Automation & AI Blog

Orchestrating the Future of AI in HR: Q&A with David Somers & Athena Karp

Last month, HiredScore and Workday announced an acquisition that could redefine the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and human resources (HR) technology. This combination brings together two powerhouses in the HR tech space, merging HiredScore’s cutting-edge AI solutions with Workday’s extensive industry-leading HR and Financial software ecosystem.

To understand the motivations behind this deal and its implications for the future of HR technology, we sat down with David Somers, Chief Product Officer at Workday and Athena Karp, Founder and CEO of HiredScore (now General Manager of HiredScore at Workday) to spill the tea. Their insights reveal not just the strategic alignment between the two companies, but also a shared vision for leveraging responsible AI to address some of the most pressing challenges in today’s workforce.

Kyle: This was a deal no one in the market saw coming. What attracted you both about this partnership?

David: We’ve been tracking HiredScore for quite a while. A lot was around really good feedback from joint customers, and even my own internal product team regarding the value HiredScore was bringing to Workday products. My first discussion with Athena was the icing on the cake. We have a unique perspective on AI in the space at Workday – I think we’ve been thought leaders related to the ethical and appropriate use of AI, and we ran over on time – WAY over.

Athena: We realized how much we could do together. For us, we never built our      company for exit – it’s always been for impact. Meeting Carl, Sayan, Aneel, and David…  it was clear that it is a very entrepreneurial environment, which you don’t typically find at this scale, and it made me realize that we would actually have the opportunity to take our vision even further if we were part of Workday.    

At HiredScore, we’ve always loved problems at the intersection of efficiency and fairness, and we found those same values at Workday. With Workday, our vision is accelerated and expanded to build more impactful workforce solutions at a time when there is immense workforce disruption on the horizon and it was just too compelling to walk away from.

Kyle: There are differing opinions on this acquisition. What would you say to the people that think this is just a near-term, tactical play?

David: In all honesty, the matching and scoring wasn’t what captured our interest. It was where they may have been bringing value at first, but what really impressed us was the orchestration and the value we could bring together.

There was not a lot of overlap in our AI offerings. What HiredScore has done is extremely complementary to what Workday has done. This has a really long tail for us here at Workday. We have lots of plans even beyond the recruiting space—and in short order. 

Athena: I don’t expect that everyone will understand what we actually do. Our recruiter AI exoskeleton does a lot of what people know us for, but our ability to bring people to their highest level of performance… is that understood? Is the scale of that impact rolled out across thousands of Workday customers understood? It’s going to have a tremendous impact.

The AI industry as a whole hasn’t had quantifiable AI for HR impact stories—most of what we’ve seen so far has been an AI feature war. This is what we’ve been unique in being able to drive with our customers, and if you ask our customers about what we’re able to accomplish together and where that their plans with us are ahead, it goes WAY beyond matching and scoring. They’re dreaming so much bigger.  

David: What people don’t understand is that HiredScore does something better than anybody I’ve ever seen – including us: They’re putting AI in the hands of the end user without them even knowing it’s AI. That’s important. A lot of what I see out there is very AI-in-your-face, but at the end of the day that’s not how you get people using and getting value. HiredScore… just works. We want to leverage that across the entire spectrum of Workday. 

Athena: There will continue to be many AIs – we’re focused on building things where human and machine innovation feels native, feels natural and delivers impact for every user that leverages it in a clear, quick, and quantifiable way. We are excited to do this at a bigger scale.

Kyle: Considering HR’s approach to AI thus far, what gaps – technical, cultural, operational – do you think we should be focused on closing?

David: We’re product people. We’ve thought a lot about what is technically possible – could we do this and would it help, sure.We’ve done a lot in the skills space, and early on the issues were technical. How could we help them to stop managing the technical issues and focus more on strategy… but then we got to the cultural and operational issues. I’m seeing the same things here with AI more broadly.

Athena: Zoom out and look at enterprise technology, companies that weren’t AI specialists have been busy rolling out AI features. We’ll see consolidation of the smaller companies. The CIO, COO pushing for widespread AI everywhere… Our focus is to find the right problems that deeply impact the business if left unsolved and problems that you need an AI for HR expert in safety, in many types of data, in human plus machine collaboration, and that has measurable ROI. That’s why we developed talent orchestration.

Kyle: Innovation cycles in AI are moving faster than ever. A lot of folks are preoccupied with GenAI, but few are familiar with Orchestration. What is it and why does it matter?

Athena: Orchestration is different from rules-based automation – it gives you the power and capability to take multivariable, multi-stakeholder, multi-step problems and literally orchestrate processes in an optimized way. This lets HR move from “revolutionary RAM triggers” (which took problems we could solve with automation and stopped us from actually considering optimizing that problem – then IT departments were managing all of these threads, and you’re one update, one field change away from disaster).

Orchestration AI understands the nature of a task, the governance, the obstacles. Our clients are having these incredible lightbulb moments; they’re thinking continually about all of the things they can orchestrate.

We have big plans, we have a lot to do, and Workday understands how powerful this can be—and what clients want of both of us.

David: Athena nailed it. It ties to the first question: This is why we see HiredScore as way more than matching and scoring. What we see is a need to orchestrate all of the different problems and processes related to human capital management. AI is the tool that’s going to allow us to do it. HiredScore does that better than anyone. 

