Effective talent management is a challenge for every organisation. Human Capital looks at how technology can help
Some words and terms lose their impact with repeated use. Talent management is one of those terms. Its definition, broad to begin with, has grown to now include all aspects of an employee's lifecycle. It encompasses both the macro view of an organisation's overall talent needs - plotting and strategising about where gaps may occur in the future - but also takes a micro view of an individual's career at an organisation where career paths and succession planning can be outlined.
"We define talent management as the logic that connects the transactional activities of attraction, identification, retention and development of employees and the inherent metrics that allow you to make informed strategic decisions," says Ari Kopoulos,
national sales & marketing manager at EmployeeConnect.
Increasingly, smart talent management is being seen as crucial to the HR function and broader organisational goals. "The true value proposition rests with its predictive capability - hence the increasing focus on internal mobility either pushed by employees as in career planning or pulled by managers through succession planning," Kopoulos adds.
Almost all HR functions have some element of talent management to them - it allows managers to identify, reward and retain top performers, develop potentials, and offer corrective pathways for the not so well performing, all of which translates into competitive advantage for the organisation.
Partnering with technology
After conquering individual elements of HR functions such as payroll and recruitment it's no surprise to learn that HRIS vendors have shifted their attention to talent management and performance management, which in effect draws together many of these disparate components. With pressure coming from all sides in the talent squeeze it's natural for HR to look to technology to provide a helping hand.
Frank Rizzeri, GM of marketing at HR3, notes that generally speaking, the bigger the organisation, the harder it is to keep track of employee information. "If you've got a company of 20 people and you've got a coffee room and people talk about things one on one, that's one thing, but when you're talking about hundreds of people with turnover in key roles it becomes a problem. When people leave all that intellectual property walks out the door with them," he says.
In a tight labour market it becomes crucial to look internally at current employees and then develop strategies to keep them for longer. Rizzeri cites succession planning as one area that can suffer without good talent management systems in place. "If you have a position that you're grooming people to come up through the ranks into, it's about finding the best fit and having a few other tiers of people being nurtured so if the primary candidate leaves you have a fall back position. The bigger the organisation the harder it is to do that without electronic assistance - that's where the administration software comes into it. It reminds the manager that person A has had a performance review and he's been identified as someone who can go places. He's also told the manager that he wants to stay with the company. From there it's a matter of getting everything in place to ensure that happens."
The days of basic payroll or leave application automation now seem distant; technology has become far more sophisticated. EmployeeConnect, for example, has a development philosophy founded on the premise that a business process can touch all employees and cross all departments. As such, the company has built an integrated workflow engine that captures, transports, transforms and reports information between and within the business processes. "To HR professionals it means an environment where data capture, integration, processing and reporting is automated, consistent and transparent," says Kopoulos.
Beyond transactional efficiency, HR professionals can align the user to the business goals, build a performance based culture, make informed decisions, deliver cost savings and drive productivity.
Talent management software now provides scope for 360-degree feedback, online questionnaires, and an array of web-based or desktop applications, "which throws statistical data into a bucket for true analysis to begin", Rizzeri adds.
"For example, the problem with paper-based CVs is there's no set format so you can't compare skills or experience on a matrix screen which may ask, 'can you use Microsoft Word?'; then 'how well do you rate yourself from zero to five?' If we had to sit down and talk through those things it would take both the manager and the employee out of their operational roles for a period of time."
Empowering employees to look at their own career development is the key. From there, based on people's ratings of themselves and what they've filled in, talent management software can show the manager who has the skills, who has a tertiary degree and who's been with the company for over three years (as an example). "People quite frankly don't bother doing it [using paper-based methods] because it's all too hard, but if you can bring up a drag and drop data matrix or some sort of data reporting tool, that information is only seconds away," Rizzeri adds.
What should be included?
A needs analysis should be undertaken and all relevant stakeholders consulted before any purchasing decisions are made. Daniel Gavan, managing director of Imprint Global, notes that any HR technology needs to be aligned to the overarching business plan. Therefore, working to define a business strategy will help crystallise the talent required to execute the approach and reach the designated goals. Rather than business goals being the servant of technology, "technology will become the vessel in which to deliver, measure, ensure accountability and continue to plan", he says.
In the development stage, organisations also need to identify current talent management processes and which aspects of the strategy they are/are not addressing. A talent audit should also be conducted - does the existing talent support the business strategy? If not, how will the business achieve this? Develop existing talent or recruit from outside?
