At the Executive Forum Expo and at the Tech Day kiosks and sessions this March, there was a considerable amount of innovation in evidence. Whether from the established solution providers or from new-comers to the space, we are seeing considerable “technology solution innovation” at this time. One thing that seems clear is that the “talent supply chain” is being jolted and reshaped by a big wave of new technologies and applications, one that will necessitate that staffing firms consider a range of different solution providers comprising an expanding TAT ecosystem.
The purpose of this blog post is not to try to catalogue the many innovations one could find among all the providers present at Executive Form/Tech Day (this would run into much more than a single blog post, and that expanded scope will no doubt get covered in subsequent research reports over the course of the year). In this post, I want to focus on a few “new-comers” who brought some interesting, innovative solutions to our attention. I am not endorsing any of these offerings here, simply providing a summary of a few examples to illustrate the kind of technology solution innovation that is occurring in the industry.
As I noted in my recent Insight Report, Talent Acquisition Technology (TAT) – What Is It and Where It’s Going, I observed:
Unlike years ago, when enterprise ATS and Job Boards dominated the recruiting technology picture, now there is a mix of open-architected (even cloud-based) TAT platforms, new applications to connect with, from social networks and video interviewing to skills profiling. In some cases, one can see established ATS and Job Board players extending and innovating their platforms, but mainly the innovation and development of the ecosystem capabilities and services is coming from new players.
This dynamic tends to occur in most technology industry segments (the bulk of innovation activity comes from small start-ups), but it doesn’t mean that established players stop innovating. Moreover, there can be advantages to the incremental innovation of established platforms, just as there can be risks and other exposures associated with jumping on a whole new technology and solution approach (so balance the excitement of frothy innovation with caveat emptor).
However, once again, my purpose in this blog is not to recommend for or against anything, rather only to point-out a few very interesting cases in TAT innovation.
I am isolating these new-comer (TAT) solution providers here, based on their newness, their innovativeness, and their conveniently representing examples of three (staffing firm centric) solution categories I have defined across the tumultuous “talent supply chain”/emerging talent acquisition ecosystem:
- Candidate-facing attraction and engagement solutions >TalentReef
- Staffing firm enterprise platform/integration backbone solutions >TargetRecruit
- Buyer/Employer-facing candidate placement solutions >StaffingBook
My intent here is to give an idea on what these solutions do and how they represent technology solution innovation related to the staffing industry. The rest, at this point, is in your court.
TalentReef (Candidate-facing attraction and engagement solutions)
TalentReef, came into being about 2 years ago, with a mission “to enable companies [and recruiters] to compete more effectively for top talent by using social media and video to promote their employment brand and deliver an exceptional candidate experience.” Talent Reef provides what it calls a “Social Recruiting Platform” that provides firms and recruiters with a unified set of tools to establish, automate, and execute uniquely branded, tracked and analyzed “employment marketing” and “job/hiring campaigns” across extensive web and social media channels as well as establish specifically defined, branded talent communities.
Rather than simply posting textual job descriptions, TalentReef supports the creation of--what I would call--multimedia (e.g. video), interactive “soft objects” that can be exposed across many channels on the web and optimized for search engines (SEO), thus providing--what I would call--“candidate attraction points” that are pervasive, targeted, and uniquely engaging.
According to TalentReef, its solution was designed to be empowering of recruiters (with a relatively simple-to-deploy platform of capabilities that will quickly allow (a) recruiters to engage in social recruiting and (b) companies to launch employment branding marketing campaigns to attract and engage candidates). TalentReef supports some range of “candidate relationship management” capabilities and also integrates with more developed CRM (“candidate relationship management”) and ATS (“applicant tracking system”) solutions.
TalentReef distinguishes itself, in my mind, as a solution provider with a laser focus on enabling next-generation employment branding and market campaigns; it provides a unique, innovative way to allow recruiters and firms to reach out broadly into the cloud and engage talent/candidates with a Web 2.0 candidate experience.
