Scratching the Surface on Integration
A year after Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn, there are now many opportunities for the networking site to create and offer enhanced talent management insights and capabilities beyond simply helping organizations find new talent.
By Steve Boese
Recently, I was invited to attend a quarterly product update from the folks at LinkedIn Talent Solutions, an online event where the product and marketing teams provide demonstrations and details about new product initiatives and capabilities that are (or are about to be) released. I get these kinds of invites from solution providers quite often, and admittedly do not usually attend -- either I am busy planning the annual HR Technology Conference or I simply don't get that jazzed up by incremental updates to existing platforms or solutions.
But I made an exception to my usual practice this week and did watch the most recent LinkedIn update. The reasons why I decided to pay attention to this update were twofold: I had some extra time, and I was interested in one particular update that LinkedIn planned to share information about: the integration of LinkedIn information with Microsoft Word in the context of a user creating a resume.
And, since Microsoft finished its $26.2-billion acquisition of LinkedIn about a year ago now, I figured it was an appropriate time to reflect on this significant HR technology industry development, as well as some new capabilities recently announced by LinkedIn, some challenges the company faces and what might be coming next that will impact so many HR and talent acquisition leaders as well as anyone using LinkedIn to further their careers.
On its latest product update webcast, LinkedIn showcased two new initiatives that reflect their continued need to provide value to two distinct constituencies: organizational HR and talent acquisition professionals, and its rank-and-file members, who each have very different needs and goals. The first enhancement for organizational users of its Talent Solutions products was a new Performance Summary report, which provides users a simple, but comprehensive overview of organizational activity and results on the LinkedIn platform. Data such as the number of hires who were "influenced" by candidates viewing company profiles and content on LinkedIn prior to being hired, the effectiveness and response rates of candidate outreach, and most interestingly to me, the top five companies that organizations are losing and winning talent from are displayed in one dashboard. I can recall working at an organization where we were suddenly losing lots of talented sales reps in a short time, and had to scramble (and pull up lots of individual LinkedIn profiles) to figure out which of our competitors was poaching our sales staff. We would have loved to have this information in one place; namely, the place where that information resides, on LinkedIn.
The other new capability, and probably the more innovative development, was the announcement of a deeper integration of LinkedIn data with Microsoft Word. For users drafting a resume in Word, information from other LinkedIn profiles is used to help them craft a resume. This Resume Assistant asks the user to provide a job role of interest and then surfaces examples from LinkedIn of typical work experience summaries and skills descriptors. It even brings forward current job openings on LinkedIn that are a potential match for the job seeker, and if he or she wants to apply to the job opening on LinkedIn, the integration easily facilitates it. It is really an innovative and potentially powerful tool that surfaces open jobs to candidates at the very beginning of their search process, precisely when they are polishing up their resumes in Microsoft Word.
One of the challenges that faces any dominant platform provider such as LinkedIn are calls for more transparency and access to its data. This challenge is especially relevant for LinkedIn, as many would argue that the fundamental unit upon which LinkedIn creates its value -- a person's profile -- does not actually "belong" to LinkedIn, but to the individual professional. While the LinkedIn user agreement (you've read it, right?) does indicate that "you own the content and information that you submit or post to the Services," it also states that "you are granting LinkedIn and their affiliates a worldwide, transferable, and sublicensable right to use, copy, modify, distribute, publish, and process information and content that you provide."
Essentially, you own your LinkedIn profile and any content you post or publish to LinkedIn, but then you are granting LinkedIn to create and charge for value-added products and services that leverage your profile information and content. What LinkedIn has (successfully) relied on for years is that the value that individual users derive from the service (mostly being able to be found by recruiters and find job openings) is sufficient that these users don't mind that LinkedIn is more or less selling access (and ability to connect to) these profiles. And for some time, as evidenced by the sustained user growth, users are deciding the trade-off is beneficial for them.
Could that possibly change? I suppose so, but for now it seems unlikely. More likely is that LinkedIn will be challenged to make their platform more open to other service providers (one example is the recent legal action from HR tech startup HiQ Labs, which sued for access to LinkedIn public profile information) and to ensure various governmental regulators that they are not operating unfairly and are remaining compliant with the myriad of user data security and protection laws around the world. With parent Microsoft incredibly well-versed in these areas, LinkedIn has more expertise and experience to draw from as they navigate these challenges.
It seems like LinkedIn is just scratching the surface of the potential value they can create and offer after their acquisition by Microsoft. Deeper integration with Microsoft's other enterprise product and service offerings such as Office 365, Dynamics and Skype, where LinkedIn user profiles and activity data can be leveraged by business users across a wide range of business processes, seems to offer significant upside for LinkedIn and additional value for end users of these services.
Additionally, there exists opportunities for LinkedIn to create and offer enhanced talent management insights and capabilities beyond simply helping organizations find new talent. With a massive and growing data set of professional profiles, skills inventories, education, recommendations, job roles, job movement, salary, professional networks and career progression, LinkedIn could quite logically begin to provide more and better tools to help inform talent management decisions such as promotion, compensation, succession, training and more. It is not at all a stretch to think LinkedIn will become an essential tool for more than just recruiters in the organization, but for all manner of talent professionals. It will be interesting to see what the coming years will hold in these areas.
With over 500 million profiles worldwide, and no significant challengers to its position as the world's largest repository of professional profiles and career information, LinkedIn will continue to play an important role for most organizations and professionals for the foreseeable future. The challenges for LinkedIn will lie in its ability to continue to evolve and innovate in creating products and service offerings that can enable HR and talent acquisition leaders to achieve their organizational recruiting and talent management goals, while simultaneously presenting valuable and relevant information and showcasing career opportunities for their members.
One year since the acquisition by Microsoft, it seems that LinkedIn is on the right path to meet both those challenges by enhancing and expanding its tools for HR and TA organizations, and providing a compelling enough value proposition for its members that continues to grow the platform. While I know that LinkedIn certainly is not perfect, and I know I have spoken with corporate talent acquisition leaders who have been pretty critical of LinkedIn, no one can doubt the platform's outsize influence on the HR and HR technology space. And as a betting man, I probably would bet on that influence only increasing as the connections and synergies with the Microsoft parent increase and strengthen over time.
Finally, I simply couldn't end a piece about LinkedIn without an offer to connect with me on LinkedIn.
Steve Boese is a co-chair of Human Resource Executive's HR Technology® Conference and a technology editor for LRP Publications. He also writes an HR blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.