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Jack Berkowitz of ADP Discusses Evolution & AI Advancements


Recorded live at the HR Tech Conference from the Fuel50 booth in Las Vegas, Chad & Cheese interviewed Jack Berkowitz, the Chief Data Officer at ADP. They discuss various topics such as ADP's data-driven approach, AI strategy, skills graph, personalized employee experiences, and the intersection of HR and marketing. Berkowitz highlights the importance of treating employees as consumers, leveraging data for talent acquisition and management, and the role of ADP Ventures in engaging startups. He emphasizes ADP's focus on data flow and its impact on delivering cohesive experiences across various HR functions. The conversation delves into ADP's commitment to respecting data rights, collaborating with government entities, and their excitement about AI advancements in their Gen.AI project. Berkowitz also mentions companies like Vizier and Workday, discussing their impact and contributions to the HR tech ecosystem. Overall, the interview emphasizes ADP's data-centric approach and its evolution towards personalized, impactful HR solutions. To learn more about Fuel50, visit https://fuel50.com.


PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by

Chad: Coming to you live from the Fuel50 booth at the heart of HR Tech, it's the Chad and Cheese podcast. We are diving deep into the world of HR technology, tackling workforce challenges with innovative solutions. And we'd like to give special thanks to Fuel50, the scienced-based talent marketplace that bridges skills gaps, unlocks hidden potential and supports better retention and engagement. Let's do this.


Intro: 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 it hurts, complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark. Buckle up, boys and girls, it's time for The Chad and Cheese podcast.


Joel: Oh yeah. What's up everybody? It's your bookies' favorite podcast, AKA, the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your cohost, Joel, joined as always, the dean to my Sinatra, Chad Sowash is in the house. We are recording live from the Fuel50 booth at HR Tech in Las Vegas. And we are happy to welcome Jack Berkowitz, chief Data Officer at ADP. Jack, I bet that works really well with the ladies at the bar. So a lot of people know ADP, a lot of people know data. Tell us about Jack, what makes you tick?


Jack Berkowitz: What makes Jack tick? Well, I like hanging around paddling on the Chattahoochee drinking bourbon with friends.


Joel: All work, no play makes you a dull boy.


Jack Berkowitz: Yeah, exactly.


Joel: Jack's my guy.


Jack Berkowitz: A little bit of that, but then I also get into data, it's my job. So I do three things at ADP. One of them, probably most important thing is I build products for people. And so really interested in building data products that people enjoy to use, which is kind of hard.


Chad: They'll actually adopt?


Jack Berkowitz: Yeah, actually adopt and use. Second thing I do is I build the data platforms and work on things like that. And, now I'm working on our AI strategy across the company. And so we just launched some stuff called ADP Assist, which I just was talking about a few minutes ago, and keeps me busy.


Chad: So many consumers are split, in my experience, in two groups. One that wants infographics and pictures to tell a story, and the others who want...


Joel: Dashboards.


Chad: Unlimited spreadsheets to geek out on. So how do you balance those two markets?


Jack Berkowitz: Well, they're not really even different markets, and particularly with the new technologies, more of a continuum. Right? So think about it this way. I could sit down and I can ask the system to give me an answer or I could then easily pivot into the exploration and then pivot back. It used to be two markets, in fact, two totally different groups, but what we're seeing now in the technology is gonna be continuum, basically go across the surface and dive in.


Joel: Gotcha.


Jack Berkowitz: And I think that that's gonna be an interesting thing not just for HR people but for operational people that have HR concerns. I have several hundred people that work for me. I have more HR concerns than my HR team does.


Chad: And how will generative AI play into that? So if you look at the travel industry, Expedia's building tools, Google, etcetera. Like, Hey, plan a trip for me to Greece between these days. Find me the cheapest hotel. Are we gonna be able to do that with data on the employment side as well?


Jack Berkowitz: Yeah, we just did this example the other day. Show me people affected by the new 401k rules. Send them a message. Let them know that their deductions are gonna go up. Tell you what? Make it more personal. Don't make it sound like corporate America. Make it something personal so that they understand it. Give them some indications. So that'll be the type of experience that we give, won't maybe be as exciting as a trip, but again, it'll help people get the job done and let HR people get back to being HR people as opposed to being clerks.


