I first heard this quote at last month’s GlassDoor Employer Branding Summit when Spencer Rascoff called Zillow (the real estate tech giant) a startup. Some companies, regardless of their size or growth potential, still operate best when they are pushing the envelope, running at warp speed or getting messy with all hands on deck. Is this a good thing? I think so especially in a time when “startup” has become the flavor du jour. This sentiment is one that certainly rang true at The HR Technology Conference this week. Both emerging providers and traditional players were coming to market with new products and exciting announcements. Everyone from ADP (who announced significant enhancements) to Engage2Excel (who developed a novel approach to old-school recognition) to The Marcus Buckingham Company (who stole the show with its approach to building high-performing teams) had something interesting to share. The energy this year is hard to describe.

In the startup spirit, a few themes resonated with me this week including the need for a communication platform, a marketplace and recruitment optimization. Below are a few providers to watch in each category:


It sounds basic but communicating with employees, candidates and managers is a critical part of any HR process or strategy. Yet, it is so often overlooked. Companies tend to rely on email as their primary method with little impact on engagement or retention. The good news is that several of the technology providers are offering a more effective communication platform.

  • GuideSpark: As a communication platform, GuideSpark bridges the connection between employers and employees through content generation tools, collaboration tools, user engagement, surveys, analytics and wellness.
  • PeopleFluent: Through its Talent Management solution, PeopleFluent supports communication with its Anytime, Anywhere Feedback feature, optimized for both desktop and mobile use.
  • The Marcus Buckingham Company: This tech solution is informed by Marcus Buckingham’s 20+ years of leadership research on the front end and supported by a deep coaching solution on the back end. Focused on building high performing teams, it is research based and action-focused – providing an effective solution for communicating and coaching teams and individuals.
  • Engage2Excel: This recognition provider has been around since the 1800’s but recently went through a rebrand, a strong partnership with Vestrics, and brought in a new team focused on measuring, managing and informing engagement and recognition.

Recruitment Optimization:

Without the right strategies or technology, talent acquisition is an incredibly complex undertaking. And, it has become more difficult over the past ten years. Today, talent acquisition deserves its own, integrated framework and its own suite of solutions. Organizations are looking at new tools and strategies to optimize their recruitment functions. Below are some providers that are committed to helping organizations improve their talent acquisition functions.

  • Yello: Yello was one of the companies I was most excited to meet with this week. They offer a suite of talent acquisition solutions for the enterprise, campus recruiting and the SMB market. Its smart team is focused on customer satisfaction.
  • Lumesse: Through a new interview management system, Lumesse is enabling companies to improve their time to fill while improving both the candidate experience and the quality of hire.
  • Findly: Much more than just a talent community, Findly offers a suite of solutions that helps organizations attract and recruit talent including ATS, assessment and sourcing solutions.
  • iCIMS: With significant growth over the past few years, iCIMS has demonstrated its leadership in the talent acquisition market. Its talent acquisition platform offers solutions that attract, recruit and onboard talent.
  • SmashFly: The defacto Recruitment Marketing provider, Smashfly is helping organizations through a complete recruitment marketing platform of inbound recruitment marketing, outbound sourcing and employer branding.
  • Entelo: Entelo, the leading sourcing provider, announced a new product, Stack, that helps companies manage resumes and applications and improve productivity.
  • SilkRoad and SmartRecruiters: This partnership between two leading talent acquisition players, SilkRoad and SmartRecruiters, will allow them enter into new markets and expand their product capabilities.
  • Greenhouse: This end-to-end talent acquisition platform recently raised $35 million to help companies optimize their talent acquisition efforts. And they have a very impressive team and product.
  • GreatHires: This solution focused on interview management and scheduling was one of the more innovative solutions I have seen in a long time. It gives candidates the information they need to feel comfortable in an interview and makes scheduling easy and flexible.
  • Randstad Sourceright: When you think of technology, Randstad Sourceright might not come to mind. But, this MSP and RPO might be the best kept secret in HR Technology. With its TalentRadar product, it extracts data and loads it into a themed database. The data it provides companies, is the data they need like when a requisition opens and when a job will fill.

Cool Companies:

Below are a few of the providers that I was most impressed with last week:

Appcast: I love Appcast not only because it was founded by Chris Forman (former president of AIRS) but also, because it is a simple concept. This solution changes the pricing model of job advertisement from click per candidate to pay per applicant and offers a powerful engine to help organizations make this shift. This change in the model helps companies reduce costs and improve the overall experience for recruiting functions as well as candidates.

Equifax: The people, the products and the vision are all impressive at Equifax. They do this by tackling very complex issues such as compliance, ACA regulations, and unemployment. While other providers are expanding their suite of products into different areas of HCM, Equifax has stayed focused on the bigger issues in our community- issues that impact the success and staying power of the overall business. A few of their solutions include compliance, ACA compliance, and unemployment. Check out what they have done with i-9 compliance and “the Work Number”.

Mercer: It is hard to find a provider that excels on both the technology and services side but Mercer is the exception. With a strong heritage in consulting and new products including Mercer Match (recruitment matching solution for sales teams) and a strong career development solution, Mercer is a force to be reckoned with in the HR Tech space.

The Daily Muse: Meeting with Muse founder, Kathryn was one of the highlights of the conference. If you missed her ignite session, The Daily Muse helps employers create a profile to strengthen their brand, use content marketing to promote the brand and support them as they weed out the “craplicants” and improve branding.


During most of our conversations at HRTech, the topic of a marketplace came up. Marketplaces are a staple in the consumer world and are quickly becoming part of HCM. Below are a few providers to watch.

ADP: ADP’s robust marketplace allows customers to access 90 certified partners (with 400 partners in the pipeline. Other providers use a marketplace as a marketing tagline, while ADP has built one with real substance and credibility- one that will provide real value to customers and partners.

WorkMarket: This provider offers companies an end-to-end market for companies looking for independent contractors. It allows direct relationships between employers and workers and can be customized for any skill.

We will follow these providers and more this year and next and will be profiling them in our upcoming Aptitude Index reports. Also, we would love to hear from you about what providers were most interesting to  you at HRTech.