On Monday morning, June 13th, the world woke up to the news that Microsoft had acquired LinkedIn. It was the third largest acquisition in the history of the tech industry. In layman’s terms? It was HUGE!!!
When the world’s largest software maker snaps up the world’s largest professional recruiting social network, people sit-up and take notice. And many of those in the HR industry were among them. This merger has the potential to disrupt HR industry. It’s an impressive reflection of the shift happening in HR tech.
Think about it. As the Economist wrote, shortly after the news was announced, “The social-network firm has an enviable team of data scientists, a commodity coveted by tech firms. These boffins design algorithms to find patterns in big piles of digital information. LinkedIn will be useful to Microsoft for other reasons, too. The firm gathers detailed information about its users, including their employment history, education and whom they know. These data could prove valuable to Microsoft as it attempts to build offerings for managing relationships with customers and to compete with Salesforce, a firm it reportedly tried to buy last year.”
Bingo. The key phrase in the above paragraph is this one: “The firm gathers detailed information about its users, including their employment history, education and whom they know.” Oh, and that “enviable team of data scientists” is important also.
Big Change Isn’t Always Welcome
LinkedIn has made a lot of changes recently, not all of them well received. Some have called the results of its jump into publishing and the launch of its newsfeed, “an unprofessional parody of Facebook…awash with memes, maths puzzles, and pictures of Minions”—ouch! —and others have decried the company’s removal of certain user features.
That said, it still retains around 430m registered users, and sees 100m visitors to its site each month. And that means one thing and one thing only: The aforementioned big data. Microsoft hopes, with this merger, to become the go-to platform for HR professionals looking to manage workers’ personal information from around the web. Consider this: Over the past five years or so, with its acquisition of Careerify, Lynda.com, and Connectifier; LinkedIn has actively widened its net when it comes to training software and other HR-related tools. Microsoft users might soon have one tool, driven by reams and reams of employee data, which helps track employees’ entire lifecycles with the company. Imagine being able to “…recruit, track, and communicate with applicants, train them once they’re hired, tie their performance data into their CRM tool, and monitor how this particular employee, or this particular type of employee impacts your business.” That, right there, is gold.
Microsoft also sees their software becoming better at targeted messaging—understanding exactly which information employees will find interesting, and want to see in their feeds. Also, they predict being able to, for example, suggest news articles related to a project someone is working on or recommend a friend of a friend online who might be able to help an employee with a task at work. Essentially, using LinkedIn’s newsfeed as a central hub of interoffice information sharing, enabling better communication between employees, between employers and staff, as well as allowing Microsoft to grow and build newer software platforms that partner with their current workflow and business offerings.
But What Does This Merger Mean to Job Seekers and HR Professionals?
On the face of it, this is a business move. And will only have an immediate personal impact if you were one of the lucky ones holding LinkedIn shares a few weeks ago! However, as the dust settles, this marriage could have a real impact on how recruiters recruit, and how employees perform.
On increased productivity. “Microsoft…expects that integrating LinkedIn into its productivity and business-processes area will boost employee productivity when employees see the connections and data about other people they’re working with.” and “The engagement between the two companies’ offerings will enable features like…Office suggesting an expert to connect with via LinkedIn to help with a task you’re trying to complete…”
Possibility. Imagine being able to right-click on a keyword or phrase while writing a blog post in Microsoft Office, and having the top five industry thought leaders’ names and links to their LinkedIn profiles pop up?
On better recruiting. “Integrating LinkedIn’s recruiting tools with Skype and Microsoft’s other social products will make recruiters currently using LinkedIn’s talent tools even more efficient than ever before…” and “…integrating LinkedIn into Microsoft’s existing offerings would be having recruiter products automatically connected with Outlook calendars and e-mail…Think about how much time (recruiters) spend going back and forth trying to find and schedule times for meetings and interviews. What if it instantly knew when the recruiter was available and offered those times to a candidate?”
Possibility. Imagine, after a fruitless search, stumbling across that perfect candidate you have been seeking to fill a vital company role, and being able to click a link to Skype call immediately or message them directly?
Let’s face it, in today’s tech-driven world, people equal money. Microsoft essentially paid 26 odd billion (yes, billion) for information about people. It always swings back to big data. Microsoft became one of the world’s largest data houses when it signed on that dotted line with LinkedIn. And that raises all kinds of issues around keeping that data private and under lock and key. It also begs a few questions: Just how comfortable are people going to be knowing that Microsoft now owns all of their professional data? Might employees decide that they are going to scale back how much information they share on LinkedIn? If so, how much more challenging will our jobs become, as HR professionals?
Personally, I’m cautiously optimistic that this will lead to bigger and better things for both companies. I also think it will lead to bigger and better opportunities for job seekers and recruiters alike. But it behooves us all to keep our eyes open, and stay educated on what these giant tech mergers mean for our industry. Because don’t forget, underneath all of that big data, there are real, human beings. Let’s never get so immersed in technology that we forget that fact.
What do you think about the Microsoft/LinkedIn merger? Love it or hate it? Excited or “meh?”
Meghan M. Biro
Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized Talent Management and HR Tech brand strategist, analyst, digital catalyst, author and speaker. As founder and CEO of TalentCulture and Founder of #WorkTrends, she has worked with hundreds of companies, from early-stage ventures to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google, helping them recruit and empower stellar talent. Meghan has been a guest on numerous radio shows and online forums, and has been a featured speaker at global conferences. She is a regular contributor at Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and several other media outlets. Meghan regularly serves on advisory boards for leading HR and technology brands. Meghan has been voted one of the Top 100 Social Media Power Influencers in 2015 by StatSocial and Forbes, Top 50 Most Valuable Social Media Influencers by General Sentiment, Top 100 on Twitter Business, Leadership, and Tech by Huffington Post, and Top 25 HR Trendsetters by HR Examiner.