The mid-market is an interesting place to be. Depending on how you define that market, it is either a place where services and products are converging, or is grossly underserved. My take is that the mid market is somewhere around 2500 employees to perhaps 15K employees. This is sort of the sweet spot to me where organizations are really starting to take talent seriously, have the money to do something about it, and have a HR staff that can support new processes like talent management. The vendor marketplace seems to be converging rapidly on this space since it’s where lots of money can be made. HRO organizations are moving to cater to 10K employee populations, and your ADP’s and Ceridian’s of the world are trying to make themselves more palatable to the over 5K employee space.
If you get into the organizations that are around 1000 employees and less, I really think that these organizations have not been taken too seriously by the market. Let’s face some facts: if an employer has 1000 employees, they might at best have 15 HR people. Most of these will be generalists, with your payroll, benefits and training lightly represented. To think that they have dedicated performance and compensation people might not be a huge stretch, but it’s not obvious to me. This market is the grossly underserved. They don’t always have much money, and they may not be as sophisticated, especially the ones less than 3-400 employees in size.
Today Workstream will put out a press release launching a new service offering. In reality it is the exact same product line that they use for larger employers. However, they will be selling this to employers between 100-2500 employees (what I would consider the small market). My guess is that all the sales will really occur over 1000 employees, but it’s nice to see someone pay attention to the little guys – there are quite a lot of them after all.
What makes this all work is the multi-tenent architecture that lets Workstream turn on a client in a few hours, and with minimal customization that you’d expect for smaller organizations, implementations can be had on the cheap. And because it’s still a per employee per month (PEPM) pricing model, the fees are easily scalable for small companies. What’s even better is that if an employer grows, they are on basically the exact platform they would be on later in their business cycle and they don’t need to change to a more sophisticated platform.
Workstream has had it’s share of problems over the last couple of years. While they have a great product, they have had some issues with the market and that’s reflected in the stock price. It’s hard to compare what all the vendors are up to when so many talent vendors are private, but Workstream hasn’t been profitable as some other talent vendors have been, and they have had major leadership changes at the top including an new CEO and CFO. In the meantime, they have been focusing on improving their core infrastructure and integration into a platform that I generally liked before. The demands clients are making on technology are seeding up at a rapid pace though, and any organization not making continuous improvements to both functionality and technology are in real big trouble.
I think overall, today’s announcement should be interesting. I’m pleased that one of the big vendors is reaching into the sub-2500 employee space and I think there’s a lot to be gained there. Their first application releases for this market will be in the recruiting and performance areas – clearly the areas with the most demand. They’ll follow this up with compensation in the summer, and I can’t honestly think that employers smaller than 2500 will want much more. It will be interesting to see what happens, and hopefully this is a sign of good things to come for smaller employers who have the same needs, but not the same resources.