There you have it! The partnership between HiredScore and Workday marks a significant milestone in the evolution of HR technology.

By combining HiredScore’s AI prowess with Workday’s comprehensive HR ecosystem, this collaboration is set to deliver innovative solutions that address the dual objectives of efficiency and fairness in workforce management. The insights shared by David and Athena not only shed light on the strategic underpinnings of this partnership but also offer a glimpse into the future of HR technology—a future where AI plays a central role in orchestrating complex HR processes and elevating human potential to new heights.

As the industry watches this partnership unfold, it’s clear that the real winners will be the organizations and their employees, who stand to benefit from more sophisticated, fair, and efficient HR solutions.

Automation & AI Blog

Sourcing Heats Up and with Indeed’s Latest Product Announcement

Indeed recently announced its latest iteration of AI-powered products: Smart Sourcing. It comes at an interesting time in the market.

On the buy side, Aptitude Research’s latest study on AI in Human Resources (HR) found that 72% of companies anticipate increased investments in AI solutions this year. In the market, HiredScore (arguably the leader in matching and scoring AI) was acquired by Workday, while HireEZ and Findem (both leaders in Sourcing AI) expanded into candidate relationship management (CRM). And for Indeed itself, their first big commercial play in AI matching and scoring with a bold move to a PPA model last year.

We covered the PPA announcement with avid interest. Though Indeed ended up pausing the PPA program, this latest announcement signals they’re not letting it slow them down—quite the opposite.

It’s a good time for a company like Indeed to bet big on AI in talent acquisition. The latest job numbers in the US show strong growth, while interest in recruiting and hiring AI solutions is just as strong.

I had a chance to sit down with Raj Mukherjee, EVP and General Manager, at Indeed to talk about this new offering, their continued investments in AI, and how Indeed is delivering on its mission to make hiring simpler, faster, and more human.

According to Raj, Indeed’s offering has a few key competitive advantages:

  • First, Indeed’s Smart Sourcing pulls from an active database. “Indeed has a unique offering in that we give employers access to candidates active on the platform that are looking for new roles,” Raj says.
  • Second, Indeed is seeing a significant improvement in response rates from matched candidates. Raj reported that candidates who are a strong match for a search are 17x more likely to apply than regular job seekers.
  • Third, Indeed’s connected experience—specifically the ability to schedule interviews immediately—gives employers the ability to quickly convert interested, relevant candidates and get them in front of a hiring manager.

Here are a few of the key things I took away from our conversation—and my observations on this announcement:

AI is officially a must-have rather than a nice-to-have.

As an analyst, my job is to track technology trends across the world of work. We’ve been talking about AI in HR tech for a while now, but the conversation has recently made a serious paradigm shift.

Whereas before, only those most innovative talent acquisition teams were doing significant AI projects, Indeed’s latest push into the market makes it official: we’re in the Early Majority stage of AI in TA. Now, companies, big and small, innovative and ordinary, can utilize machine learning, natural language processing, and Generative AI to tackle some of the fundamental challenges in recruiting.

Things are heating up in Sourcing—not slowing down.

Though we were all sad to see so many of our colleagues in Sourcing impacted by RIFs over the last 18 months, we should all be encouraged to see innovation in Sourcing tech alive and well. Raj cited a US$6 billion market for recruiting automation, of which I think Sourcing could easily be 1/3 or more.

Indeed began running a Smart Sourcing beta in November and has seen substantial adoption among SMB organizations—a market untapped by the leaders in Sourcing tech due to lower profit margins for a SaaS model. Will Indeed continue to push up-market and drive Findem, SeekOut, and HireEZ to rethink their product and go-to-market strategies? I think we’ve only begun to see the ripples that the rapid advancement of AI is making in this market.

Adoption of AI in HR depends on human in the right loop.

Raj and I had a spirited conversation on what makes two use cases that both utilize matching and scoring AI can be received so differently. We all know that “human in the loop” is an important success factor for safe, ethical, and effective use of AI. With Smart Sourcing, a recruiter is in the driver’s seat for most of the workflow—the AI is augmenting their efforts at each step, including GenAI creating outreach messages.

With PPA, the AI was doing almost everything—and the recruiter or hiring manager just had to say accept or reject a matched candidate before moving forward in the process. Hiring remains a hugely human thing, and people want to know they’re in control. Both Raj and I think that Smart Sourcing is putting humans in the right loop by augmenting and enhancing workflows rather than over-automating them.

Indeed remains committed to a dual value proposition for AI in talent acquisition.

Perhaps the most enlightening part of my discussion with Raj was the lessons learned from last year’s PPA play, specifically regarding what they were bringing forward to this new innovation. Raj said, “We have to ensure that the data we are providing to employers and to job seekers—that is, the recommendations, the matches—are trustworthy.”

Having played with Indeed’s recommendation engine myself over the last six months (I created a profile to test their matching and scoring when I did a write-up last fall), I can say that they’ve made a lot of progress since I first signed up. This same matching engine—built on millions and millions of data points generated by users on both sides of the talent marketplace—is powering Smart Sourcing, which makes me optimistic about Indeed’s ability to deliver value with their latest offering.

 I’m encouraged to see Indeed continuing to invest in this dimension of recruiting AI. Not only does it serve a real need and enhance user experiences for employers and job seekers alike, but it also further differentiates Indeed from traditional job boards and marketplaces—a space they disrupted a long time ago.

