HRO Today Meets the Future of Talent Technology.

I judged my first tech competition in the HR space circa 2010. In that event, hosted by my friend, John Sumser, I voted for a little company called Smart Recruiters.  
You never know when the next great tool or technology will come around; the thing is, you've got to constantly be watching the marketplace to stay up on what's new, what's next and, most importantly, which products are truly transformational when it comes to helping drive recruiting - and the candidates and clients we serve - forward.
That's why I'm so excited to emcee the annual North American iTalent startup competition at the upcoming HRO Today Forum in Washington, DC, and even more excited that the event is being sponsored by Allegis Global Solutions.
The five finalists, which were chosen from dozens of submissions, represent an interesting cross section of the HR Technology marketplace, and I'm very interested to not only see these products being pitched, but also, what this select group of startups will reveal about the state of innovation and disruption in recruitment today.
It's no secret that the last year has been all about AI, with a deluge of established players and emerging technologies doubling down on what's widely being heralded by pundits and practitioners alike as the next big thing in talent acquisition.
After the veritable tidal wave of (purported) AI software and solutions that have poured into the market in the past year alone, it appears from this year's iTalent Finalists that we may be getting back to the basics - building relationships, not algorithms; focusing on meaningful metrics over big data; and, most interestingly, a commitment to bringing personalization back to automation, and high touch back into high tech. 
Personally, I'm also extremely interested in how vendors are handling compliance issues around the ever evolving landscape of new rules, regulations and best practices around data privacy and protection, particularly with the shadow of GDPR looming on the horizon.
If you're not familiar with the iTalent competition, here's what you need to know about what's going on in Washington next week - and why it matters for talent practitioners and leaders alike.

An Eye for iTalent: A Startup Sneak Peek

HRO Today's iTalent competition recognizes the top technology companies bringing innovative solutions to the HR space. During the competition, leaders from five companies selected as finalists, will give a five-minute presentation, highlighting their HR innovation in front of the HRO Today Forum audience.
A panel of HR technology experts, industry analysts, HR practitioners and technology investors. Judges will vote on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the highest) for each of the below categories:
 • Innovation
 • Business Relevance
 • Global Effectiveness
 • Quality of Pitch
The winner receives a number of pretty awesome awards and inducements, including face time with the judging panel, including investors; 1:1 meetings with HR executives and TA leaders at the HRO Today Forum, as well as a feature article in HRO Today Magazine profiling the winning company and its technology.
Previous winners have included companies like Textio (2017) and the Muse (2016); additionally, some of the most interesting and innovative startups in our space, like TextRecruit, Smashfly and HiringSolved, have all competed as finalists on the iTalent stage in the past few years.
With that in mind, here are this year's 2018 HRO Today Forum iTalent finalists in North America. You might not have heard of all of them yet, but if previous competitions are any indication, they'll likely show up in your HR Tech stack soon enough.
Please note these are the companies' words, not mine, and were included in their respective iTalent submissions. I'll be following up with my thoughts - and top takeaways - after the competition on May 2.


About the company:
"The team at I9Everywhere have been working in i9 compliance for more than a decade. We will help you ensure 100% employment eligibility using our full-service Form I-9 management services and our intuitive online i9everywhere app.
The way we hire people has changed. Remote, International, Adjunct, Temporary, Virtual, the hiring game has changed why are we doing the I-9 the same way? Our app makes it easy for ANY new hire to complete the I-9 using their own social or professional network to verify the documents and required data."

NextWave Hire

About the company:
"We’re empowering HR to own their talent brands while not having to rely on marketing’s help, of the whims of Glassdoor reviews.
NextWave Hire is the first recruitment marketing solution designed for the SMB. Our founding DNA comes from the worlds of technology and venture capital. We believe our unique perspective has enabled us to deliver something no other HRTech vendor has.
Here’s the problem – most companies want to start doing “employer branding” but have no idea where to start. Beyond a lack of plan, there is a lack of budget, time, and skills needed to execute.
Our software enables under resourced and over worked HR teams to build amazing career sites that convert applicants at 2-3x the industry average. Our talent communities self-execute so that our customers can drive ROI after they set it and forget it. Plus, we’ve got great analytics to prove the value.
We’ve built a product that allows SMBs to have stronger recruitment marketing disciplines than the Fortune 500, for MUCH less time and money.
For example, Smashfly found that 5% of the Fortune 500 sends content (not jobs) to their talent community members. 100% of our customers send content to their talent communities. Moreover, 100% of our customers send content monthly, and this content is segmented so that engineers get engineering content, sales people get sales content, etc.
While most practitioners struggle to quantify the ROI of their employer branding investments, our customers can directly track the improvements in conversion rates, talent community growth, and applicants through incremental traffic sources. By looking at their cost/hire, we can then translate these metrics into a dollars and cents number that any CFO can appreciate.
As you can tell, we’re fairly analytical. However, what we’re most interested in is that our customers get to share their EVP through the authentic stories they collect through our solution. While most companies struggle with the mechanism (and budget) to capture enough employer branding content to have engaging social media, microsites, etc our customers are flush with in depth stories.
These stories drive >250% greater engagement on the careers sites we power while also allowing employers to start controlling the narrative around their employer brand."


