Employee Communication: Lessons from The State of Colorado

Most companies understand the importance of employee communication but fail to have an effective strategy. Companies need to continuously practice and improve the way they communicate. They need to invest in the right strategies and tools to make communication consistent and engaging. And, for many companies, it doesn’t come easy. We found that less than half of employees are reading their communication messages.

The State of Colorado is one company that has prioritized communication, invested in an employee communication platform and achieved significant results over the past few years. I had the opportunity to interview this impressive organization recently for our recent Employee Communication report. Below are some highlights:

With over 95,000 total employees and offices in all 65 counties, the State of Colorado is the second largest employer in Colorado. Communicating with employees and providing the right education on Total Compensation became a top priority in 2015 when the State of Colorado revamped its communication strategy and invested in a communication platform.

The Challenge: Several years ago, employee communication was a major challenge for the State of Colorado. For starters, HR was not centralized and agencies within the State of Colorado had their own independent communication strategies. These agencies had no clear model or even a standard employee benefits guide to inform them on issues such as benefits, wellness and compensation. Communication was not consistent and often had conflicting messaging throughout the organization. As a result, only 12% of employees participated in open enrollment in 2014.

The Strategy: Two years ago, the State of Colorado made the decision to invest in a more systematic approach to communication. HR began to shift from a reactionary role of delivering messages to a proactive role of empowering employees to achieve success. Instead of agencies doing one-off communication, the State of Colorado made the following changes:

  • Communication Campaign: The State of Colorado invested in a multi-channel campaign, referred to as its “HR Toolkit” that included emails, train-the-trainer materials, webinars, regional meetings, and posters.
  • Communication Platform: Through the use of GuideSpark’s multi-media solutions, the State of Colorado was able to provide compelling videos and content to engage and connect with employees. It was also able to measure those efforts through GuideSpark’s analytics.
  • Develop an Annual Employee Benefits Guide: For the State of Colorado, the employee benefits guide replaced the independent communication efforts of the various agencies and provided the consistency and context that employees needed.

The Results: Through a new communication strategy and the right technology investment, the State of Colorado was able to achieve the following results in open enrollment in 2015:

  • 98% participation in open enrollment program
  • 31% increase in High Deductible Health Plan enrollment
  • 150 hours of time saved by eliminating meetings
  • 50% participation in wellness program.

The Human Capital Experience Economy: What Does It Look Like?

Would you pay more for a good experience? Would you be more likely to come back again? You probably already do. We live in a world where experience trumps everything – including cost and quality. According to a study by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, 80% of US consumers would pay more for a product or service to ensure a superior customer experience. It is the experience that gives companies a competitive edge even when their products fall short. It creates loyalty and a powerful commitment to a certain company or brand.

Companies recognize the impact of experience on their growth and profitability and are making changes to how they communicate with, engage, and support their customers. In fact, according to Aptitude Research Partners’ 2016 Hire, Engage, and Retain research, 60% of companies have an executive level customer experience role in place. But, creating an engaging experience does not and should not end with the customer. It must extend into our workforce. Surprisingly, only 37% of companies have an executive level role focused on the internal culture and experience of the workforce. Just as companies are prioritizing customers, they must also focus on the experience for the individual candidate, employee, manager, contingent worker, and leader in order to ensure continued economic success.

The elements of this important balance are at the core of Aptitude’s new Human Capital Experience Economy model- take a look here:

Blog Talent Acquisition Strategies

I Can’t Even: HR Trends We Are Over

At the start of each year, HR Trends are hard to ignore. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a message. Everyone has an idea of what happened in the past year and what should happen in the New Year. And yes… I am guilty. Trends are important because they help companies understand their priorities and benchmark their progress against industry standards. They give us a guide for what matters and what will drive success. But, the reality is that sometimes trends can go wrong. Especially when trends go unchanged year after year (mobile and social, I’m talking about you). Even when they are important, we are sick of hearing about them. But what if the problem is not about the trend itself and instead about the way we are talking about that trend. The way we talk about its value and its relevance and its impact on our organization.

Below are a few trends we believe need a new conversation and a few we want to stop talking about altogether.

