Customer Intimacy Is the Key to Growth for Talent Acquisition Firms (scenes from theHRshow 2009)

For those of you familiar with HRchitect’s Beauty Pageants, you know it’s a refreshing, however brief, objective look at the HR technology companies in our ever-evolving space. HR folk and executive management have the opportunities to hear a brief “virtual” pitch from talent acquisition, talent management, learning management, time & attendance, and many other firms.

Virtual events like this aren’t new, but I tell you that these hip cats at HRchitect (Rick, Matt and Tiffany) have got it going on when it comes to HR systems strategic consulting.

And they’re at it again with this year’s theHRshow 2009. It was supposed to be a face-to-face event, but due to the dismal trade show turnouts this year (SHRM only has about 7K registered so far – that’s down 50% from its peak a few years ago).

Today was the first day of theHRshow and there were many different vertical vendor panels today, similar to the pageants, where vendors where asked a series of questions about their products, the marketplace, etc., and then they had tiny windows to reply.

I attended the Recruiting Vendor Panel today – the best darn talent acquisition software firms in the world that included HRsmart, iCIMS, Kenexa, nowHIRE, Peopleclick and Taleo.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of these firms first hand, and in the spirit of full disclosure, we currently work directly with nowHIRE as their marketing and PR firm. (HRsmart, iCIMS and Peopleclick are all current HRmarketer members as well.)

All the vendors did swimmingly (homage to the swimsuit portion of HRchitect pageants, although CJ Donnelly from nowHIRE was glad he didn’t have to wear it!). There were “David and Goliath” moments between nowHIRE and the rest of the firms, but CJ knows how to use that sling!

The first question for the TA crew was: What should companies do when evaluating a talent acquisition vendor? Here are some of the collective answers:

When the firms were asked how they demonstrate ROI in the current economy, the consensus was providing a quality system that helped companies identify the qualified applicants more efficiently (doing more with less), which of course varies from customer to customer. They also agreed (of course) that the best time to invest in an ATS is now so as to develop efficiencies when they’re not in hiring crunch time.

When asked what the firms were doing to protect their client investments in such a volatile consolidation market – R&D, innovation, innovation, innovation, move to a suite market via sound science and technology. (Loved Peopleclick’s comment “Why consolidate when you can integrate?”) Unfortunately, the consolidation cookie monster will still be chomping away this year and next.

There was lots more Q&A but I’m wrapping things up here. Check out the remaining fantastic agenda for the next two days. Topics include:

By the way, Kenexa said something at the end that really struck me – growing your business is all about having a sustained level of “customer intimacy”.

If you don’t serve and service your customers, customize and configure to their organizational needs, then you’ve just helped to grow the replacement market.

How true is that.

Post by Kevin Grossman (join me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn)

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