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Human Resources

Picture Perfect

Managing the employment lifecycle with talent management software
University Business, July/August 2012

Are the processes of recruiting, employee performance appraisals, recognition, and succession planning at your institution in separate pieces like a jigsaw puzzle? Or are they linked, forming one clear picture about your campus’s talent resources and needs?

Talent management software is helping campus HR professionals connect the pieces to develop a more accurate picture of employees’ abilities and skill gaps­—and in some cases even changing the way HR operates.

Employees can share work experiences online or praise coworkers, drawing HR’s attention. Managers can post ongoing comments about an employee’s performance, which that employee can reference for up-to-date feedback on what skills may need sharpening. Other software ties employee performance to reward and recognition programs and the school’s goals. The technology all supports the goal of efficiently managing the employment lifecycle.

In 2008, the housing and food services division at Purdue University (Ind.) began exploring various software focused on everything from onboarding and professional development to goal setting. Initially, the division converted its manual performance appraisal system to a rudimentary online process, but “had the sense” that more than just a performance appraisal tool was needed, explains Dave Jones, organizational effectiveness specialist in the division at Purdue, which employs roughly 800 employees.
“I couldn’t even spell talent management before,” jokes Jones, adding that historically, each process was independent of the others.

Now, using five components of The Halogen Talent Management Suite, HR runs reports to review employee competency scores and develops competency-based and targeted skills training.

Performance appraisals are year-round, rather than annual. Managers can also track each employee’s accomplishments, skill gaps, goals, and professional development plan, all online and in one spot.  

“Employees in the past would have said, ‘Performance management is something that is done to me,’ ” says Jones, noting that everyone now participates in the process. “It really does elevate that partnership between manager and employee in the employee development process. It connects the dots in so many ways.”

Linked and Leveraged

In the past, HR at some schools operated in silos. Compensation fell under finance. Learning and recruitment weren’t part of HR. “If you’re trying to drive a talent management program throughout organization and successful talent strategy, each one of the touch points or talent programs needs to be coordinated, in sync and aligned not only with [each other], but the higher purpose of the organization,” says Donna Ronayne, vice president of marketing and business development at Halogen Software.

Social feedback tools can help guide managers in rating employees fairly.

To help schools achieve this connectivity, the company has introduced a component in its performance tool called “Feedback Central.” Managers use it to document observations about employee performance or accomplishments year-round, which employees can later read. Ronayne believes it will evolve into a social feedback tool where employees will enter comments about their colleagues, even rate their performance.

While the tool will require checks and balances to avoid unwarranted comments, she says this type of software is helping fuel a new trend—creating a more transparent talent management world. It will help minimize employee favoritism, give employees the raises they deserve, and guide managers to rate employees fairly based on their competencies, skills, and performance.

Vendors are also automating other HR processes for identifying current and future talent gaps, employee retention, analytics, and reporting capabilities.

In 2010, Nobscot Corp. added a new component to its cloud-based software, called Quality of Hire, that focuses on surveying supervisors of new hires to gain information about how to retain them, explains Beth N. Carvin, CEO of Nobscot. She says the same data can also be used for diversity initiatives or auditing the recruitment process.

“It’s not just about running a piece of software for an HR function, but then taking it one step further and looking at it as a business intelligence tool,” she says. “[You’re] pulling data from different sources and understanding what it really means for the organization.”

In the future, Carvin believes HR professionals will be much more fluent in data analysis, collaborating on ideas with colleagues who speak the same language. Software will offer more filtering capabilities so information can be viewed from different business perspectives.

Other technology helps HR tackle high value business issues, such as succession planning or skill gaps, adds Brian Platz, executive vice president and chief operating officer at SilkRoad Technology.

His company’s latest technology, SilkRoad Point, calculates the influence employees have in specific areas. Just 10 to 15 percent of areas in which people are trained are represented in their performance appraisal or review, he says. “Eighty to 90 percent isn’t even measured.” Also, some employees have unique qualifications not mentioned in their job descriptions that enhance performance. This software uncovers insights, such as what content employees may be publishing, for HR. So before that employee resigns or retires, HR can find ways to either retain that individual or train someone else to develop those skills.

“Existing talent management processes would not pick up a shred of that,” Platz says, explaining that while many gaps
exist in HR technology, the key is not adding a new feature to a piece of technology. “It’s really changing how HR works and [offering] technology to support it.”

What’s hot: Mobile devices for talent management, which may be used for HR-related approval processes.

Consider the use of software to incorporate employee recognition strategies in the institution’s overall talent management program. By leveraging employee knowledge, administrators can highlight how work gets done, identify star performers, and understand what skills and competencies employees exhibit daily, says Grant Beckett, vice president of products at Globoforce. “It’s based on the workforce having ways to bubble that information up [through] recognition and other tools.”

The company’s Talent Insight suite empowers employees to recognize each other online, then gathers the data and presents it as an analytical tool for managers to develop a better understanding of campus culture and employee abilities.

“They can now see trends of how employees are doing, what their key values are in the organization ... and what unique skills a person has demonstrated to win recognition,” says Beckett.

Challenges, Opportunities

Not all technology in today’s marketplace is in line with how HR manages talent because it “presupposes” how people need to manage or is “dictatorial,” prescribing how a process should be done, continues Beckett. So, schools may not be reaping the ultimate value from the software.

Jim Long, staff employment and training manager at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, says a common problem with software is that it’s too cumbersome. “There are too many steps, [it’s] too complex,” he says, adding that technology’s high cost combined with its inability to provide a simple solution is partly why his school doesn’t automate more HR processes.

The school does use PeopleAdmin’s applicant tracking software for recruiting. Long says it enables HR to automatically email a candidate’s references and to communicate in various ways, from personalized emails to offering the ability to check application status online.

The Higher Education Select Suite from PeopleAdmin helps HR support the entire employment lifecycle, explains Troy
Winskowicz, vice president of product management at PeopleAdmin.

However, mobile devices for talent management are what’s hot, and he expects to see creative campus applications. He points to a school’s regimented approval process involving presidents, deans, or provosts as an example. They may use mobile devices to sign off on a variety of HR or business matters. And as social media continues to gain momentum at colleges and universities, within five years Winskowicz expects it to be widely used in ways that support federal laws like affirmative action.

In the meantime, administrators continue to look toward technology to bring talent management to new heights.