Podcast: These 4 Stories Will Follow Us Into 2021

2020 - 2021

Finally, there’s light at the end of the tunnel that was 2020. But before we get too excited, let’s remember that New Year’s is just a day on the calendar, and no one’s going to flip a switch to change the dynamics that have bubbled up along with the coronavirus, the recession, tensions around bias and a divisive presidential election.

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Any number of articles have been written about those issues and their impact on HR. So we decided to call out four stories that will impact HR tech specifically well into 2021.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out: 4 top HR technology stories of 2020, and how they'll impact the new year. #HRTech #HR Click To Tweet

Salesforce Buys Slack

Is Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack a story about HR technology? Oh, but it is.

In December Salesforce, announced it would acquire the communications platform Slack for some $27.7 billion. The company said the merger would create an “operating system for the new way to work.”

Because it does a neat job of enabling both internal and external communications, Slack’s often described as an important contributor to corporate culture and employee experience. The platform also plays well with others. It offers integrations to a wide variety of solutions in areas such as file-sharing, productivity, calendars and marketing. Already users can access HR solutions such as UKG and Workday through its interface. That allows workers to complete tasks related to, say, payroll or time off without switching out of a tool they interact with throughout the day.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has made no secret of his goal of extending Salesforce’s reach into almost every area of business operations. He calls Slack “the interface to everything.” Partnerships with Slack could prove critical to HR tech vendors who want to expand their reach while simplifying deployment.

Ultimate Software and Kronos Merge

In February, Ultimate Software and Kronos Incorporated, both controlled by the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, announced their plan to merge into a single HR technology giant. The resulting company boasted $3 billion in revenue, more than 12,000 employees, an enterprise value of $22 billion and a product line that ranged from nuts-and-bolts workforce management to the finer points of HCM.

Analysts said the merger played to each company’s strengths. “These organizations are very similar in terms of revenue, culture and headcount,” said Pete Tiliakos, principal analyst with NelsonHall. He and other analysts observed that the companies’ respective customers fit neatly together, with Ultimate’s leaning toward the enterprise and Kronos enjoying a greater presence among smaller organizations. 

In August, the company unveiled its new brand—Ultimate Kronos Group, or UKG. At the time, CEO Aron Ain said his goal was to create a unified organization. “Two years from now, there won’t be different platforms and different products and different billing systems and different business cards,” he said.

The merger left the market with one less vendor holding large enterprise ambitions, said Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research. As a result, he expects more enterprises to consider Kronos as an HR tech option while smaller employers will have fewer choices from their usual “short list” selections of ADP, Ceridian and Kronos.

Retention Becomes Mobility

When iCIMS relaunched itself as iCIMS Talent Cloud in October, the company added a module designed for internal recruiting and signaled its intention to move aggressively into the market for identifying and developing existing talent. According to CTO Al Smith, the core capabilities of the module were already in place, but the company had never packaged them as one or invested real dollars into their development.

iCIMS became one of many vendors who set their sights on developing new business from employers who want to leverage the talent they already have. In March, Phenom added an internal gig marketplace to match short-term projects with current employees who have the right skills. Also, Phenom and learning platform Docebo unveiled an integration to help customers better identify skills gaps, then deliver training content.

Investors have shown interest in the mobility space, as well. In June, the social learning platform Degreed raised $32 million in new funding, attributing investment to rising demand for training and educational solutions. “We’ve seen a tremendous surge in client demand for our career mobility product,” noted CEO Chris McCarthy.

Degreed planned to use the funds to accelerate its career mobility roadmap. It believes that most employees don’t complete the talent profile included in their organization’s HR system, hampering businesses as they try to intelligently deploy their workforce. One of the company’s aims is to help employers plug this gap, thus promoting career mobility by connecting users to project, gig and job opportunities. That’s become an increasingly common theme among both talent acquisition technology providers and learning solutions.

Virtual Campus Recruiting Becomes a Thing

Providers of virtual campus-recruiting technology saw a jump in customer interest as employers shifted their talent acquisition efforts online. One of them, Turazo, said its sales conversations picked up notable speed as shelter-in-place directives came down and employers struggled to connect with new talent, even as college campuses shut down. “They have no way to really match well and have a good, engaged conversation with those types of prospects,” said CEO Peter Cipollone.

In April, Paradox and Eightfold.ai announced products designed to connect organizations with candidates they previously would have met in person. Paradox’s Virtual Hiring Events helps employers engage with candidates through a chat-based interface. Eightfold’s Virtual Event Recruiting invites candidates to events, suggests appropriate positions and schedules conversations with recruiters.

Cipollone believes the COVID-19 pandemic forced a structural change to recruiting, especially at the early talent stage. “So much of the early interaction involves companies sending people out to campuses to actually physically interact with students,” he observed. “Whenever this is over, I think it’s going to be done in a completely different way.”

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