Madeline Laurano, founder of Aptitude Research joins us on the show to discuss talent and technology! We dive into the surprising findings from their recent report on ATS and Talent Acquisition where they took a look at the industry, the market trends, what's driving buying decisions today and provide an in-depth look at some of the providers. Matching and internal mobility were revealed as big themes in the report. Madeline discusses the developments and transitions that are being made within the HR technology space as a response to shifting focus to internal mobility.
The latter half of this episode covers mentoring and why they at Aptitude Research chose to focus on this in their recent survey. Building relationships and loyalty through mentoring programs helps people feel more connected, particularly during a time where many have felt more disconnected than ever. Despite this, Madeline shares that early findings show there’s not a strategic approach within most companies.
Madeline Laurano specializes in talent acquisition and engagement research, helping companies both validate and re-evaluate their strategies and understand the role technology can play in driving business outcomes. Connect with Madeline on LinkedIn, Twitter @Madtarquin, or at https://www.aptituderesearch.com.
For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentexperiencepodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the Talent Experience podcast!
Rhonda Taylor 00:26
Hello, this is Rhonda Taylor from TalentX, we're the podcast that talks about the talent experience and today we have an most interesting individual with us. We have Madeline Laurano, Madeline is the owner of Aptitude Research that's been going on for the past six years and before then she was no stranger to the analyst space. I'm not going to say the number of years Madeline we'll just say she did a stint with Brandon Hall as the VP, she did a stint with the Aberdeen Group and with Bersin Associates.
Madeline specializes in the talent acquisition and engagement research. Her research focus and this is what we're going to talk about today is on how technology can help to improve efficiencies and overall user experience. She holds a degree from Boston U so please give a warm TalentX welcome to Madeline Laurano from Aptitude Research. Anything I didn't cover?
Madeline Laurano 01:40
No, that was such a nice introduction. Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be here and talking with you about all things related to talent and technology. My two favorite topics.
Rhonda Taylor 01:53
Well, and you know what we're in the human space so I am going to share that you have two sons. Oh, my gosh, you must have a busy household and I bet you're getting really professional and proficient in homeschooling.
Madeline Laurano 02:09
I know, they've fortunately went back last week, full time five days, which is wonderful to have them back. But I am not meant to be a teacher. I know that now. I know my skill set and it does not involve teaching.
Rhonda Taylor 02:28
So we talked about your recent research on ATS and talent acquisition. You did a big report, I heard it's 200 pages. Before we dive into it in more detail, I would like for you to share with the audience, how you came to do this report and your high level findings?
Madeline Laurano 02:48
Yeah, thank you. I'm really excited about this report. I'm really excited it's published, it was a big undertaking. We started it last year and I'll start by saying it's not the first ATS in-depth report, I've done. At Aptitude this is the third time I've gone down this path. But I've done this at other firms too where we really take a look at the industry, the market trends, what's driving buying decisions today and then provide a really in-depth look at certain providers that meet a criteria for inclusion. And that criteria is based on their revenue, based on the number of customers, based on what we think they're bringing to market and of this is a player worth looking at.
And it was interesting this year so we have 13 providers in the report and we've had to spend a lot of time on demos, a lot of time in briefings, a lot of time with customer interviews, and then put all these profiles together. And the main thing I'll say is that the overall theme is really that the ATS is not enough. The ATS as a way to track candidates and also as a workflow itself is not enough. Companies need more, they need something before to engage with candidates even before they apply and they need a way to engage with talent when they become onboarded. I know that's certainly something Rhonda we've talked a lot about is onboarding and how important that is in both the time, position and then in the HR employee experience.
Rhonda Taylor 04:18
Yeah, you brought up a really interesting factor that we actually have a client that from time to time asks us, we not only want to know what the skill development that's going on with our own employees, but we would like to know, the transitions that the people who have applied for us that we have in our database. That's like wow, do ATS's track that or who's gonna track that because that becomes very cumbersome.
Madeline Laurano 05:00
It does and it's a lot of data and I think that's where companies really struggle is that there's all this candidate data in the ATS and they don't always know how to get access to that. So matching has been a big theme this year in the research report we did. Companies want to think about using AI to match candidates to these jobs and these job descriptions. And the ATS providers are trying to build more capabilities there. So it's this huge system, it's a huge investment for companies, every large company has an ATS, but it's really figuring out how companies can use them correctly, and then also who the best partner is for these companies. And it's really not using a very commoditized, apples to apples market and it really isn't. All of these providers are doing really interesting things, but they're all moving in very different directions.
Rhonda Taylor 05:51
Exactly and especially in COVID, because everybody hunkered down in the past year, and went into developmental mode. And it's amazing to see, that's part of the reason why I'm looking forward to HR Tech, to see the transitions that have occurred with some of the vendors.
