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HR Technology Column

What Does Taleo Do Exactly?

Silly question, right? Recruiting software, of course, for the largest multinational companies: 50 of the Fortune 100. But a lot more besides -- the entire talent management suite, in fact -- and now, the company finally seems ready to tackle the problem and implications of most HR people simply not knowing that.

Monday, September 19, 2011
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Every successful vendor entering the talent management fray has led with its original application: SuccessFactors and Halogen, with performance; Cornerstone and Saba, with learning; and Taleo, with recruiting.

And as they wrote or bought and integrated the other three apps over the years, they slowly established themselves as full suite vendors. Except for Taleo.

Nearly four years after coming out with what may be the most original performance management application on the market, followed by buying World Wide Comp for compensation and Learn.com for ... what else? ... learning, Taleo's customers are still overwhelmingly using recruiting.

And Taleo is still seen as just a recruiting company.

At Taleo World, its recent user conference in San Francisco, CEO Mike Gregoire publicly owned up to all of that and even showed this breakout of its customers (large and small) using each of its applications:

Recruiting: 85 percent

Learning: 13 percent

Performance: 12 percent

Compensation: 4 percent

Taleo's customers, on average, own 1.1 modules. For competitors, it's two or three modules, and many have enough full suite buyers for Gartner finally to plan a Magic Quadrant for the suite.

That's one result of the company's lack of market awareness. The other is it apparently receives considerably less than half of the requests for proposals from potential suite buyers than its competitors. While it reportedly wins 45 percent of those competitions -- a terrific rate if all the other vendors combined won 55 percent -- it's not so great if it doesn't even get to meet more than half the buyers out there!

Is it any wonder that SuccessFactors is growing at 40+ percent a year, and Taleo at half that rate?

The balance is improving: In the second quarter of 2010, recruiting represented 84 percent of bookings, and the other three products 16 percent. A year later, those numbers are 68 percent and 32 percent, a doubling for the other products. Gregoire predicted an even split by 2013.

The changing of HR hearts and minds really started in earnest a few months ago with the hiring of former PeopleSoft Group VP of Marketing Heidi Melin as Taleo's chief marketing officer and EVP. When the market doesn't know what your company does, it's the fault of marketing. That's why they call it that.

She is reunited at Taleo with her former marketing colleague, Darlene Smith, who ran the Executive Track at PeopleSoft Connect years ago when the main conference was 12,000 people! (Another colleague from those days, Kara Wilson, is the new CMO at SuccessFactors. A third, Deb Wolf, holds a similar post at Workday. Yes, the PeopleSoft alumnae association runs our world in Silicon Valley!)

Darlene's been in charge of Taleo World for years and is the best meeting planner I know, except for the equally hard-working folks at the HR Technology® Conference.

Speaking of which, Heidi is launching Taleo's new branding and awareness campaign as a talent suite vendor on the first morning of the conference, Oct. 3, with a BANG! A full-page color ad in the Marketplace section of the Wall Street Journal -- delivered to the door of every attendee staying at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

A similar ad will start running that month in BusinessWeek, followed by the Harvard Business Review in November. Taleo will also be in the online versions of those publications and then reach out to HR executives and European markets in early 2012.

Practitioners might be thinking about now, "Who cares?" Well, you should if you don't know about all the solutions available to you. Or, if on Tuesday, your CEO, CFO or COO asks you about this "Tallyho" company they saw in the paper, which is one reason Taleo is spending the money on that WSJ page.

Here's what else Taleo is up to:

It has a terrific new functional integration with LinkedIn -- exclusive for the moment. Short-lived, perhaps, because LinkedIn is acting exactly like what it has become in the recruiting world -- the prettiest girl in high school -- a little self-absorbed and fickle.

Every candidate can now "apply with LinkedIn," submitting their online profile instead of a resume, on any career site that allows it. And those career sites, like the ones Taleo maintains for its customers, can also display a widget showing the candidate all of his or her connections working at that company.

