If you build it, they will come – and stay

by 31 Mar 2009

Talent management technology enables organisations to acquire, develop and retain high-potential individuals. Teresa Russell talks with Lion Nathan about its successful approach to talent management and HR technology

For 11 years, US company CedarCre stone has undertaken a broad survey of the HR systems in use around the world, although the focus has been mainly on North America. It recently released a 2008–2009 HR systems survey, which took in 277 organisations (around a third of which were Australian) representing more than 2 million employees.

Among the many findings of both reports (see box), it found that those organ isations with talent management applica tions had better financial performance than those without. Those with competency management achieved standout sales growth. The report concluded that: “An integrated talent management approach with service delivery, talent management, and business applications on the same plat form as the core HRMS is a best practice.”

Lion Nathan is one of Australasia’s lead ing alcoholic beverages companies and employs more than 3300 people. It has been using technology to enable its people processes for more than eight years, accord ing to Jason Sharpe, its people and culture systems leader.

In 2001, Lion Nathan developed its own talent management application, because there were no products available then to meet its needs. “As products entered the marketplace, we invested in best-of-breed functionality that aligned with our overall HR systems strategy,” says Sharpe.

“Our people have also become increas ingly technology-savvy over the last few years, so we’ve had to evolve our use of technology to keep pace with them.”

Lion Nathan’s core system of record is Frontier Software’s chris21 – used prima rily for recording team member data, man aging positions and for payroll purposes. In 2005 Taleo was implemented to enable its resourcing processes. In 2007 the company began working with Softscape to imple ment Apex, an integrated talent manage ment platform to replace its in-house developed tool.

This has brought its primary people processes (including achievement and goal management, succession planning, remu neration planning, and 360-degree multi- source feedback) into a single platform for leaders to use with their teams.

The learning module also manages learning administration and online learn ing programs. Sharpe’s team is now implementing Taleo’s on-boarding mod ule to ensure new team members are engaged right from the moment of employment offer.

Choosing providers

Obviously, Lion Nathan has vast experi ence in choosing providers and products. “Many products have a depth of function ality in one area – such as resourcing, learn ing or performance – but not across all areas,” says Sharpe. “We have found that no one product can do everything excep tionally well, so we adopted a strategy of implementing best-of-breed products and integrating them with our core HR/payroll system.”

Sharpe says that research is important and so is a strong understanding of an organisation’s requirements. “First educate yourself on the marketplace using reports from research houses. If you don’t have in- house experience with vendor selection, take consultancy advice to help you with this process,” advises Sharpe, who states also that any system must be simple, easy to use and effective.

He believes that some organisations spend too much time developing “aspira tional” requirements to choose between systems but not enough looking at what it really takes to enable their processes on a particular system.

Sharpe says that Lion Nathan places a great deal of importance on finding part ners who complement its business and fit in with the same values and behaviours that are expected internally.

“Try to meet and get to know the con sultants who will work on the project,” he advises. “Don’t just sit through the vendor demonstration.

“Ask yourself ‘Are they trying to under stand my business and what I need to achieve, or are they just selling the prod uct?’,” he says.

Sharpe also advises thorough reference checks of past clients, focussing on project completion, follow-up and support.

Effect on the business

“We have conducted a large-scale, long- term culture transformation to drive the engagement of our people. Our talent management technology has underpinned this transformation,” says Sharpe, adding that the organisation’s ten core behav iours are hardwired into all HR processes, including remuneration, per formance and resourcing.

Sharpe believes that Lion Nathan’s tal ent management systems have been piv otal in: attracting and retaining great people who share the same culture and values as the company; improving its employment brand; building a talent pool; aligning organisational goals and measuring achievement of them; provid ing information to leaders, enabling strong decision-making and fast change; enabling blended learning; supporting capability building and mitigating busi ness risk through management of train ing records.

Return on investment for each system has been realised in several ways. There have been efficiency gains from automa tion of recruitment processes and improve ments in other HR metrics – such as cost per hire, movements into bench roles and retention of key talent.

Engaging its people and customers has reaped real benefits in customer relation ships and sales. In 2008, 85 per cent of its employees and 80 per cent of its surveyed customers were “favourably engaged with Lion Nathan”.

“Our customers don’t just trust us as a business partner, they want to do more business with us. That’s real return on investment,” Sharpe conclude

Vendor news: Taleo is the leader in on-demand unified talent management software solutions that empower organisations of all sizes to assess, acquire, develop and align their workforces for improved business performance. More than 3900 organisations use Taleo for talent acquisition and performance management, including 48 of the Fortune 100 companies and more than 3300 small and medium-sized businesses across 200 countries and territories. Taleo's Talent Grid harnesses the resources of the Taleo community of customers, candidates and partners to power the talent needs of companies around the world. For more information email lsalmon@taleo.com or visit www.taleo.com