By Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst, Talent Management and Workforce Management
In the HCM world, there are usually three reasons for a merger or acquisition to happen: 1. Removal of a competitor; 2. adding capabilities to either the software or the workforce or 3. gaining entry to a new market (company size, industry vertical or geographic space). In terms of Symphony Talent acquiring Smashfly, it’s a clear case of #2, with a dash of #3 for good measure.
In Brandon Hall Group’s latest Candidate Experience Research, when survey takers were given the statement “Our employer brand messaging is conveyed both internally to employees and externally to potential candidates,” only 21% responded with “strongly agree”. So, there is a large market out there for any organization that can combine the internal and external branding efforts, as this acquisition has combined the two of the market leaders in those respective areas.
As recently as October, when I spoke with Smashfly they still saw CRM as still their core function but were already expanding into talent mobility, career pathing, and supporting contingent workers. Smashfly also had begun an earnest push to expand globally, which has now happened overnight, with Symphony Talent having an established presence in India and the EU.
The highest hurdle for sustained success will be in melding their cultures. This is always one of the most challenging tasks in any M&A activity, but it will be especially daunting here for many of the same reasons their products are so complementary: each has what the other was missing.
I spoke with Symphony’s Gina Alioto about these concerns and she assured me that when Symphony Talent’s stakeholders were looking over the deal, Smashfly’s capabilities were important, but“…equally important was the look at core values and how the cultures might align,” and that from her perspective “the marketing teams just meshed from Day One.”
Being able to successfully meld cultures is not an insignificant task, and the fact that Symphony Talent’s stakeholders effectively said that cultural fit was just as important as product teams moving ahead on product roadmaps and adding creative teams and resources, shows they are well ahead of most organizations in similar circumstances. Because both companies have a large remote workforce, very little employee movement will need to take place.
Alioto was quite clear that their similar core values were as important as the product. Symphony Talent is poised to improve an already market-leading product with greater capabilities, deeper and more insightful analytics and increased reach — geographically and across the employee lifecycle.
All of this points to a successful acquisition that seems more like a merger and that’s what will need to happen for this to be declared a success a year from now: strengthening a product to satisfy an unanswered demand from the market and making ensuring the market knows why the ability to meld external and internal brands is so important.
Symphony Talent has done their research and took the right pre-acquisition steps by examining not just the people and products at Smashfly but also its culture. The next step is restructuring, likely minimally, to avoid duplication of efforts and overlap in the product offerings.
Finally, they’ll need to successfully communicate the rare opportunity to create a recruitment brand that is perfectly aligned with their external, market-facing brand, which has lasting implications for overall employee success. This has all the ingredients for creating a whole that’s greater than the sum of their parts (or combined revenues), but the next six months will be crucial.
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