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Talent management in the digital age

Posted by | July 11, 2017 | Talent Management

Via HRM Asia : Talent management in the digital age

As more organisations jump on the digital bandwagon, the HR community is no exception to the rule. Technology has already permeated many parts of HR, including from the talent acquisition function to talent development.

Some HR teams have adopted simpler solutions, like automated payroll or learning management systems (LMS), while others have utilised more resource-intensive HR solutions such as enterprise resource planning systems which handle end-to-end HR processes.

With more HR technology vendors present in the market today, it is easy for HR professionals to be dazzled and to sometimes even end up worse off than before the implementation. It can also frustrate business users, which in turn tarnishes HR’s reputation as an organisation-enabler.

When you ask HR leaders to define talent management, you are likely to get a wide range of answers.

To simplify, talent management here is defined as a combination of talent acquisition, retention and development.

Think business, not HR

What HR believes is important for the business may not be what the business really needs.

As the business goes digital, is it the right time for HR to implement technological solutions as well?

Even if the HR technology solution is relevant to the organisation, how will end users respond to the new changes?

The usefulness and timing of the implementation is crucial to ensure better buy-in from all business units.

Here’s an example to illustrate this point.

A LMS vendor promises to increase employee competencies through hours of online learning, with effectiveness measured through surveys conducted before and after training, combined with the total number of training hours.

If you ask a sales leader if this is good for their team, you are likely to get responses such as “Will the learning management system make my sales people more productive in sales?” or “As the time utilised for learning is an opportunity cost, how much time do my salespeople have to invest?”

These measurements do not convince business leaders that investing in HR technology can increase productivity.

Moreover, if salespeople have to simultaneously learn other online systems like customer relationship management systems or enterprise resource planning, you can guarantee there will be stiffer resistance to adopting the LMS and an increased probability of employee burnout.

Partnering with business leaders can help create better buy in with the employees and increase the shared ownership and accountability of the proposed solution.

Instead of pushing it to the business as an HR initiative, let leaders adopt the HR technology as a business solution to solve their most pressing needs specifically.

Simple can be complex

With increasing complexities in today’s workplace, the last thing the business needs is an additional layer from HR. This will only burden and further frustrate employees.

Using a reputable HR provider might mean a better initial buy-in; however, that does not always mean it will bring relevant business value.

One of the organisations I worked with previously 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 and leaders had to be involved in endless meetings.

At times, everything would come to a standstill because the proposed solution could not fit needs and customisation would incur heavier costs.

Worse still, there were some needs that the system could not fulfil, like how most talent development activities could not be tracked through standardised administration.

One key takeaway from this experience was that one size does not fit all, especially in talent management.

Finding the simplest solution is not about finding a method that solves everything; it’s about a combination of resources designed in the most optimal format to make things work.

Understanding what the organisation and employees really need before searching for the right solution can save time, resources and finances over the long haul. If your organisation is still on a learning journey, it may be better to start with a simpler solution and to build as you move along.

Focus on employee experience

To prepare for the digital age, talent management also has to focus on creating the best employee experience.

It is not simply about renaming the HR organisation or changing job titles; it’s about evolving the identity of how HR organisations contribute to the business.

Here are the roles HR can play to focus on employee experience:

  • Ensure your baseline people processes work well

Imagine if you wanted to apply for leave on your organisation’s HR system only to find that you cannot access the system. Or that incorrect numbers are being reported on your payslip every month. This can lead to a frustrating employee experience which will render other new HR initiatives useless. Employee engagement does not matter to employees if their baseline HR process is not working well consistently. Therefore, HR has to ensure that all administration of operational HR processes and record keeping is done well.

  • Build the talent system

Instead of viewing talent management as silo-driven activities, it is crucial to see it from a business perspective as one process flow with key performance indicators. What “effectiveness” means to HR can mean something totally different to the business.

For example, accurately tracking and reducing “time to fill” for vacant positions by reaching out to social networks and job portals is important to HR, but does it really impact the business positively?

What if candidate A fills a position in one month but takes five months to get up to speed while candidate B fills the position in three months and takes only 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.

  • Understand, manage and improve the employee experience

Making your company a productive and great place to work is a key role HR plays in today’s digital age.

This includes focusing on key HR trends like culture, engagement, design thinking, HR analytics, and organisational redesign.

It requires building new and relevant end -to-end HR capabilities to create a holistic experience for all employees, so that they can operate in a transformational customer-centric, and collaborative way.

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