The selection of the software requirements should be dependent on the organisation's needs. Most HRIS vendors allow customers to pick and choose modules as required (known as the 'best of breed' approach), and as long as those modules can talk to each other, this can work well.
"Given today's modern tools and web-based interfaces, you can go and pick the best of breed in any one of those sectors - you might pick the best recruitment software, the best remuneration packaging tool, the best training module, payroll, etc, and then through modern tools they should all be able to talk to each other. So instead of having four separate databases and having the problems that go with that, it's all maintained seamlessly in the background," Rizzeri says.
The EmployeeConnect platform includes a set of integration and translation tools as middleware, that when combined with workflow, facilitates communication between a variety diverse platforms. This frees the company from the single vendor/single database strategy, and allows for a shared database delivered through a single employee interface. It also allows for a common user experience and what Kopoulos refers to as a "single source of truth".
"We have organisations that use our solutions for all their HR functions, and others that use our solution as the workflow engine and self-service user interface while communicating with niche providers such as eRecruitment and Payroll," he says.
Integration with payroll is almost a mandatory, Kopoulos notes. Without it, companies will not realise the maximum ROI and introduce data entry errors into the process. "There is also data captured in the payroll engine that when consolidated with HR data opens a new dimension of insight - identifying relationships, trends and facilitating planning," he says.
The alternative to best of breed is a fully integrated system that comes from one vendor which may focus on one element in particular and also handle other elements as well. "There are a couple of players out there that do everything reasonably well; they aren't the shining light in any particular area but to use an analogy if you wanted to buy a good economical car that looked ok and had most of the options there are vendors selling that in the HR technology space," Rizzeri adds.
HR software has, for a long time, been about employee and manager self-service - which frees up valuable time for HR professionals. Talent management software/systems are no different - they should be available to all employees, managers and HR, although the levels of access and functionality would vary according to the role and need. Examples of functionality are:
- view position descriptions
- manage, track and comment of performance
- define and manage their development requirements
- have access to development resources to enable their own development and complete development activities
- view job vacancies
- complete induction and onboarding process
- plot career aspirations and gain visibility into the requirements of those career aspirations
- compare/match current role to others
- complete surveys
As both an employee and a manager, the manager should have access to everything the employee has access to as well as tools that empower the manager to manage their team.
This might include:
- recruitment and selection functions (finalise position descriptions, interview guides)
- track and manage performance and comment
- view employee and team performance reports
- align team deliverables to organisational strategy
- develop succession plans for positions
- enable visibility for retention strategies
- manage organisational structure
- recruitment and selection
- performance tracking
- organisational reporting and analytics
- organisational talent strategies
- culture and engagement surveys
- gain visibility across the organisation and at different levels into trends and relevant information
This self-service functionality opens up a world of opportunities, especially for employees. Software can become the ultimate career planner. For example, an employee in position A may identify that they would like to be in position B. The software can plug the employee into Position B as a possible successor, produce a skills gap analysis, highlight the skills required, and even provide a list of available courses to plug those skills gaps. Likewise, the manager can check performance in the current role and suggest job alternatives if there are needs in other areas of the business.
"One of the most crucial challenges faced by organisations in both the local and international market is the search and retention of good talent. Talent management technology provides a solution to this challenge which is both time and cost effective.
In fact, companies are slowly beginning to appreciate the ROI on talent management technology and with the US a few years ahead of Australia, it will only be a matter of time before it is implemented as a standard investment," Gavan says.
While technology can be useful, it's important that HR professionals do not hide behind it and allow it to take over or guide important decisions. "Technology cannot replace good management, but it can provide integral support to ensure that consistency is maintained, documentation recorded and information is current. It also offers an avenue to demonstrate ROI to higher level management," Gavan concludes.
A helping hand
There are many ways in which technology enables effective talent management. Daniel Gavan, managing director and co-founder of Imprint Global, outlines how:
* Unity: With a number of different components to talent management (for example the stages in the employee lifecycle), technology brings together all the 'pieces of the pie' that would otherwise be approached in isolation. For example, succession planning starts with an effective performance management system. Performance management starts with bringing the right talent into the organisation.
* Visibility: Technology in HR systems allows the organisation to make accurate decisions in an ever-changing business cycle. That is, it ensures that the right people are in place to support the business strategy as situations change.
* Consistency: It allows the organisation to work off set standards and processes to ensure that the correct talent is brought in and managed, and also ensures consistency in how employees are treated and managed within the organisation.
* Documentation: Technology allows for record keeping, trend and data analysis and auto generation of documents such as position descriptions, interview guides, performance management forms, development guides, surveys, exit interview guides, etc.