Joel: Let's geek out a little bit real quick. Let's go back to the days when big data was like the hot topic, big data. But at some point, all of that data, we didn't have the processing power to actually dig into. Are we finally there with GPUs, AI? I mean all these, different acronyms now that we have around data and tech, are we finally there where we can dig into that massive amount of data and actually make it mean something?


Jack Berkowitz: Yeah. Yeah. I think we're close. Right? You hit it on the last part, the processing needed to be there and everything else. What is the meaning? Like what does that data mean? Because otherwise, you just had it sitting there and you had to do something with it, you had to spend hours and hours putting meaning on top of it.


Joel: Trying To contextualize?


Jack Berkowitz: Contextualize it. Even that example of a contribution plan, what's a contribution plan? You and I know what it is. Computer doesn't know what it is. And so technology's coming together now so that computer actually knows what a contribution plan is. Oh, you're talking about a 401k or a 403b? Oh, I meant a 403b. Oh, okay, here's the columns in this database associated with a 403b. I can start to bring it out. So it's the processing, but it's also this ability to drape the meaning across things in the context that you and I have as opposed to a computer.


Joel: Gotcha.


Chad: We talked a little bit about the HR side. We have a lot of recruiters listen to the show, a lot of TA professionals. Are you working on data points where I can say, "Find me a PHP developer, English-speaking, X amount of experience?" Is that recruiting process happening at ADP as well in terms of what you guys are building out?


Jack Berkowitz: Yes. One of the things that we really focused on past couple of years was using all the data that flows through our systems to build a skills graph. And that skills graph... I mean they were talking about it on stage earlier, but that skills graph is 100% data-driven. And so it's just based on the people, the licensing, certifications, things like that. And our ability to ask that question now is spot on. I can even ask, "Tell you what? Find me people that help me balance my DE and I program out. Find me people that give me coverage for the customers I have." So I can... "Here's where my customers are. Help me find people that can cover those customers." So the system can automatically say, "Well, within 50 miles." It knows that, I don't have to tell it, it would just know these things. And so we're working on all of that stuff right now.


Chad: Sounds like a very unbiased way of finding people. Talk about that and how you're trying to...


Joel: Skills, certifications.


Chad: Yeah, just data, it's only when the people get involved that shit gets messed up.


Jack Berkowitz: Exactly. So that's pretty funny. We started the skills-based hiring because of DE and I and all the things about three years ago. And so since that time now, we can tell you not only about the skills, we can tell you what the skills add to somebody's paycheck. So what happens if a nurse gets a new license? I can tell you that she's going to make another $5230.


Joel: Now, is that something that you can actually display to the employee so that they could actually see career-path wise?


Jack Berkowitz: Yeah, exactly. So we're doing both of those. We're, A, giving it to the manager, but we're also giving it to the employee so the employee understands when they're taking training what's the benefit to them. It's great as a benefit to the company. Right? But that relationship between employee and company is transitioning. And you're seeing it. Right?


Joel: Market power.


Jack Berkowitz: We see market power. When we see it in the data even, you're seeing a shift of employees to smaller businesses. To you guys. Right? And you're seeing that shift because people have choices. And we want to create that environment so that the employee and employer have a balance in that.


Joel: Well, in that case, we're seeing a ton of turnover. Attrition is ridiculous. Amazon was at $8 billion in attrition, that impacted the bottom line. Are companies finally focusing on internal in retention and being able to push people up through the ranks and being able to provide the internal opportunities today?


Jack Berkowitz: So, yes, tech vendors, we're building tools for them, but we're actually seeing the companies do it.


Joel: Well, that's the thing, is the adoption piece. Right?


Jack Berkowitz: Yeah. So the nice thing for us is we got a million clients so we can actually see the impact of all this stuff happening across the population.


Joel: A million clients.


Jack Berkowitz: A million clients.


Joel: That's scale.


Chad: What a tough problem to have.


Joel: I mean just the data, though. Think about the amount of fucking data.


Jack Berkowitz: Yeah. Exactly. And we can see... Like one of our big things we did a couple of years here ago about DE and I, we can see pay equity gaps being closed. And we can see 1.5, $1.8 billion in gaps closed 'cause we can look across the client base. We can see, for example, companies adopting certain technologies, certain strategy, their time to fill decreasing by half. We can see boomerangs increasing by certain companies taking certain steps. So we know what people do. So what we're seeing in the data now isn't just the technology, but we're actually seeing the step-up in companies being smart HR companies, not HR technology providers, but individual companies being smart about their HR. We just bought a company two months ago called Sora, all about the experience, about people onboarding, or the journeys through, and making it a human experience, as opposed to a form letter experience, making it very personalized. Companies that do that... And they have great customer names like Etsy and Plaid. Right? Companies that do that have happy employees, boom, you get this retention, you get higher productivity, we cross-correlate that, we go get public numbers on companies' performance, and we can see it in the data.


