Are These Really the 12 Companies That Control HR?

Forbes recently had an article titled “The 147 Companies that Control Everything,” put together by a Swiss think tank. The study attempts to pinpoint those companies that are most connected to making “it” happen worldwide (and by “it,” I mean “everything”).

From the article:

Three systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have taken a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide and analyzed all 43,060 transnational corporations and share ownerships linking them. They built a model of who owns what and what their revenues are and mapped the whole edifice of economic power … The authors of the paper did not publish the entire roster of companies with their study, but one of the co-authors, Dr. James Glattfelder, says the 737 companies that control 80 percent of the global economy will be available next week. The 147 are included in that group.”

This concept really got me to thinking about the HR/talent management industry and which companies truly control what we do as HR/talent management Pros. Yeah, yeah, we all have free will, but the fact of the matter is, these companies will determine what you do and how you do HR and recruiting for the foreseeable future. Don’t think so?

You’re wrong – we’re sheep, we follow – but have you or anyone you know paid $5-$8 for a cupcake in the last two to three years? Used to be you couldn’t give those cupcakes away your mom made you take to school in 3rd grade. Now we have special cupcake shops, and TV shows on cupcakes, and blogs about cupcakes – and they’re stupid CUPCAKES! You’re sheep, face it!

Now take a look at the list below so you can know what you’ll be buying or who you’ll be following over the next few years:

1. Google – Um, what?! Yep, that Google. Whether you like it or not, the “Do No Evil” Empire is taking over and there is nothing you can do about it. No one wants to give their employees free gourmet lunches, let them bring their cats to work, and also let them come and go as they please. It’s an HR nightmare! But Google does it, so now you have to find some way to compete. Doesn’t matter if you’re selling toilet seats in Oklahoma City —  your employees read an article about Google and now you’ve got to put doors on the stalls in the restroom. Damn you Google!

2. Zappos — See Google above. One night of CEO Tony Hsieh going a little too deep down the rabbit hole, and now we have to “Find Happiness” for all of our employees. Damn you Tony!

3-4. Peoplesoft Oracle & SAP: These two giant ERP’s run most medium and large HR shops, which means every time they think you need something, they make a change and watch all hell break out across their client base. The perfect example of the tail wagging the dog.

5-6. CareerBuilder … er, MonsterI know, I know – CareerBuilder is bigger – but ask any candidate looking for a job and first word out of their mouth will be “Monster.” Why? Better branding, better name recognition. The basic framework of both companies hasn’t changed since the OCC (Online Career Center – check it out kids) launched in the early 1990?s. I’ve got job, you need job, I post job, you apply for job, you get job. Either way, you’re buying because it’s the only way your “Post and Pray” recruiting process has any way of succeeding. Don’t worry, the big job boards aren’t dying – mainly because we are too lazy to kill them.

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7. LinkedIn – Linkedin did what neither CareerBuilder or Monster could ever do: they made it “OK” to post your “resume” online and not have your HR people lose their minds that you were looking for another job! Now you can be working and job searching at the same time, and there’s a good chance your short-sighted HR manager will actually teach a class on how to “spruce” up your profile. But, really it’s all about “professional networking.”

8. Facebook – Not since Windows Solitaire has there been a bigger time sink than Facebook at work, and one that more HR Pros have spent numerous man-hours proving to their senior leadership that it is actually valuable – so please don’t shut our employees off, because we need to be more like Google. Where LinkedIn succeeded, Facebook is on the verge of eating their lunch. LinkedIn is cute with their 200 million users, Facebook has your Grandmother by the neck and won’t let go! When Facebook decides to take down LinkedIn – and HR – you’ll have a new master to bow down to

9. ADP – Seriously, do you know how many jobs were created last month? No one does, not even the President. That’s why they ask ADP! This is a payroll service that got one of those Ghostbusters’ Stay Puft Marshmallow man-kind of steroid injection. ADP now tells the biggest government of the free world how many jobs were created – and we listen. Gone are the days of Marge in your payroll office telling you that you will just have to wait for your check, because ADP fired her and now does her same job faster, cheaper, and with fewer errors.

10-12. Towers Watson, and Mercer, and Aon Hewitt – Like a bad HR law firm, the Big 3 HR consulting shops give your senior leadership HR advice because you don’t have credibility. What advice do they give them? The same crap you’ve been trying to get your company to do for the last four years, but your senior leaders felt better about taking the advice from one of these guys after paying a six figure invoice and listening to a 27-year-old just three years out of Northwestern’s MBA program with a red tie tell them how to run the people side of their business.

 ***Thanks to my friend John Hollon at TLNT  for helping me out with this very official list!***

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


8 Comments on “Are These Really the 12 Companies That Control HR?

  1. Great!   So true about the fresh, wet behind the ears MBA from Harvard peddling his company’s wares —- oops!!  —- consulting with your CEO about how to create an employer proposation that values enrichment, engagement, creativity  and thinking “outside the box”.     If one of these kids with no experience came to me as a CEO, I would take one look at him and tell him to leave my office and don’t let the door hit him in the”rear” on the way out.

    About the 3 “big box” consulting firms.   I have friends that work for them, but at $250-400 per hour, I think there are other consultants much more moderately priced who can give companies the same value and consulting service.    They don’t have the cachet, but they sure as heck please the customer.

  2. Love the list as each company has changed the game in HR in their own unique way (and much to the betterment of the industry).

    I have to say, the “wet behind the ears MBA from Harvard peddling his company’s wares” comment rubbed me the wrong way. I hear the point and as relative noob to the HR realm, I completely respect those that have battled in the trenches many years before me.

    That being said, my goal is to disrupt an industry that is primed for massive change. I’ll admit that I’m envious of my friends that joined some of these “big box” firms because they have instant credibility on projects while I’m slugging away trying to build credibility and provide the same (and I like to think even more futurist) solutions the old-fashioned way from within my organization. Hopefully this decision to go the old fashioned way through the old corporate ladder (or corporate lattice now) doesn’t hamper my career aspirations.    

    This is a big topic though that I think needs further review. In particular, how has the increased utilization of consulting services for human capital initiatives affected attracting top talent and maintaining a leadership pipeline? I know what my hypothesis is and organization’s relying on these services are putting themselves into a leadership deficiency hole that is now starting to surface. If anyone could suggest a white paper on this I’d love to give it a read.

  3. Hey Tim, regarding 5-6 – ever hear of It has more traffic than Careerbuilder and Monster, combined! 

    I’m a recruiter and most of our applicants and hires come from Indeed. I would imagine the same is true for a lot of other companies. 

    Shouldn’t it be included on this list? 

  4. I wanted to hate this post, and I really tried to hate it, but I kep smiling and shaking my head in dismayed appreciation. Sure, I could pick a nit or two, but there’s no point.

    Am I the only one who came away with the message that, unless I want to be constantly following (and paying people for the privilege), I better get off my HRump and make sure I’m the one driving and controlling my organization’s HR?

  5. As for Google, people take the attitude, “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free.” What readers don’t realize is that most articles require professional judgment, interpretation and application to be useful and (compliant) — and much of what you read is, well, a different cow product.

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