S4 E104 | eXpertease: George LaRocque discusses upward trend in HR Tech

George shares his insight on the upward trend in HR technology post-Covid

Welcome to the CXR channel, 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 0:24
Watchers and listeners, welcome to the show. I’m Chris Hoyt, president of CXR and today’s host for an edition of our podcasts that we call eXpertease. This is where we actually spend just 15 minutes or so with an industry leader practitioner who shares a few valuable nuggets of wisdom for you to consume and process life lessons, professional victories or failures, etc. Something that they think that you as a member of our community or worker in our space should most certainly be aware of. And if you haven’t already heard the other segments that we do we have segments called Have You Met, Moments that Matter and Uncorked kind of feeling like my liver needs another Uncorked session, so we should get one of those on the books. But either way, you can subscribe to all of 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 your favorite shows. Today, as I mentioned, we’re bringing you an eXpertease segment. And I’m happy to welcome to the show for the first time, and hopefully not the last George LaRocque. It’s great to have you on thanks for joining us.

George LaRocque, WorkTech 1:22
Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here. I’ve, this has been a goal of mine. Your community, I’m serious, I’m very serious, I’m not joking.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:32
We’re gonna have to we’ll have to work on the bar that you have set.

George LaRocque, WorkTech 1:38
I’m aware of who’s in your community. So that that’s, and I love all of you. So as well. So I’m, I am excited to be here.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:47
Well, George, we love you too and so for people who may not know, George, give us sort of the escalator pitch, I like to ask for sort of a 32nd 60nd sort of overview of who is George? And why should the listeners care what George has to say?

George LaRocque, WorkTech 2:04
Well, I’ve been in the industry for about 30 years now. And my background, I’ve been a practitioner, it’s sort of like three equal sized chapters, right, the first 10 years or 10, or 11. And it was a practitioner came out of staffing moved into, onto the employer side, and HR ran a consulting group all focused on recruiting and HR. Then 10 years on the tech side, I went over and launched a couple of the bigger brands in the talent acquisition and talent management space. And then the last 10 or so I’ve been an analyst and advisor, I work the way I describe it is I help buyers and tech providers understand each other better, to get through the jargon and and all the buzzwords and understand who’s doing what and where it fits. The last few years, the last five years, I started tracking all of the investment coming into the space. And that’s what I what people know me for at the at the moment. I do a lot more than that. But that’s certainly people love to follow the money. So I look at all the VC coming into the space. And I think I’ve got the best list of you know, in what’s happening in the in that in our categories.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 3:24
I would certainly argue in favor of that. I mean, I saw that I think you posted this morning or there was a chat on LinkedIn this morning. Nine new unicorns mentioned in this article, it meant that for HCM and talent management and talent acquisition, like quarter two becomes the biggest ever quarter for the for these organizations.

George LaRocque, WorkTech 3:46
Yeah, well , the second quarter was like the biggest year we ever had. So we the first half of the year we did overall in HR tech 7.6 billion coming in. q2 was almost five and five had been, you know, the biggest year we ever had. And we’re we’re racing now. We’ll probably get past 10 billion this year. It’s it’s, it’s it’s crazy when I started tracking it. I didn’t know I’d be this busy tracking it a few years later. But yeah, it’s there’s a lot going on.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 4:26
Well, that was my question. Like who, who saw this coming? I mean, I feel like this just suddenly, a number of months ago just suddenly turned in it was like, you know, merger spend merger spend like it just nonstop back to back and all of this investment coming out of nowhere.

George LaRocque, WorkTech 4:45
Yeah, nobody could have seen it coming. And I that, you know, somebody had a great line. And I’ve co opted I can’t remember who said it. It wasn’t me. But COVID is not a creator and or you know and and it but it’s certainly to use a now it’s a hackneyed phrase, it accelerated a lot of things. But we had an upward trend. We were setting, you know, quarter after quarter records on VC coming into talent acquisition into all of HR tech. But when the pandemic hit, because there’s a economic slowdown that you expect with that you think things are going to the brakes are going to tap the tap for about a minute. And we started setting even bigger records than we’ve ever seen. So nobody saw nobody saw it.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 5:33
I’m not entirely sure their brakes on the vehicle anymore. I think we’re just waiting to slip into a wall.

