Update on SuccessFactors, Achievers, and Glassdoor

This week I attended three client conferences – SuccessFactors Successconnect, the Achievers Customer Experience, and the Glassdoor Employment Brand Summit. All three of these companies are introducing amazingly powerful new offerings, so in this article I’ll highlight some of them – with full knowledge that a barrage of announcements will becoming at the HR Technology Conference.

SuccessFactors (SAP)

sfsfSuccessFactors is a company with tremendous momentum. After meeting with many of the execs and product managers, I walked away highly impressed with SAP’s ability to integrate and grow this business. Remember that only a few years ago SuccessFactors was the darling of the talent management industry and their acquisition by SAP was viewed as a major shock (and risk). Well what has happened may be a good case study for The Harvard Business School some day – not only has SuccessFactors thrived, but most of the product leaders have stayed and the company has now significantly changed SAP.

This week the company launched significant upgrades to its learning offering (formerly Plateau), adding features which bring it into the lead in most areas of functionality. These include a Big Data learning recommendation engine, a new form of easy-to-build programs (think “build your own MOOC”), integrations with the major MOOC providers (Coursera, Lynda, Udacity, and OpenHPI) to make the use of MOOC content easier, and a new feature called Quickguides, which are an easy to build performance support tool.  As readers know, we believe the LMS market is on fire (21% growth this year) and this gives SAP/SuccessFactors a tremendous competitive advantage.

downloadThe company showed off its new mobile application – which to me was quite compelling. SuccessFactors claims that 80% of all talent management transactions now occur on mobile devices! (Think about looking up an employee, updating goals or time sheets, doing expense reports, etc.) The new mobile application uses flat design (the new Apple and Google design paradigm), it supports color blind and low sight users, and is very easy to use. It is an example of a totally redesigned “app-centric” approach to talent management – not a simple port of the web application to the phone. A very compelling new offering.

The company has also significantly enhanced its mobile collaboration system, now called SAP JAM.  JAM is a combination of technology from Jambok, Cubetree, and other acquisitions which creates a business-driven collaboration, video sharing, and now worklow management system for businesses. Think about a combination of YouTube, Yammer, Jive, and workflow management – all integrated and mobile – with the ability to connect to all the SuccessFactors products and other corporate applications. This was originally built as a social learning tool, but now it has moved into the world of enterprise collaboration and collaborative business management. Very impressive product.

SuccessFactors also announced a significant new research program called Workforce 2020 done with Oxford Economics. Similar in many ways to the Deloitte Human Capital Trends research, the findings show a tremendous gap in leadership capabilities, a significant need to reskill the workforce, and once again highlight HR’s inability to engage with business leaders (this is a meme in most research today). The problem is not that HR people aren’t trying, they just don’t have the data or business context to engage with strategic business planning (I have a lot to say on that topic! – read “Why Does HR Get So Much Grief” for more).

wf2020Three findings I found quite interesting. First, the study found that 83% of the 2700 business executives surveyed are increasing their use of contingent, contract, or part-time labor. This implies a continued shift toward the “freelance economy.” We discussed this a lot at dinner, and my gut is that most businesses are simply not ready to rehire after the recession so they are slowly building up their teams with more part time and contract people first.

You could argue that Reid Hoffman’s talent alliance model has taken hold and the workforce itself is permanently moving toward a contingent model.  I dont believe this myself, I think most people still want full time jobs and a great place to work – but there is clearly a trend here. SuccessFactors is particularly interested in this because they just acquired Fieldglass, a leading software provider in contingent labor management.

The second finding I found interesting is research that indicates that Millennials have almost the identical desires in the workforce as Boomers. Their data shows that both groups are highly motivated by compensation, meaning, and flexibility – to almost the same degree. They call this the “Millennial Misunderstanding.” While the data seems to indicate this to be true (let’s face it, we all want similar things from work in general), I think it very much underplays the challenges companies have in engaging, developing, and leading Millennials.

So I remain convinced that most companies are not yet ready to manage the rapid flow of Millennials into leadership positions and that Millennials are radically changing the business landscape.  (Read “Millennials Will Soon Lead the World, but How Will They Lead?” for our research on this topic.)

The third I want to mention is the finding that most employees are desperately afraid of being “obsoleted” at work. More than 2/3 of the respondents believe their skills will become obsolete within 3 years. This is quite astounding and rings true – economists (Erik Brynjolfsson and others) often cite the rapid obsolescence of skills as one of the biggest drivers of income inequality. The message is clear: if you aren’t reskilling yourself you’re falling behind. And to SuccessFactors this means you need to buy great corporate learning software to make this all possible.

I had the opportunity to lead a Chief Learning Officer panel including Jenny Dearborn (SAP), Michael Wellington (HCL), and Jennifer Anglehart (B/E Aerospace). There were many amazing discoveries, including a general agreement that learning culture is by far the biggest issue HR and business leaders face. I was amazed to find out that among the 200 or so people in the room, fewer than 15% had what they would call a “well designed first line leadership development program.” Lots of work ahead in leadership. (Read our High-Impact Learning Culture research for more on this important topic.)

