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Talent management: Looking for unification?


Talent: A unified approachNew research reveals businesses want unified talent management processes but are not ready for the challenges ahead. Alice Snell explores what should be done to make the change.

UK businesses, like their counterparts around the world, are under increasing pressure to optimise their business processes and assets. Today, businesses have fine-tuned many aspects of business management. Manufacturing processes have undergone scrutiny to maximise efficiencies, finance departments depend on complex systems and comprehensive reporting, and IT activities are streamlined through technology developments that include software as a service (SaaS) application delivery methods.

“Talent management presents both execution and technology challenges for most UK organisations.”

The technology systems for many HR transactional processes such as payroll and benefits administration have also matured. However, the optimisation of the organisation’s single largest asset and expense — the workforce — is now just emerging as the next, and arguably, the most significant area to realise business gains. This potential is driven by the strategies and practices of talent management.

A new research report from Taleo entitled ‘Unified Talent Management: Critical to UK Business’, analyses the results of a survey of nearly 200 UK business professionals. It examines their views on the importance and execution of talent management, talent management practices in the context of high-pressure economic conditions and its challenges, and finally the desires and potential for great strides in business performance results through strategies supported by unified talent management technology systems.

Talent challenges?

The research shows talent management is acknowledged to be of high importance and critical to business success, yet talent management presents both execution and technology challenges for most UK organisations. A clear majority of survey respondents (60%) consider talent management essential for business success. However, 66% of respondents find being able to clearly link talent management goals to business goals, to be extremely challenging. This is made harder as less than one-third of respondents (30%) have a documented talent strategy in place.

The report also highlights just how the shortage of talent is superseding economic conditions as it impacts business success. The negative impacts of talent shortages emphasise the business priority of talent management.

In a low growth economy:

  • 74% see an increased need to retain top performers by driving the focus on performance management and career planning

  • 67% think succession planning and internal mobility programs can maximise value from current employees

  • 63% report that the importance of quality of hire increases

Respondents do not believe there will be a change in the market any time soon either, with one in five anticipating a decrease in talent shortages; the remainder either expect a continuation of the current talent shortage conditions, or an increase (40%) in the shortage of talent.


Interestingly, of those who have implemented a talent management system, only 2% consider their current talent management systems to be unified. Respondents noted that they had limited capabilities in their current systems to benefit from an exchange in data and intelligence across and between talent management activities. So why is a unified system important?

Recruiting stands to gain tremendously from the information available via the performance management processes and vice versa. Successful implementation of this type of performance-powered recruiting is greatly benefited by technology that unifies the business processes of recruiting and performance management.

Currently HR departments and managers encounter the following issues:

  • 62% cannot model skills profiles for roles based on performance data

  • 54% cannot assess quality of hire based on performance data

  • 47% cannot consider external candidates as part of a succession plan

Where next?

What does this mean for UK businesses? It is evident that the shortage of talent and lack of unified talent management systems and strategies are significantly — and negatively — impacting UK businesses. Without attention to these critical issues, businesses are putting both their short and long-term goals at risk. Companies need to integrate their talent management processes.

Through integrating systems and knowledge, HR managers can see direct results, including:

  • Faster candidate identification

  • Improved employer branding

  • Improved quality of hire evaluation

  • Access to external succession candidates

  • Increased job visibility for employees

  • External candidate search and screening

  • Better use of internal talent

  • Comprehensive talent profiles

In addition, linking together career planning opportunities and meaningful performance reviews along with a well-designed internal mobility program, for example, may also make the difference between losing a top performer and enhancing an ongoing valuable contribution.

“It is evident that the shortage of talent and lack of unified talent management systems and strategies are significantly — and negatively — impacting UK businesses.”

However, ongoing performance management has been difficult for managers. Performance reviews, for instance, are often relegated to an annual and arduous process. Now, technology tools enable visibility into performance and goals alignment throughout the year for managers as well as other employees. The expansion of talent management practices from the top down serve organisations’ overall talent needs.

Talent management systems with intuitive, easy-to-use interfaces that draw on familiar Web 2.0 consumer-like functionality — think Amazon, Google, eBay — offer an unprecedented opportunity for acceptance and self-service among employees, line managers and executives. Embedding optimised talent management processes throughout the talent lifecycle — from recruitment through to onboarding and development — requires solutions that are, at their core, usable by all and unified at the heart.

One response received encapsulates the survey findings: “We need to be better at integrating a talent management approach across all aspects of business. We also need to have a well-documented approach, which is then owned by the business but co-authored/driven/facilitated by HR. This should be one of the major functions of an HR department”.

With the economy in a down cycle, this research highlights that there is a crisis looming in failing to improve talent management practices, since the majority expect talent shortages to either worsen or remain the same.

As such, companies need to define a strategy, implement a usable and unified talent management system, and obtain strong buy-in throughout the organisation: from employees, line management, executive leadership, and the board.

Decisive action on organisational talent management initiatives today will positively impact a business with immediate effect and ensure that it comes out the other side of the downturn stronger, supplying the organisation with the advantage required to seize any opportunities that arise from a competitor’s lack of planning, whilst keeping the business’s most talented individuals happy and focused.

Alice Snell is vice president of Taleo Research

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