With "LinkedIn Preview," any recruiter or hiring manager can view LinkedIn's 120 million profiles directly through Taleo's recruiting application. It's really only a preview or partial profile, but customers who have also paid LinkedIn for a premium account ("LinkedIn Recruiter") can quickly access a candidate's full profile and see which candidates have already been viewed by colleagues using Taleo. No more toggling between the two apps.

Two reasons this is significant:

First, a LinkedIn profile does not need parsing and extracting, the always maddeningly inaccurate process performed on resumes since electronic recruiting began 23 years ago. LinkedIn profiles are already standardized into contact information, previous jobs, education and other categories.

Second, every company's talent pool smells of rotting out-of-date resumes floating around in them. There is no easy way for applicants still interested in your company to update their resumes in your system. But nearly everybody keeps their LinkedIn resumes up to date. Now recruiters can act on the latest information. Though nothing gets automatically updated as in Jobfox, it's a major start.

Taleo has also released Radar, its first iPad app, more as a proof of concept than as something truly useful. It mashes up maps with GPS functionality to find other people running the app by their name and location. Eventually, when it is connected to the location of jobs on Taleo's Talent Exchange, it will be better.

Its other iPad app, Taleo 2Go, is more like a concept car right now. With release scheduled in 2012, the Taleo 2Go prototype is incredibly cool with functionality for everything but the kitchen sink -- from onboarding and social networking to goal-setting and looking upward at your possible career path. The last is a neat feature that has long distinguished Taleo performance.

See Radar at Taleo's booth at HR Technology®, as well as Peoplefluent's and Workday's iPad apps in the "Awesome New Technologies for HR" session.

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Like most of the other HCM vendors, Taleo has gotten religion on Enterprise 2.0 applications: They must have social functionality embedded in them, be mobile and interoperable and maybe even "gamified."

More importantly and strategically, they know that HR now has to provide tools to run the business better, rather than to run HR more efficiently. And they know that corporations rarely use their systems to make good on the Big Lie in their annual reports: "People are our most important asset."

A comment by EVP Products & Development Jason Blessing could not be truer: "In the future, the job will find you."

But how quickly will Taleo get its clients prepared for that future? I'm not sure based on the evidence of the last five years.

The focus of value in recruiting has shifted enormously since the company was founded in 1998 as Recruitsoft. The back-end applicant tracking system used to be the competitive differentiator; now, it is a commodity at best or table stakes, at worst. Though Taleo's ability to handle large company complexity and international diversity still make it special.

But, for instance, years after Candidate Relationship Marketing (the CRM that the rest of the world thinks of as Customer Relationship Marketing) became the hot thing in recruiting,Taleo is just beginning to build out its capability. The head of recruiting product strategy told an audience of users at the World conference that the February 2012 release would include the foundations for CRM, but they should still keep using their add-ons from other vendors.

I believe sourcing is the current center of recruiting value. Finding the right warm body -- working or not, looking for a new job or not, living here or overseas -- to fill that cold seat, even before it cools off. Just like a headhunter.

While Taleo'sTalent Exchange for candidate sharing is a partial solution to that problem and LinkedIn is a huge step forward, Taleo has never provided customers with its own "search the world" tool like VE Pilot from Virtual Edge, now owned by ADP. Again add-ons are always available.

Taleo has always been known for its applications coming out of the software factory bullet-proof, not quickly. So while bringing the world up to speed on its capabilities as a talent management vendor, it needs to bring itself up to speed as the world's leading recruiting vendor. Imagine the horror if one day someone said "legacy application," and they meant Taleo recruiting!

HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is co-chairman of the 14th Annual HR Technology® Conference & Exposition, Oct. 3-5, 2011 in Las Vegas. Registration is available online until noon Sunday, Oct. 2. You can comment on this column at the Conference LinkedIn Group, which does not require prior or future conference attendance to join. He is also host of The Bill Kutik Radio Show® and the new video series Firing Line with Bill Kutik premiering on Sept. 29. He can be reached at bkutik@earthlink.net.  

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