Make no mistake, the major players in the recruitment technology world are well aware that they are operating within a competitive, fast moving market. It’s a place where standing still is not an option and where delivering value adding products – make that high and obvious value adding products – is just the starting point. To achieve this, the larger companies play a careful game of supporting and evolving their own solutions whilst also keeping their ear to the ground, sounding out the latest trends which are coming to the industry. Part and parcel of this work is observing the operation and intention of newcomers and assessing whether the new technology is something they need to invest in, either through addressing such functionality in their own solutions, or through buying out the developing company and making it physically part of their own business.
“The recruitment space is alive with technology,” says Peter Linas, executive vice president, corporate development and international at Bullhorn. “Traditional technology providers are always trying to evolve and you only have to look at companies like Herefish and CloudCall to see new companies coming into the space to service the ever-growing demands of recruiters.” As far as his own company is concerned, the creation of Bullhorn Marketplace means small and large businesses can develop a fully-integrated solution which keys into the recruiter's workflow. In turn, the structure allows these businesses to access Bullhorn's user base of over 200,000 global recruiters.
“The software industry is burgeoning,” agrees Rod Smyth, CEO at TempBuddy and chief strategy officer at Erecruit, “but not all products deliver true value. Some simply replicate the way recruiters have behaved previously offline, or through a lack of integration duplicate effort.”
Smyth says it’s important for recruitment companies to understand what problems a new solution is trying to solve – whether that be to do with candidate engagement and retention or more efficient back office processing. This assessment is far more worthwhile than simply being swayed by an attractive looking piece of new kit. “They should look to evidence their return on investment by examining their productivity stats now and seeing where they want to improve,” he adds.
“Biggest isn’t always best,” says Paul Thompson, director of sales and marketing at Voyager, “but there are certainly economies of scale when it comes to recruitment technology firms like us.”
In this market, size doesn’t just mean resources for generating and developing their own product, it means being able to take a look across the market and taking an interest in the new players: “Whilst we have our own internal product roadmaps, we’ve also been public about our appetite for further recruitment tech acquisitions,” says Thompson. “Collaboration with third party suppliers has also been fruitful for our group. Whilst many look to us to offer the total solution, we recognise that sometimes there is already one on the market, so let’s collaborate where possible, or acquire.”
At Erecruit, Smyth says the company has purposefully created a software portfolio to serve the entire needs of the staffing industry. They’ve done this both through creating their own in-house core CRM application and through acquisitions selected for both their innovative technology and their experienced teams. “We recognise that these skilled individuals with best practice competencies across all areas of the business are our greatest asset,” says Smyth.
While this model offers both core and periphery solutions, the company has been clear to keep choice and selection on the recruiter's side. All the products can operate independently, but they’ve also been integrated to provide a more streamlined package if required. For example, the front, middle and back office software for enterprise staffing firms is fully integrated with the automated onboarding tool eStaff365, as well as with TempBuddy – a structure which enhances the mobile candidate experience. Elsewhere, Adapt, the staffing CRM for mid-sized firms, integrates Innovantage’s Insight tool which can be used to amplify lead generation.
Bringing it together
A similar model exists with Bullhorn where the emphasis has been on delivering a great customer experience to clients and enabling them to do the same to their stakeholders. “We have always worked closely with recruiters for ATS and CRM, and we are now building out our offering to encompass time collection and invoicing,” says Linas.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, these providers have a very clear view over where technology sits within the recruitment industry. For Linas, technology is key in supporting recruiters who want to continue to generate value for talent seekers: “Recruiters are very resilient and offer real value to their clients,” he says. “For them, technology can make things more simple but for employers, they can make them more complex – where would they start to build a market-leading recruitment technology stack? Recruiters can buy new technology and understand how to maximise the value of it and continue to deliver value to the market.”
“Technology should ultimately make processes more efficient and reduce the time to execute on tasks, freeing people up for ‘human' activities,” agrees Smyth. “Chatbots will replace some of the more preregistration type dialogue, whilst relationship building and meaningful discussion will be backed up with data about a company’s workforce.”
The presence of large – and increasingly larger – players in the technology space will not necessarily lead to a reduction in technology choice for recruiters. True, the big suppliers may continue to dominate the market, but it is in their interest to preserve a robust and fertile industry where start-ups and smaller businesses can produce and prove the value of new solutions or innovate independently.
Paul Thomspon explains: “Having been in the sector for over 20 years I am confident that there will be many new suppliers today and tomorrow. That said, key to launching any business in the recruitment space is being able to scale. Looking after five customers in your first year is one thing, but looking after, and retaining thousands of recruitment companies as customers requires a solid balance sheet, solid technology and proven ongoing fantastic customer service.”
In other words, anyone can have a fantastic idea and launch a tech start-up, but it is only with the appropriate resources that such initial ideas can catch fire and serve a wider, larger recruitment industry audience.
What is also interesting is that despite their size, the larger companies are also constantly listening to recruiters themselves, determining what they need and factoring that into the path ahead. “We’ve always valued recruiter feedback on our existing software features, but we need to keep one eye on the next five years,” says Thompson at Voyager. “We listen to our clients and prospects and continually hone our offering to be the very best it can be,” confirms Linas.
At the end of the day, the provider’s road match does include machine learning, AI and what Thompson terms as ‘insane levels’ of automation. However these will not be introduced independently of what already exists in the market – nor will they be introduced with scant regard to what recruiters are doing or want to do. The technology industry is a facilitating one and that is where its true value will continue to lie.