About the company:
"TrustSphere is a market leader in Relationship Analytics. We help organizations leverage their most valuable asset – their collective relationship network. Our solutions enable organizations to unlock the inherent value of this network using intelligence from our proprietary Relationship Analytics platform. The resulting analytics surface insights which help our clients improve key business challenges including sales force effectiveness, enterprise-wide collaboration and employee life cycle optimization. 
TrustSphere is also a pioneer in the fast growing ‘passive’ Organizational Network Analytics space (ONA), the study of how work really occurs within the modern enterprise. TrustSphere creates an ‘organizational MRI’ which enables insights around relationship networks and information flows between staff and also the strength of relationship networks with external organizations.
TrustSphere delivers these insights in real time, at enterprise scale, whilst respecting employee privacy (as content is never analyzed). ONA is used to support digital transformation, workforce engagement, wellness and Diversity & Inclusion initiatives."

Verified First

About the company:
"Headquartered in Meridian, Idaho, Verified First is the premier background and drug screening company in North America. Our robust, customizable screening solutions help thousands of companies validate and verify potential employees.
As a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), we are held to the highest standards for information reporting, and we are 100 percent compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
We take pride in our ability to work with businesses and organizations of all sizes, and our global reach enables us to solve even the toughest background screening challenges quickly and efficiently. In fact, we’re famous for how quickly we deliver our reports. 
We’re constantly training our team in the most up-to-date screening tools and methods so you can be confident that you’re not only getting your data quickly, but it’s the most reliable information available.
Save time, increase efficiency, minimize data entry, and simplify your hiring process with our background screening integration. Our patent-pending integration solution takes just minutes to set up, and is available for any HR cloud-based software." 


About the company:
"Weave is an exciting new tech startup, founded by ex-Amazon AI experts with deep expertise in machine learning and user personalization. With the team’s deep knowledge of artificial intelligence technology and passion for applying artificial intelligence to create new forms of mass media, Weave’s vision is to change how consumers and knowledge workers around the world discover and engage with information. Weave’s ever-growing network of advisors includes startup veterans, serial entrepreneurs and HR executives.
Companies with strong talent brands experience a 50% lower cost-per-hire and 28% lower turnover rate. Weave combines Artificial Intelligence and Visual Storytelling to help employers bring their talent brands to life - to better attract, hire and retain top-tier candidates – while also reducing costs.
Imagine a talent brand storyboard that brings together information on a company’s history, products, teams, people, culture, diversity, opportunities, markets, and much more (a recent interview with the CEO on Bloomberg News, a TED Talk by the CMO, technical videos by the VP of Engineering, company photos on Getty Images, etc.) - all beautifully curated and integrated in one visual space, always up to date using the power of AI, and intelligently personalized for specific target audiences.
The Weave platform does this by automatically mining publicly available corporate and HR information and then curating relevant company videos, industry videos, photos, social media, press coverage, and other company-provided content such as employee testimonials. The result is a highly visual, media-enriched, and beautifully curated information hub called a Weave.
On average, Weaves experience a 55X increase in candidate engagement – and a 50% decrease in costs – relative to traditional career sites and social media destinations. Weave can also transform static, textual job descriptions into rich media hubs. Our customers have seen session engagement times ranging from 40 minutes to over an hour – numbers that exceed Facebook, Instagram and YouTube!
And more engaged candidates are more likely to apply, more likely to be inspired to switch jobs even if already employed, more likely to be retained and more likely to become talent brand ambassadors to generate referrals.
Lastly, Weave provides extremely rich analytics to help employers understand precisely which elements of their talent brand and job descriptions drive candidate engagement. This helps employers provide a much more personalized candidate experience." 
If you are going to be in Washington next week for the HRO Today Forum, please join me at the iTalent Competition on Wednesday, May 2.

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    Written by Craig Fisher
    Craig Fisher was head of marketing and an employer brand subject matter expert at Allegis Global Solutions. He has consulted with companies like CA Technologies, Hootsuite, Yum! Brands, LinkedIn, FOX News and many more on sales, brand and recruitment strategy. Craig created the first Twitter chat for recruiters, and partnered in the first LinkedIn certified training company in North America. He’s been detailed in the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Forbes, Mashable, NBC News, The Huffington Post and NPR. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @fishdogs and on his blog at Craigh moved on from AGS in 2020.