About Ward Christman
Ward Christman, is the founder of HRTech advisor and the co-founder of HRTech alliances. With an experience of over two decades in the recruiting world, Ward is someone who is always updated on the latest technologies. He has special expertise in employee referral, ATS solutions, and job marketing. He has been an advisor for HR companies to improve indirect sales and partnerships.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Ward Christman today to our interview series. I’m Sumitha Mariyam from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick intro of PeopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.
Hi! Well, thanks. I'm glad to be part of this and I really look forward to our conversation.
Great. So the first question I have for you is can you tell us a little bit about your work with HRTech advisor?
Well, where do I start? It's been a great almost 30 years, in the HR tech space. So really taking a lot of experience, growing different HR Tech companies, and helping advise the ones out there now trying to make a difference for the industry.
What we've done is part of advising the different vendors on how to better collaborate with their other HR tech vendors in their ecosystem. And it's not easy.
But collaboration is definitely a thing of the future of work and it's up to the vendors to provide better solutions for their employers and the customers. And that's what we're advising on how to better collaborate with their competitors, and certainly with their partners in the industry so that their mutual customers get better solutions.
Well, so there is a lot of HR technologies, that's definitely easing a lot of HR executives' lives. So, coming to the hard part, managing people is a very emotional experience, a very confusing or even chaotic.
So how do you believe technology can play a role in helping understand, manage, and grow people's function?
Well, today there are all these great individual tools, like mobile phones, you can ask Google almost anything and usually get something useful back and that's only going to improve. And HR and the HR tech companies are rising to the challenge of providing on-demand things like on-demand training, on-demand answers.
We've got chatbots and all kinds of things that can help people adapt quickly, get information or answers to the questions. That's where I think it's making the biggest difference. And people's biggest concern is that they worry about the things they don't know about.
Once you have the facts, even if they're not great, it could be bad information or not bad but not the information you wanna know or hear, but once you know what's going on, getting that information out of your HR system is huge.
That takes more than worry away from people that are trying, especially in these times trying to figure out what to do next and what are the answers to my question.
So that's why I think an HR tech can help make a big difference. And usually, it's not just one system that can do that, right? So it's the vendors working together to provide just in time information to people that need it when they need it.
Yeah. So you were talking about the current scenario.
What do you think of the changes that will be like, inevitable for workplaces, and the workforce in the coming months? Once we recover from this or we don't know if we will recover really soon so what do you think is waiting for us in the coming months?
Well, as people are getting back to work so speaking, more productivity, it may take a while till they get back to the same levels they were before. And sadly, some employers have reacted too quickly to cut their staff and so forth.
So not that we've had too many resources available internally we’re usually short of resources, both human resources and technology resources. So, right now, certain people are trying to make do with less. And many people have more work than they used to because they've got a regular job. Now they also have to deal with all these changes and trying to sort out what we do, right?
How do we support our teams as partners? How do we adapt the technology to make it easier? So I think what we're seeing is a lot more focus on productivity, nurturing employees would help them collaborate with their peers, especially if they have to work from home right now.
Remote working always has its pluses and minuses but how do you connect the people that need to be connected quickly and easily so they can get their jobs done and particularly those that aren’t used to, it's a big change.
That's where you know that various tools in HR technology and even some of the service companies that can step up and help provide the information on demand that they need to not only do their job but also adapt to the new work environment.
Yes, like we're all moving to the remote work culture. The entire world is working from home.
How do you think technology is important in the Human Resource world? How much should the importance of investing in technology for human resources be? How can you improve the employee experience or the organizational experience as a whole? And what do you think is the investment that we need to do? What is the range of it and how is it important?
Well, for the many HR, HRIT people that are watching or listening to this the advice is pretty simple, really focus on tools that are going to make a difference and really put your vendor on point and say, 'Look, here's what we need' and that's what they want anyway.
They want feedback from their customers saying 'what can you do for us or what should we be doing for you as our customer to make your job easier?' Sometimes they don't know. Actually, a lot of times they don't know, and they're afraid to admit it, right? So the best thing that can happen is to open up the communication channels. Be honest with your vendors.
If you are a vendor, ask for feedback, and ask them, 'Do you know what's missing? What do you need that we don't have?'. Most vendors, the executives running these HR tech companies, even service companies their daily struggle is answering the question built by their partner.
