Symphony Talent Acquires SmashFly: Will it Work?

By Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst, Talent Management and Workforce Management

In the HCM world, there are usually three reasons for a merger or acquisition to happen: 1. Removal of a competitor; 2. adding capabilities to either the software or the workforce or 3. gaining entry to a new market (company size, industry vertical or geographic space). In terms of Symphony Talent acquiring Smashfly, it’s a clear case of #2, with a dash of #3 for good measure.

In Brandon Hall Group’s latest Candidate Experience Research, when survey takers were given the statement “Our employer brand messaging is conveyed both internally to employees and externally to potential candidates,” only 21% responded with “strongly agree”.  So, there is a large market out there for any organization that can combine the internal and external branding efforts, as this acquisition has combined the two of the market leaders in those respective areas.

As recently as October, when I spoke with Smashfly they still saw CRM as still their core function but were already expanding into talent mobility, career pathing, and supporting contingent workers. Smashfly also had begun an earnest push to expand globally, which has now happened overnight, with Symphony Talent having an established presence in India and the EU.

The highest hurdle for sustained success will be in melding their cultures. This is always one of the most challenging tasks in any M&A activity, but it will be especially daunting here for many of the same reasons their products are so complementary: each has what the other was missing.

I spoke with Symphony’s Gina Alioto about these concerns and she assured me that when Symphony Talent’s stakeholders were looking over the deal, Smashfly’s capabilities were important,  but“…equally important was the look at core values and how the cultures might align,” and that from her perspective “the marketing teams just meshed from Day One.”

Being able to successfully meld cultures is not an insignificant task, and the fact that Symphony Talent’s stakeholders effectively said that cultural fit was just as important as product teams moving ahead on product roadmaps and adding creative teams and resources, shows they are well ahead of most organizations in similar circumstances. Because both companies have a large remote workforce, very little employee movement will need to take place.

Alioto was quite clear that their similar core values were as important as the product. Symphony Talent is poised to improve an already market-leading product with greater capabilities, deeper and more insightful analytics and increased reach — geographically and across the employee lifecycle.

All of this points to a successful acquisition that seems more like a merger and that’s what will need to happen for this to be declared a success a year from now: strengthening a product to satisfy an unanswered demand from the market and making ensuring the market knows why the ability to meld external and internal brands is so important.

Symphony Talent has done their research and took the right pre-acquisition steps by examining not just the people and products at Smashfly but also its culture. The next step is restructuring, likely minimally, to avoid duplication of efforts and overlap in the product offerings.

Finally, they’ll need to successfully communicate the rare opportunity to create a recruitment brand that is perfectly aligned with their external, market-facing brand, which has lasting implications for overall employee success. This has all the ingredients for creating a whole that’s greater than the sum of their parts (or combined revenues), but the next six months will be crucial.

Cliff Stevenson, (Twitter: @CliffordDarrell email: [email protected]) Principal Analyst, Talent Management and Workforce Management, Brandon Hall Group

 For more information on Brandon Hall Group’s research, please visit

Become a Brandon Hall Group member!

We are a human capital management research and advisory firm with more than 10,000 clients globally. For over 25 years, we have been delivering research-based solutions that empower excellence in organizations around the world. Our vision is to inspire a better workplace experience. Becoming a Brandon Hall Group member means our team joins your team. Membership provides a host of resources and services and – most importantly — a seasoned team of thought leaders and client support professionals dedicated to your success.

Click here for more information and to sign up for a free trial membership.

Like what you see? Share with a friend.

Mike Cooke



Stay connected

Get notified for upcoming news subscribing

Related Content

Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.