Storytelling about PeopleFluent with Stephen Bruce

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 95. This week we have storytelling about PeopleFluent with Stephen Bruce. During this episode, Stephen and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing PeopleFluent.

Stephen is an expert in recruiting and talent acquisition product development. His passion for offering products that are not just “delightfully easy to use,” but also amazingly feature-rich really comes through during the podcast.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.

Thanks, William

Show length: 25 minutes


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William 0:26
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today we have Stephen Bruce on from PeopleFluent, and he and I have known each other for, I don’t know, 78 years or so. We’re gonna be talking about PeopleFluent, and he’s gonna kind of be bringing us up to speed because it’s been a great brand in our space for a long time.

But like all great brands, they change, and morph and do all kinds of interesting and innovative things. So we’re gonna be talking a lot about that today. So without further ado, Stephen, would you introduce both yourself and introduce PeopleFluent?

Stephen 1:02
Yeah, William, thanks, I’d love to. So my name is Stephen Bruce. I’m the managing director for PeopleFluent. A little bit of back about me is I started off as a recruiter. I’ve been in HR and was an HR and recruiting practitioner for over 20 years before stepping into the vendor side of the world. Starting in the early 90s in recruiting, and then obviously moving forward within HR. So I’ve, you know, certainly come at this perspective as certainly someone who has been in the seat and driving not only recruiting strategies but HR strategies for organizations both large and small.

PeopleFluent is phenomenal and LTG, the learning technologies group, is a host of technology products specifically on the talent acquisition side. We have a few different offerings both in this SMB or small to mid-market space as well as the large enterprise space where we provide recruiting both via Breezy which is an SMB player in that space.

But on the PeopleFluent side, that really spans not just the traditional recruiting components that are critical for recruiters, but also critical for things like internal mobility, the ability to drive map skill sets, how do you use skills and AI to do that in a better and more effective way? And drive all of that around a whole host of talent and learning solutions that can expand out that they experience from onboarding and wrapping them up as new hires within the organization.

William 2:33
I’d like that y’all combined, just personally, I like that you’ve combined recruiting and learning. Because so many candidates come into the organization and they want to know how their skills are going to be developed. And if you don’t kind of have the congealed strategy there, you lose them. You know, you lose them, because you’re not investing in them. You don’t have them on a path. You’re not investing in making them the best version of themselves, while they’re there.

So I love that. How do folks, when they categorize, if they categorize PeopleFluent for that? How do they typically categorize you?

Stephen 3:13
Yeah, I think it’s a little bit dependent upon the market segments that we serve and their unique needs. So if they’re a very large enterprise company, they have very tailored needs that fit the requirements that they’re looking to do. So meaning they have specific talent strategies, learning strategies, onboarding strategies that traditional core suite or HCM and HR providers don’t provide. And that’s why they look for us on the, whether it be Breezy on the smaller, PeopleFluent recruiting for the mid-enterprise. Even Bridge in reflect, some of the more recent acquisitions that we did that expand our Learning and Performance and talent development capabilities.

It really comes down to this principle and concept of offering products that are really delightfully easy to use, but also amazingly feature-rich. And I feel like that’s really a conflict for most vendors, in that they want to provide all of these deep features and capabilities. But that makes the adoption use very, much more difficult.

On the talent acquisition side, very specifically, I mentioned the onboarding of just you know, taking this beyond the realm of preboarding and filling out a W9, the W4 I9 form, to really driving learning and onboarding. So that when they get there, they’re like, you know, why did I join this company? What’s in it for me? And how do I advance my career?

So there’s organic, there’s talent development and talent management applications that are built through the lens of the organizational processes that HR wants to run. I need to hire people. I need to do training and compliance, I need other things. And then there’s also the lens of the employee and I think that’s why we’ve really embraced with the addition of Bridge is the concept that people matter most and making sure that our applications are delightful, easy and feature-rich. But look at addressing both the needs of the organization and those that think those processes that need to be complete.

