The Care and Feeding of HRO Analysts

The intense spring season of service providers’ analyst day meetings is winding down. It is a good time for the optimism of outlooks ahead, behind the curtain peeks at new products and services soon to be unveiled, with travel budgets not yet depleted, and a summer to work off the calories consumed.

Any one HRO analyst day meeting is big fun. But meeting after meeting, big meal after big meal, hobnobbing with executive after executive, along with the associated travel, can wear you down. Tough work if you can get it, right?

NelsonHall analysts spread out to cover the maximum in meetings being held around the globe. We had one lead analyst stranded for days in a hotel near New York’s LaGuardia airport due to the Iceland volcano’s impact on European air travel. Oh yes, we suffer for our craft!

Today I will comment on several, some named, some unnamed, of the HRO analyst meetings I attended in the past several weeks.

Each meeting was well prepared with lots of executive access, orchestrated presentations and included a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant. The overall tone and energy was much more upbeat than last year. Still, appropriate to the current economy and arms length nature of analyst relations, there were no lavish parties. (Note to meeting planners: budgets are important, but starting with a continental breakfast with only heavy carb laden pastries and bagels is going too far!)

The personality and culture of the companies shape these meetings. One very professionally managed (unnamed) session ran like clockwork and every element was pre-planned, including seating plans at lunch and dinner. Very efficient, but it also felt a little bit too controlled.

Workscape set the most intimate and personable atmosphere throughout, from the sociable  dinner to the business presentations, all during which the CEO and other executives set aside time for and solicited discussion and comments related to its Total Rewards strategy and growing set of offerings. 

Mercer wins my virtual award for the most content analysts crave – facts, figures and details. Mercer showed it has a plan through 2012 full of enhanced and new services, including Mercer Win, an enhanced HR reporting/business intelligence offering rolling out later this year. I was among those analysts staying over by invitation for Mercer’s client conference, and it was a nice opportunity to see the company’s thought leadership on display and have more time to see product demos and meet some of Mercer’s customers in a causal setting.

Most of the analyst forums I attended included some form of client participation – which is appreciated. It works best if we are allowed to talk with the clients outside of the formal presentations – but wasn’t always allowed. ADP was the most open, setting up one-on-one interviews with several clients. ADP wins my virtual trophy for giving the most tantalizing glimpse of upcoming enhancements, including its new Web 2.0 user interface soon to be in the field for client testing.

 Earnings calls and periodic briefings are great, but there is still no substitute for the occasional in-person meeting and socialization. As an HRO analyst I value these meetings. Thanks for the invitations!

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

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