I have been reflecting on a conversation I had this week with a good friend who happens to be the Head of Talent Acquisition for a global bio-science business. We were discussing TQSolutions’ current hypothesis that to support ‘business resilience’, investment in HR technology is likely to increase post-crisis. In particular, technology that supports internal skills visibility and workforce mobility.
We had an interesting discussion about the increasing choice of products in the market, the recent vendor pitches we have both been involved in and how difficult it was knowing which product was right for his company.
What followed was a lively debate on the critical influences over vendor selection and it appears some of the most important actually relate to non-traditional selection criteria, such as organisational culture and mindset towards talent.
Following this discussion, I reflected on the various HR Tech selection processes I have been involved in with our enterprise clients. It brought back memories of detailed functional and non-functional user requirements and statements about processes and experiences the technology needs to demonstrate it can support.
Inevitably, this granular focus on functional user requirements results in vendor pitches being focused on ‘bells and whistles’ with presenters furiously tapping away at the keyboard to make sure all of the user requirements have been ‘ticked off’.
Which leads me to ask…Why we are not collectively spending more time exploring the existing (or desired) cultural norms and ways of working to better understand which product(s) are relevant for our business?
With all this in mind, I explored a few vendor websites. I believe they have an opportunity to really support the pivot here – could they focus less on ‘features and benefits’ and more on how their technology will support or align to particular cultures, talent mindsets or organisational ways of working?
Clearly, my intention is not to point the finger here, as I said before, this requires a collective effort. But as an illustration of the current scenario, here are some propositions from the websites of market leaders in the internal skills visibility and mobility segment:
Vendor #1 “AI-powered internal talent marketplace democratises career development, unlocks skills, and helps enterprises build a future-proof workforce.”
Vendor #2 – “Powerful AI gives employees smart-matches to internal career opportunities, redeployment opportunities and gig assignments based on their skills and talents, whilst giving HR powerful workforce data to make strategic business decisions.”
Vendor #3 – “The leader in workforce optimisation. Intelligently Connecting People, Skills And Work.”
Vendor #4 – “….uses big data, deep learning and audited Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help customers find, recruit and move talent..”
Vendor #5 – “…software provides your hiring teams with a powerful, one-stop candidate sourcing and applicant tracking solution to simplify the entire recruitment process and make quality hires.”
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits & features in evidence (The How) with some language that hints at culture or organisational transformation. I realise this is likely to be driven by how prospective customers search for HR Tech online (limited by a user requirements focus), but it’s fascinating that more vendors don’t lead with their alignment to a prospect’s existing or desired organisational culture and talent mindset (The Why).
I think this insight and frame of reference is helpful for people involved in HR Tech selection and should be more widely used when developing vendor shortlists.
For example, if you:
- have a more traditional hierarchical organisation, or
- immature talent leaders used to operating in their silos and who ‘own’ their talent, or
- have teams responsible for ‘Resource Management’ under strict policies and protocols
then it’s highly likely that HR Tech focusing on empowerment or democratisation of the workplace is not right for you (unless you are seeking major organisational cultural change!).
Conversely, if you:
- are an agile, progressive organisation, with
- empowered employees who own their own careers, and
- whose leaders have very mature and progressive mindsets toward talent mobility
then you should naturally align and lean towards particular vendors and discount others.
I also think it would help HR Tech vendors in the sales process if they chose to lead with ‘Why’ rather than ‘How’. This would help organisations self-select in/out more quickly, reducing the cost of sales for vendors, as well as narrowing the likely competitor field.
Buying organisations also have a role to play. They should focus less on ‘user requirements’ that perpetuate the products and features competition and dial up considerations that drive alignment to current or desired organisational culture and talent mindset.
So, when selecting HR Tech, we are suggesting you should:
- Develop your overarching talent strategy and objectives
- Develop your service and operating models based on user experience goals and your desired balance between human and digital service delivery
- Conduct critical assessment of your current and desired organisational culture, ways of working and talent mindset (in order to help inform what type of technology solution is likely to be right for you).
- Then, and only then, commence your vendor market scan activity
It is critical that corporate buyers do not get sucked in by ‘bells and whistles’ because whilst they may be impressive as a product or feature in their own right, they may fail in the buyer’s organisation due to cultural resistance or user rejection. Just think of all the failed HR Tech implementations and transformations we have heard about.
It is much better to spend the time up front and ensure you are talking to the right vendor and are considering the right products. Otherwise your overall change strategy may end in failure.
I would urge vendors to consider this insight and spend more time in organisational culture and mindset discovery to better evaluate the prospect. It will be helpful for vendors to save the products and features cat-walk until it is clear the product is relevant and will align to the organisation’s strategic objectives.
I look forward to the constructive discussion this will hopefully bring to the table!
TQSolutions (TQ) is regarded as Australia’s leading Advisory and Solutions firm for Talent Acquisition, Recruitment and Careers related projects – this is the world of organisational Joiners, Movers and Leavers. We do this through:
Partnering with organisations about to embark upon significant change or transformation programmes. Our advisory services cover areas such as independent technology, capability and operating model reviews, deep market intelligence, employer brand and candidate experience.
Our scalable, on-demand model delivers exceptional results for our clients. With a national team of experts, all with at least 15 years’ experience, we deploy brilliant people on an ongoing basis or to support key projects and spikes in activity.
We curate insights, provide thought leadership, community and training – all geared to help you cut through the noise with the informed perspective you need to make smart decisions.