S4 E103 | eXpertease: Martin Burns discusses post-pandemic HR technology interest

Martin shares his thoughts on why investors and companies are focusing on HR tech now more than in previous years

Welcome to the CXR our premier podcast for talent acquisition and talent management. Listen in as the CXR community discusses a wide range of topics focused on attracting, engaging and retaining the best talent. We’re glad you’re here.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 
Welcome to the show listeners and watchers. I’m Chris Hoyt, president of CXR and your host for today’s special edition podcast where we call, we actually call this an eXpertease and it’s where we invite an industry leader to share some insights or lessons learned in a rapid 10 to 15 minute chat. Now, we do other segments, like Uncorked where we talk with top leaders over a bottle of an adult beverage. And yes, we do on occasion I’ll get through a bottle. We do Moments that Matter where telephones tell us about moments of racism or inequity that they have witnessed or lived through and where they decided to take action we do Have You Met where we introduce you to an industry professional, a catch you up on sort of their current industry challenges and a few others that you can subscribe to all these and more at CXR.works/podcast and we’re happy to say you can watch or listen to them nearly anywhere you already subscribe to your favorite shows. Now today, as I mentioned is an eXpertease segment. We’re excited to have back on the show, to talk about post pandemic challenges in our space and kind of what he’s seeing is our industry friend and mutual fan. Martin Burns. Martin, it’s great to have you back.

Martin Burns 1:24
Good to be back, Chris. And actually a side note. Why am I not the wine chat? Geez wow. You know, it’s nice and early.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:35
We can turn this into a wine.

Martin Burns 1:36
I mean, it’s past noon here now. So it’s 12:02pm in Boston.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:42
My sincere apologies. It’s a miss. It’s a miss.

Martin Burns 1:45

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:46
Martin, for those who don’t know you, can you kind of give us an escalator pitch for who Martin Burns is and what you do?

Martin Burns 1:54
Yeah, sure. So 20 ish years, obviously, in the industry, then a bunch of things to start in staffing with an agency with corporate built products sold product. I’ve done brand marketing, I’ve been a sourcing leader. I’ve touched a lot of things throughout my career. And the last, but last six years I’ve been with Hireclix, h-i-r-e-c-l-i-x which is a agency record record agency for the industry, do lots of fun stuff, I helped spin up a consulting practice. And then about a year and a half ago, around there, we will be launched Recruiting News Network, which I am the editor in chief of and one of the writers and the producer, and I guess the photo editor and a bunch of other stuff, kind of a kind of an internal project here we want but it’s very separate Hireclix in the sense that it’s agnostic, but funded by hire clicks as an attempt to kind of give a new broader voice to the industry. That’s a bit more global and focus then some some of our assumptions of what we get normally then we try to cover that’s North America news and recruiting but what’s happening in Australia APAC Global labor trends. And it gives me a chance to geek out on learning and news which I’m a nerd about anyways, in general. And it happens to be in my focus area, which is recruiting. So it’s a great thing. And I do that now. So

Chris Hoyt, CXR 3:13
Well. It’s a fantastic resource. It’s certainly on the reading list for Jerry and I we make sure that we keep up with it. And it does put you in a unique spot, right as sort of an industry voice to talk about some of the topics like today. And we were just talking about this on another call like we know what the hiring challenges are. And one of the big hiring challenges going on right now is kind of a it’s a money talks, bullshit walks shift for the talent, right, we’re talking about wage shortage versus sort of a labor shortage of money shortage, right versus a labor shortage in the space but doesn’t seem to be a money shortage in the world of HR technology. In this post pandemic space, there’s an awful lot of spending and investing and funding happening, what what’s going on?