Time will tell just how disruptive Smart Sourcing is for other sourcing AI providers, and I’ll be watching this corner of the market with interest.

Blog Podcast

How to Launch a Skill-Based Talent Strategy of the Future

On this episode of Transformation Realness, I’m talking with Mara Jones, head of people and culture at Kasa, and Tara Torres, formerly Kasa’s director of talent acquisition and strategic people initiatives. We’re digging into one of the hottest and most complex topics in the industry right now: skills-based talent strategy.

Inspired by a mission to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at Kasa, Mara and Tara immediately singled out assessment and promotion practices as a place to remove ambiguity. Their story demonstrates how, when implemented step-by-step, skills-based strategies can enhance assessment, promotion and the entire employee experience. 

Listen in to learn practical lessons from Mara and Tara’s experience piloting their framework, including tips for aligning teams and prioritizing skills-based initiatives for maximum impact.

Start With the Basics

Job descriptions form the building blocks for a skill-based framework, so Mara kicked off the project with an effort to standardize descriptions and build consistency in how her team advertised jobs. “One of the first things that we decided to do was to put together a bank of skill sets that we thought were necessary across the organization,” Mara says. “And so we went into all of our job descriptions, and we just opened up an Excel spreadsheet, and we pulled everything that we could get out of there.”

But then Mara and her team hit a snag. “We started seeing that … maybe the verbiage is not done the same way across all job descriptions,” Mara says. This discovery led to a more individualized approach to defining what the business needed from each role. “We had managers help us identify objectives and key results for the role or for the individual,” Mara says. “And we templatized it, we rolled it out, and we focused on that instead.”

At this point, Mara’s resolution to develop an overarching framework landed on the back burner, but it didn’t stay there long.

Treat Skills Like Currency

The idea of developing a skill-based competency framework stuck with Mara, but it wasn’t until Tara had an “aha moment” that the team picked it back up — with renewed vigor. “The ‘aha moment’ was that this really becomes the shared language for how you talk about talent,” Tara says, “not just internally from a calibration or selection standpoint, but also with the talent themselves.”

Tara’s sudden realization hits on an important point: that skills are the currency of the future of work. “It really started to crystallize for me how you could start to take skills, define them in a way that shows differentiation as you progress through the job family … and then link that through the entire employee lifecycle,” Tara continues. 

A shared understanding of skills allows for more strategic workforce planning conversations between HR and business leaders. Rather than just discussing headcount needs, they can talk about the competencies and skills required, making the discussions more collaborative versus just departments giving orders. 

Respect Your Partners

To embed the framework throughout the hiring process and employee journey, Tara hosted conversations with HR business partners and hiring teams. Together, they identified a group to pilot a new talent acquisition process based on the competency framework. Their process involved selecting and defining attributes for different job levels and creating associated artifacts such as job descriptions and interview guides. 

Tara involved stakeholders in the process from the beginning, and conducted a survey and whiteboarding session to determine the most important attributes for each job. There were challenges in agreeing on definitions, but the approach received positive feedback from business leaders.

“That was the exercise that we went through to define the attributes,” Tara says, “and we got a lot of really positive feedback from the business leaders on how we approached that.”

Mara was especially pleased with Tara’s process and dedication to focusing her attention and energy on producing the best results. Tara made use of existing work and resources to streamline the process and make it easier for the team — which is really important when asking for participation from the people most embedded in daily tasks. 

“We have to remember that our operators are constantly focusing on the day-to-day and making sure that the business is running,” Mara says. “And so we have to make sure that whenever we’re bringing them in into initiatives like this, that we do the work ahead of time so that we make the best use of their time.”

Mara and Tara’s journey to designing and implementing a skill-based framework is inspiring, and provides a blueprint you can follow to kickstart that same journey in your organization.

People in This Episode

Blog Podcast

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Approaching AI With Clarity and Intent

On this episode of Transformation Realness, I’m talking with Splunk’s Allie Wehling, IO psychologist and head of talent assessment, and Dustin Cann, senior director of people process, compliance and operations. We discuss the nuances of AI in HR, best practices for exploring the delicate balance between innovation and compliance and strategies for implementing AI in HR safely, ethically and intentionally.

With experience both as HR practitioners themselves as well as serving as solutions providers, Allie and Dustin bring an informed perspective to the topic of AI in HR that’s more important now than ever. “That is really important: to understand the practitioner point of view, understand the science — and not just creating a tool that demos really well, but that is actually going to be really meaningful,” Allie says. 

AI isn’t going anywhere. It’s embedded in every aspect of our work, and if we don’t get ahead of it we’re going to fall behind — and put our businesses at risk. That’s why we’re answering your burning questions about AI. Listen in for some inside intel on preparing your organization to apply AI safely.

Keep People in the Loop

You have an important responsibility to facilitate business decisions, especially around workplace tech. But Dustin and Allie are quick to emphasize that you can’t go it alone on such complex projects. “The organizations that are successful selecting and implementing these tools, especially long term,” Dustin says, “are likely going to be the ones that have the ability to navigate that conversation with compliance partners, lawyers, all of that, by going into these exercises as a team.” 

Bringing in different perspectives ensures all angles get considered upfront. It shows due diligence and builds buy-in across teams. Plus, relying on experts helps fill in the gaps where your own knowledge may be lacking, like intricate technical integrations or privacy nuances worldwide.

