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Unit4 snags Intuo for modern talent enablement

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy March 25, 2019
Employee enablement and reinforced feedback are two topics du HR jour. In this acquisition, Unit4 fleshes out its transactional solutions with a conversational approach.

workforce enablement
via Intuo

Unit4 has acquired Intuo, a talent management solution focused on the internal performance, engagement and learning elements of this complex market.

According to Intuo, the solution is aimed at the 300 to 3,000 person organization.

Adam Hale, formerly CEO of cloud HCM startup Fairsail, which Sage acquired in 2017, and who joined the Unit4 board as a non-executive director six months ago was closely involved in discussions leading up to the acquisition of Intuo.

He told diginomica that Unit4 had evaluated a number of businesses before settling on Intuo. Geography and culture were important factors in the decision, he says:

Unit4 and Intuo are both Benelux headquartered but international in focus. So that gives the organizations a really consistent culture and an international mentality that will be a key element of the success here.

Other factors like triple-digit growth, a pure cloud play, and a great team all contributed to making this an easy acquisition. Hale believes the combination of Intuo's talent management data with Unit4's existing core HR, financials, PSA and analytics will add a lot of value for people-focused organizations.

The kind of insight that's going to give on an organization's workforce is huge.

We have seen an explosion of interest in operational HR solutions designed to help teams find, develop and retain talent at a time when services industry skills are in short supply. The idea that performance is enhanced through the use of more regular feedback loops is something which Intuo believes delivers positive value.

In a conversation to discuss the acquisition, I wondered whether the voluntary feedback approach that Intuo proposes will have the desired effect. Christophe Haugen, EVP operations and strategy at Unit4 said:

I think it is fairly well established that the bi-annual and annual review process doesn't really work. We think that the digitally native younger workforce appreicates the faster, more agile feedback that, for example comes at the end of scrum calls, will help keep people engaged and work towarrds improving their skills.

I asked about how this works from the employee perspective. Systems that are voluntary don't always get adopted. Tim Clauwaert, CEO Intuo replied:

The problem of the past for skills assessment is that much of the data is static. The data quality you can achueve by accelerating the collection cycle means you are now building up skills profiles that help in both assessing suitability for tasks while at the same time encouraging staff to learn more.

That still leaves open the question about who owns this solution. According to the company, the level of maturity in HR organizations is higher than the administrative emphasis we see in large organizations.

We are now seeing dedicated talent officers who have been mandated by executive boards to improve both performance and talent acquisition. They get it.

On product detail, Intuo says that its key features include:

  • 360 feedback and recognition
  • Frequent engagement pulses and surveys
  • Agile and transparent objectives
  • Learning management
  • Guided and customizable check-in conversations
  • Dashboarding and advanced behavioral analytics

The company acknowledges that today's focus is on performance and engagement and that the learning component is relatively 'basic.' Intuo describes its solution as a platform and as such offers direct integration to services like Office365, Active Directory and Slack.

In an analyst presentation the company says that part of the goal is to facilitate:

Continuous management, individual and team communication and frequent objective setting making goals and objectives crystal clear.

Does that sound familiar? It should do because I recently discussed this general topic with Alex Shootman, CEO Workfront.

Intuo has gained approximately 120 customers since its founding in 2013 including logos like BMW, Verisure, Brussels Airport, Thomas Cook, FairFX, Ag Insurance, and Europa Bank. 

Unit4 sees this as a natural addition to its more traditional transactional HR system and while both companies are based in the Benelux, they believe there is enough market demand to allow for rapid expansion into Unit4's other main territories, including the UK.

My take

Are Unit4/Intuo onto something? The conversation about engagement stretches back to 1990 and in a recent Myers-Briggs report, the authors say:

Many organizations see [engagement] as a way to build business performance by increasing job satisfaction, happiness and fulfillment. A recent survey of 25,000 leaders by Rebecca Ray showed a direct link between engagement and bottom-line results. The surveyed leaders identified the top three actions to drive performance as:

workforce engagement
via Myers-Briggs

Having a mobile first, conversational element to the solution hits the right buttons for the younger generation of digitally skilled workers. However, as we have seen on the past, those of a different generation will want to have a firm understanding of the 'what's in it for me' factor before diving headlong into this type of solution.

As a firm with a history of supporting project style companies with robust transactional HR systems, there is a natural fit for Unit4's market and for the needs of the modern workforce. One to watch.

Additional reporting by Phil Wainewright

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