  • Quality of Hire: Quality of hire is not a new trend. In fact, it is a very old trend that has been misused and misinterpreted for years. Yes, everyone wants to hire great people. But the challenge is that there is no standard for defining what quality of hire is how it can be measured. Some companies define it simply as someone that completed an application. Others ignore other important recruitment metrics like time to fill, conversion rates and source of hire. The good news is that several of the ATS providers (Lumesse and Cornerstone OnDemand to name a few) are helping organizations create this standard by defining what quality of hire is and pulling in performance and succession data to help measure it.
  • Integration: Integration is important. Very important. It’s important because HR professionals do not want to open 10 different solutions to do a simple task and it is important because the HCM landscape has become so complex it is hard to make sense of how these providers and strategies work together. There is not a simple solution to integration and so many providers try to pretend that there is. Open API’s are great but how can we help companies understand the full ecosystem. How an technology providers offer a better experience. Some providers like ADP, SmartRecruiters, and iCIMS are tackling integration through a Marketplace- providing both a network of partners and the guidance on what might be right for your company. Additionally, Andy Rice and my friends at Black-Box Consulting have the best approach I have seen to consulting on integrated talent management and helping companies overcome integration challenges.
  • Innovation: We differentiate providers by their functionality. And each year, new functionality and innovation becomes a trend. Sophistication and product enhancements are something we pay attention to and while the product capabilities are important, so many of these solutions have become too complex. HR and talent acquisition buyers want solutions that will save them time and provide a good experience for their candidates and employees. Our upcoming index report looks at differentiators beyond capabilities (the ATS report will publish early next month). Yet, too many areas of HCM technology focus on depth in functionality over simplicity. Fortunately, there are new solutions that make our jobs really easy and even fun such as GreatHires for interviewing, BrandAmper for employer branding, SkillSurvey for online reference calls, Engage2Excel for recognition and The Marcus Buckingham Company for team performance.
  • Engagement: Writing about how engagement is no longer a trend is becoming a trend. When we are talking about engagement, we seem to be stuck on the same challenges and strategies year after year. Mollie said it best in her blog last month. Let’s talk about something that will change the way we treat our employees, our managers, candidates, leaders and stakeholders. We need to talk about the experience (more to come on this next week). Let’s talk about better communication. I love the work GuideSpark is doing with providing better communication between employers and employees.

So, join us for a new conversation as we tackle some of these issues in our latest survey and don’t miss next week’s post on trends I wish we would start talking about again.




The HR Technology Conference 2015: Trailblazers Don’t Make the Best Settlers

I first heard this quote at last month’s GlassDoor Employer Branding Summit when Spencer Rascoff called Zillow (the real estate tech giant) a startup. Some companies, regardless of their size or growth potential, still operate best when they are pushing the envelope, running at warp speed or getting messy with all hands on deck. Is this a good thing? I think so especially in a time when “startup” has become the flavor du jour. This sentiment is one that certainly rang true at The HR Technology Conference this week. Both emerging providers and traditional players were coming to market with new products and exciting announcements. Everyone from ADP (who announced significant enhancements) to Engage2Excel (who developed a novel approach to old-school recognition) to The Marcus Buckingham Company (who stole the show with its approach to building high-performing teams) had something interesting to share. The energy this year is hard to describe.

In the startup spirit, a few themes resonated with me this week including the need for a communication platform, a marketplace and recruitment optimization. Below are a few providers to watch in each category:


It sounds basic but communicating with employees, candidates and managers is a critical part of any HR process or strategy. Yet, it is so often overlooked. Companies tend to rely on email as their primary method with little impact on engagement or retention. The good news is that several of the technology providers are offering a more effective communication platform.

  • GuideSpark: As a communication platform, GuideSpark bridges the connection between employers and employees through content generation tools, collaboration tools, user engagement, surveys, analytics and wellness.
  • PeopleFluent: Through its Talent Management solution, PeopleFluent supports communication with its Anytime, Anywhere Feedback feature, optimized for both desktop and mobile use.
  • The Marcus Buckingham Company: This tech solution is informed by Marcus Buckingham’s 20+ years of leadership research on the front end and supported by a deep coaching solution on the back end. Focused on building high performing teams, it is research based and action-focused – providing an effective solution for communicating and coaching teams and individuals.
  • Engage2Excel: This recognition provider has been around since the 1800’s but recently went through a rebrand, a strong partnership with Vestrics, and brought in a new team focused on measuring, managing and informing engagement and recognition.