And don’t forget perhaps the most important stakeholder group of all: your workforce. For any tech adoption to work, you need employees fully onboard — and that means communicating openly and honestly with them upfront. “We need to be really transparent with employees about why we are implementing this AI system, outlining exactly how the data will and will not be used, and ensuring that they have an opportunity to consent to it,” Allie says. 

Keep It Simple

When proposing new AI initiatives, gaining approval from legal and compliance stakeholders is crucial. Dustin strongly suggests adopting a clear, simplified narrative to build credibility with these groups. “If I can’t articulate how this works, and what it’s doing, to partners across my legal teams, data protection teams, and so forth, I can’t buy it,” he says. 

Don’t get bogged down in the details. Highlight a specific business problem and explain how the proposed solution aims to address it effectively and compliantly. Presenting complex machine learning concepts in an overly complex way may raise more questions than answers.

Dustin also cautions against taking vendor solutions at face value. An ROI study on an interview scheduling tool, he says, could show significant value. But those types of tools depend heavily on interviewers practicing excellent calendar hygiene — and most don’t. In practice, the tool may not deliver the value it promises.

By simplifying your use cases and breaking them down in terms of actual practice, you can explain the value of a solution in your specific workplace. “That’s going to … lead you down the path where you’ve got real applied impact,” Dustin says.

Keep Up With Trends

Staying ahead of the curve is crucial for supporting your workforce in this dynamic environment, Allie says. While being an expert coder definitely isn’t necessary, she stresses that simply checking in on developments every once in a while isn’t going to cut it anymore either. To really keep your organization competitive in this rapidly changing landscape, you need to make following innovations a real priority.

“You don’t need to go take a bootcamp in machine learning and know how to code in Python,” Allie says. “But it is incumbent upon us to keep up with emerging technologies and understand where the market is going.” Equipped with an understanding of the trends in technology — and all the possible use cases — you can lead the conversation about selecting the right AI tools your business needs to navigate current disruptions.

People in This Episode

Blog Uncategorized

HiredScore and Workday: A Lightning Rod Moment for Talent Technology

Yesterday, Workday announced the acquisition of HiredScore. It’s the biggest news since Oracle announced its acquisition of Taleo, and marks a new era of talent acquisition innovation.

Long has Workday toiled to rise above the noise regarding gaps in their Recruiting product–meanwhile, growing to over 4000 customers worldwide despite being the subject of recruiter and candidate consternation (and the target of industry influencers paid to fan the flames). While some of the frustration has been merited, Workday has steadily grown to become one of the leading talent acquisition systems for small to large enterprise companies.

One needs only look at the pitch decks of any other player in talent acquisition tech to know just how much market leadership Workday has established. Everyone is clamoring for a piece of that pie–by enhancing candidate and recruiter experience like Paradox, expanding capabilities for talent pipelining and lifecycle management like Beamery, or providing deeper recruiting performance insight and actionability like Crosschq.

It feels like only yesterday I was in a room with core members of Workday’s Recruiting product team making the case to grow market leadership and change the narrative by engaging the incredibly dynamic ecosystem of players in talent acquisition tech–breaking away from the “Power of One” narrative. Even then, I never dreamt of something like this.

Meanwhile, HiredScore has spent the last eleven years slowly-but-surely leading the way in advanced AI solutions for some of the world’s most expert talent acquisition teams.

Earning trust and building partnership with clients like Accenture, Johnson & Johnson, General Motors, and Takeda, HiredScore has set the industry standard time and again for new core capabilities. Unmatched matching and scoring AI, unparalleled AI compliance and ethical standards, and (as yet) peerless AI orchestration capabilities have made HiredScore a major player.

Their technological leadership combined with their reputation for being a strong (and market neutral) GTM partner has also made HiredScore a strong (albeit quiet) counterpoint to the rapid rise of VC darlings like Eightfold and Phenom. What HiredScore may lack in market share, they make up for with a nearly 100% referable client base–the most legit success factor in the business.

Likewise, it feels like only yesterday I had my very first briefing with Athena Karp, founder and CEO of HiredScore–where I got completely and utterly schooled on what is actually possible when AI and automation are deployed effectively in talent acquisition.

While I don’t think the gods care much about HR tech, I do think it is incredibly kismet that these two are coming together nearly 12 years to the day since the Oracle/SAP/IBM wave reshaped the HR tech landscape. It’s also just over 12 years since I started my career in this whacky space. Weird!

Looking ahead, I expect this will serve as a lightning rod for vendors to rethink everything–their products, their partnerships, and their competition. Exciting times!

Blog Podcast

Resistance is Futile: You Will Comply! Spilling the Tea on HR Compliance Trends Coming in 2024

On this episode of Transformation Realness, I’m talking with HR veterans and Humareso president, John Baldino, and director of talent strategy, Robin Schooling. We’re spilling the tea on one of the sexiest, most exciting, most horrifying parts of HR: compliance.

HR compliance is becoming more and more complicated — and it couldn’t come at a worse time for HR professionals, who are woefully burnt out already (something I’m sure many of you are feeling!). The pain is SO real: “A lot of folks have reached the point where they’re self-selecting themselves out of the profession,” Robin says. 