Martin Burns 4:01
Well, so I think at a high level, we’re finally at a point where executives with real budget control on talking to CFO, CEO, COO etc that level are probably listening to recruiting who has been saying for years now we have major issues we need better tools, better processes, and in there’s been a lot of band-aiding and a lot of broken processes being replicated by that technology integration etc. And because we’ve typically lacked the kind of the budget and the purse to really go out there and buy cool tools and really be hyper aggressive versus marketing and sales which normally have larger budgets for their for what they need to do. We’ve have a little bit of be able to give us money much motive vendors right so it’s a train right it’s your training, it’s a chain. Now there’s money opening up on our side, the corporate might say are my former our side, the corporate side of recruiting and that in turn means that vendors can sell more and charge more. And the VCs and private equity See that? No, oh, there’s money out there. Let’s try and get some. So extra bit of that happening, right? There’s there’s basically been this forced need for the exact level. So understand that, hey, hiring is hard. But now we’re seeing it. It’s making headlines we’re hurting, we’re losing business, we’re setting down locations where we’re cutting our hours, because we can’t fill these roles. So there’s, it’s been almost like an analogy might be well, it’s sort of this this massive up and down, right, we went from one senario to the other essentially, right. In and so I worried a set in a bit that this was almost an overreaction to the problem as a lot of money for it for the issue because people can’t figure it out. And so we’re getting this sort of bubble happening. And we have multiple unicorns in the space all of a sudden, we have a record, which we’ve never had unicorn valuation tech companies in the recruiting space. Now we have a half dozen I think, close to it. I mean with with SmartRecruiters like five or six now that smells to me like a bit of a bubble, it smells a bit like to throw spaghetti at the wall and saying what what’ll work, which is not an uncommon VC approach, it’s a little less common with PE, but it’s still it’s still there. So I worried that we’re getting overvalued in certain areas, and we may see some some contraction happening later on. As we catch it, the hiring in the market stabilizes a bit. And I don’t think it’ll ever go back fully to the width is worth the battle days. But I do think that budget will start getting squeezed a bit is we start getting past this kind of staffing shortage, and then that causing problems in our tech space.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 6:42
Yeah, well, and I just I keep finding myself wondering where where the vendors, and the investors are hoping to recoup that money from where is all of that supposed to come from because we’re talking to the town leaders Ain’t Got it. Right. They barely are getting any travel budget back. They’re barely getting enough budget back for personnel, right, from any way to get rid of team members or furlough entire teams, they’re being asked to hire way more than they were necessarily hiring even two years ago, with not as much budget as they had done. So I’m just kind of wondering, are they gonna magically get about, you know, $6 million to implement some new tech or some of the platforms? Where are these vendors think they’re going to recoup this?

Martin Burns 7:26
I think if it’s gonna get bloody, I mean, if, if you’re an eight fold, the only path you have to go forward to do that can be acquired by and who’s gonna buy you your valuation? Or you or you start competing with your current and friends. So you start competing with icims greenhouse, you become an ATS, there are there close meteors anyways. And the next big piece of the pie, the biggest decrease the most budget is ATS. Right? So they, if they want to keep selling, expanding, that’s that’s this kind of path, they may have to go down. Because other because how else they their valuations, ridiculous, it’s good for them. But it’s an incredibly high valuation, right. Great technology, great people, I want to make sure that it’s all said I’m not bashing them. But I don’t know where their path is, right? Unless they actually start going after and competing with people that currently partner with and that’s where it can get kind of messy.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 8:17
Yeah, yeah, if I’m, if I’m, if I’m in that space, like, if I’m the CEO of one of these small orgss, and there’s a big investment or big pickup, I feel like I’m either gonna get bought out, it’s gonna go really great for me, or I’m going to be working until the day that I die at my desk, to try to get a lot of that back.

And who can buy you? Like, it’s Microsoft. If that’s the love you’re talking about, now, you’re talking about like a like an old brother, what are you talking about a massive organization of workday or someone coming in to buy? Because it’s a question of who was the who was the pockets?

Yeah, yeah. It’s fascinating. And so if I’m a talent leader, Martin, is there anything you think maybe I should be watching for? Is this bubble dangerous to me? Or should I be taking advantage of it?

Martin Burns 9:00
Yes. I’m gonna cheat and say that I’m pulling a Hamlet. I it both ways. Um, yeah, I think the first thing is just practically you want to be concerned that if you’re, if you’re signing contracts with technology vendors that if they get bought out or they fold, you have some way out. So I think I mentioned last time we spoke, you want to have a clawback in your contract just so if something happens, you’re not in trouble. I mean, if they have a force majeure clause in their contract, you better want one on your side to be protected. So be careful with that, right. But on the flip side, there’s, there are so many interesting options out there right now that if you if you first figure out your process, and make sure you lined it up, and it’s what you want it to look like, and this there finally technology and you have a lot of options that can help you with your process and enable it. That’s where it gets fun. Just make sure you don’t get hung up by going with someone who sounds incredibly interesting and they’ve been and their ideals are great, etc. But then they get they fold up in two months and they get bought out or whatnot because they’re their money runs out or someone snatched them up and they become You know, some eternal point solution that you can’t touch anymore?