Recruitment Optimization:

Without the right strategies or technology, talent acquisition is an incredibly complex undertaking. And, it has become more difficult over the past ten years. Today, talent acquisition deserves its own, integrated framework and its own suite of solutions. Organizations are looking at new tools and strategies to optimize their recruitment functions. Below are some providers that are committed to helping organizations improve their talent acquisition functions.

  • Yello: Yello was one of the companies I was most excited to meet with this week. They offer a suite of talent acquisition solutions for the enterprise, campus recruiting and the SMB market. Its smart team is focused on customer satisfaction.
  • Lumesse: Through a new interview management system, Lumesse is enabling companies to improve their time to fill while improving both the candidate experience and the quality of hire.
  • Findly: Much more than just a talent community, Findly offers a suite of solutions that helps organizations attract and recruit talent including ATS, assessment and sourcing solutions.
  • iCIMS: With significant growth over the past few years, iCIMS has demonstrated its leadership in the talent acquisition market. Its talent acquisition platform offers solutions that attract, recruit and onboard talent.
  • SmashFly: The defacto Recruitment Marketing provider, Smashfly is helping organizations through a complete recruitment marketing platform of inbound recruitment marketing, outbound sourcing and employer branding.
  • Entelo: Entelo, the leading sourcing provider, announced a new product, Stack, that helps companies manage resumes and applications and improve productivity.
  • SilkRoad and SmartRecruiters: This partnership between two leading talent acquisition players, SilkRoad and SmartRecruiters, will allow them enter into new markets and expand their product capabilities.
  • Greenhouse: This end-to-end talent acquisition platform recently raised $35 million to help companies optimize their talent acquisition efforts. And they have a very impressive team and product.
  • GreatHires: This solution focused on interview management and scheduling was one of the more innovative solutions I have seen in a long time. It gives candidates the information they need to feel comfortable in an interview and makes scheduling easy and flexible.
  • Randstad Sourceright: When you think of technology, Randstad Sourceright might not come to mind. But, this MSP and RPO might be the best kept secret in HR Technology. With its TalentRadar product, it extracts data and loads it into a themed database. The data it provides companies, is the data they need like when a requisition opens and when a job will fill.

Cool Companies:

Below are a few of the providers that I was most impressed with last week:

Appcast: I love Appcast not only because it was founded by Chris Forman (former president of AIRS) but also, because it is a simple concept. This solution changes the pricing model of job advertisement from click per candidate to pay per applicant and offers a powerful engine to help organizations make this shift. This change in the model helps companies reduce costs and improve the overall experience for recruiting functions as well as candidates.

Equifax: The people, the products and the vision are all impressive at Equifax. They do this by tackling very complex issues such as compliance, ACA regulations, and unemployment. While other providers are expanding their suite of products into different areas of HCM, Equifax has stayed focused on the bigger issues in our community- issues that impact the success and staying power of the overall business. A few of their solutions include compliance, ACA compliance, and unemployment. Check out what they have done with i-9 compliance and “the Work Number”.

Mercer: It is hard to find a provider that excels on both the technology and services side but Mercer is the exception. With a strong heritage in consulting and new products including Mercer Match (recruitment matching solution for sales teams) and a strong career development solution, Mercer is a force to be reckoned with in the HR Tech space.

The Daily Muse: Meeting with Muse founder, Kathryn was one of the highlights of the conference. If you missed her ignite session, The Daily Muse helps employers create a profile to strengthen their brand, use content marketing to promote the brand and support them as they weed out the “craplicants” and improve branding.


During most of our conversations at HRTech, the topic of a marketplace came up. Marketplaces are a staple in the consumer world and are quickly becoming part of HCM. Below are a few providers to watch.

ADP: ADP’s robust marketplace allows customers to access 90 certified partners (with 400 partners in the pipeline. Other providers use a marketplace as a marketing tagline, while ADP has built one with real substance and credibility- one that will provide real value to customers and partners.

WorkMarket: This provider offers companies an end-to-end market for companies looking for independent contractors. It allows direct relationships between employers and workers and can be customized for any skill.

We will follow these providers and more this year and next and will be profiling them in our upcoming Aptitude Index reports. Also, we would love to hear from you about what providers were most interesting to  you at HRTech.