What Comes First: Tech or Measurement?

As talent management continues to evolve, we must recognize that a measurement strategy is more important than a technology strategy.

A measurement strategy needs to precede a technology strategy. Human resources technologies, apart from transactional systems need to produce desired measures. For too long, HR leaders and HR information technology professionals have retained best-in-class solutions or upgraded legacy tools, and in doing so have accepted their recommended measures. In most cases, this has led to disjointed processes and a suboptimal employee or candidate experience.

Take, for example, performance management. Such technologies capture goals over a time period and ultimately land on a performance rating based on a 1-to-3 or 1-to-5 scale. Potential may also be rated on a similar scale.

The result is a “9-Box,” a commonly used technique to identify those deserving of merit increases, development opportunities and learning investments.

This approach has been around for a long time. While it may now be automated through technology, is this the appropriate process generating the appropriate measures?

Many studies over the past 15 years have shown the limitations and counterproductive nature of this approach. Even so, are we perpetuating it because of a lack of process and measurement creativity, or do we lack the fortitude to make a change?

Think of it another way. What would it be like for HR leaders to facilitate a discussion with other leaders by asking: What business outcomes do we want to achieve? What candidate experience do we want to create? What employee experience do we want to create?

Taking this approach would clarify the measures necessary to create the desired candidate and employee experience. This would then guide the selection and development of technology solutions. 

Currently, most HR organizations are too impressionable. They’re being sold what’s billed as the “latest and greatest” based on a new approach, new technology or body of research. This is dangerous, particularly given the growing enormity of the HR technology space. 

Today, there are hundreds of HR technology vendors. The mere definition of “HR technology” has now evolved to include employee surveys, communications, collaboration, knowledge management, project management, recruiting, assessment, goal setting, learning, analytics and planning, among others. 

So without a clear way to identify and prioritize all the tools and technologies, many are left filling the gaps.

Take recruiting software, or what’s starting to evolve as “candidate experience management.” Here we’re seeing progressive organizations designing the candidate experience they want to deliver, then seeking solutions that will produce the measures and insights they desire. 

For talent acquisition, this process should be crafted before a tool is selected, as should the measures. After all, like with technology interaction, measures will affect the mindset and behavior of candidates. Measures will also determine the insights leaders will get from the process. 

With the experience and supporting measures in hand, it’s now reasonable to ask, “What technologies will support the experience and deliver the desired measures?”  This puts HR in a leadership role — one where it’s helping consciously create culture and the employment brand. 

The reality is that most midsize to large organizations have now spent millions of dollars over the past five years on technologies throughout the employee life cycle. Despite this, most chief experience officers contend the value received from these investments is not commensurate with the money spent or time lost because of work disruption. 

So instead of HR looking good and adding significant value, many HR organizations remain viewed as a disruptor over an enabler. They’ve asked leaders, managers and employees to fit into a process rather than facilitating the creation of a process that’s appropriate for their organization. 

The good news is that many HR leaders are starting to get this. There’s a growing understanding that while many technology solutions may be great, the one’s that will actually work great within an organization are the ones selected for the right purpose.