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Gary Lee, Chief HR Specialist, Grundfos
Digitalization has become the new corporate buzzword as companies try to adopt and adapt technology into their workplace. The HR community is no exception as technology has permeated many parts of HR, from talent acquisition to talent development. Organizations of various sizes from different geographies and industries are increasingly using some sort of technology to build human capital. Some have adopted simpler solutions like Automated Payroll or Learning Management Systems (LMS) while others have utilized more resource intensive HR solutions like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems (SAP, Oracle etc.) which handles end-to-end HR processes.
With the market flooding with HR technology vendors today, it is easy to get lost in the bells & whistles and end up buying a white elephant. Worse still, it can frustrate the businesses which in turn will tarnish the good reputation of HR as an organization enabler. This article’s purpose is to share with readers the key points to consider implementation of HR technology for talent management. When you ask 10 HR leaders to define talent management, you are likely to get 10 variations of what it means. To simplify this, talent management here is defined as a combination of talent acquisition, retention and development.
Point 1: ‘Think Business, not HR’
What HR thinks is important may not be what the business really needs. For example, a reputable vendor has a new HR system that promises to accurately track and reduce ‘time to fill’ for vacant positions by reaching out to social networks and job portals connected to its platform. To HR, this sounds like a solution to help the organization but to business leaders, does reducing ‘time to fill’ really impact the business positively?
What if candidate A fills a position in a/one month but takes five months to get up to speed while candidate B fills in position in three months and takes a/one month to gain full competence? Who would be the better candidate? From an HR perspective, candidate A would reduce ‘time to fill’ while the business would prefer candidate B as the business downtime for B would be two months lesser than A.
Understanding what the organization and employees really need before searching for the right solution can save time, resources and finances
Another example to demonstrate this: An LMS vendor promises to increase employee competence through hours of online learning and effectiveness is measured through surveys conducted before and after training combined with number of training hours. If you ask a sales leader if this is good for his/her team, the response you are likely to get is ‘Will the system make my sales people more productive in sales?’ or ‘How much time do my sales people have to invest because time utilized for learning is an opportunity cost?’ These measurements do not convince business leaders that investing in HR technology can increase productivity.
Point 2: ‘Value, not brand’
Some organizations believe that using reputable vendors in the HR technology space means better reliability and easier buy in. While this is sometimes true, I would like to caution that sometimes brand may not always bring relevant business value.
One of the organizations I previously worked with had this situation where the leadership team decided to implement a reputable HR system handling end to end HR processes. The transition was painful as the solution was so cumbersome and rigid that multiple stakeholders had to be involved in endless meetings. Sometimes everything would come to standstill because the solution could not fit in with the needs and customization would incur heavier costs. Worse still, there were some needs that the system could not fulfil like how I wanted to track talent development activities through a customized live feed but the HR solution could only provide standardized administration. In the end, my needs were out of the project scope.
One key take away from this experience is that one size does not fit all especially in talent management. Understanding what the organization and employees really need before searching for the right solution can save time, resources, and finances. Reputable vendors do have their merit as established industry players but if your organization is still on the learning journey, it may be better to start with a simpler solution and build as you move along.
Point 3: ‘Whole, not hole’
The last key point relates to how some organizations use HR technology to plug ‘holes’ in their processes without considering how this might impact other HR processes or the end user experience. For example, if a talent manager were to implement a HR solution to get line managers to evaluate their direct reports’ competencies for development, he/she has to consider various talent upstream and downstream activities like competency definitions, development plans, evaluation and analysis reports as part of the overall implementation and how it relates to other HR processes like merit, rewards, and performance. If line managers were to DIY to source and input information into multiple platforms which do not ‘talk’ to one another, it is a recipe for failure. It is important for any leader who intends to implement HR technology for talent management to consider the HR process overview and how it affects the ecology and should the change be implemented.
Based in Denmark, Grundfos offers advanced pump solutions and develops electronics for controls of pumps and other systems through network of partners, distributors and sub-dealers.