The biggest surprise at HRTech was the lack of surprises. There wasn’t really anything ground-breaking. A little of mobile integration over here, a bit of social integration over there and that’s about it. Now, that is not necessarily a bad sign, it just shows that the cutting edge developments are still cutting edge for the majority of users and are working towards wider and broader integration. It’s also a sign that the current products and services fulfill the perceived needs of the majority of HR users for the time being.
So instead of focusing on specific providers, let’s look at some underlying trends:
When planets collide
While years ago the recruitment value chain was neatly separated into vertical specialties, we now see more and more vertical integration: Monster moves with SeeMore into the space of talent community providers. Jobvite, Broadbean & co move with their Facebook integrations into the first step of talent acquisition. And everybody somehow competes with the traditional ATS providers, not that anybody would admit this.
But it also doesn’t really matter what the providers say, but how Talent Managers and Recruiters use their services. I spoke with a couple that use solutions such as Jobvite instead of a traditional ATS. It does what they need it to do and it is perceived as lighter and with higher flexibility and agility. Interestingly enough, it follows Clay Christenson’s Innovator’s dilemma.
The traditional ATS providers themselves are perceived as the companies that are most interested in retaining the status quo and only offering token innovation (similar to Steve Jobs’ view of IBM). At the moment they can afford to, as they control the distribution route and many of the new up & coming models rely on being integrate with the ATS. But as I said above, it’s ultimately about how the end user perceives and utilizes innovation and new services that will define the impact.
Obviously, given the target market, all exhibitors were positioning themselves around the benefits for the HR/Recruiting department. The job seekers were mentioned more as an after-thought, after all everybody is just integrating with Facebook and Facebook is now the Internet, right? Wrong. There is a void and a massive opportunity that job boards, such as Monster and Jobsite, are in the best position of exploiting: the recruitment value chain from the candidates’ perspective. How many job seekers have we helped find a job versus how many candidates have been placed via our service?
This will be the defining culture clash in the HRTech space, especially with increased vertical integration and with different models colliding in a major way. This will also result in some interesting integration and acquisitions in the next couple of years.
Talent communities and talent pools are still a buzz word on the exhibition floor. The meaning is very much along the lines of talent pools being people that have applied and whose records one keeps updated ideally via social media integration, whilst talent communities are, to quote Matt Alder as he put it so eloquently, “a collection of potential candidates who have not applied for a role but have either been identified as potential hires by the company or have indicated they have an affinity with the company’s employer brand”.
When speaking with the practitioners a different definition emerges. A talent community is the current employee base (in its widest sense, in some scenario it includes suppliers). Word of mouth or referral systems were mentioned as the best way of tapping into this community for talent acquisition; especially with the new recruits – “Buy one, get one free” – as one practitioner put it.
Other communities do exist as well. These communities are potential pools of talent that can be tapped into. Candidates that have applied are applicants and only a few HR practitioners will keep records of exceptional candidates to pursue at a later stage. The trick here is, and nobody has really cracked it, to be able to supply the hirer with signals that a person has the intention of moving, then the stored data becomes useful. Having a lot of email addresses, even with permissions, is not seen as a talent pool or a talent community, instead it is classified by the practitioners as an email list.
In my opinion, talent solution providers would benefit from listening and learning from the classifications of the people actually doing the job, instead of gurus, commentators and VCs.
Employee engagement continues to be a focus. But somehow it seems to be more about the HR person (so that they are able to identify people at risk of leaving or that they can easily report on engagement levels) than actually about engagement. Technology won’t solve all problems. Adding more administrative task to the workload of the employee might help the management understand the happiness and engagement levels of the workforce better, but if a company really wants to make a difference, they would be better advised to minimize the administrative burdens on the employees and enable them to concentrate on their job. This impact is best measured in revenue per employee instead of happiness or engagement. Additionally, create an engaging vision, live the vision, communicate and flatten the structure. And remember Craig Fisher’s wise words: “You can’t create culture with technology.”
One shout out
The company that impressed me most was HRmarketer.com with their new product feature “socialears”. It analyses the social activities of journalists, analysts, bloggers, thought leaders, and identifies the topics, enriches the profiles with tag clouds and Klout scores and highlights the key influencers for by topic. The demo looked really good. It met my criteria of increased convenience and better experience. I will certainly be testing it in a real time environment. And somehow it’s not surprising that this company isn’t really an HR technology provider, right?