Madeline Laurano 06:15
Exactly. And that's been a big theme in the report too, is this move to internal mobility, it's not necessarily a new trend, I'll say, within talent acquisition, I think when companies feel like hiring is going to slow down or change or stop, they start to think about internal mobility. And that's been a big theme this year for a lot of organizations, and the ATS providers and the talent acquisition providers are responding in a major way to say, how can we help companies think about development, think about providing opportunities to the employees, not just to external candidates.
So there are some real differentiators with how providers are thinking about internal mobility. You know, some providers just basically offer something as simple as just posting jobs internally, before you post externally. While others are thinking more strategically, like how can we do things like succession planning, to career development and bring it to that second layer?
Rhonda Taylor 07:11
Exactly. And okay so let's flip that and let's talk about the HR professional, because you've got the ATS, you know that the ATS is now addressing talent mobility, who owns it, talent acquisition? Or who else could own it?
Madeline Laurano 07:32
Who else? Or is it owned by HR? Or is it owned by individual business units, and how they manage that. And that to me is one of the big challenges and it's a similar challenge with onboarding too. Is this owned by talent acquisition, which is usually where it starts, but who's responsible for that? Who's responsible for that employee experience? And I don't think there's necessarily like a one size fits all, like this is who it has to be. I think it's figuring out for each organization, who's going to be your champion for this, and make sure that we have a really strategic and thoughtful approach to internal mobility.
I think before companies even look at technology for this, they have to look internally and say, what are we currently doing? What do we want to do? Who's owning this? Is I think, a great and appropriate question. Are we doing things differently for executives versus entry level versus management positions, and kind of figure out what that process is? And then start to look at who are the providers? Are we looking at talent acquisition? Are we looking at employee experience? Are we looking at some combination?
Rhonda Taylor 08:39
Yeah, going back to the research, were there any big surprises when you started taking a look at all the data?
Madeline Laurano 08:50
Yeah, there were a lot of surprises. I mean, I think the first thing that came out is that, like what I said earlier, the providers are all moving in very different directions. Some are looking at employee experience, some are looking at talent management, some are sticking with TA very heavily. So that was really interesting to see where everybody's roadmap is going.
Madeline Laurano 09:08
Another thing that really stood out, and I think it's probably a little bit unique in how we cover these providers in the report is we really looked at diversity, equity and inclusion. And obviously, this is a big topic in our world today, it's a huge topic in talent acquisition, and it needs to be a bigger topic than it is today. But we really looked at, okay, what are these providers doing? They're all talking about it, they use it in their marketing messages left and right constantly but when you look at it, we don't want to just see product capabilities to have AI matching. We want to look beyond that we really wanted to see what are they doing for their company culture at the providers, are they making changes to their diversity of their leadership teams? Do they have a strategic approach as a company to address Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at their own organization. And then do they offer services too if companies are trying to think about improving diversity and starting with talent acquisition? What type of support are they going to get from these providers?
So we looked at it in terms of leadership, services and technology last, I think every provider has some kind of technology that reduces bias, or uses AI in some way, not always ethical AI but they're messaging that. But there were a lot of differentiators with the leadership, and the diversity and the culture of these providers. And not all of them were and if I can be bold enough to say this, were taking it as seriously, as I think we would have liked to have seen. There's only one woman CEO, out of the 13 providers in in the report and I think there was some more diversity than in past years on the leadership team, but I think we still have a long way to go.
Rhonda Taylor 10:56
Yeah, and that is such a problem with HR technology. I'm so happy at HR Tech, they actually draw attention to Women in Technology, because we want to see that more and more. And I'm fortunate enough to work with a company that's women owned, and that brings a lot of culture right down through the ranks in regards to culture and diversity and inclusion. But this year, we're seeing a lot of probably the vendors dealing in diversity and inclusions have been the busiest.
Madeline Laurano 11:43
Absolutely, and organizations want to do better and I think they want to look at technology providers that can help support them. But it's really being very careful about looking at providers that truly take it seriously and offer solutions and vision and a strategic approach to it, versus those that are just using it as a marketing message to be able to get customers. And I think there's a real difference there. And companies that really, really want to find those partners are going to have to dig deep and see what these providers are doing.
Rhonda Taylor 12:19
Yeah, especially now it's so hard to calculate who's walking the talk versus who's just talking it.
Madeline Laurano 12:30
Rhonda Taylor 12:32
So yeah we're gonna switch a little bit here, because there's another item on your agenda that of course that just fascinates me and it's a topic very close to my heart. And that's you're undertaking a survey on mentorship care to speak about that.
Madeline Laurano 12:52
Absolutely. So we do an employee experience survey every year and this year I wanted to think about mentorship. It's not a topic we've really explored in our research and data collection before and I wanted to see what companies were doing and the approach. And it's been very interesting, I think not as much of an investment is being made in mentorship as it should. I think companies tend to do it either as a very ad hoc approach, or they don't think about we've talked about just like the mentee perspective versus just the mentor perspective. Like we asked, How are mentors and mentees even assigned to each other? Like does that happen just in onboarding as a one time offer? Or is that something that's happening very strategically, in a very strategic way to be able to make these connections? And for most companies, looking at these early findings, it's not strategic. It's just, we don't know how they're assigned or we're just doing it at onboarding and that's it.
