Raising the Bar

Welcome, once again, to Human Resource Executive®’s annual Top HR Products contest, recognizing 10 technology innovations that are helping to make HR more strategic and effective.

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Winners this year were in areas such as recruiting, screening, leadership develpment, outplacement, performance management, employee engagement and compliance. As was the case a year ago, talent-acquisition technologies dominate this final group of winners.

We once again relied on a combination of staff reviews and selections, and comments from outside experts and analysts, to narrow the list from the many entries we received to the 10 winners. Special thanks go to the following experts for sharing their insights on the 2017 entries: Josh Bersin, principal at Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP; Gerry Crispin, principal and co-founder of CareerXroads; Bill Kutik, HRE’s HR Technology Columnist; George LaRocque, principal analyst and founder of #HRWINS; Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst for Constellation Research; and Elaine Orler, CEO and founder of Talent Function.

Special thanks goes to Al Adamsen, founder and executive director of the Talent Strategy Institute, for assisting our editorial team in some of the product evaluations and sharing his insights.

As always, we encourage you to perform your own due diligence before making any investments.

Narrative Intelligence

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Glint, Redwood City, Calif.

What It Is: Narrative Intelligence combines modern organizational-development science with machine learning and interactive visualizations to tell an organization’s story through the eyes of employees. Powered by Glint’s AI-for-HR technology, the solution synthesizes open-ended feedback across the entire employee lifecycle – including engagement surveys and pulses, “always-on” feedback channels, onboarding feedback, exit interviews and 180 assessments – with the intent of exposing ongoing issues an organization is facing and, in turn, guiding leaders and managers in taking the best course of action. NI can be purchased as a part of Glint’s people success platform or as a stand-alone tool.

Why We Liked It: What organization wouldn’t want to get a better handle on what employees are saying and thinking so they can map out a meaningful strategy? To date, employers have had to settle for just part of the picture and spend a lot of time analyzing it. But now, thanks to the power of natural language processing and tools like NI, they can quickly and effortless synthesize feedback data, including unstructured comments, to pinpoint what employees care most about and use those insights to craft strategies that increase employee engagement and, ultimately, business outcomes. There’s much to like about NI, including its ability to connect comments to actual context and filter responses. For example, employers can easily compare what high performers talk about versus low performers – and use those insights to create a more on-target action plan.


SmashFly Analytics

SmashFly Technologies, Concord, Mass.

What It Is: SmashFly Analytics captures data from its Enterprise Recruitment Marketing Platform and aims to make it easy to identify where the talent pipeline is healthy and where it can be improved. Insights are derived from an uncommonly wide array of applicant and candidate experience data, some of which can be unique to the client organization. Other, standard data is benchmarked, with the intent of providing a relative gauge on recruiting effectiveness. Such insights are designed to help organizations better allocate recruiting investments to those sources, locations or events that have proven to deliver quality candidates. Similarly, the tool is designed to identify bottlenecks and effective practices in the candidate-to-hire funnel.

Why We Like It: SmashFly Analytics is beautiful, easy-to-use and delivers uniquely valuable insights. From its intuitive visualizations – which make this a product recruiters and others in HR are going to actually use – to the array of quality data sources, the solution represents a logical evolution in recruitment marketing. It’s particularly appealing because it captures applicant and candidate data over time and contextualizes it with job marketing data – e.g., cost of job posting vs. number of applicants vs. candidate quality. This allows for unprecedented insights into recruiting activities, candidate experiences and hiring effectiveness. In the end, SmashFly Analytics should save time, money and effort, and elevate one’s confidence that recruiting and selection processes are, in fact, attracting and delivering the right people at the right time and at the right cost.



Textio, Seattle

What It Is: Textio is an augmented writing platform that “X-rays” job posts and evaluates the language contained within, predicting who will respond based on the hiring outcomes of millions of real job posts. The platform’s predictive engine analyzes how the job posting will perform and provides ways to improve the document as the user creates it. For example, Textio uses colors to highlight words that impact the effectiveness of job posts. Green highlights are positive phrases, while orange highlights represent phrases that are more likely to turn applicants away. When the user’s cursor hovers over highlighted phrases, Textio also offers alternative wording that its predictive analytics have determined is more likely to perform better. Every post written in application is assigned a Textio score, from 0 to 100, and Textio auto-saves documents in a library that enables others within the organization to see how the highest-performing job posts are crafted. The platform also provides graphs that allow users to see how their organization’s hiring is improving in comparison to their competition.

