First of all, this is my first attempt at writing an entire blog post from my new iPad, which I love with intensity! Whether that will be true after a few hundred words, remains to be seen. I will let you know at the end of the post.
This was a great week for customer meetings, especially consulting with folks trying to build justification for talent management technology investments. A few observations:
1. Hard and soft benefits are still relevant, but why would you expect that to work if it never has in the past?
2. It takes a very passionate HR leader to get these projects over the finish line. And my experience suggests that the secret sauce is a great relationship between the HR leader and business line execs. Show how better data about people will correlate to business outcomes that will matter to them and you will get it done.
3. I continue to be surprised by organizations that say they want true insight into the workforce, but their language is all centered around automating the transaction processes. I will be the last person to suggest that we shouldn’t be trying to lower the cost of service delivery, but if your primary focus is only that, you are almost certain to end up with silos of HR data that won’t deliver on the strategic vision. And when the crisis for richer data comes (and it will), getting insight will be expensive (if not impossible). Perhaps similar to the results you got when you turned those paper appraisal forms into a word doc or a spreadsheet?
Integrated talent management initiatives that drive breakthrough business outcomes are long-term investments that are based on a shared, passionate vision between HR execs and operations leadership.
And the iPad? Once again, it exceeds my expectations. One other comment: if I do one more spontaneous demo of this thing, I will ask for a commission. More importantly, I need to figure out how to get my customers this passionate about our products. Hats off to the folks at Apple…well done. I really should go buy that stock now…
I was reading systematic HR’s latest post (here) about how employee engagement will become more important to HR leaders as an underlying dynamic driving more visible measures of turnover, retention and employee productivity. I read it about 15 minutes after I communicated with my leadership team about the importance of driving participation in our own annual engagement survey, and it got me thinking about technology intersections with these visible issues.
Here’s what I’d add to the discussion: engagement is critical as companies try to position themselves as an employer-of-choice. But there’s a critical question: what do organizations know about the behaviors (especially for leaders) that directly impact employee engagement? Is it about communication style? Empathy? Accountability for results? I talk to customers almost daily on these kinds of issues and over and over again, I discover the same answer. If they have data, it’s anecdotal at best, and the decision-making related to it is almost completely subjective.
The answer? Build the right competency framework (at the behavior level) and measure against it. Once you have insight into those behaviors that directly impact engagement, you’re driving real competitive advantage. It’s not easy, and requires real alignment between people, process and technology. And then the decision-making from this data is significantly more objective, reliable and credible. Take that story to operations leadership at the company and HR’s seat at the table will be guaranteed.
I was reading Seth Godin’s latest post (here) about how too much data can cloud people’s judgement, limiting their ability to use faith in decision-making. This got me thinking about all the time I spend daydreaming about how we can help HR leaders leverage more data about people so that their faith or instinct isn’t the primary (or in some cases only) decision criteria.
From where I sit, the bottom line is this: learning how to trust your instinct is a critical behavior (and arguably one that should be measured!), but data can be a great tool to confirm or deny what instinct tells you about people. Talent managers that can balance the two with skill will deliver breakthrough business outcomes to operational leadership.
I have been working closely with two K-12 school district customers that are in contention for a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The category? Improving teacher performance. In a nutshell, it’s about working with some progressive, large school districts to implement new programs for recruiting, retaining and rewarding teachers. The grant money will be used to fund the creation and operation of the programs for a few years. The objectives are to materially improve teacher performance and make (hopefully) breakthrough discoveries that can be replicated nationally.
The genesis of some of these ideas are traced back to a speech Bill Gates made last November. You can see a transcript of it here. Bottom line: these organizations will have an exceptional opportunity to rethink the way a critical talent pool (teachers) is deployed in the organization. There are a myriad of challenges here, one of which hits at the heart of what I care about — the infrastructure to manage, administer and analyze the programs. The grant proposal is very clear — districts receiving this funding must demonstrate how they will protect the sustainability of these programs after the grant funding runs out. That’s where integrated talent management technology comes in. If you are going to rethink the way you pay teachers for measurable performance outcomes (like student test scores), drive behavioral change in alignment with what exceptional teachers demonstrate and more flexibly deploy great teachers to the schools that most need them, spreadsheets just won’t cut it.
As always, these initiatives are about people, process and technology. And if I have my way, a few of us will get a special opportunity to show how enabling technology in talent management can really have an impact on something that truly matters: the education of our children. As a software guy, those days are few and far between — so I look forward to embracing this one with gusto. Stay tuned.
Ok, so I don’t have much credibility in the world of linguistics, but my product strategist, Cecile Alper-Leroux used the word ‘integrally’ to describe our talent management system. What does it mean? Building integrally means to create an integrated solution with integrity. I kinda like it — provided that I can figure out how to use it in a way that is gramatically correct — an obsession of mine. We’ll see.
But I wanted to write about it because of what Josh Bersin said in his recent blog post about his assessment of the state of the economy as it relates to talent management technology. He made an astute observation: that “integration” is more important than “functionality.” It got me thinking about what Cecile said, and I liked the connection.
The integrity part is about delivering the technology that can enable the rapidly evolving talent management business process — and the integration part speaks for itself.
I’m not sure I love it so much that I’m willing to try to coin a new term (the narcissist in me likes the idea), but I thought I’d put it out there — what do you think?
Sunday is always an interesting day at CUE — it’s a great opportunity to talk to our customers about new products under non-disclosure. They learn about what we have in development, and we get a valuable opportunity to collaborate with groups of customers in a venue that’s hard to match.
