Microsoft/LinkedIn: Acquiring Glint to Disrupt the TMS Market?

October 19th, 2018

Over the summer, I wrote about how Microsoft could be getting into the talent management system (TMS) business via its acquisition of GitHub. In many ways, that piece was designed to be a thought-provoker more than a clear perspective on Microsoft’s direction. However, last week’s announcement that LinkedIn acquired Glint, an employee voice / engagement platform, makes it is clearer than ever that Microsoft is setting out to disrupt the talent management systems market.

How do we know this? Well, even if we take the most traditional view of talent management technology (meaning it is comprised of, at a minimum, recruiting, learning, and performance management technology), we can see that Microsoft now checks all those boxes, and then some:

*Recruiting: LinkedIn


*Performance Management: Glint's nascent PM offering

*Employee Engagement / Voice: Glint

As I discussed at HR Tech this year (research report forthcoming later this fall), the traditional talent management system approach isn’t working for many customers – 30%* of buyers reported that the technology meets their needs half of the time or less. Nearly 50%* of buyers specifically called out a gap between the capabilities offered and what they need. In conversations with HR practitioners, the big gap I’ve heard is that the systems are not truly designed for end-users – meaning, the workers in an organization.

Well, if there is any organization that has technology deeply integrated into workers’ daily tasks, it is Microsoft. The Microsoft acquisitions listed above provide the company with talent management technology offerings, while the existing Office 365 (O365) provides the access to workers. The combination of the two provides a unique way to manage and enable people while they are doing work in the systems they already use every single day.

Let’s spend just a few moments talking about Glint’s role in this, specifically. The logic of the Glint acquisition comes from three things. First, Glint has significant data and expertise in understanding what drives employee engagement and satisfaction. While important, this, in my mind, was the necessary but not sufficient component of the deal.

Second, Glint’s sentiment analysis and the associated machine learning / AI that drives it is farther along than many others in the space. It’s important to note,  that I am more focused on the power of Glint’s data (and connections between it), than on the fact that Glint has heretofore collected that data via surveys (of varying length). I think the future of employee voice and engagement measurement will have less to do with surveys and much more to do with using advanced technologies to interpret tone and sentiment from existing text and data. Glint’s knowledge and capabilities in sentiment analysis and the relationship between it and engagement is one of the most important things that Microsoft is buying. Microsoft has already done a lot of work in the sentiment analysis space as well, and the combination of their existing insights with those from Glint could arguably build one of the most powerful data sets available today on the relationship between engagement and the associated text-expressed sentiments.

Finally, Glint was already developing a next-generation performance management system (which completes the traditional talent management system offering for Microsoft). We know that the quality of feedback and conversations are drivers of employee engagement, so it makes sense in many ways to create a system that both enables the conversations and measures the impact of them.

Microsoft, via LinkedIn, will be able to take advantage of all three of those capabilities, as it attempts to build a next-generation talent management (talent enablement?) system. I could foresee a world where Microsoft enables organizations to analyze the relationship between different types of work activities (using O365 tools) and the impact on performance or engagement. Another offering might be to deliver relevant learning content (via directly in the flow of work (again, via O365), based on what people are working on or their engagement levels. We are already seeing this type of integration being done between LinkedIn and a resume writing tool in Word – there are all sorts of additional ways to marry these products.

Now, of course, all of these examples would require significant technology integrations, which we all know are harder than they look and take longer than expected. Further, there are many potential risks associated with relying on the technology to do some of this work. Finally, all acquisitions take time to integrate, and Microsoft / LinkedIn have done a fair number of them recently, which may slow down the steady march to a next-generation solution.

All that said, I think it is safe to say that the “talent management” systems of the future are likely to look very different from what we’ve seen in the past.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the talent management system market, the Glint acquisition or where you think Microsoft is going with this series of acquisitions.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any companies mentioned and no plans to initiate any positions. We have no information beyond what is publicly available on Microsoft’s or Glint’s intentions and are not receiving compensation for this post.

*Data from the Sierra-Cedar 2018-2019, Annual HR Systems Survey, 21st Annual Edition

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst