Engagement overshadows nearly every conversation that takes place in the HCM technology world. Whether they’re building solutions for recruiting, learning or data, nearly every presentation by “disrupters” at HR.com’s LEAD 2018 conference somehow circled around to engagement.
The presentations were made to an “Influencer” track was added this year to the annual LEAD gathering in Salt Lake City, gathering 18 analysts, bloggers and journalists to hear presentations from 15 companies HR.com deemed “disrupters” in Human Resources.
Last week, we profiled the standout company we heard from, KeenCorp, which analyzes internal emails to track engagement levels and, along the way, may have uncovered some new angles to how engagement is defined and measured.
Over the next several months, we’ll give the other firms their due, but first we want to make some observations about the disrupters as a group. When you listen to 15 pitches over the course of nine hours, you become attuned to emerging themes. Here’s what struck us:
Engagement is Everything
Over the last several years, HR has been organizing itself into a variety of somewhat fluid, often-interconnected specialties. “Job satisfaction” is now uniformly called “engagement,” which is wrapped up with culture, leadership, learning and analytics. Where once there was “recruiting,” now the landscape includes, among other things, recruitment marketing, social recruiting, recruiting analytics and candidate experience. “Benefits” focused on health insurance, but now wraps in financial wellness, physical wellness, culture and more, all in the name of building engagement.
This dynamic was evident in the mix of disrupters in Salt Lake City: Pro Sky’s tools begin by evaluating candidates for cultural fit (recruiting), then develops “succession pathways” that aim to keep employees engaged, learning and retained. Inspire and FMP Consulting seek to develop leaders (learning) who can keep the workforce engaged. Degreed wants to refocus learning on employee skills by connecting all of an organization’s learning systems into a single “ecosystem” that leverages unified data to produce more effective methods of training workers in needed skills, thus increasing engagement and retention.
In one way or another, nearly every disrupter linked their product to engagement. Given the state of the labor market, and what we’ve learned about engagement in the last several years, this makes sense: Truly engaging cultures are led by executives who mean it, incorporate benefits that reflect the company’s values and inevitably seek to hire individuals who get how the organization operates. What they didn’t cover was the piece almost no one covers—how to get senior executives and middle managers excited enough to devote the time and attention necessary to making these tools work.
Recruitment is a Gold Rush
Six of the disrupters—RealMatch’s PandoIQ, HireVisor, Humantelligence, Pro Sky, HR Marketer’s new Advocacy product and Clinch—want to improve the recruitment process. PandoIQ brings programmatic advertising capabilities into the job-posting space, a tactic that’s benefitted marketing departments for years. Advocacy simplifies the process of having internal and external stakeholders amplify jobs, content and news and allows employers to measure the results.
HireVisor adds an interesting wrinkle to sourcing that appears well-thought-out in some ways, but squishy in others. Basically, the platform allows recruiters to include “silver medalist” candidates—those who didn’t get the job, but came close—in a pool shared with other employers. The theory is that recruiters already share candidates with their networks and by using HireVisor, they’ll be able to surface qualified job seekers they might not otherwise have heard of. Candidates are invited to opt into the system before their profile is displayed.
It sounds good on the surface, but here again we wonder about the human element. When the labor market’s tight, (“We don’t recruit, we steal from each other,” one recruiter told us recently), how willing will organizations be to share strong candidates with their competitors? How will job-seekers feel about being perceived as also-rans?
Since HireVisor just launched in December 2017, it’s too soon to know how such dynamics will play out. Co-founder and CEO Patrick Hillstrom said that mid-market, high-growth businesses like the model, the company has already signed eight customers and traffic is building. He also makes a good point by saying recruiters see value in a “peer-reviewed” database. HireVue’s worth keeping an eye on because its approach has the potential to reveal insights into the behaviors of recruiters and candidates when they move their activities in the technology world.
Vendors Should Use Shorter Words
Finally, we can’t help but think that HCM vendors—especially new companies—should take a hard look at the message they present. Most presentations were heavy on theory, audience behaviors or technology trends and light on results.
Nearly all of the HCM technology customers we speak to tell us that, when making a purchase decision, they’re much more interested in the results they’re going to see from a technology than on what’s under the hood. Once they have reason to believe the solution will provide them with some kind of advantage or solve some kind of problem, they’ll delve into the science and technology behind it as part of their due diligence.
In essence, many vendors how they’ve enhanced the internal combustion engine’s operation before they get around to talking about how long it takes to get from zero to 60, horsepower and safety features. We’d like to hear vendors spend more time discussing the benefits of their products and why they’ll actually be embraced by users before they start showing us what’s under the hood.
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