Chad: What you're talking about sounds a lot like marketing. Are you having conversations with companies' marketing departments? Are recruitment ad agencies looking at the data differently? In terms of these questions around retention and better marketing to these folks, talk about the bridge that the data can take to marketing and what kind of questions companies should be asking.


Jack Berkowitz: I don't know that we're having enough conversations like that yet, but you're spot on as to where we all need to go. Right? HR departments need to market. They're the representative of the company.


Joel: They're the beating heart of the entire organization. Yes.


Jack Berkowitz: I looked at... I was looking at marketing technology in HR recently, and I was super interested in... There's a company, Pandologic out there. Right? And so Terry Baker was the CEO, I got to know him really well. And I was super interested in the way they were using marketing technology and applying it to sourcing. Sora is actually a spin out of a marketing technology company to do marketing internal. Their architecture looks like an e-commerce marketing company, but we're doing it for HR. And I think HR people thinking about themselves in that way, it'll be a bit of an adjustment. That's exactly where the industry needs to go.


Joel: So as Keith Sonderling, the EEOC commissioner pops by...


Jack Berkowitz: Yeah, Keith's sitting right there, He's waving.


Joel: He was on the show earlier. How much of an impact do you see government driving development, new product, and really the focus of your customers?


Jack Berkowitz: Well, it's really a partnership. Right? I think the best thing, and it's great to see Keith 'cause it's on my mind.


Chad: He can't quit us, by the way. He can't quit us.


Joel: He just can't quit.


Jack Berkowitz: But it's that partnership between the regulators of the government for doing what's right for people.


Joel: But are you guys engaging them because you know that you've got to be a part of the discussion?


Jack Berkowitz: Definitely, we're part of the discussion. We, just ourselves, Indeed, Workday, just issued a joint statement about data rights and personal protections of employees. We took a decision as a company a few years ago to treat the employees of our clients as consumers. Right? As consumers with all the consumer rights associated with that. So it's a partnership with the government, it's not so much we're reacting, it's the right thing to do. And so we're going to be right out in front, making sure at any point through your career, you're going to be going through an ADP system. We have a responsibility to make sure that we're treating that data with respect and that we're treating people with respect 'cause otherwise, get out of the human business. Right? Leave human resources, leave human... Right? It's about people. Right? Our new tagline, "always designing for people," it's because we think about that person at the center of everything we do.


Joel: What's the most exciting product that you are working on right now? 'cause you've got a ton of products. You're a big frickin' organization. Right? What is the thing that, really, you get up in the morning and the first thing you think about is that project?


Jack Berkowitz: Well, I got to be honest with you. Since the step change that we saw with GPT-3 and 4 eight, nine months ago, I am 100% working on GenAI and our ADP Assist product every single day. And I'm so jazzed because I was telling somebody after my talk today, we had built a whole bunch of components, but they were all these sort of separate things, you went to this part of the app or that part of the app. And now our ability to actually just start to combine these components, we get freaked out because new capabilities emerge. We're suddenly asking it things, and it's responding because it's using these components collaboratively. Now, obviously our engineers are hooking it up, but wow, look at this! So every day, every single day, I'm learning more and more about the technology we had built. I'm super excited to see people using it. We fielded some of our first GenAI stuff back in July, and so now we got the first iteration of people using it and seeing the questions that they're using. That's what jazzing me every single morning.


Chad: It's a little early, but you guys just announced ADP Ventures, which will be an investment arm. What kind of access, engagement... Will you be working with some of these startups? Will they have access to what you're learning and what the data is telling you?


Jack Berkowitz: Yeah, so we're putting that all together. Like you said, it's a little bit early, but definitely, we're going to be a little bit more active with those startups in terms of bringing them together. Look, we have a great startup environment to begin with. Our marketplace has 400 different companies on the marketplace. They all have access to ADP customers. We cosell, and people get these great emergent experiences. Imagine that on steroids. Right? So we made a few investments, we'll be making some more investments, we'll be talking about when data needs to play in those things, I'll spend time with them. Usman Khan, Oz, is the guy running that. He's my peer. We both work for the same dude, and we're super excited about that. Oz and I were at dinner last night, just so pumped up about this move by the company.