And there are companies that are on one side that want to build everything for their customers, where they're willing to partner and bring together as to breed solutions so that they get the information they need quickly through technology. Both take time, usually the happy mediums in the middle.
So then the question is, how do they get there? And sometimes if the vendor has the resources to acquire another technology platform, maybe now's a good time to buy if you're going to go that route or partner with the investment company to make that acquisition. We certainly recommend the collaboration side of things, to consider partnering first and to make sure it works not just for the customer.
But if you're going to buy another resource versus building it or a long term partner. Make sure that your organizations can collaborate and work well together and service the customer. So that's important.
And I think if you're a consumer of the technology, you need to talk to your vendor, suppliers say, 'Look, here's what we have with you. Here's what we have with each other. We're missing these pieces. Do you have that?'
A lot of times they do and the customer doesn't even know it. A lot of times, the salespeople don't even know what they have, let alone know what their partners might have available to them.
So having the opportunity to first say, get the customers or if you're the customer, tell him what you're looking for, where you're struggling, what you need to communicate, even if you don't think they have it.
Perhaps one of their partners has it, and they just delivered it yesterday to a different customer. Right? So get that communication flowing, tell them, what you need?
If you're the vendor, ask them. What is it that you're looking for? If we don't have it. Perhaps, somebody that does, who might be a partner might not be a partner. Get that communication flowing so that you're gonna get better results that way. Frankly, if they don't help you with that, go find a different supplier that is willing to go the extra mile for you because that's what's important is what the customers need.
Chances are there's another vendor out there who would love to partner with and provide that and share the mutual benefits of not just helping that mutual customer but also enjoying the course.
The extra revenue that might make all the difference in their survival and ability to continue providing these to the market built by a partner. What's the right answer? There isn't really a right answer, but there's usually a good answer for the customer, and you need to have that discussion and figure out what the best approach would be.
Yeah, so in your experience in working with HRTech, right.
So what do you think are the most frequent wants or the features that everyone wants to be incorporated in say a human capital management platform? So what would you say is the most needed for organizations out there?
Oh, my goodness! Where do I start? I mean, all companies have needs, and again usually don't get addressed. I mean, certainly in this environment right now, collaboration tools are hot and they should be, because again, especially if you're a remote worker, you want to feel like you're in touch with the team.
That’s not easy. So anything that helps engage the worker helps them be more effective in collaborating with their peers and their partners and their customers, Of course.
So I think, that's what really can help, boost productivity, increased engagement. And that increases all the good stuff, like happiness in their job. But from a future work standpoint, I don't see that changing it.
It really hasn't changed. But what is changing, thankfully, is employers are starting to say we should engage in better support, a remote workforce which instantly maybe went from 0 to 100% or whatever.
So I think the tools in the future work we're gonna be tied to those kinds of tools that can help bring people together to solve the problems for their customers. And, the HR technology is usually the core part that supports that collaboration between employees or contractors or consultants or whoever is on the team and hopefully the customers on the team as well.
So bringing them together, just like we're doing now on the Zoom call, bring them together in a way that they can connect, collaborate, have appropriate discussions and get their jobs done in a fun and efficient way. And the extension really of that is OK, you've got your employees, your contractors, your customers and if you're running your business in a great way, you've got lots of partners as well that may help provide, you know, just in time solutions, long term solutions for your mutual customers.
You need to have communication channels working with them. You need to build a partnership experiences with them and go to market together, go out to potential customers or current customers to showcase what you can do together for them because the reality is the average customer has at least 15 companies that are providing technology to them. So you've gotta have open communication with your partners.
You gotta be able to connect, collaborate, and work on deals together and tools that are going to bring that together, like the HRTech and alliance. The platform we built for the industry is really taking off and the timing couldn't be better because helping the vendors connect and collaborate to discover new business and to win more business is huge right now and certainly to save your customers, help them together. Now is a great time to have good partners and if you don't, you need to find fast because it's not gonna get easier really. I encourage you to get involved and collaborate more with your partners to help your mutual customers succeed.
Yes. So we’ve covered the part of remote workers here, right?
So there is another, What is the increasing relevance we're listed all about? How do we fit them into the concept of future work?
Yeah, well, I have been working in the gig worker space for a long time now. And it varies by country and even in the United States. Anyway, most of the states are considered employment at will states which means today you have a job tomorrow, you might not have a job. And to me, that is a gig worker, right?
