling to do things all day, that's not a really great employee experience. So just to make sure that your employees are set up properly with the right equipment and the right connections is going to be more and more important to companies. 

And an example that I give you is my own example. We were having internet problems here in HCM Technology Report world headquarters, which is my house, and our router was was getting funky and we had a meeting, my wife and I had breakfast, and we ended up coming out and getting get a new network, mesh set of routers and put them in and life this week has just been a whole lot better. I think that that's the kind of thing that employers need to bear in mind. And I think this is where a lot of them have sort of fallen down, especially with parents. People are trying to do their work at home and home has a lot of distractions going on, a lot of problems and employers to take advantage of technology need to make sure that the employee is set up with the right platforms, the right connections, the right tools, and then they need to make sure the managers are administering everything and leading their teams properly.

Rhonda Taylor  16:18
Yeah, I hear you about bandwidth. It will be interesting to see how that changes, because I agree with you, I think we all are going to be home for at least another year. And so many communities just do not have the bandwidth to accommodate children doing homeschooling, and mom and dad working from the home. 

Mark Feffer  16:48
I think this is one place where I think employers, I actually think HR technology companies could really step up here and lead this conversation of what needs to happen for school, just between school districts and parents and employers, to make what parents have to deal with reasonable. I was talking to somebody who they've got three kids and they got a message from their school system that each kid needed four hours of parent time a day, in order to keep up with their lessons. Well, how are those parents supposed to work, if they're doing that many hours managing their children's education. 

The schools need to be more in tune with the parents. The employers need to be more in tune with the parents, not just the employees. And it seems to be the HR technology people, HR technology companies with their ability to deal with networks and messaging and all the different data and all the different things that they do, are really in a great position to try and help solve that problem. Because that's not going away.

Rhonda Taylor  17:58
No, and it's only going to grow. Mark, we could go on all day in talking about this, because it's an open ended conversation. But we're coming towards the end of our time, but at TalentX, we talk about the talent experience and Mark, you're really good at what you do. It's obvious you enjoy writing, you now own your own publication. I would love to know what keeps you going every day, what makes Mark Feffer get up out of bed, and put one foot in front of the other with a big smile on his face, and operating at 150%.

Mark Feffer  18:52
Well, I mean, the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning really is I have two schnauzers and they need to get out. So that gets me out of bed. But the HCM Technology Report, in a lot of ways is the small town newspaper I always wanted to have. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I actually poked around and looked at weekly newspapers in New Hampshire and Maine to buy as a publisher, and I just loved the idea of being a part of a community and writing about it. And here's HR tech, huge business, multi-billion dollar business, but it's kind of a small town for all the companies that are in it and all the people. There's a lot of people who know each other and so you you get to know people you get to know what they're doing. And it's just interesting. So that's probably the biggest thing that's kind of a reward unto itself.

Rhonda Taylor  19:51
I can believe that knowing you I can truly believe that and I could see you as a young person having that goal. So Mark, I want to thank you so much for being a guest on TalentX. I wish HCM technology report all the best, we support it wherever we can, and whenever we can. And this is Rhonda Taylor with TalentX, saying stay positive, test negative. We're going to get through this. Take care. Bye.