New Research Shows Latest Trends Among TA Tech Providers

The events of the past year have accelerated investment in talent acquisition technology. According to a new report by Aptitude Research, 44% of companies adopted new TA solutions in 2020, and 1 in 4 companies are looking to replace their ATS in 2021. Remote recruiting, economic uncertainty, and the mounting pressure to “do more with less” have forced companies to closely examine their tech solutions. In doing so, it has become clear that what worked in the past may no longer work today.

The TA systems market is not the commoditized market that it was a few years ago. Every provider is moving in a different direction in terms of priorities, capabilities, and roadmaps. Some are building out more robust functionality, while others are moving into talent management and employee experience. 

Here are some of Aptitude’s top findings:

All CRMs are not created equal. Every provider is looking to check the box on CRM or recruitment marketing capabilities, but this is not an apples-to-apples market. Each solution looks different and includes distinct strengths and/or weaknesses. Only a few providers have competitive recruitment marketing platforms that can support career sites, CRM, talent pipelines, analytics, and communication. These providers have acquired leading players in the market to strengthen their platforms. The remaining solutions either have limited CRM capabilities or are including CRM and recruitment marketing in their roadmaps for the future.

DEI is a differentiator. Given the importance of DEI’s influence in driving technology decisions, it is surprising that more providers are not invested in supporting companies’ efforts to reduce bias and to improve diverse hiring. Very few best-of-breed providers have a dedicated role for diversity and inclusion, and others make vague blanket statements to imply that DEI is part of everything they do. On the other hand, the providers that make impacts in DEI have demonstrated a commitment in their leadership, product, use cases, and customer service delivery.

Onboarding is at a standstill. Onboarding capabilities still include forms management, tasks management, and socialization. Companies need some way to automate forms and tasks, as well as engage new hires in a portal. Although the experiences have improved, the fundamental capabilities of onboarding have not changed in the past decade. Furthermore, some ATS providers throw in onboarding modules for free to win deals — which devalues their products. Most of the innovation in onboarding is coming from conversational AI providers that offer a better experience and efficiency.

AI matching is a priority. As the demand for AI-matching increases, understanding what options companies have is confusing. Thirty-four percent of orgs are using some matching capabilities: Sourcing providers, stand-alone providers and, now, ATS providers, are looking to use AI to rank candidates and improve decision-making. The benefits of AI matching include the ability to reduce bias and improve efficiency. However, the challenge is that providers must carefully consider ethical AI and how they approach internal and external communities for matching jobs with candidates.

Skills are the new hiring currency. Skills are becoming a critical component of how recruiters and hiring managers evaluate candidates and how candidates present themselves to employers. They can provide more accuracy and relevance to a role than past experiences. Many of the larger providers have made considerable investments in a skills framework to support both talent acquisition and talent management. A few of the best-of-breed solutions have also focused on strategic skilling to support recruitment and internal mobility.

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The ERP providers are here to play. Despite perceptions that talent acquisition should be a best-of-breed market, ERP providers have made improvements to their products and invested in research, partnerships, and capabilities to support customers. These providers are improving the candidate experience, exploring CRM capabilities, and leading with internal mobility. The next year will be telling to see how these roadmaps shape up and what potential acquisitions may occur. 

Candidate communication is a work in progress. Candidate communication is still a shortcoming for ATS providers — shifting to a candidate-centric approach is a challenge for many of them. While most of the solutions in this report include SMS/text communication and some digital assistant or chatbot, several providers are now integrating with messaging platforms (including What’s App and WeChat) or collaboration platforms/enterprise platforms (like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Salesforce).

Internal mobility is still unknown. Internal mobility becomes more of a priority when hiring slows down and companies start to look at retention strategies. Indeed, the events of 2020 have forced companies to look at internal mobility more closely. In fact, 58% of organizations surveyed are using or planning to use internal mobility capabilities this year. This consists of two levels: The first includes capabilities to engage with internal talent through career sites, job postings, and communication. The second level includes a full talent lifecycle approach and consistent experience from recruitment to succession planning, career development, and performance management.  

It’s clear that modern talent acquisition systems have made progress in recent years, but it’s just as clear that there’s still a lot more to do. It’s incumbent on TA leaders who are evaluating and exploring different providers to differentiate between a vendor and a true partner.

Madeline Laurano is the founder of Aptitude Research. Her primary focus over the last 12+ years has been on the talent management market, specializing in talent acquisition. Her work helps companies both validate and reevaluate their strategies and understand the role technology can play in driving business outcomes. 

Prior, Madeline held research roles at Aberdeen, Bersin by Deloitte, ERE Media, and Brandon Hall Group. She is co-author of Best Practices in Leading a Global Workforce and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Yahoo News, and The Financial Times. She is a frequent presenter at industry conferences including the HR Technology Conference and Exposition, SHRM, IHRIM, HCI’s Strategic Talent Acquisition conference, GDS International’s HCM Summit, and HRO Today.

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