Joel: So you have so many products across the board, I mean from end to end. How do you keep it straight? I mean not to mention, you've got all of these data points that could follow through from talent acquisition to talent management, upskilling, reskilling, all these things. How do you keep all of that for your million-plus customers? How do you keep that straight?


Chad: Jack is really, really smart, Chad.


Jack Berkowitz: No, no. Look, First of all...


Joel: Yeah. I hope.


Jack Berkowitz: First of all, I got a great team. One of the things that we did was really that point of that flow. We thought about data differently, I think. A lot of people think about data as sort of landing and staying in places. We think about it as flowing. Right? We move over $3 trillion a year, flowing through our systems to pay paychecks and taxes and stuff. So for us, it's all about data flow. So we built a data layer that flows, data flows through all those experiences. So you come in and you say, "Hey, here's my skills." Well, guess what? When you show up, your learning system is already ready for you that first day. Right? Your 401k starts to figure out, "Oh, here's the things that you need to do." So all those pieces start to come together in a pretty cohesive thing tied together through that data layer. Right? Now, some of the products are a little bit more mature, less mature. And so some of those things will disappear, like the old products people are used to, but that data layer becomes the enabler for all of that to happen. We're getting better and better at what we should be doing, which is providing the right expertise along with the right products for our customers.


Chad: Jack, we're here at HR Tech. Big show, a lot of vendors, a lot of technology. Curious if there are any companies that have piqued your interest. And if you don't want to drop any names of companies, are there any themes that have piqued your interest or curiosity?


Jack Berkowitz: It's crazy. I was talking to somebody a little while ago. I remember coming here in 2014, I think it was. Maybe 2015, it was about two booths, a card table, and some crackers. Obviously, the ones that are using AI get my attention simply because... Professional jealousy.


Chad: So everyone here.


Jack Berkowitz: Well, some professional jealousy.


Joel: Well, but that's the question, though, because there's a lot of AI talk, but is there really a lot of AI happening?


Chad: A lot of sizzle or is there some stake out here?


Joel: Yeah. Is there some stake out there?


Jack Berkowitz: There's some stake out there. I mean I'll talk about a couple of them, and I compete against them, but at the same time, I can respect them. I'm always respectful of what Visier is doing. Right? When it was all about visualizations, they had the best visualizations. Think about 10 years ago. And now you look at V, and it's like, That's nice. Now I can get my time-to-value much faster than them. So there's always give and take. I always like Eightfold. I think they bring something interesting to the table. And I spent my years at Oracle, I'm always respectful of Oracle. And we announced a big partnership with Workday a couple of weeks ago, So I think Workday does great work, but I'm more interested in just watching the industry grow because, really, it's about the ecosystem. ADP really is the center of the ecosystem. So for us, it's really about seeing all of this grow and seeing all the... Look at the number of people that were in Burson's keynote this morning. Right? There must have been 6-8000 people there. I was amazed by that. And so for us, we just want the ecosystem to grow. The ecosystem grows and things are fantastic.


Chad: You're the center of the ecosystem and Chad and I are just a couple of satellites in the distance.


Joel: Oh, yeah.


Chad: Thanks for hanging out with us in the Fuel50 booth, Jack. For our listeners who want to know more about you or connect, where should they go?


Jack Berkowitz: Well, LinkedIn is always good. @jpberkowitz on Twitter, and I've a lot of Twitter followers, but find me on LinkedIn, retail on LinkedIn, best way to get me.


Joel: Excellent.


Chad: Love it. Well, all this sizzle and steak talk has me a little hungry, Chad. When's dinner? Gotta be soon. That's another one in the can. We out.


Joel: We out.


INTRO: Wow. Look at you. You made it through an entire episode of the Chad and Cheese podcast, or maybe you cheated and fast forwarded to the end. Either way, there's no doubt you wish you had that time back, valuable time you could have used to buy a nutritious meal at Taco Bell. Enjoy a pour of your favorite whiskey or just watch big booty Latinas and bug fights on TikTok. No, you hung out with these two chuckleheads instead. Now go take a shower and wash off all the guilt, but save some soap because you'll be back. Like an awful train wreck, you can't look away. And like Chad's favorite Western, you can't quit them either. We out.

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