23 Minute Read

Invest Now! Talent Acquisition and Management, the Hidden Insights in Obvious Trends

By Maren Hogan:

Things will never go back to the way they were.

Not. Ever.

You’re standing at the precipice of the most modern HR Technology has EVER been. Certainly, we’re in an age where investment in these technologies has gone through the roof.

Globally, this landscape is valued at $400B and $250B in the US alone. There are more than 12 million employers spending over $5T on payroll, benefits, and other employee programs. (Monterail)

An average large company has increased the ratio of core talent applications from 7 to 9.1 since 2018 and has continued to spend $310 per employee per year.

(HR Technology Market 2019: Disruption Ahead)

65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t even exist yet. Our time is better spent figuring out how to live in this new world rather than lamenting the old one.

Add to that a shaky stock market, a shortage of skilled workers, a shift in the way people want to work, and sometimes the sheer magnitude of what to invest in, how to go about it, and where to focus your energy…well it can seem really daunting. But now is undoubtedly the time to do it.

When I was in labor with my first child, it was VERY fast. As you may be aware, labor hurts…like a lot. And there was no time for pain medication or any birth plan. A terror-filled 19-year-old, I clawed at my mother’s arm, saying over and over again, “Momma, I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”

She looked down at me and said, “Oh honey, you HAVE to. You don’t have any other choice.”

And that’s where we are. We have to make these changes. You can do it now…or later. But you’re going to have to do it or get lapped. Hopefully, what I’m about to share with you will help make that task a little easier.

With #HRTech, we have to make changes. You can do it now...or later. But you’re going to have to do it or get lapped. Here's @MarenHogan's advice on the @RedBranch blog: Click To Tweet


Let’s start where we always start. With the people.

‘People’ are top of mind for organization leaders. 91% of SMB leaders consider HR technology to be critical or beneficial to their business.

What’s up with the people?

The Trend: They’re spreading out. People want to be able to work remotely. In order to do this, you need a communication platform built specifically for this very thing.

The Situation: Lack of communication and collaboration is going to be something leaders need to fix. Employees will work in more decentralized, specialized firms, and employer-employee relationships will become less standardized and more individualized.

Communication is something that is in some ways, out of the hands of Talent Management or typical HR protocols, but we still have to deal with the aftermath or change management. That’s why so many productivity systems and communications platforms are linking up with talent solutions. They saw immediately that as work got more decentralized and people became “online creatures” that communication would be the link that would increase productivity and whoever got it the CLEAREST would win.

The Investment: If you’ve been slacking on Slack or you hate Monday.com (my personal favorite) now is the time to evaluate these solutions. Email is fast becoming a burdensome way to work and being replaced by productivity platforms like Basecamp, Asana, and Trello.

The Trend: Multiple generations and types of workers under one “roof”. Again, we’re seeing less standardized and more individualized as the driver here. Everything from performance to engagement plans will be more personal, focused on an employee or a group of employees.

The Situation: This will extend to benefits, work “style,” and culture fit. For example, benefits may look more like allowing an older person to choose something different than their millennial counterpart.

How do you manage multiple benefits packages and create individual engagement plans? Well with software, of course. And doing it now before your peers puts you in the position to have an employer branding message that’s different and more importantly, that taps into a need they didn’t know they had.

The Investment: If you’re already using a cloud-based employee benefits administration software like Namely or BambooHR, Zenefits or VibeHCM, look into how you can create a benefit buffet for your employees. But before you design it? Take the time to survey what benefits your employees are most interested in.

The Trend: Shortage of skilled workers will create a vacuum where employers start reaching out to underrepresented people groups. Immigration laws, lack of non-traditional education paths, wage stagnation, and a lower birth rate are all contributing to a labor shortage.

The Situation: Well, in short, we’re going to stop being such persnickety fools and start tapping into these groups. We’ve come a long way with diversity and military hiring (or perhaps we just talk about it a lot) but there are some groups that are just now being highlighted by forward-thinking companies who need talent to move into the next stage of growth. Candidates with a criminal record, candidates with a non-traditional educational background, candidates who think differently or are differently-abled.

The Investment: Tools like GapJumpers and Hundred5 are aiming to create blind interviews to prevent bias, but what about expanding the talent pool before that? There are felon specific job hubs or programs like from Jail to Job that help access felons, who are underrepresented in the job market.


