This week at the LinkedIn Talent Connect conference, LinkedIn announced a groundbreaking move: plans to acquire Glint, one of the market leaders in employee engagement solutions.
Glint, which is a company I’ve been talking with since its formation, provides one of the most scalable and AI-driven solutions for employee surveys and sensing, and the company has been growing rapidly. The CEO and founding team have Silicon Valley technology pedigrees, so they took a technology-centric approach to this market from the beginning.
While it may seem simple to build an employee survey (there are hundreds of tools to do this), actually deploying a “listening architecture” that collects data from annual surveys, new hire surveys, exit surveys, and dozens of other moments in an employee’s career, is actually very hard. IBM acquired Kenexa in an attempt to go after this market, and after two years of R&D essentially gave up on the platform and decided to exit the business. So did CEB (now Gartner).
Why is this so hard? Because the problem of surveying and collecting data is really more of an analytics and AI problem than it is a survey problem.
Every time you collect data from your employees you need to know what department they’re in, what activity you’re surveying, and all sorts of demographic data about their location, time of day, and other work-related information. Did you know that opinion surveys taken in the morning are more positive than those taken in the afternoon? Or that people who take surveys on mobile devices are often more positive than those who sit at their computers?
Then, as you collect all this data, you want to combine, compare, and aggregate it with lots of other information. How can we correlate survey data against sales productivity? Turnover? Customer satisfaction and retention? All these are common questions companies ask, and when the platform is clunky companies have to build their own data warehouses or do lots of extra work in Excel or another tool.
Third, there’s much more analysis to come. Now we want data on organizational network analysis (communication patterns), sentiment (tone and tenor of surveys and emails), and even want to compare data on work activity. One company installed heat detectors under the desk to determine when people were sitting at their desks (they were trying to get people to come into the office), and many now look at badge-reader data, travel data, and even smart badges that sense stress in your voice.
All this data is part of the expanding world of People Analytics, so platforms like Glint are much more strategic than just tools to deliver and report on surveys.
LinkedIn’s Play Here
LinkedIn has a lot of reasons to get into this market.
First, the company now offers a wide range of talent and learning solutions, so helping companies understand engagement is a natural next step. With more than 600 million users and many millions of corporate clients (LinkedIn Learning alone has more than 14 million paid user subscriptions), LinkedIn can help all these companies collect engagement data now too. This is a fast-growing business and LinkedIn can easily sell this solution rapidly.
Second, the company is a data-centric business at its core. LinkedIn’s most significant innovation of all has been the platform’s uncanny ability to identify people, connect you to people you need to know, and serve as a learning and collaboration platform for people at all stages of their career. Imagine how much more powerful LinkedIn could become if employer engagement data was added to this mix. (Watch out Glassdoor.)
Third, LinkedIn Learning and Recruitment solutions are quite interdependent with employee survey data. When an individual struggles in their job or perhaps falls behind in their role, they often have lots to say about what the company could do to make their life better. This type of engagement data is invaluable to the L&D or HR organization, and can be directly fed into LinkedIn Learning to provide an even more powerful learning solution. LXP vendors like Degreed and Edcast are struggling to build machine-learning algorithms for training: LinkedIn may be able to jump ahead quickly if Glint-powered surveys are built into this platform.
Fourth, I have to believe LinkedIn will use Glint’s platform for much more. Glint has introduced a performance management tool, so LinkedIn could decide to get into that market. But further, the future of work is all about AI-driven suggestions; nudges and hints to make work better for individuals, easier for managers, and more powerful and action-oriented for HR professionals. Glint’s AI-driven sentiment analysis and longitudinal survey analysis (Glint can connect a wide variety of surveys into one integrated report, which is quite powerful) will undoubtedly help the company deliver many more innovations to come.
Finally, we really don’t know that role Microsoft will play in all this. So far Microsoft-LinkedIn integration has been somewhat sparse, but imagine a world where Glint-powered engagement surveys appear in Office? One of the big themes for HR is what I call “HR in the Flow of Work.” This acquisition really brings that potential much closer to reality.
I’ll definitely keep you up to speed on where this all goes. Let me just say this changes the employee engagement market in a significant way, and we can expect some interesting and exciting new developments from LinkedIn and Glint in the quarters ahead.
(Note: Engagement Vendors in this market include CultureAmp, TinyPulse, Ultimate Software, ADP, CultureIQ, SurveyMonkey, HighGround, Quantum Workplace, Qualtrics, Great Places to Work, Energage, Gallup, AON Hewitt, Humu, and many more.)