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Gerry Tales 3 - Beyond Thunderdome

Gerry Tales with industry icon Gerry Crispin was off-the-chain, and this is Part III of our interview all-things-recruiting. Enjoy, get smarter and show exclusive sponsor Nexxt some love.

Chad: Welcome to volume three of Gerry Tales. Gerry Crispin is a living legend and Joel and I sat down for over an hour and a half to talk history, now and future state of the recruitment industry. Enjoy after a word from our sponsor.

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Announcer: Hide your kids, lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and modes of snark. Buckle up boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Are you buying into the hype of all the new stuff? You know, chat bots, AI, programmatic? I mean, are you buying into all of it? Some of it? What's your sense?

Gerry: I buy into all of it as an experiment. I obviously have been always a fan of the fact that no matter how radical the technology is, there's always an opportunity to play with it, experiment with it. Obviously if you don't do that, it takes so much longer to improve and we know that, especially when you're looking at machine learning tools, you need to collect data and it continues to improve on collected data.

Gerry: The problem is that there's no standard that helps us better understand how one algorithm might be better than another, or how to build algorithms in a that that truly impacts the fairness of the outcome and minimizes the institutionalization of unconscious bias.

Chad: So question about that is ... I mean there are some systems out there, not many, but there are some systems that are more transparent what we call white box so that you can go in and you can see how you actually got to this flow of candidates, versus black box, where you're just not going to know. It's like, well why did we come up with this result set?

Gerry: But even in the white box, so called white box, often is proprietary and therefore is not going to be shared with the company that is buying it. It's a white box to the science within the vendor and that continues to be a problem. To me, it should be discoverable and maybe I have to write an NDA or something else if I buy the product but fundamentally I need to satisfy myself. The advantage, I think, is that many of the larger companies now have scientists who work within talent acquisition. So analysts who are really, really good at what they do. Those companies should be able to truly audit the technologies that they're buying into and there's only a couple of companies right now that really insist on it.

Chad: Shouldn't companies really focus? I mean, when you're trying to actually gain leverage over a perspective vendor that's saying, "No, this is black box." If I'm a federal contractor, I have to be able to defend what I do and how I do it. If I don't even know how I'm doing it and how this algorithm could prospectively be biasing our decisions, right? Our slate-

Gerry: Right.

Chad: ... our candidate slates. I can't defend it. I can't. That could prospectively put my company in risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts or perspectively billions of dollars in federal contracts.

Gerry: Well, I agree and while it is a concern, it's another reason for piloting rather than going wholeheartedly into some of the technology at this point, until you've satisfied yourself that you can defend it, or that or that your vendor can defend it with their capability to disclose what they're doing and that they're willing to be a co-op, to be partners with you, which means that they're willing to be responsible for defending that.

Chad: They have to take on the risk.

Gerry: I've talked to a number of vendors who are heavily engaged in all of, who by and large say, "No, I'm just building a platform. What they do with it is their problem and I have no responsibility and so therefore our lawyers are telling us that if our clients get sued for bias, we're not going to be responsible." I'm going, "You may think that's so, but I don't believe that when push comes to shove that's going to happen."

Chad: No.

Gerry: And if you don't have enough insurance to cover that year, you're at risk as well. It's an attitude by the way, that I just don't accept. The fact is if you have tools and capability for me to be able to improve my recruitment process and you want me to invest heavily in using that, then I want a partner, I don't want a vendor. So fundamentally a partner to me is somebody who accepts part of this risk.

Joel: Gerry, you have a unique vision on the global market. You do a lot of traveling. You see a lot of people around the world and give us a sense of what you're seeing globally, whether it's from vendors and technology or economies or just general employment around the world.

Gerry: I have some points of view because I do, you know, go out there on a regular basis. I will tell you though, that I'm not as knowledgeable as some of the folks like Kevin Wheeler and others who really spend a great deal of time consulting literally all over the world. I try to tap into all of the people that I know in terms of trying to confirm some of the observations that I make when I go out there.

Gerry: For those who don't know, once a year I take a delegation to a different country. China Gorman and I've been doing that for a number of years. We've been to China and Japan and Cuba and a variety of other places over the last few years, Eastern Europe this past year. The reason why I mentioned that is because we get to talk not only with employers in those locations, but we spend time with the government to better understand how incentives work to keep people at work, as well as as engage them to want to come to work.

Gerry: We talked to professors who are teaching MBAs and business leaders, as well as spending time with students coming out of school in terms of what their aspirations are. We see differences all over the world that that fundamentally would require different models of recruiting, in my opinion, different ... and to some degree, differences in terms of how we look at at work.

Gerry: Some countries culturally are not ready for the kind of work that we take for granted. We take for granted that you have a diverse workforce. I mean, we work really hard to make that happen. We know all the problems in trying to do that well but in other countries, in many cases, laws actually fully discriminate in a variety of different ways. Everything from age, to gender, to race, to ethnicity, to whatever. They are embedded in the culture and in how the government operates to incent work and not a lot of multinationals really spend enough time thinking through those issues and how

they're going to address them differently in each of the countries that they operate.

Gerry: So I find it kind of fascinating. So, just take something that we probably know a lot about, in Germany they have accepted a million and a half people in the last 18 months who were not from EMEA, many obviously from Syria and other countries and struggle to engage them and incorporate them into their society, help them adjust to a new world if you will, but have plenty of incentives for corporations and work to be able to put them to work.

Gerry: As a result, they end up even with all of the problems, a very robust growing economy, in which they have extraordinary access to workers right across the border in Czechoslovakia. We spoke with the American embassy and the woman who was involved in the embassy had just come from Germany and she mentioned the 1.8, 1.6 million I think, something like that. She said, "So in the last 18 months, how many people do you think the Czech Republic has taken in from outside of EMEA?" The answer was 12. So she says ... and the unemployment rate in Prague is like zero. There is no employment. I mean there's no one who's not employed, who wants to be employed, but they are all, they are all from Czechoslovakia, or some guest workers from the Ukraine.

