Salesforce for HR aims to be front end of employee engagement

Salesforce is taking parts of its technology stack to focus on human resources. The plan: Engage employees like customers and be the front end to HR systems of record. Will there be clashes ahead?

Salesforce on Thursday took the wraps off Salesforce for HR, an effort to expand the cloud company's market into human resources and potentially butt heads with the likes of Oracle and Workday in select areas.

For Salesforce, the HR effort means a big expansion of the company's footprint. Salesforce recently launched an analytics cloud and seems hell-bent on being the enterprise cloud app stack of choice. What started with customer relationship management has bridged into new markets.

Salesforce is billing its latest effort the "employee success platform," which aims to focus on employee engagement by using tools and approaches that also work on customers. CEO Marc Benioff will outline Salesforce for HR at a customer tour stop in Chicago.

According to Salesforce, its HR platform is built on its cloud, social, mobile and data science tools. Salesforce for HR is initially launched as a complement to existing human capital management systems and to be an engagement tool.

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Bobby Amezaga, director of service cloud product marketing, said in an interview that Salesforce is taking its technologies and turning them inward. In that respect, Salesforce's Service Cloud would be used to engage a company's employees much like they do customers.

The way this would theoretically work is that tools from the likes of Workday would focus on records, financials and retention risk while Salesforce would be an engagement tool so employees could communicate, collaborate and connect. What's interesting is that many HR systems already have some social and collaboration overlay to them.

Here's a look at how Salesforce sees the HR stack.

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In the big picture, Salesforce will be courting HR leaders just like it is chasing marketing execs as well as CIOs.

The Salesforce tools include the following:

  • Employee journeys designed to offer one-to-one engagement from onboarding to development via multiple devices.
  • Communities for collaboration.
  • An HR help desk that uses the Service Cloud platform for self service.
  • Analytics for talent decisions and productivity metrics.
  • Mobile app capabilities to connect employees with business processes. Appirio, Deloitte, Jobscience and Lumesse are early partners.

What remains to be seen is whether Salesforce customers will think an HR application from the cloud vendor is actually complementing systems they already have.

Each implementation of Salesforce for HR would be custom to some degree. Companies could build custom mobile apps on the Salesforce platform and connect bits and pieces to HR systems of record. For instance, a company with a dated PeopleSoft HR app could use Salesforce to modernize the front end while milking the legacy systems longer.

Related: Workday's Talent Insights available, aims to make HR predictive | Salesforce, Workday: Analytics fueled cloud tandem | Workday steps up predictive analytics game, launches Insight Applications | Priv: A look into a Salesforce Service SOS pilot | Salesforce adds more intelligence, data science to Service Cloud | Salesforce updates Analytics Cloud with raw data imports, dashboard designer

This approach is similar to how Salesforce is the front end to legacy SAP or Oracle systems in the enterprise. "Employees want to be treated like customers not subordinates," said Amezaga. "If employees aren't engaged they'll leave."

Where Salesforce for HR will get interesting is when execs have already invested in Workday and use its retention, on boarding and analytics applications. When it comes to engaging employees execs will have to determine whether they need a Salesforce front end.

In the end, the Salesforce-Workday collision is likely to be overblown, but does make you go hmm. After all, both companies have a wide open field of legacy HR applications to attempt to replace.

Here are some screens from the Salesforce for HR demo.

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