Just because you're an employee doesn't necessarily mean you're guaranteed anything. And contractors or gig workers are maybe even better off because they're kind of already thinking and prepared to win that next project or job or contract, whatever it is that's gonna help them do what they enjoy, get paid for their skills and what they're bringing to their customer.
And, a good employee does the same thing, right? They turn up to work and do their job but they also are trying to think you know what's best for my employer and what's best for the customer.
So, I think labels shift and the other formal gig worker, that doesn't have one employer, yes, it's going to continue to grow. It has been, and I don't see that stopping, and I think for the most part it's a good thing is it gives people the chance to do more of what they love and hopefully less of what they don't love. And for companies that can embrace that, I think it's they're gonna be the most successful.
It's just like embracing diversity and all these other things that are important to a successful workforce, the gig worker thinks probably even easier to make changes that are needed to address the environment. You know, whether it's scaling up, scaling down, trying to become more diverse.
I mean, hiring full-time long term employees is hard. It's really hard, not that contractors don't have their own challenges, but I think it's a little easier to change the recipe on the fliers in as many companies need to, especially the mid-size companies, just in time. Productivity is kind of how I look at the gig worker.
We have this whole concept of work, right?
So can you tell us a little something about gig workers itself with respect to future recruiting?
Well, as was just kind of mentioning, You know, the gig worker, I think, for companies that are trying to create something special for the market, the gig worker is somebody that can be on-demand and available to supply that.
Whatever that capability is marketing, technology, development, it might be sales. Whatever. So I think that the future is here frankly, in terms of a shift towards that, and it's gonna continue to shift there.
So, I don't see a future being different if anything it might accelerate on. And for technology companies that they're helping support the discovery of good talent that isn't looking for full time, one employer type relationship.
I think that's not just the future, but it's already here, and everybody wants a crystal ball. People can project, prognosticate, and they think that they can predict the future. You need to be flexible and adaptable, and I think that's where the gig worker makes it happen.
And use different platforms to find and manage our remote talent, and it really makes for a more flexible and responsive type capability to our customers. And, I think that's fun and not without challenges, but definitely the future and those platforms, I think, for the most part, are doing very well, and if we don't see more of them, we'll certainly see less because of consolidation. But that's probably the only major difference that I see in the future.
It's interesting, as we have been interviewing quite a few HR influences, and most of them have the same opinion of the future as now and never expected anything to happen right now, and it's right in front of our eyes.
So that's very interesting. I really like that concept, thank you for that. Now coming to our final question. If you have any important sound bites to leave for our viewer?
In terms of future of work and being ready forward. So if you're an employer again, put your vendors to the task and say, “Look, we need you to play better in the sandbox together because we have unique needs, and if you're not able to work with our other suppliers or other vendors, we're gonna find somebody that can.
If you're an HR Tech executive, you need to think about that statement because that's what they're starting to look at, this finger-pointing isn't helping. If something goes wrong, you guys need to work together, collaborate, bring us a solution that feels comprehensive. And the best of both worlds really is, Can employers get specific point solutions for different areas of HR? They're already doing it, but if they work together, then that's the best of both worlds.
So from the HRTech vendor side, focus on your partners. Now's a great time to invest in creating efficient partnership experiences and alliances, not just to grow your pipeline of deals, but also to help your current customers get a better solution. You work on and look at different ways to streamline integrations and collaboration. Come to hrtechalliances.com participate in our virtual collaboration zones, it gives you a chance to meet new partners, too. Discuss things with your peers in a roundtable zoom type and have these very discussions, in the larger setting because we need to figure this out together.
We're in this together, and now is the opportunity to embrace and support your partners, and hopefully, we'll return the same in kind. And if not, maybe they're not the right partner for you, and you need to go discover some new ones.
Hopefully, that helps your viewers get some insights on what I think is going to make a huge difference today and then, certainly in the years to come.
Yeah, that is surely going to help our viewers. Thank you so much for coming to our interview series. Yes. Oh, we’re so happy. And the last half hour was such an interesting experience for me.
I learned so much in the last hour and I don't think any textbook can teach you like listening from an experienced professional himself, so thank you so much for that. I'm sure our viewers are going to gain a lot of knowledge from this. Thank you so much. And let's keep in touch.
My pleasure. Thank you.