Gerry: As a result, their economy may in fact devolve about 3% this year because they don't have enough people, because they don't allow enough people to work. Therein in lies some really interesting differences that to some degree we need to think about in our own country, where we have such poor discussions about immigration and guest workers and the extent to which we would acquire and welcome people with skills and capabilities from all over the world to help us grow our economy. As opposed to the fear that somehow they're going to take our jobs, as if jobs are finite. Where they're based upon our ability to move forward, not move backwards.

Joel: And you spent a lot of time in Japan, they have a pretty unique set of problems don't they?

Gerry: Well Japan is a whole different set of issues and we were very fortunate to be able to dig pretty deep in that. The Japanese are not necessarily known for wanting to share a lot of information about who they are. They love studying everybody else.

Chad: Oh yeah.

Gerry: But we were able to have some very open and honest discussions with them and their population is actually being reduced on average about 500,000 people a year, in part because no one gets to come in, they're probably one of the most closed societies in the world being on an island for the last umpteen thousand years. So their culture is very singular and as a result, they have, I think currently about 50% of their entire population, which again is getting smaller, is already over 65 and in the next few years may get to the point where it's over 60% of their population is over 65. Now that means that 35% are supporting in some way, shape or form those 65%.

Chad: Big imbalance.

Gerry: And that's not a good thing.

Joel: Well thank God the robots are coming to save everyone.

Gerry: They believe ... There's two things. One, that the robots will come and they believe that the percentage of women will increase significantly working in the workforce but there's also kind of an embedded approach to how women are viewed in terms of their ability to handle certain kinds of jobs, that I don't know if that's going to change, and their approach to work is such that the average person working in Japan right now is doing something north of 80 hours a week.

Joel: Jeez.

Chad: Not sustainable.

Joel: Well they've been sustaining it for awhile, but...

Chad: 80 hours a week?

Gerry: Yeah but imagine ... Well, I'll share one of the things that happened there was a compensation because last year, a woman who was working 80 hours a week and then went home and had to deal with all of the issues from her family, killed herself. They have a very high-

Chad: Suicide rate?

Gerry: Suicide rates in developed countries.

Gerry: And this became a national shame issue. The government told us they struggled with what do we do about this? They came up with a solution and the solution that they came up with was passing a law that stated that every corporation must make their employees go home after eight o'clock at night. We looked at each other, there's like 15 of us in the room, from the US listening to this. Obviously we're guests and we don't want to joke about stuff like this, but we're going, "That's not a solution."

Chad: No, that's, that's not even a Bandaid for God's sake.

Gerry: I don't even get that as a solution. But listen, it's different cultures. They have to address stuff. I love the fact that people are struggling to figure stuff out and the results of doing something will be seen hopefully and measured and people can adjust. I think we have to do the same kinds of things. I think corporations in this country have to do a hell of a lot more AB testing of tools and technologies, et cetera and then measuring the outcomes so that they can say, "Oh, I am getting more value from doing this."

Chad: What about ... We just actually just talked about on the last podcast, a Australia giving 12 weeks of pretty much vacation. So you're seeing kind of like this ...

Joel: Life leave.

Chad: Life leave, yeah. And we here in the US struggle to be, not really as bad as as the Japanese with regard to our work is our life but that's been our culture. Our work is our life and that's not conducive to having a great life. So how do we, here, kind of push away from the Japanese way and go more toward the Australian way to be able to focus on our people. Do you think we're moving that way? Is it mainly just optics and bullshit that we're hearing or do you truly think that we're going to start getting it right here in the US?

Gerry: I think if you look at normal distributions of populations, I think the critical issue and the critical difference between us and Australia and other countries is they've made choices that allow for a much greater part of the population to experience the same level of quality of life. Most of them have more socialistic, let's ... Socialism is obviously a bad word in the United States these days, but I submit that there are aspects of socialism that fundamentally a civilized country needs to address and that is things like health care, education, pension, et cetera. Most of those countries have done that and so when they talk about extending leave, they're talking about extending leave and paying people and giving them health care benefits and other kinds of things, not just for you and me who are making some decent bucks, but for everybody.

Gerry: Our country, that's what we need to solve, is what kind of a society do we want. We keep arguing over conceptual issues between whatever somebody wants to call Conservative, or Republican, or Democrat, or Socialist. We have these weird conceptual fears about almost all of it. We have to come together and find that we've got a society that is going to treat everybody well in certain things and then allow for a level of individualism, if you will, in other things. Then we could start talking about stuff that Australia does, or stuff that Denmark does, or what have you. We'll never get to that if we can't decide what we will spend money on and otherwise, here's the problem. You and I might be able to work for a company that gives us a year's paid leave that's subsidized by the government in some way, shape, or form because of incentives. While somebody else is still homeless with their kids in the streets because they can't get a minimum wage beyond $7 an hour.

Chad: Yeah, they're the working poor.

Gerry: We need to take care of the working poor. We need to be able to help folks who by and large cannot work for legitimate reasons. We need to come to agreements about that and we need to look at in the mirror and, and say, "Well, these rules only apply to people who are a little bit more privileged." If you're a guest worker and you're under 13, you still can work in the fields five hours a day.

Gerry: Fuck that.

Chad: Keep an eye out for more Jerry Tales coming soon. Sowash out.

Announcer: This has been the Chad and Cheese podcast. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss a single show, and be sure to check out our sponsors because they make it all possible. For more visit Oh yeah, you're welcome.

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