In many industries — healthcare, retail, manufacturing — HR professionals faced increased pressure to deliver without having a chance to pause and evolve their work model. It was just go-go-go! And in industries like professional services, HR is often caught in the middle between protecting employee flexibility and business leaders calling for an unequivocal return to the office. 

So where does that leave HR professionals in 2024? Buckle in for a no-holds-barred conversation on the complexities introduced by COVID-19 health and safety compliance — and its far-reaching implications for personal liberties and workplace culture.

Balancing Compliance With Compassion

We’ve reached a point where we are just starting to feel the lasting legislative impacts of COVID-19-era cases on things like religious freedom, personal liberty, and political strife. If that wasn’t enough of a mess, HR professionals are learning that following the letter of the law is creating even more friction in the workplace. “From a compliance standpoint, the HR practitioner has a daunting task in front of them to both balance the prescriptive components of legislation,” John says, “and the cultural compassion around people.”

In a lot of places, for instance, the flu took a worse toll on people this season than the COVID virus did. But as John points out, employees might be entitled to paid leave when they contract COVID, they have to rely on personal sick time if they get the flu. That’s just some of the nuanced complexity that HR leaders have to think about: Do we just follow compliance to the strictest rule of the law? Or do we take that as the foundation for a new sick policy?

There’s room for both, but you have to find the right approach for your specific culture and workforce. “I think you start with compliance. That’s the foundation of your house, right?” Robin says. “And you’re building your policies and then your practices on top of that foundation.”

Managing Contentious Conversations

A unique challenge HR leaders faced during the pandemic was the question of masking, which began as a personal choice but evolved into a company mandate. That friction between personal liberties and public safety has haunted us since 2020 — and is poised to be especially challenging during the upcoming election cycle.

“The 2016 election year, 2020 election year — I never saw anything so contentious in the workplace as I experienced those two years,” Robin says. Managing politically charged conversations at work while protecting employees’ psychological safety can be a real challenge. And that’s especially true now that we’re navigating workplace legislation that’s often neither fully developed nor well-defined — leaving employers with uncertainty and a lack of clarity on how to comply.

As an example, John cites a New Jersey state law that shifted unemployment filing requirements from physical paperwork to virtual documents uploaded to a public web portal. Great idea, right?? Well… the portal wasn’t operational immediately after the legislation passed, leaving HR on the hook to explain to employees why they couldn’t comply with the new rule. It’s a nightmare.

Further complicating things: employees today have access to a 24-hour news cycle and are more informed than ever (and increasingly misinformed) of their rights. HR’s struggle to navigate compliance can lead to mistrust between employees — some of whom may be acting in less-than-good-faith — and the business, with HR stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Investing in Yourself to Better Support Others

So what’s a girl to do with all of the compliance complexities in 2024? As daunting as all this is, John and Robin agreed that survival is going to require a new level of self-awareness and self-care. 

First, stay informed on a variety of topics: “Don’t just immerse yourself in HR,” Robin says. “You need to be aware of the things that are going on — culturally, politically, economically. You don’t have to be a deep-dive expert in all of these areas, but you need to know what’s going on.” Staying on top of some of the issues helps you manage contentious conversations more proactively.

Second, take care of yourself: There’s a lot going on in the world, and HR is often placed in a tough spot balancing the needs of the business against what’s best for people.

Finally, John says, recognize what a privilege it is to be in our position as HR leaders. “Everyone around us, whether they always admit it or not, needs to know that someone is willing to stand in that spot and be steady and constant in it. There’s comfort and confidence in knowing where I can go,” he says. “And when you stand in that spot, and do so over a period of time — and with compassion — honestly, you win people over.”

People in This Episode

Blog Uncategorized

What the Heck Happened to Recruitment During COVID-19?

On this episode of Transformation Realness, I’m talking with Hung Lee, editor of leading industry newsletter Recruiting Brainfood. We’re taking a look at the chaotic era of COVID-19 and the ripple effect the pandemic had on recruitment practices. Hung and I compare notes on where we could have done things differently, where we had absolutely no control, and where things landed.

“The last five years have been really putting the TA function, recruitment function, through a wringer,” Hung says. So, what the heck happened to recruitment during COVID-19 — and more importantly, where has that journey taken us? I’m glad you asked! 

The ups and downs in recruitment since the pandemic have reshaped the function as we knew it. Hung compares it to baking, where making a small change to the recipe completely transforms the result — for better or worse. “What’s happened over the last five years is that we’ve stretched this dough, and we’ve transformed it, and we’ve broken bits off — and different things are going to happen,” he says. “So I think that’s been the macro impact on us as a function.”

Listen to hear Hung’s perspective on the ever-evolving recruitment function and how companies and talent leaders must adapt to thrive in these changing times.

It’s Time to Bring the Band Back Together

Talent acquisition leaders and practitioners have worked hard to separate their roles from broader HR programs. “I think that’s a valid argument to make, because you do need different skills, you do need different kinds of capabilities, maybe even different personalities,” Hung says. “But at the same time, I think the worst thing we could have done is to separate to such an extent that we’re no longer collaborating.”

Completely divorcing talent acquisition from talent strategy leads to siloed decision-making and can limit TA’s role to traditional, external recruitment efforts. But recruitment can add so much more value to the business than just that. “I think the future of TA needs to roll back somewhat towards HR,” Hung says, “and will operate more cohesively because all of these things are obviously interlinked.”