Why We Like It: Research has found that making even minor changes to job postings can improve the number and quality of applicants, as well as reduce the kinds of biases – conscious or unconscious – that hamper diversity and deter qualified candidates from applying with the company. The Textio platform offers a much-needed way for recruiters and HR to include language in job listings that goes beyond the standard terminology. Textio’s “color coding” approach singles out words or phrases that are likely to be effective, and, moreover, provides helpful suggestions on how to reword postings that include language that might sound “stale.” In addition, the scoring system allows users to store and share especially effectively worded posts with others within the organization, and the graphs generated by the platform offer users a continual and valuable look at how job posts are performing.


BetterWorks Continuous Performance Management

BetterWorks, Redwood City, Calif.

What It Is: This cloud-based system, which integrates with core HRIS platforms, helps managers conduct more accurate performance reviews. It tracks employee goals and enables supervisors to document conversations or periodic check-ins with staff. Managers are provided with quarterly coaching questions, such as, “What are specific examples of instances where this employee was highly effective?” or “How can I support my employee in achieving expected behaviors?” Employees, meanwhile, can enter detailed information about their assigned tasks or projects, receive reminders about deadline dates and post feedback about co-workers they’re collaborating with on joint projects. Managers can log into the system at any time to monitor an employee’s growth while employees can review their own progress.

Why We Like It: BetterWorks’ system helps managers create a living story about each employee’s achievements, competencies and areas requiring improvement. It stores every conversation and employee comment so when it comes time for a performance review, managers don’t have to guess, rely on their memory or piece together scattered notes. Just as important, employees are never in the dark or surprised about poor performance reviews. They know where they stand at all times in terms of how their performance is being perceived by their boss and co-workers. The system also goes a long way in enabling employees to see the big picture and connecting their work to the goals of other departments and the company as a whole.


RiseSmart Insight

RiseSmart, San Jose, Calif.

What It Is: RiseSmart Insight provides HR professionals and leaders with a complete system of record for real-time outplacement performance tracking and analysis. With RiseSmart Insight, companies track and analyze outplacement performance and view the status of transitioning employees in real time. They can manage the post-employee experience. And they can also track how past employees feel about the company through an Alumni Sentiment Analysis, a post-exit survey that sheds light on how past employees perceive their former employer. All this is intended to help the employer manage its brand, reduce the risk of litigation and simply do right by those who have contributed to the organization in the past.

Why We Like It: Previously, there was no way to analyze what was happening when employees were let go from an organization. In a typical outplacement model, HR professionals send a list of exiting employees to an outside vendor, hoping they’d get some meaningful help and land a new job. Unfortunately, this process has been of little or no value, thereby reflecting poorly on the former employer. While not as high profile as talent acquisition or most other HR processes, RiseSmart Insight’s attractive design and action-inspiring interface makes it critical to anyone managing layoffs and/or ongoing exits. The solution collects new and highly valuable data – making it, at the very least, a must-see for any employer that’s interested in proactively managing its employment brand and systematically helping people get into their next role. It is further evidence of how RiseSmart has taken the outplacement process and pretty much perfected it.



ClearStar Inc., Alpharetta, Ga.

What It Is: ClearID is an identification-card and facial-recognition app and ClearContact is an industry-first electronic qualified labor address book. Together, they are designed to make it easy for employers to verify and manage a “casual”/on-demand labor force. Users can quickly verify the identity of a laborer by taking a photo of his or face and checking his or her government-issued photo ID; it then validates the ID and matches the candidate to it, returning actionable results in an average of five minutes. Through ClearContact, users are able to organize their casual labor force by location or position, schedule them for work and track the progress and results of any ClearID screen or other background-screening services.

Why We Like It: Currently used primarily in the moving and storage industries, this mobile background screener is designed to work best where the labor usually is: outside the office and away from a desktop computer. With its simplified, five-step process and quick response time, we like the way this solution helps speed up the verification process, a must-have in these days of the “gig” economy. We also like the product’s ability to electronically store necessary documentation and data, as well as a “favorite” feature that allows users to tag preferred workers for future assignments. (Users can also reach out to candidates via text, phone or email through the product.)