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:03
Yeah, I think it’s gonna be really interesting to see. And we, and you’re right, we had this conversation a longer version of this the last time we connected but there has to be an out multi year contracts need to be reconsidered and figuring out how as a as a practitioner, right as an organization, how are you going to get these vendors to get into some sort of consumption model some sort of, you know, pay per use paid per success model versus, you know, here’s, here’s one point, whatever, so that I can have 50 licenses, and maybe my folks use it and maybe they don’t and then the economy craps the bed, and I’m stuck.

Martin Burns 10:39
Right, yeah,

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:39
It’s gonna be interesting to see that shift.

Martin Burns 10:42
And it’s, I mean, to be fair, it’s really hard to predict what’s coming right now. That’s always the case obviously, but good god right now there’s there’s no way predicting what’s what’s happening even next week.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:53
Yeah, Jerry. Jerry and I laughed the other day, we were on another call. And it was you know, if you’ve been doing this for a number of decades, you see it’s it’s cyclical, right? It’s usually cyclical, but never have we sat at the top of sort of the roller coaster ride this long before the dip it’s a really really interesting and stretched out phase we’re in and I don’t know how long it’s gonna go

Martin Burns 11:16
I there’s no way I mean, it’s it’s I stopped doing trying to forget what’s what what’s what’s common. I all I know is changes common. It’s gonna stay weird. It’s okay. You live in Austin. Stay weird.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 11:27
Keep it weird

Martin Burns 11:28
Keep keep it weird, well you can stay weird. But But yeah, so So things that you there’s got to be ready for it. In understand that you’re probably going to make mistakes here there. And there are things that you’re gonna look at go Man, I wish I had that. It’s just the nature where things are right now.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 11:45
Yeah, but but so what I hear you saying is budget for mistakes. Is that it?

Martin Burns 11:48
Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And condition your exec team that look it educate the folks around you, especially boot people who have power over you that this is gonna be a weird time. And they should know it’s, it’s, it’s making so much news, but just make sure they’re really understand that it’s, you can’t predict what’s coming. They’re gonna ask you for metrics, projections, etc. Everything you do grain of salt. You say that the look right now where we stand. It’s like this, but we’re standing on quicksand, and there’s an earthquake. So who knows?

Chris Hoyt, CXR 12:19
Yeah. Well, to help with that, as funny segue to help with that, we are partnering with you with George LaRocque. And with Madeline Laurano, to put together a new HR technology newsletter that will have a slightly different perspective. And I just want to we’ll drop a link for that in the podcast here at the end, we’ll have the producer put it on there. But I’m pretty excited about that. I’m pretty I’m pretty pumped that we’re going to get the three musketeers of HR tech, the people we think folks should really be paying attention to all together to sort of contribute to that

Martin Burns 12:52
The three geeks what we need, like a gift or some kind of thing we can do with the three amigos the whole kind of like I was just dating myself and all of us but we need that kind of movement.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 13:02
Just don’t shoot the Invisible Man. Invisible push, the dancing man. Alright, Martin, thanks so much for joining us, really appreciate it.

Martin Burns 13:12
Of course. And I’ll see you hopefully in Vegas to person maybe, maybe who knows.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 13:17
Indid you well now as I said before, on this podcast, we connect with talent leaders and practitioners almost weekly to talk about everything ranging from what’s keeping them up at night to their favorite wine or their most embarrassing, embarrassing professional experience, but we also deliver hundreds of other meeting items and content now today, I’m going to share with you that we have brought back our community job listings. You can find them over at recruitingjobs.CXR.works. And as of this broadcast and day two of launching this feature to our members we already have over 800 recruiting jobs from nearly 130 companies now many of these recruiter and sourcing or talent leadership roles are marked as remote so be sure to check it out at recruitingjobs.CXR.works or just go to CXR.works and click on the job link at the top of the page and lastly, if you’d like to connect with any CXR team member, then head over to the new contact us page on the website where with a few clicks you can easily book phone call, video call or if we’re local to you a real life cup of coffee or happy hour so until next time, we hope to see you online in the CXR community we encourage you to like and share this podcast with your friends and colleagues hit the subscribe and share buttons that tells us that you want more thanks everybody.

Thanks for listening to the CXR channel please subscribe to CXR on your favorite podcast resource and leave us a review while you’re at it. Learn more about CXR at our website, CXR.works, facebook.com and twitter.com/careerXroads and on Instagram @careerXroads. We’ll catch you next time.