Ward Christman – HR Tech, Investing and Job Boards

Ward ChristmanOne of our keynote speakers and panellists at The Job Board Summit 2015 – North America is industry veteran and serial entrepreneur Ward Christman.
He launched one of the first job boards, Jobnet.com, back in 1992 and remained there for 9 years, he has also worked in the ATS, Referral and HR sectors.

Ward took time out from his busy schedule to talk to Jobg8 about his summit presentation and share some insights into the market.

Q: What are the trends you see going on in the HR/Recruitment Tech space?

Besides the ubiquitous big data band wagon everyone is hopping on, and the mobile first retooling or mobile new products and start-ups being created, the biggest shift is the consumerization effect on the apps running in our space. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook etc., there is a big push from consumers to have their HR apps be more user friendly and the vendors are redoing their UIs to support not only mobile via responsive apps but also to be device independent for maximum flexibility. Ironically, this is forcing the apps to potentially become less capable on the desktop (aka large screen devices) than most were before they were converted to a responsive design.

Another trend I’ve seen over the years is the growing importance for HR Tech companies to grow their businesses via Alliances & Partnerships, especially the point solutions who need to team up to compete with the larger incumbents with full suites. The next wave of this will be Unification (aka Solution Stacking) where many applications will be bundled together in a way the user won’t realize they are using multiple applications from different vendors.

This will require more collaboration among partners beyond just a sales alliance, and certainly can only happen if a data integration can occur easily to support the data flow required to deliver a great customer experience. APIs and Open Standards are going to help drive the innovation needed for this new collaborative environment. Buyers will enjoy a new renaissance of flexibility and innovation thanks to this new modular approach to solving problems in the world of HCM.

Q: What are investors looking for?

Good question and one I’ll be looking at in more detail at the summit! Simply put, Focus, focus, focus. Leadership, Innovation and Scalability.
Smart investors want to see a narrow focus on a specific business or consumer problem that can scale to grand proportions. Ideally there is innovation in the approach and/or technology being created which can be leveraged to gain market viability by being a unique solution to a significant problem.
Lastly, but far from least, investors will bet on the jockey over the horse every time. If you love to build tech but can’t lead and inspire others to deliver greatness in what they do, then find someone who can and empower them to drive results.

Within HR Tech, investors are certainly hot on big data, mobile, video (yes really!) and even back office tools like core HR and payroll (Zenefits didn’t get $500M in their latest round after only 2 years in business because they have a cool name!). Job Boards are still getting attention, but only those who innovate or disrupt existing supply chains with something new, better, or clever. If you can’t innovate, find partners who can help you do that, or you will likely be run over by those who do.

Q: What challenges or opportunities do you see for Job Boards?

The big issue, and one which job boards must be thinking about, is they need to Embrace the Ecosystem; to survive and thrive you’ll need to deliver to customers solutions instead of just subscriptions. But how? Do you build, buy or partner?
If you have hordes of cash like Google and Apple do, you can go on a shopping spree, but the fastest way to get to new revenue is offering more solutions to your customers and prospects via vetted partners.

How do you know what customers really want? Ask them every chance you get! That’s the easy part. Picking solutions and the partners to fulfil those needs is the hard part. In the HR Tech industry as high as 90% of partnerships fail to deliver on expectations, whereas the average in other industries is closer to 50%. Setting and managing expectations is a big part of achieving success, but the key driver is to identify ‘win, win’ opportunities that together you and your tech/service partner can deliver more for the customer than you can separately. Top performers in our space are achieving over 50% of their revenue from partner sales! You can do it too.

A few suggestions on products to consider looking for from a partner: Video promotions on jobs, social job distribution services, candidate assessments and profiling, suppliers of connection/ consolidation platforms for easier integrations with the other vendors in the ecosystem, and any tools to support a better candidate experience. Support the HR Open Standards Consortium who can help ease the connections required to make this a better ecosystem for all parties involved.

Q: Finally, does the term ‘Job Board’ have a negative image today?

Like ‘Vendor’ some feel the name conjures up negative emotions, but for Job Boards it’s only from a few years of declining effectiveness, which, changing the name won’t help. With appropriate price to value ratio, employers will buy. The surge of CPA (Cost Per Applicant) is due to the growing popularity of pay for performance. Want to change the image of job boards? Figure out how to charge for a hire; CPH is a pricing model the search firms use, because employers will typically pay more if the outcome is quality. Focus on improving the quality of hire and job boards will surpass previous high levels of customer satisfaction and will enjoy all the rewards that go with that recognition.

    LOGO_J2C_orange         TopResume (TalentInc)

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