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All Technology is HR Technology.


We talk a lot about how very niche tools like talent-focused AI or sourcing automation solutions are going to change the way we work in the future.

And yes, this is true, if you're in talent acquisition or looking for a job (and we all will, at some point in time).

 But if you're not in recruiting, which is to say, pretty much every one of your hiring managers and candidates, the utility of stack ranked, automatically aggregated dynamic profiles is, shall we say, limited at best.

Sure, machine learning is going to return more relevant results for job seekers, but ultimately, if those JDs aren't compelling and clear, then the relevance of job ads or the ability of algorithms to accurately forecast both future job performance and organizational fit becomes more or less moot.

Similarly, we can use recruitment automation tools like CRMs to build "talent communities" or "pipelines," but ultimately, candidates just want to know what jobs you have open and whether any would be a good fit for them.

Alternatively, you can sink millions into building a beautiful employer brand and career site, but if that site bounces to some obsolete ATS that takes 40 minutes to set up and submit a resume for an open role, then the best copy or collateral in the world is essentially pointless.

Consumer Reports: Is HR Technology Falling Behind?

You can't put lipstick on a pig, as the old saying goes, although no one, sadly, seems to have told this to the salespeople slinging suspicious SaaS solutions. This remains true of more or less every system of record ever recorded. 

 Ultimately, one of my biggest frustrations with HR Technology is the industry's insular focus on its own ecosystem, instead of looking at the bigger consumer technology picture. This may be for the best; if what you don't know can't hurt you, then you'll never be angry at how often our function has to settle for second rate, cheap imitations of more sophisticated, and often cheaper, SaaS solutions and enterprise systems. 


Take your ATS, for example. The applicant tracking system, for as much as we complain about it, is one of the few categories in HR Technology that delivers as promised: it actually tracks applicants. It acts as a rules-based, process driven relational database with the ability to assign, score and track every touch point in what's essentially a purchasing cycle.

This is what an ATS is designed to do. The problem is, at some point, someone came in and decided that wasn't good enough. Recruiting is marketing, the thought went, and therefore, an ATS isn't enough.

Systems of record, of course, aren't sexy. They don't really add value, so much as they mitigate risk - and should be looked at as an opportunity cost more than a return on recruiting investment.

No, what recruiters needed were to turn those boring old ATS' into cutting edge CRM systems (only here, it's "candidate relationship management," which assumes candidates and consumers are somehow different, which if true, erodes the entire value of an improved candidate experience).

 They look way cooler than that old ATS, much more like off the shelf, consumer grade software most of us are used to, intuitive, dynamic and most importantly, infinitely more flexible and easier to use than the applicant tracking systems with whose integrations most of these point solutions are essentially reliant upon to do anything beyond what you'd see in a demo environment.

Leaders, Not Laggards: The Future of HR Technology. 


For the sake of the argument, let's assume that recruiting is marketing, and that this concept is sacrosanct (it's not, but this, like most questions on B2B social accounts, is all hypothetical). Then why would recruiters not look at the subset of solutions, like Salesforce, Hubspot or even Marketo, that marketers actually utilize to attract, nurture and convert consumer leads?

 Instead, we're perpetually five years behind actual best practices. Stuff that's pretty blase, like, uh, the prevalence of mobile or social technologies, the relatively high response rates generated by SMS or the ability to aggregate profiles from multiple networks in a single source is heralded as "innovative" or "groundbreaking" when an HR Tech vendor introduces consumer functionalities into its product offering. 

 The secret is that "industry expertise" commands a premium, and relatively simple integrations or patches, like OFCCP related record keeping or resume parsing capabilities, are seen as requiring domain expertise. Recruiters buy talent technology because they're buying a solution without asking what problem they're trying to solve, which is too bad, as they'd quickly recognize most of these issues have already been solved by other functions.

We even recycle their concepts; data warehouses and business intelligence existed long before HCM and ATS vendors discovered how to structure, integrate and standardize their data reporting and talent analytics capabilities.

Stack ranking and intelligent matching is the entire reason search engines and recommendation engines exist; similarly, it took Glassdoor to bring the concept of Net Promoter score to the TA function, which is ironic, given the import most talent professionals place on "candidate experience" (which is actually design thinking, yet another discipline's discipline).