George LaRocque, WorkTech 5:39
Yeah, yeah, I would, I would, I would agree. I would agree with you, at some point. It’s, it’s got a break, right? The, there’s some it’s one thing, the amount of investment coming in, but then you look at how these companies are being valued. And some of the valuations aren’t out of whack. They’re big. But these companies have been profitable. I don’t want to name names, because I’m going to pick on the ones some of them came out of nowhere. They’ve got massive valuations, they’re not profitable, they, it’s really hard to see how they can achieve or even come close to a return for an investor that’s valuing them at a billion dollars. That history tells us that in the next couple of years, we’re probably going to see some implosions and we’ll probably see some go the way of near and dear to my heart go the way of like brass ring where it was like, you know, they, they never really got to where you thought they were going. But you know, whatever happened at that, right? It’s that they’re still out there. But whatever happens,

Chris Hoyt, CXR 6:40
I’m having brass ring, flashbacks actually so thanks for that. So let George, if, if I’m an organization that’s getting all of that investment, right, all of that money, I’m fast forwarding, right, or I’m doubling down on being innovative, right, what what my future looks like. But at the same time, I guess there are people that are that are sort of market veterans that are trying to also do the same to just hold on to customers, right, or hold on to the people that they’ve got that are already loyal to them. So I mean, do you have Do you have sort of a take on that and where that’s headed, or should we talk a little bit about why do I even care about that as a recruiting leader?

George LaRocque, WorkTech 7:20
Yeah, I think I think you should care a lot of your recruiting leader and you’re and you’ve got a tech stack that you’re concerned with, and I’ll tell you why. The the while some of the money might be going towards startups, where they’re, you know, they’re solutions looking for a problem. By and large, though most of them are, are reflective of what what leaders are struggling with today, internal mobility, diversity, hybrid workforce, I don’t mean hybrid work, I mean, contingent temp staffing, full time employment. So to your point, the we’ve got emerging technology, emerging vendors, startups scaleups, coming into that space, then we have incumbent market leaders who they’re also investing in, in new technology, they’re also acquiring some of these. I think it’s important as a leader to keep an eye on what’s coming down the path. It’s also if you’re picking it, let’s say you’re looking to do something new. There’s an argument to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond with a vendor who’s you know, if you know how to evaluate a startup and look at their burn rate for cash and look at their trajectory and their financials and you feel good about them, there’s an argument to you can have a real impact on their product roadmap and what capabilities you use. So I, I think there are a lot of reasons there. But to your point there, there’s this is how the things get shuffled. Right, the the deck chairs get shuffled a lot, we see acquisition acquisitions will take place. And we’re certainly seeing a lot of that now.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 9:09
Yeah, if you are, if you are an innovative ta leader, or if you one of the T leaders that loves to sort of dabble in the tech stack, right, sort of put your own sort of Frankenstein’s monster together. I think now I agree with you, it now would be an excellent time to get in somewhere where you can actually influence the direction. So instead of being on a committee or an advisory board of you know, a dozen or so employers you can now get in get your hands dirty. And really, what I don’t know if it’s going to be great for that organization, but really shape a product for your organization.

George LaRocque, WorkTech 9:41
Yeah, yeah, for sure. For sure. And that’s, that’s the way it goes in my back my background. You know, there’s a right now the trend, they call it you know, product lead. And that’s just it’s another way of being customer centric and putting the product out there. getting feedback from the customer. But But early on, especially early on, you are just taking those key customer that key customers feedback and putting it right into the roadmap. So there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of good that can come out of that.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:18
So give me one because I want to there’s two quick things I want to talk about before we get to one thing if I have my head of talent, and I’m really interested in bringing in some new technology, but technology I can really influence what would be one flag I would look for that says, this is this is perhaps an organization that’s going to be a little more receptive to me, getting my hands dirty and sort of driving the change.

George LaRocque, WorkTech 10:43
I would say that it’s how easy is it for me as that talent leader to get access to the product people within that organization? So the product managers, the developers, and to the support team? Are the founders showing up? How are they? How important Am I early on in the conversation? It’s probably reflective of how important I’ll be if I sign a contract or or do a pilot.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 11:14
Gotcha. Well, and we got a question that just came in George, they’re a solutions area that you see as dominant today?