Achievers ACE Conference: Growing and Expanding the Recognition Platform Market

aceFor those of you who don’t know the company, Achievers is a fast-growing provider of social recognition and employee engagement software (competing with Globoforce, OC Tanner, and many smaller companies). The company was originally conceived as “I Love Rewards” and we did extensive research with them several years ago. Our research showed that companies who use tools like Achievers can drive astounding changes in employee engagement – our research found a 31% reduction in involuntary turnover in companies that build a “high-recognition culture” – and tools like Achievers greatly facilitate this type of culture.

This week Achievers announced its new mobile application, an totally updated user interface, an expanded relationship with Visa (branded cards which can be filled from recognition points), and an open API to let the company integrate its recognition platform into new applications. Imagine recognition points flowing when a sales rep closes a deal through Salesforce, for example.

The company continues to grow rapidly and I see this space as an emerging category in talent management. Some may call it the “social recognition” category but I think its actually broader: it’s a new breed of employee engagement tools which provide feedback, recognition, and other employee-centric communications. Achievers calls it “Employee Success Software” – which is still a little undefined.  But the message is clear – this is a toolset which has a dramatic impact on employee engagement and people love using it. I’ll be writing a lot more on this category in the coming months.

Glassdoor Employment Brand Summit

gdThe final event, and maybe the most fun of all, was Glassdoor’s inaugural Emplloyment Brand Summit.  This was the “twitteratti” (like Glitteratti) of recruiting.  Lars Schmidt, Stacy Donovan Zapar, Jen Powell (Deloitte), Bryan Chaney (IBM), Will Staney (Glassdoor), Jennifer Tharp (AT&T) , Shannon Smedstad (CEB), Arie Ball (Sodexo), Anthony Scarpino (Sodexo) and I all presented a series of hard hitting presentations on employment brand.  There were 50,000 online viewers (apparently), so the twitter feed was going gangbusters.

I wont repeat the event (you can view it online) but I will mention a few important facts. First, Glassdoor is growing like crazy. The company now has more than 2,000 paying corporate clients and AT&T showed data which indicates that their Glassdoor career page gets more views than their company website. Second, Glassdoor has become the defacto location for interview information, company ratings, CEO ratings, compensation data, and targeted jobs. As Robert Hohman, the CEO described, the company’s mission is to help people “Find A Job They Love.” This noble and important mission enables the company to provide validated, real-world feedback on employers which attracts job seekers like a magnet.

Glassdoor shared some amazing data (51% of job seekers have buyers remorse and 83% of them leave their employers in the first year). I analyzed much of Glassdoor’s database and unleashed information that only 54% of all Glassdoor reviewers would recommend their employers to others. So the world really needs tools like Glassdoor.

By the way, I also released some new research that shows the most highly correlated factor which drives employment recommendation is “trust and confidence in leadership.” So those of you who have avoided leadership development spending, ramp it up!

Glassdoor is playing an increasingly important role in our lives – lives as employers, employees, and HR. The message from this summit was quite profound: only by focusing on your culture and employee experience can you build a sustainable employment brand, and then you can use storytelling, personas, content management, and strong marketing tools to attract the best candidates. I wont repeat the presentations, but if you’re an HR leader or talent acquisition executive I recommend you view them.

Bottom Line:  HR Technology is More Important than Ever

Stay tuned for more from us on HR technology in general. I’m presenting a future view of talent management at the HR Technology Conference in Vegas and we are preparing a significant report on major disruptions in the HR technology marketplace. These three companies are great examples of well run organizations which are dramatically changing the way we manage people.


3 Responses

  1. Mark Berry says:

    Josh, I’ve not seen the Success Factors you’ve seen. We’re using it – full suite – with exception to analytics and workforce planning (which we licensed, but didn’t implement), primarily because they are – essentially – the assets they acquired from Inform five years ago and lack much of the basic functionality considered “table stakes” for consideration in the marketplace. I sat through an overview of their analytics and planning “roadmap” a few months ago and – as I told the presenter at the time – if they are successful with their two year strategy, at that point they’ll be where Visier, OrcaEyes, and Aquire/PeopleFluent are today. It’s hard to believe their claim that 80% of all talent management transactions now occur on mobile devices; I just don’t see this in real-world experience (unless I’m trying to sell mobile, in which case I see it everywhere). I look forward to hearing you at HR Tech next month.

    • Josh Bersin says:

      Thanks Mark, I understand the workforce analytics system is quite complex but amazingly the company is growing its business rapidly. Visier, OrcaEyes, and Acquire are all great tools also. Lets talk offline about your experiences I’d love to learn more.

  2. Fawad Zakariya says:

    Great summary Josh and some very interesting metrics and conclusions on culture and the future of employment from the Glassdoor event.

    I agree with Mark Berry on mobile. I was incredulous with the 80% transactions claim. I believe mobile will eventually be a transformational platform in the enterprise (in both employee and other functional apps) but it is very early. Very few products are actively being used (and that too by a tiny minority) in real business contexts. These are primarily messaging, some collaboration and survey-type analytics. Early progress also on goal-based and project/task management types but a long way to go.