Intel for Talent Acquisition!

Baby boomers like me, after decades of following HCM, have been worrying about where the new analyst talent is coming from. Particularly when the "dark side" (aka vendors) often pay those smart people more money. Happily, there are "Three in Their Thirties" going at it in talent acquisition with already solid results. And you can get some of their content for free!

By Bill Kutik

Keeping up with the latest in talent acquisition software and services is just about impossible, even when it is your full-time job.

Mind if I just call it recruiting instead of TA, an acronym I've always found bothersome?

We all know recruiting is the single greatest source of innovation and driver of tech start-ups in HCM. But do you realize how long even experts have given up staying absolutely current?

Back in 1999, then Gartner Analyst Jenni Lehman announced from a stage at an International Association of Human Resource Information Management event that she was getting too many e-mails from recruiting start-ups and, metaphorically, threw up her hands, saying she just couldn't follow them anymore.

That was soon after the founding of the big vendors that still dominate the large-company market today -- Taleo (now owned by Oracle) and BrassRing (now owned by IBM/Kenexa) -- and a year before the founding of iCIMS.

I was present at the birth of the applicant-tracking system (ATS) 10 years earlier in 1989, and it's still my favorite application. But I happily gave up trying to keep my arms and mind around all of it after stepping aside as co-chair of the HR Tech Conference almost three years ago.

Selecting participants for the original "Awesome New Technologies for HR" sessions had kept me in that brutal game, especially when fully half of the hopefuls were for recruiting. I was happy to get more selective, telling newcomers to be back in touch when they had customers outside Silicon Valley!

Long-time Queen Bee Elaine Orler of Talent Function has been heard to joke about easing up, but don't believe her. As a consultant, not an analyst, she doesn't publish, but maintains her encyclopedic knowledge of recruiting technology. She largely reserves it for her strategy, selection and implementation clients, plus her friends and those clever enough to attend her conference presentations or take part in her labor of love for pushing recruiting reform, the Candidate Experience Awards.

Recruiting is such a club (happily a combined fraternity and sorority), with probably 100 people or more writing about it and the technology. But caveat emptor! Their qualifications range from two years spent as a corporate recruiter some time ago to 40-plus years as a practitioner and keen observer.

So, apologies to all expert friends and acquaintance being left out here by my emphasis on "Three in Their Thirties." Ageism, pure and simple, against my fellow baby boomers (and older Gen Xers) who certainly don't need my calling them out. They're already famous.

Just understanding and coherently explaining the categories that make up modern recruiting technology is a challenge. One reason is the center of value has shifted away from the ATS to other applications. I love pointing out that the reason it's called an applicant-tracking system is it often can't handle candidates who haven't yet applied for a position. And they are the primary targets of the best recruiters.

Remember how the HRMS or Core HR system came to be seen as largely an administrative traffic cop for all the other applications connected to it? And the real strategic value was in what became known as the talent-management suite?

Similarly, the ATS churns out job requisitions, receives and stores applications and resumes, schedules interviews and a dozen other vital functions. But historically, it did little or nothing to help attract, discover and engage the right warm butts to put into cold seats.

And isn't that the essence of recruiting?

Now everybody calls those functions "recruitment marketing" and some vendors sell it separately from "Recruitment Management," fleeing from the term ATS, which has become somewhat of a dirty word, since so many companies are dissatisfied with the one they own. Often because it doesn't include the front-end or "pre-applicant" marketing part.

Recently, I saw recruitment marketing's topology crisply explained and expanded in a webinar by Kyle Lagunas, a long-time recruiting analyst recently hired by IDC as its first "Research Manager for Emerging Trends & Technologies for Talent Acquisition & Staffing Services."

It was certainly not the first time he presented his structure, and I know he wasn't the first person to lay one out. Plus, arguments still rage over how he described and categorized the 20 components. But his org charts of functionality made a lot of sense to me, so if you care about this, register to watch the recording yourself and download the slides, too.

Most recently, Kyle started the talent-acquisition practice at the Brandon Hall Group before being on his own for a year and joining Lisa Rowan at IDC. His LinkedIn profile has lots of links to executive summaries of his BHG reports and full articles written as an independent.

But his webinar, sponsored by vendor SmashFly, did not touch the much thornier problem of fitting each vendor into his categories, which can only be likened to a Procrustean bed.

Aptitude Research Partners Co-Founder Madeline Laurano (co-founder Mollie Lombardi is the third analyst and her partner) has tackled some of that in her 107-page Aptitude Index Report called "Talent Acquisition Systems 2016."

This is not the vendor-ranking report or traditional buyers' guide you might be wishing for, though it does include 14 vendor "profiles." The report starts with a disclaimer about that, adding: "It provides an overview of the market and helps companies rethink the evaluation criteria to select partners and what providers might meet their unique requirements."

Given the confusion and befuddlement many people feel about modern TA, these are important goals, which the report basically achieves, without a Request For Information chart of every vendor's bells and whistles followed by a partial or full moon ranking each one. I'm sure she did those when she worked at the former Bersin & Associates (now Bersin by Deloitte).

In fact, I found the report's introductory "Top Ten Trends" a terrific nugget. It will clear the fog surrounding the new TA landscape. Perhaps the insights will be nothing new for insiders such as SmartRecruiter's CEO Jerome Ternynck -- who made many of the same points in a recent briefing and demo -- but a light bulb, I'll bet, will turn on for many others.

Click here for your free copy of the report.

As you may know, all analysts send vendors mentioned in their reports late drafts for "fact-checking and comments." Naturally, the vendors all want to change the opinions and conclusions expressed about them, instead. No vendor ever wants to read a discouraging word.

The largest firms, such as Gartner and Forrester, spend the longest time having these arguments. But they have the clout to refuse more changes, even with multimillion-dollar contracts at stake. Rarely are contracts cancelled, though sometimes a vendor will freeze out an unbending analyst, refusing to brief him or her for up to four or five years!

Historically, smaller independents have much less leverage with the vendors. But after working for seven analyst firms in 12 years before co-founding Aptitude with Mollie, Madeline has a lot of experience at this. She says each profile's "Differentiator" sections and "Bottom Line" remain untouched from the original.

So at least in the TA area, I'm beginning to get calmer about the source of new talent. Plus multiple vendor veteran and former HR practitioner Melanie Lougee recently became a first-time analyst at Gartner -- and I'm expecting great things from her, too.

HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is co-chair emeritus of the 19th Annual HR Technology Conference & Expo, back at Chicago's McCormick Place, Oct. 4-7, 2016. Watch Global Head of Strategy Yvette Cameron from SAP SuccessFactors on the 18th episode of the broadcast-quality video series, Firing Line with Bill Kutik for her insights on HR using the new tools created for marketing and more.


Jul 18, 2016
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