George LaRocque, WorkTech 11:23
A solutions area that’s dominant, I would say the if dominant means where investments going to a dominant area there. The This is going to this is this is surprises, many people, it doesn’t surprise me anymore. But still the number one category in talent acquisition is marketplace job boards. Now they’re not they’re not the job boards that we grew up with when they emerge, right, we’re talking about job boards that are providing there was a new one, I wrote, I wrote him down Orca out of the UK, that’s doing placement of temp, staffing and providing pay. As a part of it. There’s their workforce management solutions being tied to job boards there, there’s learning and training. So there’s a new wave of those, but they’ve always been the number one category, set them aside. And right now, the number two category this year is recruitment marketing. That’s also where you’re gonna see a lot of acquisitions taking place. recruitment, marketing, and CRM are gaps in your your platform space and talent acquisition, you’re going to see more acquisitions there. Beyond that conversational AI and not chatbots. But conversational AI, that is not just helping the candidate that’s going to be continued to be emerging, but also helping the hiring team, the interview team, the recruiters, the hiring managers, the there’s a real move across HR technology to give managers what they need while they’re in the flow. So I don’t meet you, I’m going to do an interview, I don’t want to click and go over here to get the interview guide. I want to be I want to, I want everything where I need it. I want to be able to ask questions for what I need and have the system bring it to me.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 13:24
Yeah, I like that. I did I I fully anticipated a piece of that. But I did not expect the job board comment from you. Like the CRM app piece. I think that’s that’s pretty evident. People trying to tie some systems together and clean, some clean some things up. But the job or piece is a bit of a surprise to hear that.

George LaRocque, WorkTech 13:40
Yeah. Well, investors love a marketplace. Right. They see they see a supply chain, they see. They see a talent shortage, they see skills shortage, they see that that’s something that plays well with the investor community. It’s also still, you know, employers, right, they’re looking for new sources of diverse talent, skilled talent. So it it’s, yeah, I was shocked when I first started tracking the first few quarters, I thought this must be an anomaly. Something’s gotten and it’s not it’s, it’s been the number one category for a long time.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 14:21
Well, George, I want to just I want to take a second to mention it. We’ll provide a link at the end of the show if people are interested. But we have partnered a little bit with you. And with Martin Burns and Madeline Laurano. And we’re putting together sort of an HR technology newsletter. And the spin on this is that what we’re looking to do is just offer up a couple of headlines that we’re seeing in the space with just just just a sprinkle of commentary for me to view around why a leader should care about this particular new snippet, this particular merger, this particular investment, so we’re excited to talk about that. So I guess I will put a link at the end of the show, so folks can go ahead and sign up for that newsletters, it gets ready to come out here pretty soon. But I also want to ask you, you’ve got something that you’re working on yourself a bit of an incubator project, can you share a little bit about that?

George LaRocque, WorkTech 15:11
Yeah, this is this is about as fresh as it as it gets. So I, we were launching today, a accelerator for across the spectrum of HR technology, work technology. It’s called impact work tech, you know, playing off the work tech tech name. And it is at impactworktech.com. And we’re recruiting the first cohort now that will, the program will launch in early October. And we will be a little different in the sense that we’re where, you know, we’re not a generalized accelerator, we’re focused on this space. And we’re focused on a few things. One is closing the the education gap that a lot of these startups need to understand, you know, this space and what it is and who they’re, who their customers are. And we’re bringing a group of mentors together that reflect the industry and everything that that needs from skills and expertise perspective, a diversity perspective and a global perspective.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 16:22
I love it. Give us the link one more time.

George LaRocque, WorkTech 16:24

Chris Hoyt, CXR 16:27
Fantastic, George, thanks again for being on the show.

George LaRocque, WorkTech 16:29
Thank you, I had a lot of fun.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 16:32
Now, as I said before, on this podcast, we connect with talent leaders and practitioners almost weekly, to literally talk about everything, ranging from what’s keeping them up at night to their favorite wine. But that’s not all we do. We are a thriving community of nearly 5000 professionals that you can connect learn, collaborate online with at CXR that works and something I do want to mention that our community members have brought back to the site. And funny enough that George mentioned this. It’s a talent acquisition jobs page. So if you head to recruitingjobs.CXR.works or CXR.works/jobs, you will find we have nearly 900 ta roles at various levels from over 136 our community member companies we’ve been live just about a week, and the traffic and postings to that page are incredible. I look this morning, I think we now have included default toggles on the main page for both remote as well as believe it or not internship interests, the listings are updated twice a day, so it’s as fresh as your favorite donut shop in the morning. I don’t even know what that means. But please get over to CXR.works/jobs, share it to your networks if not for you than anybody else who might be looking for strong reputable and trusted organizations who are hiring And with that I’ll say goodbye and remind you to smash on those subscribe and share buttons to tell us that you weren’t want more podcast goodness We’ll see you then.

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 on our website, CXR.works facebook.com and twitter.com/careerXroads and on Instagram @careerXroads. We’ll catch you next time.