A Spring Talent Technology Cleanse

Although the year starts in January — which for most typically means a cold and snowy winter — spring, at least to me, usually brings a truer sense of new beginnings. Instead of resolutions, spring is ushered in by a cleaning spree. The same should be true with our talent systems and processes.

Just like we pick up the dead twigs from our lawn, we need to pick up and discard those talent twigs that are keeping us from working optimally. More than 25 percent of HR executives are considering replacing or purchasing new talent technology in 2014, according to IDC’s September 2013 Human Capital Management Survey.

So at least a quarter of you appear primed to make major changes. But even for those who are not, some time spent assessing your talent technology with a little spring spruce-up will be time well spent.

Take an inventory. It’s time to review how many and what systems are in place for managing talent, both locally and in the field. Is there one unified system and approach, or are there multiple systems? Determine who is using each tool or system and for what purpose. Document why each system is in use, who chose it and when. Find out where any manual processes are still in place. Ask about what it takes to manage each system. Also, it’s important to understand the legacy to bring all stakeholders into the process — some systems may have been chosen by someone no longer at the company.

Lastly, gauge satisfaction. What’s working? What’s not? If your systems and processes are under control and all is copacetic, your spring cleaning may be done. If you suspect not, read on.

Rationalize and unify. Now that the inventory is done, it’s time to rationalize and unify. Just as you wouldn’t have multiple disconnected irrigation systems for your lawn, you need to develop a plan to unify your talent system usage. According to the IDC study, 23 percent of HR executives who made a talent technology change in 2013 did so because of lack of integration. How well-integrated is your talent management technology? What about the processes — how well-integrated are those?

Another important thing to gather is cost. What are the talent systems costing the organization?

Straightforward costs to gather include external spending on licenses, recurring usage fees or maintenance.
Less straightforward are internal costs. As I mentioned earlier, getting the estimated internal effort during an inventory will help. How many people work full-time or part-time to make a given process work? Involve IT to get their take on how efficient — or inefficient — the systems are and their cost estimates. Putting all of this together will help you assess how new or replacement systems may stack up.

Bring together processes and stakeholders. With inventory, usage, costs, integration level and perceptions in place, it’s time to bring together the various process owners and stakeholders. It’s vital that everyone feel they have a voice in any decision. Bill this get-together as a sort of “State of Talent Management” discussion, where you share everything you’ve learned through the fact-gathering process. Share what’s good before you get to the bad. Lay out the challenges.

Solutions may be as simple as repairing a broken link in the communication chain or ceasing to do something that no longer makes sense. This conversation will hopefully yield decisions on what, if any, system changes are needed. If there are none, you have opened the lines of communication and picked up the stray twigs.
But if changes are needed …

Go get the rototiller. With the need for change afoot, you should be convening the team regularly, as the No. 1 project hang-up is change management. Once a change process is in place, now the decision-making begins. What is to be changed and how? When? To what solutions and processes? Determine if you haven’t already the greatest source of pain, as it may yield your logical entry point.

Most important, as with most intensive spring cleaning, be sure to stop and smell the roses.

Lisa Rowan is the vice president of HR, talent and learning research at research firm IDC. She can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.