Recently many of the conversations I’ve had have turned to the topic of integrating individual talent-related systems together to create one seamless user experience and how that should look. Industry analysts also report that this is a growing area of interest. I know, from personal experience, that it’s pretty straightforward to find best-of-breed standalone solutions, but much harder to find the one system that perfectly integrates these all together, with sacrificing functionality along the way.
I’ve taken a step back and taken a holistic view of what an integrated talent suite should offer, not so much in terms of the user experience – as important as that is – but in terms of the functionality that will add the most value to the business. For me, it’s the story told by the data that originates from each component in the mix that provides the real impetus to integrate. And the problem I believe we are trying to solve: finding, developing and retaining the maximum number of high-performing staff to deliver the business’ objectives.
In my analysis, I’m going to focus on these components that tell the life story of an employee at your company.
- Performance management
- Learning management
- Alumni management
We know how important it is to find the right employees and how that can sometimes be a challenge. Our recruitment platforms have to advertise the roles we have and match the most appropriate candidates to those. They need high quality data inputs to be able to provide the right benchmarks for those short-listing and interviewing the candidates. This will include knowing the particular skills a job holder will need and to what level they will need to perform those skills. There will also be a need to reflect the employer brand in the recruitment process and this needs to be kept refreshed and competitive.
Finding the perfect candidate might well prove impossible and some compromise will be necessary, but with an integrated system, any skills gaps that need to be closed should be captured and automatically fed into the rest of the system for actioning, so they are no lost in the scrawl of some handwritten interview notes.
I’ve written before about the importance of offering a high-standard on-boarding process. The on-boarding process is also an ideal opportunity for the line manager to provide feedback on why they chose the new employee and to set out a plan to develop them from day one to give them the additional skills, knowledge and experience they need to excel quickly in their new role. We know that millennials in particular seem to expect a steady stream of development activities, so getting this right from day one is critical.
Performance and Learning
I’m combining these two together as they should be inextricably linked, although they are still too often treated separately.
For the new employee, the learning platform should offer a lot of the development activity they need to undertake to close the gaps identified during their recruitment. Thereafter – and for existing staff – the learning platform should provide a wealth of content to address the development requirements that arise both on a day-to-day basis and from the periodic reviews of their performance.
An integrated system will need to track the closing of the skills gaps, so that the organisation can see that it’s delivering on its commitment to continuously upskill its employees.
For existing employees who are already party to the performance management approach, the system needs to allow them to set their performance objectives for the period ahead, but to also be able to review and flex these as needed. This reflects the trend to not anchor the performance management process around fixed points of time in the year, but to respond to the changing needs of the business and the individual employee throughout the year. Skills re-appraisal therefore needs to be supported.
The system also needs to facilitate the real-time collation of both solicited and unsolicited feedback and to report on this to enable individuals and their managers to have productive development conversations.
Development planning – so often overlooked and what I term the glue that binds performance management and learning – should also feature heavily in an integrated system and as well as reporting on all the development activity that is taken place, should clearly show where progress is being made and learning milestones achieved. Employee engagement surveys usually ask if the responder received the learning and development opportunities needed to enable them to perform at their best. The system needs to show this to be case to both the business and the individual.
I wonder how many organisations are happy with the process they follow when someone leaves their organisation; if there is a process at all. Is it done consistently? And does anybody do anything with the data that is collected? Bidding farewell to someone – regardless of the reason – is a key data collection point and an integrated system needs to reflect this, including:
- What skills are you losing following the departure of that individual? Yes, you have to fill their role, but will you be looking for those same skills, or different ones?
- Might you choose to replace those missing skills by closing the skills gaps of those that remain? These will need feeding back into their personal objectives and development plans.
- Did the person leave due to poor performance? If so, what’s the benchmark you should look to include when recruiting their replacement?
- Or perhaps it wasn’t really their fault. The job now needed something different in the way of skills attainment, e.g. for someone with a different level of performance that didn’t play to the leaver’s strengths. How will that affect the job skills specification?
- What will you do with the data they might report about a lack of employee engagement? How will this influence the evolution of reward and recognition, L&D opportunities, career opportunities, the work environment, role clarity, the organisational culture and the ability of an individual to fit in with that culture? Listening to those you regret losing – and taking action – will help to improve the employer brand that should feed right back into the recruitment process.
So the employee has left and – providing you didn’t want to see them go – do you still keep in touch with them?
I’ve seen first-hand how valuable your alumni community can be and the benefits that can be derived from looking after them, long after they’ve left the business. Not only can they be great ambassadors for your employer brand, but they can also be a rich source of referrals. They will often know the part of the business that’s recruiting, they’ll know the team manager and the team members and will tend to recommend those who they know will fit in and perform as required.
You will also know the capabilities of your alumni. They will be a group of people who will provide a known skills pool from which you can source suitable talent. They may not be ready to come back to you straightaway – they will have left to develop themselves further and to gain broader experience, which should increase their attractiveness and which the system should try to capture – but it’s not unknown for people to return some time later and that’s a much more efficient and effective method of recruitment.
To summarise the above, I’ve created this graphic which shows the various linkages that an integrated talent suite should support.
Although it might still be difficult to find that all-singing all-dancing integrated system, perhaps that’s not what we need. Instead we should focus on what really matters when it comes to finding, developing and retaining the maximum number of high-performing staff to deliver the business’ objectives.