The Mad Scramble To Lead The Talent Marketplace Market

With the labor market fully disrupted, companies are heavily pushing toward internal development. And one key to this strategy is the adoption of what we now call the Talent Marketplace.

As I’ve written about in the past, a Talent Marketplace is a unique and special HR platform that lets employees find internal positions, projects, and mentors without having to go through their boss. In other words, it’s a democratized way to manage a company: creating an open, employee-centered place where people can fulfill their aspirations.

I’ve interviewed more than 50 companies using these systems and it’s clear to me that this is one of the most successful innovations in HR. Every company that adopts this kind of solution sees almost immediate positive results, and over time this platform becomes one of the most popular systems in the company. As Jean Pelletier of Schneider Electric puts it, the talent marketplace is “the people’s system.”

Given the enormous market growth, every vendor has now jumped in. The pioneers of this market are Gloat and Fuel50, who each have more than a million users on their platforms and often compete as top-tier vendors for most RFPs. But right behind them are offerings from Workday (which is connected to the Workday Career Hub and has more than 90 customers), Eightfold (connected to its Talent Intelligence platform), Hitch, iCims, Oracle, PeopleFluent, and a new Opportunity Marketplace from SAP. And since this idea is so big, vendors like Degreed, Cornerstone, Phenom, and many others are jumping in.

In my mind, the Talent Marketplace is both a software market and also a “set of features.” In other words, you could build your own talent marketplace (as Allstate and Vertex have done) and it will probably work pretty well. Or you can buy a specialized platform like Gloat or Fuel50 and you’ll get an AI matching engine, skills taxonomy, and analytics out of the box.

How Talent Marketplaces Grow

While this often starts as a career planning or job matching system, early on companies realize it’s a mentoring tool, a way to connect to development programs, a way to promote job-sharing and gig work, and a way for hiring managers to find great staff.  In reality, this type of solution becomes “the system for internal mobility and development,” so companies like Allstate, NetApp, and Schneider see it as an entire system for employee growth.

Other companies, like Unilever, see it as a way to promote flexible work. These companies use the Talent Marketplace to encourage agile, gig-work and help people find projects or developmental assignments. Internal gig work and cross-functional projects are a massive trend (movement toward Agile), within a given function (IT, HR, Customer Service, Finance) it’s incredibly powerful. And since the marketplace democratizes opportunities, companies like Seagate see this as a diversity platform as well.

Consider HR, for example, where I spend most of my time. Every HR department has projects to build new career models, pay models, study employee engagement, or design a hybrid work strategy. These are not “jobs” they’re “projects.” Why not recruit people to work on these teams through the marketplace? Managers don’t always know who is interested or qualified to help, so let the system help you decide.

As these systems grow, companies find a myriad of other issues to address. How do you incent managers to let their people move to other roles? How will you pay people when they do gig work? What if someone moves into a higher paid role yet they are currently at a lower level? How will performance management work if people have multiple managers? Who will be the “career manager” vs. the “project manager” for each individual?

Ideas like building Circles and Guilds (the Spotify Agile Model) are going to come into your mind. Maybe we let people move around from project to project but they have a “career advisor” in their functional area to help them progress. Are you ready to decompose “management of projects” from “management of people?” This is where the world is going.

The Vendor Landscape Is Still Expanding

While vendors like Gloat and Fuel 50 are clearly in the lead, many others have jumped in. In fact, almost every HCM vendor, ATS vendor, and LXP vendor is adding these features. But rather than try to compare them all, let me talk about what the leaders are doing.

Gloat, which now has more than 30 global enterprises in production, just introduced an Organization Agility offering to its platform. The company is opening up its skills taxonomy so you can use the Gloat engine for your global skills database. While this feature set is new, Gloat’s vision is to replace the Workday Skills Cloud or Eightfold Talent Intelligence Engine as your source of organizational skills.

To support this the company features Skills Insights, Organizational Agility Analysis, and tools to match external candidates to internal candidates for better sourcing. The company is also moving into the learning space, by introducing Job Swaps, Job Shadowing, Peer Group Learning, Volunteering, and Coaching (through partners). Gloat has also released features for deskless workers, an important group often left out of career mobility solutions.

Fuel 50, not to be outdone, has more than doubled its customer base with more than 80 enterprise customers and continues to grow its career architecture tools. Fuel50’s Talent Ontology is used by companies like J&J and the company is just introducing a coaching network (more to come), and more learning content. While both these vendors partner with third-party LXP vendors, Fuel50’s customers often use the platform for learning experiences directly with Learning Gigs, Coach and Mentor Marketplace, and embedded learning content.

Other vendors of note are SuccessFactors (Opportunity Marketplace), Workday (integrated with Career Hub), Hitch, Eightfold, iCims, Avature, Phenom, and Peoplefluent. Cornerstone XPLOR, the company’s new agile learning platform, is planning to release a talent marketplace in the Spring of next year. If I add up all the deals I’ve seen so far, I’d say this is more than a $300 Million licensed software market today, likely to triple in the year ahead.

The Leaders Are Still Way Ahead

While it seems like there are many offerings, the two leaders (Gloat and Fuel50) are still well ahead. This feels like an easy market to get into, but it’s actually harder than it seems. Why? Let me give you a sense of what’s really under the covers.

  • The Talent Marketplace system uses a skills taxonomy, which means it has to infer, analyze, and understand the skills of each employee. This means it has to have the sophistication of an LXP or HRMS just to operate well.
  • The Talent Marketplace system has to have a compelling, approachable user interface for employees, managers, HR professionals and recruiters. It’s not just a “job searching system” – it’s a career exploration system, a system to manage gig work, and a system for recruiters to find internal candidates.
  • The Talent Marketplace system needs advanced analytics. As soon as you turn it on you want to know what mobility is taking place, which roles are in high demand, and how are people “Trending” in their personal reputation and growth.
  • The Talent Marketplace system needs learning. These systems connect to your myriad of training and career development tools, and one could argue that they may eventually subsume or integrate with the LXP.  (Degreed, for example, has pulled back from its talent marketplace offering, simply because it’s too complex.)
  • The Talent Marketplace system will become a system of design. Just as Gloat has introduced its Org Agility module, vendors like Eightfold and Fuel50 include tools to analyze your job architecture, identify organizational changes, and help hiring managers design the role they need to build a strong team or project.
  • The Talent Marketplace system will inform, connect with, and assist in pay and performance management. As you’ll read about in my new book coming next year, your future approach to performance and pay will be based on skills, experiences, reputation, and internal exposure. At the end of each “gig” or “project” the talent marketplace system may even assess your performance.

And there’s a lot more yet to come. As I talk with companies about their future skills initiatives, they also want to import data from external skills taxonomies, job architectures, and assessments into the system. One client I just talked with uses Korn Ferry assessments for all their leadership assessment and growth. As soon as they put in place their talent marketplace, it had to connect to these assessments.

This Will Be A Massive Market

While I can’t predict where this will go, I’ve now come to the conclusion that the Talent Marketplace market, and all its “Talent Intelligence” functionality, is becoming a new center for HR Tech. As these systems grow in maturity and purpose, companies are going to use them for more every day. I want to thank pioneers like Gloat and Fuel50 for really pushing this agenda into the market, and with the highly competitive labor market next year, I think we’ll see nothing but accelerating growth.

Additional Resources

In early 2022 we are going to be launching a major new program on Organization Design and Change Agility. We will also be publishing a series of video interviews with talent marketplace pioneers. Join our membership program or contact us to get all the details.

The Future of Work: Lessons In Job Architecture and Career Management

Talent Marketplace Platforms Explode Into View