But at the same time through the lens of the employee, because the employee doesn’t care about compliance, right? The employee doesn’t really care about workforce capabilities. They join to advance themselves, learn, and grow. And evaluating that talent and identifying the quality good, good hires is really the future of, of recruiting and the future of talent. It’s not, you know, can I post my job to multiple job boards? Can I text? Can I do other communication messages or methods that more and more providers and vendors are providing? It’s wrapping that around an overall solution if that makes sense.

William 5:48
I know, it totally makes sense. What I love is, it’s you’re coming in from two different directions. Like I want it to be easy to use, very intuitive. And at the same time, I want them to have all the features that they need at the time when they need them. And, you know, there are so many applications out there in our space, that it’s almost like feature bloat. That just kind of keep adding, keep adding, keep adding, keep adding. It’s like, well, that’s great. But if you really dig into the usage of some of those things, people aren’t using them.

Either they’re not trained on them, which is a different issue. Or they don’t find them that, you know, they don’t find them that useful. Which no one wants to hear on the product side, especially on the product development side. But I love the juxtaposition of like, we can do both, we can actually make something really easy to use intuitive, but we’ll train you on it and all that other stuff. But we can also make it to where you have everything you need.

When I asked you know the question of when people first see PeopleFluent. For this conversation, we’ll deal with the upmarket or the enterprise solution. When you show people PeopleFluent for maybe the first time in in a while, what’s kind of the thing that really stands out for them? What do they kind of stick on? Or what’s something that’s an aha moment or whatever. That they will literally go wow, I didn’t know it had you know, this, or I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that it was this deep here?

Stephen 7:24
I think first and foremost, it forms the foundational strategy of our product direction, really, for the last few years. But I would say we’ve really thought about how recruiters use these applications and drive greater value for the organization. But within the realm of, how does the recruiter get value? And so I think the most compelling piece for us is, you know, we have CRM and nurture campaigns from within the product. Analytics and reporting from within the product. Sourcing direct to outside databases directly within the product. Internal mobility, live video scheduling, interviews, scheduling, texting, mobile, and the ability to administer career pages, and events, and so forth. All from within the product.

I think that the difference that customers look at, one, it’s it is delightfully easy to use, and it’s a great user experience. And recruiters want that, right, because they’re marketing these jobs as much as evaluating these jobs. But the ability to say to a recruiter, you don’t have to go log into the CRM, you don’t have to go log into the separate texting application, you don’t have to go log into LinkedIn, or Indeed or some other sourcing tool. You can use those, they certainly are augmented, and we certainly integrate with a whole host of aggregation tools and other productivity tools, whether it be Google or Microsoft Office 365, and so forth. But I think that’s the most compelling piece.

And combine that with what we really think of the talent mobility in the talent, internal talent marketplace. For years on the HR and recruiter side, you know, we throw up an internal job board and say oh we have internal mobility. Anybody can apply at any time. Which is a joke, right? At the end of the day, you’re relying on an employee, who has a bad day to look at internal jobs because they want to invest.

Instead of actually taking their skills, matching those within with the with an AI engine and what is marketable within the jobs and the workforce intelligence data, and then pushing those recommendations both to recruiters as well as to the internal candidates. So they can say, yeah, I’m interested now, or they can save that as a as a career aspiration.

So if you think about how compelling that is, from a recruiter’s perspective, just on the saved searches alone, I can now say, Well, I really understand the pipeline and bench strength that we have within the organization as we look to grow these jobs. Because I have a ton of interest in them. These jobs I don’t have any interest in. So why is that? And if we want to grow in those areas, or if we have turnover or attrition in those areas, I’m going to have to rely on potentially external agencies or other external candidates to be able to fill those because my internal employees are not interested in those roles, and why aren’t they interested in these roles?

So I think that’s the most compelling ability to do all of those functions within the recruiting product itself is really the most compelling. And that’s, and that’s why we’ve had such growth in the SMB market, and why we’re starting to see that in the enterprise market, mid-market as we launched this next-generation recruiting platform at the end of last year.