TargetRecruit (Staffing firm enterprise platform/integration backbone)
TargetRecruit emerged in 2010 as a kind of next generation ATS offering (marketed and sold within the Salesforce.com AppExchange) and now seems to be developing as a broader “connective platform” for staffing firm enterprises. A part of what makes TargetRecruit unique and innovative is its being rooted in the Salesforce.com platform/ecosystem (including leveraging Saleforce.com CRM functionality and being developed and hosted on the Force.com cloud platform). Out of this too comes a flexible and open architecture which makes the solution accessible through all browsers (or offline) and enables easy connection/integration with other AppExchange apps and services.
According to TargetRecruit, its platform :
…delivers an entire ecosystem of Salesforce partners and cloud based solutions so that staffing firms can choose from hundreds of business applications that integrate easily with the system. For example, e-signature and mail merge applications are commonly used with TargetRecruit to expedite the submission and delivery of client contracts and candidate resume applications.
As noted above, TargetRecruit is now promoting its solution not just as ATS, but as a more extensive “connective platform” for staffing firm enterprises, saying:
Referred to as Total Recruitment Technology (TNT), [any size] staffing organization can implement only one platform to manage the entire end to end business processes for Sales & Marketing, Recruiting, Timesheets and Billing, etc. The platform can further be extended beyond an ATS to develop additional functionalities to further integrate and streamline business needs. For example, if a staffing company wants to integrate with background checking, assessment systems, or credentials system, etc. .
Certainly, there are many other, well-know, industry-proven, and highly functional technology enterprise solutions for staffing firms. But what makes TargetRecruit unique and innovative, in my mind, is its pioneering position in cloud technology and is rootedness in Salesforce.com and its expanding application ecosystem (and all that comes along with that).
StaffingBook (Buyer/Employer-facing candidate placement solutions)
Staffingbook, launched late 2011, bills itself as “The market place for connecting employers and staffing firms.” Staffingbook provides a platform by which Staffing Firms/Recruiters, Buyers/Employers, and Active/Passive Candidates can form and maintain relationships, exchange information in selective ways, and actually complete the eventual placement transactions. Staffingbook also refers to itself as a “Candidate Inquiry/Transaction platform,” one that is staffing firm/recruiter-centric. Not an ATS, but possibly in some ways a substitute for one, Staffingbook says its platform provides these workflow functions, among others:
- Privacy-Protected Profiles - all candidate profiles conceal identifying information until agreement is reached on fee/bill rate.
- Candidate Forward Tool - staffing firms forwards links to candidate profile (s) and invite clients to "take a look".
- Employer Broadcast Tool - selected staffing firms submit best candidate.
- Negotiation Platform - clients and staffing firms negotiate fee/bill rate and can accept or counter terms.
- Document Final Agreement- use Staffingbook's standard placement agreement or upload your own automatically capturing agreed fee/bill rates and name of candidate.
One of the things I found innovative about Staffingbook was how it provided a whole different way of managing candidate search and placement, by creating an electronic marketplace, spanning Staffing Firms/Recruiters, Buyers/Employers, and Active/Passive Candidates, while maintaining and supporting the value-added role of staffing intermediaries. Unlike the command-and-control structure of VMS, Staffingbook creates an “open marketplace” for all parties.
So What's the Point?
In Talent Acquisition Technology (TAT) – What Is It and Where It’s Going, I presented a perspective on the emerging world of Talent Acquisition Technology, which I believe staffing firms are facing today :
- A new paradigm of Talent Acquisition (TA) is emerging and co-evolving with a rapidly developing Talent Acquisition Technology (TAT) ecosystem
- ATS has been transforming into an electronic hub that integrate a firm’s own broad TAT platforms/ecosystems
- TAT platforms/ecosystems are giving rise to solution innovations and the convergence and integration of a range of capabilities/”services,” quite possibly leading eventually to the emergence of public and private TAT Clouds.
Whether any staffing firms will be forming their own, business-specific TAT clouds through a process of “open innovation” remains to be seen. But one thing is clear from the illustrations above: there is unprecedented TAT “solution innovation” occurring--and not just a few major, large-scale developments here and there (such as the advent of ATS, Job Boards, or even Social Networks). A convergence of technologies is spawning a broad range of significantly different, new solutions that will challenge staffing firms to evaluate (a) which will be usefully applicable in their businesses and (2) what business processes/models will need to change to achieve higher levels of performance and competitiveness as intermediaries of talent supply and demand.