Check out this video clip of Lori Simpson from Geisinger Health, talking about their talent management implementation. This is a success story in-the-making for complex, integrated talent management. These guys get it, and are willing to jump in with both feet for a big bang implementation across 4 of our 7 talent management modules.
And for me, it’s off to walk along the beautiful Pacific Ocean to start CUE Monday!
I’m intrigued by the amount of discussion regarding how the economy is going to impact HCM technology spend in the coming months. SystematicHR weighed in with a post this week. Here are a few snipets from my perspective:
- When a software vendor is spending to grow at any cost, this kind of economy is certain to put a damper on things. Much of that startup investment is ultimately wasted (trust me, I was around in during the dotcom boom!). So when we hear about cuts that sound draconian, it can be misleading about the broader market.
- Organizations that are reasonably healthy will still be making technology investments. It’s going to be about the HR leader’s ability to sell their mission — not about a total lack of funding.
- Not one of us has a clue about how bad it’s going to get, and the media (in all of its Web 2.0 forms) adds considerable ‘noise’ to the discussion. Let’s face it — none of us have encountered this kind of economic climate and I’m hoping it’s the last time for me.
- And I’ve said this before — organizations that find a way to make investments in this economy will have a significant advantage in the recovery.
I am sticking to my belief that great products will still be bought in this economy, and this cycle will be hard on the weak. It’s all a matter of degree.
You can’t read the paper without hearing about layoffs all over the world. That means that HR leaders are undoubtedly trying to answer the difficult and painful questions about who goes and who stays. And in the absence of integrated, actionable data about people, there’s only one way to do it: with a fire drill.
We’ve all been there — spreadsheets, dozens of e-mails, lots of tough meetings all culminating in a list based on some objective, but mostly subjective criteria. Worst of all, it’s obsolete about 3 days after it is created — which means if it happens again (for some companies that day has already come), the process starts over.
Now I recognize my professional bias — buy some of our software and we’ll make that easier for you. Duly noted. But here’s my question: will HR leaders facing these fire drills stand up and fight for the improved process and technology to make it better the next time, or will they simply forget the pain, and start the process over again?
Because remember this — you need data today about who to keep in tough economic times — and when things inevitably improve, you’re going to need data about who can help you capitalize on those opportunities. Will this be the time that organizations really commit to this process? Hard to tell…..and of course I want to know because it will speak to demand for the products that we sell that will help make it happen.
What does it look like in your world?
No one can observe the turmoil in our economy without taking a good, hard look at how it impacts us personally and professionally. I’ll spare you my version of ‘have you looked at your 401k statements lately?’ (I haven’t.) but I will say that professionally, it’s been a wild ride over the past 60 days. There are many dimensions to this, but for today, I’ll focus on how it’s impacting the way we look at HR technology strategy – from the perspective of the customers we talk to every day. Last week, I was running around the country for various purposes, and had the opportunity to meet with two customers and a business partner. As you would expect, the question I asked everyone was the same – ‘How is the economy impacting your business and more importantly, your HR technology plans?’ The answer from the two customers? Not much. In fact, they recognize that their talent management strategies are immature enough that they believe that they have no choice but to make a bold move soon. Lucky for them (and for us), their initiatives are funded. That certainly won’t be the case for many other companies. From the business partner? A blind focus on rethinking how their products and services need to adapt to the changing economic landscape.
But funded or otherwise, it’s important to recognize that in this climate (probably more so than in the boom times we’ve enjoyed for several years) every initiative is going to have to demonstrate a higher standard of value. And that threshold will be even higher for HR as it competes with initiatives from the more mission-critical sides of the business. So as I think about these elements (and will dedicate a few blog posts to further developing them), here are the major trends I’m mulling over:
- Can projects that aren’t self-funding in some reasonable period of time have any chance of getting approved?
- While cost reduction will be a strong driver for projects in the near-term, everyone knows that managing talent is a long-term initiative – how do HR executives manage that balancing act?
- The name of the game is about demonstrating INSIGHT into the workforce – that’s not just about getting a talent profile developed about people – it’s about showing direct correlations between information about people and the measures of interest to the organization.
- Organizations have to look at how they are positioned on the talent management maturity curve and make sure that the investments they are making are aligned with the objectives they seek.
I firmly believe that near-term talent management technology initiatives that are not aligned with an integrated TM data management strategy are doomed to mediocrity. You might solve some operational problems, but getting the CFO’s attention because talent strategies are demonstrating correlation to operational KPIs (in my view, the holy grail) will be elusive.
And that has never been more important than in this ‘new’ economy, which we don’t yet truly understand.
Well, my fifteen minutes of fame as the headliner for the Bill Kutik radio show have ended with this week’s broadcast featuring Jim Holincheck from Gartner. Jim never disappoints — lots of great stuff on the show, and it’s definitely worth a listen.
I took note of Jim’s comments related to how the economy will shape organizations efforts to leverage the products (and vendors) they already work with. His observation about upgrade cycles with ERP vendors in particular, caught my attention. As we’ve been building the Lawson Talent Management application, we made a big, hairy commitment to our customers — that they could add talent management functionality without a forced upgrade. I joke about the notion that says, “You can have succession management — just upgrade your payroll system!” This is the reality for many companies (but not for those who chose Lawson).
Net-net: our customers can add talent management functions to any supported version of their current platform. No upgrade required. Lawson customers? You deserve it!