Processes are going to have the roughest go of it. It seems like in organizations, by the time you get a process down and everyone is on board, it’s time to change yet again. Very often, it’s those in the talent strata who are charged with making that change happen.

So, let’s get ahead of it! What trends are we seeing and HOW can we change processes or make them scalable today, not tomorrow?

The Trend: The hiring process takes too long. And this holds true for both candidates and employers. And it makes sense right? The average tenure for workers in January of 2018 was 4.3 years for men and 4.0 years for women.

The Situation: Among jobs held by workers with ages from 25 to 34, the median tenure is 2.8 years.

  • From ages 35 to 44, the median jumps to 4.9 years
  • and from 45 to 54, the median tenure at a job was 7.6 years
  • Finally, median tenure rose to 10.1 years for workers aged 55 to 64

With a hiring process that can take as long as six months in some cases, it takes more energy and productivity to switch to a new position or hire a new worker than it feels like it’s worth. Employers and jobseekers can be forgiven for wanting to accelerate the process.

Fortunately, we’re seeing ways to do that. I’m ready for you all to groan when I mention AI, machine learning, automation and yes, chatbots…BUT it’s truly a game-changer that meets the needs this particular trend creates.

Pulling the human element out of the most time-consuming parts of the recruiting and hiring process (not to mention training and some elements of performance management) is not only helpful to your talent acquisition team, it’s actually preferred by candidates and employees.

Most candidates prefer to ask questions about salary, minimum qualifications and scheduling needs with a chatbot. Particularly younger candidates. And while we all know the Millennials are not SO very young anymore, combine them with Gen Z and you’ve got over half the workforce. If they prefer a process that makes screening, scheduling, interviewing, hiring and onboarding go faster, tell me again why we wouldn’t cut that time to hire in half and have a more productive worker more quickly?

The Investment: Companies like Allyo and Mya are betting on high-volume and enterprise sales to push the needle. They offer screening, scheduling, and Mya has coined the term “conversational recruiting.”

The Trend: Raises tend to hover around 3 percent on average, despite a low unemployment rate and widening skills gap. Despite a clear need to increase wages, so far, employers are resistant.

The Situation: I mean, it’s plain as the nose on our faces, we need to increase compensation. But…that’s not always in our power to do. But there are benefits, work flexibility options, office or car allowances, and even simply publishing compensation bands within your job advertisements. While none of these raises mean wages, it does offer more disposable income and/or freedom to the mix.

The solution to this is to invest in your employer brand. But not in the way we have been. Telling a story is important, but more important is who you’re telling the story to. For many years, companies have been putting themselves in the beginning, middle and end of the story. But what prospective employees are really interested in is where THEY fit in and how you meet THEIR needs. Personalized tools like video engagement platforms, streamlined applications that can be completed via SMS, training programs that center around an individual style of learning rather than expecting a purple squirrel to show up are all recommended now.

The Investment: Companies like VideoMyJob and SkillScout are selling solutions that integrate video into the candidate experience and can measure the impact. Nexxt has a wildly successful SMS platform with great records and customized messaging. While we all know Treehouse, Lynda, SkillShare, Demand Metric, and others, companies are increasingly building internal learning programs as their needs are often extremely unique.

The Trend: ZOMG constant feedback! Millennials and Gen Z do not have a ton in common, despite popular workforce myths that lump the two together. But these two generations COMBINED with their slightly less talked about big brother and sister, Gen X and the Boomers, all LOVE feedback. In fact, it’s one of the most requested “perks” from managers.

The Situation: What does that mean for you? Catch as catch can performance management that occurs only annually won’t work anymore. For the aforementioned tenure, issue but also because it’s wildly ineffective. On the other hand, employers and managers hardly have time for weekly feedback with a team of more than 5.

Employers have to put performance conversations into real-time and this boils down to transparency and greater visibility into company values and KPIs than ever before. Immediate feedback and attaching development to company and team values brings the conversation to an “always bubbling” forefront, freeing up massive conversations to merit increases, raises, and serious performance issues including termination. Invest in a real-time 360 feedback platform and train your managers on how to use it.

The Investment: Companies like Inspire Software, Small Improvements, and Culture Amp have built their companies around “feedback in the flow of work”.


The Trend: Overwhelmed with data and analysis from multiple systems. You know the drill. Your payroll platform isn’t spitting out data that correlates easily to your core HR system, which has a totally different format than your attendance software.