A stronger focus on strategic workforce planning, backed by a unified talent acquisition and HR function, might have provided more stability during and since the pandemic.

Why No Investments in Internal Mobility Have Stuck

Internal mobility is the topic du jour in HR circles today, yet many employers still struggle to create successful internal mobility programs. And it’s not for lack of trying: companies are investing money, effort, and resources into tools and processes that are supposed to make it easier to engineer talent, but for many, nothing has stuck.

It comes down to three problems, Hung says. First, “employees are not aware as to when those opportunities actually are there,” he says, because internal systems for communicating job openings are notoriously unreliable for reaching the right people with the right roles.

The second problem, Hung says, is political. Without a culture that supports mobility, all too often employees simply don’t make a move because they’re concerned about how it might affect their current role or relationship with their boss. “When you apply for a job internally, there is an implication and a consequence, irrespective of success or failure,” Hung says. 

The third problem, Hung says, relates to managers, who simply aren’t incentivized to push internal mobility opportunities to their teams. “No operational manager enjoys extra or unexpected recruiting, because that’s a hole they need to fill — particularly if you’re a good worker,” Hung says. “The only people that managers are happy to push out are ineffective workers.”

You can invest in all the tools in the world, but seeing real change comes down to providing the right processes and culture to support employee career development and mobility.

We’d Be Remiss Not to Talk About AI

COVID-19 prompted more investment in recruitment technology and tech-enabled processes. But people are still wary of artificial intelligence scoring and ranking resumes, Hung says — although this feature is built into many recruitment tools today. A more palatable use of AI is to “present the quantified data and then have the human being make that decision,” Hung says.

Decisions of any kind are challenging, but even more so now when we have to make choices without the luxury of stability. Any decisions we make, whether it’s who to hire or what AI tools to invest in, we need to make in the face of uncertainty. “We have to reject the mindset that there is a normal to go back to,” Hung says. “We’re on a roller coaster, and the roller coaster doesn’t end. What we have to do is simply develop the skill set to deal with uncertainty and to make decisive decisions.”

People in This Episode

Automation & AI Blog

A Bold New Era for ADP

Fall is officially here, and I couldn’t be more excited. Not only because I’m more into spooky witch girl autumn than hot girl summer… As an industry analyst and advisor, it’s when all the latest innovations come to market. And I’m literally a professional geek for this ish!

Kicking off the new season was ADP’s Analyst Day at their Innovation Labs in Chelsea, NYC.

They’ve held their analyst day here for years—choosing this location over their global HQ in Roseland, New Jersey to send a future-focused message to the analyst community: This isn’t the ADP of yore.

The message held especially true this year. While there were many familiar faces in the room, there were also a lot of new faces taking the stage—all part of the new leadership team Maria Black has built to execute her vision of ADP’s next chapter.

A Bold New Chapter for ADP

In her opening remarks, Maria shared her vision for growing “stronger, smarter, and with purpose,” specifically drilling in on three strategic priorities:

  • Lead with Best-in-Class HCM Technology
  • Provide Unmatched Expertise & Outsourcing
  • Benefit ADP Clients with Global Scale

There’s a lot to unpack here, of course, but what really piqued my interest was Maria’s stated intention to “grow by listening.”

Solution providers in the HCM space—from the smallest startup to the biggest player in global payroll—frequently call out the importance of listening to their customers. If we learned anything from the rapid dominance of players like UKG and Workday over the last decade, it’s that HCM players can’t rest on their laurels—the problems you solved yesterday aren’t the same as the problems HR leaders and business executives face today… And ADP is taking this truth to heart.

Executing on these three initiatives, Maria identified several key audiences they’re listening to: Their clients (big and small), their partners (and coopetition), their expert associates, and their unparalleled datasets.

It’s a nice message—and an idea I fully support—but when you’re as big as ADP, listening is easier said than done. Hell, it’s hard to do even when you’re small! One key challenge is that a huge portion of any product and technology organization doesn’t organically interface with clients and partners on any regular basis.

For ADP, this specific challenge came up in a few of my conversations with the team who shared they would love to connect with customers more but lack established channels—and it’s something I raised directly with Maria during the executive Q&A.

While my heart was racing after asking because I am extremely non-confrontational, Maria took the question seriously, acknowledging that it’s easier said than done. “I appreciate you calling that out, and I’m not completely surprised,” she said in response. “But it’s a priority for us and we’re working hard ot make strides here.”

John Ayala, ADP COO, joined her in sharing some of the work they’re doing together to operationalize on this commitment. That joint investment of time and effort is already bearing fruit, and I see it playing out in a few ways.

ADP Puts the CHRO Customer in the Driver’s Seat—Literally

In a dynamic session on ADP’s approach to innovation, Sreeni Kutam, elevated from CHRO to President of Product & Innovation, struck a new tone with his willingness to acknowledge the monumental task ahead of him and his team. Setting the stage, he said, “We’re here to share what we think will make a difference for our clients. You’re here to check us—and together we’ll find the right solutions for the challenges we’re facing today.” Challenge accepted, Sreeni!
As former Customer Zero for ADP’s HCM and talent solutions, he knows better than most in the ADP customer ecosystem what’s possible—and what gets in the way of what’s possible. Leveraging that experience, he’s bringing new energy to the product teams.

