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The HR Leader in conversation with Sapia.ai’s Barb Hyman

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read
The Hr Leader In Conversation With Sapia Ai S Barb Hyman

The CEO and founder of Sapia.ai, Barb Hyman, chatted with The HR Leader on 31 August 2022. Ms Hyman discussed why data and tech are crucial for HR, how HR policy falls behind, and the challenges of implementing change in a business.

Shandel McAuliffe, editor of HR Leader: “Why is data and tech critical for HR?”

Barb Hyman: “I’m seeing HR teams that are starting to diversify different skills [and] different mindsets. Whether they have data scientists, business analysts, branding people, there really needs to be a diverse set of experience and perspectives, and people who are very good at analytics as well, because data now is what … enables you to make better decisions.


“If you just rely on humans to assess talent, youre limited by your own imagination. There’s something like 144 biases that are listed on Wikipedia and most of them are unconscious, so no amount of unconscious bias training is going to rid you of those biases. Imagine all the talent that you miss out on because of your own prism of experience … The use of data allows you to discover talent that we’re often missing,” said Ms Hyman.

Editor: “How does HR policy fall behind?”

Ms Hyman: “Policy is something that is really about putting guardrails around human behaviour … If you default to trust … it’s a bit like parenting. What you don’t do is define the limits of their behaviour, you just assume that they’ll do a great job, and when they don’t, you call them up on it.”

She continued: “If you have leaders that can lead, that set the right expectations and that role model the right behaviours, why do you need any policies? Policies are there in some cases, because you do need to put down some things in writing. I also worry sometimes that when you do that at too much detail, it creates entitlement …

“The last thing I would ever do is introduce a policy because one person did something stupid. Why should everyone else pay for that poor decision?”

“My preference as a leader and in our business is to live by principles ... We want to create technology and experiences that are really transparent, that create trust, that are human and intuitive, that are ethical. Then you let people make decisions within the framework of those principles … I think that creates more empowered people, but I also think it teaches people to figure things out and to do the thinking,” said Ms Hyman.

Editor: “What are some of the top challenges when implementing business transformation?”

Ms Hyman: “Our tech typically is brought in as part of a transformation. The opportunity to reimagine the hiring process, the internal mobility process, the way you make all of your talent decisions, is pretty fundamental. Were disrupting the résumé, we’re challenging how useful that is as an insight into someone, and were also bringing intelligence and AI to the recruiter and the hiring managers, so theres a lot of change involved.”

“Change is really about people, and so we tend to sell to businesses and leaders that are what I would call fast followers or early adopters, where you have someone internally as a sponsor who is a leader prepared to put themselves out on a limb for leading this change,” she explained.

Ms Hyman added: “The other thing that really matters is the reason for the change, and that has to be business led … Without that, you dont really have the case for change, and you dont have the business seeing why that change is going to transform their life.”

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full audio conversation with Barb Hyman on 31 August 2022 is below, and the original podcast article can be found here.


Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.