So I think companies, especially this year, I mean, think about just what we've all gone through, we feel disconnected, we're working remotely, we haven't seen people I feel a little bit more awkward than I've ever felt before just being kind of inside for a year. And we want to feel connected and it's an organization's job to kind of help employees feel more connected in this environment. We're spending eight to however many hours a day in front of our computers working in a very different environment. So I think, if companies can really think about mentorship and helping individuals, whether that's starting at onboarding, or whether that's just through any type of career transition, helping people feel more connected through this type of mentorship program. I think it's very beneficial and I think it goes a long way with for building that loyalty, and building those relationships.
Rhonda Taylor 14:55
And it's been around for a long time, but it's relatively new in regards to growth and development. So traditionally in growth and development, we've always thought of, okay, your LMS we all can sit down in front of the computer and learn from that. Now, what has also come in this are the gigs. Okay, you want to learn how to do this? Well, why don't you volunteer and do the United Way project, and you'll learn how to do Excel at a higher level. Or it could be a coaching process. But now mentorship, is so, especially with the higher level individuals, it's been really well received. But what I've discovered just last week, was the naivety that's going on out in the workplace about it. Like, what is the role of the mentor? What is the role of the mentee? And there really needs to be clarification and do you want to speak to those two roles just so people understand?
Madeline Laurano 16:11
Yeah, I think absolutely. I mean, I think that's the challenge, right, there isn't clarity around what those two roles are. It's we just have mentors and we have mentees who are the ones being coached or being mentored through this process. And we don't really establish what the cadence is between them or what the responsibility and roles are and then it's not valuable. If that's not established, and we don't understand what we're going to get from this, and those expectations aren't being met, companies and individuals are not going to see the value in that.
One thing that's interesting was that we looked at in the research too, and I'm going to be curious what the data shows, is we looked at corporate social responsibility too and volunteerism, and companies looking at activism as a way to engage employees. How can companies think about this? And the mentorship component becomes a big part of that as well. So for companies that are making these investments in employee experience, to me it's like that's almost a foundational layer is this mentorship approach and this culture of we support each other and we have a very clear strategic approach to how we do support each other.
So it's interesting to me, I think for most companies it's a big missed opportunity. I think, we know the value and especially after this year, but I think companies that think more strategically about it. There's technology solutions that certainly can support that. I know, there's some great work, you're doing at Fuel50 as well. But it's an opportunity, and I think for companies that are really committed to their employees, and to providing really meaningful experiences, this has to be part of that.
Rhonda Taylor 18:01
Well, absolutely, because we're working remote it's a chance to engage with another employee, like, Oh my gosh, like that's worth its weight in gold right now.
Madeline Laurano 18:16
And it's with someone who's not necessarily your manager. We don't always feel comfortable going to our managers and saying, what's real to us, and what's scary, and what's challenging. That's not always a comfortable relationship so to be able to have somebody that we look up to at the organization, who is not our direct manager, I think is tremendously valuable.
Rhonda Taylor 18:40
Oh, exactly. We could talk about this all day, but we're gonna have to wind up and I can't let you go without asking our favorite question. Madeline you are excellent at what you do and and you so enjoy it and you're good at it. We at TalentX, honestly believe one needs to enjoy what they do every day in their career. How do you keep yourself operating at such a high level of success?
Madeline Laurano 19:16
Oh well, thank you for those kind words. I feel very, very, very lucky because I have a job that I really love and I try not to take that for granted because I know how many people don't unfortunately get to experience that. And I have a job I truly love, are there hard days, there are. Are there late nights working? Absolutely. But I really love my job and I feel so fortunate to be in an industry that I love too. And I think what certainly has helped me in my career and finding this love of a job is having a really great support team and that's competitors, those are people that I compete with, those are people that are my clients, those are vendors in the community, those are HR leaders. And having that support system, and hopefully I can give back to people as well, is really made a huge difference. And again especially this year, having people that you can text and reach out to when you're struggling with something or if something feels challenging is so valuable and I really feel so, so fortunate and I hope I don't take it for granted at all because I am just, in my opinion, the luckiest person.
Rhonda Taylor 20:33
Wow, and on that note, Madeline. You're just a wealth of knowledge. I wish you much success and I hope to see you and I know I will see you at HR Tech, do you have a closing statement before we sign off?
Madeline Laurano 20:53
No, just thank you so much, Rhonda. Thanks for having me on, I love everything that you're doing at Fuel50 and I am thrilled to be on this podcast today, so I really appreciate you inviting me.
Rhonda Taylor 21:03
Well, the pleasure is all ours. This is Rhonda Taylor from TalentX saying take care of yourself. Bye now.