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It’s Time to Stand Up

By Peter Weddle, CEO TAtech

In-person conferences for the HR community are scheduled to restart this fall, and there’s one thing talent technology providers can be sure of: more often than not, they’re going to be treated as second class citizens in the exhibit halls of those conferences. They’ll be sprinkled in a nonsensical, hit-or-miss pattern among the mega booths of HR tech vendors, sending the clear if subliminal message that they don’t matter very much. It’s a characterization that’s false, of course, but more than that, it’s a threat to both individual talent technology companies and to their industry.

This biased conference treatment has its roots in a view that’s still held by too many in the HR field. Back in the good old days when talent was in plentiful supply, they were schooled to believe that the key to business success was “human capital management.” It was an august sounding strategy that boiled down to taking care of your employees. Pay them enough to hang on to them and throw in some benefits around the edges and you’ll get the productivity required to keep Wall Street or the business owner happy.

That ethos created the HR tech business. As industries from cars to computer chips became more competitive, employers realized that they needed more and better tools if they were going to rely on human capital management to sustain operations. File cabinets gave way to HR information systems and paper memos were replaced by Employee Relationship Management platforms. In the process, what was a small, backwater market in the 1950s became a business worth billions today.

Walk up and down the aisles at an HR conference and you’ll see vendors offering technology-based products for job measurement and analysis, compensation and benefits administration, employee training and development, performance assessment and management, rewards and recognition and a grab bag of tools for worker communication, morale building and wellbeing. Those activities are all important, to be sure, but the exclusive emphasis of HCM is misplaced. It overlooks one critical fact: you can’t manage the human capital you don’t have.

Telling the Truth

Today’s talent market is the polar opposite of that which existed back in the good old days. That surplus of skilled workers has now devolved into a severe labor shortage. Despite an unemployment rate that continues to hover around 11 million, employers are struggling to find waiters and cooks, truckers and salespeople and rocket scientists, DNA splicers and robot trainers. Worse, this situation isn’t some temporary hiccup; surveys indicate that it’s likely to be a long term if not permanent condition. And that reality is what makes talent technology – the products recruiters use to acquire human capital – the new key to business success.

As obvious as that view may seem to those in the talent technology field, however, it’s not yet been recognized by the c-suite in many of today’s employers. It’s still infinitely harder, for example, to justify the acquisition of a TA product than it is to do so for an HR product. And, even the budgets and staffing of recruiting teams reflect the long-outdated notion that talent acquisition is as easy as fishing in a barrel.

So, what’s to be done?

There is an almost unlimited array of steps that can be taken, but they all have a common foundation. It’s the core for our work here at TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. We have to stand up for ourselves. We have to speak truth to power, no matter how much pushback we get from the CFO and CEO. And we have to do it over and over and over again.

What’s the message?

Talent technology isn’t an afterthought. It’s the first and an essential step in effective human capital management. Whether it’s programmatic ad buying platforms or job boards, chatbots or candidate relationship management systems, applicant tracking systems or applications for communicating with and interviewing candidates, talent technology and the solution providers that offer such products are the doorway to corporate success in the modern era. They create possibilities for employers.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can check out his latest books on Amazon or in the TAtech Bookstore.