Looking Ahead 2012 Forecast in HR & Recruiting

More Social, More Data, More Job Boards, More Acquisitions

Here are my forecasts for the coming year.

  • Social Technology
    This is the biggie and really transcends the HR and Recruiting category. End users will continue to bring better technology in the pockets than they have on their desks. The dissonance will drive early adopter organizations to look for real enterprise level social technology. They will find that the market is only offering unimaginative data aggregation and distribution.

    Customers will begin to understand and clamor for technologies that cause actual social interactions in their organizations.Meanwhile, the 59% of companies that prohibit or aggressively control the use of social media at work will discover that they are the incumbents and employees are the empowered ones. Expect a few surprising clashes as the silly notion that you can control what’s in an employee’s pocket falls flat.

  • Social Media
    We are in the Compuserve-Prodigy-AOL stage of social media evolution. It’s after Netscape and before Google in equivalent internet time. Any of the current industry leaders is vulnerable to the next big thing (it might look like Path). No one has a lock on the social media marketplace.Like our currencies, Social Media companies are completely dependent on the faith and trust of their customers. It’s a pretty fragile thing. Investors know this.Expect a flurry of really interesting offerings that don’t quite develop a head of steam as entrepreneurs try to figure out the next level of the game. The incumbents won’t be standing still. The coming year will be infuriating for people who are tired of learning new aspects of social technology.
  • Social HR and Recruiting
    Social HR and Recruiting offer the opportunity to turbo charge our organizations from the inside out. The tools are available to relentlessly eliminate internal friction. Now that LinkedIn knows more about the insides of your company than you do (ie who’s connected to whom and what they are good at), there will be lots of activity trying to capitalize on that historical knowledge.The real time internal social web is where the long term money is.Replacing bureaucratic mobility programs with instantaneous access to the right people will create crazy logjams at first. As we learn to decentralize the internal mobility question (more like 2015, really) we’ll recover some of the agility that has been lost to low price, low capital thinking.In the long run, Social HR and Recruiting are the tools that make Human Capital a viable alternative to financing.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
    Public companies are sitting on war chests and can’t effectively innovate. Small companies need money and are agile. M&A activity will look like the streets of Amsterdam’s red light district in 2012.But, acquisitions in HR always produce more competitors, not less.There is a hydra like phenomenon that happens as key players (think SAP and SFSF) are taken out of their markets. M&A is the opposite of market consolidation. Cut off one head and seven grow back. Expect the number of new entrants to explode as the acquisition pace get frenzied.
  • Conferences
    2012 is the year of the micro-conference. A combination of forces are driving the explosion of teensy weensy regional conferences.
    – The baby boomer power brokers who run the big operations simply aren’t going to retire
    – The next generation of leadership is creating its own alternative forums
    – Travel expense continues to climb. One small oil price mishap and the national conferences are history
    – Social media is proving that local expertise often trumps the advice of national celebrities.There’s something endearing and stimulating about the church pot-luck supper feel of these smaller gatherings. The pace is slower, the learning deeper and the networking more effective. By this time next year, we’ll be reporting the emergence of several ne conference companies and the failure of one or two.
  • Analysts
    It turns out that no one knows exactly what the term means. In 2011, smart vendors started addressing ‘influencers’ as an audience. This broadened the definition of analyst to include a variety of industry observers.The need for a class of professional filterers is driven by the relentless explosion of data about and for the industry. No working professional has the time or the perspective to make sense out of all of the new options that are arriving on the scene.The rate at which shiny new toys come to market is accelerating still.The need for analysts and observers is structural and permanentIn 2012, we’ll start to see some tough questions emerge about who is paying whom to do what. Careful observers will notice that the analyst business has become a chummy game of softball where few tough questions get asked (and where the response to tough questions is outrage from the vendor). Notice the rise in vendors who have simply given up on Analysts and taken to publishing their own self-validating statistics.

    Transparency will sneak its little head into the Analyst quadrant in 2012.

  • Software Companies
    Definitions are changing. In the 1990s, software meant something like ‘process automation’. Today, you simply can’t deliver coherent software without embedded Subject Matter Expertise. Increasingly, software companies are repositories for expertise in a particular area and new software companies begin with that expertise.Operations like Sonar6, Achievers, RiseSmart, HireVue and Rideaux Systems all get better at their work the longer they are in the market. Each of the firms offers a deconstructed view of a formerly central process. Their value increases as they do more work.Old fashioned software valuation metrics penalize firms like these for keeping services internal. The investment community would rather see pure software revenues. But, the key to long term market innovation is to keep the services in house. One learns the value of the offering by installing it.
  • Life Tracking
    Personal technology is expanding to include a lot of self-monitoring technology. SmartPhones are becoming vast repositories of personal behavioral data from the passively collected location data to call logs and email. This flow of data is a source of insight for analysis and evaluation. Keys to productivity and individual improvement are contained in the data we already collect about ourselves.Life tracking technologies amp this up to the next level.Already popular amongst performance athletes, the instrumentation of one’s self is a key to unlocking creativity and synergy.2012 will be the first year that companies offer (a few, at any rate) wellness programs that focus on the use of personal monitoring. The lawyers will have a field day and then, a little later in the decade, we’ll get on with the new reality.
  • Influence Measurement and Management
    It’s still in its infancy but Influence Measurement and Management is going to get internal attention. Surprisingly, the first usages will be all about understanding which of the grassroots people are most influential about social technologies in the organization. Properly framed, influence measurement and management is the key to successful change initiatives.
  • Reinvigoration of Job Boards
    While job boards have been having pretty good years financially, they’ve been taking it on the chin from a PR perspective. As the market discovers that social tools are not really competitive, some of the bloom will return to the job board rose.
  • Performance Management
    As performance management finds its way, we’re going to see a lot of experimentation. The first wave of performance management software was all about automating a process that most folks would agree was screwed up. Annual and quarterly reviews miss the whole rhythm of the business. One generation later and we’ve come to understand that performance management software didn’t manage performance.The next iteration will involve so much real time performance information that it will make your head spin. Expect to see systems that allow instantaneous evaluation of bosses, subordinates and peers on a transaction to transaction basis. Expect case studies that demonstrate the power of always on performance evaluation. Expect it to blow over.
  • Big Data
    When incumbent vendors discuss “Big Data”, they mean that they have a lot of customers who could learn from each other. Infohrm (the company bought by SuccessFactors last year) was the original player in this version of the Big Data question.By anonymizing lots of data, vendors can create databases that help customers benchmark themselves.Everyone who sells HR software will have an offering that does this.
  • The Actual Data Question
    The real issue facing HR Departments and all of the systems that process HR and Recruiting data is the torrent of data that doesn’t fit predefined notions. It was appropriate to have the plodding development of data structures when data types and content evolved slowly.In 2012, people will start to understand that old enterprise data frameworks are handicaps.Imagine the difference, for example, in the requirements associated with a performance management schema that has 8 to 10 inputs per day versus one that was updated quarterly. Imagine further that the 8 to 10 daily inputs are spread around a network and need rapid analysis to understand the health of the network.

    In 2012, HR data shifts from static to real time.


This year, on Naomi Bloom’s recommendation, I’m going to take a look at last year’s forecasts and give you an assessment of whether or not they turned out to be true. Look for that early next week.

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