Play on, Players: The New HR Technology Establishment


It isn't hard to see why companies like Google and Facebook are so eager to get into the recruiting game; after all, the initial inspiration for building Google Hire wasn't necessarily because Google wanted to get into the ATS market, but instead, because their customers were already leveraging various Google Cloud products for hiring.

 All they had to do was repackage and repurpose capabilities they'd already built, and they had a product that was already more sophisticated and mature than anything the HR Technology establishment had on offer.

This was a no brainer, and, combined with Google for Jobs (again, just a consumer tool with a slightly differentiated use case), provides a powerful, consumer grade solution that is only not a threat to the major players in HR Technology simply because they're selling into the long neglected SMB space, and steering clear of a concerted push upmarket and into enterprise employers.

 Facebook, similarly, really just took an existing product, added some permissioning and started selling it as "Facebook Workplace," charging for a service that is otherwise free for the peace of mind that at least employee information and communications are safe in the hands of Facebook, provided, of course, that a business buys a completely separate instance of what is essentially Facebook Groups.

That it's better than Sharepoint makes this, sadly, a category killer in our world as opposed to the definition of a "me too" monetization play.

Purchasing Decisions: Candidates Are Consumers. 

I know I'm not saying anything I haven't said before. I have, however, given up on the hope that, perhaps, recruiters and our industry partners, working in tandem, will ever be able to fix what's broken. This is why so many are in danger of being subsumed by consumer technology companies.

Even established players like Adobe (offer management, on-boarding), LinkedIn and GitHub corporate parent Microsoft or IBM (who couldn't make BrassRing work, but somehow are the bellwethers of AI through Watson for Talent) are doubling down on their talent acquisition related investments.

 This seems like bad news for established vendors, but good news for consumers - and, by extension, candidates. But in fact, the old guard has done at least a little big bit of prep work for the future of work; they've made their systems so Byzantine, inflexible and rigid that exporting even a spreadsheet's worth of data requires an inordinate amount of resources and time.


 When data becomes immobile, the providers of the systems in which it's doomed to sit become indispensable - which is largely why the major players remain unchanged, with a few dominant providers representing a massive market share majority. When a system becomes too cumbersome to figure out, then they can charge for training or support rather than investing in simplified design and improved UI/UX.

Even when you buy these "single tenant SaaS solutions," there's almost always an implementation team involved, which defeats the entire point of SaaS (not to mention diametrically opposed to its accepted definition).

In other words, these vendors don't improve their products because they don't have to. This is why we get so excited about things like big data - which, let's face it, is as unexciting as most math - simply because our space is so starved for real and meaningful solutions. 

This is why it's so imperative for us to look at partnering with other parts of the business, where our cutting edge has long since dulled into the reality of every day work. If candidate experience matters because they're potential customers, then why wouldn't we work on tying their structured feedback forms or eNPS responses with future purchasing behavior or employee lifetime value?

If we really care about quality of hire, then why wouldn't we integrate our candidate data with our financial reporting and analysis so that we can actually measure the bottom line impact individual employees make on business results, and which candidates are the likeliest to create a company's greatest return on their recruiting investment? 

 Finally, if we think technology and the future of work are, essentially, synonymous, then why don't we align the future possibilities of recruiting with the current capabilities of consumer technology?

 Yeah. Seems pretty obvious to me, too.

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    Written by Matt Charney
    With a unique background that includes HR, blogging and social media, Matt Charney is a key influencer in recruiting and a self-described “kick-butt marketing and communications professional.” Matt also serves as partner and executive editor for Recruiting Daily. Matt's blog, Snark Attack, was named one of the top 15 business blogs officially recommended by WordPress, the only HR-related blog with that distinction. Recognized as an "HR Gamechanger" by HR Magazine, a "Analyst Superstar" by HRO Today and a "Top Recruiting Influencer" by Huffington Post, Glassdoor, LinkedIn and Forbes, Matt has also spoken about talent topics at events such as South by Southwest Interactive, BlackHat, Reconverse and DefCon. He also serves on the advisory boards of several HR tech startups, including Rolepoint, Universum Global, HiQ Labs, Textio, Clinch, AdRecruit, NextWave HR, TextRecruit, TrustSphere, and Human Predictions. Matt was the chief content officer and global thought leadership head for AGS. Matt moved on from AGS in 2020.