William 10:38
Yeah, it’s because it’s a one-stop shop, if you will. And you didn’t mention it explicitly. But I would assume that you through integrations, you probably-

Stephen 10:48
Yeah, the marketplace integrations. I should recommend that because background check vendors are and other assessments are a little bit more commoditized. And what you don’t want to do is have to call up the vendor, which, candidly, in the old PeopleFluent world of our recruiting platform. It would be well, let’s build a custom integration. And for them, the ability to click a button and say, Okay, we’re going to use this you know, Checkr, HireRight, or whatever the background check is.

It just makes their life a million times easier. The same thing with career pages, If they wanted to throw up a career page for certain events, you know, that that can be an ordeal. And recruiting ATSs, the ability to do that yourself and have page layouts and be able to add video and other things, chatbots and other things,

William 11:35
I can’t help but think that your background in recruiting helps. Just on a lot of levels.

Stephen 11:44
Our product people certainly get an opinionated view. I will say. There have been times…

William 11:51
Decidedly unvarnished

Stephen 11:52
Yeah, certainly in the last 10 years, where I’ve said, was a recruiter or an HR person even in the room when we designed this?

William 11:58
Yeah, or ever?

Stephen 11:59
Like, what? This doesn’t look logical to me. Maybe it does from an engineer’s perspective, but…this won’t work. And here’s why. It makes it a ton of fun.

William 12:10
Oh, yeah. No of course.

Stephen 12:12
And I think makes it more compelling because we can really apply real-life examples to how customers can do this and do it better.

William 12:20
Odd question. Do your own recruiters, so PeopleFluent recruiters? Do they, do you use them as a kind of a focus group?

Stephen 12:31
We do.

William 12:31
Yeah, tell us about that.

Stephen 12:32
Our recruiting team says that our LTG customers are, can be some of the most challenging. It’s hard, you know. And this is not just recruiting too, this is performance and compensation. You know, when you work for a vendor that sells these solutions, we do not have employees that are shy of providing opinions. There is a ton of well why, why can’t we do this? And why shouldn’t we do that? And I think it’s a great example of simple things about everything from, how do we source and get those through?

We’re doing blind recruitment, and try to try to drive a more inclusive environment. And so we’re, we’ve been kind of working on. We haven’t launched this yet, we’ve been kind of beta testing it on our own side. But how do we drive that number in a more effective way? But it’s really challenging when you start to say, okay, we built this recruiting product, this next-generation platform to pull in all your social profiles and everything so that it’s easier to collaborate, it’s easier to identify, and it’s easier to promote employees.

Now you got to strip all that away in the early stages of the workflow process, until they’ve been identified, and then open it back up. And there’s been a tremendous amount of feedback in that experience. Because, you know, managers at the end of the day, they just want to hire.

William 13:52
That’s right.

Stephen 13:53
In their opinion, some of these things can add additional clicks and steps where we really consume that information to say, yeah, we should change our strategy a little here and there.

William 14:04
It’s one of the first questions, the buying questions that I tell HR and recruiters when they’re buying a solution like PeopleFluent is, is your team using it? And if so, let me talk to one of them. Like that, that throws people off, because it’s like, where we’ll find out real quick. If your team is using it, and if they are, you know, to what degree are they using it? And to what degree are they really happy? Cuz you can tell, they’re not salespeople.

Stephen 14:33
You can and sometimes you can even tell who’s taking shortcuts on their recruiting product.

William 14:37
That’s exactly right.

Stephen 14:38
I had an interview earlier in the week where they sent me a video interview via Google meet, and I’m like, wait, why are we doing it through Google meet? We have a live video interview integration. So instead of me having to go into and pull up the resume, our video, live synchronous video will just show the video screen with the resume or an interview guide and other things along with it. So it seemed weird. Right you click on the link and you’re there. Now they’ve sent me a Google link where I’m like, Okay, I gotta go, find…

William 15:06
I gotta go find this other thing in the system, to do this bit.

Stephen 15:09
Sometimes there’s feedback in the other direction. Which is you guys are not using this product the way it is the way you should be,

William 15:15
Which is, which is great training, right? So not only does it training indicator a flag for like, okay, we need to train our own people, A. B, our clients may be having some of the same, they might be doing some of the same shortcuts. So let’s make sure we do that.