First up on his agenda is simplifying the ADP product portfolio with a heavy emphasis on NextGen HCM, ADP’s strategic solution for up-market customers. As someone who has always struggled to navigate all of the different offerings in the ADP catalogue, this is a breath of fresh air—but it’s the why behind Sreeni’s decision here that really gets exciting:
By simplifying the product portfolio, ADP is better able to deliver cutting-edge innovations across all of their solutions.

“We want to move every single ADP product up in the value chain,” Sreeni said. Things like ADP Mobile, ADP DataCloud, ADP Marketplace can bring value to every ADP customer, regardless of the core solution they’re on—and ADP can bring powerful, edge-innovations to customers of any size and geo. “We can do this,” Sreeni said. “We have to do this for HR.”
And there are some really edgy innovations coming!

ADP Makes the Case for AI as a Core Offering

Jack Berkowitz, Chief Data Officer and product leader for ADP’s People Analytics, Benchmarking & Insights products, gave an incredible overview of ADP Assist—which leverages Gen AI to create a richer, deeper experience for employees, managers, and HR leaders alike. I’ve seen a LOT of Gen AI offerings this year, and I have to hand it to ADP: their approach and their ideas are deeply rooted in utility and longevity, not hype (though they are super hyped!).

The ADP Assist Framework orchestrates ecosystem of AI Assists and workflows across the entire ADP product portfolio (and eventually beyond, with their new OneIntegrations platform powered by their latest acquisition, Sora).

ADP Assist uses GenAI to power NLP-based actions and task automation to deliver BI that provides personalization, insights, and guidance. It’s supported by cross-system workflow automation across HR, Finance, and IT with use cases spanning a reporting assistant, policy summarization and interpretation, an ADP Payroll Inspector, and the ADP Skills Graph.

What Was Missing: You Can’t Have HCM without Talent

If the live offering works even half as well as the demo, I see ADP Assist powering deeper utilization of some of ADP’s deeper capabilities—capabilities that aren’t as easy for the layperson to leverage. Whereas much of the innovations in AI for HR has occurred at the edge of the vendor ecosystem, ADP’s approach to Gen AI makes a strong argument for why HR leaders—and their colleagues in IT—should be looking at AI as a core element of the future-proof HR tech stack.

It’s hard to put these kinds of summits together for a company as big—and product rich—as ADP. At the end of the day, you only have so much stage time. That said, I was sad to see the ADP Talent Solutions team didn’t make the cut this year.

My greatest takeaway from last year’s event was the powerful case Amy Ihlen’s team made for what they’ve termed “the connected talent experience.” There were several places in this year’s presentation where talent solutions were referenced—StandOut included in Sreeni’s vision of cross-portfolio innovation, twice as many roadmap items for talent solutions for both NextGen HCM and Workforce Now (including a new LMS!), as well as a compelling conversation with Dr. Nela Richardson, ADP Chief Economist and ESG Officer, on declines in employee sentiment and productivity.

As a former people leader and talent transformation agent, I have felt the pain of managing today’s workforce first-hand. And while it’s certainly important to have reliable, connected solutions for HCM and payroll, it was the talent processes (and gaps in talent solutions) that created the most significant hurdles for me in my work. ADP’s story for connected talent centered around enabling the hiring manager and embedding growth and performance conversations into the flow of work—capabilities I would have killed for.

I recently had the opportunity to get an updated product deep dive with Amy and her team this summer, and maybe I’m biased (I totally am lol) but I believe ADP has immense opportunity to compete with the other major HCM players in this corner of the space—and where they can also move the needle on Maria’s strategic priorities (both for offering Best-in-Class HCM and leveraging Unmatched Expertise through their network of talent experts).

All in all, I’ve got to say ADP set the bar high for the rest of the Fall 2023 conference season. Their vision is bold, their plans are big, and they have their work cut out for them. With new leadership at the helm and experienced executers at their backs, this marked a new and exciting chapter for ADP.


Indeed Goes All-In on Matching Algorithms in Move to Pay for Results (PPR) Business Model 

Last week, Indeed announced it’s taking its next major step beyond pay-per-click and into pay-for-results by opening the model—wherein employers no longer pay for clicks, but for quality applicants—beyond SMB to include employers of all sizes and industries in US and UK markets. Though the initial announcement of a move to PPR last Fall was met with mixed feelings, Indeed is going full bore. And the timing couldn’t be better. 

Following several years of employers hiring on all cylinders, our research finds that the number one priority for HR leaders this year—across companies of all sizes and industries—is improving Quality of Hire. It’s a return to one of HR’s most fundamental KPIs and reflects a renewed focus on making every hire count through another year of economic uncertainty. For businesses big and small, in healthcare, retail, or business services, the viability of a company’s workforce is a critical component of business resiliency—and that starts with getting the right candidates into the right roles.  

Against this backdrop, Indeed’s continued push into PPR is huge news for employers, the recruitment marketing industry, and the broader HR technology ecosystem for two reasons: 

  1. Indeed’s PPR model based on quality of hire moves recruitment marketing toward clearer ROI outcomes and actionable insight for all.  
  1. Indeed’s PPR model is powered by its own proprietary matching algorithms and shifting this edge innovation to core capability for employers. 

