Findly + Hodes = Symphony Talent, an Orchestra of #HRTech Solutions
An interview with their new executive leader
When I first got the news under embargo about the rebranding and repackaging of what was Findly and Hodes, I was anxious to share the news with the industry because it’s pretty rare that a solution provider, with so many sharp tools in a toolbox, brings them all together under one brand and one mission. So instead of waiting for the news to hit and see what others industry pundits had to say about it, I decided to set up a meeting with the incoming CEO. Here are some of the highlights from my interview with Roopesh Nair, executive leader of Symphony Talent.
Promoting From Within
With just over a year of direct experience in the HR Tech industry, as the CEO of Hodes, I was wondering why the parent company, Symphony Technology Group, wouldn’t recruit an industry veteran into this role? After hearing Roopesh introduce himself and his background it became apparent that he brings experience and wisdom from other industries that could prove very useful for this new group to become a significant market force in the HR tech industry. His tenure with Sapient, where for a client he created their business & technology strategy and vision for customer channels, by enabling multi channel commerce and multi channel marketing, all of which are sorely needed in the HR Tech industry.
The Roll Up: 1+1=3?
Billing Symphony Talent as the ‘omnichannel recruitment marketing suite’, this roll up of SkillCheck, Findly, Hodes, HRLogix, Innovantage, QUEsocial, Breezy, and TempBuddy reminds me of my days at Kenexa, another ‘roll up’ player in the industry who often chose the ‘buy’ way when contemplating the big question – do we build, buy or partner? Like many things, this has it’s pluses and minuses, but if done right can more quickly drive customer value than building solutions from scratch. “We don’t want to rebuild things that are already working” says Roopesh.
Roopesh summarized it well “We felt we had multiple parts of the puzzle and now we have the power to bring it all together and lead the space.”
The exciting thing about Symphony Talent is the notion that they have now done what HR Tech buyers have been trying to do – find the best-in-class tools in talent acquisition to meet their specific needs and try to get them to work together. In our consulting business we call this ‘solution stacking.’ For many employers, finding the right stack is nearly impossible due to their lack of product knowledge, and insufficient influence on the vendors to get them to ‘play nice in the sandbox’. Not that brothers and sisters always play nice together, but there’s a much better chance when their parents are in charge.
Being a strong advocate for partnerships between HR technology companies, I am pleased to see the different STG brands being rolled up into one. Not only does this demonstrate a unified vision, but by also bringing them under the leadership from Hodes this better positions them to showcase a key market differentiation factor based on the special skill sets and technology already in place from the Hodes family. Although some other recruitment ad agencies have built or bought technology to compete in this space, none of the others have the breadth or depth of technology that is now part of Symphony Talent. “Our media optimizer solution and smart media helps our clients get in front of targeted talent; both active and passive candidates. Couple those with our newest addition to the Hodes family, QUEsocial, and our clients can attract talent, and track them from sourcing through to hire.”
“For the past year we’ve been tagging candidates and noticed there is a lot of wastage – not everybody is ready to apply, so we’re now leveraging the sourcing to drive the nurturing process which over time converts those candidates into applicants and hires.” Roopesh is referring to their new source, nurture, and engage ‘solutions.’ They are also enlisting their CRM component to better assess the quality of the candidates to tighten up the bottom of the funnel. To help clients get a better ROI on their data, they’re building big data tools to visualize customer data that matters.
Their customers can get advice from the Hodes team on tools and services that don’t compete directly with Symphony Talent. Although this is convenient, it’s no substitution for a strong partnership program, of which I see very little evidence of that in place today. Roopesh assured me they plan to build out a partnership program very soon. But can you lead a market without competing with your partners? “To solve a customer problem it’s not based on product, it’s based on the customer’s issue which might be candidate quality, diversity, hiring hourly workers on time, etc., to solve those issues is going to take a variety of products and we’re prepared to embrace co-opetition to make it work for our customer.” Roopesh further ads “we want to integrate with as many HR Tech solutions as possible, whether it be ATSs, payroll, HRIS, etc., so the client can have the flexibility to keep what they have that’s currently working.”
“we’re prepared to embrace co-opetition to make it work for our customer” – Roopesh Nair
Not many names of partners came up during the interview, perhaps because they bought all their partners? Roopesh did add “There are parts of the ecosystem that we don’t currently have products for such things as live chat or onboarding, so we have partnerships with providers like Brazen (see footnote) and Enboarder.” Clearly this is a tip to chat and onboarding providers they might want a few more options for their clients!
Innovantage, a newly acquired STG product, competes with Wanted Analytics for the market analytics data business, and is a unique solution which will give their customers insights into the viability of their sourcing campaigns. With this kind of big data at hand, coupled with the ST suite, the opportunity is there to provide customers with quite an unfair advantage over those who have to piece all this together on their own.
Roopesh wants someone full time internally to manage alliances and partnerships and to collaborate with the product team as they expand into the market via partnerships. “We’ll probably appoint someone internally to lead those efforts, but will also likely hire additional talent to support the partnership roles, it’s a critical function to our future growth.” Good to hear his recognition of the importance of the indirect sales channel and as a strategic initiative requiring ‘collaborative resources’, which is something we include in our partnering audits to test viability of partnering before we take on a new client engagement.
Dating Before Marriage
Before getting ‘hitched’ I always advise clients to date (partner) first before M&A considerations. This helps test compatibility aspects beyond technical fit, such as cultural fit and customer synergies, etc. For Hodes and QUEsocial Roopesh shared “we partnered on two big clients before acquiring QueSocial – United Health Group and CA Technologies.” He also remarked that partnering really helps find out if clients even want certain types of solutions and if we have no intentions of building something this is the best way to go.
“we partnered on two big clients before acquiring QueSocial” – Roopesh Nair
If you review Roopesh’s LinkedIn profile, you’ll see he is a big fan of omni-channels – from employer branding to strategies to transformations. In their press release it states Symphony Talent is a “Omni-channel Recruitment Marketing suite”, so I asked him what “channel” meant in this context “I believe that since some companies buy from an agency, we need to evolve the Hodes brand to promote the Symphony Talent suite … but that’s only one channel.” Turns out the the “Omni” part relates to his future vision where other agencies would white label the Symphony Talent offerings to help get out into the marketplace. The Hodes part of the suite, as a result of their consulting with the employers to understand their real issues and providing a one stop shop to solve those issues. Smart move, and it still leaves the option of co-marketing which might even be better depending on the reference strength of their joint customer base for their prospective customer’s industry or niche hiring needs.
Private Equity Firms
What role do the PE firms have in the HR Tech space? Roopesh says “there are many small players in the space and the PE firms bring the logical components together to solve the customer’s pain with an end-to-end solution.” For the ‘Build, buy or partner’ consideration, Roopesh states “STG is acting as an advisor for us when considering this question, especially on partnerships.”
“We have some work to do to bring the platforms together, and the sales and client services teams, but we have what we need to pursue the omni-channel approach to the market” says Roopesh. I believe their big wins will be realized after they customize their suite for specific verticals – I’m not allowed to share which, but I think when you hear about their next acquisition you won’t have to guess. One question came to mind after the interview ended – will they acquire a partner or will it be an arranged marriage? Hopefully the former, but only time will tell. My suggestion to readers? Get to know the new Symphony Talent, perhaps you’ll get to meet them at some of the upcoming HR conferences and expos, you’ll be glad you did.
Footnote: Symphony Talent announced Brazen as a new partner on August 25th 2016 – announced via @HRTechAlliances as exclusive breaking news before anyone else!