Real quickly. Just just just a super, super quick question. Industries that you serve. I mean, I know you got a down market and an upmarket product. So I know that it can kind of be a little bit messy. Is there? Is there any industries where y’all just really, really, really super thrive?

Stephen 15:48
Well, we do. It’s really horizontal, though. I would say I mean, we obviously the biggest industries for us are financial services, healthcare manufacturing. Because those market segments themselves are quite large. But we do everything from technology is a big growing segment. Right? We’re as we’re a technology company, ourselves, and that market is growing rapidly. But we really are horizontal, we do everything from hospitality, to retail, to all the industries, I think the one sector we really haven’t focused in on is, is government, you know, and…

William 16:21
That’s a tough sell.

Stephen 16:22
Yeah, and I find that they’re just not as modern and they don’t appreciate some of the strategies.

William 16:31
You have to. Generally speaking, you have to have an office in or around DC. You got to be kind of connected to that community. And it’s an 18-month sale.

Stephen 16:41
Yeah. And there’s a whole host of NIST and other security standards, that we’re already soc 2 and all of that certified, but there’s a whole second level of investment that I’m not sure adds a ton of value for us. But yeah, we’re very, we’re very horizontal so we have we, you know, we have, without getting into brands, we have the largest semiconductor company in the world, the largest Coffee Company in the world. If you go to do some home repair, we’ve got the largest Home Repair Company, which is retail. So we, we got everything from technology, the largest banks in the world, you name it, so we’re really all over the place.

William 17:17
That’s good. That’s good. Because you’ve worked the other side of the desk, I want to kind of get into the buying questions. And the way I like to talk about buying questions is things that you just love to hear kind of in the process, when you talk to prospects. When you talk to people that maybe aren’t as familiar with PeopleFluent. Questions that you’d love to hear, and maybe questions that you’d love to sunset?

Stephen 17:44
Yeah, so the first question is, please have a strategy. And I say that with all the love intended. But I am very surprised sometimes. I’ll start with the questions I hate to hear, which is, yeah, I just really need to integrate this to get you know, this, this statement out of this report. Or automate this. Or you know, it’s kind of a pain to load my managers or my requisitions, can we automate that?

It’s like, yes, we can certainly do all of those things. But what it tells me is that they’re more worried about the administrative process of running recruiting, and less the strategy of doing great recruiting. You know, right.

The questions I do love are the ones that are really coming out, which is, how are you thinking about skills, advanced matching, AI and other things? Which is the future for sure. And we have those capabilities in our recruiting and talent mobility products today. I think the thing that’s most interesting to me about that is where it’s going to go and what will that mean for the future of recruiting and talent?

And when I say have a strategy, starting to think about how do we validate these skills? Because there are vendors and many of them that do workforce intelligence data that will parse out jobs that are skills at the job level. Those candidates can then say, Well, I’m an accountant, I’ve done this role for five years, I must have these skills because I’m matching that to either an API if I’m sophisticated. Or if not, I’m using some sort of Resume Builder tool, which is matching to the same workforce intelligence data.

And then you’ve got vendors on the recruiting side, that when you create a requisition are matching to the exact same workforce intelligence data for an accountant. So you know what I keep challenging our team and the future of.  Great we have matching today. We’re using workforce intelligence data to do that matching and we’re using that to do recommendations as it relates to not only the internal ability but to do matching. And combining that AI with the individual evaluation process.

We have an evaluation score that goes with the matching score, to say okay, these people have interviewed, and so forth. But if in the future, all we’re doing is matching candidates, resumes that are built off the same workforce intelligence data and skillset and skills ontology that the vendors are matching to, then we’re just matching like for like.

So now the future is going to be less about how do I attract and identify, which continues to be a challenge in recruiting, but it’s going to really continue to morph into how do I validate and qualify the skills that they really have? Because with the, with more access to data and workforce intelligence information, the easier it’s going to be both from a candidate and vendor perspective, just to be like, Oh, we’ve got the skills match. Great. This one says they can do it. So I’m going to hire them.

