4 Keys to The Future of Human Resources Technologies & #HRTech

HR technology is a niche industry overshadowed by the likes of LinkedIn and Workday. With the recent $50 million Series C funding of Glassdoor, the industry is posed for the $8.1 Billion spend of human resources and business leaders by 2015. Hot on the heels of Glassdoor’s $50 million Series C funding announcement, it’s safe to say that the human capital industry which finds its roots in compliance and regulations, is one of the hottest areas of opportunity for technology.

Later today I’m hosting an exclusive HR and Recruiting event for the first time in San Francisco called Disrupt HR. And before our cocktail hour and analyst panel later this evening, I wanted to cue up the conversation related to the future of human resources technology starting with Glassdoor’s announcement on Friday. (click here to see my list of fundings, mergers, and acquisitions in HR technology)

Do Investment Firms Really Understand HR Technology?

Most investment firms I’ve started speaking with since relocating to the San Francisco Bay area don’t really understand the intricacies of the HR industry let alone the history of human resources technologies. They believe we, as HR ladies and gents, are limited to just hiring, firing and sourcing. They are absolutely and unbelievably wrong. Unless you actually work in an HR, recruiting or learning development role, most don’t have an understanding of the complexities. I’m not saying not listen to those investment firms. They are looking to invest money in an HR technology. It might be your HR technology. I’m saying that they don’t generally have a grasp or understanding of the industry as someone who won’t invest in your company unless it’s built to scale to $1 billion in earnings. When I’m talking with them they mostly want to argue with me and talk about their financial targets and portfolio company milestones developed from a perspective that has nothing to do with the end user or warm fuzzy feelings. I realize they are very much different than me. They just flat out invest only to make money. There’s no personal feelings or skin in the game. That’s not a bad thing, but these firms are not poised to positively impact your career in HR or an industry.

These HR technology investment firms are no different than the land developer father of Emily, the main character in one of my favorite movies, Step Up Revolution. It’s a cheesy movie but HR ladies you know the story. Emily dreams of becoming a professional dancer <HR lady> doing something she loves fulfilling her life long dream. She falls in love with a guy from the wrong side of the tracks, also a dancer <HR technology startup> who lives in an eclectic Miami community. Turns out her father <investment firm> is purchasing land right out from under the community where dancer boy lives to develop a new urban development for travelers and families visiting the city. This development will bring $50 million or even billions of dollars to the city of Miami. Rebellious Emily begins dancing with the boy’s dance crew who is gaining momentum as the voice of contention of those being forced to relocate for progresses sake in Miami.The father and his investors doesn’t see the cultural nuances and beautiful people of the area that he is working to develop destroying everything.

The story line for Step Up Revolution is EXACTLY like HR. Well, maybe I’m a little overdramatic, but it’s not that far off. This is the reason that most don’t understand what it’s like in HR. Mostly, because 95% of investment firms have never watched Step Up let alone the sequel. This weekend movie special on Oxygen is exactly the core audience of HR and demonstrates “they” don’t take the time to get to know the locals, understand their lives and their passions instead of solely focusing on the money making opportunity in HR.

The Future of Human Resource Technologies

After Glassdoor’s Series C funding announcement, I had a journalist call and ask me if there was any more room in the industry and how I thought that Glassdoor’s funding might change things. I believe that Glassdoor has an opportunity to unseat LinkedIn from the throne as one of the most successful HR technologies in our industry. Personally, I’m a fan of giving LinkedIn a little competition fueling innovation, creativity and passion for HR. Tools like Glassdoor and other crowdsourced resources and human resources technologies, provide insights, information and resources in a way that LinkedIn does not. It puts the power of information and insights into the hands of the community and no, I’m not talking about the skills listing on LinkedIn. It’s employment branding crowdsourced for every single prospective job seeker and employee.

Chief Bacon Influencer

And for the record, I think that the Skills listing on LinkedIn are lame so just to prove my point I ask that you endorsement for a skill in “Bacon” on my LinkedIn profile which I was able to add ridiculously easy and ask for endorsements. This is where Glassdoor and technologies like them have the upper hand.

I write on Glassdoor’s blog which they pay me to do as a contributor to their blog. Frankly, I write and publish my blog many places including here, here and here. I’m a fan of crowdsourced and brand ambassador technologies. This is the future of hiring, engaging and retaining employees. It starts with peer relationships to reach your intended core audience whomever that might be.

  • Peer Recommendations Are Key. Whether it’s HR practitioners who are looking for peer recommendations of HR technologies to buy, social learning programs directly from peers or social referral programs, peer recognition and the associated relationship is key. I’m all in on this especially since this blog is built on peer relations and engagement for everything. 
  • Custom Experiences for Job Seekers, Employees & HR. It’s no longer just about the candidate experience. It’s about employment branding to reach those targeted job seekers and active employees, but should especially be about the HR and recruiting experience and interface. The backend of technology should be pretty, useful and helpful for the people who will be using it. This means HR. Having a great job seeker interface only helps one group of people and certainly not me. No more 45 minutes to pull one single report from the ATS or 17 mouse clicks to follow the bread crumbs in my HRIS. I would rather go to the dentist and have a double root canal than deal with the back end systems of many HR technologies today.
  • Research is Everything. Research from narrowing your target candidate audience when it comes to recruitment marketing. Your messaging should be custom, specific and targeted making sure that it resonates with a very unique group in that resonates and helps develop a brand or organizational relationship in a special way. This means doing research up front like focus groups, candidate surveys prior to using customized messaging and engagement tools to speak to your audience of employees, candidates or customers.
  • Technology Allows for Better Learning, Communicating, Teaching, Hiring. While I’m a fan of compliance and applicant tracking systems, most ATS softwares do essentially the same thing when you get down to the bare bones of the technology they are selling. I’m not saying we are beyond compliance but compliance in the now is key. Quit selling me your bare bones ATS. I want customized features like messaging, reporting, resources and integrations that make it easier not harder to do my job allowing me to be better at learning, communicating, teaching and hiring. I just want to be better in everything making it easier to make my case for the strategic nature of HR.
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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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