The Situation: In an increasingly crowded space, we’re seeing vendors crop up to combine, clean and collate all this disparate data into a single dashboard or report to give execs a high-level view of performance, anomalies, and even move into predictive analytics.

Integrations are the name of the game with many of these vendors, some of whom are approaching the market by appealing to CHROs, while others approach other HRTech vendors to build a value-add onto the system, making systems ultimately more valuable to their end-users.

The Investment: Companies like Predictive HR are promising to clean things up from the angle of the practitioner, while UK powerhouse Activ8 is coming to the US to help vendors add value to their platform.

The Trend: Massive consolidation across the vendor landscape. Buyers trend towards not cobbling together random best-of-breed point solutions, preferring an all-in-one solution that just works. All in one or end to end solutions are easier to integrate (in theory), fewer vendors to deal with overall, easier to get through procurement or finance, and they can budget more easily around a stable all in one pricing structure.

The Situation: Most analysts agree the market is going to contract, and soon. So those buying point solutions should watch for them to get acquired or close up shop entirely. Now is a good time to invest wisely in a proven platform with clear product roadmaps with highly technical sales teams who can actually answer some of the questions around consolidation and which point solutions (think assessments, engagement products, service stacks) they integrate well with. These companies know NOW they’ll have to build or buy to keep up with the chaotic HR Tech startup scene, fueled by massive VC investment.

When researching point solutions, seek out those with big-name integrations, when the time comes to buy, those will be the likely purchasers, and when investing in a point solution that’s relatively new to market, have a back up in mind, lest you build an entire process around a platform that simply won’t be there in a year or two.

The Investment: Before investing in big, end-to-end systems, no matter what they are (even job boards and ATS are getting in the “grow fast or go home” game) get answers around product and acquisitions. Before investing in a niche solution, grill them on their integrations.

The Trend: Need for standardization and lack of standardization. The industry is struggling to keep up with investment and market need and explosive growth has forced vendors to overpromise and underdeliver. We have different definitions for software that has the same capabilities. And while we have ecosystems to try and figure it out like the Talent Tech Labs TA ecosystem, and the CB Insights map of solutions, many experts and research firms have their own definitions of processes and platforms and where each belongs in the overarching landscape.

The Situation: Buy into a research firm. Frankly, there are a lot of things a brilliant TA/TM/HR leader can do on their own, but navigating this particular area of tech and trends is rarely one of them. Either you research forever and never accomplish anything, or you get things done but only with the solutions you know and trust. Today’s HR practice requires much more. Not in the least because it’s seeping out of the sides of HR’s purview.

“However, the biggest shift in HR tech ecosystem is visible in how HR tech apps are used. It’s no longer a tool designed exclusively for HR Managers. Many apps serve as tools used by all parties involved in HR process, i.e. employees, employers, and job candidates. A modern HR tech app should cater to the needs of people in four areas:”

  • Systems of Record
  • Talent Management Systems
  • Systems of Engagement
  • Systems of Productivity

-Joanna Staromiejska, Monterail

Consultants, RPOs, agencies, branding experts, marketing departments, communications functions, all these touch HR on a regular basis. In every area, HR is collaborating with other disciplines to invest in what is now, the only true competitive advantage, people.

The Investment: Depending on your particular area of expertise, there are many great research firms. HROToday, for example, publishes research frequently. CXR, Talent Tech Labs, Lighthouse, and IDC are just a few of the reputable firms out there.

Obviously, these aren’t the only trends impacting the world of work, or even the world of work from our particular perspective, but they are arguably the ones that will dictate how and where you spend your budget in the next 6-18 months.

Many of you know I’m from Omaha, Nebraska. When people learn that fun fact, they say one of a few phrases (and I can generally guess their generation and interest when they do):

“Ahhhhh Cornhuskers fan?”

“I drove through Nebraska once. Flat.”

“I loved Mutual of Omaha as a kid!”

And my favorite “oooooooh” because they got nothin’

But the majority of people say “Ah, hang out with Warren Buffet? The old Oracle of Omaha?’

Well, actually……

No. BUT, he did famously say:

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

And I believe that’s what we need to do now. Even while it seems like the time to invest is tomorrow, when things slow down or later, when there are fewer hurdles to contend with, taking the time to acknowledge these trends, uncover how to contend with them, and create a plan to surmount them is the best choice you can make for your organization today AND tomorrow.