I think that’s the thing we’re looking at today, which is, where’s recruiting going to be in three years? And you can tell from vendors or customers when they start to ask the vendor? Hey, how are you thinking about matching? How do we automate this so I can get my recruiters into more dynamic conversations in evaluating the quality of hire versus all of the integration and communication and texting and other things to identify and get them into the process? If that makes sense?

William 21:03
Oh, it absolutely makes sense. So back when you were buying technology, and in particular, buying recruiting and HR technology, did you have any knockout questions or things that again, kind of the second part of that, is any turn-ons or turn-offs in the sales process?

Stephen 21:21
Yeah, I mean, I think that, for sure. I think you really have to start with, is this an experience that I think I can get adoption and expansion by my managers and employees? If I have to train will it be effective and adopted? And the reality is, you’re never going to have enough HR people and recruiting people to effectively train every manager, and so forth to use these tools.

So that to me, a simple knockout is just how is the experience, the flow? How many clicks does it take for a candidate to apply? How can they manage that process? Certainly, you’ll have some knockouts to kind of handle Google or Microsoft and some of the integration collaboration productivity tools that are out there. Certainly, you need to have the ability to communicate with customers, like texting, and so forth.

I would say the biggest piece is, do I think I can deploy this, get it adopted, and get value? And that’s really the experience. I’m willing to live with a little bit more administrative burden on the recruiting and HR side if I feel like the manager and employee adoption will be through the roof.

William 22:31
Right. That’s, and I think, again, gets back to that intuitive, easy to use, giving them the features that they, only the features that they need and want at the times when they need them and want them and not a lot of other stuff in the way.

So last thing, you know, success in 2021, and maybe even into a little early 2022. What does that look like for you?

Stephen 22:58
I think it’s just incorporating some of the more recent stuff. There’s a phenomenal concept around leveraging this, the tagline that is Bridge, but also how we’re adopting across LTG that people matter most. And how do we start to think about reshaping talent acquisition and talent management and learning to be able to reflect that?

Through that more of that employee lens and success for us, we’ll be providing that to customers. So it’s a more seamless experience. Everything from creating content and learning and obviously recruiting, Performance, Compensation, and so forth, and having that drive greater value for our customers. The newer platforms are growing. So financially, I think that’s fine.

I think it’s more about how do we take the best of these processes and rethink them for our customers in the future? And I, you know, I know you’re asking about questions, and knockouts and so forth. But I think as HR people, we need to start thinking about like, well, I need to do block interview scheduling, as well as candidate self-scheduling, and I need to do this, and I need to have to do that and e-signature.

And, yes, you need all of those. It’s becoming more table stakes. What I will tell you is when you hire someone, tell me what that experience is for that employee in the first 90 days. Is it terrible or is it good? And if it’s terrible, how do we improve upon that? And let’s stop thinking in silos of well, that’s learning’s job. My job is recruiting or organizational development or my job is comp?

William 24:34
Yeah, the candidate, the employee doesn’t care.

Stephen 24:36
You’re taking two months to get a bonus letter out? I mean, yeah, basic stuff like that. Where it’s like, this is where I would say success. Success for us will be taking all of these incredibly compelling applications. And being able to use those in such a way where it really does drive back to that experience for our employees. And that’s our ultimate customer. Even though it’s a vehicle through our actual companies that use our product.

William 25:03
Sure. And it’s an, what’s interesting is you’ve got candidate, employee, alumni. You’re looking at the experiences, you know, thousands of micro experiences across all of those things, and how to make them just more eloquent across all of that.

Stephen 25:18
Yes, for sure.

William 25:19
So, brother, this has been fantastic. It’s been great to catch up. And yeah, and it’s also been just great to talk a little bit more about PeopleFluent. Love what you’re doing. Keep doing a great job, and thanks for coming on the podcast.

Stephen 25:32
I really, really appreciate it. Thank you.

William 25:35
Alright, and thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time.

The Use Case Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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