Timing is everything when plotting a product roll out -- even for a giant like Salesforce.com.

The company has made various attempts to penetrate the human resource market in the past with limited success. Now it is making another pass at this piece of the market with its Salesforce for HR.

"It feels like déjà vu all over again for Salesforce.com and HR," Jeff Kaplan, managing director of Think Strategies, told CMSWire.

This time, though, Kaplan continued, the stars could well be aligned for greater market receptivity.

Blast from the Past

All along, however, the company was learning from its attempts and building up greater capabilities.

In 2011, for example, Salesforce.com acquired Rypple, a cloud-based social performance management platform for managers and employees. The following year it rolled out "Salesforce Rypple."

One complaint voiced about Rypple, and its Salesforce.com successor was that its mission was too narrow. Essentially, it sought to replace the annual performance review with social techniques to keep employees and managers focused on goals.

Later that same year, Salesforce.com rebranded the application as Work.com, adding a number of features to the mix including its then new Chatter app, the Sales Cloud and the Service Cloud. Those changes proved to a winning combination and the product was well received.

Now here comes Salesforce for HR with a slew of new features aimed at the recruiting, onboarding, interviewing and training process. One feature is HR Help Desk, which is powered by the Service Cloud and gives employees access to the company's knowledge base when they are seeking out answers to particular questions.

There is also a strong social theme running through the platform: Users can, for example, create employee communities to connect with and collaborate with colleagues.

Learning Opportunities

Salesforce has also added analytics to the mix, which managers can use to surface up insights about employees' skills and productivity patterns. There are also engagement apps for the mobile environment, populated with employee engagement apps from Appirio, Deloitte, Jobscience, Lumesse and other companies.

Third Time's a Charm

The features are stronger and richer, Kaplan said, which should inspire adoption especially as Saleforce for HR can be used as a complementary app alongside existing HCM and HRMS systems.

There is another reason the market is ripe for Salesforce for HR. Over the past few years companies have become more aware of the need for proactive employee engagement. Studies, including one released by Gallup this week, show that unenthusiastic and disengaged workers lead to lower financial performance.

Gallup says there are clear links between employee engagement and such performance indicators as customer ratings, higher profitability, productivity and quality and lower turnover. High levels of employee engagement also correlate with less absenteeism and theft and fewer safety incidents, according to its report, State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders.

The solution, Salesforce.com seems to be saying with its new HR platform, is that companies need to apply the same social-mobile-customization tools that they do in their pursuit of stronger customer relationships to their employees as well.

Actually, that is exactly what Salesforce.com, or rather, Alex Dayon, president of products, is saying. "Companies are creating game-changing customer engagement by reimagining what's possible through the power of cloud, social, mobile and data science technologies," he pointed out with Salesforce for HR's release.

"With Salesforce, they can bring the same transformation to their own employees. Salesforce for HR will uniquely enable them to connect with their employees like never before."