The Future of Work: Employees as Customers

September 18, 2012 Balakrishna Narasimhan

by Balakrishna Narasimhan (@bnara75)

Tomorrow, Salesforce is set to unveil the next phase of their evolution from a CRM company to one that provides businesses with a technology platform for today’s mobile and social world. One of the areas that has provoked a lot of speculation leading up to tomorrow has been what Salesforce plans to do with Work.com, their new HR offering. When Salesforce acquired Rypple and hired John Wookey, many thought they were going to diveheadlong into the HR space and potentially even compete with Workday. But, Marc Benioff has been very clear that Workday is an integral part of their strategy for Work.com. In fact, Workday’s co-CEO Aneel Bhusri, is slated to speak in tomorrow’s keynote.


As we thought about why Salesforce is entering the HR or people space, we were struck by the parallels between marketing and HR, two functions that are undergoing enormous change because of the impact of social, the explosion of data and the increasing importance of technology within both functions. But even beyond marketing and HR as functions, there are clear parallels between the way companies attract and retain customers and the way companies attract and retain employees. If you’re looking for clues on how Work.com might evolve now and in the future, Salesforce’s strengths on the customer side of the equation provide some very good pointers to what they may offer for employees. 

Finding customers or employees
Whether it’s finding customers or employees, companies start on social media, typically with their own networks. In addition, companies need to monitor social media to see who else is talking about their company and what’s being said. This matters equally whether you’re trying to find customers or employees.  The next step may be researching keywords on Twitter to find those interested in a particular topic or searching LinkedIn to identify potential prospects or recruits and engaging with them by answering questions or connecting with them. This type of engagement typically happens many months or many years before the people you’re connecting with become employees or customers.

Then it’s time to run campaigns or events to attract customers or employees. This may take the form of brand advertising, content-based campaigns, webinars, virtual events and of course live events. Again, some or all of these tactics apply to both finding customers and potential employees. Of course, each function could learn a few things from the other. Marketers are probably a bit further along in terms of running and measuring multi-pronged campaigns, while recruiters are probably further along in terms of tapping into alumni networks.

After the marketing or recruiting campaign, hopefully there are some leads or prospective employees to process. On the marketing side, these leads go through lead and opportunity management processes until the customer is ready to place an order. The recruiting side of the equation is analogous in that a pool of people go through a structured and collaborative workflow to eventually get to the point where they’re ready to become employees. Many recruiting activities and processes – tracking where someone is in a cycle, what meetings and activities are happening, tracking ratings and even closing – are very similar to sales & marketing although the vocabulary and systems are very different.

Since the processes until this point are very similar on the employee and customer side, Salesforce is well positioned to extend their portfolio of marketing and CRM products to help HR teams do everything from monitoring social networks to running social engagement campaigns to managing recruiting events to managing the recruiting process up to the point of making an offer.

Bringing on customers or employees
In the customer lifecycle, the next step after closing is to generate an order, fulfill it and invoice the customer. In the CRM world, Salesforce has left order management, fulfillment, invoicing and customer master data management to ERP providers such as Oracle and SAP in the on-premise world and Workday Financials in the cloud world.

Similarly, in the employee lifecycle, once an employee has agreed to join a company, the focus shifts to generating the right offer for the employee, onboarding the employee, making sure their pay and benefits are calculated correctly and making sure all their core information is correct at all times. As on the customer side of the equation, these are areas that Salesforce is unlikely to enter, so Workday is the likely the system of record and core HCM engine for companies that want to run HR in the cloud.

Workday’s HCM and Financials bring all the agility, user-experience and cost advantage advantages of the cloud to this last bastion of on-premise ERP systems. By connecting HCM with time tracking and Financials, Workday even makes it possible to quantify the cost and value of work. 

Retaining customers or employees
After a business spends a lot of time and effort to acquire customers or employees, it’s a critical priority to retain and nurture those relationships. The objective in both cases is to engage and create advocates for your company who will refer new customers and employees respectively.

For both customers and employees the core is providing quick resolution to issues, along with forums to engage with peers, multiple ways to provide and receive feedback and finally ways to develop professionally. For customers, Salesforce Service Cloud, Chatter Communities, and Ideas provide the foundation for multi-channel service, social communities and community-generated and filtered feedback.

By comparison, most HR organizations still do not have a good way to communicate and support their workforce’s changing needs.  Employee and Manager Self-Service might be one answer, but are very transactional and not interactive at all.  Extending Salesforce’s Service Cloud to support employees could provide an experience that’s far more interactive and responsive. One might even imagine using the Service Cloud’s social monitoring features internally to locate employee issues proactively. This capability could be made even more powerful through integrations with Workday for core data and self-service.

Chatter is already an excellent solution for internal collaboration and sharing and Rypple pioneered social performance management. Workday complements Salesforce’s capabilities with structured goal setting and performance management tools. The combination of Chatter, Rypple and Workday performance management provides companies with a way to bring together social influence and informal feedback with formal goals, structured performance reviews and even direct financial impact. A talent profile that brings this type of picture of an employee together could finally give companies an objective view of each employee’s contributions.

Workforce enablement (or learning) is an area where neither Salesforce nor Workday have their own solution at present. This is a space that’s ripe for innovation through social learning, user-generated content and gamification. Since this area is closely related to performance management, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see a social learning solution as part of Work.com in the near future.


 The cloud powered employee experience
Putting it all together, it’s clear that Salesforce and Workday have very complementary capabilities that together could provide HR leaders with an entirely new way to run their functions.

We’re excited about the combination of Workday and Salesforce, because this combination enables companies to offer their employees the type of experience that their best customers and prospects get today. In a services-based economy where talent separates winners from losers, nothing less will do!

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