Shaker Standard-Edition Virtual Job Tryout

Shaker, Cleveland, Ohio

What It Is: Standard-Edition Virtual Job Tryout is exactly what its name says it is: A hands-on way for employers to determine if job candidates are qualified for the work before they are offered a position. In other words, the tool aims to answer the question: Can the person actually do the job? In the past, large employers could benefit from Shaker’s virtual job tryout offering, but now, as a “standard-edition” offering, employers can utilize the solution, with little or no customization, for a broad spectrum of positions. It offers a ready-to-use, interactive pre-employment assessment that takes advantage of years of job-performance predictive data.

Why We Like It: When you get right down to it, resumes and interviews give employers a limited perspective. They can determine if a job candidate should be considered, but they don’t mean a person should be hired. For some skills, such as call-center or retail positions, the proof comes when the job candidate actually gets to work. With VJTs, employers can make those hiring decisions with a greater degree of confidence that the people being hired are right for the job. In other words, they have the skills, temperament and aptitude to succeed. Nothing is more demoralizing than making a hire and quickly realizing it was a mistake – no matter what their resume or an interviewer might say. On the flip side, job candidates who are a good fit will no doubt appreciate that they were hired for the right reasons.


Visier Talent Acquisition

Visier, Vancouver, Canada

What It Is: Visier Talent Acquisition connects ATS data with talent management, core HR and other workforce data. This candidate and employee life-cycle approach is designed to help leaders quickly answer talent-acquisition questions with unprecedented confidence, questions such as “What’s the quality of our hires over the period?” “How long will it likely take to fill a certain role?” “Which recruiting sources, programs and decisions have shown to deliver the best candidates, and at what cost?” By putting this information together in one place, the goal is to make it easier to track diversity and ensure fairness and equity at every stage of the hiring funnel. It’s also possible to isolate the factors that increase and decrease candidates’ propensity to withdraw their applications or not accept offers. All this and more can be enabled by the solution’s ability to aggregate, visualize and distribute insights to decision-makers when they need it.

Why We Like It: Visier Talent Acquisition is an elegant, engaging tool that’s been clearly designed for HR professionals and those they serve. This user-centric approach is meant to elevate usage so the value of the embedded insights are actually realized. And the insights are impressive. By bringing together applicant, candidate and employee experience data, the solution provides answers – or predictions, if more appropriate – to questions that had either been unanswerable, or only answerable through intensive, one-off research projects. Now, with this tool, insights are accessible to whoever needs it when they need it.



ADP, Roseland, N.J.

What It Is: Compass is comprised of two 360-degree feedback assessments for leaders and teams, coupled with a personalized coaching service delivered via the web. After participants undergo their assessments, Compass provides insights tailored to the assessment results and an eight-week coaching curriculum that includes automated email delivery of personalized content. The program integrates the principles of behavioral economics, adult learning theory and “the psychology of coaching” into the questions and coaching that’s delivered to the participants. Clients have access to benchmarks that allow them to compare their leadership talent to their own best teams as well as teams from other high-performing organizations.

Why We Like It: It’s a complicated, dynamic world out there, and leaders and their teams need all the help they can get in ensuring they’re positioned to thrive in this ever-evolving environment. Compass offers a convenient, scalable and thorough way to help accomplish that objective via assessment-based coaching. It’s designed for managers at all levels, not just executives, and its features – mobile-friendly design, captivating email headers and straightforward, research-based content – seem perfect for time-crunched managers who want to improve but don’t have hours and hours to spare.


I-9 Audit and Remediation Solution

Equifax Workforce Solutions, St. Louis

What It Is: I-9 Audit and Remediation automates the inspection of historical I-9s to help identify potential issues. Employers can use the tool to quantify risk and prioritize corrections. It’s designed to assist both employers and employees in making electronic corrections while providing a more comprehensive audit trail to help manage Form I-9 compliance. Employers can use it to find answers to frequently asked questions and get tips on I-9 compliance through the connected I-9 Management Knowledgebase. It offers both web and mobile access.

Why We Like It: Because portions of the I-9 form are completed by the employee, there’s always the risk of missing or incorrect information. Fines for technical violations start at $110, but can rise to $16,000 per error if the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency decides the employer knowingly hired or continued to employ an ineligible worker. Some fines for large employers have run well into the millions. Employers no doubt will appreciate the straightforward way I-9 Audit and Remediation helps them minimize that risk by flagging errors as they occur, as well as identify problem I-9s that may be lurking in an organization’s records for years. Considering that the majority of I-9s have errors associated with them, we imagine they will especially like the savings they probably will reap by identifying and correcting errors before it’s too late.