Before I dig in, a disclaimer: Although I’ve managed recruitment marketing functions in the past, I have never considered myself a digital marketing expert—nor have I even posted a single job to Indeed’s platform (or elsewhere for that matter). To help shape my perspective on this shift in the market, I’ve conducted a few informational interviews with experts and solution providers in job advertising, recruitment marketing, and matching AI.  

Special thanks to Joe Shaker, Jr. of Shaker Recruitment Marketing, Tom Chevalier of Appcast, and Erin Hartman of AdMechanics.

The Big News: Moving Recruitment Marketing Closer to Direct Hiring ROI with PPR 

Let’s start with PPR itself: It’s as ambitious as it is disruptive.  

I’m not surprised to see reports of some friction as Indeed rolls out their new model—this turns post-and-pray on its head. Sure, job boards like Indeed have made it easier over the years for recruiters and hiring managers to take this approach to job advertising… but all the more reason for one of the leaders in the space to take drastic measures that curb this behavior.  

With Indeed’s new capabilities for both PPA and PPSA, hiring teams can be more intentional when looking for their next great hire. Similarly, a lack of intention (and attention) can result in poor outcomes—like being billed for applicants that may not be the best fit for your roles. In the new model, Indeed customers have 72 hours to engage or reject interested candidates before being charged for each applicant. This is already ruffling some feathers—especially with so much pressure on teams to be as cost-conscious as possible—but with req levels lower now for most companies, it’s a good time to start forcing through overdue changes in recruiter behavior.  

And that’s because efforts focused on optimizing spend and improving best practices in recruiting all have one thing in common: ROI. For job advertising in particular, moving ROI reporting beyond clicks and impressions is a great thing.  

I’ve never been one to over-index on source of hire for my ROI analysis—I’ve always been more focused on quality of applicant. When managing talent sourcing and attraction in the past, I set interview-quality talent as our KPI. It was our job to bring in candidates that hiring managers were willing to interview—and the rest of the recruiting and hiring process was a joint effort between the recruiters and the hiring managers. I would rely on my team’s analysis of directional data like clicks and impressions to find opportunities to optimize our recruitment marketing efforts—but my stakeholders and I wanted to see more straightforward performance metrics. So this is a win.  

That said… Indeed will likely run into some challenges in larger companies where recruiters aren’t always directly managing their job postings. Closer partnership with their colleagues in sourcing and recruitment marketing—and between recruitment marketing and their agency partners—will be essential to put the PPR model to work for enterprise organizations.  

For my friends in talent attraction, I would begin putting together some new SOPs with your stakeholders in recruiting delivery (and SLAs with your agency) that forces regular review of all active postings to ensure you’re not blowing your budget in the first week of every month.  

The Bigger News: Matching Algorithms Go Mainstream in Talent Acquisition 

It’s crazy to me that almost no one reporting on Indeed’s big news is talking about one of the biggest components of their new model… PPR isn’t something new—I believe the first time I saw it was on Talroo back in 2016—but it’s certainly difficult to offer at scale. Partly because while many job board vendors were making it easier for companies to share their open jobs, they were also making it easier for candidates to apply to said jobs. The result was lots and lots of bad-fit applicants—and lots of resume blackholes. 

While job seekers can still search for open roles the old-fashioned way, Indeed began using matching technology as early as 2017 to recommend jobs to candidates based on their background and experience. But I hadn’t heard much about Indeed’s matching capabilities… until I was briefed on their move to PPR. You see, Indeed’s matching capabilities are supporting PPR in a couple of ways: 

  • Job seekers can utilize Indeed’s skills and experience matching algorithim to look beyond a job title to find the most relevant opportunities for them. Of course, anyone can still apply for any job they want—but by presenting targeted information to candidates about what potential gaps in their profile, Indeed provides prospective applicants with actionable insight they need to determine if they’re likely to be considered for a role. It’s my hope that Indeed will invest further in both recommendation features and candidate insights that will result in more highly relevant roles as well as more relevant applicants.  
  • Indeed provides employers with a list of relevant candidates for their jobs today, and recruiters can invite candidates with certain skills, experience, and backgrounds to apply to their jobs on Indeed today. But whereas some recruiters and sourcers have used this feature to spam potential candidates in hopes of getting as much exposure for their jobs as possible, employers will now be charged for every invited candidate that applies—and this ups the ante for both Indeed and its customers.  

In order to get buy-in for the PPR model, Indeed needs to deliver quality applicants—and that means suggesting outreach for only highly relevant candidates to employers. For recruiters and sourcers, gone are the days of creating catch-all campaigns. Intentionality and discernment are both critical components of a working PPR model. For both, I have to wonder if Indeed will begin introducing additional features similar to those offered by other vendors—be it match scores, rankings based on degree of match, or call-outs of strengths and gaps in candidates’ profiles.  

Now, I have to admit that Indeed hasn’t made any official commitments to increasing investments in their matching capabilities as part of their push to PPR. I expect they’ll have their hands full with change management as they move forward with the full launch of PPR as the default model for all customers. Though it may not be welcomed with open arms by Indeed’s customers this year, my conversations with leaders in the recruitment marketing industry were all cautiously optimistic that Indeed’s move to a PPR model is a better model for all.  

Which is why I’m looking ahead—to see how this will work in the long run. The success of Indeed’s new model hinges on its ability to present the most relevant jobs to applicants, and the most relevant applicants to employers. The name of the game here is an increase in the quality of applicants. Otherwise, what are Indeed’s customers paying for?